The Profile: The CEO fighting for the future of AI & the hedge fund that crashed down to earth
This edition of The Profile features Elon Musk, Chase Coleman III, Patricia Moore, and others.
Good morning, friends!
Something magical happens when you cry in a New York City taxi cab.
The first time it happened was in March 2014 when I moved to New York. I stepped out of the airport armed with big dreams, little money, and an optimism so delusional that it can only be attributed to me being dumb, naive, and 22 years old.
I had arrived, and I was determined to find an apartment in one day. By some insane miracle, I saw three studio apartments, two of which were objectively unlivable, but the third was what my New York City dreams were made of. (That dream apartment is pictured below. It was on the first floor with a stunning view of a parking garage across the street.)
I had made it. Just a few days prior, I was living on my mom’s couch in Atlanta, and all I had wanted in the entire world was to move to New York City.
But I was just dreaming. I didn’t have enough money to live in Manhattan. I didn’t have a job. And I certainly didn’t know if I would survive the city that chews you up and spits you out.
With that naïveté came a ferocious determination that is hard to describe in words. All I did was live and breathe New York City while still in Atlanta. I changed my desktop background to a picture of the city’s skyline, I made a Pinterest board of scenic NYC photos, and I consumed TV shows set in New York City (notably, ”How I Met Your Mother”) every single night before I went to sleep. So my love affair with the city began way before I set foot on the island.
But once I was there, that love quickly morphed into fear. I’ll never forget having a full-blown panic attack in the “Meatball Shop” on the Upper East Side asking my mom what I was going to do if I wasn’t able to make it in this city (which was a valid concern given that more than 50% of my paycheck went to rent). She told me I could always move back to Atlanta.
But here’s the thing: I couldn’t move back. I couldn’t move back because the first time I set foot in New York City, I knew. I knew that this was my city. It was the city where I felt fully myself, fully alive, and fully inspired every single day. I would never leave.
Until I did.
At the end of 2020, my husband and I moved to Miami, where our daughter was born. Miami was lovely — warm, comfortable, and scenic. We had a routine, and every day was predictable. We didn’t have to contend with subway delays, freezing sideways rain, and the never-ending sounds of honking and sirens.
A year into it, I began feeling restless. Why was our neighborhood so quiet? Where were all the bookstores?
Don’t get me wrong — New York City has its problems. It’s not perfectly manicured and its blemishes are evident on any city block. But there’s only way I can possibly describe it: It’s extraordinary.
So one day, my husband and I came across this Casey Neistat video from the week he moved back to New York from Los Angeles. Neistat says, “I think the thing I missed the most about New York City when I wasn’t here is this idea that anytime you step outside, a story just smacks you in the face. What that means to me as a filmmaker who loves stories, it’s my whole world.”
I also came across Rachel Syme’s ‘ESB’ essay, which put it this way:
“As a friend was moving away, he told me that he wanted to go somewhere where he can still build things. "What," he asked, "am I building in New York?" I didn't know what to tell him then, but this is what I would tell him now: in New York, you are demanded to build yourself. The environment calls for it. You build on pure speculation, a foundation up from the salty bedrock built upon something that was there before, as many stories high as you want to go, as fast as you can get there. It is possible to fail, possible to outpace yourself, to not turn a profit, to remain empty inside with your lights still blazing for show. But when it works, what you build becomes a beacon.”
Every Sept. 11, I share Colson Whitehead’s Lost And Found essay, which was published two months after the Twin Tower attacks. The article is a moving tribute to New York City and the Twin Towers, but it’s also about how our identities are shaped by our own, personalized memories of the places we live. “There are eight million naked cities in this naked city — they dispute and disagree,” he writes. “The New York City you live in is not my New York City; how could it be?”
This is the part that gets me every time:
“Our streets are calendars containing who we were and who we will be next. We see ourselves in this city every day when we walk down the sidewalk and catch our reflections in store windows, seek ourselves in this city each time we reminisce about what was there 5, 10, 40 years ago, because all our old places are proof that we were here. One day the city we built will be gone, and when it goes, we go. When the buildings fall, we topple, too.”
I recently found a note I wrote to myself when I was interviewing in New York City for jobs in 2014, and it was this:
It is 8:26 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2014. I am writing this because I never want to forget this moment. Right now, I am sitting on a bed at the Comfort Inn at 18 West 25th Street, New York, N.Y.
New York City is absolutely magical. You can get lost in a sea of people, but if you follow your dreams, you will stand out from the crowd. That’s what I plan on doing. We need to go for our dreams more often. When I stepped out of that cab, I knew this is where I belong. I am so thrilled and terrified at the same time.
Just as Whitehead predicted, that Comfort Inn on West 25th Street doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been replaced by a Heritage Hotel, whatever that is. The ‘Meatball Shop’ where I had my existential crisis? Permanently closed, likely to be replaced by a new restaurant where another terrified 22-year-old will worry how she’ll make rent this month.
What I always take away from Whitehead’s essay is that New York City doesn’t wait on you. It doesn’t wait on anyone. It just keeps going and changing and evolving. As he writes, “Maybe we become New Yorkers the day we realize that New York will go on without us.”
But what my husband and I have realized is equally as valid: Maybe we become New Yorkers the day we realize that *we* cannot go on without it.
I’ve been waiting to say this for a while: New York City, we’ve missed you, and we’re back.
If you have a cool event, dinner, podcast, or conference in NYC coming up, let me know! Excited to meet you all in person.
THE PROFILE DOSSIER: On Wednesday, premium members received The Profile Dossier, a comprehensive deep-dive on a prominent individual. It featured Daniel Amen, the the psychiatrist offering practical tools for a healthier brain. Read it below.
— The music manager to the stars [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The CEO fighting for the future of AI
— The hedge fund that crashed down to earth
— The industrial designer who wanted to combat ageism
— The Dungeons & Dragons players of death row
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The music manager to the stars: Scooter Braun, the entrepreneurial music manager, is best known for discovering Justin Bieber and fighting with Taylor Swift. Last year, he made a billion-dollar deal to sell his company Ithaca Holdings to the South Korean entertainment behemoth Hybe. Along the way, he's gone to great lengths to distinguish himself as a good guy: a family-oriented philanthropist with a strong moral code. But many say that far from being an exception in a particularly ugly industry, Braun is one of its most ruthless players — a relentless egotist whose main focus is burnishing his image and growing his empire. (Business Insider)
"I've never seen anyone burn so many bridges with so many people.”
The investor who made billions betting on China: Li Lu went from being one of China's most wanted criminals, exiled from his home country, to brokering business deals flanked by Chinese officials. Here’s how he went from a student radical to a successful hedge fund manager. (The Financial Times)
“It was his capitalist aptitude that attracted me, not his revolutionary history.”
The CEO fighting for the future of AI: In this story, we hear about an argument between SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Google co-founder Larry Page over the future of AI. Human consciousness, Musk said, was a precious flicker of light in the universe, and we should not let it be extinguished. Page considered that sentimental nonsense. If consciousness could be replicated in a machine, why would that not be just as valuable? He accused Musk of being a “specist,” someone who was biased in favor of their own species. “Well, yes, I am pro-human,” Musk responded. “I f-cking like humanity, dude.” (TIME)
“With AI coming, I’m sort of wondering whether it’s worth spending that much time thinking about Twitter.”
The hedge fund that crashed down to earth: In October 2022, Tiger Global founder Chase Coleman sent a letter to his limited partners lamenting the death of legendary investor Julian Robertson, who wrote the $25 million check to help Coleman kickstart the firm. But shortly after he sent that letter, Coleman’s hedge fund filed a document with the SEC reporting it had shrunk from $86 billion to $51 billion in net assets under management from the beginning of the year. Tiger’s hedge fund, in particular, lost nearly 60% in 2022—making it one of the worst performing hedge funds of the year on Wall Street. It all started with an anonymously written and damning memo that made aggressive, yet unsubstantiated, claims about the firm’s performance, investment approach, and personnel. (FORTUNE; reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
The industrial designer who wanted to combat ageism: For three years, as a young industrial designer, Patricia Moore went undercover as ‘Old Pat’ using flesh-toned prosthetic pieces on her face. ‘Old Pat’ visited 116 cities in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. Moore felt she wasn’t merely putting on a character; she was living part of her life as an old woman. She wanted to talk about her experiences and champion a new form of product design. Today, Moore is considered one of the founders of “universal design,” the idea that products and environments should be built to accommodate the widest range of people possible. Despite her hope that her generation would overturn ageism, technological progress has, in many cases, created more problems for aging users than it has solved. Here’s what she thinks about the progress made today. (WIRED)
“My distaste for discriminatory design started young.”
The Dungeons & Dragons players of death row: ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ has become one of the most popular games in the world, celebrated in nostalgic television shows and dramatized in movies. It is played in homes, at large conventions and even in prisons. To cope with the isolation they face daily, many men on death row spend a lot of their time in search of escape — something to ease the racing thoughts or the crushing regrets. Some read books or find religion. Some play games like Scrabble or jailhouse chess. Others turn to ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ where they can feel a small sense of the freedom they have left behind. (NYT; I’ve used a complimentary link, but reply to this email if you still can’t access the article)
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