Thinks 266

WSJ on QR codes: “QR stands for Quick Response, and these codes were invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara at the Japanese automotive company Denso Wave. Their original purpose was to track inventory in factories, but broader uses became possible with the advent and ubiquity of smartphones..The extra dimension allows for a huge increase in capacity: Where 1-dimensional bar codes typically encode around 20 digits of information, a QR code can hold 4,000 or more depending on the version used. A small increase in the width of the grid yields a much larger increase in the number of small squares available, because of how the math of squaring works.”

Raghuram Rajan: “People are looking for an alternative to China, we always were the alternative until we started collapsing in growth. If we can revive the potential for that growth but also emphasise our private sector credentials and the constraints on the government—unbridled government is problematic for investment and so if we can say the government is constrained, is going to respect the rule of law, we have a much better chance to keep the capital we’ve attracted in fact attract more.”

Naushad Forbes: “A statesman is a political leader who does the right thing even if it isn’t immediately popular. When countries face crises, they need their leaders to act in the national interest that only later proves to be right. An international crisis of the magnitude of our global health pandemic requires that leaders act in the wider interest of humanity. It is high time we did.”

Thinks 265

NYT on Amazon: “Most shoppers on Amazon don’t fixate on the flaws. Amazon has trained people to believe that they can rely on it to find what they need fast, usually. Buying is a breeze, usually, and Prime members and people who have Amazon credit cards have incentives to shop only there. If you have a problem, it’s easy to get help — not always but often. Amazon’s prices aren’t always the lowest, but sometimes they are, and many people don’t bother to look elsewhere…Amazon is proof yet again that the best product doesn’t necessarily win. We gravitate to products and services like Amazon, Netflix and Zoom that win our trust and make using them so easy that it feels like magic.”

PorchLight Books: “In The Power of Nothing to Loseaward-winning economist William Silber explores the phenomenon in politics, war, and business, where situations with a big upside and limited downside trigger gambling behavior like with a Hail Mary. Silber describes in colorful detail how the American Revolution turned on such a gamble. The famous scene of Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas night to attack the enemy may not look like a Hail Mary, but it was. Washington said days before his risky decision, “If this fails I think the game will be pretty well up.” Rosa Parks remained seated in the white section of an Alabama bus, defying local segregation laws, an act that sparked the modern civil rights movement in America. It was a life-threatening decision for her, but she said, “I was not frightened. I just made up my mind that as long as we accepted that kind of treatment it would continue, so I had nothing to lose.””

WSJ: “Research shows that we are overconfident in our beliefs but underconfident about being heard. So we compensate by being loud.”

Thinks 264

Nat Eliason on decentralised exchanges: “The Uniswap decentralized exchange does over $1b in daily cryptocurrency exchanges. It holds $7.55b worth of cryptocurrency in its smart contracts. Not in a bank account, or on a centralized exchange like Coinbase, but in lines of code running on the Ethereum blockchain. What Coinbase does with 1,700 employees, Uniswap does much of with 13. The protocol runs completely autonomously, trades happen with no human involvement, prices are set automatically, liquidity is added and removed by anyone in the world, and support happens organically in their Discord. Decentralized Exchanges like Uniswap are one of the first killer apps in crypto. They’re replacing a core piece of the Traditional Finance infrastructure, and doing it with 1/100th the headcount.”

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WSJ: “The energy that fusion releases is phenomenal. Fusion doesn’t have the same possible dangers that make fission reactions so dreadful, and its radioactive waste is little and short-lived. It doesn’t lend itself to building nuclear weapons. What’s not to like? Ever since scientists have understood the natural laws behind nuclear fusion, they’ve tried to harness its power in a laboratory. In his new book the plasma physicist and science writer Arthur Turrell calls them “star builders,” the researchers and engineers who want to create a small star on Earth.”


Thinks 263

Vivek Kaul on India’s growth scenario: “In this scenario, if income growth has to pick up, investment needs to go up in order to create jobs and spur economic activity. The trouble is that many businesses are not in a position to borrow. Even if they are, the capacity utilization in many sectors continues to be low, which means that producers have no need to expand unless consumer demand rises to justify it. Consumer demand is a function of income growth. Income growth, in turn, depends on investment. This has become like a chicken-and-egg story, which has proven difficult to break. Another view from Ninan: “A step jump in medium-term growth rates, of the kind projected, needs all four engines of the economy to be firing. But the govt seems to have bet on just two.”

Bernard Bailyn: “For the primary goal of the American Revolution, which transformed American life and introduced a new era in human history, was not the overthrow or even the alteration of the existing social order but the preservation of political liberty threatened by the apparent corruption of the constitution, and the establishment in principle of the existing conditions of liberty…What was essentially involved in the American Revolution was not the disruption of society, with all the fear, despair, and hatred that that entails, but the realization, the comprehension and fulfillment, of the inheritance of liberty and of what was taken to be America’s destiny in the context of world history.” [via CafeHayek]

David Perell on selfish writing: “Instead of writing for others, let yourself be the judge of quality and write the things you’d want to read.”

Thinks 262

Nathan Baschez on email in the context of Twitter’s newsletters strategy: “Email has had a nice resurgence in the past few years, but I think it will ultimately get stuck in a suboptimal plateau that more centralized networks like Twitter can outperform. The root is the same problem every communication network runs into as it scales, which is that users tend to find it fun to take actions that cause more information to flow to them, but find it frustrating to filter out irrelevant information. Mass media companies solve this with tight editorial curation, and social networks solve this with algorithmic feeds. But email—a decentralized protocol with no central authority—is not in a good position to solve the problem. Sure, email services can build spam filters and priority inboxes, but there’s only so much they can do. They can’t recommend emails you didn’t get but might enjoy. They can’t know what emails are trending amongst users like you. They can’t easily detect the difference between highly-engaging content and an unwanted promotional email. Furthermore, we don’t want email to be designed like a feed we dip in and out of, because there’s often important stuff in there. I don’t read every tweet in my feed or listen to every episode in my podcast app, but I do at least glance at every email in my inbox. Finding something interesting to read is an entirely different class of information than a private message, but if we’re relying on email as the channel to deliver content, we’ve got to play by email’s rules.”

NYT on productivity tips: “Project what you want your productivity to look like. Visualize what a great day of work would be and what kind of worker you want to be. For me, that’s checking off all the tasks that I set for myself each day, moving projects forward, and definitely not thinking about work when I’m done for the day. I also envision myself being a dependable co-worker who’s always growing.”

Shane Parish: “Asking for feedback creates a critic. Asking for advice creates a partner.”

Thinks 261

Raj Venkatesan on AI in marketing: “An effective strategy is to use AI to personalize each aspect of customer engagement; acquisition, retention, growth, and advocacy (or word of mouth). Modern marketing is about using first party consumer data and algorithms to personalize the firms’ marketing for acquisition, retention, growth and advocacy. The idea is to put the customer in the center and use AI to enhance the customer’s experience with the brand.”

HBR: “For AI to realize its full potential, we need a systematic approach to solving these problems across all industries. The data-centric approach to AI, supported by tools designed for building, deploying, and maintaining AI applications — called machine learning operations (MLOps) platforms — will make this possible. Companies that adopt this approach faster will have a leg up relative to competitors.”

Oliver Burkeman: “The choice you can make is to stop believing you’ll ever solve the challenge of busyness by cramming more in, because that just makes matters worse…The general principle in operation here is what we might call the “efficiency trap.” Rendering yourself more efficient—either by implementing various productivity techniques or by driving yourself harder—won’t generally result in the feeling of having “enough time,” because, all else being equal, the demands will increase to offset any benefits. Far from getting things done, you’ll be creating new things to do.”

Thinks 260

NYT: “Red Ventures, which started as a digital marketing company, has attracted serious investments from private equity firms. Its location has helped obscure what is perhaps the biggest digital publisher in America, a 4,500-employee juggernaut that says it has roughly $2 billion in annual revenues, a conservative valuation earlier this year of more than $11 billion, and more readers, as measured by Comscore, than any media brand you’ve ever heard of — an average of 751 million visits a month.”

Cass Sunstein on nudging: “A nudge is an intervention that maintains freedom of choice but steers people in a particular direction. A tax isn’t a nudge. A subsidy isn’t a nudge. A mandate isn’t a nudge. And a ban isn’t a nudge. A warning is a nudge: “If you swim at this beach, the current is high, and it might be dangerous.” You’re being nudged not to swim, but you can. When you’re given information about the number of fat calories in a cheeseburger, that is a nudge. If a utility company sends something two days before a bill is due, saying that “You should pay now, or you are going to incur a late fee,” that is a nudge. You can say no, but it’s probably not in your best interest to do so. Nudges help people deal with a fact about the human brain—which is that we have limited attention. The number of things that we can devote attention to in a day or an hour or a year is lower than the number of things we should devote attention to. A nudge can get us to pay attention.”

Hayek: “The tragic illusion was that the adoption of democratic procedures made it possible to dispense with all other limitations on governmental power.” [via CafeHayek]

Thinks 259

HBR: “While a food-delivery app may feel familiar to many of us, Zomato potentially transforming the eating habits of a huge number of people is no less ambitious than what Uber or Airbnb set out to do. Uber empowers millions to get rides from strangers and now employs more cars than any taxi company in the world. Airbnb facilitates staying at strangers’ houses and offers more rooms than any hotel chain in the world. Thanks to these companies, people don’t need to own their own kitchens, cars, and homes in order to enjoy their privileges. This virtual shared ownership creates value for people by improving asset utilization and lowering the risks that come with asset ownership.”

The Economist on how organisms are organised: “All life is made of cells. But to build a complex, multicelled organism from those cells almost always requires them to come in more than one type. This means that as cells multiply in a growing organism they need to differentiate, which they do by expressing different subsets of genes from within the genome they all share. Different patterns of gene expression produce different types of cell. These complex patterns of gene expression appear to be the preserve of eukaryotes—creatures built of cells that have their primary genomes wrapped up in a complex compartment called a nucleus. Sponges, descended from some of the earliest multicellular creatures, have a handful of cell types. Plants have dozens. Animals have hundreds.”

David Perell: “You only want to save the top 5-10% of information. Otherwise, you’re going to clutter your mind.”

Thinks 258

Frederic Filloux on Elon Musk’s attention to detail: “Musk seems to know everything about his rocket. It looks like he can’t be fooled by anyone on the shop floor. He can quote the weight of the enormous launch stand (270 tonnes, in case you wonder), explain with great precision the distribution of the heat load on the vehicle upon reentry in the atmosphere, the challenge posed by the heat tiles, and the difficulty to protect the hinges of the rocket’s tiny wings. He is deep in the trenches as with Tesla during the worst moment of the Model 3 “production hell”.”

David Schmidtz: “We should applaud institutions that encourage people to care for each other. But telling people they are required to tend someone else’s garden rather than their own does not encourage people to care for each other. It does the opposite. It encourages spite.” [via CafeHayek]

Shane Parish: “Ninety percent of success can be boiled down to consistently doing the obvious thing for an uncommonly long period of time without convincing yourself that you’re smarter than you are. “

Thinks 257

WSJ on James Otteson’s book: “A transaction based on extraction or theft is zero-sum (1 – 1 = 0). A transaction based on a mutual exchange is positive-sum (1 + 1 = 2). Wealth in most societies before about 1800, he reminds us, was based on the former model; wealth in market economies is based on the latter. What we need is someone able to explain to our well-intentioned politicos that the wealth they want to reallocate came about from mutually beneficial positive-sum transactions and not from zero-sum extraction. The way to diminish poverty and aid the disadvantaged is therefore not to punish positive-sum exchanges by taxation, but to allow more of them.”

F.A.Hayek: “If we wish everybody to be well off, we shall get closer to our goal, not by commanding by law that this should be achieved, or giving everybody a legal claim to what we think he ought to have, but by providing inducements for all to do as much as they can that will benefit others.” [via CafeHayek]

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