No. 228 – Thursday Reads

Tackling COVID-19 in Africa – “If leaders across sectors translate their already proven resolve into more targeted, collaborative action in the coming weeks, we believe they can make significant progress in mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic—and safeguarding economies and livelihoods.”

What If D.C.’s Black-Owned Restaurants Can’t Recover From the Effects of COVID-19? – ““black women have been creating equitable and sustainable businesses since the birth of the nation…somewhere along the way we have dimmed our collective power to be seen in spaces that don’t matter.”” 

What Dr Doom told me about the coming recession – “People initially said ‘Is this going to be a V-shaped recovery or is it going to be a U with a gradual recovery or is it going to be an L with stagnation or a W, a double dip?’ It is not a V. It is not a U. It is not an L. It is not a W. It is an I. A straight line down. Output is down. Consumption is down. Capex is down. Residential investment is down. Exports are down. Imports are down.”

‘A perfect storm for first time managers,’ say VCs with their own shops – “You need to find people who are going to back you because they think this is a good idea and who aren’t quite so orthodox in terms of what they want to see in terms partner composition and all that.”

Telehealth Startup Launches Platform to Treat Coronavirus Patients Remotely – – “The beauty of 4D is that long after the pandemic ends, we are a viable long-term solution for managing patients at home.”

What if coronavirus is an opportunity for African economies? – “The Burkinabé historian Joseph Ki-Zerbo said: “You shouldn’t sleep on other people’s mats, as it’s like sleeping on the ground.””

Which Investor Cohorts Pulled Back The Most In 2008 – “However, venture firms are well situated to take advantage of a different market; with funds to invest, less competition for deals, a clearing of the decks as competitors fail and lower valuations.”

Start-Ups Are Pummeled in the ‘Great Unwinding’ – “In many ways it’s energizing, but it’s also quite chaotic,” said Francis Davidson, chief executive of Sonder, which raised $345 million in funding and was valued at $1.1 billion. He said his investors had advised him to cut fast and deep to allow employees to hit the job market before things got worse and to avoid multiple rounds of layoffs.

Jim Clyburn changed everything for Joe Biden’s campaign. He’s been a political force for a long time. (paywall) – “Putting it another way, Clyburn quotes his friend Andrew Young, the former ambassador and civil rights leader, who “used to say all the time that black folks have the best antenna.””

‘He’s Going to Do Whatever He Wants’ – Svrcek went even further, saying Falwell misled her “to believe that the school was … abandoning plans to invite students back into residence halls following spring break.

No. 227 – Wednesday Reads

So much for April Fool’s Day.

Telemedicine is essential amid the covid-19 crisis and after it – “What about the features of a visit to a doctor that seemingly can’t be done at a distance, such as the physical exam? Today’s stethoscope is gradually being replaced—like everything else—by the smartphone.”

FaintFlex Vol. 19 – Why There’s No Black Barstool – “After reflecting on this for months, my main observation comes down to a difference in the core of their content & commentary styles – sketches vs. unscripted.”

Rihanna Talks New Music, Fenty Skincare & Her Plans To Have “3 Or 4 Kids” – “The Guyanese are like the Mexicans of Barbados,” she says. “So I identify – and that’s why I really relate and empathise with Mexican people or Latino people, who are discriminated against in America. I know what it feels like to have the immigration come into your home in the middle of the night and drag people out.”

We don’t work, we don’t eat’: Informal workers face stark choices as Africa’s largest megacity shuts down – “I cannot afford to stay at home and not feed my children. I know it is risky to be out here, but if I don’t come out to look for what to feed my family, we will die of hunger faster than being killed by the virus.”

Microsoft ends investments in facial recognition startups – “AnyVision has been facing backlash after reports detailed how it has been using facial recognition to surveil Palestinians around the West Bank.”

No. 226 – Tuesday Reads

How parking a wireless school bus can help all students get back to school – “South Carolina is planning to deploy 3,000 buses connected to the internet through a contract with Charter Communications so that students can receive home instruction.”

Civil rights leaders oppose swift move off natural gas – “Whenever someone disagrees with what you say, they think, ‘Oh, you must be getting paid,'” Morial said. “It’s condescending, patronizing and racist. I hope you print it. I want them to see it. Because that’s the way we feel.”

Nothing Matters Anymore (Except What Actually Does) – “There’s so much that doesn’t matter; so much I did just two months ago seems ludicrous now. (Brunch every Sunday? Really?) So many silly habits and desires and feuds and consumptions and relationships that aren’t just bandwidth-consuming; they’re bandwidth-stealing, snatching time and energy away from the people and things that matter.”

How Eliud Kipchoge Broke Running’s Mythic Barrier – “We don’t run and compete, but we have competing minds.”

EXAMINING THE RETURNS: The Financial Returns of Diverse Private Equity Firms (click last link in press release for full report) – “Likewise, despite being disproportionately represented in the top quartile of private equity fund performance, the assets in diverse private equity funds tell us that women- and diverse-owned PE firms are still less likely to be “hired” than non-diverse firms.”

Source: National Association of Investment Companies

No. 225 – Monday Reads

A few folks have requested that I send what I’m reading and listening to. Here goes:

Joseph Lowery, civil rights leader and MLK aide, dies at 98 – “I’ve never felt your ministry should be totally devoted to making a heavenly home. I thought it should also be devoted to making your home here heavenly”

Officials warn Africa is at ‘break the glass’ moment – “To say we are not concerned and trembling in our boots about what might be in the coming weeks and months is an understatement.”

Universities Shouldn’t Spend Their Endowments on Coronavirus Relief – “Part of America’s greatness as a nation, and as an innovator, is its unwillingness to ask anew every day whether its elite accumulations of wealth should be torn down and rededicated to everyday purposes of a supposedly greater benevolence.”

How The Weeknd Mastered his Brand – ““Not having a brand” still requires the curation and focus of having a brand. It actually requires more work since its a nonstandard approach with less how-to guides and fewer advisors who can share quick tips.”

Billionaire Investor Bill Ackman Explains Himself – “Capitalism does not work in an 18-month shutdown, capitalism can work in a 30-day shutdown.”

Podcast – Chamath Palihapitiya: “The investing landscape is done,” taxes will go up, and a two-week lockdown is inevitable

Here’s an album I enjoyed this weekend:

No. 223: New Column!

I’ve got a weekly column I’m writing for Moguldom now where I will be writing about all things artificial intelligence and black people. I’m real grateful for the opportunity.

Here are links to the first couple pieces:

Reimagining Drug Discovery And Testing To Increase Genetic Data For Black People

What Does Neuralink Mean for Intellectual Property? Let’s Get This Issue Handled, Then Go Create

If you know folks working in pharma or intellectual property law, I’d love to get their thoughts on the pieces!

No. 222: Minerals, Electric Vehicles, and AI

Andreessen Horowitz posted this interesting conversation on cobalt – the mineral helping power our phones, electric vehicles, and more.

The conversation got me thinking about a piece I wrote back in 2015 (time flies!) on Jean-Yves Ollivier, Marc Andreessen, and the common interests they share in minerals that power the global economy.

There has been a lot written about how problematic cobalt mining is because of the extent to which child labor is involved in Democratic Republic of Congo where much of the world’s cobalt is currently produced. Companies like Tesla and Apple are working on improving the sourcing of these minerals.

While the adoption of smartphones is rapidly growing, we’re still in the early stages for electric vehicles. According to Clean Technica, about two percent of vehicles sold last year were electric vehicles to give you a sense of how far there is to go.

So, if the world moves to electric vehicles we could be consuming a lot more cobalt. In the piece I wrote, I link to a BBC piece on a city in Mongolia called Baotou. The city is a hub for the production of some key minerals in smartphones and other complex devices. There’s a lake near the city that is extremely toxic as a result of industrial waste.

We hear a lot about artificial intelligence and are moving towards the technology becoming more and more a part of our lives. Devices will come along with this: cars, sensors, devices connected to our brains, and more. Proponents of artificial intelligence say the technologies could create something of a utopia where we’re able to focus more on caring for others, the arts and more.

My worry is that this supposed utopia would be layered on top of an underworld like Baotou. I had never heard of the place before reading that BBC piece.

Perhaps we’re really moving to the singularity and an artificial intelligence-driven world like Ray Kurzweil says we are. Maybe Elon Musk succeeds in driving the global adoption of electric vehicles. If that’s so, we’ve got to be sure we’re thinking through to the outer edges of the supply chain to ensure we’re treating folks and the environment well.

No. 221: Preparing Our Kids for an AI World

My daughter is particular about manners. If you don’t say please or thank you when you’re supposed, it’s a serious problem. This is starting to extend to the Alexa device she uses to listen to audiobooks. She says please and thank you after the device follows her instructions. Numerous times she has corrected me for not using similar pleasantries.

The world in which my daughter and children her age are growing up in is full or artificial intelligence. Communicating with a smart device, recommended searches, GPS directions, and more capabilities we have involving artificial intelligence are normal parts of life for them.

So, how do we ensure our children have an awareness of artificial intelligence rather than thinking Alexa just automagically talks to them?

I recently ran across the AI for K-12 Initiative, an effort to map out a curriculum for primary and secondary school-age children to learn about artificial intelligence. The site has a ton of resources that I think will be helpful for parents and educators to take a look through.

Imagining the world my daughter will be living in 30 years from now is pretty overwhelming at times. Resources like this help me do what I can now to help ensure she’s at the table shaping that future. I’d love for your kids to be at that table as well.

No. 220: Convergence in Advancing AI Technology

Over 50 years ago, Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel observed that the number of transistors computer chip makers were able to fit on a chip doubled every two years. Moore’s Law held true until the past couple years as the amount of power these chips need to compute becomes unsustainable and their computing power starts to level off. So, software researchers and hardware researchers have been thinking of new ways of increasing computing power that is more energy efficient. As someone who lives to see a good connection, I was thrilled to come across an opportunity for these two efforts to meet.

Deloitte’s Applied AI Leader, Melissa Smith, posted the below tweet that got me thinking about this.

When I was a kid, my mom would let me look at bacteria using the electron microscope in her laboratory. Shoutout to North Carolina A&T State University for investing in its laboratory capabilities. It was incredible to see extremely small organisms with such clarity. But, I could only observe these organisms in isolation. I couldn’t see how they interacted with organisms in the past, let alone predict how they would depending in changes in the environment. Things have changed over 20 years later. Electron microscopes allow researchers to examine nanoparticles with incredible accuracy.

There’s a whole field of science called quantum physics that describes the fundamental elements of the universe – photons, electrons, etc. The paper Melissa linked to is part of an effort to equip researchers with the tools to simulate and study the interaction of lots of particles and make predictions about phenomena like gravity.

The researchers figured out a way to use neural networks, basically algorithms designed to try and mimic how our brains identify patterns, to simulate the interaction of a bunch of particles, or quantum systems. The researchers did this because of the limits we are hitting in computing power.

Kunle Olukotun is a professor at Stanford who changed the game for computing in the 90s and early 00s. Back then, processing speeds were leveling off similar to what is happening today. He introduced the multi-core processor which kickstarted another wave of speed increases. Today, Kunle and his team at SambaNova Systems is building new software language and hardware flexible enough for artificial intelligence applications to run at scale. The talk below gives a nice overview of what the SambaNova team is building.

SambaNova hasn’t released its products yet, so for the time being the neural network solution the researchers came up with works. It will be really cool to see the impact a software and architecture able to handle quantum systems simulations has on their research. That convergence could be really powerful. I, for one, would love to see how much has changed from when I would ask my mom if I could look at something in the electron microscope.

No. 219: Podcast Interview – AI + Africa

Thanks to Kwabena Sarkodie for having me on his podcast, Insights from the Sahara, to discuss all things artificial intelligence and Africa.

No. 218: AWS AI Extraction | Social Welfare Programs and AI | Indian State Adoption of AI

AWS Announces General Availability of Amazon Textract (Amazon)

Amazon is making widely available a text and data extraction tool that is going to make it real easy to search all kinds of information. My whole time reading this release all I could think about was how hard it is to search your own posts on Twitter. There’s no excuses now, Jack Dorsey.

Conference on Social Protection by Artificial Intelligence: Decoding Human Rights in a Digital Age (Freedom to Tinker)

The incorporation of artificial intelligence in welfare programs comes with a range of risks. The last section of this piece is critical, taking a human centered design approach with a focus on those most at the mercy of artificial intelligence technology operating portions of welfare programs. That kind of approach would be helpful in avoiding unintended consequences over the course of developing AI tools for these populations.

Niti Aayog plans index to rank states on artificial intelligence adoption (Economic Times)

An index rating the readiness of states across India to adopt artificial intelligence technologies will be very interesting to read. Considering the U.S. has states still struggling with voting machine technology, this sort of index would be very eye-opening for policy makers in this country.