Hey everyone, make sure to check out the launch of The Good Stewards Podcast, which is "dedicated to seasoned real estate investors who want to maximize the cashflow potential in their business." The podcast features me, my father Bill (who started Stewardship Properties back in 1989), our Operations Officer Amanda Perkins and colleague Ryan Dossey.
The early launch has five episodes out along with the following trailer:
And check out the episode where we go over the BRRRR method of real estate investing here:
Legacy Development, a Kansas City-based property development and commercial management company which I profiled here and here, is really stepping up there game. They've now moved into the 10 figure ballpark. From The Kansas City Business Journal,
Legacy Development will lead an project that could attract nearly $1 billion in private investment in Hutto, Texas — located in a growing suburb of Austin... The highlight of the new development is a national headquarters of Perfect Game, a baseball scouting organization. Along with baseball fields, the project will include an indoor sports and events center, convention hotel, restaurants and retail space.
Sounds like quite the project. Congrats and good luck to everyone at Legacy!
Stewardship Properties will get there soon enough... we're on the way!
Another good video by Charisma on Command, this time on how to increase your willpower. Unsurprisingly, he bases much of his argument on Roy Baumeister's great book Willpower (although admittedly, some of the ideas have come under scrutiny amidst the replication crisis in psychology).
Still very sound advise:
Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat is quite the wake up call. Indeed, it almost reads like horror at certain points. The book opens with a hypothetical future where an Artificial Super Intelligence is created and immediately becomes the smartest and most powerful being on the planet. It then invents nanotechnology so advanced that it can reconfigure all matter into itself. This matter, of course, includes our own. Thus, the entire human race is consumed into extinction by microscopic robots and the Artificial Super Intelligence who created them.
As absurd as this story sounds, it appears to be much closer to science fiction than science fantasy.
First, a few definitions. Artificial General Intelligence is "The intelligence of a machine that has the capacity to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human being can." Many scientists presume and Artificial General Intelligence is the first step toward Artificial Super Intelligence, which "is a hypothetical agent that possesses intelligence far surpassing that of the brightest and most gifted human minds." This would come about in what Barrat refers to as an "intelligence explosion" by a machine that had the ability to improve itself. A series of "recursive self-improvement" (which with computing technology would probably mean a doubling of "intelligence" several million times per second) would create a machine with cognitive capacities that were as far above us as our capacity is above that of ants.
We can argue all we want about whether or not this type of Super Intelligence would be "alive" or not. I'm not sure if I would call it "alive," but for all intents and purposes, it doesn't matter. The key point is that Barrat is convinced we will soon be able to create such a thing and while I have some doubts, I would absolutely not bet against it.
Already, we have algorithms that improve themselves through "recursive self-improvement" as bots, for example, figure out which Youtube video you are most likely to watch next if you watched the series of videos you had watched before. That way they can feed those particular videos to you and increase the amount of time you spend on the site. (A good explanation of these bots can be found here.) This makes the question jump out: Does anyone even understand the most complex algorithms that these various tech companies, intelligence agencies and the like have created?
And Barrat wrote his book in 2015. Technology has improved substantially since then. Many experts were predicting Artificial General Intelligence by 2030 or 2040 or thereabout. Some have an extremely rosy outlook of it (such as the famous futurist Ray Kurzweil, who popularized the term "singularity"), but a growing number are becoming concerned this invention will turn around and exterminate us (such as those at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute that Barrat profiles). After all, why would an Aritficial Super Intelligence care about us anymore than we care about ants? And how do we program into a machine the mandate to be kind to us when it can improve and change itself immensely? People like to cite Asimov's Three Laws, but they certainly won't do. Hell, they didn't even "do" in Asimov's own books!
Barrat also stresses that with so many actors seeking out Artificial Intelligence, it is probably impossible to stop. These actors include governments, rogue governments such as North Korea, intelligence agencies, tech companies like Google, "stealth companies" who are trying to keep a low profile and various research institutes. Banning it will likely just mean the group that discovers it is more likely to have malicious intent.
Even if a friendly organization finds it, it may accidentally release it. I don't consider the CIA to be particularly friendly, but maybe you do. Regardless, an accidental release is what happened with Stuxnet. Stuxnet was a proto-AI malware created by the United States and Israel to damage Iran's nuclear program. That part worked. But computer viruses don't blow up when they go off and it appears we lost control of it and who knows who all has access to it now.
Barrat isn't optimistic about our ability to escape an AI-induced extinction. That being said, the positive potential is incredible: from healing diseases, solving poverty, ending global warming, etc. etc. But only if, you know, it doesn't exterminate us.
On that note, as Gary Marcus points out, we should question whether the "tendencies toward self-preservation and resource acquisition are inherent in any sufficiently complex, goal-driven system." IBM's Deep Blue and Watson have shown no sign of this. In fact, assuming resource acquisition and self-preservation are inherent goals of such a system flirts with "anthropomorphizing" artificial intelligence; something Barrat warns us against.
Barrat recommends first trying to build in an apoptosis mechanism into the AI. Apoptosis is the process cells have for programmed death. If they begin multiplying without dying afterward, that's cancer. This would at least prevent the AI from spreading all over the place.
My thought (which I emailed Barrat about and will add his response to this review if I am lucky enough to get one) is that anything programmed into a Superintelligence should be as objective as possible. Programming to "be kind to humans" is subjective and open to very different interpretations (see, for example, the myriad of political opinions out there). How about programming into it to have the "correct" view on those two points Marcus isn't sure the AI will have:
And more importantly,
Sure, I know that is easier said than done. But I would think it is easier to do that than program it to be nice to us even once it becomes several trillion times more intelligent than us.
An indifference to self-preservation would allow us to turn it off as soon as it started to become dangerous. This would also allow us to beta test it. Which is kind of important since we don't want to turn something on that might exterminate us without proper testing.
Regardless, Barrat has written a very important book that we should all take seriously. The biggest threats are often things we don't expect instead of things we are hunkered down preparing for. Right now, it doesn't appear like many people are expecting a threat from AI, if they are expecting AI at all.
My latest piece for BiggerPockets is up. This one is on not so much the need to zig when others zag, but the willingness to do so. You should never be afraid of being judged by others. Most of the time, they aren't even paying attention.
In the piece, I reference one of my favorite quotes from Brian Tracy's book Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life that best sums up my thesis,
There is a rule that I have learned from experience: Never do or refrain from doing something because you are concerned about what people might think about you. The fact is that nobody is even thinking about you at all.
Of course that doesn't mean to do everything that comes to mind. But it does mean that if the only reason you wouldn't do it is because you fear what others will think, then yes, you should do it.
Check it out!
So yesterday another Columbus Day came and went and not without its usual controversy. Whereas Christopher Columbus used to be regarded as a heroic explorer, he has come to be known more and more as a genocidal madman. Protests erupted in multiple cities and many want the day replaced with Indigenous People's Day.
Howard Zinn, a highly questionable, Marxist historian, seems to in large part responsible for this about face.
I went through this evolution myself. My earliest memory of hearing about him in elementary school was as an explorer who treated the Native Americans well. Then early in High School I believe, I was told about how he was basically the personification of pure evil. The truth, it would seem, is somewhere in the middle.
The Spanish certainly were brutal, but Columbus wasn't especially so. And it's not like the Native Americans were peaceniks. The Aztecs, for example, sacrificed some 20,000 people a year! The worst governors of Hispaniola (the first Spanish outpost) came after Columbus. Most notably, Nicolas de Ovando who put down a rebellion there with a series of brutal massacres. And at least some of the atrocities were exaggerated in the Black Legend which was pushed be Protestants to delegitimatize Catholic countries; especially Spain.
The Youtuber Knowing Better has a pretty good video sort of defending the 15th century explorer and conqueror called "In Defense of Columbus: An Exaggerated Evil." It's worth checking out to get a more balanced view of the man.
Facebook and other tech companies have come under increasing and well-merited criticism for their rampant invasion of privacy, censorship and riding the line between publisher and platform. Indeed, these tech companies are offered protections against lawsuits for libel and slander because they are considered to be "platforms" under Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act.
Now Facebook, while fending off a lawsuit from conservative provocateur Laura Loomer, admits its not a platform but instead a publisher,
Facebook has invoked its free speech right as a publisher, insisting its ability to smear users as extremists is protected, but its legal immunity thus far has rested on a law which protects platforms, not publishers. Which is it?
Say what you will about Laura Loomer's ridiculous antics (particularly those involving tires), but this explanation is very telling indeed. If you are going to defend yourself as a publisher, then you should be legally liable for everything posted on your site. Let the wave of infinity lawsuits begin!
Late last year, Tim Cook also admitted Apple was in fact a publisher and not a platform as well. The time to act is now (in fact, it was some time ago). These tech companies are far too powerful. They can swing elections, manipulate the masses and pretty much do as they please. No more talk and no more listening to their empty promises. As an ardent capitalist I really hate to say this, but these companies need to be regulated.
Well the first ever (or more accurately, first in like seven years) BiggerPockets conference has come and gone. It was a lot of fun and had a lot of good information. And unlike the majority of real estate conferences you will come across, it had no sales pitches. (Unless, you count pitching a $20 book, or a free book that the final keynote speaker, David Osborn, the founder of Gobundance, was giving away as long as you paid the rapacious $7 for shipping and handling.)
The conference was held at the absurd, never-ending hotel with a glass ceiling and jungle setting known as The Gaylord. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, there are several of these things in the United States.
The conference itself was packed! 1200 people total. Yet, the facility was so large it never felt overly-crowded.
The speakers were very good, particularly Brandon Turner's opening address and David Osborne's closing one. But the highlight was Josh Dorkin, the founder of BiggerPocket's, presentation on the recovery of his daughter from a terrifying ailment and how this experience has given him a new perspective on life. (You can hear about this more on this podcast with him.) Thankfully, his daughter has fully recovered.
Of course, the best part with these conferences is the networking and there was plenty of it here. Some real estate seminars are mostly full of newbies and wannabies as well as the salesmen trying to sell them those $3000 three-ring binders. But all of BiggerPockets presenters are successful investors and I met a wide range of others; from newbies to those who had done a few deals to a guy with 350 rentals in Iowa and another 50 in Kansas to a partnership who bought hotels throughout the country.
Overall, it was a great conference and I would highly recommend those interested in real estate investment to attend the 2020 conference.
Well, here's quite the headline from NBC: "Vapers seek relief from nicotine in - wait for it - cigarettes." As one person the article quotes puts it,
“Juul [an electronic cigarette maker] made my nicotine addiction a lot worse,... When I didn’t have it for more than two hours, I’d get very anxious.”
Yeah, it turns out that vaping nicotine is as addictive as smoking it. Who knew?
And it turns out, it's also really, really bad for you. According to the CDC,
My latest (and very well trafficked) article for BiggerPockets picks apart Bernie Sanders' hair brained idea to tax the profits of home flippers by 25 percent (in addition the income tax they will already be paying). It's nuts, and I go into detail as to why it's nuts in the piece, concluding that,
Taxing home flippers 25 percent before they even pay a penny of income or capital gains taxes doesn’t make any economic sense. It’s unfair, removes many sellers’ options, will hurt many small businesses and likely lead to layoffs, will increase urban blight, and will decrease the availability of housing, leading to higher prices and rents.
Check it out and do what you can to make sure this stupid law never gets put into effect.
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
The Righteous Mind
Star Slate Codex
Consulting by RPM