Welcome to this week’s roundup. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done one of these. It turns out, trying to summarise all (or even some) of all the content I read is a lot of work! Also I’ve been having issues with my website lately, so I decided to rebuild the whole thing. I hope you enjoy the new look!
What an amazing set from Illenium! In this one he plays tracks from his previous 3 albums in a 4 hour-long set. Playing to a massive stadium crowd in Las Vegas, it’s hard to believe this happened only a few weeks ago. It actually makes me wish I was in America right now. The set is filled with melodic choruses and dirty dubstep drops. As America is opening up I hope this is the just the start of many more sets to come from my favourite dance music artists. Finally we’ll be getting new music to listen to after festivals didn’t happen in 2020.
Airr – my new podcast app
I’ve been a devout user of Overcast since around 2017. I, like many others, love the user interface and handy features like Voice Boost and Shorten Silences. But lately I’ve been trying to get better at retaining the things I learn (for purposes like this blog). So I’ve been trying to take notes as I listen to podcasts so that I can remember what was talked about. Since I ride a bicycle to work while listening to podcasts, my usual procedure has been to pause the podcast, pull over and dictate a note on my Apple Watch.
What this app does is save a 45-second clip when you hit the “previous track” button on your earphones. For AirPods, this is a triple-tap on the earbud. You can have the app transcribe a podcast episode for you too, using their AI (limited to once every 24 hours). This means when I’m commuting, I can just hit previous track when I want to take a note of a certain spot and continue on. Then when I get home it’s easy to go through all of my snippets and write up a summary. Awesome.
Malcom Gladwell rides in a Waymo fully autonomous vehicle for the first time and recounts his experience as he thinks about the future of automobiles.
What’s notable is when he talks about the Madman Theory: the argument that it can be beneficial in war, to be perceived as insane. This creates unpredictability in your opponent and makes them harder to fight. It becomes yourbest interest to play it a bit cautious because you don’t know what they might do.
Today, pedestrians and cyclists are at a sort of war with drivers. Both need to share the road sometimes and all roles are performed by humans, which introduces a level of potential madness: distracted drivers, drunk drivers etc. With autonomous vehicles however, we’ll then have the perfect, predictable driver on our hands. One which will always prioritise human safety above all else. One where you know will slow down for you if you jaywalk. Malcolm hypothesises that we’ll get our roads back – as pedestrians and cyclists. Kids will be able to play in the streets again and stationary bikes will become a thing of the past as people can confidently cycle on the roads without fear of getting mowed down by an irrational driver. We’ll live in an entirely new utopia, where humans and self-driving machines live together in harmony and safety.
I don’t fully agree that this will forge a new utopian society for us. For one, how will we depend on these autonomous vehicles to get us anywhere? If people are suddenly jumping onto the street and blocking off roads on a whim, this could have huge consequences for traffic. Not to mention the fact that many more people would choose commute by car if there is low-cost autonomous travel everywhere. Contrary to what most tech enthusiasts seem to think, I don’t agree that autonomous vehicles will solve all of our road problems. They’re a heck a of a lot better than having human drivers, sure, but problems like traffic aren’t going to magically disappear.
Started listening to this new podcast about climate change solutions and I’m enjoying it so far. The topics they discuss seem very relevant in the climate tech space and are communicated in a very easy to digest way.
The current gaps in climate tech are:
- RTG’s – Radioisotope Thermal Generators. This is an alternative form of nuclear energy that makes use of the fact that decaying radioactive molecules give off heat or other particles, which may be harnessed to produce energy. Today’s nuclear power plants make use of a complex system of controlled fission just to boil water, which drives another complex system to generate electricity. RTG’s take away a few of those steps and get you closer to generating electricity directly from the radiation. It’s a lot less risky compared to traditional nuclear power – there’s no chance of a meltdown and the whole setup is a lot easier to build.
- Building transmission networks (basically laying wires). If we’re going to be installing a lot more solar and wind power, the places to generate that are often much further away from cities than we’d build traditional fossil fuel plants. This means we’re going to have to lay a lot more wires to transmit the energy, and right now it costs a lot of money to do this seemingly simple task. There is a lot of money that goes in approvals, consulting communities along the way, design and safety for example. These costs need to come down if we’re going to install a lot more renewable energy on the grid.
- Improving emissions measurements: currently they’re around 20%+ underreported. Its difficult to reach a goal if you can’t accurately track how you’re doing. How would you save for retirement if you can’t see the balance of your bank account? Similarly, we need to improve the accuracy of our emissions measurements.
- Beef production and the effect of producing methane and simultaneous deforestation. Animal agriculture and in particular beef production are responsible for a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The reason? Cow burps. It might sound funny and inconsequential but we raise billions of cows to eat them, and their burps are full of methane which is many times more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2. There’s a startup in the UK that are exploring the use of a mask that can be worn by cows to capture their methane and sequester it. While this sounds like it could be effective, that’s a funny sight to imagine – a paddock full of cows wearing masks. What’s next – we get them to socially distance from each other? The other reason beef production contributes so much to climate is that it is the number one reason for deforestation – people are cutting down forests just to make room for cows to roam and ruminate.
- Right now, most hydrogen is produced using steam reforming of natural gas (“grey” hydrogen). It’s just the cheapest way to produce it today. As the price of renewables comes down and fossil fuels go up, we hope to see more “green” hydrogen entering the mix and displacing the “grey” hydrogen. We should be seeing green hydrogen competing with fossil fuel hydrogen in price by 2030. This is a $100 billion industry today, primarily using it to produce fertilisers.
- Beyond this, if we see the hydrogen transport economy take off then it could be worth many more times that amount.
- Right now hydrogen electrolyser and development is big but we might see in a few years that the best place to be is down stream getting supplied hydrogen as the space heats up.
🧠 Some other things I’ve learned recently:
Dual Native ISO
Sorry, be forewarned that this one might not make much sense to you unless you are a filmmaker.
I thought I understood what Dual Native ISO was, being a Blackmagic Pocket 6K owner myself (fantastic camera by the way).
It’s the extra gain that kicks in when you hit a certain ISO on the camera, which allows for much cleaner noise than the ISO level just below it. Effectively it lets you get better low-light performance by giving you less noise at higher ISO levels.
What I didn’t realise was the effect of the ISO curve and how to get the most details out of the highlights and shadows on such a system.
Interesting but counter-intuitive takeaways:
- To get the most highlight details, increase the ISO to the maximum of the native ISO range using ND filters if it gets too bright)
- To get the most shadow detail, lower the ISO to the minimum of that ISO range (without clipping shadows)
This article was a fantastic reminder about the effect of social media and comparing with others on our psychology.
It basically boils down to the age-old mantra: “the grass is always greener on the other side”.
This is something I need to keep reminding myself as I still experience it almost every day. It’s easy for me to look back on my corporate job and forget the drudgery and other aspects I didn’t enjoy about it, instead remembering the steady paycheck and fun teamwork environment. At the same time, it’s sometimes easy to forget the awesomeness and freedom of working as a freelancer, when I’m in the middle of a dry-spell of projects. I’m sure to most of my friends, it looks like all I do is sit in a tropical paradise snapping photos while sipping on coconuts. Ok, most of that is true, but it also obscures the not-so-good parts in between. Like the anxiety around not having work (and therefore money), working on parts of the business that I don’t enjoy like accounting, not getting paid for sick days etc.
- Our culture inextricably ties the definition of “play” to being the polar opposite of “work”. We spend so much time “working” at school to study the greats, like Newton, when in reality what people like Newton were doing was probably more in the vein of “play”
- The argument for working on a project of one’s own is that it’s more fun, but also more productive. It turns your “work” into “play”, even if it is work.
- People often talk about work/life balance, but for people who are playing, that dash turns to more of a slash
- For a project to feel like your own, you must feel like you have sufficient autonomy. Steve Jobs knew this when he got people to work on a product: he just had to lay out what he wanted from them at a high level, and would let them figure out the details. Kids don’t usually get this level of autonomy, as we force them into school, homework and extracurriculars.
- The hardest part about completing projects is morale. This is especially hard for adults compared to kids. Many people never start projects because they want to set a high standard for them and are afraid of failing.
- Ideally we can strive to have the best of both worlds: to be deliberate in choosing projects of our own, and carelessly confident that we can complete them