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ȘȈǤƝȘ 73: The Greatest Hazard of All

"The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all." —Kierkegaard

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It's about philosophy and science on the frontiers of internet culture.

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In this edition, you'll learn about:

The Singular Importance of Being Correct

Technocapitalism increases returns to judgment relative to labor.

One excellent idea with no hard work will turn into power (i.e. cash) at a rate that's accelerating over time, whereas a moderately good idea that requires hard work to implement will turn into power at a more linear rate. This is partially due to the increasingly permissionless and fluid nature of payment infrastructure (less organizational effort required to monetize ideas, a longstanding trend), and partially due to the propertization of digital assets (we now have deeds to ideas, a recent and sudden rupture).

One implication is that you should be less worried about convincing others and demonstrating your arguments.

If one is correct about a novel idea, in many contexts it is sufficient to assert the idea, publish the idea, place practical bets on the idea with your behavior and personal projects, and then just wait. Time will demonstrate your argument for you, and you will be getting richer, or time will show that you were wrong, and you will be getting poorer.

Why persuade people who are wrong, when you could spend all of your time becoming more right? Persuasion has rising costs, and it's manual labor that doesn't scale. The goal is to advance so far out on the correct branch, that few currently living people even understand what you're talking about, but future generations eventually must know what you're talking about. Not because you're special, but just because you arrived early where they were destined to land sooner or later.

In school essays or scholarly treatises, it will be necessary to lay out the full case. But in many contexts, it is sufficient merely to be correct. My argument is that an increasing proportion of life is composed of such contexts.

Around 2011, you only needed to be correct about the nature of Bitcoin in order to become wealthy for life. You only needed to be correct about one thing. Had one spent every waking hour for several months reading and thinking about whether Bitcoin was true, it could have been worth it, if you got the answer right.

A less discussed implication is that the same logic holds in the cultural domain. Even if you didn’t have a dollar to your name in 2011, writing a detailed blog post or creating videos on Youtube about how Bitcoin is true could have accrued a lot of cultural capital (always convertible to cash, of course, and increasingly so).

"Hard work" and manually “building” are overrated, unless you have a comparative advantage in building, or you personally love building. Hard work can get you into sub-optimal equilbria, if you're not careful. As I wrote in Personality War (ȘȈǤƝȘ 70), if you lean too much on grit to supplement your lack of something else, you may find yourself miserable, in a zone that's custom tailored for a different kind of person.

ȘȈǤƝȘ 70: Small Games
“It seems to me that the soul, when alone with itself and speaking to itself, uses only a small number of words, none of them extraordinary.” —Valéry
"You can break into the middle class thanks to grit and craftiness, the problem is you have to stay there through grit and craftiness. Others stay there by just staying there." —Personality War (ȘȈǤƝȘ 70)

Hard work can be a way to compensate for mediocre ideas, and one can inadvertently come to specialize in making mediocre ideas work. Hard work can get you stuck into ideas on their way to being outdated. In this particular sense, then, Andreesen was wrong. It is not time to build so much as it is time to be correct.

If one is afflicted with the searching temperament, one should focus on being correct at the cost of nearly everything else—other than publishing one's verdicts, and placing bets on them.


The First IndieThinkers Accelerator Starts February 14

The IndieThinkers.org system I’ve been building since 2019 is testing a 6-week accelerator format.

You could call it a “course,” but that term really muddles and understates the essence of what internet “instructors” are really doing nowadays. Good, live “courses” on the internet are really more like social-intellectual pressure cookers. It’s a matter of engineering temporal, informatic, and social-psychological variables to transform each other in a certain direction—rapidly at first, and then sustainably as a community over long periods of time.

If it seems like there are a lot of “courses” nowadays, it’s because the underlying social technology remains poorly understood and—if done well—is far more general, desirable, and effective than what people think when they think of the word “course.” That’s how I see it, anyway.

The new IndieThinkers

Oh and I’m changing the pricing model to a one-time fee. The annual subscription was great as a business model, but it wasn’t the best way to help members because the fact is: intellectual work happens in sprints, not marathons. At best, one does consecutive sprints punctuated with rest periods. But no professional of any kind does equally high-intensity work every week of every year forever.

A 6-week sprint more closely approximates the natural rhythm of high-performance intellectual work, and a one-time fee creates motivation without anxiety about future payments. I thought about all of this for many, many months now, and I feel confident this makes more sense for the mission.

The mission of IndieThinkers remains 100% the same: to help independent intellectuals build sustainable projects outside of institutions and on the internet instead.

If this sounds like you, please request an invitation at the new IndieThinkers.org.


Emerson on the American Scholar

I've recently taken to the life and work of Ralph Waldo Emerson because he was arguably the first world-class public intellectual of a distinctly American type. Of course there were great thinkers and writers in America before his time, but Emerson was the first man to gain respect in courtly Europe, who did not mimic the ways of courtly Europe. Until Emerson, American intellectuals were either European and respected or American and low.

It's rather extraordinary how the intellectual economy of his time (before the rationalization of academia throughout the 20th century) so closely resembles the intellectual economy of our time (the collapsing of rationalized academia).

Emerson came from a family of Unitarian preachers, a job he trained for and was expected to pursue. But he defected early in his career, and instead made a living by giving paid lectures (in person, across the country; there was a network of 'lyceums' where this was a thing). And then turning his lectures into books, which made no money at first, though eventually they did.

His essay, The American Scholar, should be mandatory reading for anyone out there finding their own voice in the strange state of American arts and letters today.

Emerson praises the quiet, truth-seeking scholar who toils privately and obscurely. One must forego "display and immediate fame," remain ignorant about the popular topics of the day, endure poverty and solitude and the disdain of more fashionable thinkers, in order to slowly find the truth.

The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances. He plies the slow, unhonored, and unpaid task of observation. Flamsteed and Herschel, in their glazed observatories, may catalogue the stars with the praise of all men, and the results being splendid and useful, honor is sure.
But he, in his private observatory, cataloguing obscure and nebulous stars of the human mind, which as yet no man has thought of as such—watching days and months sometimes for a few facts; correcting still his old records; must relinquish display and immediate fame.
In the long period of his preparation he must betray often an ignorance and shiftlessness in popular arts, incurring the disdain of the able who shoulder him aside.
Long he must stammer in his speech; often forego the living for the dead. Worse yet, he must accept—how often!—poverty and solitude.

And for what? Why bother with these hardships?

For the intrinsic value of exercising the highest functions of one's nature.

For the ease and pleasure of treading the old road, accepting the fashions, the education, the religion of society, he takes the cross of making his own, and, of course, the self-accusation, the faint heart, the frequent uncertainty and loss of time, which are the nettles and tangling vines in the way of the self-relying and self-directed; and the state of virtual hostility in which he seems to stand to society, and especially to educated society.
For all this loss and scorn, what offset? He is to find consolation in exercising the highest functions of human nature. He is one who raises himself from private considerations and breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts.
He is the world’s eye. He is the world’s heart. He is to resist the vulgar prosperity that retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic sentiments, noble biographies, melodious verse, and the conclusions of history.”

How the NFT Boom Was Created by the Securities and Exchange Commission

I talked with Richard Craib on the Other Life podcast about finance and truth, how to raise money for crazy ideas, how to persist on crazy ideas, and how to overthrow the Elite Gerontocracy.

He advanced an interesting theory I’d never quite heard before. Read in the context of our longer conversation about Intergenerational Warfare, NFTs are a form of k-war by the SEC gerontocrats to waste the minds of young people.

The brightest Computer Science student I know did an NFT. It took him five days. He sold $3 million worth of it. Turned it all into fiat. That's the thing he's doing.
This is the kind of guy who can build a bank, or a stock market, or a hedge fund. But that stuff is illegal. The SEC will go after that. At the moment, the SEC isn't going after art. Everybody's forced to make art and pretend it's an interesting piece of technology, but it isn't, and the NFTs are not going to take over the big banks. That's a distortion created by the SEC. The SEC is responsible for the NFT boom, because they banned productive activity by young people.

Listen to the whole conversation. You really should, it was great.


The Divorce Revolution: How a Social Tragedy Became a Personal Preference

In case you missed it, I published a short research essay on how divorce came to be normalized. Most people in the civilized world, for most of history, believed that divorce harms children. Today, many believe divorce is good for children. How did this happen and what's the truth of the matter? This is a sad but fascinating tale of academic fashions, hidden quantitative dynamics, & mass psycho-social displacements.

Read the whole essay here.


The Light of Indifference

Ireland Overnight by Claude Buckle, 1950
"We must be indifferent to good and evil, really indifferent; that is to say, we must turn the light of attention equally on each of them. Then the good will triumph by an automatic phenomenon." —Simone Weil

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