The Answer is Always Individualism

I just saw an article by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen called "It's Time to Build."

I'm both encouraged and troubled by it.

I'm encouraged to see anything promoting and celebrating human achievement, instead of just shitting on wealth and promoting envy.

I'm troubled because it begins with the premise that "We" have failed to do really big giant things. It's a small step from "We need to build bold things" to a technocracy where everyone is forced to put their resources to uses dictated by scientistic managers with grand plans.

I'm troubled because Silicon Valley sometimes seems to long for any kind of "Big" effort, no matter how much of a boondoggle, or whether it's backed by force or funded against citizens will via taxation.

It mentions how "We" need to overcome regulatory capture. Well that only happens if the state shrinks, and big, unified, central visions imposed on the populace die with it. You can't reduce capture and also increase state-run Hoover Dam type projects. Silicon Valley is naive about Public Choice Theory and the way real-world political incentives play out predictably.

I am ALL for big, massive, bold visions.

I want to terraform other planets. I want flying personal vehicles. I want limitless energy. But I know that such visions are only beneficial and not dystopian in a world where individual freedom trumps the desires of any small group of people. Those efforts and advances will only be wonderful if visionaries can persuade individuals to embrace and engage them voluntarily, and part with their resources to fund them without threat of force or artificial incentive.

Absent freedom, none of these big bold builder visions are inherently good and can quickly turn evil.

Some Silicon Valley types seem to want a world of endless tech innovation whether the market demands it or not and whether individuals choose it or not. A world controlled by the nerds. I am not accusing Andreessen of promoting this. But I do see an easy shift from his progress promotion to progress coercion, animated by the collectivist spirit of the age.

Anti-Silicon Valley types seem to want to steal all the money from the successful and prohibit people from progress. A self-defeating and soul-sick approach.

While I agree that anti-progress is awful, pro-"big ambitious projects" is not by itself a less scary ideology. Only individual freedom is. Progress nested in choice.

I once wrote about how Virginia Postrel's Stasist vs Dynamist dichotomy (progress vs. tradition) is usefully paired with Thomas Sowell's Constrained vs. Unconstrained vision (reality vs. utopia). I think it's very applicable here.

Dynamism is only a force for good when nested in a constrained vision. Otherwise it becomes technocracy.

Article here. Chart below.

Being Better Than Your Good Name

I've always enjoyed playing dumb.

Not to a great degree, or to the point of deceit, but I usually prefer to be underestimated. Not so much for a calculated, strategic reason. More because I get personal entertainment and delight out of it.

It's not too hard for my personality. I'm pretty exuberant and cheerful. When I enter a new scene, I often initiate chipper conversation with people and tell dumb jokes. This tends to convince more the serious-minded that I am a happy-go-lucky guy without a ton of depth of knowledge. I don't claim that I do have a ton of depth of knowledge, but I am often in the position of knowing more than people around me assume.

I'm not sure why this entertains me. I'm not trying to toy with people, but something about having knowledge or ability unknown to anyone but me gets me excited. I like stories of hidden sages dressed as fools. While I don't think I am a sage nor do I come off as a fool, something about the disparity between reputation and reality is thrilling.

Unless that disparity goes the other way. I can "fake it till I make it" a little, and sometimes some projection or bluffing can be useful as a bridge from where you are now to where you think you can go if people give you a chance. But for the most part, having a reputation that's better than I am isn't attractive to me. Those rare occasions where I've been mistaken for an expert on something I'm not, I have quickly tried to turn things towards an area I know better and emphatically insist I'm not an expert to the point of downplaying what I do know.

I guess I don't like the idea of surprising people with a reputation-reality deficit. I prefer sneakily knowing more than they'll ever realize. Something about it makes me feel empowered.

(Of course now having claimed to enjoy playing dumb, you are prone to assume maybe I know some secret wisdom, or that I'm making it all up so that you will think I have secret wisdom. Now I'm confusing myself.)

Inner Game of Startups #34

The newest issue is here.

Boredom in a Land of Plenty

It's a strange time to be bored.

The idea seems impossible when you consider the infinite access to ideas and information, entertainment and project, people and products we now enjoy. But boredom is still very real.

My kids get bored. I get bored. Everyone gets bored.

I suspect modern boredom isn't about a lack of things to do, but not finding interest in the things you're supposed to be doing, or wanting to do. Maybe guilt is the real cause of boredom.

You're supposed to want to do a certain range of things at certain times. Sometimes, those don't appeal. But when bored, it's rarely the case that you can think of absolutely nothing within your reach that would be unboring. More likely, you feel guilty that you aren't interested in what you think you should be. If you were a better person, you wouldn't be bored by X productive thing, so you pretend you're not bored by it and have internal tension.

I don't think escaping boredom is the highest good, but I don't think enduring boredom is noble either. You have an inner fire. Stuff that stokes it is worth pursuing. Sometimes you have to push through boredom to find something amazing, but often, boredom is a sign that you're not quite on track. Instead of feeling bad about it, listen to it.

It is perhaps true, as Chesterton said, that we aren't suffering for lack of wonders, but lack of wonder. But that doesn't mean you need to feel guilty for not being captivated by whatever you're doing. To enhance your sense of wonder, you can begin by listening to your lack of it and moving towards where you find it. Seek and cultivate wonder at the same time.

Money and Education – Free Both from the State!

Conversation I had recently on Daniel Prince's podcast.

Listen here.

No One Will Tell You

You will not be told the most important truths. Because no one can tell you. You have to discover them yourself from experience.

People can tell you ideas and information that may be useful. They can articulate versions of their truths. But the truths most important to your life can only be won through piecing together everything you experience, learning patterns, and seeing how they hold up and improve your life and thinking.

There's no shortcut or book of important truths you can quickly ingest. There's only living with curiosity, openness, and clear thinking.

When Hype Comes Back to Bite

Hype is a like a reputational check. And it will always eventually demand to get cashed.

It's not inherently bad. Just like borrowing money isn't inherently bad. But it's dangerous in exactly the same way. If you are on an upward trajectory and can use the capital now to get there faster and go higher, it makes sense, so long as where the debt gets you exceeds the principal and interest owed by the time it's due.

Hype is reputational debt. You're borrowing from your future success and using it in the present for a PR bump that you hope will help you generate and accelerate that success. Social capital is at risk. Every announcement of "big things coming" is a loan taken against your reputation and trajectory that must be paid back no later than the time you promised.

Even if good things come, if you hyped HUGE things, you'll be in reputational debt and have little social capital to work with. You can fail even by succeeding if your past self borrowed more future success than you achieved.

People are pretty gracious and forgiving. They'll let you go into hype bankruptcy once or twice and still give you chance, and even loan you some present rep on presumed future success again. But after two big hype bankruptcies, everyone will get really stingy with social capital and you'll be in reputational debt for a very long time, if not forever. (Think how potential customers or investors would respond to, "From the guy who brought you the Fyre Festival!")

Don't fear hype, or assume anyone who uses it is conning you. It's a tool. It's debt. If someone really is going great places, the earlier they hype it, the better off you are because you can see and get on board early for higher returns. But borrowing against a reputation is easier (at first) than delivering. So watch those who have at least some track record of underpromising and overdelivering. Be wary of those who have a history, even in small ways (like Tweeting, "DMs are open" then not responding to your DM) of failing to return social capital investment as promised.

And whenever possible, build up a big store of social capital by waiting to announce until you've already delivered, or letting your delivery do the announcing for you. Then, should you need to draw down some hype, people will gladly loan you their trust and attention.

Last Step Haiku

Innocence is lost

Now the veil has been lifted

Tyranny exposed

Isaac Morehouse

Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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All I’ve Got

Some days just getting out my daily blog post takes everything I've got.

Some days the universe is screaming with every bit of energy it has that a blog post is not in the cards today.

Those are the days when I hit publish and tell the universe who's boss.

Mass Manipulation Haiku

You're not controlled when

You think something false, but when

You think others do

Hype and Bullshit in Bitcoin

Another fun conversation with "The Four Numpties" about the world of Bitcoin.

Inner Game of Startups #36: Beware the Big-Ass Vision

The promise and pitfalls of mega-visions for an industry.

Read it and all issues here. Subscribers only.

The Miracle of Placebo

The Placebo Effect is the most promising area of medicine and one of the most neglected.

Placebos work consistently for some percentage of people, in every imaginable form of pretend therapy, pretend surgery, and pretend prescription. They are more reliably effective than most "real" treatments. Oh, for almost no cost and without the side effects.

Everyone takes the effect for granted, but rarely is it pursued beyond, "If you think you're being treated your condition improves."

Surely this evidence of the mind-body connection is the most important possible part of health! Understanding the effect, and how to improve and direct the mind to effect the body, should be the number one most fascinating and most researched part of medical science!

Instead, chemical combinations with much less reliable effect and with myriad unknown and deleterious unintended effects are studied ad nauseam, compared against placebo (which they usually fail to outperform), and then all the head-scratching is about why the chemical didn't work instead of why the placebo did.

The most fertile, broadly applicable, reliable, affordable, safe, and sophisticated form of treatment the world has ever encountered gets short shrift. It is one of the most fascinating mysteries, sure to lead down rabbit holes that alter and improve our understanding of the most fundamental aspects of reality, yet hardly any "experts" seems curious about it. (A decent definition of an "Expert" is someone who has killed their curiosity with credentials).

In fact, when a positive result is discovered to be caused by Placebo, it is treated as a lesser citizen. "Oh that's not legitimate, it was all only placebo effect." Only Placebo? Only an improvement in health brought about by belief? Only healing through mindset shift; ideas generating direct physical results?

The most present and accessible form of treatment resides in the mind of every individual. We have no idea how much it can do, how for it can go, and how we might be able to enhance the power of our minds to improve our bodies.

What could be more exciting to a health researcher or practitioner than that?

Isaac Morehouse

Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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