Executive summary: AI is coming. You’d better think about your career and investment opportunities in AI and robotics. And the importance of Deep Work to keep up.
Hint: Google, FB, Amazon
Length: 2128 words
The robot overlords are drawing closer
Finally a machine beat a decent player at the ancient eastern game of Go. With decent I don’t mean an Asian grand master, but at least a three time European champion.
Artificial Intelligence keeps progressing, no matter whether you know about (or like it) or not.
First an AI application is typically seen as a curiosity. Then it becomes a tool you need to learn how to use. And eventually it will develop to the point where it could take your job.
IBM’s Watson easily beat the world’s best Jeopardy masters several years ago. Since then it has become the world’s foremost oncology expert.
Currently Watson is on its way to start replacing swathes of paralegals at law firms as well as finding new oil reserves. A few years down the road, anyone with a cellphone (or AugReal contact lens) will be able to tap into Watson-like powers for any kind of search or research.
Over the coming 20 years, most jobs will be affected by the progress in robotics and AI. Hence, even if you are aiming for future-proof industries (The 5 Singularity Enablers or The Big 5 human issues, or, most likely, a combination*), you’ll nevertheless need to learn to work with robots and artificial agents, or risk replacement.
*I have mentioned the 5+5 in earlier posts on job security nr 1 and nr 2 and my post about programming: nanotech, biotech, AI, robotics, additive manufacturing and energy, water, pollution, food, longevity/health
Professions at risk
If you’re flipping burgers, sewing garments, assembling consumer electronics, building cars or houses, reading court cases, writing (sports) news, trading stocks or driving any type of vehicles for a living, you’ll soon be out of work (except if you can leverage the new technology in some creative way).
Deep Work makes you change-resistant
To stay one step ahead of the AIs; to be a fast learner as well as able to tap into your most creative powers, one indispensable skill for the future will be the ability to perform deep, focused thinking and problem solving, i.e., Deep Work, in the words of Cal Newport.
Rather than allowing various notifications from e-mail, Twitter, Facebook. Instagram etc. to force your days into shallow, responsive, always on-line type of activities, you should practice going off-line and “deep” for longer stretches of time (30-90 minutes) as often as you can.
Deep work restructures your brain, making it easier going forward to enter a state of flow and focus, and thus becoming more and more effective, and increasingly able to perform above AI-level, not to mention quickly learn new skills, including how to use new (AI) tools.
Meditation helps too, but that’s just too weird and Eastern for most – at least if we’re talking about 30-minute long sessions or more. I myself had much rather turn everything off for 90 minutes and solve an intellectual problem at the top of my ability (writing a blog post, a new book, or working if I had a job).
If you can’t beat the robots, join them
This Tuesday I (and my dog Ronja) talked in front of 400+ engineering students at Sweden’s top technological university, Chalmers. I specifically remember three interesting questions.
- What made your fund so successful?
- What advice would you have given yourself as a student today?
- What would you have studied today?
Answers to important questions are superpositions of the entire spectrum of answers
What’s particularly intriguing about the first question is that my number one success factor was also the number one negative at the same time:
Being unbiased and fundamental
It worked extremely well over the several bull and bear waves during my career (1994-2015). On the other hand, being unbiased and fundamental also made it all but impossible to ride the bull waves (“bubbles”) long enough – in particular the last one (the quantitative easing bubble that finally seems to be bursting).
I often find that the most important questions are answered in the same “how long is a piece of string” fashion. Learn to recognize and acknowledge those situations, rather than dislike them. They provide you with a much wider range of choices than clear-cut 1 or 0 situations.
Have fun no matter what you do (Sinéad O’Connor)
Nr 2 is also easy: Direct your studies and career toward something that interests you, that you like, that gives you the “unfair advantage” of having your favorite hobby as your work.
No matter how successful (or not) you get, at least you had fun on the way. And, given the unfair advantage, you’ll probably change the world in some positive way and become rich/famous/of stature, no matter if you want to or not.
Build authority through usefulness (for you and others), not (empty and meaningsless) celebrity or wealth
I however began by saying that I myself would never have listened to such advice, and that I didn’t expect anybody to do it today either. At 22 I was too focused on making money, or at least on getting a job, any job. In my eagerness to become independent I as quickly as possible put myself into wage slavery and the consumption rat race.
In my defense, I hardly understood the concept of starting a business. I had a very static view of the world and kind of thought all companies already existed.
Hmmm, that didn’t make me look any better did it?
Resistance is futile
The third question could have been answered in a myriad more or less complicated ways. To keep it simple and clear, I boiled it down to one single word: Robotics.
Going east, to Japan, China or South Korea, is preferable for anybody going into robotics. However, it probably isn’t necessary – and France, Germany, The U.S. and Sweden also hold their own within robotics. It’s even possible Google and other U.S. companies are on their way to overtaking the Asians.
Except for North Korea of course. Their mighty leader has already built a super strong general AI that will rain fire over the western subhuman devils. Just recently, e.g., Kim Jong Un’s AI crafted the most efficient and gloriously superior hydrogen fusion bomb that history will ever see.
Because everything comes together there. And it’s the most future-proof industry there is.
If you want to get really dystopian, in the future the only humans left are the ones tending to the robots. In a parallel universe, robot owners and robotics stock owners are the ones holding the upper hand.
The geeks shall inherit the earth
Robotics is industry’s equivalent of Deep Work. Every single part of a robot is developed at the leading edge, at the top of everyone’s ability; technology, biology, biotechnology, neurology, philosophy, psychology, programming, materials, motors, artificial intelligence. The combination of these into useful and robust machines demands even more of the creators (i.e., you).
If you are wary of being made redundant by automation (and you should), the obvious solution is to be the one controlling the automation (and inheriting the earth).
It’s not “just robots”
There is so much to do in robotics: vision, balance, appearance, movement, safety, reasoning, emotion, interface, power source, touch, control. And each of those need to be craftily integrated with the others, e.g. vision, prediction and balance.
Take just vision as one example. Ideally you’d want to combine radar, ultrasound, stereo vision, texture analysis algorithms, laser, object data bases, blueprints, recent memory, inference algorithms etc. in one single system, in order to rapidly and reliably map the environment in 3D, as well as make forecasts for the coming milliseconds, seconds and possibly minutes to prepare probable movements.
Similar issues are facing research teams within, e.g., balance/movement (motors, artificial muscles, scenario simulation, limb synchronization. machine learning) as well as other important sub-segments of robotics.
At the user end, there really are no limits to where robots and AIs might go: industry, care, household, status, services, shopping, news, education, search & rescue, surgery, research & exploration, sex/porn and on and on. Every single area of life and business will be affected in the coming two (or maybe three) decades. Read more about the steps to AI here, or read, e.g., Kurzweil’s book “How To Create A Mind”.
Simply put, robots is where all technologies converge. It’s a place to perform deep, accelerated, learning and highly value added work. It’s a place where cross-discipline knowledge and deep, associative, and lateral thinking will come at a premium.
My advice is to take your favorite area (hobby), and combine it with some supportive technology and apply those in robotics. I can’t see how you could lose.
If you are an engineer, or psychologist, or designer; if you go into robotics and AI, if you take the “unfair” angle of doing it from the standpoint of fascination, you just can’t lose.
I may have told these guys at Chalmers that aiming for an employment at a big engineering firm, rather than starting your own business, would be just sad…
On the other hand, I also told them they had no business worrying about the coming recession or not earning their livelihood. Very few, if any, of them will even notice the coming recession – except for from tabloid headlines.
Focus, go deep, and go robot
Don’t forget my message to prepare for a fast-changing world by practicing true, off-line, no notifications, focus, as well as perhaps playing Go and meditating, lest constant e-mailing every day will erode your protective myelin layers in the brain completely, making future deep work practically impossible.
Without the ability to perform deep work, even going into robotics won’t save you in the long run. So, leave the 99% behind and commit to stretching that brain of yours regularly.
But now on to something completely different, investing in robotics and AI companies
Sorry, there are no free lunches.
Well you didn’t think I would hand out free buy recommendations, did you?
Anyway, here are some AI (and robotics) related companies to think about.
I’m not saying you should buy them (now) or sell for that matter, but they are definitely worth considering at the right valuations.
Since I’m sure you can come up with more companies, and more pure plays at that, I hope you’ll put those in a comment for all to share.
Top 5 most obvious AI companies
- Alphabet (Google)
- Facebook (M, Deep Learning)
- IBM (Watson, neuromorphic chips)
- Apple (Siri)
- MSFT (skype RT lang, emo)
- Amazon (customer prediction; link to old article)
Yes, I’m US centric. So sue me :)
- SAP (BI)
- Oracle (BI)
- Nuance (HHMM, speech)
- Nippon Ceramic
- Pacific Industrial
Private companies (*I think):
- *Scaled Inference
- *Expect Labs
- *Nara Logics
- *Context Relevant
- *Rethink Robotics
- *Sentient Technologies
General AI areas to consider when searching for AI companies
- Self-driving cars
- Language processing
- Search agents
- Image processing
- Machine learning
- Oil and mineral exploration
- Pharmaceutical research
- Materials research
- Computer chips (neuromorphic, memristors)
- Energy, power utilities
No, I won’t help you with valuations. However, I just might tell you in my newsletter when I start buying.
Summary – deep work and robots
Rapid changes require fast learning of difficult material
Fast and solid learning requires deep concentration
Deep concentration demands time off from e-mail and social media
To prepare for the future, practice focus, use your time in deep focus to advance your skills and understanding of how you can contribute to the field of robotics.
And Go East (Japan, China, South Korea)
Or possibly west.
Or stay where you are.
And think about becoming an owner of AI and robotics companies while there is still time. I plan to buy some of the most obvious ones (including Google) in the ongoing market downturn (2016-2017).
Please help spreading this important post
I think this is the most important article I have ever written, and I would like as many students and other interested people as possible to get the chance to read it.
So, please help spreading it as widely as possible through your social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc., and tell your friends about it IRL too.
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P.P.S. “Glorious future” No, I’m not dystopian. I actually think we’re headed for a glorious future. After a couple of years of economic and financial rout that is.
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