Am I a “blind optimist?”

Am I a “blind optimist?”

Where Innovation Meets Investing

Up before the enemy… on this post-holiday Monday.

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Ireland, but I always make a point of getting up extra early on Mondays. Reporting for duty at zero five thirty hours, sir!

It’s a good way to shock your brain into knowing it’s time to get after it…

  1. I got several kind messages from members who watched my AI talk.

Like this one from Tim…

“My heart overflows with gratitude and the blessings that surround us. I am truly thankful for all of your hard work. Yesterday’s 40% gain from [REDACTED STOCK] was incredible. May your Thanksgiving be full of love and joy! Looking forward to making a bunch of money from this AI revolution with you all.”

Appreciate the kind words, Tim. We’re off to a solid start, but don’t expect every AI stock we own to jump 40% in one day.

Last week’s earnings results from chip king Nvidia (NVDA) and other stocks in our portfolio show AI is delivering on the hype.

Folks who think AI is a fad simply aren’t paying attention.

  1. But not everyone is so happy with me…

I got this message (edited for clarity) from Mike, who is bringing the HEAT on this cold winter morning:

“You're banking on self-driving cars taking over. That may work in a place like Europe, where people seem to be much more willing to follow government directives... no matter how ridiculous. That will not happen in the US.

We're a huge country—most of which is rural—and you'll never be able to tell farmers in the desolate Midwest they have to wait for their Uber to go to the feed store. Americans are different... We fought the Brits for our independence... It's baked into our genes. One last thing... there are a billion guns on planet Earth... and half of them are inside the US. I'd seriously rethink your thesis about self-driving cars here.

Also, love your optimism. And I agree AI could be bigger than the internet itself. But I'm afraid you're being incredibly naive about its potential for harm. Ask yourself this: If hackers are currently able to do life-threatening damage by hacking safety systems, why would you assume that AI will be unicorns and rainbows and never used to cause negative outcomes? 

I believe you need to be much more sanguine about this aspect of an exciting (but potentially frightening) new technology. The world is full of bad people... ignoring that fact and hoping for the best doesn't constitute a strategy.  

I enjoy reading your investment stuff and have taken market action on several of your ideas. My purpose in writing is not to rain on your parade... but to try to encourage you to seriously consider rethinking your blind optimism about these two subjects.”

To recap Mike’s argument for you skimmers…

#1: Driverless cars won’t take off in America.

#2: AI can be used by bad people to do bad things.

Great comments, Mike. As my colleagues know, I love when people tell me why I’m wrong and poke holes in my argument. It makes me a much better thinker. Debates are championed in my house!

  1. Will driving a car be illegal within our lifetimes?

That’s what I said last month, and I stand by it.

Important point: Owning a car won’t be illegal. Everyone will still buy cars, and they’ll sit in our driveways. The difference is they’ll be able to drive themselves and eventually won’t have steering wheels.

Within our lifetimes, humans manually driving will be so socially unacceptable, few will do it.

Time for a story…

When a good friend of mine was young, her parents used to sit in the pub all day drinking.

The kids had to be out of the pub by 8 p.m. So the parents would tell my friend and her siblings to sit in the doorway outside and wait (sometimes for hours) until they were finished drinking.

Welcome to Ireland in the 1990s.

Can you imagine doing this today? There’s no way in hell! You’d be ostracized and swiftly reported to child protection services.

One day, driving a car will be as frowned upon as leaving your kids outside in the cold while you skull back pints of Guinness.

Almost 43,000 Americans were killed in car crashes last year.

Self-driving cars can eventually save 99.9% of these lives.

Robo-taxi leader Waymo just did a study with reinsurance giant Swiss Re (SSREY). It found Waymo’s cars are already 4X safer than human drivers—and they’re getting safer as they get smarter.

When this becomes widely known, the robots will take over driving. Presidential candidates will make this a major talking point in their campaigns.

The robo-taxis cars are coming, and it’s going to be awesome.

  1. Am I being naive about AI’s potential for harm?

I could spend the next 10 pages writing about this. But let’s keep it short and to the point.

Every technology—from fire to cars to smartphones—can be used for good and bad.

Fire has been used to burn down entire cities. It’s also the foundation of modern civilization and has kept us warm and safe for centuries.

AI will absolutely be used for evil, just like every other invention in human history. Does that mean we should ban it? No. Because the pros outweigh the cons by orders of magnitude.

AI is developing lifesaving drugs. It will transform education into something wonderful for my kids. These two reasons alone are enough to embrace it.

It’s great that people are concerned about AI. It means we’ll likely head off those dangers before they become reality.

AI is world-changing. But at its core, it’s just another technology.

It’s not a gleaming, red-eyed killer robot that’s going to spring to life and decide to murder us. The AI doomers need to lay off the Terminator reruns.

AI won’t come alive any more than your toaster will.

I’m not a blind optimist. I know we have problems. But instead of dwelling on these issues, I choose to bet on savvy entrepreneurs to solve them.

And thanks to the stock market, we can piggyback on their successes by investing in their companies.

Remember: “Pessimists sound smart; optimists make money.” This mantra is so important, I stuck it to my wall.

I’ll chat with you Wednesday!

Stephen McBride
Chief Analyst, RiskHedge

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