Paul Dedalus

Levels of Wealth

Class 1 - You no longer pay attention to the price of groceries

Class 2 - You no longer pay attention to the price of meals at a restaurant

Class 3 - You always fly business class

Class 4 - You use three or more homes.

Class 5 - You have a personal chef and other full time help

Class 6 - You bring your friends on vacation and pay for everything

Class 7 - You fly charter jets

Class 8 - You own your own jet

Class 9 You feel everything is free

via Kevin Kelly

Best Articles of 2023

Day in the Life Vloggers

This genre of video is popular. You used to need to be a child star to be a famous child, now you just need to record your life and put it online. The most watched ones have excellent production quality.

It’s very apsirational content. People work out, eat healthy. People show off their studying. Most of the creators are students. The primary audience for these videos seems to be young people so seeing other students is relatable to them. It’s a lifestyle with nice aesthetics. But do they really need degrees? Some of them must be earning a decent amount of money. More than a typical student who works at Starbucks. But if they dropped out there would be no content for the videos.

Maybe the best self help advice is to start vlogging? People aren’t going to make a video of themselves lying on the couch watching TV. It forces you to get out there and do things. Make healthy choices. Most students should try making these videos. It’s worth seeing if you’re good or not because the payoff is so high.

How Have You Become More Hard-Working?

Via ACX, people respond to the question: how have you become more hard-working?

A lot of environmental answers, switching to a job that is more meaningful to them:

I like making my environment hyper-comfy. I do better work in my pyjamas, on my laptop in bed, with a mug of coffee in hand. I also do great work curled up under a tree in the park with some cake. This is totally the opposite of what I’ve heard from other people - that putting on a suit and going into the office helps them. But for me, it’s like anything my brain categorises as “work” is aversive and I don’t want to do it, but anything my brain categorises as “not work” is fun and easy.

I’ve found that the pretty standard nerd motivations work well: liking my coworkers, interesting large-scale puzzles with both learning and teaching opportunities, and product or results that I can convince myself are worth pursuing.

Another common answer is drugs like Adderall. These cognitive enhancers have changed the professional world and remain underdiscussed.

A few vague answers about productivity books and self work. I am skeptical that these sorts of tools are able to change people. Productivity books and videos are extremely popular but if they worked would obsolete themselves. You would read one and never need to think about the subject again. And yet people keep returning to them.

Another issue is that if people consume productivity content over multiple years then it becomes difficult to separate the causational effect of them from the natural changes of ageing.

Nate Silver on the Economy

Interesting post by Nate Silver on the state of the economy, and why consumers feel negatively about it while economists say the numbers are fine. Silver says that not only has inflation affected consumers, but points out that companies have gotten smarter about price discrimination and getting customers to buy more expensive products. He cites McDonald’s as an example of a business that has gotten a lot of data from its app & delivery orders about customer buying habits. They are able to use this data to get people to pay more.

In a recent podcast appearance, something that was noted by the Collisons is that a lot of these old businesses are getting pretty smart when it comes to technology. It might have taken them a while to catch up, but now they have employees who are aware of the opportunities and know that competitors will take over if they don’t adapt.

Despacio Sound System

One of the coolest pieces of tech from the recent past. “[Despacio] is built up and arranged as seven three meter tall stacks of amplifiers and speaker cabinets surrounding a dance floor that is roughly 22 meters across.” The list of places it has been deployed is very short.

The audiophile market is limited, with most people content to buy things from the store. It’s cool to see a large scale system like this made by people who are passsionate about sound.

John and Patrick Collison Interviewed by Patrick O'Shaughnessy

Interesting points from the podcast.

  • Magnus Carlsen knows the most chess trivia:

    John: It’s funny, I remember Tyler Cowen commenting about Magnus Carlsen that he entered some chess trivia contest that was just like literally like chess trivia and won it. He knew the most chess trivia out of anyone who was in this contest. And that’s not a coincidence, I think, that the world’s #1 player has also studied the most about all the chess history, extremely knowledgeable on that. I don’t know if we’d win the business trivia, but I think we just have a respectable showing because you’d have to understand what makes Apple versus Amazon.

  • Stripe make things for small business and the Collisons are surprised that these tools are also eagerly adopted by huge companies. The people who work there have limited time and also prefer fast no-code solutions for problems.

  • We don’t have good foundations of a theory of software engineering which makes it difficult, which is an opportunity for Stripe.

    Patrick C: If the convertibility or elasticity between dollars and good software was straightforward, then the opportunity for startups in generally and Stripe in particular would be way more limited than it is, and that lots of companies can afford to spend way more on building good financial infrastructure than we can.

    John: This is the famous Buffett with a billion dollars, it is the billion dollars test, she talks about the test of a good industry is one where, imagine some rich guy gave his son $1 billion dollars to go blow on building a company in this industry. There are lots of places like real estate or whatever, where you can actually have a pretty good swing at it and they will make life harder for you.

    Whereas I think there’s lots of people who have tried to put $1 billion dollars competing in this or other software industries, and it’s really hard to just turn a billion dollars into high quality software. It’s just actually U.S. government. To that point, I think we’ve probably learned as much from, because software, I don’t want to say uniquely because I don’t know enough about other sectors, but because let’s say at least software to this intersection of creative work and mechanical industrial work.

  • John explains the incentive problem with caring a lot about the user experience:

    If Apple sent you a poorly designed invitation to something, you would still go because the overall halo of that credibility that they’ve accrued over multiple decades will carry them through even a single poorly executed thing. But that means that the local incentives to care are actually not that strong. This collective action is probably goods problem within the company where you can benefit from everybody else’s work.

    And so I think the aggregate long-term returns of caring a lot are super high, but the individual local returns are low and that creates this collective action problem. Most companies I think failed to solve it. And I don’t particularly credit us. I think this is deeply embodied by a very large fraction of the first 100 people at Stripe but it became this thing with a tremendous amount of momentum and endurance. And people at Stripe today are still maniacal about padding issues and spacing issues and consistency issues. We use this word over here, but that word over there, it adds up.

  • Patrick C answers a question about the kindest thing anyone’s ever done for him. O’Shaughnessy explains the common responses:

    The 2 major ones are this one of someone noticed something about me and did something customized and shaped me in a certain way or bet on me when they didn’t need to. In some ways, the same thing. It just comes up over and over again. I hope more and more people do that for others.

Tennis Champions and Programmer Champions

Tennis players want to win. Everyone knows who the winner is. Of a match, tournament, or the world’s greatest. The existence of these titles and all that comes with them is very motivating. As a result, people train from a young age to be the best.

Programmers don’t have that sort of incentive to achieve greatness. There is no way to judge the greatest programmer. On average, the better programmers will find better jobs but the best programmer on a team won’t get that much of a wage premium. So people often don’t really try that hard. They put in a medium amount of effort.

The average programmer makes much more than almost all tennis players and they don’t even have to try that hard. But they don’t get to win. And they don’t get the rewards either.

Mary Gaitskill on the Despair of the Young

Mary Gaitskill writes about today’s youth from her position as an educator. She writes about the small classes she had where writing students share their stores. What sort of material they want to write about. What’s changed over the decades and what hasn’t.

Her Substack is often about an older person trying to figure out new trends. It’s redundant if you’ve been following the trends yourself but she’s a good writer so it doesn’t really matter.

I thought they were disconnected from their own bodies because so much social life had migrated away into the digital ether.


Tyler Cowen’s new book GOAT: Who is the Greatest Economist of all Time and Why Does it Matter? comes in a chatbot version. Interesting piece of tech. Very accessible, you could do a similar thing yourself with any book but this is much easier.

Is it the future of books? It requires people to enter and come up with prompts themselves. This is harder than mindlessly scrolling through a feed or even reading a traditional text front to back. It requires more attention. Maybe forcing you to think of questions makes it a better tool for learning and retention. But a lot of people are just looking for entertainment, even in intellectual pursuits. As much as AI is great, I’m not sure chatbots are the future.

One of the problems with normal GPT is that it’s very diplomatic. It gives you generic answers. EconGOAT gives you interesting answers created with Tyler Cowen’s opinions. It’s more fun.

To create the chatbot, Cowen first had to write the book. All that writing and editing just to have it reformulated by an AI. Would the chatbot have been the same if it had been trained on notes for the book instead of the final prose? Consuming a nonfiction book this way would miss the point. So writing will still be around, but maybe nonfiction books will become less important.

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