Links - August 31, 2022
- When big tech buys small tech (2021) Benedict Evans
Most acquisitions are noise. If the problem is specific acquisitions, then how do you know ex-ante which ones will matter? If it’s all of them, then how do you incentivize entrepreneurs to start companies while blocking exits? It’s very easy to look at acquisitions after the fact and connect the dots, but creating a coherent set of rules or ideas to define which deals can and can’t go through seems nearly impossible. As usual, it’d turn into a game of picking favorites.
- Web3-based Buildings (2021) Liz Voeller
A post that unironically discusses “Railroads across the Metaverse” and… I agreed with it?
- It’s Been a Home for Decades, but Legal Only a Few Months (2021) Conor Dougherty - New York Times
LA County, has at least 200k informal units. “That’s more than than the entire housing stock of Minneapolis.”
- Stablecoin: The Regulation Debate (2021) Stephen Cecchetti and Kermit Schoenholtz - Money and Banking
“On a combined basis, Tether dominates stablecoin trading volume: its Q2 daily average ($127.3 billion) exceeds the latest 10-day moving average of trading on the NYSE ($71 billion) and approaches the volume on NASDAQ ($148 billion).”
Too big to ignore, but almost a year after this was written and a couple of crashes later there’s still no regulation
- How a Kalman filter works, in pictures (2015) Tim Babb
You know how when you’re walking around a big city your GPS is all over the place, but somehow you can still get where you want to go? Here’s the math behind that.
- S.F. made parklets permanent — but added so many rules that many restaurants plan to tear them down (2021) Janelle Bitker - San Francisco Chronicle
I love San Francisco, but I hate that it’s the bureaucracy center of the world.
- The Great Formation (2021) Fred Wilson - AVC
“…people are going to work for themselves and/or going into small businesses that are not part of the employer survey. Maybe what we are witnessing is not the Great Resignation but the Great Formation.”
- Monetized candy (2021) Sebastian Bensusan - Twitter
Money is made up. A good thread on the various grocery items that hold their value bettern than pesos, and how Argentinians use them for their savings.
- The dangers of stablecoin lending (2021) J.P. Koning - Moneyness
It’s pretty amazing how most people don’t realize that deposits in a savings account make them creditors to their banks.
- 3D Printed Mirror Arrays Ben Bartlett - Github
A nice open source project on how to design hexagonal mirror arrays angled to print out specific messages.
- Our Self-Imposed Scarcity of Nice Places (2021) Daniel Herriges - Strong Towns
In city after city, the mass-market, working-class housing of its time has acquired a distinctly bourgeois reputation today. In all cases, the reason lies in economics, not design […] what’s scarce becomes culturally coded as elite.
- The Next Big Challenge for Data is Organizational (2021) Bryan Offutt - Locally Optimistic
“… without solving the ownership problem, the question of ‘who is responsible for this’ is still a shrug at scale.”
Data problems, like all others in engineering, are about people not communicating the right info at the right time.
- Eating the Cloud from Outside In (2021) swyx
I don’t know enough chess nor go to fully enjoy these analogies, but there’s something intriguing in the broader strategy at play here. I’m certainly happier that Cloudflare’s competition is pushing AWS prices down!
- Ricardo, Marx, and interpersonal inequality (2021) Branko Milanovic
“…that people could have both labor and property incomes (even if the rich still depend mostly on property incomes), is not envisaged by either Ricardo or Marx”
I’d expect to see more theory here, who’s writing it?
- On Medici and Thiel (2021) Strange Loop Canon
On how we lack true patronage in the modern world. While it’s somewhat meandering I find it quite compelling.
- Why were the Balkans underdeveloped? A geographical hypothesis (2021) Branko Milanovic
Is geography destiny?
- A Guide to Finding Faith (2021) Ross Douthat - New York Times
an interesting read, but I’m not sure if it said anything, or if it was just a few thousand words of waving his hands.
- A Reconsideration of the Twentieth Century (1999) Robert Mundell - The American Economic Review
Mundell’s Nobel Prize speech from 1999 is hilariously optimistic, looking through the tinted glasses of American exceptionalism.
- Local Theater Reopens after 434 Days Closed Stillwater Films
A short documentary about The Roxie movie theater reopening in San Francisco after being closed for over a year due to COVID.
- Where the Racial Makeup of the U.S. Shifted in the Last Decade (2021) Denise Lu, Charlie Smart and Lazaro Gamio - New York Times
One of the many cool data visualizations that came out of the 2020 census data drop.
- (Not) reading Marx (2021) Chris Dillow - Stumbling and Mumbling
I’m still planning to finish reading Capital, and have Smith’s books on my to-read list, too.
What books we should expect our politicians to read, if any? Which ones would help them be better at their jobs?
- Reflections as the Internet Archive turns 25 (2021) Brewster Kahle - Internet Archive
“At the end of the day, the Internet and the World Wide Web–it’s just us. It’s just a history of humankind. And it has been an experiment in sharing and openness.”
- The California Dream Is Dying (2021) Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic
Imagine if, in middle age, I felt entitled to pass laws so I could keep doing that into my 70s and 80s, no matter how many kids never got a turn. That is the anti-growth Californian, mistaking nostalgia for justice.
- Conflicted (Podcast, 2021) Ian Leslie and Russ Roberts - EconTalk
Globalization, specialization, and the internet all drive us to interactions in which we have to do extra work to talk to each other in the same terms. Increasingly, we live in a low context world.
- America Isn't an "Optimum Currency Area" (2021) Will Wilkinson
Wilkinson on Mundell. Many problems are tied to how we delimit which rules apply to which people, but those boundaries are not just international borders.
- The overconsumption theory of bitcoin (and decentralization in general) (2021) J.P. Koning - Moneyness
“…why not fix the mistake of overconsumption by levying a yearly tax on the value of cryptocurrency holdings? Like a carbon tax, it would force mainstream users to internalize the costs of consuming decentralization.” The over-consumption of decentralization angle could also be an argument for side-chains, which are less decentralized that the full-on blockchain of BTC or ETH, but more decentralized than ExcelCoin.
- A Cyclist on the English Landscape (2021) Roff Smith - New York Times
Beautiful photographs. Really made me want to get on my bike and explore!
- Where Did the Other Dollar Go, Jeff? (2021) Ezra Stevens
Value != Profits
- Civilizations don’t really die. They just take new forms. (2021) Annalee Newitz - Washington Post
I read this right after reading the bits of Cixin Liu’s Death’s End that cover the Earth Civilization Museum, which made for a good perspective.
- Welcome to the YOLO Economy (2021) Kevin Roose - New York Times
This resonated a lot. Anecdotally, a few friends decided to move from SF to Europe, many are about to leave cushy jobs for side projects, others (like me) are leaving big tech for startups, and some are leaving startups just to travel. Odd times ahead.
- Don’t Let China Mint the Money of the Future (2021) Niall Ferguson - Bloomberg
I’ve made this argument for years now:
The US Dollar has a privileged position in the international finance, and is key to the US’s hegemonic power. It should not be taken for granted, especially when other nations are explicitly trying to undermine it.
- Berkson's Paradox Adam Strandberg, Christopher Williams, Ken Jennison - Brilliant
On correlated effects which seem to be anti-correlated.
- The problems of authenticity under capitalism (2021) Branko Milanovic
One of the few places where capitalism paradoxically goes against individualism is in the arts.
- Wine & Math, A Model Pairing (2021) Lars Verspohl - The Pudding
This animated explanation of how simple regression models work, using wine quality as a toy problem, was really good. Will definitely use this as an intro for beginners in the future!
- Sell Tax Rights To Make Agents (2021) Robin Hanson - Overcoming Bias
An interesting idea regarding reallocating revenue streams. It seems like a modern version of “tax-farming,” but I don’t have any critiques at first blush.
- At Least 30,000 U.S. Organizations Newly Hacked Via Holes in Microsoft’s Email Software (2021) Chris Krebs - Krebs on Security
Email magic links are a great idea, until they are not. The future is 2FA and multi-sig.
- Finding Mona Lisa in the Game of Life with JAX (2021) Atul Vinayak
A mindblowing Game of Life project. Here I was, thinking my own @tweetgameoflife was a cool project.
- Israel, Cyprus and Greece agree to link power grids via subsea cable (2021) Reuters
At some point in the past, I was super interested in grid operations and clean tech. This piece of news would have sent 19 year old me down a geopolitics and energy rabbit hole.
- NFTs and CBGBs (2021) Alex Danco
The fact that ideas are not owned by any one person and that they’re not priced makes it hard for us to think of them as capital, but a large portion of capital creation comes from intangibles becoming part of the zeitgeist.
- Why did I leave Google or, why did I stay so long? (2021) Noam Bardin
You need to be able to answer the “what have I done for our users today” question with “not much but I got promoted” and be happy with that answer to be successful in Corp-Tech. I guess that’s just not me.
The followup from Hunter Walk on “Why There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Startup Within a Big Company’” was also great.
- Meet Elizabeth Ann, the First Cloned Black-Footed Ferret (2021) Sabrina Imbler - New York Times
This Revive & Restore project is fascinating. It is widely considered to be “a bad thing” when humans mess with the environment enough that we destroy a species and make it go extinct. Is it also bad when we mess enough with it to bring one back, too? Raises interesting questions on how we think of balancing between what is natural and what is man-made. When we intervene to counterbalance previous humans’ actions, how far can we go before we’re intervening ourselves?
- Slouching Toward Post-Journalism (2021) Martin Gurri - City Journal
This piece by highlights the new equilibrium brought about by the financial incentives of journalism on the internet. Let’s get rid of nuance. Whose absolute truth do you believe in? It pairs nicely with this from Ben Smith, which highlights the same generational divide.
- Silicon Valley isn't full of fascists (2021) Noah Smith
“…the narrative of a pipeline of fascist ideas from Rationalist blogs to the minds of the powerful people building the future is certainly a juicy one, but it just doesn’t have much evidence to back it up”
- The Pandemic Disproved Urban Progressives’ Theory About Gentrification (2021) Jacob Anbinder - The Atlantic
1973: “At a local zoning hearing you might find on one side an elderly dowager who’s voted straight Republican since McKinley and her granddaughter from a commune where they live on nuts and berries. Both are seeking to stop new development.” 2021: Same
- The afghani could split into two (and other possibilities for Afghanistan's currency) (2021) J.P. Koning - Moneyness
It’s pretty crazy how much every other country depends on the US’s blessing to operate in international trade, and how much of a say the US has over other countries’ monetary policy.
- Belonging, Home, and National Identity (Podcast, 2021) Megan McArdle and Russ Roberts - Econtalk
A discussion of Roger Scruton’s book on home and nations, Where We Are: The State of Britain Now. Lots of interesting questions on personal identity and the ultimate questions of us vs. them that plague our society.
- Coffee and Climate Have a Complicated Relationship (2021) Tatiana Schlossberg - New York Times
I don’t know about you, but I love coffee. The mere possibility of it disappearing from my life sounds awful, so I’m glad that Maricel is working on Compound Foods.
- Tech Workers Who Swore Off the Bay Area Are Coming Back (2021) Kellen Browning - New York Times
The rumors of SF’s death were greatly exaggerated.
- Red Herring (2021, Podcast) Radiolab
Cold War and underwater sounds. What else do you need?
- We set up an offshore company in a tax haven (2021, originally from 2012) Planet Money
Finding loopholes and (literal) boundary conditions in the tax code is how most people hide what they owe the government. Please simplify it, thx.
- Free Markets (Podcast, 2021) Michael Munger and Russ Roberts - Econtalk
On the virtues and problems of markets as a solution to many of our woes.
- Education, Philosophy, and the University (2021) Jennifer Frey and Russ Roberts - Econtalk
What is the point of education, and what do we lose by turning our university system into industrial training grounds? There’s value in learning for the sake of learning.