Numlock News: May 18, 2020 • MoviePass, Neural Nets, Nascar
By Walt Hickey
A pair of Michael Jordan’s Nike Air Jordan 1 shoes have sold for $560,000 at auction according to Sotheby’s. Ten bidders managed to drive up the value to three and a half times the $150,000 high end estimate, which made the pair of sneakers the most expensive ever sold at auction. The prior record-holder was the “Moon Shoe” pair of sneakers — one of 12 pairs ever made by the co-founder of Nike for the 1972 Olympic trials — which sold for $437,500 last year.
One Moviepass, Please
What remains of MoviePass — the Icarus-esque company that attempted to offer unlimited movie tickets per month for $10, but quickly fell victim to overwhelming demand — is for sale for as low as $250,000. Their parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics, suffered catastrophic financial losses from MoviePass and filed for Chapter 7 liquidation back in January, which is the chapter of bankruptcy law that basically just says, “oh god, we really screwed up bad you guys.” If you would like to “buy MoviePass” — and no joke, I kind of do — you’d be getting its software, code, website, some polling data, several operating metrics, several trademarks, three patents, and five domain names.
Facebook will buy Giphy, a service that inventories and procures animated gif images on demand, for $400 million. The logic behind the buy is less to acquire the treasure trove of ambiguously-pronounced image files, but rather because Giphy is also integrated into Apple, Twitter, Signal, TikTok, and more. Through Giphy, the company will be able to peer into other platforms and gauge the health of rivals, a trick it previously pulled with Onavo, a company that made a VPN that after its acquisition reported user behavior back to Facebook and informed the social network how consumers were using their phones. This acquisition may be slightly more fraught, as Facebook is under antitrust investigation from the Department of Justice, 47 state attorneys general, and the FTC. Listen, I know it’s got slightly fewer app integrations, but at 1/1,600th the price I think I can hook them up with a real bargain on some fascinating user data. Plus, I’ll even throw in several trademarks, three patents and five domain names to sweeten the pot.
The Swedish city of Malmö has thrown in the towel and is hunting for a new home to place a nine- foot 10-inch statue of soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic that weighs 500 kilograms and cost 500,000 Swedish krona to sculpt. The issue is while Ibrahimovic may have been born in Malmö and began his career there, international soccer is not exactly the kind of enterprise where you stay where you start, and since then Ibrahimovic has played for Ajax, Juventus, Internazionale, Barcelona, PSG and LA Galaxy. Ibrahimovic also partially owns Hammarby, a rival club to the local Malmö FF, and that’s ticked the fans off something fierce and the sculpture has been repeatedly vandalized and sabotaged.
Bookstore sales in March were down 33.4 percent year-over-year, with sales of $361 million down from the $587 million seen a year ago. Physical bookstores took a serious blow compared to digital rivals. That’s a harder hit than had been previously predicted by many industry analysts. Overall, the unit sales of books have been steadily recovering: for the week ending May 9, print book sales were up 10.5 percent over the previous week, and were up 9.9 percent over the corresponding week of 2019.
Nascar held a live race at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, and given that people are game to watch German soccer and esports just to get a single new competitively-induced emotion, Nascar had a lot riding on the event. It’s the first of what will be seven televised races in 11 days, and Nascar hopes it has the inside track to mount a comeback: while Nascar averaged 8 million viewers for races as recently as 2005, over the following 10 years that audience dropped by 45 percent. That slip from mainstream into niche sport has hurt it where it counts, in sponsorships: a 2017 attempt to replace its top sponsorship — then with Sprint — for $100 million ended with the racing concern only getting $20 million from Monster, an energy drink company.
A new paper from MIT researchers outlines an approach for developing, training, and running a neural network that requires 1/1,300th of the carbon emissions needed to train and run neural networks in use currently. Those neural networks — complex webs of algorithms that do things like natural language processing and other “AI” tasks — are useful, but a 2019 study raised the distressing point that the necessary computing power applied towards creating them can be onerous on the atmosphere, with an NLP model plausibly requiring computing that emits 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. This new system, a “One-For-All Network,” is appealing not only because of the energy efficiency, but also because it would relieve some of the financial investment that is necessary to train models.
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