Presenting the Per Aspera Podcasts, where every episode ignites curiosity and sparks imagination. Dive into the heart of cutting-edge technologies, emerging trends, and the stories behind groundbreaking discoveries as we explore the frontiers of human ingenuity. From insightful interviews with industry leaders to thought-provoking discussions on the ethical implications of AI, biotechnology, and beyond, our podcasts offer a gateway to inspiration and enlightenment. Join us on a journey of discovery, as we unravel the mysteries of tomorrow and illuminate the path forward, one episode at a time.

#043: Per Aspera Securing the Black Box: OpenAI, Anthropic, and GDM Discuss

May 6, 2024
Human nature fears the unknown, and with the rapid progress of AI, concerns naturally arise. Uncanny robocalls, data breaches, and misinformation floods are among the worries. But what about security in the era of large language models? In this episode, we explore how large language models impact security, including changes in offense and defense strategies, misuse by nation-state actors, prompt engineering, and more. In this changing environment, how do LLMs transform security dynamics? Let’s uncover the answers.
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#042: Per Aspera Can AI Advance Science? DeepMind’s VP of Science Weighs In

May 1, 2024
In recent years, the AI landscape has seen huge advancements, from the release of Dall-E 2 in April 2022 to the emergence of AI music and video models in early 2024. While creative tools often steal the spotlight, AlphaFold 2 marked a groundbreaking AI breakthrough in biology in 2021. Since its release, this pioneering tool for predicting protein structures has been utilized by over 1.7 million scientists worldwide, influencing fields ranging from genomics to computational chemistry. In this episode, we discuss the transformative potential of AI in scientific exploration. Can AI lead to fundamentally new discoveries in science? Let’s find out.
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#041: Per Aspera Next-Gen Gaming: AI Souls, Real-time Culture, Personalized Avatars

April 26, 2024
In this episode, we meet the founders pushing the boundaries of what games can be.From the fusion of traditional gaming elements with modern tech-twists, we discuss the challenges and wins of creating games that are not only fun but also integrate seamlessly into the digital age, from AI-twins to games that “move at the speed of culture”.Whether you’re a developer, an enthusiast, or just curious about the future of interactive entertainment, this episode provides a glimpse into how today’s creators use creativity and technology to captivate.‍
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#040: Per Aspera Why America Must Lead in AI Investment

April 22, 2024
Senator Todd Young (R-IN) speaks about the importance of open innovation and American leadership in AI, and why we need to support AI research at all levels — from the classroom to the war room.In this episode, we distinguish science fiction from science reality in the ever-evolving AI landscape.‍
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#039: Per Aspera Game On: Creative Computers

April 17, 2024
The gaming industry stands as a pioneer of cutting-edge technologies, ushering in innovations like GPUs, virtual and augmented reality, physics engines, and immersive multiplayer experiences.In this episode, we dig into why Per Aspera was compelled to establish a dedicated games fund. They explore the origins of tech pessimism, effective engagement with government in tech, its significance for the gaming community, the ongoing AI revolution, and even what we would build today if we didn’t have our hands full.This session offers valuable insights for founders and innovators at the intersection of games and technology.
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#038: Per Aspera Inside the Department of Defense and its Vision for the Future

April 10, 2024
From air-defining radar and electronic systems that helped the Allies win World War II, the origins of Silicon Valley are deeply rooted in government and defense.In today’s episode, we get the chance to revisit that relationship with the United States Deputy Secretary of Defense, Kathleen Hicks.Deputy Secretary Hicks has spent decades of her career focused on defense policy and you’ll get an inside look into the priorities of the DoD and how it views its past, present, and future.
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#037: Per Aspera Politics & the Future of Tech

April 5, 2024
“If America is going to be America in the next one hundred years, we have to get this right.” – Ben HorowitzIn this episode, we take on one of the most hot button issues facing technology today: tech regulation and policy. We delve into why the political interests of “Big Tech” conflict with a positive technological future, the necessity of decentralized AI, and how the future of American innovation is at its most critical point.
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#036: Per Aspera A Nuclear Comeback: Are New Reactors the Answer?

March 15, 2024
Nuclear energy accounts for 20% of the electricity in the United States, but remarkably, 2023 marked the commissioning of the U.S.’s first new nuclear reactor in over three decades. The past few years have been a story of changing public opinion, but equally, innovative startups crafting groundbreaking reactor designs and an ambitious announcement by the U.S. government to triple nuclear power production by 2050.
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#035: Per Aspera Intelligence in the Age of AI with new CTO of the CIA

March 11, 2024
Artificial intelligence has taken the world by storm. But despite the hype around personalized avatars or podcast language translation, artificial intelligence is not only impacting the creative spheres; in fact it’s hard to find an industry that isn’t being touched by this technology – and defense of our country is far from excluded.In this episode, we are joined by the first-ever CTO of the CIA, Nand Mulchandani.In this wide-ranging conversation, they discuss the evolving relationship between analysts and AI, how governments can keep up with this exponential technology, and finally, how it’s impacting both offense and defense.This episode is essential listening for anyone interested in the intersection of technology, national security, and policy-making in the age of artificial intelligence.
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#034: Per Aspera From Silicon Valley to the Pentagon: The Future of Defense Innovation

March 7, 2024
The last few decades have been a period of transition for defense. An increasing number of startups have begun to rival large defense primes, the industry has gradually become a calculus of both hardware and software, and exponential technologies have forced the DoD to rethink how it has traditionally done business.These changing conditions were some of the inputs to resulting in the DIU – Defense Innovation Unit – starting in 2015 within the Department of Defense, focused on accelerating the adoption of technology.In this episode we are joined by the Director of the DIU, Doug Beck, plus two critical founders ushering in this new era of defense: Brian Schimpf, cofounder and CEO of Anduril and Brandon Tseng, cofounder of Shield AI.So what does the next wave of defense innovation really look like? Let’s find out.
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#033: Per Aspera What is American Dynamism?

March 4, 2024
American Dynamism. A term coined by Katherine Boyle, two years ago, when she and David Ulevitch founded the firm’s American Dynamism investing practice.Beyond a sector or movement, American Dynamism embodies innovation, community, and a unique philosophy touching every facet of American life.In this episode, we hear from 10 voices, including policymakers, founders, and funders, as they share what American Dynamism means to them. They discuss the critical technologies shaping the future and the challenges on the path to the next decade of dynamism.‍
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#032: Per Aspera The Quest for True Signal: How Zynga Spotted Mobile

February 27, 2024
You might notrecognize the name Mark Pincus but we almost guarantee you recognize the game Farmville. Mark Pincus is the founder and longtime CEO of Zynga, known for its massive global franchise of games, including those household names like Farmville and Words with Friends. Zynga was also at the forefront of the transition to mobile and the use of large platforms like Facebook for distribution.In this episode Mark joins us for a fireside chat. We discuss navigating major tech waves and recognizing “true signal” opportunities, and explore a wide range of topics, from the strategic insights that propelled Zynga to success, the future of the Metaverse, and the philosophy behind minimum viable products.
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#031: Per Aspera Beyond Uncanny Valley: Breaking Down Sora

February 24, 2024
In early 2024, the notion of high fidelity, believable AI-generated video seemed a distant future to many. Yet, a mere few weeks into the year, OpenAI unveiled Sora, its new state of the art text-to-video model producing videos of up to 60 seconds. The output shattered expectations – even for other builders and researchers within generative AI – sparking widespread speculation and awe. How does Sora achieve such realism? And are explicit 3D modeling techniques or game engines at play? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, a16z General Partner Anjney Midha connects with Stefano Ermon, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford and key figure at the lab behind the diffusion models now used in Sora, ChatGPT, and Midjourney. Together, they delve into the challenges of video generation, the cutting-edge mechanics of Sora, and what this all could mean for the road ahead.
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#030: Per Aspera Fraying Wires: The Decentralization of the Electric Grid

February 15, 2024
The electric grid needs an update. In this explainer, we discuss the escalating complexity of the grid, unveils its vulnerabilities, and traces the evolutionary path that has led us to this point. From the surging demands of AI to outdated infrastructure, we delve into the potential roles of cutting-edge technologies such as solar batteries, natural gas, and nuclear power in shaping the grid’s future.
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#029: Per Aspera Fixing Higher Education & New Startup Opportunities

February 8, 2024
In this episode, we continue our in-depth exploration of the current education system. While Part I of their discussion unpacked the crisis facing higher education, Part II presents solutions to overhaul the modern university. In this conversation, we delve into actions that existing institutions can take to improve their current and future situations. This includes exploring new methods for talent recruitment, providing a more individualized education experience for students, and reducing administrative bloat. They also apply an entrepreneurial lens to each university function, revealing startup opportunities poised to emerge – including the building of brand new institutions, nonprofits, and research entities. Enjoy!
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#028: Per Aspera Read Write Own: A New Era

February 2, 2024
Chris Dixon is the author of the new book Read Write Own: Building the Next Era of the Internet. We discuss the writing process, the book’s themes, and what could follow the internet’s read-write-own era.
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#027: Per Aspera The What, Who, and When with IPOs

January 29, 2024
In 2022 and 2023, US IPOs hit decade lows after the record high of 2021. Now, in 2024, will the IPO window reopen? In this episode, we revisit a conversation with Jeff Jordan, former CEO of OpenTable, and J.D. Moriarty, the former Head Managing Director and Head of Equity Capital Markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Joined by Sonal Choksi, the pair takes you behind the scenes to unravel the complexities surrounding IPOs, including pricing, allocations, and the elusive “pop.” They also discuss OpenTable’s IPO, which occurred immediately following the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and weigh in on the question: Can you time an IPO in an unpredictable year?
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#026: Per Aspera Introducing Raising Health: Fireside Chat with Sean Duffy

January 18, 2024
We discuss the building and growth of Omada, from the early days to now. We share our unique insight into the growth of both the digital health field and the changing venture capital environment. We also talk about the future of AI, how Omada Health is leveraging AI, and the challenges that might arise with using technology in a caregiving environment.
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#025: Per Aspera Crisis in Higher Ed & Why Universities Still Matter

January 14, 2024
In this episode, we tackle the university system – what has certainly been a hot topic that’s been dominating the news over the past few months. Universities matter tremendously to our world, but they’re currently in a state of crisis. We take a “structural” look at higher education, delving deep into the twelve functions of the modern university. We also unpack the numerous challenges that universities face today – student debt and the replication crisis, among them. We also discuss topics including DEI, student athlete admissions, accreditation, inflation, and much more. As colleges face an existential threat that could have long lasting repercussions, how can we find ways to improve these institutions, while being open to new entrepreneurial opportunities in education?
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#024: Per Aspera Drones, Data, and Deterrence: Technology’s Role in Public Safety

January 10, 2024
Flock is a public safety technology platform that operates in over 4,000 cities across the United States and solves about 2,200 crimes daily. That’s 10 percent of reported crimes nationwide.General Partner David Ulevitch joins forces with Flock Safety’s founder, Garrett Langley, and Sheriff Kevin McMahill of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Together, they cover the delicate balance between using technology to combat crime and respecting individual privacy, and explore the use of drones and facial recognition, building trust within communities, and the essence of objective policing.‍
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#023: Per Aspera DNA’s Potential to Store the World’s Data

January 5, 2024
Nature’s blueprint – DNA – is an incredibly efficient machine. You cannot see it with the naked eye, yet it can last for hundreds, maybe even millions of years. Plus, the storage capacity of a single gram of DNA is over 200 million gigabytes! As the cost of DNA sequencing (reading) and synthesis (writing) comes down, scientists are looking to our very own biology for applications reaching as far as data storage. Learn more about this fascinating world with General Partner Vijay Pande, as he says, this next wave of biological computing will “be the mother of many new exponentials to come.”
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#022: Per Aspera Jobs of the Future

January 4, 2024
In a world where technology is moving at an unprecedented pace, what will the jobs of the future look like? Kai Roemmelt, CEO of the online learning platform Udacity, and Lisa Gevelber, a key figure at Google responsible for building the Grow with Google program, unpack the seismic changes reshaping the tech and education realms. From disrupting hiring norms to redefining how we acquire degrees and engage globally, this episode poses the question: How can you skillfully navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities awaiting in this evolving landscape?
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#021: Per Aspera The Future of Longevity

December 26, 2023
In this episode, we discusses new breakthroughs in regenerative medicine, AI, biohacking, gene editing, mindset and confirms why this might be the best time to be alive. Enjoy!
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#020: Per Aspera 2024 Big Ideas: Developer Influence, Maritime Upgrades, and New Video Intelligence

December 22, 2023
A new age of maritime exploration, the rise of the developer as a buyer in financial services, and more applications for computer vision and video intelligence. We asked over 40 partners to preview one big idea they believe will drive innovation in 2024. Here in our 3-part series, you’ll hear directly from partners across all our verticals, as we dive even more deeply into these ideas. What’s the why now? Who is already building in these spaces? What opportunities and challenges are on the horizon? And how can you get involved?
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#019: Per Aspera Text to Video: The Next Leap in AI Generation

December 20, 2023
We explore the cutting-edge world of text-to-video AI with AI researchers Andreas Blattman and Robin Rombach. Released in November, Stable Video Diffusion is their latest open-source generative video model, overcoming challenges in size and dynamic representation. In this episode, we share why translating text to video is complex, the key role of datasets, current applications, and the future of video editing.
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#018: Per Aspera 2024 Big Ideas: Voice-First Apps, AI Moats, Never-Ending Games, and Anime Takes Off

December 15, 2023
Voice-First Apps, AI Moats, Never-Ending Games, and Anime. We asked over 40 partners to preview one big idea they believe will drive innovation in 2024.Here in our 3-part series, you’ll hear directly from partners across all our verticals, as we dive even more deeply into these ideas. What’s the why now? Who is already building in these spaces? What opportunities and challenges are on the horizon? And how can you get involved?
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#017: Per Aspera Safety in Numbers: Keeping AI Open

December 11, 2023
Arthur Mensch is the co-founder of Mistral and the co-author of Deepmind’s pivotal 2022 “Chinchilla” paper. In September 2023, Mistral released Mistral-7B, an advanced open-source language model that has rapidly become the top choice for developers. Just this week, they introduced a new mixture of experts model – Mixtral — that’s already generating significant buzz among AI developers. In this episode, we delve into the misconceptions and opportunities around open source; the current performance reality of open and closed models; and the compute, data, and algorithmic innovations required to efficiently scale LLMs.
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#016: Per Aspera The Quest for AGI: Q*, Self-Play, and Synthetic Data

December 4, 2023
One topic at the center of the AI universe this week is a potential breakthrough called Q*. Little has been revealed about this OpenAI project, other than its likely relationship to solving certain grade-school mathematical problems. Today, we discuss the key frontier research areas that AI labs are exploring on their path toward generalizable intelligence, from self-play, to model-free reinforcement learning to synthetic data.
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#015: Financial Freedom, Company Building, And More

November 26, 2023
This wide-ranging conversation covers company building, big to small — including what cadence and when is the right “time” to ship; the relationship between centralization, decentralization, platforms, and financial freedom; moving from web2 to web3 in both crypto AND payments… as well as why bitcoin, views on remote work, and much much more.
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#014: Per Aspera When Business is Battle: Inside the Boardrooms of the CEOs that Survived the Storm

November 23, 2023
aking a company from idea to household name is always difficult. But the past few years presented challenges that caught even the most-seasoned CEOs off guard. In this episode, you’ll hear from two CEOs that navigated these waters and somehow, came out on the other side. These recordings come straight from our exclusive Connect/Enterprise event, bringing together top executives.
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#013: Per Aspera The Worlds She Sees with Godmother of AI, Fei-Fei Li

November 13, 2023
Fei-Fei Li, PhD, Professor in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University, and Co-Director of Stanford’s Human-Centered AI Institute, joins Bio + Health founding partner Vijay Pande. In this candid conversation, Li unfolds her transformation from a young immigrant to an influential figure in AI. The conversation explores the birth of ImageNet, a pivotal step that bridged the gap between visual intelligence and accessible AI technology. They delve into the notion of a ‘Dignity Economy,’ hinting at a future where technology serves to elevate human experience rather than undermine it. Li also touches on the delicate balance between relentless innovation and life’s humble pursuits.
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#012: Per Aspera From Sims to Sapiens: Crafting Reality with Code

November 6, 2023
Is it possible to construct a virtual society that authentically replicates human behavior? AI Town, a virtual town experiment where AI residents live, interact, and engage, provides valuable insights into the future of AI’s believability and its interaction with humanity. In this panel discussion, Joon Park, the author of ‘Generative Agents: Interactive Simulacra of Human Behavior,’ discusses the influence and potential of Generative Agents, exploring their practical applications in the real world.
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#011: Per Aspera Fintech Fuels Global Payments

October 30, 2023
Software crosses borders effortlessly. The globalization of money, however, is considerably more challenging. This is especially true for multinational businesses, which grapple with managing multiple accounts in diverse currencies, navigating costly foreign exchange rates, and unpredictable money transfers. As businesses increasingly embrace a global default, top fintech entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge, addressing cross-border infrastructure issues and offering comprehensive solutions.
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#010: Per Aspera The Techno-Optimist Manifesto

October 25, 2023
In an article that has sparked widespread conversation across traditional and social media, we challenge the pessimistic narrative surrounding technology today, and instead celebrates it as a liberating force that can lead to growth, progress and abundance for all. In this episode, we discuss how technological advancements can improve the quality of human life, uplift marginalized communities, and even encourage us to answer the bigger questions of the universe.
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#009: Per Aspera A New Era of VR: From the Court to the Classroom

October 13, 2023
As VR technology inches forward, completely new experiences loom on the horizon. In today’s episode, we expose listeners to the very real-world use cases already present on these devices, from fitness to education. First up is Gym Class VR, one of the top-rated apps on the Quest. Cofounder, Paul Katsen, shows us how to dribble and dunk in the metaverse, but more importantly, discusses the social impact of VR, the technological prerequisites to get there, and the role of AI as we progress.
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#008: Per Aspera When Will AI Hit the Enterprise? Ben Horowitz and Ali Ghodsi Discuss

October 6, 2023
In this episode, we answer questions around AI and the enterprise, plus our perspectives on open source, whether benchmarks are BS, and the scramble of universities to take part in the very wave they kicked off decades ago.
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#007: Per Aspera When AI and Genomics Collide

October 3, 2023
In this episode, we speak with Daphne Koller about the fascinating convergence of machine learning and genomics – two industries that have benefitted decades of investment and progress – which are now colliding head on. Daphne is a prominent innovator at this intersection, as a long-time professor in computer science at Stanford and co-founder of Coursera, who has decided to step back into the arena with her company Insitro. In fact, Insitro is a blend of in silico and in virto!
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#006: Per Aspera AI Revolution: Disruption, Alignment, and Opportunity

September 28, 2023
The AI Revolution is here. In this episode, you’ll learn what the most important themes that some of the world’s most prominent AI builders – from OpenAI, Anthropic, CharacterAI, Roblox, and more – are paying attention to. You’ll hear discussion around the real-world impact of this revolution, on industries ranging from gaming to design, and the considerations around alignment along the way.
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#005: Per Aspera AI Revolution: Top Lessons from OpenAI, Anthropic, CharacterAI, & More

September 25, 2023
The AI Revolution is here. In this episode, you’ll learn what the most important themes that some of the world’s most prominent AI builders – from OpenAI, Anthropic, CharacterAI, Roblox, and more – are paying attention to. You’ll hear about the economics of AI, broad vs specialized models, the importance of UX, and whether we can expect scaling laws to continue.
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#004: Per Aspera Engineering Rapidly Reusable Rockets

September 22, 2023
The space industry is evolving rapidly, with the cost of launching payloads to orbit dropping significantly. But who’s investing in this sector, and how will it evolve? In this episode, we delve into the transformative journey of the satellite industry with Andy Lapsa, co-founder of Stoke Space. With over a decade of experience at Blue Origin, Andy is now at the forefront of sustainable space travel, pioneering fully reusable rockets.
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#003: Per Aspera The Evolution of the Satellite Economy

September 20, 2023
The cost of launching payloads to orbit has dramatically dropped, igniting a space renaissance. In 2022, a record 186 rocket launches (41 more than the previous year!) underscores this shift. In Part 1 of our satellite economy mini-series, we sit down with John Gedmark, co-founder of Astranis, to reflect on today’s innovations, who’s on the other side of the satellite market, the capabilities they’re looking for, competition, and their mission to provide internet access to 4 billion underserved people.
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#002: Per Aspera Salary Transparency: Clarity or Chaos?

September 5, 2023
With recent landmark legislation being passed around salary transparency, many companies are playing catch up as they interpret and implement changes. In this episode, we explore how companies can best prepare themselves to not just survive, but thrive in this new environment.
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#001: Per Aspera A True Second Brain

August 31, 2023
How many people spend more time organizing their “second brains”, instead of leveraging the information within them? With consumer AI now capable of processing simple language prompts and interfacing with unstructured data, is the landscape of information management on the brink of a transformative evolution? Founders of Mem, Kevin Moody and Dennis Xu, plus writer Nat Eliason, explore what’s gotten in the way of a true second brain, and how AI may finally unlock what “knowledge management” tools have promised for so long.
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