The Most Precious Resource is Agency

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.

Noah interviews @pmarca

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

Status Anxiety as a Service – Noahpinion

[…] I think it leaves out something important — the status-conferring role of reply-tweets, and the social role of the people who write them. Reply-tweets very rarely go viral — they have almost zero chance of conferring the kind of clout Eugene describes — but people spend much of their time on Twitter replying to the things they read. Being able to reply to high-status people, whether they want you to or not, is a heady status-conferring experience. You can say mean shit to the most famous Hollywood movie star, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Or you can say something nice, and hopefully get a reply or a shout-out. This puts you on a plane of near-equality with people who otherwise tower over the social landscape.

*Near-*equality, but not equality! Chris Pratt may respond to you on Twitter, but at the end of the day he’s still Chris Pratt and you’re not. A 20-follower account might successfully dunk on a 200,000-follower account, but at the end of the day one has 200,000 followers and the other has 20.

This can be maddening. Twitter creates the instantaneous illusion of social equality between influencers and normal people, but then it periodically reminds you that it’s an illusion. When you’re in the replies, giving hell to a famous person who made a bad take or having a conversation with your hero, it seems like a radical leveling of human society. But as soon as the reply-thread is over, the high-status person simply sails back off into the high-status clouds, and you crash back down into the low-status muck.

[…] unspoken social rule seems driven by Twitter’s unique creation of momentary status-equality illusions. Low-follower folks want to preserve the feeling of sudden elevation they get from dunking on a big account; if the big guy returns fire, it’s a brutal reminder of how fake that moment of equality really was.

The Fuck You pattern

This is a short story about dark patterns. Which are user-hostile UX decisions.

“Wow, fuck you. I just wanted to look at cats.”
“Well, fuck you, too. We’re here to sell ads.”

It’s not about dark patterns, that’s just a second-order effect. It was never about dark patterns.

This is the implied agreement. You understand it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, I guess you haven’t been on the web in the past decade or something.

What? You thought it was fair that a company spends millions in technical infrastructure and staffing so you can sit at home and spend your time looking at cats for free? No, they have your attention and they’re going to connect you to organizations who will pay for it.

andrewmcwatters on Hackernews

A hotel review of Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, Japan

This is a hotel review of a traditional Japanese inn, a Ryokan. It features one of the oldest Ryokans and what I found fascinating was how different it is from a classical hotel. All food is served in your room. The sparse yet elegant room changes depending on what you need it for, sleep, tv, etc.

There is no lobby and barely a small aisle which passes as a reception area. That’s about the time when you will first remember your luggage that still should be in the taxi. But no worries – by the time you reach your room it will already be waiting for you. How that feat is possible, I do not know, though, since you are taking the only route to your room and it certainly will not pass you.

On my way out one of the porters silently approached me and said: “Schwarze-sama, we checked the weather forecast andthere will be rain this evening. So here is an umbrella to take along. Also, we took the liberty of reserving a table at that restaurant you wanted to go. Oh and last thing: here is a city plan for you where we already detailed down the way to Fushimi Inari.” It goes without saying that the guy responsible for my shoes already set out my hiking shoes and not one of my city or evening shoes. Even he knew of my plans.

It’s worth reading the review and looking at the pictures.

Polymarket Prediction: Will inflation be 0.4% or more from April to May? – Karlstack

The specific prediction market I will be forecasting is linked here; at the time of this writing, one share of “Yes” is currently trading at 70 cents, meaning the crowdsourced prediction from those with skin in the game (shoutout to NNT!) is pricing in a 70% chance that headline inflation from April to May will rise by more than 0.4%. If you wager $70 today on “Yes”, you stand to win $100, for a tidy 43% return.