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"Securities"

"Securities"

By Lux Capital
Ideas on science, technology, finance and the human condition.

By Lux Capital
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Vaporware skepticism
"Where marginal stupidity is about  “how there is a turning point where further information or complexity can befuddle us and simply raise costs without any concomitant value,”  what I am seeing in hard science investing is an outsourcing of thought,  a reliance on the splashy marketing one-pager instead of the agonizingly long technical research with the diligence to match. None of this bodes well for many of the new VC entrants who have suddenly become enamored by the capital return potential of science. We have a  view that real advances in science are relatively rare, that they are hard to produce, and they tend to be signaled by clear research evidence years if not decades in advance. Venture capital is not a fit for the needs of academic researchers who require long time horizons of open exploration without commercial considerations. Skillful diligence is critical to making thoughtful investments, and investors must have a  well of resilience to draw upon, since most diligence will come back relatively negative in the hard sciences compared to software. We need the right dose of vaporware skepticism. We can’t allow the excitement of science fiction to occlude the challenges of realizing it into science fact. Condensing fact from the vapor of nuance means finding the rare but tangible scientific advancements and propelling them forward on the path to commercialization. Otherwise, you’re investing in steam, and those returns on capital will just evaporate right through your fingers." - Danny Crichton Lux Capital's "Securities" newsletter edition: Vaporware skepticism by Danny Crichton "Securities" podcast is produced and edited by Chris Gates Lux Recommends:  The nuclear situation with North Korea has been transformed over the past few months, with changes that will ripple across the Asia-Pacific region and into U.S. foreign policy. Kim Hyung-jin and Kim Tong-hyung in the AP have a great explainer on the latest evolution of nuclear strategy emanating from the DPRK. Our scientist-in-residence Sam Arbesman brings us an article from Nature on the Long-Term Evolution Experiment (LTEE), in which scientists have saved tens of thousands of generations of E. coli over 34 years in order to improve our understanding of evolutionary biology. The scientists are retiring and the bacterial cultures are moving homes in order to continue their lengthy evolutionary run. Shaq Vayda recommends a podcast and attached transcript between Eric J. Topol of Medicine and the Machine and Demis Hassabis, founder of DeepMind. The two discuss the advancements that deep learning affords medical advancements Retired lieutenant colonel Alex Vershinin, writing a commentary for the Royal United Services In
20:43
June 25, 2022
Lazy tech analogies
"The world is incredibly complicated, and humans necessarily use heuristics and analogies to process that complexity into simpler forms. These mental shortcuts are never perfect, but they should broadly summarize the complexity they represent while affording their user a sense of their limitations. In that vein, I want to call attention to two lazy tech analogies that I’ve seen lately as examples of the kind of impoverished analogical thinking that the industry needs to actively avoid." - Danny Crichton Lux Capital's "Securities" newsletter edition: American national security and startups + Lazy tech analogies by Danny Crichton "Securities" podcast is produced and edited by Chris Gates
22:11
June 18, 2022
Alternate Histories and GPT-3
"GPT-3 was trained on is so large that the model contains a certain  fraction of the actual complexity of the world. But how much is actually  inside these models, implicitly embedded within these neural networks? I  decided to test this and see if I could examine the GPT-3 model of the world through the use of counterfactuals. Specifically, I wanted to see if GPT-3 could productively unspool histories of the world if things were slightly different, such as if the outcome of a war were different or a historical figure hadn’t been born. I wanted to see how well it could write alternate histories." - Samuel Arbesman From Cabinet of Wonders newsletter by Samuel Arbesman Great tweet thread summarizing his post "Securities" podcast is produced and edited by Chris Gates
16:17
June 17, 2022
Marginal Stupidity
"One of the most important cognitive tradeoffs we make is how to process information, and perhaps more specifically, the deluge of information that bombards us every day. A study out of UCSD in 2009 estimated that Americans read or hear more than 100,000 words a day —  an increase of nearly 350% over the prior three decades (and that was  before Slack and Substack!) It would seem logical that more information is always better for decision-making,  both for individuals and for societies. Yet, that’s precisely the  tradeoff: humans and civilizations must balance greater and better  information with the limits of their rationalities." - Danny Crichton Lux Capital's "Securities" newsletter edition: The marginal returns of information by Danny Crichton "Securities" podcast is produced and edited by Chris Gates
12:45
June 14, 2022
The ESG Mirage
"The activities of an extremely complicated phenomenon like a  multi-national corporation cannot be reduced to five-star ratings,  particularly on a definition as squishy as “Environmental, Social, and  Governance.” Rather than trying to strengthen definitions or improve quantification, the industry needs to come to terms with a more basic reality: the mission is impossible, and its failure began before it even started. With this much moolah at stake, the world deserves better."  - Danny Crichton Lux Capital's "Securities" newsletter edition: The ESG Mirage by Danny Crichton Produced and edited by Chris Gates
06:55
June 11, 2022
Jonathan Haidt on American structural stupidity and the post-Babel world (Part 1)
Speech and the right to it has become deeply contested across America in the 21st Century. What is free speech, what are its limits, and what norms should apply to both give everyone a chance to speak while also respecting the needs of a democratic society to function? Investigating these and other critical questions has been Jonathan Haidt, professor of social psychology at NYU’s Stern School of Business and the author most recently of “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure,” which he co-wrote with Greg Lukianoff.He recently wrote an article for The Atlantic headlined “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” and in this first part of a two-part series, Josh Wolfe and Danny Crichton discuss with Haidt his thesis of American “structural stupidity” and why the classical metaphor of the Tower of Babel describes the current political and social environment for Americans.
18:23
June 04, 2022
Jonathan Haidt on how tech can change social media and save democracy (Part 2)
In part one of this interview, Jonathan Haidt described his recent article in The Atlantic on America’s structural stupidity and why the classical metaphor of the Tower of Babel describes the current political and social environment for Americans.In this second and final part, Josh Wolfe and Danny Crichton discuss with Haidt the potential directions that the tech industry can take to ameliorate the worst aspects of our current toxic social media environment. We’ll also discuss the mental health of members of Gen Z, how corporations can nurture their youngest employees, norms and social contagion as well as why content moderation isn’t the answer to social media’s problems.
26:30
June 04, 2022
Speculative fiction is a prism to understand people
Speculative fiction is a long-running but increasingly popular genre of science fiction that uses a variety of imaginative techniques to envision alternatives to our present and coming society. One of its craftsmen is Eliot Peper, a novelist whose tenth book, Reap3r, was just released. Reap3r follows a diverse cast including a quantum computer scientist, a virologist, a podcaster, a VC, and an assassin as they unlock a mystery key to the whole plot. Peper along with host Danny Crichton talk about how Reap3r sheds light on our current world, how Peper thinks about launching a new book as an independent novelist, and how travel and wanderlust can come together to generate innovative ideas, plots, and characters.
29:44
May 26, 2022
Will Malthus or human ingenuity win out in these chaotic times?
It’s been another crazy week of financial news, but how do all these trends add up? This week, Danny Crichton and Josh Wolfe talk about South Korea’s burgeoning desire for nuclear weapons, some themes from the latest Lux quarterly letter and how a 1980s experimental film inspired its theme of “entropic apex,” how Gen Z and others will respond to actions by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and corporations to raise prices, some commentary on Twitter and Elon Musk and finally, a debate on whether Malthus was right on the future course of humanity.
29:52
May 21, 2022
If you’re not solving for pain, then what the hell are you doing?
Tony Fadell is the consummate Silicon Valley builder, having conceived, designed and executed such iconic products as the Apple iPod and iPhone as well as the Nest thermostat. He’s now looking to give back to the community that has given him so much with his new book Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making, which just came out from Harper Business. He joins Lux's Danny Crichton and Peter Hébert to talk about the time he walked out of a position just two weeks on the job, how the serendipity of the Valley led to Apple, how to build human connections, why he thinks the metaverse as it stands is a waste of time, how to organize a company culture today, and the importance of storytelling and product marketing when building a product.
30:24
May 17, 2022
Risk, Bias and Decision Making: Pre-mortems
Recently at Lux in New York City, Josh Wolfe invited three celebrated decision and risk specialists for a lunch to discuss the latest academic research and empirical insights from the world of psychology and decision sciences. Our lunch included Danny Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on decision sciences. His book Thinking Fast and Slow has been a major bestseller and summarizes much of his work in the field. We also had Annie Duke, a World Series of Poker champion who researches cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books How to Decide and Thinking in Bets have also been tremendously influential best sellers, and she is also the co-founder of the Alliance for Decision Education. Also joining us was Michael Mauboussin, the Head of Consilient Research at Counterpoint Global and who has also taught finance for decades at Columbia. His book More Than You Know is similarly a major bestseller. This is an edited four-part series from our lunch seminar, with each part covering one topic of the conversation for easier listening. In this first part, we discuss the concept of pre-mortems, an approach of looking at the outcome of our decision and if it were to fail, why we think it would fail. It’s an approach that’s designed to overcome groupthink and avoid the fact that pessimists are really unpopular in group decision-making sessions. However, recent research has shown that they don’t always help people and groups change their mind. We look at pre-mortems, prospective hindsight, legitimizing dissent, self-serving bias and pre-parade or backcasts to see how this tool can affect and improve decision-making given the most recent academic literature.
18:05
May 14, 2022
Risk, Bias and Decision Making: People never change their minds
Recently at Lux in New York City, Josh Wolfe invited three celebrated decision and risk specialists for a lunch to discuss the latest academic research and empirical insights from the world of psychology and decision sciences. Our lunch included Danny Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on decision sciences. His book Thinking Fast and Slow has been a major bestseller and summarizes much of his work in the field. We also had Annie Duke, a World Series of Poker champion who researches cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books How to Decide and Thinking in Bets have also been tremendously influential best sellers, and she is also the co-founder of the Alliance for Decision Education. Also joining us was Michael Mauboussin, the Head of Consilient Research at Counterpoint Global and who has also taught finance for decades at Columbia. His book More Than You Know is similarly a major bestseller. In part two of our risk, bias and decision making lunch, Danny Kahneman, Annie Duke and Josh Wolfe discuss whether people change their minds, particularly on subjects that matter, why people care about dissonance reduction, and what circumstances lead people to changing their minds at all.
09:20
May 14, 2022
Risk, Bias and Decision Making: Defying the odds
Recently at Lux in New York City, Josh Wolfe invited three celebrated decision and risk specialists for a lunch to discuss the latest academic research and empirical insights from the world of psychology and decision sciences. Our lunch included Danny Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on decision sciences. His book Thinking Fast and Slow has been a major bestseller and summarizes much of his work in the field. We also had Annie Duke, a World Series of Poker champion who researches cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books How to Decide and Thinking in Bets have also been tremendously influential best sellers, and she is also the co-founder of the Alliance for Decision Education. Also joining us was Michael Mauboussin, the Head of Consilient Research at Counterpoint Global and who has also taught finance for decades at Columbia. His book More Than You Know is similarly a major bestseller. In part three of our risk, bias and decision making lunch, Annie Duke, Michael Mauboussin, Danny Kahneman, and Josh Wolfe discuss optimism, base rates, overcoming negative expected values, population versus individual risks, calibrating risk assessments, and infectious amplification of optimism within groups.
21:59
May 14, 2022
Risk, Bias and Decision Making: Hot hands
Recently at Lux in New York City, Josh Wolfe invited three celebrated decision and risk specialists for a lunch to discuss the latest academic research and empirical insights from the world of psychology and decision sciences. Our lunch included Danny Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on decision sciences. His book Thinking Fast and Slow has been a major bestseller and summarizes much of his work in the field. We also had Annie Duke, a World Series of Poker champion who researches cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books How to Decide and Thinking in Bets have also been tremendously influential best sellers, and she is also the co-founder of the Alliance for Decision Education. Also joining us was Michael Mauboussin, the Head of Consilient Research at Counterpoint Global and who has also taught finance for decades at Columbia. His book More Than You Know is similarly a major bestseller. In the fourth and final segment of our risk, bias and decision making lunch, Josh Wolfe, Annie Duke, Danny Kahneman and Michael Mauboussin discuss the phenomenon of the so-called “hot hand,” the idea that a basketball player or an investor can have a streak of good luck that allows them to actually increase the odds of success on their future plays.
06:50
May 14, 2022
Shredding the endowment investing playbook w/Scott Wilson, CIO of Washington University in St. Louis
University endowments are one of the key nexuses by which finance influences the future of science, tech, and the human condition, and what happens at endowments and other limited partners (LPs) matters deeply both for their clients but also the wider VC asset class. Washington University in St. Louis Chief Investment Officer Scott Wilson, who drove the university’s record-breaking 65% return last year and is also a Lux LP, joins the podcast to discuss how he redeemed $3.6 billion in assets his first week on the job in 2017, his origin story in rural Alaska, and WashU’s strategy of direct investing alongside its GPs. We then also discuss the global macro environment, crypto markets, the future of healthcare investing, as well as some book recommendations.
34:03
May 07, 2022
The future of biotech is moving from bench to beach
While a huge amount of attention is being directed at crypto and media these days, one of the most important wild card investment trends of the 2020s is the coming expansion of biotech. Democratized science tools, improved research networking, and lab automation will revolutionize the practice of biotech, and that means there are huge opportunities for intrepid founders. But there’s a catch: biotech stock performance has been abysmal the past year, and many investors are walking away from the market. Josh Wolfe joins Danny Crichton to talk about what the gyrations in the biotech markets means for startups, some developments around the Human Genome Project, and what strategies existing biotech firms can take to weather the coming consolidation and reinvention of the industry.
15:09
April 30, 2022
Chip demand and the future of the climate with Mythic AI’s Mike Henry
There’s a huge expansion in demand for compute power going on, with AI models, cryptocurrencies, autonomous vehicles and our social media algorithms all guzzling more chip cycles than ever before. But we’re also in the midst of a climate emergency, and chips are a major cause of energy demand. How do we reconcile the two? Joining me to talk about this as well as the future of the semiconductor industry, the CHIPS act, and other national industrial policies is Lux’s Shahin Farshchi and Mythic AI CEO and founder Mike Henry.
17:31
April 23, 2022
Redlines for diplomacy and business with former USSOCOM commander Tony “T2” Thomas
“Redlines” in war are meant to be objective and unambiguous tests for a country to respond to another nation’s action. If one country uses chemical weapons in a conflict, that might violate the redline of another country and therefore force it to conduct military operations in response to reinforce the international laws and norms against the use of such weapons. Redlines though are often ambiguous, used poorly, and their deterrence effect is often diminished by a lack of credibility. How should leaders — from politicians to entrepreneurs — think about redlines? To answer that, host Danny Crichton was joined by Josh Wolfe and General Tony “T2” Thomas, the 11th Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and venture partner at Lux Capital, to talk all things redlines from a hotel lobby in sunny Miami.
14:35
April 16, 2022
The VC Power Law with CFR senior fellow Sebastian Mallaby
In his new book, “The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the Future,” Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Sebastian Mallaby brings his erudite attention from the hedge fund world to venture capital, interviewing the industry’s leading players over the last 50 years to discover what is unique about this industry that “manufactures courage.” In this episode, Mallaby, Josh Wolfe and Danny Crichton talk about the structural and cultural differences between hedge funds and VC firms, the long-term lessons that get re-learned by each generation of VCs, how succession is planned (and not), as well as a side story of a VC and a pile of maggot-filled meat laid by Hunter S. Thompson.
26:10
April 09, 2022
Is web3 really just looking for Web 2.5?
web3 technologies have received prodigious funding the past two years as founders and VCs collectively search for the path to the next evolution of the internet. But how do we bridge the gap between the ubiquitous Web 2.0 world with what we see coming in web3? In this episode, Lux VC investor Grace Isford joins host Danny Crichton to discuss the key infrastructure investments in what she is dubbing “web2.5,” the crypto developer stack, and what’s next for crypto in 2022.
12:58
April 05, 2022
Josh Wolfe on “There will be chaos, and that chaos will be caused by people”
Josh Wolfe and Danny Crichton talk about the influx of TV shows covering startup busts including WeCrashed, Super Pumped, and The Dropout; strategic ambiguity, game theory, and a bit of geopolitics; and what the case for optimism is in this world, including the difference between complacent optimism and conditional optimism. Finally, Danny observes the perilous state of corruption in the world today and the need for a firmer ethical line for all people.
18:57
April 02, 2022
Rethinking the science of science funding with Sam Arbesman
The funding of science is one of the most important leverage points for growth in the global economy. Yet, we’ve barely experimented with how science gets funded or tried to evolve financing models that were invented decades ago. Now, dozens of new organizations have been started to explore novel models for funding scientists to do their best work. Danny Crichton is joined by Lux Capital’s scientist-in-residence Sam Arbesman to talk about why this trend has accelerated and what all these new experimental models might mean for the future of science.
16:27
March 31, 2022
Episode 01: Silicon Valley’s dependence on American foreign policy
Danny Crichton talks with TechCrunch Global Affairs Project special series editor Scott Bade about the passing of Madeleine Albright, the intricate and extensive connections between tech innovation and U.S. foreign policy, the need for an American technology doctrine, and developments in U.S.-China relations.
29:06
March 25, 2022
Episode 0: A Pod is Born, Alife is Funded, and A Decade is Defined
In Episode 0 of “Securities” by Lux Capital, Danny Crichton and Chris Gates talk about why the world needs another podcast; Deena Shakir joins to discuss the future of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and a company she funded called Alife Health, and Danny discusses the global challenges that tech must confront in the 2020s. This is Episode 0 — named for the best movie in the Star Wars franchise and where it all begins.
14:30
March 22, 2022