Thinks 380

Cobie: “Attention is a currency on the modern web. Web2 companies figured this out ages ago. Users pay for a service with their attention. Companies capture this attention to ultimately sell something to the user at some point down the line. Usually the company doesn’t sell something specifically themselves, they just act as broker between user’s attention and businesses with something to sell. Attention as a currency in the token economy is much more evident and direct…In web3, the fight for attention is so large that 9-figure incentive programs are the new normal, and 5-figure airdrops to users are not uncommon. Crypto youtube influencers are commanding 5 to 6 figure advertising costs per video. Attention is scarce and it is in high demand.”

Aditi Phadnis in a review of a biography of VP Singh: “Jacobin revolutionary Louis Antoine de Saint-Just’s remark as he was led off to be guillotined is an apt lesson for all aspiring revolutionaries. He said: “Those who make revolutions halfway dig their own graves”. If you are irresolute or bow to pressure, the forces of counter-revolution — the very forces that you are trying to stamp out—can quickly return to overwhelm and crush you. Debashish Mukerji’s work is a deeply researched and fascinating account of the life of India’s former prime minister. But it also brings to the fore the limits of structural change that Vishwanath Pratap Singh was able to bring about and should serve as a reminder to all those seeking to transform Indian society and economy — whether in the government or in opposition— about the power wielded by forces of counter-reform.”

Playing: Wordle

Thinks 379

Rameesh Kailasam: The customer of tomorrow, in a fast-changing scenario, wants everything at the swipe of a screen and a click of a button. The customer of tomorrow is even unwilling to step out and check the physical market and wants to buy most stuff online. Along with millenials, as a large number of Gen Z-ers come of age as consumers, they are no longer comparable with the consumers from the generations that preceded them, when it comes to the manner in which purchase decisions are made…Customers are fast-changing, as are their perceptions and points of access. Brand loyalties may soon become a thing of the past and disruption will be key to attracting the new-age customer. Emergence of many new-age brands, outlets and products are unimpeachable testimony of this changing consumer-leaning.”

Sadanand Dhume on India’s Stalled Rise: “The economic bedrock of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political success—has been the government’s distinctive approach to redistributive development. In many other countries, social spending has traditionally focused on intangible public goods, such as health and education. Since 2015, the Modi government has instead invested in programs that provide tangible basic goods and services, many of which are aimed at women. This “New Welfarism” has included bank accounts, cooking gas, toilets, electricity, housing, and, more recently, water and just plain cash…The achievements of the New Welfarism are real. By 2019, 98 percent of all households had access to electricity, up from just 75 percent a decade ago, and 60 percent had access to clean cooking gas. According to survey data, nearly three-quarters of all Indian women now have bank accounts that they can use themselves. And the government’s subsidies to the poor—previously known for extraordinary rates of “leakage”—are now provided in direct cash payments, ensuring that they reach their intended beneficiaries. They now amount to $100 billion per year.”  My take: Entrepreneurs create wealth, the government distributes it. This is not the path to prosperity.

FT’s Graphics of the year — making sense of 2021. “Visualisation has become increasingly important in the telling and the understanding of stories.”

Thinks 378

FT on networked drones: “Shield AI is just one of dozens of companies that are working on ways to transform the way drones are used, turning them from piloted point-and-shoot flying cameras into self-flying computers that can work in teams and transmit data straight into the cloud. While there have been huge leaps in the designs and battery life of drones, the real innovations are coming not in hardware but in their computing capabilities.”

Swaminathan Aiyar on the jobs problem in India: “The unemployment rate has risen from 2% to around 7.5% in most of 2021, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. China’s demographic dividend was supposed to be ending even as India’s rose, but India’s labour force participation rate has plummeted alarmingly. Barely 40% of Indians seek work, and just 38.2% are employed according to the Periodic Labour Force Survey. In China 66.8% are seeking work and 63.5% are employed, dwarfing India. Female labour participation in agriculture has collapsed and has always been very low in urban areas. Social mores and urban crime discourage female workers. We see no light at the end of this tunnel.”

A record year for Indian startups. More investments than the last 3 years combined. More than $100 million every day in 2021.

Nayi Disha: A People’s Pipe for Prosperity (Part 4)

Past Writings – 3

India Awaits its Washington: “A revolution results in a new political and economic system. We need both. We need a revolution to give ourselves freedom and prosperity. We need to take power away from Them – because They are simply the new Governor Generals of India. The British never gave Americans their freedom. The Indian Britishers will never do so either. That is why Revolution. Changing rulers by voting for a different symbol is not revolution…How do we make a people believe they are free and understand what freedom really means? How can we muster the courage to rise against Them who control the levers of power to crush all dissent? The How is not easy or obvious. And yet, we must. Some amongst us have to rise. India doesn’t need another Father, what it needs is a Founder – one who can truly set us free. This is the Washington India awaits.”

Nayi Disha: We are the Alternative: “To change minds, channel votes and win elections, we need to offer an alternative. A new direction, a Nayi Disha. We need a clear purpose, a messaging pipe to reach out to people, political entrepreneurs to rise, a platform to unite these entrepreneurs and the voters, leading to a path to power and eventually prosperity. This is our struggle for a better India…The first step to making this alternative vision of a new India a reality is to get the message across to large numbers – a pipe to the masses. In an increasingly repressive environment where the mundane could be seen as seditious, we need a mechanism to create safe spaces for people to communicate and coordinate. A content factory needs to constantly separate fact from the fiction we are fed, and to spread truth in a melange of falsehood forwards.”

United Voters of India: Constructing the Collective: “The idea of UVI needs to be embedded into software – just like Bitcoin. Essentially, UVI is a set of rules wrapped into code. Just like miners and traders gave Bitcoin its initial value, it will be the members and candidates who will provide the impetus to UVI…If half of the NANVs can be persuaded to join UVI and vote for this candidate in the election, the odds of victory are better than even. Repeat in enough constituencies and one has the makings of a Lok Sabha of Independents – a Swatantra Lok Sabha (SLS).”

The Alternative India Needs: “The alternative we should be seeking in India is freedom from our politicians and political parties. The alternative we should be wanting is liberty and prosperity. Unfortunately, there is no leader who will do that – they are all the same. So, if it’s a choice amongst one of them, it really doesn’t matter whom we choose. But if we really want to craft a new future for ourselves and our children, we need to create a new alternative which draws its power from the people – a national movement to free every Lok Sabha seat from the politicians and their parties to form a new government of prosperity which breaks the 250-year-old curse of poverty, which turns ‘caged and poor India’ to ‘free and rich India.’ This is the Nayi Disha Indians need. This is the real alternative India needs.”

Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning: “UVI will need an organising model to harness the power of people at the local level – this is where community organising (or just ‘organising’) comes in…Each of us has to create our own group of 10 or 20 people we inspire and recruit. They in turn can fan out and do the same, thus creating snowflakes. Each of us becomes a field organiser – tell our story of self-us-now, build relationships in our neighbourhood and communities, do small meet-ups in our homes, recruit volunteers and then make them into the next set of field organisers by helping them with the planning needed to achieve their goals.”

Thinks 377

Neil Gaiman: “If you make mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.” [via FT]. From the article: “A work blunder teaches so much more than a triumph. Too few companies encourage staff to have blame-free discussions about their mistakes.”

Donald Boudreaux: “Spontaneous orders differ categorically from organizations. Spontaneous orders, like organizations, are highly useful to individuals. But unlike organizations, spontaneous orders are not designed and created. They emerge as unintended consequences of the actions of persons, each of whom is pursuing his or her own individual goals with no awareness that those actions will give rise to a larger order. While a spontaneous order assists each individual in the pursuit of his or her goals, such an order, unlike an organization, itself has no goal towards which it aims. And because a spontaneous order as such has no goals, the actions of the individuals whose choices give rise to the spontaneous order cannot be judged by how well or poorly they promote the goal of the spontaneous order – for, again, the spontaneous order has no goals.”

Dave Barry’s 2021 Year in Review: US-centric, but still a fun read.

Nayi Disha: A People’s Pipe for Prosperity (Part 3)

Past Writings – 2

Sabhas: Powering the Indian Revolution: “Local Circles can start the revolution; Sabhas will power it onwards. Circles, with their meetups and debates, will lay the foundation for people to come together in their neighbourhoods. Sabhas will create the incentive via a ladder for political entrepreneurs to act and lead. Think of Sabhas as mirror governments. In a nation bereft of political alternatives with a comatose Opposition, Sabhas can emerge as the voice of the silent majority – the two-thirds who are non-aligned and non-voters (NANV). Sabhas are equal parts game, movement and reality show. Sabhas is the engine for the political revolution India needs.”

Talk Radio: Voice of the People: “There is an opening for talk radio – where the listeners are as engaged and there is more information, analysis and education, rather than misinformation, entertainment and conspiracy theories. If there is a hope for holding leaders to account and changing minds, it can come from new independent voices. Talk radio hosts can be India’s salvation…There are many people in India who want betterment for their families and children as their primary agenda. They do not want to get caught into civilisational debates about the past, but genuinely want a tomorrow that has more opportunities than today. They need their voices heard. They need a megaphone for their aspirations. Talk radio can be their voice and platform. The listeners can in turn provide the political entrepreneurs and foot soldiers for the revolution India needs. Talk radio can take up the responsibility that Indian media has abdicated.”

How  the Pandemic  will drive Digital Politics: “The basics of every election campaign are constant: identify, register, persuade and turnout the right voters. What the world of data and digital does is bring precision to the process of targeting. This is the world which digital technology will impact and transform even more in the months and years ahead…Even as politicians make the move to going digital, can challengers create new platforms and marketplaces to create political disruption? If ever there was an opportunity to put India on a new path and correct the historical mistakes that kept Indians poor, this is the moment. Are digital-savvy political entrepreneurs listening?”

United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action: “Votebanks or voting blocs are not uncommon in India – political parties know this and exploit them for electoral success. There has never been a voting bloc for prosperity. This is what UVI must become. 60 crore non-aligned and non-voters, two-thirds of India’s electors, is the target group for the creation of UVI. They are not loyal to any of the existing political parties. If a significant chunk of the non-aligned and non-voters (NANVs) can be persuaded to come together to form a loose coalition in the form of UVI, political change and economic betterment is possible. UVI is the spark that can fire the Indian Revolution… A digital platform like UVI can help the silent and disenchanted majority come together to coordinate their actions to overturn the power structure in India that has made serfs of its citizens. Street protests are fine but what’s needed is electoral power. Votes of the selectorate keep the incumbent parties in power. It is time for the independents to rise to complete the unfinished freedom movement of 1857 and 1947.”

Thinks 376

McKinsey newsletter: “Business leaders predict that by 2026, half of their companies’ revenues will come from products, services, or businesses that haven’t yet been created.”

David Perell: “The investor Brent Beshore says that great business opportunities are found in highly fragmented industries, where there are many companies in the space but no dominant player. As a result, these industries are often opaque to outsiders and customers often have to interact with many vendors.”

Milton Friedman: ““Perhaps the single most important and most thoroughly documented yet obstinately rejected proposition is that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” That proposition has been known by some scholars and men of affairs for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Yet it has not prevented governmental authorities from yielding to the temptation to mulct their subjects by debasing their money—taxation without representation—while vigorously denying that they are doing anything of the kind and attributing the resulting inflation to all sorts of other devils incarnate.”” [via Atanu Dey]

Thinks 375

Tim O’Reilly on why it’s too early to get excited about Web3: “Let’s focus on the parts of the Web3 vision that aren’t about easy riches, on solving hard problems in trust, identity, and decentralized finance. And above all, let’s focus on the interface between crypto and the real world that people live in, where, as  Matthew Yglesias put it when talking about housing inequality, “a society becomes wealthy over time by accumulating a stock of long-lasting capital goods.” If, as Sal Delle Palme argues, Web3 heralds the birth of a new economic system, let’s make it one that increases true wealth—not just paper wealth for those lucky enough to get in early but actual life-changing goods and services that make life better for everyone.”

Russ Roberts talk to Michael Munger on Constitutions. Munger: “The real origins of Public Choice, and particularly the first of what we now think of as the Public Choice Pentateuch–took the five founding books of Public Choice–was The Calculus of Consent. And, The Calculus of Consent takes up some of the work– It was written by James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, and it was published in 1962. So, this is right at the origins of what we now think of as Public Choice. One of Buchanan’s heroes was the Swedish economist–political economist–Knut Wicksell. And, what Wicksell had said–and it was interesting–was that the only justification for coercion was consent…A key to liberty is the ability voluntarily to subject yourself to coercion if you violate the terms of the agreement. That’s the way we make binding agreements.”

Via Shane Parish: “It’s very important to know what you don’t like. A big part of innovation is saying, “You know what I’m really sick of?” … “What am I really sick of?” is where innovation begins.”

Thinks 374

FT on the transformative power of games: “Why have humans played games in their homes for millennia? Besides being fun, they promote togetherness, mental agility and emotional release.”

David Brooks: “[T]o lead a worthy life, you sort of have to have three projects or three accomplishments. One is to be in internal harmony with yourself. And that’s to do the practices that will elevate you. I like reading spiritual books as my way to get my insides elevated rather than degraded. The second is to be in harmony with others. And I think the crucial skill there is the ability to see people and understand them and make them feel that they’ve been considered, heard and understood. And then the final thing is to commit to some great loves, to fall in love with great things and really commit to them. My definition of a commitment is falling in love with something, and then building a structure of behavior around it for those moments when love falters…And so it’s those commitments which tend to be like commitments to a vocation, commitment to a family, commitment to a philosophy or faith, and commitments to a community, a place. And so those are like the three lanes, what I would think of, of a worthy life.”

Economist on quadratic voting: ” In its simplest version, each voter would be given a budget of “marks” as Carroll might call them or “voice credits” as Mr Weyl calls them. Voters could use these credits to “buy” votes for a candidate or proposal. The first vote for a candidate costs one credit. But casting two votes for a single candidate costs four credits (ie, two squared); casting three costs nine (three squared), and so on. Under this scheme, people buy votes with their credits just as countries “earn” votes with their populations in Penrose’s imagined assembly. In both cases, the aim is to give voters as much sway as their population or passion warrants. But no more so.”

Thinks 373

Ben Thompson on the Great Bifurcation: “The Metaverse, in contrast, is not about eating the world; it’s about creating an entirely new one, from entertainment to community to money to identity. If Elon Musk wants to go to the moon, Mark Zuckerberg wants to create entirely new moons in digital space. This is a place where LLCs make no sense, where regulations are an after-thought, easily circumvented even if they exist. This is a place with no need for traditional money, or traditional art; the native solution is obviously superior. To put it another way, “None of this real world stuff has any digital world value” — the critique goes both ways. In the end, the most important connection between the Metaverse and the physical world will be you: right now you are in the Metaverse, reading this Article; perhaps you will linger on Twitter or get started with your remote work. And then you’ll stand up from your computer, or take off your headset, eat dinner and tuck in your kids, aware that their bifurcated future will be fundamentally different from your unitary past.”

Business Standard: “The fact is that the data gauges, especially from employment surveys, are loudly proclaiming that India’s growth model is in trouble. While the increase in welfare measures and social protections can postpone the inevitable and somewhat protect living standards — especially as measured through recent efforts such as the multidimensional poverty index — the fact is that sustained increases in productivity, wages, and job security for the vast mass of Indians are the only sure foundation upon which to build economic growth and secure livelihoods. A movement of the workforce towards agricultural jobs, rural jobs, and unpaid or insecure work reveals not just that recent growth trends have not been broad-based but also that future growth might not be built on a sustainable foundation. Of all the government’s pressing economic concerns, this must surely be the most vital.”

Santosh Desai: “[T]he epistemic pool— the combined body of knowledge that we find ourselves amidst is now of a completely different character than in the past. Today the accretion of knowledge is unregulated, unmediated and indiscriminate. If earlier we learnt of the world from books, newspapers, journals, magazines, the odd pamphlet and advertising, today a bulk of our education is being carried out by tweets, blogs, social media posts generated not by experts or those on pedestals but by people like us. The library has given way to Twitter. The pool may be more democratically organised, but it is undeniably shallower. And it stinks.”