An occasional review of technology, markets, and ideas.

Week of Feb 20

Robotic surgery, Ukraine, and Lab Leaks

Week of Feb 20
Chinese "meterological balloon" from a U2

What I’m reading

How 5G and remote robot arms are extending China’s surgical reach (South China Morning Post)

  • Chinese doctors were able to use high speed internet and robotics to conduct a gallbladder removal from 2,800 miles away. Much like remote work allowed select digital workers to escape the tyranny of place, access to remote medical care will also remove geography as a barrier to the highest quality medical care.

Up-to-fivefold reverberating waves through the Earth’s center and distinctly anisotropic innermost inner core (Nature)

  • Did you think there were only 4 layers of the earth? Well, turns out there’s a 5th layer that a team of Australians were able to detect by recording how much time it takes waves to travel from one seismic station to the next.

Should GPT exist? (Scott Aaronson Blog)

  • Aaronson asks whether GPT should exist and introduces the interesting concept of a “Faust Parameter” which is the probability that you would accept an existential catastrophe in order to learn the answers to all of humanity’s greatest questions.

Coinbase launches Base, an Ethereum Layer 2 (Medium)

  • Still need to figure out how/if this differs from Polygon...Anyone who knows feel free to reach out.

China’s Tech Rainmaker Vanishes, and So Does Business Confidence (NYT)

  • Have more Russian Oligarchs or Chinese businesspeople been disappeared in the past 2 years?

How The War In Ukraine Ends (New Yorker)

  • The US has gradually increased our support for Ukraine. Now the question is how this ends? Stephen Kotkin argues that either 1) Ukraine ramps up the production of weaponry to win a war of attrition or 2) they accept membership in the E.U. while Crimea and Donbas remain in Russian hands.

U.S. releases photo of Chinese balloon captured by U-2 spy plane (WaPo)

  • Here’s the first picture of the balloon which China’s Foreign Ministry described as a balloon “used for research, mainly meterological purposes.”

Board Statement on Fossil Fuel Divestment (Carleton College Blog)

  • "The Investment Office will continue to manage a well-balanced portfolio, and does not anticipate a significant negative impact to the endowment as a result of this divestment policy." – "Significant" is doing a lot of work here. I'd like to see a portfolio backtest inclusive of 2021/2022 to see the impact of this.

Lab Leak Most Likely Origin of Covid-19 Pandemic, Energy Department Now Says (WSJ)

  • You'll recall that in the not-too-distant-past this was considered a "fringe conspiracy theory" with the NYT concluding "Although much remains unknown about the coronavirus, experts generally dismiss the idea that it was created by human hands."

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Jamie Larson