In this newsletter, I share what I'm reading and watching during the week. I may also touch on current events. I'll try to show how the books, videos, and events tie in with ideas in the Bene Homini space.
I missed last week's newsletter because I was under the weather. This week's newsletter will be a bit shorter for the same reason, but I should be back in full form next week.
In this newsletter, I cover one news item and three videos:
- The Collapse of FTX
- Being an atheist doesn't necessarily mean you're rational
- What Happens When Economics Doesn't Reflect the Real World?
- Is Web3 bullshit?
In the News
The Collapse of FTX
FTX collapsed after Molly White gave her presentation in one of this week's YouTube videos ("Is Web3 bullshit?" below), but there's no causal connection.
Emily Parker wrote an insightful opinion piece for CNN. The collapse of FTX reinforces the idea that cryptocurrency and the blockchain are tools for quasi-criminal activities. They are a siren song to anyone wanting to escape the current economic system, but they don't offer any of the protections that are built into current regulations.
I have one quibble: Emily describes social media as a leaderless and decentralized technology but then talks about Twitter with an owner as if it were part of decentralized social media. Twitter isn't part of the decentralized social media. It's part of centralized social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and others.
There's also the assumption that businesses built on top of decentralized technologies must be decentralized. But that isn't true either. For example, even though email is a decentralized technology, Google has a large share of email addresses. Google and other large email providers have made it difficult to run your email server in the name of fighting spam.
One of the problems with FTX was that it created an FTX-centered cryptocurrency that ended up being concentrated in FTX-related businesses. Decentralization must be up and down the entire vertical to develop resilience.
YouTube Videos I've Enjoyed
Being an atheist doesn't necessarily mean you're rational.
Potholer54 has been around for a while. His videos are often sarcastic and sometimes crude, but I haven't found them wrong yet. I wouldn't say I like the tone, but I like the message.
This video makes a good point that just because we might have rejected religion doesn't make us rational. People like to believe in something. I wonder if some of this is because we want the world to be better. We want cures to be as simple as getting the right crystal rather than paying millions of dollars for the proper treatment, at least in the United States.
What Happens When Economics Doesn't Reflect the Real World?
Anwar Shaikh offers a critique of orthodox economic theory. This reminds me of some of David Graeber's comments in Debt: The First 5,000 Years regarding the stories that economists tell. However, rather than relying on thought experiments that engage with a Platonic ideal, Anwar describes going back to first principles and recognizing the fuzziness of reality. From that, he's able to reproduce many of the macro behaviors that we see in international trade.
The power of working from first principles is to get ideas about how and why things might be correlated. Of course, measuring the correlation doesn't tell us which causes which. But by developing a theory that results in the correlation, we better understand how and what to test to understand the correlation better.
The website https://www.correlated.org has a different correlation each day. There's no apparent reason why things should be correlated. F
For example, of those surveyed, 45% like radishes. But among those surveyed who also said they had a below-average typing speed, 65% like radishes. So what is it about typing quickly that makes people dislike radishes? Does eating radishes make people slow down their typing? Or is there some hidden influence that controls both?
Without a clear theory about how things relate, we're left having to construct various experiments to cover all possible options without any way to rank them from most useful to least useful.
Returning to Anwar's topic, it's not enough to find correlations or general rules that seem to work. Instead, we need to understand what's happening beneath the surface because that can hint at other relationships.
Is Web3 bullshit?
Molly White has been writing about the Crypto and Web3 scene for a while. Her approach reminds me of people who want to believe something is true but also want it to be accurate and are disappointed when it's not (rather than blindly believing something).
She's calling out the near-criminal culture around cryptocurrency-based businesses. She's trying to warn people away from trusting companies that don't have a fiduciary responsibility. Until we can regulate these companies, they will be no better than the markets before the SEC.
We might not be able to keep these companies from forming or advertising. Still, we can always try to dampen any enthusiasm, even if it's just shrugging and refusing to carry on the conversation. That might have more impact than trying to convince someone that they're wrong and we're right.
That's it for this week. Check back next week to see what I dig up over the next few days!
If you have a favorite book or video that you'd like me to see, reply to this email and let me know about it.