Why Deep Work is essential for keeping up with robotics (career and investment opportunities)

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.

google deepmind

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.

IBM Watson onc 2

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 cal newport

Buy it, it may be your best investment ever

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.

  1. What made your fund so successful?
  2. What advice would you have given yourself as a student today?
  3. What would you have studied today?

ronja chalmers

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

Sprezza and Ronja at Chalmers

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.

robot sprezzaturian

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.

KJU

I wonder if he has any idea how funny he is

 

Why robotics?

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.

robot worm sprezza

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…

chalmers

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

 

Investment opportunities

Sorry, there are no free lunches.

Well you didn’t think I would hand out free buy recommendations, did you?

handing out free stock recommendations

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 :)

 

Other

  • SAP (BI)
  • Oracle (BI)
  • Sony
  • Samsung
  • Twitter
  • Baidu
  • Alibaba
  • NEC
  • Nidec
  • Nuance (HHMM, speech)
  • Marketo
  • Opower
  • Nippon Ceramic
  • Pacific Industrial

Private companies (*I think):

  • *Mobvoi
  • *Scaled Inference
  • *Kensho
  • *Expect Labs
  • *Vicarious
  • *Nara Logics
  • *Context Relevant
  • *MetaMind
  • *Rethink Robotics
  • *Sentient Technologies
  • *MobileEye

General AI areas to consider when searching for AI companies

  • Self-driving cars
  • Language processing
  • Search agents
  • Image processing
  • Robotics
  • Machine learning
  • Experts
  • 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.

P.S. “Subscribe” If you are new here, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter (weekly updates and retarded recounts) and get my free eBook about my 15-year struggle at the European Hedge Fund Of The Decade (“The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager”).

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.

Story Stocks For Fools Will Wither Worse Than Market

Damn you, Mr. Market!

This post is just a 2-minute comment on the minuscule stock market correction experienced the last few trading days. It’s hardly visible on a 15 year chart, but nevertheless… people are talking about it.

Here I had a nice new post on story stocks lined up, that I had hoped writing and publishing before the market turned down. All short ideas of course.

But now I guess I’ll just have to idly sit by and see all the “10 times Sales or more” and “no profits, please, we are American” stocks predictably crash to the ground during the coming 24 months.

You know which stocks I’m talking about: Tesla, Twitter, Amazon etc.

And then there is Apple (currently 107 USD/share). It’s not actually expensive, not obviously at any rate. Even I got the “right” price to 107 USD in the fall of 2014 (see post here), but I think it will hit a 50 handle before this is over anyway. Today’s dip into the low 90’s was not a one-off, but a signal about underlying weakness and times to come.

 

The peak is behind us

Yes, I think we have seen the peak of the general market for this time. The risk spirit is gone, the irrational exuberance and the unwavering belief in central bank omnipotence have vanished like so much #¤%&¤ from the “news” anchors at CNBC.

Sure, we might see an intensive bounce and a marginal new high at some point (though I seriously doubt it). There probably is a bit juice left in the narrowest of narrow slices of the market, meaning a select few stocks will continue to show new highs for a while. That could fool some people, for some time, into believing it’s still a bull market. It’s not.

Usually there are dozens of 10-20% bounces at the index level during the 60% ride down (that I think is in the cards). I expect this time to be just as lively. So strap in tightly and try to avoid buying too much too early.

 

Lots of fun ahead of us

In any case it will be a fun ride, with plenty of historical stupidities said and done by the usual culprits: The Federal Reserve, CNBC, Krugman etc. And then, when it’s all over, the interviews and compilations with Peter Schiff, Jim Chanos, Raoul Pal, Marc Faber… will be nothing short of epic.

 

Strap in, start researching

So, what should you do?

Start researching your favorite stocks and industries right away to be ready.

Look for sustainable models, sticky products and services, strong balance sheets, good cash flows etc. and decide at what prices they definitely will be good investments.

Then get ready to carefully accumulate shares in those stocks, when they dip below your wish list price (probably 12-24 months from now). Buy slowly on dips during a year or two while ‘your’ stocks bottom out, and then buy some more when they start rising in earnest.

Oh, and then it’s almost 2020 and we can look forward to a fantastic decade of productivity, robotics, genetics, journeys to Mars, and the first general Artificial Intelligence that at all resembles a human mind (very late in the 2020’s).

Please note, that I’m not recommending anything here, nothing at all connected to the real stock market. This is all a fairy tale. See Disclaimer page here.

 

And, yes, I bought some Brent today. Slowly accumulating. I know you’d ask anyway.

Avoid market losses, and death, by understanding change

Change is good

-Yes, for the Greek too

Research of all kinds shows living an ever-changing “lateral life” improves happiness, general health, keeps brain diseases at bay, increases longevity, not to mention makes you smarter, better at learning (higher brain plasticity potential) and more experienced and skillful with the ability to connect the dots between diverse knowledge areas.

In short, change is good.

Keep changing preemptively and purposefully. You will anyway, just not in a beneficial way without some nudging (albeit not by the state).

 

This post is mirrored at the Swedish site for financial information, TradeVenue

 

Break out of homeostasis

In addition, change happens all around you. And, changing willfully primes you for identifying and embracing that change – makes it easier to break out of all sorts of homeostasis, rather than be broken down by it, as Ludvig at SGM might put it.

SGM

 

School induced homeostasis in me at an early age

The worst thing school did to me, apart from generally waste my time, was to fool me into believing in constant truths (not least in physics).

I learned that a planet was a planet, not just by a temporary definition. I learned that the four forces were just that, always were, always will be – rather than a temporary convention to describe certain phenomena within a quite wide but still limited range. I learned time flowed forward and more or less constantly, except for in relativistic experiments.

Not least I learned time in itself was indivisible and continuous, though possibly with a lower limit of Planck time (5*10^-44s). It was never proposed that time might be something else altogether that we only approximate with something called time, and that it was just convenient in our current paradigm to treat time as, … well the time as we know it today. It was quite preposterous really, to assume and teach that the approximately just 75-year old view of time was correct and would stay constant forever! 

It has taken me forever to relearn that everything changes, not just scientific paradigms – everything. Earth’s rotation changes (the leap second), the moon’s distance to earth changes, the discovery of dark matter and dark energy might in retrospect be just one small of thousands of discoveries over the coming thousand millennia and forward.

Moral and ethics change, maybe even the rules of logic (!).

You and I change – faster than you think, but we are protected by the narrative “I” that always claim everything is coherent and as it should be, and not least constant going forward. The “I” is lying. Actually, the I doesn’t even know the “me”, but more about that some other time (or read Nörretrander’s amazing book yourself. I recommend it highly!).

 

TED radio hour chimes in on time, change and happiness

time

The other day, I was listening to the (recommended) TED Radio hour’s pod cast on time (Shifting Time, 19 june 2015). As always several TED talks and aspects of change and time were discussed, but one topic regarding aging, personality change and happiness struck me particularly:

Almost all people have the experience of having grown into their real self.

We all [almost all – no spam or trolling please!] think we are finally the real me. We know we changed a lot growing up and aging, perhaps can hardly even stand for some of our earlier opinions and actions, but now finally have reached a stable self plateau.

And yet, research shows that we keep changing, morphing into somebody else over the course of 10 years, over and over again. It seems we know we could change in either direction along an infinite number of parameters (extroversion, e.g.) but since the potential changes even out, we instinctively expect status quo to reign. It’s like approaching a T-crossing expecting to stay there :)

 

So, expect change, and manage it

-That’s really all I’m saying.

That goes for companies and stocks too.

stocks change on the exchange

The current stock price will change, the price trend will change, sales and profits will change, valuation multiples of those fundamentals will change, competition will change, client preferences and demand will change, costs will change. All mentioned factors for the company’s peers/competitors will change.

If Apple could emerge from the grave and crush Nokia, Apple too can be Appled. Facebook, which crushed MySpace to oblivion, can be Facebooked. And Tesla can…, well Tesla hasn’t actually done anything yet, not at a profit anyway. Remember Kodak? Or when Dell, HP or IBM was all the rage?

My distillation of best practices in the market boils down to just two things to consider:

Distillation of best practices on the stock market SpreZZaturian

1. How is it now?

2. What will or must change? (fundamentals, perception…)

 

Expecto patronum! Or, rather, happiness

If that HP reference flew right over your head, never mind. It’s not important.

-You can expect time to save you, to make you happy (unless you get sick)

Research shows a trough in perceived well-being around the age of 50 (coincidentally not far from my age; 43), followed by a strong trend of improvement, leading to new all time highs just 20 years later. The risk of depression follows a similar (inverted) path.

One theory of why is that older people get happier with age because they are relieved of the burden of thinking about the future; relieved of change (despite the fact that they are facing the biggest change of them all… -on the other hand into a state of absolute stasis)

What about lateral living and homeostasis – is it good to become older and happier, or is that actually dying? I’m inclined to think the latter.

So keep changing and keep living – hopefully long enough to live forever (AI, genetics, nanotechnology, stem cells, robotics and all that. Huge changes are coming sooner than you think [WaitButWhy]).

Charts of happiness (and depression risk) show a trough around my age and then ever improving numbers into old age.

I’m thus more or less at my worst now, although I’ve never had it better, I think.

Either I’m just born that way, thinking every year is better than the last. Or, just maybe, my instinctive focus on incremental change and growth (just one more, always be investing etc.) rather than a point target (becoming financially independent, rich, the best, buying a particular item or any such thing) is key. 

happiness and depression happiness

 

Conclusion and summary

Just take this with you, no new practices, no new habits:

Be prepared for change, never status quo

Embrace it. Manage it. Master it. Don’t just sit on your favorite stock because it has done well. Analyze it; imagine things changing. Don’t hold on to your job or partner for dear life or by complacency. Proactively manage for change. Expect it. Perhaps even prevent undesired change by changing something else.

This post, and all my articles going forward, will be posted in parallel at the Swedish site for financial information TradeVenue