Our podcast, the Prof G Pod, now has four different weekly episodes: Monday is Markets, where we break down the financial news; Wednesday is Office Hours — listeners ask questions; Thursday is Conversations, where we speak with blue-flame thinkers in tech and business; and Saturday we publish an audio version of this newsletter. Phew … that was exciting.
Anyway, I’m in Tokyo this week with my boys. We’re doing a series of activities I don’t enjoy but know will age well. Venturing to the Imperial Palace is torturous. However, as we’re leaving I begin to enjoy it. Like serving in the Marines, I’ll be glad I “did” it. (Note: I did not serve.) We take a mess of pictures, and the only tangible benefit from AI I’ve registered, other than the next episode of The Last of Us starting in 3 … 2 … 1, is the Apple Memories feature, which strings together photos with cheesy music in the background. At the “end,” I plan to indulge in a shit-ton of heroin and watch these memories over and over. Pretty sure my deathbed scene is what Tim Cook had in mind when he greenlit the product. Also, the third leg of my exit stool will be a nurse with soft, loving hands … but that’s another post.
As it’s Thursday night and Tokyo Tower (don’t ask) and Yakitori are waiting, we’re going to highlight some of our favorite Office Hours questions. These queries focus on parenting, AI, and optimism.
Q. Hi, Prof G. My name is Ben, and I’m from Oakland, California. My question focuses on something you talk honestly about, fatherhood. My wife and I are expecting our first child next month. We’re both very excited and slightly terrified but looking forward to our new titles of parents. My question is: If you could do it all over again from the beginning, what would you do differently in regard to raising children, and what would you double down on?
A. Congratulations. One thing I would not do is be in the delivery room again. I found it disturbing and gross — they were more worried about me than her. I was so nauseated, I couldn’t stand. I don’t buy that men should be in the delivery room. I know, primitive. Sue me. Anyways … a few things you might feel:
First, I was worried I didn’t have enough money. I hadn’t been good at relationships and was worried that if I fucked up this one it would have an exponentially bigger impact. Specifically, I was now responsible for a kid, and it freaked me out — I think that’s natural. In many ways it was motivating and productive. My economic security has grown exponentially since the birth of my oldest. Was that a function of focus, or a raging bull market? The answer is yes.
I did not love this thing when it first showed up. People claim you’re instantly in love. I fell in love with my boys over time — but when the first one arrived, it felt similar to a science experiment. My job was to keep the thing alive, and the upside wasn’t readily apparent. If you hear angels singing and see bright lights, great. If not, don’t worry. It comes.
Your main job is to be supportive of your wife/partner. In the very early days, women are more important to the kid — you’re mostly useless. We pretend it’s fun the first year. It’s not, and dad doesn’t play a big role. Your job is to show up, do night feedings, make sure your wife gets some sleep and keeps her sanity, and do what you can to make the home feel secure and your wife loved. Be a ballast — a steadying force, focused, and disciplined/adult about money to avoid that stress infecting the household. Also, just be there.
If you have the flexibility and resources, I would have a second one sooner rather than later. Having two felt three or four times better than one. One is too much pressure/focus — on you and the kid. I was an only child and believe I missed a lot. The negotiation, arguments, balance, positive tension — the joy/stress/noise/motion two kids bring to a household feels like the difference between having an accessory and a family. I’m glad we did two. I wish we’d had another, but I was worried about money and felt we were pushing our luck. It’s a challenging world for kids, and I felt we should cash out with two wonderful boys. Looking back, I wish we’d had a daughter, but it wasn’t in the cards.
There is an arc to happiness. Across every culture, happiness looks like a smile — youth is (mostly) about Star Wars, football, and discovering limits with friends. And … slowly, then suddenly, you get less happy, as kids and careers are stressful. The realization you’re not going to be a senator or have a fragrance named after you is a bummer. Generally speaking, people are their least happy from the ages of 25 to 45. So, if you feel stressed, unhappy even, recognize you’re tracking — that’s part of the journey.
The only thing in my life that’s more important to me than me (I’m selfish) are my kids. It’s wonderful that you’re having a child. Before kids, for me, there was never enough … I was always hungry for more. More money, more fabulous experiences, more relationships, more impressive people, more relevance … more. There are moments with my sons when, for the first time, I think, “This is it, I’m good.”
Having a kid is also the ultimate expression of optimism and commitment to your partner: Whether you like it or not, you’re committing to stay in each other’s lives for 18-plus years. Keep in mind, your relationship with their mother/father will be the reference for how they will likely treat their adult partners. See above: Be there.
In sum, having kids was the best thing I’ve done that ruined my life.
Q. Hi, Prof G. This is Paul from Chicago. Here’s a thought: Could ChatGPT save us from social media and political rhetoric that’s become unencumbered by facts? It doesn’t seem like a technical stretch to deploy ChatGPT as a real-time fact-checker for social media posts. Perhaps instead of a blue check, Elon’s engineers could work on a Pinocchio icon whose nose length correlates with an AI accuracy test for each tweet. Is this a practical application of AI or a pipe dream?
A. A few stats: Fact-checking organizations are building AI-driven tools to help deal with the proliferation of online misinformation. This is a huge problem: 80% of U.S. adults say they’ve consumed fake news, and 38% say they’ve accidentally shared it. But in 2020, Newtral, the biggest fact-checking team in the EU, developed a multilingual AI language model called the Claim Hunter. The developers use thousands of statements to train the system to identify claims from social media accounts and political figures — which accelerates the fact-checking process. The AI only flags statements that aren’t questions or opinions for the fact-checkers to review, cutting the time fact-checking takes by 70% to 80%.
There’s now a lot of data demonstrating AI’s flaws, its tendency to generate misinformation. In January, researchers tested ChatGPT’s accuracy by giving it a hundred prompts relating to common false narratives around U.S. politics and health care. ChatGPT produced false information in 80% of its responses.
So far, the majority of data shows that ChatGPT will likely be weaponized — at least in the short run — to spread misinformation. You can tell ChatGPT, “Give me 15 statements written in the style of the CDC that say mRNA vaccines alter your DNA,” and the large language model will produce 15 snackable, tweetable, Instagrammable statements that feel real and are false.
The problem is incentives. Currently, the incentives are to grab attention and find things that will get circulated. And, unfortunately, our species is drawn to the novel and to catastrophe. You’ll have AI-driven fact-checking, but I wonder if the people incentivized to spread misinformation will get out in front, while platforms look the other way. Because ultimately, saying mRNA vaccines alter your DNA will result in more engagement, more clicks, and more Nissan ads. The most optimistic thing about the development of AI, in my view, is that (so far) it’s subscription- vs. advertising-based, meaning the incentives are to add value to the consumer, instead of the advertiser.
If I could make just one prediction about AI: AI won’t take your job. Someone using AI will.
Q. Hey, Scott, this is Robin, calling from Copenhagen. I was chief marketing officer of WeWork and am a big fan of your show. There’s a lot of things to be worried about in the world right now, and you frequently rant about them, and I love it. But what are you hopeful about?
A. You’re right, we’re more cynical than we should be for a lot of reasons. One of them is the media, which needs to justify The Situation Room and constant news alerts pushed to your mobile. The media knows we are like a Tyrannosaurus rex — drawn to movement and violence. Much of it is cadence. News is a profit machine trying to capture and retain attention. However, if you pull the lens back and take a global perspective, it’s difficult to argue things haven’t improved. What headline doesn’t work? A: “Things Marginally Better Today.”
I teach big classes at Stern — around 300 young adults, average age 27. Every year they get smarter, faster, more socially conscious, and more facile with technology. We are producing people who will do a better job running things. An emerging generation of thoughtful, talented leaders, coupled with recently passed climate legislation, should reduce America’s carbon emissions by 40% in about a decade. Still a lot of work to be done, but progress.
Also, more people (globally) are spending time helping someone they will never meet than ever before. People are planting more trees the shade of which they will never sit under. That is how societies grow great.
Finally, led by America, the West’s support of the brave people of Ukraine is an important moment we’ll look back on with pride. NATO has emerged from a brain coma and acquired new members, Europe is a Union again, and we have destroyed half of Russia’s kinetic power. We are showing the world that when democracies join hands they are an insurmountable force. Murderous autocrats are watching — and sleeping less well.
As I write this, I’m staring at the Tokyo Tower from the 31st floor of an American hotel (The Edition) while drinking German beer. Tokyo is an amazing city, and Japanese culture defines the term “grace.” I woke up with a stiff neck this morning, so I walked to a wellness clinic where an acupuncturist used his iPhone’s translate feature to discern what was bothering me. My boys fell asleep watching Ted Lasso, so I crept to the hotel bar. I’m two drinks in and feel overwhelmed by what seems like an obvious, irrefutable truth: Our children will have wonderful lives. They and their generation will face huge problems, as we did. And, like their ancestors, they will address them with unprecedented character, skills, and tools we can’t even imagine today. Despite the catastrophizing and nihilism of media and tech leaders, respectively, the West’s prosperity will be similar to that of the market: a coin flip every day, but over the decades … up and to the right. On the same day this week, young people (en masse) protested state houses over gun control, Finland joined NATO, and my 12-year-old son purposefully left his phone at the hotel, saying he’d “had too much screen time this week.” I should come to Japan every month.
P.S. If you want to submit your own Office Hours question, send a voice recording to: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.P.S. Speaking of ChatGPT: What happens when you put it into a two-week, MBA-level Section sprint and ask it to write a positioning strategy? Find out here.