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Issue 14: Now With (Even) More Science

How should we predict future tech with the lessons of history? How many times do we pay for our choices?

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Issue 13: Blogging in 3D

Better Never-Better than Better-Never, I suppose!

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Ye Olde Newsstand - Weekly Updates

Unintentionally, blogging got a major, major boon from an unexpected place: Share Chats from ChatGPT. That sounds crazy, but it's true! Come take a look at my argument as to why this is a really big deal!

Blogging Has Just Changed Forever and No One Is Talking About It
Blogging has recieved a major upgrade, from an unexpected place.

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Consumerism in a 250 Year Old Country

There’s a quip from the historian Will Durant, that a nation is born stoic and dies epicurean. (Location 538)

What hard work is there to be done in 2023? Has rampant consumerism subsumed our desire to struggle to create a more perfect Union?

…over time, this dynamic leads to a very small percentage of the population gaining and controlling exceptionally large percentages of the total wealth and power, then becoming overextended, and then encountering bad times, which hurt those least wealthy and least powerful the hardest, which then leads to conflicts that produce revolutions and/or civil wars. When these conflicts are over, a new world order is created, and the cycle begins again. (Location 361)

Will we ever be satisfied?

The Tragic Irony of Inflation

Inflation = printing money. Period. Prices are measured in dollars. If we create too many dollars, that causes the value of the dollar to fall in terms of goods and services. This “inflation” started 18 months ago. Shortages and supply chain issues are a separate issue. (View Tweet)
“When we first started talking about inflation in 2021, I found it disconcerting that people are so quick to dismiss it”
Expected inflation = we can build into our models
Unexpected inflation = inflation coming in higher or lower than expected = deadly (View Tweet)

The Historical Response to Inflation From Countries

…That caused German prices of goods to rise rapidly, increasing the cost of operating the German government, which could not be financed by raising taxes because those taxes would be payable in the ever-falling German currency. The resulting deficit was financed by some combination of issuing bonds and simply creating more money, both increasing the supply of German mark-denominated financial assets on the market and so further reducing the currency's price. When the German people realized that their money was rapidly losing value, they tried to spend it quickly. That increased monetary velocity caused an ever-faster increase in prices, creating a vicious cycle. (View Highlight)
When debts become very large, and there is an economic downturn and the empire can no longer borrow the money necessary to repay its debts, this creates great domestic hardships and forces the country to choose between defaulting on its debts and printing a lot of new money. The country nearly always chooses to print a lot of new money, at first gradually and eventually massively. This devalues the currency and raises inflation. (Location 661)

People will riot if they can't buy what they need, forcing more money to enter circulation to sate the population. This is the equivalent of kicking the can down the road.

How the British measure inflation.

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California is fighting inflation with more inflation 🔥

(View Tweet)

In May 2021, after years of hyperinflation in its currency, Venezuela raised its minimum wage to 10 million bolivars a month ($22 USD). (View Highlight)

Gaslighting by Media

The media makes it seem like inflation is somehow our fault. We already know the culprits but 2008 was a big hit financially. Something we could've maybe bounced back from but the 2020 crash was another big hit we weren't ready for. That one gets underplayed for a reason. (View Tweet)

Gaslighting by Governments and Politicians

That was all well and good but, as the old phrase goes, “Who will protect us from our protectors?” The power to issue currency often proved too much for fallible rulers to enjoy without abusing. The incentives they faced to shortchange the public were powerful ones. Every time they wanted to wage a war or build a new temple or palace, the temptation to reduce the amount of precious metal that went into the coins so as to produce more of them proved hard to resist. Their subjects were not stupid, of course: they learned how to distinguish between the older and the newer coins. But it did not take long for the bad coins to drive the good coins out of circulation, as people hoarded the good ones or melted them down to obtain their relatively plentiful silver or gold. But with so much additional and debased currency in circulation, each coin came to be worth less wheat, less corn, less meat. Price inflation took hold; people found their wages and savings losing value, and the economy faltered, even throwing the entire currency into jeopardy if trust in it failed entirely. The decline of the Roman empire, for instance, was riddled with such episodes. It is therefore quite understandable that many people feel that their rulers, their government, their politicians, cannot be entrusted with such decisions, which should be kept as far away as possible from the machinations of power-hungry men—and yes, it was and remains mostly men who have stuck their snouts into the common trough. Times have thankfully changed, to some extent. Through a series of insurrections, the rule of law was imposed upon the rulers by the ruled, limiting the extent to which the king could plunder his subjects, impose taxes at will, confiscate their land, and incarcerate them when they resisted. Taxes became something much more than a levy on the poor for the further enrichment of the powerful. In response to popular movements demanding a fairer division of the surplus, taxes became a source of funding for various projects benefiting broader segments of the population. Even the rich began to realize that a welfare state was an excellent insurance policy against losing their property, their peace of mind, indeed their own heads. But the question then became: Who pays for this? As we have previously noted, the rich never like to pay the necessary taxes and the poor cannot afford to. So what then? One option, as we saw in chapter 4, was deficit-financed state expenditure—or public debt. Another was to create more money, either via the banks or via the central bank that the state instituted to fund itself and to fund the bankers in their hour of need. Both options have their demerits. Politicians dislike increases in public debt because their opponents go to town against them, accusing the government of condemning their children to a future of higher taxes in order to pay it off. One tendency, therefore, is to quietly instruct the central bank to create more money with which to pay for… (Location 1571)

The Root of All Evil

The general theme of these findings is that the idea of money primes individualism: a reluctance to be involved with others, to depend on others, or to accept demands from others. (Location 891)

Whether you are a hippie with a killer business sense 202301092335, or you are a libertarian crypto Maxie, money talks.

Crypto didn’t become the most important tech trend right now because it’s an individualistic, libertarian pyramid scheme that combines spectacle hype with mass YOLO/FOMO…. it’s because the US economy became an individualistic, libertarian pyramid scheme that combines spectacle hype with mass YOLO/FOMO.
This poisonous winner-takes-all mentality is more poetically expressed by Stephen Diehl.
> The shortcomings of the web3 narrative are easy to deconstruct from a technology perspective, but to play devil’s advocate — what does it succeed at? It’s very possible it truly is a paradigm shift in financial deregulation, and will usher in a new anarcho-casino-capitalism world where every fourteen year old kid can launch a fly-by-night Ponzi scheme and pump it on social media all from the comfort and anonymity of their parent’s basement. A hustlers’ paradise with a 24/7 non-stop casino built on a Cambrian explosion of slot machines, with each machine grown out of a different facet of human culture whose likeness has been co-opted to seduce you into gambling more. It’s the apotheosis of capitalism where the market now provides a financial token game for every meme, every celebrity, every political movement, and every bit of art and culture — with each tribe competing against each other in a war of all against all for the hyperfinancialization of all human existence. Is that the world we want to live in? (View Highlight)

Plans Are Best Case Scenarios

“Plans are best-case scenarios. Let’s avoid anchoring on plans when we forecast actual outcomes. Thinking about ways the plan could go wrong is one way to do it.” (Location 2107)

Unless you are Sydney Sweeney, in which case make a powerpoint that will come true 202212200240

Something to think about while traveling with single point of failure items like medication -- 202301031256

The Folly of Using the Past To Derive the Future

As long ago as pharaonic Egypt, societies have tracked the high-water mark of rivers that periodically flood—and have always prepared accordingly, apparently assuming that floods will not rise higher than the existing high-water mark. (Location 2255)
black swan events, which are extreme, consequential events (that end in things like financial ruin), but which have significantly higher probabilities than you might initially expect. The name is derived from the false belief, held for many centuries in Europe and other places, that black swans did not exist, when in fact they were (and still are) common birds in Australia. (Location 3362)


A reminder that even with all the data possible, prediction is a fool's game 202302110154

The future of civilization is unknowable, because the knowledge that is going to affect it has yet to be created. (Location 3388)

its silly to prepare for what you already know to expect -and you cant prepare for what you cant expect. You can't predict the wheel if it hasn't been created otherwise you could use that knowledge accordingly.

“If you expect that you will know tomorrow with certainty that your boyfriend has been cheating on you all this time, then you know today with certainty that your boyfriend is cheating on you and will take action today, say, by grabbing a pair of scissors and angrily cutting all his Ferragamo ties in half. You won’t tell yourself, This is what I will figure out tomorrow, but today is different so I will ignore the information and have a pleasant dinner.” - The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb

The Principal-Agent Problem

The Principal Agent Problem:

Only 1.5 percent of the purchase price goes directly into your agent’s pocket. So on the sale of your $300,000 house, her personal take of the $18,000 commission is $4,500. . . . Not bad, you say. But what if the house was actually worth more than $300,000? What if, with a little more effort and patience and a few more newspaper ads, she could have sold it for $310,000? After the commission, that puts an additional $9,400 in your pocket. But the agent’s additional share—her personal 1.5 percent of the extra $10,000—is a mere $150. . . . It turns out that a real-estate agent keeps her own home on the market an average of ten days longer and sells it for an extra 3-plus percent, or $10,000 on a $300,000 house. When she sells her own house, an agent holds out for the best offer; when she sells yours, she encourages you to take the first decent offer that comes along. Like a stockbroker churning commissions, she wants to make deals and make them fast. Why not? Her share of a better offer—$150—is too puny an incentive to encourage her to do otherwise. (Location 872)

I had an experience like this in NYC where it felt like my broker was trying to offload me into an apartment as quickly as possible to get their cut and move on to different clients.

In general, I try to avoid working with people who have conflicting incentives to my own.[1]

one of the reasons I avoid VCs -- their incentive is effectively opposite of a founders ↩︎

Windfalls Aren't Always a Blessing

But more money will often not solve the problem. In fact, it may compound the problem. Money often makes obvious our tragic human flaws, putting a spotlight on what we don’t know. That is why, all too often, a person who comes into a sudden windfall of cash—let’s say an inheritance, a pay raise, or lottery winnings—soon returns to the same financial mess, if not worse, than the mess they were in before. Money only accentuates the cash-flow pattern running in your head. (Location 902)

Windfalls aren't always a blessing. New money accentuates old money habits in your mind.

If you get money, pretend it doesn't exist?