Links - October 14, 2017

  • What Facebook Did to American Democracy
    Alexis Madrigal - The Atlantic

    A great summary of how social media’s influence creeped into the political landscape. Madrigal’s account is more thorough than I could even imagine. Perhaps the most interesting point about his piece - one that I had not seen made this clearly elsewhere - is that the 2016 election was not so much about blind-siding, but frog-boiling.

  • Cryptocurrency Incentives and Corporate Structures
    Elad Gil

    The reason cryptocurrencies, and the technology behind them, are exciting for me is not their insane returns, but the economic and political implications of creating totally new incentive systems. Matt Levine has a good summary of how these differ from the traditional VC backed company in yesterday’s Money Stuff, but Elad Gil’s post goes much more in depth into what kinds of corporate structures are enabled by crypto.

  • Trustworthy Networking
    Ben Thompson - Stratechery

    The notion that Trumpism arose thanks to the 2017 equivalent of a DDoS attack, or an SQL injection on social media has been going around for a while. Here, Thompson makes a good analogy between Facebook today and Microsoft in the early 2000s, and exposes the dangers of assuming people’s good intentions on your platform.

  • Trump and Stocks: What Gives?
    Justin Fox - Bloomberg View

    A lot of people are asking themselves how is it that the market is doing so well, when the political environment and various economic indicators make it seem like it should not. Many people predicted that with Trump as president, the US economy would not do well - myself included - so what’s going on? Fox argues that a good chunk of the growth is coming from increased consumption abroad, that investors expect Trump’s business friendly policies to be good for the market, and that maybe we’re just looking at the wrong metrics. One point he doesn’t make, and which I have not seen elsewhere, is that the dollar itself is losing value (nearly 6% since election day), so the bull-market is not actually as strong as it seems.

  • When is a Dollar not a Dollar?
    Leo Polovets - Coding VC

    I initially thought this would go in another direction, i.e. money from different VC firms comes with different kinds of strings attached, giving different investment dollars different real values. However, Polovets pleasantly surprised me with a list of how changes in the various lines on your balance sheet have very different effects, and how startups could make better decisions by keeping that in mind.

  • I wanted to understand why racists hated me. So I befriended Klansmen
    Daryl Davis - The Washington Post

    Racism is about ignorance, and this story is just one more example of it. I insist that all of politics distills down to applied otherness. Once you remove otherness, and you can see, um, others, as equals, it is much easier to agree on what a government should or should not do…

  • Let Them Eat Paper Towels
    Paul Krugman - The New York Times

    …and on that note, here’s Krugman showing how the administration, and a good chunk of the population, don’t see Puerto Ricans as Americans.

  • The Athletic Brassiere (podcast)
    99% Invisible

    It is always strange to hear about how much thought and effort went into the development of products that I don’t use and totally take for granted. One of the things I like the most about Roman Mars’ podcast is that it exposes me to stories that I would never wonder about on my own.

  • Suitable for Children (podcast)
    This American Life

    More on race, history, and immigration.

  • Flood Money (podcast)
    Planet Money

    An explanation of the insane insurance system that allows people to live in flood-prone areas in Houston, and elsewhere in the US. Through the National Flood Insurance Program “one percent of homes have been responsible for more than 25 percent of the claims,” which is kind of the point of insurance - except when you stop and think that if this incentive system were not in place, people would just not live there! By insuring these homes at subsidized rates, the government is incentivizing dangerous behavior (living in a flood-prone area) out of tax payers’ pockets.

  • Tim O'Reilly on What's the Future (podcast)

    An unusual EconTalk, where the topic is a mixed bag of technocracy and an optimistic outlook of the current technological revolution.

  • The Super-Aggregators (podcast)

    In case the Stratechery post above was not enough, here’s Ben doubling down. Aggregation theory paired with politics. Towards the end of the episode there is a discussion on how, via regulation, increased transparency in the decisions made by algorithms could enable journalists and citizens to openly review the outcomes of machine learned systems, which in turn would change the behavior of the advertisers and scammers. Overall, a good way to spend an hour.

A long short month

A long short month

September flew by. Somehow I did not post a single article, or photo in the whole month. I got a lot of things done, but it still feels like it was an intellectually unproductive period.

On to the next one. More...

Links - September 29th, 2017

September has been a long month. Moving apartments is both mentally, and physically taxing, and the process is extremely time consuming. These have been sitting idle in the draft box way too long, so here goes:

Flash Boys, a short review

Flash Boys, a short review

If you’ve ever taken an economics class, you probably know about arbitrage: exploiting the price differences of an asset on different markets by buying low, selling high, and pocketing the difference. I recently finished reading Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys, a book that sheds light on the many faces of arbitrage in the 21st century. Flash Boys is a story about the extent to which Wall Street banks, hedge funds, and other financial institutions apply high frequency trading (HFT) techniques to gain an edge over other players in the most competitive financial markets. Continue reading...

Fascism is bad

Fascism is bad

Not sure how we got to a point where the title of this post is not taken as a fact.

Over the last few weeks there was a lot of talk about neo-nazi and fascist sympathizers coming to San Francisco to stage a big rally. Knowing that the Bay Area is very left leaning, it is very likely that the goal of the event was to incite the locals, and to get some favorable sound bites on how there is “violence on both sides,” and such. The original protest was meant to be at Crissy Field and after getting some pressure it was demoted to a news conference in Alamo Square Park. The SFPD shut it down, closing the park and putting a big fence around it, so the Patriot Prayer people ended up doing their talk in Pacifica - a small town south of San Francisco.

At the same time, several counter-protests started around the city, and when I heard there was one coming down Mission Street, I knew I had to go photograph it.

One thing that stuck out to me about this protest was that it was really a ton of small protests all joined together: anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-gentrification, anti-Islamophobia, and more. More...

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