How to Recognize What You’re Really, Really Good At, Death of a Flywheel, The Impossibility of Being Charlie, and More

Everything we published this week

Via Lucas Crespo.

Hello, and happy Sunday! 

First, some housekeeping: Every is live on Spotify with Evan’s first audio essay. If you prefer to be informed verbally, give it a listen. Like and subscribe so you can get our essays in your feed, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Now, on to everything we published this week, along with our take on the latest tech and business news. 


Our stories

“How to Recognize What You’re Really, Really Good At” by Jason Feifer: You could do things you suck at, or you could do things you’re good at. The tricky bit is that the delta between good and suck is smaller than you think—and identifying what you are good at is the biggest challenge of all. Entrepreneur editor in chief Jason Feifer tells you how to find your excellence. Read this if you want to lean into your strengths. 

“Will Google’s Bard Be a Destination Chatbot?” by Dan Shipper/Chain of Thought: Sundar made like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally this week: Google released a new AI model and faked the demo. However, Dan thinks that the technology isn’t wholly bad—there is a possibility that it can break out beyond the Google ecosystem. Read this if you are trying to figure out if there is any way to escape OpenAI’s monopoly. 

"The Impossibility of Being Charlie" by Evan Armstrong/Napkin Math: Charlie Munger was widely admired. He was a billionaire. He was an author whose signature work has been republished in three editions. Many people in finance worship him, and of course Evan wants to emulate his success. The only problem? He has no idea how. Read this if you struggle to connect the dots between successful people and your own life. 

"Death of a Flywheel" by Evan Armstrong/Napkin Math: When a company takes all the market share it can, it can either grow into a new market, or slowly shrivel and die. Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway have gone far beyond what anyone expected, but can they take it further? Read this if you want to figure out the relationship between innovation and market size. 

"Why People Fail to Make Important Choices" by Casey Rosengren/No Small Plans: You could be doing your job or, alternatively, you could eat pretzels and watch the world burn. Doing nothing is a surprisingly tempting option for founders. Read this if you struggle to make decisions in your work. 

Chain of links

ChatGPT is lazy now. Users, including me, are complaining that ChatGPT is getting lazy—it seems much more likely to shrug off requests to do tasks than it used to be with an “I can’t do this.” This is likely a result of OpenAI trying to make its latest model, GPT-4 Turbo, more compute-efficient than before. The company is working on curing it of its senioritis.

Prompting is powerful. Long context models like GPT-4 Turbo and Claude are all the rage , but they have one major drawback: they’re not very good at retrieving information from the middle of the text you input. Anthropic found that simply asking the model to start its response with, “Here is the most relevant sentence in the context,” tripled its performance on long-context retrieval. Wow.

ICYMI: The best intro to language models you can watch. OpenAI researcher Andrej Karpathy is weirdly good at YouTube, but he hadn’t released a video in a while. The company’s recent brouhaha apparently gave him time to get behind the camera. He recorded a one-hour introduction to language models, and it’s a fantastic primer no matter your level of technical knowledge. Dan Shipper

The napkin math

The startup industry’s slow collapse continues. Pitchbook estimates that 3,200 private venture-backed U.S. companies have gone out of business this year. Those companies had raised $27.2 billion in venture funding. There are many more of these stories to come—capital is scarce, and times are hard for startups that don’t have positive cash flow. 

$2 billion in R&D to deal drugs in Miami. Grand Theft Auto 6 launched its first trailer this week. At $2 billion in development costs alone, it is the most expensive entertainment product ever made. Rockstar Games, which produces the game, is known for its care and craft around storytelling, enlisting hundreds of voice actors and mountains of script to fill its open-world games. It may be the last of its kind as LLMs dramatically reduce the cost of production for voice acting and scripting.

Oui, oui, we raise le money. French startup Mistral is a major proponent of making AI foundation models that are open-source and EU-compatible. The company doesn’t make money yet, but hey, it’s AI, so who cares. It’s rumored to be raising €450 million at a nearly $2 billion valuation. You are either an AI company getting money thrown at you, or you are going out of business. There’s no real in-between right now in startups if you don’t have cash flow. Evan Armstrong

The examined life

An essay we’ve thought about for nine years. There are only two phases in life, pre-Moloch and post-Moloch. Which is to say that this essay will change your life. Published nine years ago by Slate Star Codex, ”Meditations on Moloch” is about how individuals' rational choices collectively lead to negative outcomes for all involved. Keep this in mind with whatever scandal caught your ire this week, and ask how such abhorrent behavior may be what individuals are incentivized to do (and even feels good and rational to them). 

Best book we’ve read recently. In The Weirdest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous, Joseph Henrich traces how the early policies of the Catholic Church—specifically around marriage and the creation of the nuclear family—transformed Europe and led to the development of our more analytical, individualistic psychology. It’s mind-blowing. —Evan and Dan

From our contributors

The tale of a crypto insider. Nat Eliason’s new book, Crypto Confidential, is available for pre-order. It’s a behind-the-scenes adventure about making and losing millions, the blurred lines of addiction and obsession, the good and bad of crypto, and the reality of hyper-speculation and gambling. The book will be published in July. (For more on Nat, he recently discussed how he uses ChatGPT with Dan.)

Expand your mind. Sublime—a tool for collecting and connecting ideas online cofounded by Sari Azout—published a print magazine, Can You Imagine? A Library of Possibilities for Reimagining the Web, featuring contributions by thinkers and builders like Kickstarter and Metalabel’s Yancey Strickler, Variant Fund’s Li Jin, Substack’s Hamish McKenzie, Paul Millerd, Dirt’s Daisy Alioto, and Every’s Dan Shipper and Nathan Baschez. Every readers get a 20% discount with code Every 20


That’s all for this week.

Like this?
Become a subscriber.

Subscribe →

Or, learn more.

Read this next:

The Sunday Digest

Dying Whales and Dying Billionaires, The Perils of Prudence, and more!

Everything we published this week

May 28, 2023

The Sunday Digest

How to Make Yourself Into a Learning Machine, Live Fuller, Not Bigger, and More!

Everything we published this week

Oct 29, 2023

The Sunday Digest

Sam Altman Is Dead. Long Live Sam Altman.

How to think about the chaos at OpenAI

1 Nov 19, 2023

Chain of Thought

Transcript: ChatGPT for Radical Self-betterment

'How Do You Use ChatGPT?’ with Dr. Gena Gorlin

🔒 Jan 31, 2024 by Dan Shipper

Napkin Math

Profit, Power, and the Vision Pro

Will Apple’s new headset change everything?

5 Feb 6, 2024 by Evan Armstrong

Thanks for rating this post—join the conversation by commenting below.

Comments

You need to login before you can comment.
Don't have an account? Sign up!

Every smart person you know is reading this newsletter

Get one actionable essay a day on AI, tech, and personal development

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Login