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I loved this interview with author Steven Johnson. It covers a lot about the way he writes and how he structures his books and articles. It also reminded me about the piece he wrote back in 2022 on ChatGPT which has a wonderful opening paragraph that illustrates the simple premise behind Large Language Models – predicting the next word.

The article still rings true even though the technology has moved on a lot. Re-reading it reinforced my view that what people are calling ‘AI’ is really just ‘applied statistics’ (as Ted Chiang calls it. That doesn’t make it any less interesting but it does put some boundaries around how we should think about it.

What Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter tells us about business and climate change

The FT’s Lex points out that Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter to Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders is riddled with inconsistencies on climate change.

Even as insurers have benefited from sharply raising premiums, increasing “convective” (severe) thunderstorms or hurricanes are making insurance another business facing day-to-day climate risks. Buffett in the same letter took a bow for his stake in Occidental Petroleum, one he expects to maintain “indefinitely”.

I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for Buffett, particularly the way he does business, based on a reputation for good and ethical behaviour. But I’ve also long noticed that he (and the late, great Charlie Munger) have never ‘got’ social or environmental issues.

Perhaps that’s because they don’t look at the future, just the past and the present. There are a lot of business people like them so perhaps it’s a sign that, at the moment, it still makes little sense to go ‘all in’ on sustainability if you have profits to protect. I think until regulation changes and the standards for reporting and accounting are updated (perhaps good news on that), big business will continue to do lots of contradictory things on social and environmental issues.

It’s different when you’re a startup (or an investor in startups) where the majority of the value will be created in the future. You have to look at where things are going and you’d be mad to ignore social and environmental issues.

Ghost writers in the machine

I get a lot of odd emails pitching me services I don’t want. Private jets and yachts aren’t really my thing.

But one offering to ‘build my audience without spending hours writing content’ intrigued me so I followed the rabbit hole to see what was down there. It turns out there’s a whole industry of people who will pretend to be a better version of you on social media, especially on Linkedin.

I have to admit it hadn’t really crossed my mind but it was only when I spotted someone I’ve been following as a (semi-anonymised) case study in materials that I realised I’d been taken in. It didn’t feel good.

If you’re a founder, be careful. Not all those VCs posting on LinkedIn are who you think they are.

Does it matter? I can see the temptation – it takes a lot of time and headspace to think of things to write. But I think it does break trust and ultimately the reason I’m still on some of those platforms is to maintain and create new relationships. And trust is important for those.