Thinks 24

Jim Collins on “First Who, Then What”. “We live in a “what” culture. We ask political candidates, what are you going to do about [education or foreign policy or the budget or whatever]? We ask aspiring entrepreneurs, what’s your great idea? We ask young people, what career will you choose? We ask mentors, what job should I take? We ask, what should we do to solve a pressing problem? Not that these are bad questions, but they’re secondary to the question of who.”

Donald Boudreaux: “People who seek political power are, with exceptions too rare to matter, never to be trusted; at best, such people are vain and officious busybodies. People who actually achieve political power are to be trusted even less than those who seek it without success; winning elections requires a measure of deceitfulness and Machiavellian immorality that no decent person comes close to possessing.”

Watched: The Trial of the Chicago 7. Relevant in the context of the recent US events.

Thinks 23

12 Principles of International Trade: by Donald Boudreaux. “Government officials often have incentives to pursue policies that yield benefits to special interest groups while damaging the citizenry as a whole. In few policy areas is this lesson’s validity proven more regularly than in trade policy. Protective tariffs and export subsidies enrich a narrow sliver of politically influential producers at the larger expense of the general public.” This is what we have now started to see in India – a return to the 1960s and 70s.

Arnold Kling on Content Moderation

Jim Collins on Story-telling: “The story is the, is the, is the human vessel for teaching an idea. There are maybe 30 different stories you could pick to help somebody really grasp an idea, but picking the right one for the right audience at the right time, that I think is the art. Take The Illiad, which I’ve read multiple times. It is a story about honor. But maybe if you want to communicate the same idea, you instead teach about Katharine Graham taking over The Washington Post and facing this really difficult choice after her husband had committed suicide. She has to step outside the walls and, and, and fight for what is dear, which is the soul of The Post and its role in the world. And, and that’s a human story, right? But it ties into something deep and timeless.”

Thinks 22

Understanding Mob Psychology: from NYTimes. “A major shift in thinking about crowd behavior occurred in the middle of last century, and it integrated two competing principles. One is that, under specific conditions, peacefully minded protesters may indeed act out — for instance, when a barricade is broken by others, when the police strike down someone nearby. At the same time, as a rule, impulsive violence is less likely to occur in crowds that have some social structure and internal organization.”

Fred Wilson on Mentors: “The thing about mentors is you can’t really ask someone to mentor you. It kind of happens organically. Someone takes you under their wing. They see something in you and want to bring it out, develop it. That’s how the best mentor/mentee relationships happen. And they are so great…So if you are early in your career, look for opportunities to connect with someone a few decades ahead of you to help you figure stuff out.”

Friedrich Hayek: “A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.”

Thinks 21

Email and Madtech: “The best and simplest starting point for a convergence of adtech and martech is with email. Email enables a MADtech strategy by serving as both a critical data point—the unique unifying identifier—and by pulling double-duty as both a martech and an adtech tool.”

Mint edit on Minimum Government: “As a proposition, ‘minimum government’ has held special appeal in the economic sphere as a reformist mantra. This is no surprise in a country that saw an outsized state retard our growth prospects for decades before we embarked on liberalization. That the same ideal must guide India’s social policy framework, however, seems lost on too many lawmakers. Witness the surfeit of laws and policies we have seen that invade our private space, baring a tendency towards a maximalist state all too keen to impose itself on our personal lives.”

Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Thinks 20

The Evolution of Cloud: “While the past fifteen years of the cloud transition has produced some large and likely enduring companies, today we are seeing new companies that are not part of the cloud transition or a hybrid cloud generation. They aren’t even cloud-first– they are cloud only. What does this mean? Founders and companies built for cloud only are not trying to serve legacy and cloud environments. They are cloud native and cloud only. They are built and architected from the first lines of code to take advantage of cloud compute, storage, and networking, in the same way that software written in the 1990s was assumed to be running on Windows or Solaris.”Scott Gottlieb, MD on Twitter: “As current epidemic surge peaks, we may see 3-4 weeks of declines in new cases but then new variant will take over. It’ll double in prevalence about every week. It’ll change the game and could mean we have persistent high infection through spring until we vaccinate enough people.”

Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2021: “This will be a year of economic reshaping, with publishers leaning into subscription and e-commerce – two future-facing business models that have been supercharged by the pandemic.”

On Stoicism: ” It is a deeply individual and inward looking practice of meditation that requires you to renounce judgement of external things, including the actions of others. Unlike almost all other things called philosophies, it is explicitly not a world view. Meditating on Stoic mantras helps you accept our inability to control the world, and therefore the pointlessness of taking a world view in the first place. Instead, Stoicism encourages you to focus on maximizing the good within yourself, as that is all that is within your control.”

Thinks 19

Tim Berners-Lee’s next (from NY Times): “The idea is that each person could control his or her own data — websites visited, credit card purchases, workout routines, music streamed — in an individual data safe, typically a sliver of server space. Companies could gain access to a person’s data, with permission, through a secure link for a specific task like processing a loan application or delivering a personalized ad. They could link to and use personal information selectively, but not store it.”

From Nitin Pai (via Anticipate the Unintended newsletter):,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/

Milton Friedman: “We will not solve our problem by electing the right people. We will only solve our problem by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.” (via Atanu Dey)

Thinks 18

The Economist on a new era of innovation: “There are three reasons to think this “great stagnation” might be ending. First is the flurry of recent discoveries with transformative potential. The second reason for optimism is booming investment in technology. The third source of cheer is the rapid adoption of new technologies.”

Internet 3.0 and the Beginning of (Tech) History: “Here technology itself will return to the forefront: if the priority for an increasing number of citizens, companies, and countries is to escape centralization, then the answer will not be competing centralized entities, but rather a return to open protocols.” By Ben Thompson.

Watched: Tandav on Amazon Prime Video. Very well made series. But it fell away in the final episodes.

Thinks 17

Technology in the 2020s: “Collectively, these technologies add up to a lot of possibility. If we cure a bunch of diseases, slow down aspects of aging, realize cheap and emissions-free baseload energy, and deploy new modes of transportation and better construction technologies, we will almost certainly exceed 2 percent TFP growth. But we might not do these things. It all depends on execution. The underlying science is there. The engineers are willing. Even the funding is available in most cases. But, as a society, how much urgency do we feel? Our culture does not prioritize progress—it fights, destructively, for status. And our politics reflects our culture.”

Movie I watched recently: Citizen Kane

A newsletter to subscribe: Anticipating the Unintended. “This newsletter is really a public policy thought-letter. While excellent newsletters on specific themes within public policy already exist, this thought-letter is about frameworks, mental models, and key ideas that will hopefully help you think about any public policy problem in imaginative ways. It seeks to answer just one question: how do I think about a particular public policy problem/solution?”

Thinks 16

A beautiful story on my favourite Mumbai book store, Kitab Khana. I hope it can re-open soon. My best wishes.

Reading: Agatha Christie short stories.

James Buchanan: “[Government] spending rates would be lower if all programs were required to be tax-financed. Government, however, may have access to both debt issue and money creation as alternative revenue sources. These allow the government to spend without taxing, which is almost the ideal setting for elected politicians. By creating deficits, government is allowed to finance desired programs that provide benefits to potential voters without overt increases in rates of tax.” Via CafeHayek.

Thinks 15

Fred Wilson on 2020 and 2021.

Vitalik Buterin: “What we see in 2020 is this: Big Government is as powerful as ever, but Big Business is also as powerful as ever.”

Pratap Bhanu Mehta on Supreme Court’s order putting on hold the farm bills: “The Supreme Court is increasingly looking like one of those fantasy creatures with disjointed shapes, where nothing is what it appears to be. The forms keep mysteriously changing, with benign faces masking more ominous fangs, and shapes shifting as the need arises. So this is a constitutional court that does not pronounce on the constitutionality of laws. Instead, it wades into political and administrative management without the imprimatur of any law. It positions itself as a saviour of democracy only to make a mockery of the parliamentary process. It wades into conflict management, only to hide behind the façade of some expert committee. It pretends that distributive conflicts are technical ones. It finds ruses to defuse genuine democratic protest. Yet it will not facilitate the orderly and law-bound expression of protest.”