Medley 191: LEGOS, Autism, Startups, Airbnb, CRISPR, Speed...

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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Happy Monday, and Happy New Year!

I actually wrote an article for once! This one is on how your time based goals, and your productivity tools, might be hurting your results. From the article:

"If you can set annual goals and hit them on the expected timeline, youโ€™re not thinking big enough or you work in a factory."

That's all the new things this week, but look for an article later in the week on how I'm using Roam.

Alright, on to the Medley!

The World of Toys

๐Ÿ”ฅ LEGO blocks apparently have very low thermal conductivity, and they're obviously easy to build with, which could make them a great cheaper alternative to more expensive thermal insulators.

๐ŸŽฎ The original Super Mario Bros file was only 31kb... less than basically any single image you'd find online today. A new AAA game today can easily be 30gb, about 1,000,000 times as much data.

The World of Paul Graham

๐Ÿ‘จ I feel like I've been sharing most of Paul Graham's new stuff recently, and this week is no exception.

๐Ÿ“ I really enjoyed his piece on Having Kids. I love the idea of writing essays to think about what you want your kids to know. I've frequently written articles thinking about what I wish I'd known going into college, or high school, and this seems like a great future way to come up with and frame ideas.

๐Ÿค” He also had a good point about the Two Kinds of Moderate. If you're right in the middle on every issue, that's as unthoughtful as being purely liberal, conservative, libertarian. An accidental moderate, though, is someone who doesn't fit into any political group because they're really extreme in some areas, right in the middle on others, their beliefs "don't make sense" by traditional measures.

The World of College

๐Ÿ’ฐ There's some new research from the St. Louis fed suggesting the college wealth premium (not income premium) might be zero. Thanks to Tyler Cowen from Marginal Revolution for finding it, and sharing it here.

The World of Startups

๐Ÿ–ฅ Seed investors have been leaning more and more heavily towards enterprise startups over the last few years. They seem to be less interested in are hardware, fintech, and consumer mobile apps.

๐Ÿ’ธ Also bad news for startups, with the disaster of WeWork and the lingering question of Uber's profitability, investors are pressuring startups to cut back on all the freebies. To be fair, the free credits have gotten pretty ridiculous. Postmates giving you $100 in free food is nuts. I've loved living off free VC money as much as possible via these signup bonuses, but it can't last forever.

The World of Finance

๐Ÿก Airbnb supposedly started an internal hedge fund that was earning $5M per month(!!). If that's true, then a very significant portion of all of Airbnb's cashflow is coming from their internal fund as is much of their profit.

๐Ÿด There's a great series called "Things Fall Apart" on the Epsilon Theory blog. Part 3 makes an interesting point that "The greatest investment risk I must minimize is not something that has already been imagined. Itโ€™s not a recession or a Eurozone crisis or a trade war or a bear market. No, my greatest risk is a failure of imagination in understanding how the game might fundamentally change." The "Fourth Horseman" as they call it is entering into a hyperinflationary period, which would be especially damaging considering most people reading this have never seen particularly high inflation in their entire life, something I pointed out last week in the article on the "low inflation generation." So how do you hedge against inflation? Traditionally, gold and other commodities, but Bitcoin might not be a terrible alternative.

๐Ÿค“ Morgan Housel from Collaborative Fund shared an assorted list of ideas he believes most. Here are a few of my favorites from his list:

  • History is mostly the study of unprecedented events, ironically used as a map of the future.
  • Many failures can be traced to the pointless pursuit of arbitrary benchmarks.
  • Investing is a game of probabilities, and almost all probabilities are less than 100%.

The World of Genetics

๐Ÿ‘ถ The Chinese scientist who created the CRISPR babies got sentenced to 3 years in jail. Given that it was a secret trial and how much China has to gain from this research, though, I'm pretty skeptical he's actually going to jail. I suspect we'll see a lot more genetic engineering like this come out of China over the next decade. I suspect we'll also start to see a black medical tourism market for engineering your children pop up in China. If you haven't read Homo Deus, Harari gives a great outline of how that market could naturally evolve in a way that wouldn't feel morally abhorrent.

๐Ÿ™‡โ€โ™‚๏ธ Scott Alexander did a great writeup on Autism and Intelligence. It poses a very interesting question: since Autism genes typically seem to increase intelligence as well, why are most people with autism assessed to have below average intelligence?

The World of Speed

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ My father in law gave me a pair of these On Running Cloudflow shoes for Christmas. They're incredibly comfy and still provide a good road-feel despite having a bit of a heel. I'm noticing less knee pain from them compared to my Newton Gravity 7s so I really like them.

๐Ÿš“ Quick, what care do you think you're most likely to get a speeding ticket in? I bet you wouldn't have guessed a Subaru WRX.

๐Ÿ—ฃ Some languages are spoken faster than others, but despite that still convey information at around the same speed. Very cool analysis and graphs in this article.

End Note

As always, if you're enjoying the Medley, I'd love it if you shared it with a friend or two. You can send them here to sign up. I try to make it one of the best emails you get each week, and I hope you're enjoying it.

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And should you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way! I love finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.

Have a great week,

Nat

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