Ideas on science, technology, finance and the human condition.
By Lux Capital
There’s always been a global race to develop chip technology
Semiconductors are ubiquitous in modern life, powering our appliances, smartphones, cars and electronics. That’s led to soaring demand from consumers, companies and governments much to the chip industry’s benefit, but its centrality to the global economy has also brought heightened scrutiny from analysts concerned by the deep dependency we have on a handful of companies around the world producing these products.
The semiconductor industry is now on the front pages of news sites almost daily, but its story and history show that this isn’t a new development, but rather a continuation of decades of globalization and competitions for international economic supremacy.
“Securities” host Danny Crichton is joined by Fletcher School professor Chris Miller, whose new book “Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology” offers a panoramic global view on one of the world’s most important industries. The book has already been shortlisted for best business book of the year by The Financial Times.
Perhaps our greatest achievement is not being present
We live in a time of tremendous focus on … focus and productivity. Scan the shelves of any self-help section in a bookstore and you’ll find copious volumes on how to focus better, deeper, and longer along with a litany of productivity hacks and habits to efficiently glean. What you will often struggle to find however are books advocating doing nothing. But when it comes to creativity and making deep connections, it’s precisely when we are wandering that we are most focused on invention.
To talk more about cognitive science and psychology, I, Danny Crichton, brought local New York City professor Anna-Lisa Cohen on “Securities” to talk about her research into mind wandering and how we balance present actions with future intentions. Her work became a viral hit during the pandemic after a Washington Post op-ed she penned on “mental time travel” struck a nerve (yes, that’s a cognitive sciences pun) for many suffering during the isolation at the heights of Covid-19.
We talk about our brain’s default mode network, why mind wandering shouldn’t get a bad rap, peak performance and generating novel concepts, what it means to focus on not focusing, carrying out future intentions and prospective memory, the psychology of film and particularly a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s “Bang! You’re Dead”, cognitive closure and its effect of information seeking, and finally, future simulations.
The unusual uses task study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22941876/
The freestyle rapper and fMRI study: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00834
Hitchcock film study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26658578/
How the Brain Reacts to Scrambled Stories : https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/linear-storytelling-psychology/431529/
Reading Literary Fiction makes us better decisionmakers: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400419.2013.783735?cookieSet=1
Marginal stupidity: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/lux_capital/issues/securities-by-lux-capital-marginal-stupidity-1209105
Web3 is so far behind in terms of reliability and security
Episode reading list:
The future of crypto regulation: Highlights from the Brookings event
Lux + Tactic funding announcement
Fourteen years after the release of the Bitcoin white paper, Web3 and crypto are transitioning into adolescence. Technologies and communities that have collectively been a financial Wild West are slowly but inexorably transforming into mainstream infrastructure powering payments, finance, banking, and even identity and data storage. That transition though is hampered by a data and security stack that remains, let’s just say, well below the norms expected for modern software (which itself is below the expectations for data protection that consumers actually demand).
The gap between the visions of a secure Web3 future and today’s current technology is the opportunity to propel crypto through its awkward teen years.
I, Danny Crichton, wanted to talk more about where Web3 infrastructure is headed, and so I asked my Lux Capital partner Grace Isford as well as Ann Jaskiw, founder and CEO of crypto accounting platform Tactic, to walk through today’s looming clouds in crypto regulations and why the future is about to get a whole lot brighter.
We discuss Grace’s investment in Tactic and how Ann migrated from building secure healthcare technologies to figuring out accounting for the crypto world. We then talk about the Web3 infrastructure stack and its pockmarked reliability, The Merge’s effect on Ethereum’s future and Vitalik Buterin’s leadership role in the energy-saving transition, international dimensions of crypto security, as well as how the SEC is pivoting toward crypto regulation and why crypto founders are increasingly pro-regulation.
How to recapitalize America’s bloated defense industrial base
Episode reading list:
Forging the Industrial Network the Nation Needs
Defense Fordism and AI
Rebooting the Arsenal of Democracy
The Return of Industrial Warfare
America spends more money on defense than ever, with a budget that more than doubled in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Despite those dizzying appropriations though, America is now down to just 5 big prime defense contractors, consolidated from dozens during the Cold War. It’s a pattern of consolidation, higher costs, and diminished resiliency and flexibility seen in sectors throughout the U.S. economy. As the stakes have grown for American defense, however, there are increasingly acute concerns about what our diminished capacity for defense means for the country’s long-term security.
Today, we bring on James “Hondo” Geurts to talk more about the crisis in the defense industrial base. Geurts most recently performed the duties of the Under Secretary of the Navy and formerly was Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition, in charge of the Navy’s more than $100 billion annual budget.
Lux Capital is also deeply interested in recapitalizing the future of the defense industrial base and bringing more attention to emerging threats across all theaters of defense, including cyber, space, networking, and more in both state and civilian contexts. To that end, Hondo and Lux teamed up to create the Lux Security + Tech Index built on Thematic to offer investors a more methodical way to invest in the future of security. Also joining host Danny Crichton is Steve Carpenter, CEO and founder of Thematic.
In this episode, we talk about the importance of the new “industrial network” era of defense, the consequences of the 1990s post-Cold War peace dividend, how large projects like the F-35 and the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier drive consolidation, the value of simplicity in defense acquisition, the failure of the Defense Department’s high research expenditures, the need to shift from “program of record” to “capability of need”, and finally, details about the new Lux Security + Tech Index and its construction.
As a reminder, all investments are risky, and nothing in this episode should be construed as an endorsement of any specific investment product for any individual listener. Always do your own research.
The utopian visions of Stanford’s generations of entrepreneurs
Stanford University is at the beating heart of Silicon Valley and has become almost a rite of passage for generations of entrepreneurs. But how does each generation form, and what skills and mindsets should they be equipped with given our changing world?
No one has thought more about how to shape that entrepreneurial spirit than Dr. Tina Seelig. Seelig is the Executive Director of the prestigious Knight-Hennessy Scholars program at Stanford among many other leadership roles, and she is also the author of Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and into the World as well as What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. Joining Seelig is host Danny Crichton and Lux Capital partner Grace Isford.
We talk about Seelig’s class “Inventing the Future” and how she guides students in considering the utopian and dystopian aspects of the future technologies that are shaping our everyday lives. We also talk about generational differences between students over the past two decades, from the 9/11 generation to the global financial crisis and Covid-19 generations and how global events influence the approach of budding entrepreneurs. Then we walk through how to teach leadership, how to increase luck, and why there is such an important correlation between optimism and agency.
The geopolitics and digital future of agricultural commodities
Agricultural commodities is a bit like accounting: you only hear news stories about it when things go wrong. And unfortunately for the world in 2022, a lot is going wrong in agriculture. Russia’s war on Ukraine has devastated one of the world’s great breadbaskets, and global climate disruptions are wrecking havoc on food productivity. That’s led to soaring inflation and increasingly contentious politics, particularly in the developing world.
Sadly, that’s not the only problem the industry faces. Commodities are still traded predominantly on antiquated systems, with the UN estimating that more than 275 million emails are exchanged annually to ship about 11,000 vessels of grain across the oceans. That’s one reason why Lux led the $7 million seed round for Vosbor earlier this summer to build the first digital agricultural commodities exchange.
I wanted to understand more of this extraordinarily complex industry, and so I asked two former CEOs of the largest agriculture commodities companies in the world to weigh in. Joining me (@DannyCrichton) on “Securities” today is Chris Mahoney, former CEO of Glencore Agriculture and now known as Viterra, as well as Soren Schroder, former CEO of Bunge.
We’ll talk about the cyclicality of agricultural markets, the cost disease of infrastructure upgrades, the geopolitical strategies of ag firms, the increasing focus on logistics capabilities, and what the future of digitalization and technology have in store for this critical industry.
Silicon Valley's Dependence on American Foreign Policy
Enjoyed the depth and extent ofthe knowledge displayed by both the host, Danny and his guest. They provided an excellent historical context of the growth of the tech industry in USA and compared to other countries. Gave me new insight into the Geopolitical impact that tech could have if worked in cooperation with our government as other countries do. Very interesting, new facts, new perspective and new ideas