Showing posts with label Paul Graham. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Graham. Show all posts

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Paul Graham's Best Essay To Date

How to Do Great Work The first step is to decide what to work on. The work you choose needs to have three qualities: it has to be something you have a natural aptitude for, that you have a deep interest in, and that offers scope to do great work. ........

Some kinds of work you end up doing may not even exist yet.

.......... pick something and get going. ....... some of the biggest discoveries come from noticing connections between different fields. .......... Develop a habit of working on your own projects. Don't let "work" mean something other people tell you to do. If you do manage to do great work one day, it will probably be on a project of your own. It may be within some bigger project, but you'll be driving your part of it. .............. At 7 it may seem excitingly ambitious to build huge things out of Lego, then at 14 to teach yourself calculus, till at 21 you're starting to explore unanswered questions in physics. But always preserve excitingness. ............

There's a kind of excited curiosity that's both the engine and the rudder of great work.

It will not only drive you, but if you let it have its way, will also show you what to work on. ......... What are you excessively curious about — curious to a degree that would bore most other people? That's what you're looking for. ........... Knowledge expands fractally, and from a distance its edges look smooth, but once you learn enough to get close to one, they turn out to be full of gaps. ........... Many discoveries have come from asking questions about things that everyone else took for granted. .......... Great work often has a tincture of strangeness. You see this from painting to math. ......... Boldly chase outlier ideas, even if other people aren't interested in them — in fact, especially if they aren't. If you're excited about some possibility that everyone else ignores, and you have enough expertise to say precisely what they're all overlooking, that's as good a bet as you'll find. .........

Four steps: choose a field, learn enough to get to the frontier, notice gaps, explore promising ones. This is how practically everyone who's done great work has done it, from painters to physicists.

........... It may not be possible to prove that you have to work hard to do great things, but the empirical evidence is on the scale of the evidence for mortality. ............ The three most powerful motives are curiosity, delight, and the desire to do something impressive. Sometimes they converge, and that combination is the most powerful of all. .......... The big prize is to discover a new fractal bud. You notice a crack in the surface of knowledge, pry it open, and there's a whole world inside. ......... when it comes to figuring out what to work on, you're on your own .......... When you read biographies of people who've done great work, it's remarkable how much luck is involved. They discover what to work on as a result of a chance meeting, or by reading a book they happen to pick up. So you need to make yourself a big target for luck, and the way to do that is to be curious. Try lots of things, meet lots of people, read lots of books, ask lots of questions. .............. What mathematicians do, for example, is very different from what you do in high school math classes. So you need to give different types of work a chance to show you what they're like. But a field should become increasingly interesting as you learn more about it. If it doesn't, it's probably not for you. ............ One sign that you're suited for some kind of work is when you like even the parts that other people find tedious or frightening. ............ the most exciting story to write will be the one you want to read ............ Following your interests may sound like a rather passive strategy, but in practice it usually means following them past all sorts of obstacles. You usually have to risk rejection and failure. So it does take a good deal of boldness. ................ The trouble with planning is that it only works for achievements you can describe in advance. ....... I think for most people who want to do great work, the right strategy is not to plan too much. ...... You don't just put out your sail and get blown forward by inspiration. There are headwinds and currents and hidden shoals. So there's a technique to working, just as there is to sailing. ......... while you must work hard, it's possible to work too hard, and if you do that you'll find you get diminishing returns: fatigue will make you stupid, and eventually even damage your health. The point at which work yields diminishing returns depends on the type. Some of the hardest types you might only be able to do for four or five hours a day. ........... Ideally those hours will be contiguous. To the extent you can, try to arrange your life so you have big blocks of time to work in. You'll shy away from hard tasks if you know you might be interrupted. ............... It will probably be harder to start working than to keep working. ......... When I'm reluctant to start work in the morning, I often trick myself by saying "I'll just read over what I've got so far." Five minutes later I've found something that seems mistaken or incomplete, and I'm off. ............. In many projects a lot of the best work happens in what was meant to be the final stage. ......... One reason per-project procrastination is so dangerous is that it usually camouflages itself as work. You're not just sitting around doing nothing; you're working industriously on something else. So per-project procrastination doesn't set off the alarms that per-day procrastination does. You're too busy to notice it............. Great work happens by focusing consistently on something you're genuinely interested in. ............... Writing a page a day doesn't sound like much, but if you do it every day you'll write a book a year. That's the key: consistency. People who do great things don't get a lot done every day. They get something done, rather than nothing..............

If you do work that compounds, you'll get exponential growth.

........... Learning, for example, is an instance of this phenomenon: the more you learn about something, the easier it is to learn more. Growing an audience is another: the more fans you have, the more new fans they'll bring you. ................. The trouble with exponential growth is that the curve feels flat in the beginning. It isn't; it's still a wonderful exponential curve. But we can't grasp that intuitively, so we underrate exponential growth in its early stages. .............. There's a kind of undirected thinking you do when walking or taking a shower or lying in bed that can be very powerful. By letting your mind wander a little, you'll often solve problems you were unable to solve by frontal attack. ............ if you don't try to be the best, you won't even be good. This observation has been made by so many people in so many different fields that it might be worth thinking about why it's true. It could be because ambition is a phenomenon where almost all the error is in one direction — where almost all the shells that miss the target miss by falling short. ............. In some ways it's easier to try to be the best than to try merely to be good. ........... just do the work and your identity will take care of itself. ............. If you're earnest you avoid not just affectation but a whole set of similar vices. ........... To see new ideas, you need an exceptionally sharp eye for the truth. You're trying to see more truth than others have seen so far. And how can you have a sharp eye for the truth if you're intellectually dishonest? ........... Be aggressively willing to admit that you're mistaken. Once you've admitted you were mistaken about something, you're free. Till then you have to carry it. ........... any energy that goes into how you seem comes out of being good. That's one reason nerds have an advantage in doing great work: they expend little effort on seeming anything. In fact that's basically the definition of a nerd. ............ It's not learned; it's preserved from childhood. So hold onto it. Be the one who puts things out there rather than the one who sits back and offers sophisticated-sounding criticisms of them. ......... I doubt it would be possible to do great work without being earnest. It's so hard to do even if you are. You don't have enough margin for error to accommodate the distortions introduced by being affected, intellectually dishonest, orthodox, fashionable, or cool. ......... Mathematical elegance may sound like a mere metaphor, drawn from the arts. That's what I thought when I first heard the term "elegant" applied to a proof. But now I suspect it's conceptually prior — that the main ingredient in artistic elegance is mathematical elegance. At any rate it's a useful standard well beyond math. .................. some of the very best work will seem like it took comparatively little effort, because it was in a sense already there. It didn't have to be built, just seen. It's a very good sign when it's hard to say whether you're creating something or discovering it................ Try thinking of yourself as a mere conduit through which the ideas take their natural shape. ................ The best ideas have implications in many different areas. .............. If you express your ideas in the most general form, they'll be truer than you intended. .............. Original thinkers throw off new ideas about whatever they focus on, like an angle grinder throwing off sparks. They can't help it. ................. One of the most original thinkers I know decided to focus on dating after he got divorced. He knew roughly as much about dating as the average 15 year old, and the results were spectacularly colorful. But to see originality separated from expertise like that made its nature all the more clear................... Original ideas don't come from trying to have original ideas. They come from trying to build or understand something slightly too difficult. .......... Talking or writing about the things you're interested in is a good way to generate new ideas. When you try to put ideas into words, a missing idea creates a sort of vacuum that draws it out of you.

Indeed, there's a kind of thinking that can only be done by writing.

........... Changing your context can help. If you visit a new place, you'll often find you have new ideas there. ............ But you may not have to go far to get this benefit. Sometimes it's enough just to go for a walk. ............. It also helps to travel in topic space. You'll have more new ideas if you explore lots of different topics, partly because it gives the angle grinder more surface area to work on, and partly because analogies are an especially fruitful source of new ideas. ............ Be professionally curious about a few topics and idly curious about many more. .......... Curiosity is itself a kind of originality; it's roughly to questions what originality is to answers. And since questions at their best are a big component of answers, curiosity at its best is a creative force.............. Having new ideas is a strange game, because it usually consists of seeing things that were right under your nose. Once you've seen a new idea, it tends to seem obvious. Why did no one think of this before? ............. new ideas can be both obvious and yet hard to discover: they're easy to see after you do something hard. ................ To find new ideas you have to seize on signs of breakage instead of looking away. That's what Einstein did. He was able to see the wild implications of Maxwell's equations not so much because he was looking for new ideas as because he was stricter................ it took the greater part of a century for the heliocentric model to be generally accepted, even among astronomers, because it felt so wrong. ................ Often ideas that seem bad are bad. But ideas that are the right kind of crazy tend to be exciting; they're rich in implications; whereas ideas that are merely bad tend to be depressing. ................ The aggressively independent-minded are the naughty ones. Rules don't merely fail to stop them; breaking rules gives them additional energy. For this sort of person, delight at the sheer audacity of a project sometimes supplies enough activation energy to get it started. ............. in questions that really matter, only rule-breakers can be truly strict........... Every cherished but mistaken principle is surrounded by a dead zone of valuable ideas that are unexplored because they contradict it. ........... People who'd never dream of being fashionable in any other way get sucked into working on fashionable problems. ............. Originality in choosing problems seems to matter even more than originality in solving them. That's what distinguishes the people who discover whole new fields. So what might seem to be merely the initial step — deciding what to work on — is in a sense the key to the whole game. ............ People think big ideas are answers, but often the real insight was in the question. ............... Part of the reason we underrate questions is the way they're used in schools. In schools they tend to exist only briefly before being answered, like unstable particles. But a really good question can be much more than that. A really good question is a partial discovery. How do new species arise? Is the force that makes objects fall to earth the same as the one that keeps planets in their orbits? By even asking such questions you were already in excitingly novel territory. ................. Sometimes you carry a question for a long time. Great work often comes from returning to a question you first noticed years before — in your childhood, even — and couldn't stop thinking about. ............ the more puzzled you are, the better, so long as (a) the things you're puzzled about matter, and (b) no one else understands them either ............ It's a great thing to be rich in unanswered questions. And this is one of those situations where the rich get richer ............... Questions don't just lead to answers, but also to more questions................... Great things are almost always made in successive versions. You start with something small and evolve it, and the final version is both cleverer and more ambitious than anything you could have planned. ......... Use the advantages of youth when you have them, and the advantages of age once you have those. The advantages of youth are energy, time, optimism, and freedom. The advantages of age are knowledge, efficiency, money, and power. With effort you can acquire some of the latter when young and keep some of the former when old. ............ The young often have them without realizing it. The biggest is probably time. The young have no idea how rich they are in time. The best way to turn this time to advantage is to use it in slightly frivolous ways: to learn about something you don't need to know about, just out of curiosity, or to try building something just because it would be cool, or to become freakishly good at something. ............ You arrive at adulthood with your head full of nonsense — bad habits you've acquired and false things you've been taught — and you won't be able to do great work till you clear away at least the nonsense in the way of whatever type of work you want to do. .......... Much of the nonsense left in your head is left there by schools. ..... schools have all sorts of strange qualities that warp our ideas about learning and thinking. ............. neither classes nor tests are intrinsic to learning; they're just artifacts of the way schools are usually designed. ............... If you're still in school, try thinking of your education as your project, and your teachers as working for you rather than vice versa. ................. In real life you have to figure out what the problems are, and you often don't know if they're soluble at all............

the worst thing schools do to you is train you to win by hacking the test. ..... You can't trick God.

.............. The way to beat the system is to focus on problems and solutions that others have overlooked, not to skimp on the work itself........... Don't think of yourself as dependent on some gatekeeper giving you a "big break." Even if this were true, the best way to get it would be to focus on doing good work rather than chasing influential people. .................. And don't take rejection by committees to heart. The qualities that impress admissions officers and prize committees are quite different from those required to do great work. The decisions of selection committees are only meaningful to the extent that they're part of a feedback loop, and very few are.......... Originality is the presence of new ideas, not the absence of old ones. .......... Some talented people are jerks, and this sometimes makes it seem to the inexperienced that being a jerk is part of being talented. It isn't; being talented is merely how they get away with it. ................ You can take ideas from quite distant fields if you let them be metaphors. .......... Most people who are very good at something are happy to talk about it with anyone who's genuinely interested. If they're really good at their work, then they probably have a hobbyist's interest in it, and hobbyists always want to talk about their hobbies............... People within universities can't say so openly, but the quality of the work being done in different departments varies immensely. Some departments have people doing great work; others have in the past; others never have. ............... Colleagues don't just affect your work, though; they also affect you. So work with people you want to become like, because you will. ............ the degree to which great work happens in clusters suggests that one's colleagues often make the difference between doing great work and not. ........... sufficiently good colleagues offer surprising insights. They can see and do things that you can't. ........... managing well takes aptitude and interest like any other kind of work. If you don't have them, there is no middle path: you must either force yourself to learn management as a second language, or avoid such projects .............. Husband your morale. It's the basis of everything when you're working on ambitious projects. You have to nurture and protect it like a living organism. ................ If you choose work that's pure, its very difficulties will serve as a refuge from the difficulties of everyday life. If this is escapism, it's a very productive form of it, and one that has been used by some of the greatest minds in history. ........... Morale compounds via work: high morale helps you do good work, which increases your morale and helps you do even better work. ........... One of the biggest mistakes ambitious people make is to allow setbacks to destroy their morale all at once, like a ballon bursting. ......... It's not necessarily a bad sign if work is a struggle, any more than it's a bad sign to be out of breath while running. It depends how fast you're running. So learn to distinguish good pain from bad. Good pain is a sign of effort; bad pain is a sign of damage. ............ a small but dedicated audience can be enough to sustain you. If a handful of people genuinely love what you're doing, that's enough. ......... The people you spend time with will also have a big effect on your morale. You'll find there are some who increase your energy and others who decrease it, and the effect someone has is not always what you'd expect. Seek out the people who increase your energy and avoid those who decrease it. Though of course if there's someone you need to take care of, that takes precedence. ................. Don't marry someone who doesn't understand that you need to work, or sees your work as competition for your attention. If you're ambitious, you need to work; it's almost like a medical condition; so someone who won't let you work either doesn't understand you, or does and doesn't care. ............. Ultimately morale is physical. You think with your body, so it's important to take care of it. That means exercising regularly, eating and sleeping well, and avoiding the more dangerous kinds of drugs. Running and walking are particularly good forms of exercise because they're good for thinking. ........... People who do great work are not necessarily happier than everyone else, but they're happier than they'd be if they didn't. In fact, if you're smart and ambitious, it's dangerous not to be productive. People who are smart and ambitious but don't achieve much tend to become bitter. ................... The prestige of a type of work is at best a trailing indicator and sometimes completely mistaken. ............. don't let competitors make you do anything much more specific than work harder. ......... Your curiosity never lies, and it knows more than you do about what's worth paying attention to. ........... you can't command curiosity anyway. But you can nurture it and let it drive you.............. If you made it this far, you must be interested in doing great work. And if so you're already further along than you might realize, because the set of people willing to want to is small. .............. Can you find a kind of work where your ability and interest will combine to yield an explosion of new ideas? ............... Many more people could try to do great work than do. What holds them back is a combination of modesty and fear. It seems presumptuous to try to be Newton or Shakespeare. It also seems hard; surely if you tried something like that, you'd fail. Presumably the calculation is rarely explicit. Few people consciously decide not to try to do great work. But that's what's going on subconsciously; they shy away from the question. ............. A lot of standup comedy is based on noticing anomalies in everyday life. "Did you ever notice...?" New ideas come from doing this about nontrivial things. Which may help explain why people's reaction to a new idea is often the first half of laughing: Ha! ..................

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Just Applied To Y Combinator

In 2010, Paul Graham and I were featured in the same BBC article.

How Y Combinator Started I don't think we've ever managed to remember our birthday on our birthday. ......... The VC fund was doing what now seems a comically familiar thing for a VC fund to do: taking a long time to make up their mind. ......... As we turned onto Walker Street we decided to do it. I agreed to put $100k into the new fund and Jessica agreed to quit her job to work for it. Over the next couple days I recruited Robert and Trevor, who put in another $50k each. So YC started with $200k. ........... The company wasn't called Y Combinator yet. At first we called it Cambridge Seed. ........ Initially we only had part of the idea. We were going to do seed funding with standardized terms. Before YC, seed funding was very haphazard. You'd get that first $10k from your friend's rich uncle. The deal terms were often a disaster; often neither the investor nor the founders nor the lawyer knew what the documents should look like. Facebook's early history as a Florida LLC shows how random things could be in those days. ........ We started Viaweb with $10k we got from our friend Julian Weber, the husband of Idelle Weber, whose painting class I took as a grad student at Harvard. Julian knew about business, but you would not describe him as a suit. ............ In return for $10k, getting us set up as a company, teaching us what business was about, and remaining calm in times of crisis, Julian got 10% of Viaweb. I remember thinking once what a good deal Julian got. ............ we wanted to learn how to be angel investors, and a summer program for undergrads seemed the fastest way to do it. No one takes summer jobs that seriously. The opportunity cost for a bunch of undergrads to spend a summer working on startups was low enough that we wouldn't feel guilty encouraging them to do it. ............. The structure of the YC cycle is still almost identical to what it was that first summer. ............ We never expected to make any money from that first batch. We thought of the money we were investing as a combination of an educational expense and a charitable donation. But the founders in the first batch turned out to be surprisingly good. And great people too. We're still friends with a lot of them today. ............ It's hard for people to realize now how inconsequential YC seemed at the time. .......... Jessica and I invented a term, "the Y Combinator effect," to describe the moment when the realization hit someone that YC was not totally lame. When people came to YC to speak at the dinners that first summer, they came in the spirit of someone coming to address a Boy Scout troop. By the time they left the building they were all saying some variant of "Wow, these companies might actually succeed." .......... it took a while for reputation to catch up with reality ....... That's one of the reasons we especially like funding ideas that might be dismissed as "toys" — because YC itself was dismissed as one initially. ........ The density of startup people in the Bay Area was so much greater than in Boston, and the weather was so nice. ........ Plus I didn't want someone else to copy us and describe it as the Y Combinator of Silicon Valley. I wanted YC to be the Y Combinator of Silicon Valley. So doing the winter batch in California seemed like one of those rare cases where the self-indulgent choice and the ambitious one were the same........ we didn't have time to get a building in Berkeley. We didn't have time to get our own building anywhere. The only way to get enough space in time was to convince Trevor to let us take over part of his (as it then seemed) giant building in Mountain View. .......

The first dinner in California, we had to warn all the founders not to touch the walls, because the paint was still wet.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Some Suggestions For Twitter

Twitter And Voice
Free Speech And Just Society
Should Elon Musk Be Owning All Of Twitter?
The Masses, Not Mars
Musk's 44 Billion Dollar Give To Foolish Fascism

My Twitter experience has not changed. Is that a problem? The guy from Mars took over. But my Twitter experience has not changed.

He is being criticized for having bought a 10 billion dollar company for 40 billion. I don't want to go into that. It is certainly a dip. But if it is a startup, it has nowhere to go but up. Although there are plenty of people saying this is his Waterloo. That is the New York Times hyperbola. It is a dramatic statement to make, but people like Paul Graham do not seem to be buying.

Since the early 2010s, I have looked at Twitter and thought, what a waste! So much potential, so little of it realized.

Could Musk be the break Twitter has needed? Or is this Musk's Truth Social?

I just had to say that. I don't believe it. I think Musk might be able to pull it off.

I quite like Twitter. I have an experience on Twitter that I do not have on any other social media platform. And so you are left wanting more.

What is it about Twitter? The brevity? The text? That 1% feel?

How about letting people verify for free? And instead of using government isued IDs letting people use biometric IDs provided by Twitter itself? A selfie? An iris scan? Fingerprint? And you get a checkmark? If not blue, then green. The bots don't have that.

If you can verify your name also with some sort of official ID, you get an additional checkmark. For free.

You could use an assumed name, but it would say so.

The ability to read 10 or 100 or 1,000 tweets at once. How do you read the sentiment?

Real time search engine. Twitter could be tops.

The Twitter archives are a wasteland. So unnecessary.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Paul Graham's Social Essay

The Refragmentation by Paul Graham

Though strictly speaking World War II lasted less than 4 years for the US, its effects lasted longer. Wars make central governments more powerful, and World War II was an extreme case of this. In the US, as in all the other Allied countries, the federal government was slow to give up the new powers it had acquired. Indeed, in some respects the war didn't end in 1945; the enemy just switched to the Soviet Union. In tax rates, federal power, defense spending, conscription, and nationalism the decades after the war looked more like wartime than prewar peacetime. [3] And the social effects lasted too. The kid pulled into the army from behind a mule team in West Virginia didn't simply go back to the farm afterward. Something else was waiting for him, something that looked a lot like the army. ....... John D. Rockefeller said in 1880..... The day of combination is here to stay. Individualism has gone, never to return..... He turned out to be mistaken, but he seemed right for the next hundred years............. What happens now with the Super Bowl used to happen every night. We were literally in sync. ........ In his autobiography, Robert MacNeil talks of seeing gruesome images that had just come in from Vietnam and thinking, we can't show these to families while they're having dinner. ......... the "red delicious" apples that were red but only nominally apples. And in retrospect, it was crap. .........

For most of the 20th century, working-class people tried hard to look middle class. You can see it in old photos. Few adults aspired to look dangerous in 1950.

........ But the rise of national corporations didn't just compress us culturally. It compressed us economically too, and on both ends. ........ Along with giant national corporations, we got giant national labor unions. And in the mid 20th century the corporations cut deals with the unions where they paid over market price for labor. Partly because the unions were monopolies. ......... Much of the de facto pay of executives never showed up on their income tax returns, because it took the form of perks. ....... The ultimate way to get market price is to work for yourself, by starting your own company. That seems obvious to any ambitious person now. But in the mid 20th century it was an alien concept. ........ in the mid 20th century. Starting one's own business meant starting a business that would start small and stay small. Which in those days of big companies often meant scurrying around trying to avoid being trampled by elephants. It was more prestigious to be one of the executive class riding the elephant. ......... in the 20th century there were more and more college graduates. They increased from about 2% of the population in 1900 to about 25% in 2000 ........ people in the 1950s and 60s had been even more conformist than us ...... What J. P. Morgan was to the horizontal axis, Henry Ford was to the vertical. He wanted to do everything himself. ....... if you want to solve a problem using a network of cooperating companies, you have to be able to coordinate their efforts, and you can do that much better with computers. Computers reduce the transaction costs that Coase argued are the raison d'etre of corporations. That is a fundamental change. .......... IBM itself ended up being supplanted by a supplier coming in from the side—from software, which didn't even seem to be the same business. .........

Basically, Apple bumped IBM and then Microsoft stole its wallet. That sort of thing did not happen to big companies in mid-century. But it was going to happen increasingly often in the future.

......... This didn't seem as dubious to government officials at the time as it sounds to us. They felt a two-party system ensured sufficient competition in politics. It ought to work for business too. ...... The word used for this process was misleadingly narrow: deregulation. What was really happening was de-oligopolization. It happened to one industry after another. Two of the most visible to consumers were air travel and long-distance phone service, which both became dramatically cheaper after deregulation. ........

The companies in the S&P 500 in 1958 had been there an average of 61 years. By 2012 that number was 18 years.

......... the refragmentation was driven by computers in the way the industrial revolution was driven by steam engines. ........ The new fluidity of companies changed people's relationships with their employers. Why climb a corporate ladder that might be yanked out from under you? Ambitious people started to think of a career less as climbing a single ladder than as a series of jobs that might be at different companies. More movement (or even potential movement) between companies introduced more competition in salaries. Plus as companies became smaller it became easier to estimate how much an employee contributed to the company's revenue. Both changes drove salaries toward market price. And since people vary dramatically in productivity, paying market price meant salaries started to diverge. ........ Yuppies were young professionals who made lots of money. To someone in their twenties today, this wouldn't seem worth naming. Why wouldn't young professionals make lots of money? But until the 1980s being underpaid early in your career was part of what it meant to be a professional. ....... Almost four decades later, fragmentation is still increasing. ......... With the centripetal forces of total war and 20th century oligopoly mostly gone, what will happen next? ........

The form of fragmentation people worry most about lately is economic inequality, and if you want to eliminate that you're up against a truly formidable headwind—one that has been in operation since the stone age: technology. Technology is a lever. It magnifies work. And the lever not only grows increasingly long, but the rate at which it grows is itself increasing.

......... The ambitious had little choice but to join large organizations that made them march in step with lots of other people—literally in the case of the armed forces, figuratively in the case of big corporations. ......... as long as it's possible to get rich by creating wealth, the default tendency will be for economic inequality to increase. Even if you eliminate all the other ways to get rich. You can mitigate this with subsidies at the bottom and taxes at the top, but unless taxes are high enough to discourage people from creating wealth, you're always going to be fighting a losing battle against increasing variation in productivity. ......... When Rockefeller said individualism was gone, he was right for a hundred years. It's back now, and that's likely to be true for longer....... The first big company CEOs were J. P. Morgan's hired hands ........ "Our founder" meant a photograph of a severe-looking man with a walrus mustache and a wing collar who had died decades ago. The thing to be when I was a kid was an executive. If you weren't around then it's hard to grasp the cachet that term had. The fancy version of everything was called the "executive" model. ....... it is certainly not impossible for a CEO to make 200x as much difference to a company's revenues as the average employee. Look at what Steve Jobs did for Apple when he came back as CEO. It would have been a good deal for the board to give him 95% of the company. Apple's market cap the day Steve came back in July 1997 was 1.73 billion. 5% of Apple now (January 2016) would be worth about 30 billion. And it would not be if Steve hadn't come back; Apple probably wouldn't even exist anymore. ......... Google will pay people millions of dollars a year to keep them from leaving to start or join startups.

If computers have brought about so much disruption, imagine what artificial intelligence will do, and at what speed! I just hope we get to the age of abundance fast and end up in an era of no poverty, no disease. As to the massive surpluses, I am less worried about the rich. But even there social and political innovation can happen. You can't get rich unless a lot of people can buy what you are selling. Political innovation is not happening as fast as technological innovation. And that is bad news. It does not have to be. Tech itself is partly to blame. There has not been enough direct technological innovation applied to the political sphere itself. Technology has the option to give us truly participatory democracy, but it has not done it. Technology has the option to give us rich, robust, grassroots discussions. It has not done it. The impending age of abundance means everyone can eat, there is no overpopulation, but it will not happen on its own. I think where Paul Graham falls short is in not being able to see that maybe political innovation will also happen. Unless the purchasing power of the masses goes up exponentially, we can not create the truly super rich, and we will not be a multi-planetary species. In the age of abundance, there should be a floor beneath which no human being falls. And that floor keeps rising because productivity keeps going up, and rather fast.

This essay is remarkable social and political (and economic) insight by a dude only known for tech startups.

I happen to think we have to start by creating a world government. For one, we have an existential reason to do so. There is no other way to coordinate the fight with Climate Change. And other good things follow. Only one person one vote taken to its logical, global conclusion will give us the kind of political innovation we need. Right now the political systems of the world simply do not create enough pressure. The only reason Google floats is because enough people click on its ads. Right now nobody is voting at the global level. A head of state is only one person.

Barack Obama: FDR, Lincoln And Washington

Maybe Paul Graham should put some of his Dropbox money into my Kickstarter campaign. It's only 60K. I intend to disrupt global group dynamics.

Paul Graham Asks For Disqus 2.0 Or A Disqus Disruptor
Paul Graham Is Not That Innocent
Paul Graham's Black Swans
Paul Graham: Disrupt
Paul Graham Now Has Disqus Integration At His Blog
TechStars' Geographical Advantage Over Y Combinator
Plenty Still Broken In The World
Fred Wilson And Mark Suster Missing Out On AirBnB And Uber
Greplin: The First Y Combinator Company To Get Me Excited
Dave McClure: Super Angel: Foulmouth
Me @ BBC
Robin Hood: My German Nickname
Y Combinator: Conveyor Belt StartUping?
Jessica Mah, Mark Zuckerberg
Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Me, BBC

Stay Tuned for the Technological Transformation of Governance
Just as early waves of technological innovation in education and health care simply attempted to digitize old practices — putting an analog class into a MOOC or a patient’s file into the cloud — early forays into governmental technology involved bringing civil services online and enabling citizens to follow government protocols on websites instead of in buildings. .....

new governance technologies preparing to reroute lines of authority and change what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century.

....... Others are helping teams to build consensus and budget together, dynamically and elegantly. Still others are creating operating systems for political parties that are already winning seats in government. .....

Whether we're facing climate apocalypse on Earth or colonizing Mars, the deciding factor between human civilization being extractive and oppressive, or cooperative and generative, will be how much we as a species have practiced the skills of equitable collaboration on a day-to-day basis — hearing diverse viewpoints and synthesizing them, consciously understanding the flows of power dynamics, and designing in the key factors of human wellness.

......... Human beings have been sitting in circles listening to one another for millennia, but software and the internet allow us to scale up these practices in a way we never have before. ....... Cobudget for funding and Loomio for decision-making. ........ Many of the worst aspects of command-and-control, mechanistic, hierarchical governance are consequences of limited communications technologies. If we can make distributed cooperation just as efficient, the need for those old governance forms — which cause a lot of human suffering in the name of efficiency — could be obviated. ..... The key difference is: are you privatizing everything, or are you building the commons? The real distinguishing factor isn't the governing practices, which may be similar to a point, but the governing purpose. Are we building in service of the people and the community, deeply rooted in social values and human rights, or are we in service of private interests, which only answer to their own internal logic of profit and power? ....... Already, in our network, Enspiral, where we run businesses in service of positive social outcomes, we constantly have to 'hack' company structures to make them reflect how we actually want to work. We're sticking to the law, of course, but there's some legal gymnastics involved and we're constantly having to blaze a trail. Are we a community? A company? A charity? None of the current forms actually quite fit, and the distinctions seem contrived. ........ One of the protections against government corruption in democracies is that the moment of the vote is hidden and blind. ......

the very idea that our key moment of agency as a citizen is ticking a box every three or four years is the insane part

..... Our 'democratic' system is another example of something developed a couple hundred years ago because of very limited communications technology — election dates in the US are still determined by how long it took people to go on horseback between cities. ..... What's actually incredible is when you create a society where people not only feel safe being open about their political opinions, but they genuinely discuss them with different people, and their opinion can evolve through that interaction — they can change their minds.

When citizen deliberation is possible, that's when truly amazing solutions can emerge, from synthesizing different views.

......... What can users of SMS-enabled mobile banking in Africa teach us about how our apps could work? People in warzones and disaster areas know a ton about decentralized networks, because centralised infrastructure fails them. Activists threatened by oppressive governments have heaps to teach us about privacy, identity, and leveraging online communications tools for effective action and resistance. ....... most people in this space are running completely analog processes using technologies like neighborhood meetings and science-fair like exhibitions of citizen-generated ideas. They are willing to pound the pavement.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Paul Graham Asks For Disqus 2.0 Or A Disqus Disruptor

Or how to listen when everyone is talking? This is like the email inbox problem. What is the solution? There is only solution for those who get manageable amounts of email. If you get a HUGE (Trump word) amount of email, I am not sure there is a solution. Similarly online, forget teaching people etiquette. You can restrict membership, or you can restrict comments to people who are willing to reveal their real ID, but if you are opening up the floodgates, I am sorry but we are not talking technology, we are talking human nature and human behavior. After DARPA (or Tim Berners-Lee or whoever, or maybe Paul Graham, Al Gore) invented the Internet, Julia Roberts discovered people hated her! We can improve upon it. Like Gmail has become so much better with five inboxes. But I don't see a "cure" to online flaming. Except, maybe, ignore what you don't like. See no evil, hear no evil.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Paul Graham Is Not That Innocent

Let me state the obvious first. I am a huge admirer of what Paul Graham has built in Y Combinator. And I have drawn enormous inspiration from many of his essays on tech startups. And it was an honor to once get featured in the same BBC article as Paul Graham and Brad Feld. (Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Me, BBC)

And now let me get to the topic at hand. Yes, Paul Graham was misquoted. But that does not change the fact that Paul Graham is guilty of sexism just like I am. I would not accuse him of extreme sexism. I might save that for a ton of men in India. But guilty he is. Why do I say that?

You were there when girls around you were 13. If you did not see sexism then, then you were willfully blind. You very well participated in it. Sexism starts early. Young girls feeding on sexist media do weird things with what they eat. That is sexism.

I don't think there is something fundamental about men and women that makes men head for STEM. Once girls get hit by the pot of sexism early on, they kind of lose their balance, and they end up making weird choices like not going towards STEM with greater gusto than they do.

Paul Graham wondering as to why 13 year old girls don't code more is not exactly like Newton wondering why the apple fell on his head. But sexism IS social gravity. It is all pervasive and all powerful, and all men participate in it, it is only a matter of degree, some more, some less, but we all do.

Sexism is really cutting edge, as is racism. It is as if not more cutting edge than the Internet itself, only the Internet is technology and communications and commerce, sexism and racism are social. It is like I am at this Internet Society event, Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee on stage. And I was and am a huge admirer of the guys. I literally think of the Internet as a new country, a feeling further enforced by a recent Indian Supreme Court decision that is blatantly homophobic. (Homophobia is sick, okay?) And I ask my question of Tim. If the Internet is a country which of you is George Washington, which is Thomas Jefferson? Tim gets offended and says "different race" in an unpleasant way. And I am like, I don't believe this motherfucker. And I made a "mad scientist" remark. (Tim Berners-Lee: The Internet Is Not A Country)

Paul Graham said recently something about "heavy accents," and there he was not misquoted, and I thought that was a racist thing to be saying.

Fred Wilson: Girls Who Code
Paul Graham: What I Did Not Say
Taylor Rose: Girls Haven’t Been Hacking for the Last 10 Years
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