Thinks 278

George Saunders: “Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me). Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.”

Andrew Chen on Web 2.0 lessons for social apps: “One of the hardest lessons we learned from that period: It wasn’t enough to build the app, you needed to also grow a critical mass of users. Without the right users there at the beginning, a user-generated content product would inherently be too shallow on content. Low engagement would lead to more low engagement…It’s still better to focus on a single community, gain saturation, before adding adjacent networks. Viral loops are still a thing that can be constructed, measured, and optimized. The core stickiness of an app is all about p/m fit.”

Atanu Dey on Superabundance: “There’s something incredible in the works for the world of only a couple of decades hence. That world will be as different from our world today as our world is different from the world of our stone age ancestors. Our ancestors of even a few hundred years ago could not have imagined the marvels — they really are marvels if you think about it — of our world today. Similarly, it is impossible for us to imagine the world of superabundance in any detail but the broad outlines can be guessed provided one thinks intelligently about it. The future world is being built by a bunch of very remarkable people. The guy who is the leader of that lot is Elon Musk. There have been extremely rich people, extremely visionary people, extremely intelligent people, extremely diligent people, extremely ambitious people but it’s a rare individual — perhaps one in a billion — who combines all those extreme qualities. Musk is that one in a billion.”

Thinks 277

FT: “Asynchronous working allows employees to carry out their work without having to be available at specific times, most obviously during the old nine-to-five day. “Synchronous” work is when people collaborate with each other at the same time, such as in meetings. But the two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Some synchronous work will always be necessary. For example, following a day in the office working with colleagues on a project, you can then work at home at times that best suit you. There is nothing new about asynchronous working. Teams, particularly in global organisations that operate across time zones, have worked asynchronously for years — a group in one part of the world winds down for the day, while another picks up the mantle.”

Email Marketing Statistics

How Atlassian built a $50B+ acquisition-led growth engine: “How $1B of capital and a perfectly crafted M&A engine (arguably) created $40-50B of market cap.”

Thinks 276

Kevin Kelly: “There are two important sets of reasons why you should be optimistic right now. One is the general case for optimism at any time. The second reason is a handful of forces at work in the world that make specific cases for optimism at this particular time, in 2021.”

Gary Hoover: “The whole history of business and the economy is a story of one technological disruption after the other. Steam, electricity, aviation, the automobile, the telephone, the computer, the microchip, the Internet, and many more in the future. These innovations tend to follow patterns, have similar growth rates, similar obstacles to growth, and so on. Cars at first had no highways and gas stations, the Internet had no broadband, telegraphs had no poles and wires. So there is a tremendous amount to be learned by studying how entrepreneurs and corporations dealt with such challenges, how technologies evolve, and how they die or are replaced with newer ideas…The key ideas of business are timeless. Human behavior, the fundamentals of finance, how to lead, strategies in competitive battles, and many other things are the same stories repeated over and over. Nothing that deeply matters in business is new. ”

Paypal CEO Dan Schulman: “I do believe that governments, central banks are understanding that the world is moving towards digital payments, that you cannot manage monetary policy through the issuance of banknotes.”

Thinks 275

Pratap Bhanu Mehta:”The moral of the 1930s was clear. Once unleashed, communalism always breaks nations. It took the sheen off India’s renaissance in the 1930s; it will again corrode new India’s energies. It has momentum that we can only pretend to control. The logic of Partition and the logic of freedom are fundamentally incompatible. One traps us in compulsory identities, the other lets us define ourselves. One sees fellow citizens as a potential threat, the other as a resource to build something special. One wallows in the past, the other is oriented to the future. One concentrates on the true foundation of national greatness, the other creates an impostor-like substitute. One is premised on fear, the other on hope. One on violence, the other solidarity. Which logic will we embrace — freedom or Partition? A question for both India and Pakistan. And alas, the answer is looking depressingly clear.”

Amartya Lahiri: “The key lesson to take away from this history of poverty alleviation in India is that the most effective way of helping the poor is faster economic growth. Social welfare programmes that work through redistributive schemes can at best be complementary mechanisms that provide social insurance against bad luck in the labour market or in health. But, in the absence of growth, relying on redistribution to fight poverty only guarantees a lot of poor people.”

Some Classical Liberal Priors: by Donald J. Boudreaux. “It’s easy to say that in an ideal world the human mind would be free of biases. But freedom from biases requires the absence of priors. And the human mind is simply too puny, relative to the size and complexity of the reality that it seeks to understand, to operate without priors. Priors are not merely potential sources of bias; they also are necessary for productive thought and, as such, are indispensable. A mark of wisdom is to be aware of one’s priors and to struggle to prevent these both from obstructing one’s own personal quest for a better understanding of reality, and from impeding productive discussion with other persons. To this end, it’s worthwhile, from time to time, to step back and take stock of one’s priors.”

Thinks 274

Andrew Chen on investing in gaming: “You quickly see that if you’re a kid, one of the first things you do is spend all your time playing with your friends in Roblox. You use it like a social network. You hang out with your friends there and talk with them. You build a persistent identity. You might play Roblox and Minecraft and Fortnite and some of these other games for years before you’re allowed to have a “social network” account. Even though that’s really your social network. I’ve become interested in that, the idea that these multiplayer game experiences are the next social networks. That’s been a key part of my thesis.”

NYT: “My Secret Weapon Against the Attention Economy: When you reread the same poem over and over again, you stop scrolling along the surface and dive deep beneath it… I’d like to think that this practice of sustained concentration can also nurture human connection by encouraging the intimacy of attention. Maybe we can learn to read one another the way we read poetry, listening closely to the music we all make.

Thomas Sowell: “[O]ne crucial difference between ballots and prices is that prices convey effective knowledge of inherent constraints, while ballots do not. If I desire a Rolls Royce and simultaneously a normal standard of living, the price tag on the automobile immediately informs, convinces, and virtually coerces me to the conclusion that these two things are inconsistent. But if I believe simultaneously in a large military arsenal, low taxes, a balanced budget, and massive social programs, there are no constraints on my voting that way.” [via CafeHayek]

Thinks 273

Marc Rubinstein writes about Afterpay, which was bought recently in Square for $29 billion: “Afterpay is a global pioneer in the growing Buy Now Pay Later market. It was founded in 2014 by Australian neighbours, Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar…Whatever the reason, Buy Now Pay Later is a useful way for merchants to convert debit-sized baskets into credit-sized baskets with no incremental risk and only slightly higher cost.”

NYT on mental skills training: “One of the most popular mental skills techniques is imagery training, where athletes picture themselves executing key plays — driving a soccer ball toward a goal or reeling off a flawless dive — in the hours, days, weeks and months before a big competition while calling the sounds, smells and atmosphere of competition to mind…If you have an upcoming challenge, like giving a speech, you can use this strategy by imagining yourself reeling off the talk from start to finish, incorporating as many sensory details as you can. What will it feel like to stand on the podium? What kinds of sounds will you hear in the auditorium?”

Yamini Aiyar: “The long-term challenge for India remains finding its way toward an employment-intensive growth trajectory. This will require more than the current policy toolkit of extended credit guarantees and bulldozing reforms, as was attempted through farm laws. Perhaps it is worth acknowledging that there are no clear pathways. From factor market reforms, to understanding and responding to the unique supply constraints, including difficulties that confront the female labour force, to overcoming barriers to scale experienced by small and medium enterprises, each of these challenges requires careful deliberation and coordinated policy action between sectors of the economy and between the Centre and state governments. Employment-intensive growth needs State investment in human capital, in markets and in enabling regulation. But first, and above all, the government needs to acknowledge the deep structural crisis that it is staring at.”

Thinks 272

OpenAI Codex Demo: AI which translates natural language into code. More: “OpenAI Codex is a descendant of GPT-3; its training data contains both natural language and billions of lines of source code from publicly available sources, including code in public GitHub repositories. OpenAI Codex is most capable in Python, but it is also proficient in over a dozen languages including JavaScript, Go, Perl, PHP, Ruby, Swift and TypeScript, and even Shell. It has a memory of 14KB for Python code, compared to GPT-3 which has only 4KB—so it can take into account over 3x as much contextual information while performing any task.”

Donald Boudreaux: “My goal – by teaching basic, foundational, principles of microeconomics – is to inoculate students against the bulk of the common economic myths that they’ll encounter throughout their lives – myths such as that the great abundance of goods and services available to us denizens of modernity is the result of a process that can be easily mimicked or understood in detail by smart people or planners – that the market value of goods or services can be raised as desired by price floors (such as a legislated minimum wages) or lowered as desired by price ceilings (such as rent controls) – that benefits can be created without costs – that government is an institution capable of rising above the realities that ensure that private institutions never perform ‘perfectly’ – that intentions are results – that destruction of property is a source of prosperity – that exchange across political boundaries differs in economically meaningful ways from exchange that takes place within political boundaries – that the only consequences that occur or that matter are those that are easily anticipated and seen.”

Morgan Housel: “It’s easier to blame other people’s mistakes on stupidity and greed than our own. That’s because when you make a mistake, I judge it solely based on what I see. It’s quick and easy. But when I make a mistake there’s a long and persuasive monologue in my head that justifies bad decisions and adds important context other people don’t see. Everyone’s like that. It’s normal. But it’s a problem, because it makes it easy to underestimate your own flaws and become too cynical about others.”

Thinks 271

FT on AI in insurance: “Groups are building detailed customer profiles to inform pricing and try to influence behaviour…Take your medicine when the app tells you, do your exercise and eat well. As long as you “show good compliance” and share the data, you will reduce your health risks — and your insurance premium…AI, which sifts data and aims to learn like humans, is allowing insurers to produce highly individualised profiles of customer risk that evolve in real time. In parts of the market, it is being used to refine or replace the traditional model of an annual premium, creating contracts that are informed by factors including customer behaviour.”

Marc Andreessen on venture investing: “At our firm we have over 250 companies currently in our portfolio that we own 10% or more of. Think about it as 250 X-wing fighters. They are running sorties against the death star. By the way, we know statistically what’s going to happen from the data. Half of them are going to get blown up on impact. In top venture capital half the companies don’t work, so we’re going to lose half of them for a variety of reasons. Some of them screw things up, but some of them hit reflector shields and get blown up. And then another quarter of them are going to generate okay but not great returns, which is to say they’re going to do something interesting or useful but not revolutionary. So it’s really only the top quartile of the companies we fund that is going to be revolutionary and meaningful. So out of the 250 call that, whatever the number is… 70, 60? The dangers of doing math on the fly.  Within that quartile, there’s an upward 10% who are really going to punch through that have the potential to change things.”

Why the govt shouldn’t decide what you pay for an air ticket: by Pranay Kotasthane: “What began as a Covid-19 emergency measure to discourage travel has taken the shape of a hydra-headed policy aiming to solve many problems at the same time. An unintended consequence of government intervention that public policy analysts watch out for is rent-seeking. Rent-seekers often distort government policies to serve their interests. And that’s what seems to be the real reason behind these three-fold restrictions. The capacity restrictions and price floors appear to be a clientelist policy to clip the wings of the larger players in the market and give breathing space to the financially weaker airlines.”

Thinks 270

Email Marketing’s Next Secret Weapon:  Loyalty Programs: by Chris Marriott. “How can the email marketing team use the loyalty program make its entire email program more effective?  Some of the questions to ask: Is the current loyalty program fully leveraging email marketing to engage with its members? Is the loyalty program gathering the right data about its members? Is it asking the right questions? Does the loyalty program database contain data that could be leveraged by the email marketing team? How can the email team turn subscribers into loyalty program members (and thus help themselves to more zero-party data!)? How can I use email to help create a more of a “want to stay in the relationship” loyalty program?”

Rajeev Mantri: “The case for economic freedom has wider acceptance today, because of the success of the liberalisation project. From 1992-2019, India’s per capita GDP grew at about 5% per annum, reaching $2152 (constant 2010 US dollars). The poverty headcount ratio had declined to 22.5% by 2011 – stated differently, about one in five Indians lived in poverty in 2011. By some estimates, this number has now declined below 10% by 2019. India has experienced an economic shock due to the global pandemic, but economic liberalisation has been an unqualified success in making India more prosperous…The Nehruvian idea of India is useful insofar as it offers a playbook for what not to do. A prosperous, harmonious and powerful India can be built by embracing markets in economic policy, placing primacy on individual rights for social policy, and resolutely upholding the national interest in foreign policy.”

The 6 Concepts You Should Know to Be Financially Literate: from WSJ. “Budgeting. Cash flow. Yield. FICO scores. Net worth. Equity.”

Thinks 269

Sangeet Paul Chaudary: “Global scale networks, venture funding, data hoarding, and capital-labor inequality have come together to find a new home in the platform economy. Platforms concentrate and create winner-take-all economics at a scale that we haven’t seen since the Gilded Age. All that is, however, poised to change. Web3 holds the promise of fundamentally rearchitecting market infrastructure and governance, backed by protocols designed for minimal extraction. Done right, this would move us from a world of winner-takes-all to a world of winners-share-all, as they build together and benefit together.”

It’s not the pandemic, it may be you who is killing your business: by Rita McGrath and M. Muneer. Many questions to consider. One of them: “Are you seeing competitors emerge from nowhere? A trap of thinking of your competition in terms of your industry is that it can create blind spots for competition that emerges from places you were not looking. Recall how the smartphone revolution sideswiped makers of digital camera and handy video recorders.” Another: “Are you losing your best people? This is a major red flag that things are not progressing in a positive way. It is inevitable that there will be some churn when you go through a major change, but if you’re losing the people you were counting on to get you through it, that’s dangerous.”

Saurabh Mukherjea: “20 Indian companies now account for over 90 per cent of profits (up from 30 per cent a decade ago). Most of these 20 companies are growing their free cash flows (FCF) at over 25 per cent per annum, despite the challenging economic circumstances in the past five years.”