Hello, hello! 👋🏻👋🏻
Welcome back to another edition of Tidbits covering all the recent things worth talking about in business, media, and technology.
Happy Halloween 🎃🎃🎃
I wish I could carve a pumpkin like these!
#1 Gen. Milley calls Chinese weapon test ‘very concerning’
China recently conducted a “very concerning” test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its aggressive advance in space and military technologies, the top U.S. military officer says.
He said the United States also is working on hypersonic weapons, whose key features include flight trajectory, speed and maneuverability that make them capable of evading early warning systems that are part of U.S. missile defenses. The U.S. has not conducted a hypersonic weapon test of the sort Milley said China had achieved.Source: AP News
The last edition of Tidbits included an FT article that raised alarms in some western security circles after breaking news of two unconfirmed Chinese hypersonic missile tests. Now, the US military has officially confirmed / commented, including the fact that the US currently does not have hypersonic capabilities.
People do unpredictable things when they are scared. And both the US and China are likely scared of each other right now.
#2 Iran’s president says cyberattack meant to create ‘disorder’
Iran’s president said Wednesday that a cyberattack which paralyzed every gas station in the Islamic Republic was designed to get “people angry by creating disorder and disruption,” as long lines still snaked around the pumps a day after the incident began.
“There should be serious readiness in the field of cyberwar and related bodies should not allow the enemy to follow their ominous aims to make problem in trend of people’s life,” Raisi said. State television later aired footage of the president visiting a gas station in central Tehran.Source: AP News
Cyberwar is not good for anyone. And it’s increasingly spilling over into the real world. It is disruptive, and it could lead to economic damage and potential deaths.
#3 FBI Raids Chinese Point-of-Sale Giant PAX Technology
U.S. federal investigators today raided the Florida offices of PAX Technology, a Chinese provider of point-of-sale devices used by millions of businesses and retailers globally. KrebsOnSecurity has learned the raid is tied to reports that PAX’s systems may have been involved in cyberattacks on U.S. and E.U. organizations.
Several days ago, KrebsOnSecurity heard from a trusted source that the FBI began investigating PAX after a major U.S. payment processor started asking questions about unusual network packets originating from the company’s payment terminals.
According to that source, the payment processor found that the PAX terminals were being used both as a malware “dropper” — a repository for malicious files — and as “command-and-control” locations for staging attacks and collecting information.Source: KrebsOnSecurity
As if there isn’t enough distrust already, Chinese POS company, PAX, had their offices raided by the FBI after reports of their devices being used to stage cyberattacks.
While there seems to be solid evidence that attacks did come from the POS, it’s not clear whether PAX was complicit or whether their machines were taken advantage of.
#4 Tencent’s $1.3 billion Sumo deal comes under U.S. security probe
A U.S. national security panel is investigating Tencent Holdings’ 0700.HK $1.27 billion takeover of Sumo Group SUMO.L, the British videogame maker said on Friday, in a possible setback to the Chinese internet giant.Source: Nasdaq
A common theme we have been discussing a lot recently is the crossover between civil society and geopolitics. In China, this is manifested in civil-military fusion where the private sphere and the public / military often engage in coordinated research and development.
But this is not confined to China. This is happening all over the world. Silicon Valley tried very hard to resist this over the past decade given the civilian sphere’s distrust of the American military, but even now this is starting to change.
The reason I bring this up is because it severely complicates private business dealings. Here we have Tencent trying to buy a British gaming company, yet is being investigated not for antitrust, but for national security reasons.
#5 Amazon strikes deal with UK spy agencies to host top-secret material
The UK’s three spy agencies have contracted AWS, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, to host classified material in a deal aimed at boosting the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence for espionage.
The UK’s move to contract a US company surprised some experts. “Sovereignty matters and there’s a reason why, historically, security technology has always been built and maintained in-house,” one security veteran said. GCHQ initially wanted to find a UK cloud provider but it became clear in recent years that domestic companies would be unable to offer either the scale or capabilities needed, said two people familiar with the deal.
“But as long as the company is from a reliable country, with technology you understand, there are ways of doing this which will enable the agencies to manage the risk,” he said.Source: FT
Another theme we have spent a lot of time talking about is how cyberspace is redrawing geopolitical borders and alliances. Alliances in the past were defined by geography (and perhaps shared history). But cyberspace is different. In cyberspace, the “geography” is defined by datacenters and networks.
What does it mean to be “sovereign” in cyberspace?
#6 CrowdStrike and AWS Deepen Relationship to Provide Fortified Protection Against Ransomware Attacks and Identity-Based Threats
CrowdStrike Inc., a leader in cloud-delivered endpoint and workload protection, today announced new features to the CrowdStrike Falcon platform that work with services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) that further protect customers from growing ransomware threats and increasingly complex cyber attacks. The new expanded features provide joint customers with comprehensive visibility, dynamic scale, automation and flexibility to better prevent, detect and respond to threats in the cloud and across endpoints.Source: Crowdstrike
Cloudflare has been our preferred horse when it comes to playing cybersecurity theme, but Crowdstrike is an interesting horse, too.
🤑 Economics + Markets
#7 Tesla’s Hidden Billionaire: How a Retail Trader Made $7 Billion
Is it true? Could a single obscure investor, even one as wealthy as KoGuan, amass such a huge position in a company like Tesla with scarcely anyone noticing? Could he really have become Tesla’s third-largest individual shareholder, behind fellow billionaire Larry Ellison and none other than Elon Musk, the richest person in history?
Describing himself as a retail investor, he said he picked up stock trading in 2019.
He began pouring his money into the stock, juicing the bet with leverage. By early 2020 he held 2.3 million shares (amounting to about 12 million shares after adjusting for last year’s stock split), a stake worth around $1.5 billion.
Then markets cratered and his stake was almost wiped out in a cascade of margin calls.
“I lost almost everything,” KoGuan said.
He kept buying, following what he described as a simple playbook: buy short-term in-the-money stock options; take the profits when the stock goes up; use some of those proceeds to buy actual shares — and plow the rest into another options bet. In other words, double down again and again and again.Source: Bloomberg
What an incredible story. Sure, he was already a billionaire, but he created $7 billion more without using much of his money at all. All enabled by the power of options, retail traders, and, likely, fractional buying.
This is changing the structure of markets in dramatic ways, including raising long-term volatility and increasing momentum-ness of markets.
It is also important to keep in mind that prices are determined by marginal investors. The marginal investor right now is a “retail” trader. A “retail” trader is a philosophy, not a term dependent on the amount of money available. Some “retail” traders likely have more money that most professional investors can ever dream of having. And the pool of capital available to retail traders is expanding at breathtaking pace as trending markets collide with aggressive option bets. I’m not sure it’s long-term sustainable, but I would not bet against a raging beast, either.
👻 Cryptocurrencies + NFTs
#8 No, Someone Didn’t Really Pay $532 Million for a CryptoPunk NFT
But while a transaction was made, it wasn’t a legitimate sale. CryptoPunk #9998 triggered a sale alert just before 8pm EST on Wednesday, with a transaction price of more than 124,457 ETH, or $532 million at the time of sale.
“In a nutshell, someone bought this punk from themself with borrowed money and repaid the loan in the same transaction,” CryptoPunks creator Larva Labs tweeted. “Some recent large bids were done the same way.Source: Decrypt
Always good to remind ourselves that not everything we see may be true. Cryptoland is not regulated. This means all the tricks that humanity has ever invented to try to swindle others is potentially in full play.
#9 Photoshop will get a ‘prepare as NFT’ option soon
Adobe is launching a system built into Photoshop that can, among other things, help prove that the person selling an NFT is the person who made it. It’s called Content Credentials, and NFT sellers will be able to link the Adobe ID with their crypto wallet, allowing compatible NFT marketplaces to show a sort of verified certificate proving the art’s source is authentic.
According to a Decoder interview with Adobe’s chief product officer Scott Belsky, this functionality will be built into Photoshop with a “prepare as NFT” option, launching in preview by the end of this month. Belsky says attribution data created by the Content Credentials will live on an IPFS system. IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) is a decentralized way to host files where a network of people are responsible for keeping data safe and available, rather than a single company (somewhat similar to how torrent systems work). Adobe says that NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible, KnownOrigin, and SuperRare will be able to integrate with Content Credentials to show Adobe’s attribution information.
Art theft has been a Big Deal in the NFT world. There have been many examples of people minting art they didn’t create or don’t have the rights to on the blockchain. The reason is that anyone can mint an NFT, even if they don’t own the copyright to the content, and there’s not really anything the blockchain can do to stop that. Worse, the minting is enshrined on the blockchain, making the NFT’s creation seem authentic if you’re unaware of the original work.Source: The Verge
Right now, when you buy an NFT, it could be an original designed by someone, or it could have been just a copy-and-paste job of an existing image. NFTs are basically just (links to) jpegs added to the blockchain after all. This means there are a lot of scams!
But maybe Photoshop can help solve that.
Photoshop is aiming to:
1/ Link credentials to images created in Photoshop to demonstrate provenance,
2/ Create a decentralized way to host the files,
3/ Link to popular NFT marketplaces.
Despite being founded in the early 1980s, Adobe continues to surprise me with their ability to evolve. Maybe Adobe should just launch an NFT marketplace, too, while they are at it.
#10 Mastercard to Allow Banks to Offer Crypto Credit and Debit Cards
Mastercard Inc. is making it easier for banks to offer cryptocurrency rewards on their credit and debit cards as part of the payment network’s recent embrace of digital currencies.
To pull it off, Mastercard has inked a deal with Bakkt, the cryptocurrencies firm that spun off from Intercontinental Exchange earlier this year, according to a statement Monday. As part of the changes, Mastercard will also make it easier for consumers to spend the cryptocurrency rewards they earn at the millions of retailers on the firm’s network.Source: Bloomberg
#11 D&G NFTs
These NFTs seem to be used in an interesting way. It ties together both digital and physical world.
#12 Facebook’s Algorithms Increasingly in Sights of Lawmakers
U.S. lawmakers investigating how Facebook Inc. and other online platforms shape users’ world views are considering new rules for the artificial intelligence programs blamed for spreading malicious content.
“The algorithms driving powerful social media platforms are black boxes, making it difficult for the public and policy makers to conduct oversight and ensure companies’ compliance, even with their own policies,” Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, told Bloomberg. He introduced a bill in May he said would “help pull back the curtain on Big Tech, enact strict prohibitions on harmful algorithms, and prioritize justice for communities who have long been discriminated against as we work toward platform accountability.”Source: Yahoo
Society is going to have to figure out how to deal with algorithms. The lawmakers are going to peel back this “blackbox” and discover that there is really nothing nefarious about it – The algorithms are simply designed to show you what you want to look at…the more you look at something, the more it will show that to you.
Society cannot solve this problem until it can decide collectively to have a view on what you should be looking at even if you don’t want to look at it. If you don’t want to look at click-bate or anger-inducing things to begin with, the algorithms wouldn’t have shown it to you because you would have just scrolled past it right away (no engagement)…and if the algorithms discover that you actually do love that stuff (lots of engagement), then maybe what needs to be corrected is your own personal preferences.
What seems to be the problem is that people are recognizing that humans have vices but somehow think the algorithms are causing us to have these vices. Screaming for algorithms to fix our vices doesn’t seem like it will work unless we are willing to go as far as declaring certain things / content as illegal.
#13 TikTok’s China sibling Douyin launches mandatory five-second pauses in video feed to curb user addiction
TikTok is known for keeping its users glued to the screen with an endless stream of bite-sized videos, but its Chinese sister app Douyin is trying to curb binge-viewing by inserting five-second pauses along the feed, following the Chinese government’s heightened scrutiny of addictive online behaviour.
Douyin will now hijack the screen with one of six short videos produced in partnership with Chinese band Phoenix Legend whenever a user spends too much time on the app, according to a social media post by ByteDance-owned Douyin on Thursday.
The pause is mandatory, while the videos – which remind users to “put down the phone”, “go to bed” or of “work tomorrow” – cannot be swiped away.Source: SCMP
Okay that’s one way to try to combat “addiction” and get people to be less enslaved to “algorithms”.
💬 Media + Games
#14 Chipotle To Open Virtual Restaurant On Roblox With $1 Million In Free Burritos And Serve Up $5 Digital Entrée Offer For Boorito
Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) today announced it will celebrate the 21styear of Boorito, a fan favorite Halloween event, by becoming the first restaurant brand to open a virtual location on Roblox, a global platform bringing millions of people together through shared experiences. In the Chipotle Boorito Maze experience, Chipotle will make $1 million in free burritos available* and offer access to new virtual Halloween costumes and exclusive Roblox items.
Starting October 28, fans will be able to access Chipotle’s virtual restaurant location on Roblox for a chance to get an offer code for a free burrito, dress up in new Chipotle-inspired costumes, and navigate the Chipotle Boorito Maze to unlock exclusive virtual items upon reaching its center. Chipotle’s costumes on Roblox, which include a Chip Bag Ghost, Burrito Mummy, Spicy Devil and Guacenstein, and more, are inspired by fan favorite Chipotle menu items.Source: Chipotle
#15 WHY THE ‘METAVERSE’ REPRESENTS A REVOLUTION IN ADVERTISING
Isabel Perry, director of technology at Byte (part of Dept) noted, “Metaverses are jam-packed with innovative marketing potential, (ranging) from live shopping to virtual stores, fashion shows, product launches, content production, live flagship events, enhanced social, pimping-up of Zoom calls and NFTs paving the way for real economies. The possibilities that this hybrid digital/physical world offers are near-endless. It’s time for forward-thinking brands to get involved.”
The metaverse signals a move beyond traditional advertising toward creating brand experiences that are more engaging and exciting and less invasive than what we experience with digital advertising today.
For those looking to build a relationship with the new generation of consumers today, the phrase “in real life” has taken on a whole new significance. Digital alone is not sufficient; it must also be interesting, meaningful and immersive. And this is precisely what the metaverse will accomplish for brands in the near future.Source: Ad Age
Below, there are also a couple of articles about Facebook’s rebranding as Meta in order to demonstrate its focus on the Metaverse. In some sense, it seems like Facebook is just evolving because the Metaverse could be the next big thing. But in another sense, the Metaverse and games are potentially existential threats for any advertising-driven business.
#16 Affirm Teams With American Airlines to Bring BNPL Option to Travelers
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) startup Affirm is partnering with American Airlines to bring flexible payments to eligible travelers so they can pay for flights over time, according to a press release emailed to PYMNTS on Wednesday (Oct. 27).
Affirm and American Airlines teamed up ahead of the holiday travel season to give people a flexible way to pay for travel. A PYMNTS survey this week shows that 43% of consumers want to use BNPL for more expensive purchases like travel and home repair.Source: PYMNTS
For large ticket items, BNPL makes sense.
But I still feel there could be a crossover point between BNPL and subscriptions when it comes to experiences and services.
#17 Fintech giants Stripe and Klarna partner on ‘buy now, pay later’ as competition heats up
Stripe said Tuesday it has agreed a strategic partnership with Klarna to offer the Swedish firm’s buy now, pay later payment method to its merchants.
Stripe, which helps businesses accept payments online, said the tie-up would make it easier for retailers to add Klarna as a payment option on their website. Klarna typically partners with stores directly to embed its checkout button. The move could give Klarna a much wider reach of customers.Source: CNBC
BNPL’s key bottlenecks are distribution and funding. BNPL players need to sign up merchants. That’s not easy. But in a digital world where digital infrastructure players already have pipes everywhere, piggybacking on those pipes could work.
#18 Justice Department Probes Visa’s Relationships With Fintech Firms
The Justice Department is scrutinizing Visa Inc.’s V 0.92% relationships with large financial-technology companies as part of its antitrust investigation of the card giant, according to people familiar with the matter.
Antitrust investigators are looking into the financial incentives that Visa gave Square Inc., Stripe Inc. and PayPal PYPL -1.79% Holdings Inc., the people said. Investigators want to know if those deals kept the payments firms from using other card networks or money-movement technologies, the people said.
Separately, investigators are looking into a deal Visa struck roughly six years ago related to Square’s Cash App, according to people familiar with the matter. Cash App lets people send money digitally to each other. Square was working with networks including Visa and lesser-known companies to route these transactions, the people said. (Visa bought a stake in Square about a decade ago when it was a small startup.)
Visa offered to lower fees for Square and to send performance payments to the company that would get bigger when Square sent more transactions over Visa, people familiar with the matter said. That resulted in Square using Visa for many of its Cash App transactions, some of the people said.Source: WSJ
Visa is historically a network for cards. But every network is fungible. It is a network for cards, but it can also be a network for other things. Although Visa is part of the legacy system, the network has immense value because it is the largest network of all. But in order to stay relevant, it needs to be able to work with fintechs and co-opt them before the fintechs figure out how to disrupt them. The biggest threat would be if the government prevents them from working with fintechs.
#19 Amazon says it’s prepared for supply chain snarls as holidays loom
In a blog post, Amazon said a combination of planes, trucks, ships and delivery vans, along with staffed-up warehouses, has put it in a good position to “get customers what they want, when they want it, wherever they are this holiday season.”
Retailers are entering what’s poised to be a particularly challenging holiday shopping period, due to existing supply-chain woes, inflationary pressures and labor shortages. Several factors are behind the issues, including skyrocketing shipping container costs and container shortages, Covid-19 outbreaks at shipping ports, as well as a shortage of workers needed to unload containers and handle goods at warehouses.Source: CNBC
Amazon is a logistics company.
#20 PayPal Says It’s Currently Not Pursuing Pinterest Deal
PayPal Holdings Inc. said it isn’t pursuing an acquisition of Pinterest Inc., ending days of speculation over a potential $45 billion deal.
San Jose, California-based PayPal had approached Pinterest about a potential deal, Bloomberg News reported last week. The companies discussed a potential price of around $70 a share, people with knowledge of the matter said, a price that would have valued Pinterest at about $45 billion.
PayPal shares rose as much as 6% in U.S. premarket trading, while Pinterest dropped as much as 10%.Source: Bloomberg
That was short-lived. PayPal investors didn’t seem to like the deal at all when the rumor broke. But payments and commerce are converging. It would have actually made sense for PayPal, though I think it is preferable for Pinterest shareholders to stay independent.
#21 YouTube Head of Content Partnerships Malik Ducard Exits to Join Pinterest
After a decade at YouTube, Malik Ducard is moving on: He’s been hired by Pinterest as the image-sharing and social media company’s first chief content officer.
For the last two years, Ducard has been VP of content partnerships at YouTube, in charge of business development for the platform’s partnerships on film, TV, social impact, family and learning. At Pinterest, Ducard will lead the content and creator team, tasked with developing its content strategy and vision to tap into the creator economy.Source: Variety
Pinterest is clearly pivoting aggressively into video and the creator economy. The rewards will be immense if successful, but there’s a lot of execution that needs to happen between here and there.
#22 Introducing Meta: A Social Technology Company
Today at Connect 2021, CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Meta, which brings together our apps and technologies under one new company brand. Meta’s focus will be to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses.
The metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world. It will let you share immersive experiences with other people even when you can’t be together — and do things together you couldn’t do in the physical world. It’s the next evolution in a long line of social technologies, and it’s ushering in a new chapter for our company.
This year’s virtual event explored what experiences in the metaverse could feel like over the next decade — from social connection, to entertainment, gaming, fitness, work, education and commerce. We also announced new tools to help people build for the metaverse, including Presence Platform, which will enable new mixed reality experiences on Quest 2, and a $150-million investment in immersive learning to train the next generation of creators.Source: Meta / Facebook
It’s not the most creative name, but it gets the point across. And in some ways this is (likely?) fantastic for search engine optimization. Any metaverse-related search query is going to result with Meta at the top.
Here’s a recap of everything he announced:
#23 Leaked Photo Shows Meta’s Planned Competitor to Apple Watch
Meta Platforms Inc., the company formerly known as Facebook Inc., is developing a smartwatch with a front-facing camera and rounded screen, according to an image of the device found inside one of the tech giant’s iPhone apps.
A move into smartwatches would escalate a rivalry between Meta and Apple, which have battled over app store policies and privacy changes to the iPhone operating system. Apple is also planning to debut its first mixed-reality headset as earlier as next year, which would compete with the upcoming high-end Meta headset.Source: Bloomberg
Facebook and Apple are on a collision course.
#24 Apple Watch and iPhone hold tantalizing clues to Apple’s future AR glasses
While playing around with the new Watch Series 7 that Apple loaned me, I stumbled on a surprising feature. You can now interact with the device in a whole new way—using hand gestures.
One reason AR glasses aren’t here already is because tech companies are still trying to figure out the best ways for users to navigate and control a user interface that lives on your face.
Unlike Facebook, Apple already has a fully developed and extremely popular wrist sensor device in the Apple Watch. This year, Apple’s decision to add hand gestures as a new accessibility option could eventually play a major role in the operation of the company’s AR glasses.
The motion sensors in the Apple Watch 7 can detect four different kinds of hand gestures—a finger-and-thumb touch and release (Apple calls this a “pinch”), a double-pinch, a fist clinch and release, and a fist double-clinch. These gestures, which are found among a branded set of “AssistiveTouch” features in the Accessibility section of Settings, can be used to navigate through action menus and make selections, confirm Apple Pay payments, and more. But the Watch’s sensors could be tuned to detect a wider set of gestures in the future.Source: Fast Company
Back in Tidbits #37, we discussed Facebook Reality Lab’s research into wrist-watch tech as a method of input into AR experiences and why Facebook and Apple are the two companies that are closest to bringing AR / Metaverse-type experiences to life.
Here’s more indication that Apple is going down the same path as Facebook.
Apple has the advantage of already having pre-sold people on their AR experience since many people already wear Apple Watch and AirPods. AR / Metaverse won’t just be glasses or goggles. It will be glasses + watch + AR audio.
#25 China launches world’s fastest programmable quantum computers
Researchers say their supercomputer is 1 million times more powerful than its nearest competitor, Google’s Sycamore
A second light-based machine takes 1 millisecond to perform a task that would take a conventional computer 30 trillion years
Physicists in China say they have built two quantum computers with performance speeds which top their Western competitors – a superconducting machine and an even faster type which uses light photons to achieve never-before seen results.
According to the research team, the light-based Jiuzhang 2 can calculate in one millisecond a task that would take the world’s fastest conventional computer 30 trillion years.Source: SCMP
🍪 Semiconductors + Chips
#26 Gearing Up For High-NA EUV
The semiconductor industry is moving full speed ahead to develop high-NA EUV, but bringing up this next generation lithography system and the associated infrastructure remains a monumental and expensive task.
Lithography equipment is used to pattern tiny features on chips, enabling chipmakers to develop smaller and faster devices at advanced nodes, and to pack more features into a single die or package. Until 2018, chipmakers patterned the features on leading-edge chips using traditional optical lithography scanners. But at advanced nodes, the patterning process with optical lithography became too complex, prompting the need for EUV. Now even that’s not sufficient.
Chipmakers will use today’s EUV for a long time. But at some point — somewhere beyond the 3nm node — it will become difficult to pattern future chips using existing EUV. This is where high-NA fits in. Intel, for one, believes the technology is critical and announced plans to install ASML’s first 0.55 high-NA EUV scanner.Source: Semiconductor Engineering
Great article discussing EUV (likely the most important foundational technology today) and the next iteration of it, High NA EUV.
🚀 Enterprise Software
#27 Adobe Looks to Collaboration, the Metaverse and NFTs For Growth
Adobe Inc. Chief Executive Officer Shantanu Narayen sees tools that foster teamwork and products that take advantage of trends in the digital world such as non-fungible tokens and virtual reality as the next wave of growth for his company that dominates creative design software.
The company will release test versions of two products that let people work together: Creative Cloud Spaces, which provides a place for teammates to organize files, libraries and links, and Creative Cloud Canvas, which lets people display their design work to review with others who are part of the project. Adobe will also test web versions of Photoshop and Illustrator, which it hopes will let multiple people work more easily on projects using that popular software.
Emerging areas such as creating three-dimensional objects for the metaverse, augmented reality and virtual reality, and technology to make sure NFTs and news videos are authentic, will expand the market for Adobe’s products, Narayen said. New mobile phones with multiple cameras that can take high-quality images are also fueling demand, he said.
“The reason why you haven’t seen more AR or VR content is because it’s hard to author, but we’re making strides on that,” he said.Source: Bloomberg
We briefly talked about Adobe above in the NFT section, but Adobe is doing a lot of interesting things. For a company founded in the 1980s before modern computers existed, before the internet existed, and before SaaS business model existed, Adobe has evolved very impressively to stay relevant. It didn’t even invent the SaaS business model, but is now the world’s largest SaaS subscription business by market cap (larger than Salesforce) even though Adobe didn’t even transition to SaaS subscriptions until 8 years ago.
And they seem to be successful evolving beyond photos into videos, AR / VR / 3D content, and even new workflows.
💉🔬 Health + Science
#28 Predicting gene expression with AI
We developed a new model based on Transformers, common in natural language processing, to make use of self-attention mechanisms that could integrate much greater DNA context. Because Transformers are ideal for looking at long passages of text, we adapted them to “read” vastly extended DNA sequences. By effectively processing sequences to consider interactions at distances that are more than 5 times (i.e., 200,000 base pairs) the length of previous methods, our architecture can model the influence of important regulatory elements called enhancers on gene expression from further away within the DNA sequence.
The main application of this new model is to predict which changes to the DNA letters, also called genetic variants, will alter the expression of the gene. Compared to previous models, Enformer is significantly more accurate at predicting the effects of variants on gene expression, both in the case of natural genetic variants and synthetic variants that alter important regulatory sequences. This property is useful for interpreting the growing number of disease-associated variants obtained by genome-wide association studies. Variants associated with complex genetic diseases are predominantly located in the non-coding region of the genome, likely causing disease by altering gene expression. But due to inherent correlations among variants, many of these disease-associated variants are only spuriously correlated rather than causative. Computational tools can now help distinguish the true associations from false positives.Source: Google / DeepMind
Interesting how AI works. Would not have thought that you can take a language model and apply it to DNA. But I guess that makes sense since DNA itself is a type of language. This builds on previous work that DeepMind has done to use AI to infer protein structures from DNA.
🤔 Hmm… / 😮 Wow
#29 Blue Origin and Sierra Space developing commercial space station
Blue Origin and Sierra Space today announced plans for Orbital Reef, a commercially developed, owned, and operated space station to be built in low Earth orbit. The station will open the next chapter of human space exploration and development by facilitating the growth of a vibrant ecosystem and business model for the future. Orbital Reef is backed by space industry leaders and teammates including Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions, and Arizona State University.
Designed to open multiple new markets in space, Orbital Reef will provide anyone with the opportunity to establish their own address on orbit. This unique destination will offer research, industrial, international, and commercial customers the cost competitive end-to-end services they need including space transportation and logistics, space habitation, equipment accommodation, and operations including onboard crew. The station will start operating in the second half of this decade.
Orbital Reef will be operated as a “mixed use business park” in space. Shared infrastructure efficiently supports the proprietary needs of diverse tenants and visitors. It features a human-centered space architecture with world-class services and amenities that is inspiring, practical, and safe. As the premier commercial destination in low Earth orbit, Orbital Reef will provide the essential infrastructure needed to scale economic activity and open new markets in space. Reusable space transportation and smart design, accompanied by advanced automation and logistics, will minimize cost and complexity for both traditional space operators and new arrivals, allowing the widest range of users to pursue their goals. The open system architecture allows any customer or nation to link up and scale to support demand. Module berths, vehicle ports, utilities, and amenities all increase as the market grows.Source: Blue Origin
#30 Simulated Worlds
This was fun to watch. This will be very much a reality when we have AR glasses / VR goggles that can do 8k resolution.
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