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M&Ms: Unexpected Downsides
One of the things about coming up from the bottom in The Bronx, NYC, is that it taught me about the unexpected downsides of life.
Downsides like: Any day could be my last, and I have to make peace with that.
On a summer evening, back in The Bronx in the 2000s, a friend of mine ran into some gang bangers who had been bullying his brother. In order to preserve his identity, let’s call him Jimmy.
Jimmy went over to ask nicely that they leave his little brother alone.
As he approached those guys, things went south, and a back-and-forth ensued. And Jimmy found himself with a chrome-plated piece of steel pointed at him. We know the gun was chrome because it was all caught by the building's surveillance cameras. Besides the life lessons, another nice feature of The Bronx is that most landlords installed expensive surveillance systems in their buildings to be prepared for the worst, and somehow, the worst still seemed to happen all the time.
But surrounded, with a gun pointed at him, Jimmy found himself with his life flashing before his eyes that day, as he later told me. He said he did the only thing that seemed reasonable to him at the time. He reached out, managed to grab the other guy's gun, and shot him on the spot. And the rest of them ran.
Jimmy might've done a lot of time if it weren't for the surveillance footage. The whole thing was ruled self-defense. But worse than that, Jimmy might've lost his life that day.
And I am sure the other guy didn't leave his home that morning thinking, "I might get shot by my own gun today."
But that's what The Bronx taught us. Make peace with God, family, and friends. And count our blessings because any day could be the last day. And be grateful for every day above ground.
The unexpected could come, no matter how prepared. No one knows what another person is going to do. One might be crazy, but there is always someone crazier in this world. Or, there is always someone luckier.
Whatever the unexpected downside is, it can come at any time. But it can also come for anything else in life, too. For example, an unexpected downside could come for your business, your job, or your livelihood, even if things are going great.
Just this weekend, one of the most important startups of arguably the last decade imploded. As of this writing, it imploded from some crazy, unexpected things.
OpenAi is the startup that single-handedly made the AI field out to be more than a bunch of If-Else statements. OpenAi's novel application of Transformers and Large Language Models has been something special.
But the events that transpired this weekend prove that it does not matter how special you are or how well you are doing. And from all my experience in tech, OpenAi was (still is, hopefully) something special. With over 100m+ paid users, they got there faster than anyone else. And it's not just that, but they arguably have the most important users of the internet. The people paying for ChatGPT Plus right now are arguably the best users of the information age. Since Pareto 80-20 rules dominate the internet, those ChatGPT Plus users are likely responsible for the most traffic, the most creation, and the most spend on the internet—the cream of the crop of power users.
Anyone spending time on ChatGPT is not spending time on places like Google. Before OpenAi, threatening Google's dominance on information was unthinkable. Google seemed prepared for anything. OpenAi was some unexpected downside for Google, that’s for sure.
But yet, OpenAi will still implode itself unexpectedly.
But what a way for it all to go.
You might have heard, but on Friday, the board of directors of OpenAi decided to fire its CEO, Sam Altman. Sam is also the former president of YCombinator. YCombinator is a startup accelerator that has probably seen more crazy stuff at the board level than any other organization out there.
Paul Graham says nobody in the world is more prepared than Sam to deal with this sort of situation, and I think he's right.
Sam is so prepared for crazy stuff that he carries a kill switch in his backpack for the data center that houses ChatGPT to shut it off if he has to.
And the guy is apparently a prepper, too, meaning he is prepared for the end of the world. Who knows what else he has in that backpack?
But it seems like nothing could've prepared him for what happened on Friday.
But to be fair to Sam Altman, he strikes me as someone who is at peace with all this unexpected downside. A tweet from him in 2020:
He seems to have a stoic attitude about it all. And I hope he prevails.
Since his firing, employees at OpenAi started quitting in droves. A sign that he might be a standup guy. Then Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, offered him a spot inside Microsoft.
Then, in a major twist of events, Ilya, the co-founder of OpenAi who staged the failed coup at the board level against Sam, now regrets his decision.
For Ilya, this is the equivalent of pulling a gun on someone’s life’s work, having it stolen from you, and getting shot with it. And it would all be too crazy to believe if it wasn’t all captured live under the surveillance of Twitter.
But regardless of the outcome at OpenAi, this is a good lesson for you and me.
If an unexpected downside like that could come for someone like Sam Altman, ruin one of the best things he’s ever built, a billionaire with lots of connections and an immense amount of preparation, then why would you and I be immune? I certainly don't feel like I am.
But the thing I learned from The Bronx that might also apply to you and me is that it may seem sad that it could all end so unexpectedly. But once we've done everything we can to prepare, there is also a feeling of peace once we accept it because some things are and will always be out of our hands.
And there is immense gratitude for every extra day we get, immense gratitude for every day we spend with the people we want to spend our days with, immense gratitude for the days we get to do what we want, and so on.
And there is fulfillment from trying to leave things off as right as we can every day, too.
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Three Tweets: Non-Profits, A Founders Story, Incentives
An old thread by Paul Graham on the dangers of non-profits.
This is making its rounds again because, of course, OpenAi has a convoluted non-profit organizational setup.
Regardless of how things play out at OpenAi, Sam Altman seems like he is a standup guy.
Just the fact that so many people resigned after he was fired and how many more are willing to resign all points to the fact that he is, in fact, a standup human being.
I am a big fan of studying incentives.
I wonder what some of the incentives were at play that drove the OpenAi board decision?
Three Memes: Google No Launch, Documentation, List of Memes
Google has a more powerful Large Language Model, more powerful than Bard.
But the joke is that they keep delaying it. They just delayed it again two days ago.
Software Developers just hate reading the docs.
A thread full of memes on the OpenAi situation that was updated all weekend.
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