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.”
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)
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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.”
The Art of Doing Nothing: “The idea that “doing nothing” is actually an event in and of itself. The idea that we no longer run on a treadmill of activity from getting the kids ready for school, to brushing our teeth, to conference calls, to picking up kids, fixing dinner, and bed- only to start over again. The idea that our actions day to day become influenced by our instincts and no longer by routines, shoulds, and musts.”
Payments in a Subscription Economy: “Transactions are never going to go away. Money will always have to move from one place to another. But what happens to payments in the Subscription Economy? I’ve heard arguments on both sides: in a world of subscriptions, payments don’t matter anymore; and when you run a subscription business model, payments are a bigger challenge than ever.”
The Barry Diller Playbook: About IAC. “Diller’s anti-conglomerate is an uncommon and (often) unwieldy beast, but it has a clear focus, a singular purpose. It exists not in service of a particular market or technology, but a process, a playbook.”
17 Investing Lessons: By Chong Ser Jing. One of the lessons: “It is possible to overpay for a company’s shares. This is why we need to think about the valuation of a business. But I think it is far more important to focus on the quality of a business – such as its growth prospects and the capability of the management team – than on its valuation.”
The Nietzschean Ladder: by Atanu Dey. “Technology is repurposable. Faced with a problem, people usually figure out a solution eventually. In other words, they develop the technology (which is best understood as knowledge of how to get something done) that addresses the problem. Once developed, the technology finds application in entirely different areas and thus leads to improvements in the system that would not have happened had the original problem had not arisen. Civilization advances by climbing the Nietzschean ladder which goes thus: Civilization is at state C1; problem P arises; solution S found that addresses P; solution S applied to other domains which move civilization to state C2 which is superior to state C1; etc.” An example Atanu gives is of Covid-19 pandemic induced advances in mRNA technology.
Which Developing Economies Will Rise After the Pandemic? Ruchir Sharma: “It’s also worth noting that although the path to prosperity through manufacturing is narrowing, it hasn’t closed. In the past, manufacturing accounted for more than 15 percent of G.D.P. in export powerhouses. Today the economies in this class include Vietnam, Bangladesh, Poland and the Czech Republic. They are among the big winners as companies seeking lower wages and shorter supply lines move factories out of China.”
Raamdeo Agrawal: “There were only 100 companies that beat the Sensex’s return of 9.2% in the last 25 years. This shows how difficult it is to be successful on a long-term basis. But the good thing is that a lot of companies got listed along the way after 1995. These new companies now make up as much as 50% of the current total market capitalization. This proves that you will keep getting new opportunities.” More.
The Erosion of Deep Literacy. Adam Garfinkle: “Deep literacy has wondrous effects, nurturing our capacity for abstract thought, enabling us to pose and answer difficult questions, empowering our creativity and imagination, and refining our capacity for empathy. It is also generative of successive new insight, as the brain’s circuitry for reading recursively builds itself forward…We ask our stone-age brains to sort, categorize, parse, and prioritize torrential data streams it never evolved to juggle, while in the background we have to stay ever vigilant to change in every sensory channel….Screens of all sorts serve up rapidly changing images, jump cuts between scenes, erratic motion, and non-linear narratives that spill out in fragments….Is it any wonder people today complain of mental fatigue? Fatigue makes it even harder to sort the trivial from the salient and navigate the glut of decisions modern life throws at us.”
Naushad Forbes: “[The government should] announce a huge privatisation programme, and don’t shy away from calling it that. Our current stock market boom says that buyers are ready to invest. But public-sector stock values are still depressed. I think the best way to see them take off is to announce that the government intends to reduce its share-holding to 26 per cent across public-sector banks, steel companies, oil companies, and every manufacturing company and hotel it currently owns.”
Six ‘freedom’ reforms to bolster job creation and employability: by Manish Sabharwal. “India is fifth in the world in total GDP, but 138th in per capita GDP. Our problem is wages, not jobs (unemployment has hovered between 5-9% since 1947). We don’t have a shortage of land (we can give every Indian household half an acre and they would fit into Rajasthan and half of Maharashtra), labour (about 100 million people could shift off farms without impacting food security), or capital (domestic savings and foreign investors can supply the money required), but our challenge is how these three inputs combine.”
Teledyne and Capital Allocation: “Dr.Henry Singleton was more than just a great capital allocator, he was a visionary, entrepreneur, and excellent business person who believed that the key to his success was people—talented people who were creative, good managers and doers. Once he had those managers in place, he gave them complete autonomy to meet agreed upon goals and targets.He and his co-founder and initial investor, George Kozmetsky, bootstrapped their investment of $450,000 into a company with annual sales of over $450 million, an annual profit of some $20 million, and a stock market value of about $1.15 billion.”
India’s PLI schemes may herald the return of rent-seeking. An editorial in Business Standard. “If the government really wishes to improve investment in manufacturing, it needs to ensure that the regulatory and tax climate is such that investors are more comfortable. Direct subsidies and picking winners help nobody but bureaucrats and vested interests — India has several decades of experience to prove this.”