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Sam Altman is Super Smart - Who Knew? ;-)

Sam Altman is Super Smart: Who Knew? ;-)
Sam Altman is Super Smart: Who Knew? ;-)
This week’s That Was The Week is proof of the aphorism that “less is more”. We have way fewer curated articles but they are full of weighty and thought-provoking ideas.
Leading the way is Sam Altman’s Moore’s Law for Everything essay. Inspired, or perhaps provoked, by his work at OpenAI, Altman contemplates the near future when AI and robotics have reduced the price of labor for most things to zero. This is a likely future that we have talked about before in this newsletter, here and here. Altman hits the nail on the head with his essay, and that is the collapse in the price of labor as fewer and fewer functions require it. This collapse also implies a collapse in prices as less and less new labor is embodied in the things we produce. Permanent growth at zero marginal cost seems utopian but it is inevitable.
So how does society capture this growth and redirect it to the now workless human race? Altman:
We should therefore focus on taxing capital rather than labor, and we should use these taxes as an opportunity to directly distribute ownership and wealth to citizens. In other words, the best way to improve capitalism is to enable everyone to benefit from it directly as an equity owner. This is not a new idea, but it will be newly feasible as AI grows more powerful, because there will be dramatically more wealth to go around. The two dominant sources of wealth will be 1) companies, particularly ones that make use of AI, and 2) land, which has a fixed supply.
I think this is correct but also misses the final step. Companies really will not exist once automation is ubiquitous. Taxing Capital is the same as socializing wealth. The only thing that makes capital, capital, is that it is private. By taxing it we make it social. That act reduces the productive forces to a method of production, divorced from the wealth it creates. Then we can - as a human race - prove that Francis Fukuyama’s End of History prognosis was premature. And we can do what Altman suggests - distribute ownership and wealth to citizens.
This answers the age-old question of how we could afford universal income.
AI will lower the cost of goods and services, because labor is the driving cost at many levels of the supply chain. If robots can build a house on land you already own from natural resources mined and refined onsite, using solar power, the cost of building that house is close to the cost to rent the robots. And if those robots are made by other robots, the cost to rent them will be much less than it was when humans made them.
The collapse in prices driven by reduced labor will make it possible for life’s needs to tend towards being free. Food, care, education, housing, health, and more, would all move towards being free. It is no longer necessary to be utopian to see this possibility. But this economic change will require social change if it is to benefit all.
I think Altman is really smart to focus on who owns the wealth created by automation. Without that the social outcome would be decidedly dark. One where wealthy individuals controlled everything. We would be in the dark world of Plato’s Republic, where power was denied to all but the elite. The Socratic democracy would have gone forever.
The section on Nation-states, Money and Tech reinforces some of the changes a distributed wealth society might draw on, as well as the challenges it may face.
Along with Altman, also smart, Disney. We cover a patent filing showing the Company’s belief that streaming and interactivity will fuse into a new audio-visual experience. Not streaming, not zoom, but both. This is the future vision shared by one of my portfolio companies — Millicast, and its founder Dr Alex Gouaillard, and they are ready to deliver it. Disney owns ESPN. Both Disney and ESPN are key players in the future of “digital interactive seats” at events. The Millicast implementation of WebRTC, and associated technologies, will enable Disney’s vision to be realized. Private seats along with millions of others, at major events, while being able to interact with remote friends as if they were present, is the future of sport and much entertainment, education, and much besides. 4k video with the AV1 codec, surround sound, and HDR, near-zero latency, and synchronized streams are all in our future. Encrypted and secure end to end.
We end this week with Shaan Puri’s Twitter stream about the likely failure of Clubhouse. It directly relates to the Disney patent and the future of real-time interactive streaming.
Automation, AI and, Universal Income
Moore's Law for Everything
Interactive Real-Time Streams - The Future is Now
Disney Patent Would Bring Video Game Interactivity to Streaming Services Like Disney+ - WDW News Today
Nation States Money and Tech
Image: Roblox SEC filing
Image: Roblox SEC filing
Roblox Is at the Nexus of Digital Currencies and the Creator Economy
Morgan Stanley Set To Offer Clients Access To Bitcoin Funds
Gossip of the Week
Uber Says Its UK Drivers Are ‘Workers,’ but Not Employees
Google Play drops commissions to 15% from 30%, following Apple’s move last year
Image Credits: Harry Murphy / Contributor / Getty Images
Image Credits: Harry Murphy / Contributor / Getty Images
Trading platform eToro to go public via SPAC merger in $10B deal
UK pulls away from France and Germany on VC funding despite Brexit - CNBC
Startup of the Week: Stripe
Despite IPO stampede, Stripe sticks with mega-rounds in private market | PitchBook
Tweet of the Week
Shaan Puri
So... everyone seems to think clubhouse is the "next big thing" - but I think it's going to fail.

Here's how I think it all goes down..
Recording feature ships.
Sadly - it flops.
When creators care more about the recording, they stop inviting in random audience members. The fun of “live” is gone.
Listeners: what’s the point of showing up live? why not just listen to the podcast later?
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Keith Teare

That Was The Week is a editorialized and curated weekly look at developments in tech, startups and investing

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Keith Teare, Palo Alto, California