“I have three girls; the second one is bionic”
Technology’s prime and still growing role in society has led to a crescendo of criticism that it has exacerbated inequality. Critics say that the economic models and algorithms underpinning out apps and platforms are tearing apart our social fabric, fracturing the economy, casualizing labor, and increasing hostility between nations. But for all the negativity around technology, there is a parallel positive story of how technology can empower people to achieve their best lives. Whether it’s dynamically adjusting insulin pumps that allow diabetics greater freedom to pursue their dreams, or reliable algorithms that can reduce human bias in everything from hiring to dating, technology has also added tremendous value to society. That’s the theme of “The Equality Machine: Harnessing Digital Technology for a Brighter, More Inclusive Future,” a new book by Orly Lobel, the Warren Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Employment and Labor Policy at the University of San Diego. Lobel joins host Danny Crichton to talk about how her daughter became bionic, why alarmist titles of recent critical tech books belie the comparative advantage of algorithms, the actual black box of human minds, feedback loops in doctor’s offices and the medical professions, and finally … sex robots. Because they have feelings (and algorithms) too.
October 20, 2022
We will observe a battle for the true openness in AI
No technology has as many dual-use challenges as artificial intelligence. The same AI models that invent vivacious illustrations and visual effects for movies are the exact models that can generate democracy-killing algorithmic propaganda. Code may well be code, but more and more AI leaders are considering how to balance the desire for openness with the need for responsible innovation. One of those leading companies is Hugging Face (a Lux portfolio company), and part of the weight of AI’s safe future lies there with Carlos Muñoz Ferrandis, a Spanish lawyer and PhD researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition (Munich). Ferrandis is co-lead of the Legal & Ethical Working Group at BigScience and the AI counsel for Hugging Face. He’s been working on Open & Responsible AI licenses (“OpenRAIL”) that fuse the freedom of traditional open-source licenses with the responsible usage that AI leaders wish to see emerge from the community. In today’s episode, Ferrandis joins host Danny Crichton to talk about why code and models require different types of licenses, balancing openness with responsibility, how to keep the community adaptive even as AI models are added to more applications, how these new AI licenses are enforced, and what happens when AI models get ever cheaper to train.
October 12, 2022
There’s always been a global race to develop chip technology
Semiconductors are ubiquitous in modern life, powering our appliances, smartphones, cars and electronics. That’s led to soaring demand from consumers, companies and governments much to the chip industry’s benefit, but its centrality to the global economy has also brought heightened scrutiny from analysts concerned by the deep dependency we have on a handful of companies around the world producing these products. The semiconductor industry is now on the front pages of news sites almost daily, but its story and history show that this isn’t a new development, but rather a continuation of decades of globalization and competitions for international economic supremacy. “Securities” host Danny Crichton is joined by Fletcher School professor Chris Miller, whose new book “Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology” offers a panoramic global view on one of the world’s most important industries. The book has already been shortlisted for best business book of the year by The Financial Times.
October 05, 2022
Perhaps our greatest achievement is not being present
We live in a time of tremendous focus on … focus and productivity. Scan the shelves of any self-help section in a bookstore and you’ll find copious volumes on how to focus better, deeper, and longer along with a litany of productivity hacks and habits to efficiently glean. What you will often struggle to find however are books advocating doing nothing. But when it comes to creativity and making deep connections, it’s precisely when we are wandering that we are most focused on invention. To talk more about cognitive science and psychology, I, Danny Crichton, brought local New York City professor Anna-Lisa Cohen on “Securities” to talk about her research into mind wandering and how we balance present actions with future intentions. Her work became a viral hit during the pandemic after a Washington Post op-ed she penned on “mental time travel” struck a nerve (yes, that’s a cognitive sciences pun) for many suffering during the isolation at the heights of Covid-19. We talk about our brain’s default mode network, why mind wandering shouldn’t get a bad rap, peak performance and generating novel concepts, what it means to focus on not focusing, carrying out future intentions and prospective memory, the psychology of film and particularly a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s “Bang! You’re Dead”, cognitive closure and its effect of information seeking, and finally, future simulations. Reference list: The unusual uses task study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22941876/ The freestyle rapper and fMRI study: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00834 Hitchcock film study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26658578/ How the Brain Reacts to Scrambled Stories : https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/linear-storytelling-psychology/431529/ Reading Literary Fiction makes us better decisionmakers: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400419.2013.783735?cookieSet=1 Marginal stupidity: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/lux_capital/issues/securities-by-lux-capital-marginal-stupidity-1209105
September 30, 2022
Web3 is so far behind in terms of reliability and security
Episode reading list: The future of crypto regulation: Highlights from the Brookings event Lux + Tactic funding announcement Fourteen years after the release of the Bitcoin white paper, Web3 and crypto are transitioning into adolescence. Technologies and communities that have collectively been a financial Wild West are slowly but inexorably transforming into mainstream infrastructure powering payments, finance, banking, and even identity and data storage. That transition though is hampered by a data and security stack that remains, let’s just say, well below the norms expected for modern software (which itself is below the expectations for data protection that consumers actually demand). The gap between the visions of a secure Web3 future and today’s current technology is the opportunity to propel crypto through its awkward teen years. I, Danny Crichton, wanted to talk more about where Web3 infrastructure is headed, and so I asked my Lux Capital partner Grace Isford as well as Ann Jaskiw, founder and CEO of crypto accounting platform Tactic, to walk through today’s looming clouds in crypto regulations and why the future is about to get a whole lot brighter. We discuss Grace’s investment in Tactic and how Ann migrated from building secure healthcare technologies to figuring out accounting for the crypto world. We then talk about the Web3 infrastructure stack and its pockmarked reliability, The Merge’s effect on Ethereum’s future and Vitalik Buterin’s leadership role in the energy-saving transition, international dimensions of crypto security, as well as how the SEC is pivoting toward crypto regulation and why crypto founders are increasingly pro-regulation.
September 27, 2022
How to recapitalize America’s bloated defense industrial base
Episode reading list: Forging the Industrial Network the Nation Needs Defense Fordism and AI Rebooting the Arsenal of Democracy The Return of Industrial Warfare America spends more money on defense than ever, with a budget that more than doubled in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Despite those dizzying appropriations though, America is now down to just 5 big prime defense contractors, consolidated from dozens during the Cold War. It’s a pattern of consolidation, higher costs, and diminished resiliency and flexibility seen in sectors throughout the U.S. economy. As the stakes have grown for American defense, however, there are increasingly acute concerns about what our diminished capacity for defense means for the country’s long-term security. Today, we bring on James “Hondo” Geurts to talk more about the crisis in the defense industrial base. Geurts most recently performed the duties of the Under Secretary of the Navy and formerly was Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition, in charge of the Navy’s more than $100 billion annual budget. Lux Capital is also deeply interested in recapitalizing the future of the defense industrial base and bringing more attention to emerging threats across all theaters of defense, including cyber, space, networking, and more in both state and civilian contexts. To that end, Hondo and Lux teamed up to create the Lux Security + Tech Index built on Thematic to offer investors a more methodical way to invest in the future of security. Also joining host Danny Crichton is Steve Carpenter, CEO and founder of Thematic. In this episode, we talk about the importance of the new “industrial network” era of defense, the consequences of the 1990s post-Cold War peace dividend, how large projects like the F-35 and the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier drive consolidation, the value of simplicity in defense acquisition, the failure of the Defense Department’s high research expenditures, the need to shift from “program of record” to “capability of need”, and finally, details about the new Lux Security + Tech Index and its construction. As a reminder, all investments are risky, and nothing in this episode should be construed as an endorsement of any specific investment product for any individual listener. Always do your own research.
September 21, 2022
The utopian visions of Stanford’s generations of entrepreneurs
Stanford University is at the beating heart of Silicon Valley and has become almost a rite of passage for generations of entrepreneurs. But how does each generation form, and what skills and mindsets should they be equipped with given our changing world? No one has thought more about how to shape that entrepreneurial spirit than Dr. Tina Seelig. Seelig is the Executive Director of the prestigious Knight-Hennessy Scholars program at Stanford among many other leadership roles, and she is also the author of Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and into the World as well as What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. Joining Seelig is host Danny Crichton and Lux Capital partner Grace Isford. We talk about Seelig’s class “Inventing the Future” and how she guides students in considering the utopian and dystopian aspects of the future technologies that are shaping our everyday lives. We also talk about generational differences between students over the past two decades, from the 9/11 generation to the global financial crisis and Covid-19 generations and how global events influence the approach of budding entrepreneurs. Then we walk through how to teach leadership, how to increase luck, and why there is such an important correlation between optimism and agency.
September 16, 2022
The geopolitics and digital future of agricultural commodities
Agricultural commodities is a bit like accounting: you only hear news stories about it when things go wrong. And unfortunately for the world in 2022, a lot is going wrong in agriculture. Russia’s war on Ukraine has devastated one of the world’s great breadbaskets, and global climate disruptions are wrecking havoc on food productivity. That’s led to soaring inflation and increasingly contentious politics, particularly in the developing world. Sadly, that’s not the only problem the industry faces. Commodities are still traded predominantly on antiquated systems, with the UN estimating that more than 275 million emails are exchanged annually to ship about 11,000 vessels of grain across the oceans. That’s one reason why Lux led the $7 million seed round for Vosbor earlier this summer to build the first digital agricultural commodities exchange. I wanted to understand more of this extraordinarily complex industry, and so I asked two former CEOs of the largest agriculture commodities companies in the world to weigh in. Joining me (@DannyCrichton) on “Securities” today is Chris Mahoney, former CEO of Glencore Agriculture and now known as Viterra, as well as Soren Schroder, former CEO of Bunge. We’ll talk about the cyclicality of agricultural markets, the cost disease of infrastructure upgrades, the geopolitical strategies of ag firms, the increasing focus on logistics capabilities, and what the future of digitalization and technology have in store for this critical industry.
September 10, 2022
Reputations are always a trailing indicator of truth
“Securities” podcast host Danny Crichton and producer Chris Gates talk about the latest newsletter issue, “Truth and reputations.” Reputations are always a trailing indicator of truth. When people and organizations are rising, reputations obviously lag — the public has never heard of these new upstarts, and its opinion remains unformed. Reputations gallop to catch up, and for a brief moment perhaps, the true quality and the perceived quality intersect. Inevitably decline sets in, whether in an individual’s career or in an organization’s penchant for adding listless bureaucracy and complexity. The public reputation remains robust, but the underlying quality has etiolated. Perception has now overshot truth.Last week, we saw three stories that illuminate the dynamics of truth versus perception: Adam Neumann’s $350 million fundraise for Flow; SoftBank’s historic quarterly loss and Masayoshi Son’s investment acumen; and then, the CDC director’s call for a complete reform of her beleaguered agency. We talk about these three stories, plus a Lux Recommends article.
August 23, 2022
Crypto and incentive design with MIT Cryptoeconomics Lab’s Christian Catalini
Humans have been bartering and trading for millennia, building extraordinarily complex mechanisms of exchange centered on fiat currencies, contracts, and trust. As cryptocurrencies have emerged this past decade, economists and incentive designers have been forced to consider how to construct new forms of currency without the social lubricant of trust. How can we prove that every market participant is incentive aligned with market goals? What contributions can game theory, theoretical computer science, cryptography and microeconomics make to this newly energized field? That’s the subject of this episode of “Securities” with Christian Catalini, the founder of the MIT Cryptoeconomics Lab. He and his colleagues fuse the fields of economics and computer science together with the goal of analyzing decentralized marketplaces and applications. It’s just the latest endeavor for Catalini, who is also a Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the co-creator of Diem (formerly known as Libra), and the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Lightspark. Joining host Danny Crichton is Lux’s own Grace Isford, who invests in web3 and crypto infrastructure and is based in New York City. We’ll talk about the growing community of crypto infrastructure analysts, the now-famous MIT Bitcoin Experiment, how academics are translating their work into crypto, and how to think about stablecoins in the aftermath of Luna’s collapse this year.
August 17, 2022
VC 101: the denominator effect
Recently in the Lux Capital office, my colleague Chris Gates, the producer of the "Securities” podcast, along with biotech investor Shaq Vayda were talking about the global macro environment and venture capital. Tech stocks hit their zenith in November 2021, and now a lot of VCs have slowed down their investments over the last couple of months. That's led to something among limited partners and asset allocators known as the “denominator effect”, where portfolio managers move money from one asset class to another as each asset class performs relatively differently. And so they talked about the denominator effect, they talked about a couple of other different patterns that they’re seeing in the venture world, and I figured that since it's summer, and it's July and we’ve already have talked about enough terrible news on the “Securities” podcast the last couple of weeks, I figured we could do something a little bit different, which is sort of a Venture 101 on the denominator effect, and talking about basically what we're seeing in the world today. So here's Shaq and Chris, take a listen. Suggested reading: WTF is the denominator effect? by Danny Crichton
August 03, 2022
How new communities are propelling the future of tech + bio
There has been a massive expansion in data emanating from bio labs, and that means next-generation AI algorithms and machine learning models finally have the grist to transform the future trajectories of biology and health therapies. Yet, there’s a key translation challenge: how do you get computer scientists and biologists — two types of specialists with very different training — to collaborate with each other effectively? Two groups, Bits in Bio and Nucleate, have independently spearheaded new ways of bringing all people interested in tech and biology together to share best practices and think through patterns of startup inception and growth. Today, we bring the founders and early champions of those two groups together for the first time in person to talk about their work. Joining us first is Michael Retchin, a PhD student at Weill Cornell Medicine and the founder of Nucleate, a free and collaborative student-run organization that facilitates the formation of pioneering life science companies. Second, we have Nicholas Larus-Stone, the first software engineering hire at Octant.bio, a Lux-backed synthetic biology startup, as well as the founder of Bits in Bio. Finally, joining “Securities” host Danny Crichton is Lux biotech investor Shaq Vayda. We talk about where tech + bio (versus “biotech”) is coming from, how the two community leaders launched and grew their respective organizations, the coming challenges in biology, and our speculative dreams for the future of what biology could look like in the years ahead.
August 01, 2022
Maybe the world is effing amazing and I am just reading the wrong things
“Securities” podcast host Danny Crichton and producer Chris Gates talk about the last two weeks of “Securities” newsletters. The first, from July 9th called “Dissonant Loops”, discussed the chaos and crises plaguing the world today and why our state capacity to respond to them is so limited. The second, from July 16th entitled “Scientific Sublime”, was a palette cleanser of sorts focused on the human achievement of the James Webb Space Telescope and how this accomplishment can be shared by everyone on Earth. We’ve got the lows and the highs, and then we talk about a few of the top Lux Recommends selections from the two issues, including: “Postcards from A World on Fire” from The New York Times last year showing the scale and diversity of climate devastation IEEE’s overview of the daunting data challenges that come from transmitting those gorgeous images to Earth CLIPasso, a Best Paper awardee at SIGGRAPH 2022, which uses machine learning to abstract complex photography into simpler sketches “Building an Open Representation for Biological Protocols” Daniel Oberhaus’s book Extraterrestrial Languages, which asks two provocative questions, “If we send a message into space, will extraterrestrial beings receive it? Will they understand?” Finally, Kit Wilson’s analysis in The New Atlantis on “Reading Ourselves to Death”
July 25, 2022
How health tech startups are responding to the post-Roe world?
Welcome to “Securities” by Lux Capital, a podcast and newsletter devoted to science, technology, finance and the human condition. I'm your host, Danny Crichton, and today we're talking about the post-Roe world. Tomorrow, it'll be 30 days since the Supreme Court announced in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that there is no constitutional basis for the right to abortion, overthrowing several decades of precedent. It's a decision with huge implications for tech startups, which will now operate across 50 sets of state laws, covering everything from privacy and data governance to who gets to decide which patients receive women's health and who won't. Now that we've had a few weeks to digest the decision, I asked my Lux partner Deena Shakir to bring together a panel of guests to talk more about how startups are responding to Dobbs. Guests: Dr. Neel Shah is an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and Chief Medical Officer of Maven Clinic. Halle Tecco is an entrepreneur and angel investor passionate about fixing our healthcare system. She is the founder of Natalist, which was acquired by Everly Health in October 2021, and she is also the host of The Heart of Healthcare podcast. Paxton Maeder-York is the CEO and founder at Alife Health.
July 23, 2022
The United States has never won a conflict with the hardware that it had going into it
Today we're talking about the future of American defense. And we have three of the leaders changing the trajectory of this important field with us is the leadership of Anduril Industries. First, Palmer Luckey Founder, also Brian Schimpf Co-Founder, and CEO, as well as Trae’ Stephens, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, along with us is Josh Wolf from Lux. I want to start out by painting the least rosy picture I can of the American defense industry over the last year and 2021. In Afghanistan, we saw a massive pull out of the American forces there. After more than two decades of war, we saw Russia invade Ukraine, in which Turkish drones some of the cheapest on offer in the market today have become the unlikely hero instead of American defense technologies. Meanwhile, America is not producing anywhere near the hardware, or even the software required to supply Ukraine with javelins and other core defense needs. On Capitol Hill, the defense budget process seems to get more chaotic and confusing every year. And we also found in the last year that China appears to be probably ahead of the United States, on hypersonic missiles. And so when I look at the defense industry today, it seems to me it's just negative after negative after negative news. - Danny Crichton Recommended reading: Rebooting The Arsenal of Democracy The new apex of “Entropic Apex”
July 15, 2022
How will AI art generators affect human creativity?
Here is my dilemma, I want custom art for the podcast. Ideally, I would have a new image for each episode. Up until recently, my choices were to use stock photography or work with an artist. I now have a third option, AI art generators. As of late, my Twitter feed has been filled with these AI-generated images and I have become obsessed with them. On one hand, I feel like a superpower of visual communication has been unlocked and on the other hand, I am an artist and creative who wants other artists and creatives to get paid, I am conflicted. DALLE-mini What Kind of Sorcery Is This? Why code is so often compared to magic. Hieronymous Bosch fusion reactor #dalle2 - Josh Wolfe DALL-E makes some fantastic World’s Fair posters - Sam Arbesman "Interplanetary Space Empire by Thomas Cole" via DALL-E - Sam Arbesman
July 09, 2022
Shoving the rocket into space with your bare hands
SpaceX has grown from nascent dreams of the final frontier into the world’s premier commercial space launch company, with dozens of successful missions that have continually become more and more ambitious. Now, there’s a budding ecosystem of SpaceX alumni who have left the mothership to build their own companies, taking the culture and values they learned and applying it to problems they saw at the front lines of space innovation. On today’s episode of the “Securities” podcast, host Danny Crichton interviews two of those alumni, Laura Crabtree, the co-founder and CEO of Epsilon3, and Will Bruey, the co-founder and CEO of Varda Space. Laura and Will shared a cube at SpaceX, and are now building software and hardware startups, respectively. We discuss how SpaceX’s culture shaped their perspectives as entrepreneurs, why they chose different problem areas of space to tackle, how the 2022 financial markets impact their approach to growth, and how they think about company building and the Los Angeles / Southern California hard tech ecosystem. Recommended reading for this episode: Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX News: Startup Epislon3 hopes to expand Pentagon reach with launch ‘software service’ Epsilon3’s space industry OS powers more than launches as it brings in $15M in new funding Varda Space Industries closes $42M Series A for off-planet manufacturing
July 02, 2022
"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
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
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
June 17, 2022
"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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Daniel 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 22, 2022