Climate and nuclear focused.
Climate and nuclear focused.
I resonated with this.
The world is a very malleable place.
When I read biographies, early lives leap out the most. Leonardo da Vinci was a studio apprentice to Verrocchio at 14. Walt Disney took on a number of jobs, chiefly delivering papers, from 11 years old. Vladimir Nabokov published his first book (a collection of poems) at 16, while still in school. Andrew Carnegie finished schooling at 12, and was 13 when he began his second job as a telegraph office boy, where he convinced his superiors to teach him the telegraph machine itself. By 16 he was the family’s mainstay of income.
Readers (and often biographers) tend to fixate around the celebrity itself, when people became famous or fortunate. But the early lives, long before success, contain something revealing. Before you grasp, you have to reach. How did they learn to reach?
For a 13 year old today, what is the equivalent of being a telegraph office boy, where he can learn technology while contributing? What about for a 16 year old? 21 year old? What is today’s equivalent to being a studio apprentice of Verrocchio?
Where are the studios, anyway?
There are good reasons that programming is now the typical industry for precocious children. It is something parents can still allow their children to do despite systematized schooling, and it is also one of the few industries with a permissionless culture. You don’t have to ask anyone. You don’t have to get a building permit or be a professional. You can just create.
Robert Gordon, the strongest proponent of the idea of technological stagnation, doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would be inclined to agree. But he does! Here’s what he had to say in a recent interview:
This shift to remote working has got to improve productivity because we’re getting the same amount of output without commuting, without office buildings, and without all the goods and services associated with that. We can produce output at home and transmit it to the rest of the economy electronically, whether it’s an insurance claim or medical consultation. We’re producing what people really care about with a lot less input of things like office buildings and transportation. In a profound sense, the movement to working from home is going to make everyone who is capable of working from home more productive…It’s very possible that the transition to working from home – once we get the rest of the economy sorted out – will give us a sizeable jump in the annual growth of productivity
Areas Noah “brainstorm some ways that production could be reorganized around remote work technologies like Zoom and Slack in ways that substantially increase productivity, especially in those difficult service industries.”
Marc on the covid aftermath
(…)I believe, a permanent civilizational shift. It is perhaps the most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime, a consequence of the internet that’s maybe even more important than the internet. Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people. We may, at long last, shatter the geographic lottery, opening up opportunity to countless people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in the right place. And people are leaping at the opportunities this shift is already creating, moving both homes and jobs at furious rates. It will take years to understand where this leads, but I am extremely optimistic.
Am not doing quote blocks on this one – it’s so long. Everything under is quoted from the interview. Recommended.
“M.A.: My “software eats the world” thesis plays out in business in three stages:
A product is transformed from non-software to (entirely or mainly) software. Music compact discs become MP3’s and then streams. An alarm clock goes from a physical device on your bedside table to an app on your phone. A car goes from bent metal and glass, to software wrapped in bent metal and glass.
The producers of these products are transformed from manufacturing or media or financial services companies to (entirely or mainly) software companies. Their core capability becomes creating and running software. This is, of course, a very different discipline and culture from what they used to do
As software redefines the product, and assuming a competitive market not protected by a monopoly position or regulatory capture, the nature of competition in the industry changes until the best software wins, which means the best software company wins. The best software company may be an incumbent or a startup, whoever makes the best software.
My partner Alex Rampell says that competition between an incumbent and a software-driven startup is “a race, where the startup is trying to get distribution before the incumbent gets innovation”. The incumbent starts with a giant advantage, which is the existing customer base, the existing brand. But the software startup also starts with a giant advantage, which is a culture built to create software from the start, with no need to adapt an older culture designed to bend metal, shuffle paper, or answer phones.
As time passes, I am increasingly skeptical that most incumbents can adapt. The culture shift is just too hard. Great software people tend to not want to work at an incumbent where the culture is not optimized to them, where they are not in charge. It is proving easier in many cases to just start a new company than try to retrofit an incumbent. I used to think time would ameliorate this, as the world adapts to software, but the pattern seems to be intensifying. A good test for how seriously an incumbent is taking software is the percent of the top 100 executives and managers with computer science degrees. For a typical tech startup, the answer might be 50-70%. For a typical incumbent, the answer may be more like 5-7%. This is a huge”
[…]the true productive potential of the internet is only getting started, and that the pandemic will end up having pushed us to develop more distributed systems of production — much like when electricity allowed factories to switch from a single drive train to multiple independently powered workstations a century ago.
Packy on remote work: Remote work worked under the extreme duress of a pandemic, with all of the human impact of lockdowns and children unable to go to school and people being unable to see their friends and extended families. It will work even better out of COVID.
I think they all miss a more fundamental point, which is that crypto represents an architectural shift in how technology works and therefore how the world works.That architectural shift is called distributed consensus — the ability for many untrusted participants in a network to establish consistency and trust. This is something the Internet has never had, but now it does, and I think it will take 30 years to work through all of the things we can do as a result. Money is the easiest application of this idea, but think more broadly — we can now, in theory, build Internet native contracts, loans, insurance, title to real world assets, unique digital goods (known as non-fungible tokens or NFTs), online corporate structures (such as digital autonomous organizations or DAOs), and on and on.
Peter Thiel has made the characteristically sweeping observation that AI is in some sense a left wing idea — centralized machines making top-down decisions — but crypto is a right wing idea — many distributed agents, humans and bots, making bottom-up decisions. I think there’s something to that. Historically the tech industry has been dominated by left wing politics, just like any creative field, which is why you see today’s big tech companies so intertwined with the Democratic Party. Crypto potentially represents the creation of a whole new category of technology, quite literally right wing tech that is far more aggressively decentralized and far more comfortable with entrepreneurialism and free voluntary exchange. If you believe, as I do, that the world needs far more technology, this is a very powerful idea, a step function increase in what the technology world can do.
In what ways did the dreams of the 1990s techies come true? And in what ways were they dashed on the rocks of reality? When we think back on the 90s, how should we remember that era, and what ideas from that era should we hold on to? M.A.: It worked! The dreams came true; it all worked. And now we’re the dog that caught the bus. What do we do with this damned bus? Think about what we’ve done. Five billion people are now carrying networked supercomputers in their pockets. Anyone in the world can create a website and publish anything they want, can communicate with anyone or everyone, can access virtually any information that has ever existed. People live, work, learn, and love almost entirely online. Virtually all of the constituent components of the vision of the 1990s have come literally true. And yet, and yet. As Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, once said, “I didn’t say you’re all going to be happy. You’ll be unhappy – but in new, exciting, and important ways.”
Economist William Nordhaus long ago showed that 98% of the economic surplus created by a new technology is captured not by its inventor but by the broader world
[…]Telefónica and Cogent, which have reported data traffic and energy use for the Covid year of 2020. Telefónica handled a 45 percent jump in data through its network with no increase in energy use. Cogent’s electricity use fell 21 percent even as data traffic increased 38 percent.
An analysis published on Thursday suggests technology is not an environmental villain. One of the authors is Eric Masanet, a former researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.Credit…Erica Urech for The New York Times
Pop culture is what America has instead of mythology.
This is something David Foster Wallace talked about in interviews. How many people were shaped by TV culture and how that became the glue in many social circles.
“In fact, pop-cultural references have become such potent metaphors in U.S. fiction not only because of how united Americans are in our exposure to mass images but also because of our guilty indulgent psychology with respect to that exposure. Put simply, the pop reference works so well in contemporary fiction because (1) we all recognize such a reference, and (2) we’re all a little uneasy about how we all recognize such a reference.”David Foster Wallace
What’s garum? Glad you asked!
Garums were originally fermented fish sauces made all around the Mediterranean basin. The tradition dates back thousands of years, and we’re extremely proud to carry the tradition forward. The umami-rich sauce can be used as a versatile seasoning for all kinds of food—much like one might use soy sauce or fish sauce today. For almost two decades, we’ve been studying and employing the process of making garum using ingredients from our own backyard, in order to extract the deepest, most interesting flavors from both plant- and animal-based ingredients.
But in any case, America hasn’t moved entirely away from the direction that the social conservatives wanted to push us. The movement made many missteps and suffered major defeats, but they were not entirely routed.
The cancharinas made by Semillas, along with dozens of other FARC foods, are now a topic of study for a small group of researchers who believe the history of Colombia’s internal conflict should be explored not only in terms of violence. The goal, explains anthropologist Tomás Vergara of Javeriana University, is to explore and document the former rebels’ daily lives, and an emerging area of study is understanding how an illegal organization fed thousands of people living in Colombia’s forests, mountains, and valleys. The conversations, interviews, and cooking workshops between researchers and former guerrilleros have unearthed a food system on an unimaginable scale.