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Finance

Day 684 and Newcomb’s Paradox

I like mathematics. I’ve got very little talent for arithmetic but formal proofs were something I could feel my way through. I only learned this by failing regular calculus so badly and getting rescued by my roommate who is the scion of a very important family in algebraic topology. Bet you didn’t know that was a thing did you? He showed me that mathematics isn’t about numbers at all but about the logic of the universe. Also he kept me from flunking out. Thanks Tom!

I know the above sounds silly, but in academic circles math is one of those “purest” of institutions where cognitive processing power matters a lot and absolutely nothing else. They are some of the most deeply impractical and removed from reality types of humans you will ever meet.

I’m autistic enough that I found the company of this type of human deeply comforting as they comforted me though my shame based need desire to be normal. Literally no one will make you feel more normal than someone that works in formal logic and it’s adjacent philosophy of decision theory. I bet a lot lot of pretty girls with daddy issues have found this to be true if the LessWrong community is to be believed.

Because of how close I was to my roommate (and still an even though we don’t see each other enough) I got to spend time with a lot of utterly bizarre math people. And it really runs the gamut from those who are functionally pirates who can barely feed themselves to the founders of Renaissance Capital. They are a good time generally speaking. Extremely chaotic people who drink thousand dollar bottles of champagne from solo cups while discussing science fiction are my definition of a good hang.

But they are not what you’d call standard issue humans. If you’d like to know exactly how, ask them to explain how being three standard deviations from the mean has affected them and don’t interrupt them for thirty minutes. I am an outlier in many ways. But I don’t hold a candle to some of the folks I got to meet.

The reason I titled this post Newcomb’s Paradox is because it is thanks to early exposure to mathematics that I got to explore the complete irrationality of rationalism. Newcomb’s Paradox in its simplest format tells us that in an irrational system it is not rational to behave rationally. It is a paradox because this is both true and not true.

If you have some common sense you are not immediately knocked on your ass by this revelation but it turns out to be so unnerving. Unfortunately for some folks at the edge, which is most folks who are mathematicians, it might also break their brain. Effective altruism is now being blamed for its adjacency to the entire Sam Bankman Fried committed fraud at FTX scandal because they took the paradox entirely too literally and not at all seriously.

And given the dangers that can come from extremes perhaps more of us should be spending time with mathematicians. Math pirates when combined with high finance and potent philosophies might need tempering by those of us only two standard deviations out.

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Finance Internet Culture

Day 678 and Winging It

I went for a haircut today. I’d been riding a haircut since May so it was a little embarrassing. I’d let it go from princess to dirty hippie.

Joking with the hairstylist a bit about being a bit weird we ended up commiserating over how much we enjoyed Twitter. She agreed that Twitter always felt like it was more real. Like people let it all hang out. And recently we all collectively realized that everyone is just winging it.

Nevertheless it can still be kind of a shock when it goes from “oh anyone can become one someone with hard work” to “oh fuck everyone is a fraud.”

I am I’ll admit a little shook about Sam Bankman Fried. I’ve got minimal exposure but I have interests that have been funded by funds that do. And that is really distressing to me. It always feels like at the center of the bullshit in this industry lurks some traditional finance fuckers not doing their math. And I do admit that chaps my ass. Sets us all back.

I do think plenty of the world is just winging it with a good faith and open heart. But for the sliver of sociopaths who know enough about governance and fiduciary duty and still decides that nah I’ll mix up some assets and ownership. Fuck you that’s regular old fraud and it sucks.

And what’s worse is you bring this on to our house. The people who do want to build a Plan B and who sincerely believe that a fairer more open accessible financial system is a global good. The people with shitty passports and communist governments actually need access but go ahead and you do some light self dealing. This isn’t important enough to you. Cool. Whatever. Nothing was riding on this.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 677 and Bad Moon Rising

I got woken up at around 430am this morning by my husband. Now he typically wakes up earlier than me but rarely does he rise before 5am. He got out of bed and I heard one of our doors opening. A few minutes later he was back in bed and I drifted back to sleep.

It turns out he was getting up to see if the lunar eclipse was visible. Much of Southwest Montana got blanketed in a significant snowstorm, so alas cloud cover prevented him from glimpsing the eclipse with the naked eye. The blood moon was hidden behind a white out.

The eclipse was soon forgotten in the excitement of the storm. The snow was so powder fine we immediately suited up to do the adult version of playing outside. We had our first opportunity to hook up the snow blower attachment to our tractor to plow out our very long drive away. I took dozens of videos and Alex absolutely wrecked me by blowing a bunch of snow at me. We captured the comedy on the security camera and it made for a good laugh.

But the day unraveled almost immediately. The blood moon began to feel a bit like a bad moon rising. News of crypto exchange FTX getting “acquired” by Binance after 48 hours of sniping between CZ and Sam Bankman Fried. It’s a complicated story but it basically amounts to a bank run. Crypto was having a JP Morgan moment that appeared to have been manifested as some kind of grudge match on Twitter. The financial markets largely seemed like they didn’t care.

But crypto isn’t even the big story of the day. It’s Election Day in America where the midterms have been hyped up into an existential crisis. Which seems like a stupid thing to do when you are bound to lose just based on past election history (the party is in power tends to lose the midterms) but whatever everything in American life is existential now.

I’ve been on a doomer beat for sometime. Not that I think everything is necessarily getting worse but rather a series of macro level trends are headed in the wrong direction. I’d like to continue to live a nice life. I see the bad moon rising. And I made a set of life choices to get my family to Montana. I’ve got a serious of predictions about what it might take to thrive in harder times. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little bit smug about having beat the rush. So stay strapped out there my friends.

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Internet Culture Startups

Day 509 and History Lesson

I’ve been working on a talk for Coindesk’s Consensus in June. I’m doing a talk for their Big Ideas stage that Alex cleverly named the InDAOstrial Revolution. I’m pretty excited about the topic as it’s science fiction & finance history and social organization. It’s basically all my favorites. A

The invention of corporations was a transformative innovation for human organizing, driving the growth of the industrial revolution. Can DAOs drive an equally explosive innovation cycle? Decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, offer us a shift towards open and inclusionary entities for marshaling resources and energy. This session dives into their potential futures, including open web public goods, the end of doomer capitalism, techno-optimism collectives, and the possibility of a networked nation state. Come for the sci-fi vibes, stay for the boomer neoliberal skepticism and get a pleasant dose of economic history in the process.

I’ve been doing a little bit of deep diving into the history of the corporation and it’s role in American history in particular. And when I was procrastinating during my flu I watched Gilded Age. Just so you’ve got an idea of my mind set. And honestly it’s been a mind fuck.

I’m not a historian but I think you can make the case that America had corporate governance before we had a functional state or federal government. In fact, this History of the Corporate Form from Fordham Law showed me the wildest fact I’ve ever seen. In America the corporation came before the state.

Other notable “joint-stock” companies, such as the Virginia Company, helped expand British control of North America. In fact, the Virginia Company established the General Assembly, which was the first legislature in North America.

The idea that some monarchy set a corporate charter up to extract commodities and that corporate organization led to a three hundred year experiment in self governance is astonishing. You really never can tell about an event’s downstream ripples. Our entire political way of life was downstream of property rights.

Of course, the reason I point this out is that how we organize and govern our resources and at what scale is what defines history. The ability to trust your goals and your investment will be executed, even if you are not personal overseeing it, is as it turns out a key innovation catalyst for all other technologies. The more efficient we are at at marshaling and deploying resources the further we get as a civilization.

The case I would like to make is that DAOs could help us unlock more sophisticated financing that enables ever further scale and coordination. If the corporation created American, can the DAO led other new nation states?

I can imagine a network state made up of sub-DAOs that provide interlocking economies. Some DAOs are responsible for infrastructure. Others are for services. Maybe we share some key responsibilities across one oligopoly for key social services like health care. The more something needs scale to succeed the more large scale collaborative behavior gets rewarded. I don’t doubt we can create some truly dystopian shit but also maybe it finally gets us to Mars.

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Emotional Work Startups

Day 505 and Deadlines

I’m trying to stave off a cortisol spike that my body simply does not need. I’ve got a talk coming up for Consensus in June and I owe an editorial with my main thesis along with any visuals I may need for the talk due next week.

I know the area I plan to speak about quite well. It is titled the InDAOstrial Revolution and I plan to cover some far future possibilities for what the new organizational structure can bring. And I do mean far as I’ll talk about some radical ideas like data collectives for rare diseases and networked nation states. I’m really excited as I think decentralized autonomous organizations offer us a new path for how we can pool different kinds of resources. I think DAOs give humans a chance to build better bigger weirder things on totally radical timelines just like the advent of the corporation did before in the industrial revolution.

I’ve been watching Gilded Age as I’m a sucker for set pieces but also because I love stories of wealth and power and cultural mores being pushed. I think DAOs have the chance to do that for society and the family in a way that is just as unsettling and ultimately wealth creating as anything we saw in the Gilded Age. And the changes we see to cultural norms will be every bit as revolutionary as the ones we see with inventions or investments. When times change, we push all of the ideas we have about how to properly organize individuals and citizens with it.

What I’m saying is I’m obviously passionate about the topic and even when I’m home with the flu I’m thinking about ways to knit together different worlds and metaphors. I might not be the best expert on DAOs nor am I remotely close to being one of the earlier people to get into them, but I’m absolutely an informed and enthusiastic professional with the training to think about this holistically. So I’d listen to me if I had the chance.

Nevertheless I’m worried I’ll botch the talk. My mind wants to worry I’ve run out of time to do a good job (I obviously haven’t) and that even if I put in a lot of hours it could have been more. I could have started sooner.

But honestly I’ve got to let that self defeating talk go. What I bring will be enough. And a deadline looming even with a sickness is no reason to worry when you know and love a topic well. So I’ll trust myself to bring you something good.

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Internet Culture Startups

Day 461 and Remora

I saw a headline about how Trump’s social media site is failing. I’ve got no idea if that’s true but the media likes the story. This is playing out in the context of Elon Musk using corporate governance as a public relations stunt with his new Twitter board seat. Everyone wants to be an attention grabbing technology company even former presidents and aerospace billionaires. Because even the stupid stunt stuff in tech can be world changing.

I’m at the big Bitcoin conference in Miami. It’s a lot but it’s not fundamentally any gaudier than any other industry event I’ve attended in twenty years being adjacent to startups. Before my current stint as an investor I worked in fashion and beauty so I’ve seen a lot of excess. M I was raised in a boom time Web1 startup family. But also my family went bankrupt. I’ve seen the dark sides. I still work in tech. Like Trump and Elon I too just want a piece of the action.

It’s because startups change the world. Even stupid weird dopey absolutely cult adjacent shit can and does change the world. All these prestige television takes on frauds and crashes and the cult of personality nonsense miss that sometimes those freaks actually do it. Sometimes they change the world. Ok most of the time they don’t. See the current unraveling of Fast. 99% of the time shit goes bad. But to have even a little bit of the action of the 1%. It’s fucking dazzling. It’s worth being adjacent to all the bullshit.

I hold in high esteem the folks who work at the flameouts. Anyone who takes a chance and has it go bad has my admiration. I’ve been one of them. I’ve failed a lot. I’m lucky I don’t get punished for it. At least not much. I’ll never know how much shit like my gender or my ridiculous social media personality factor into that shit. Because I am always allowed to get right back into the action and make shit. Making shit is our currency.

I think this is why even the most powerful people gravitate towards startups. You actually get to make shit. At the earliest stages you get to be personally responsible for so much. Your actions have meaning. You contribute. You know how rare that feeling of community and camaraderie is in peacetime?

It’s a commodity so precious we let ourselves be led by girl bosses and fast talking celebrity thought leader venture capitalists. We tolerate a lot of assholes and psychopaths so we can be in a community of people that make things. It’s the American dream and the most basic human need all rolled up into one.

That ought to give you a sense of the cultural power and vitality of startups. That’s loyalty on par with religion. That’s move history big dick energy. And I think some people hate it I find the hate inscrutable but I’m sure it’s probably legible to those who feel left outside.

So yes boom time early energy big money hanger on remoras are part of any thriving ecosystem. And as far as I can tell Bitcoin has the manna to go the distance. Because everyone wants a piece of the action.

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Internet Culture Medical Startups

Day 415 and Accessibility

I don’t think of myself as disabled or requiring special accommodations, though I have a well controlled medical condition that swells my spinal cord called ankylosing spondylitis. But for the first time since my diagnosis I really felt like I was handicapped. And I am feeling so much sadness over the idea that I might genuinely be disabled.

I’m attending ETHDenver and it’s wildly over capacity. No consideration has been given to any kind of basic accessibility. I didn’t think it would effect me though till I got here. I can walk without a mobility aid and if you met me you’d never know I have an issue. But I can’t stand in line on cold concrete for two hours. It turns out I would need a wheelchair for that kind of activity. And even if I had a wheelchair the first two days were in the cold and snow so I couldn’t have wheeled over or around the slush and water.

So I have only attended private parties and small events and group outings. This is great for me as I’m a well networked established member of the startup ecosystem. I’ve got a popular Twitter handle and can easily reach out to people. But I’m noticing just how much a bit of inaccessibility will gatekeep the crypto and web3 community. If you don’t have my heaps of privilege there is no way you could navigate this conference.

And we really need web3 to be welcoming and accessible. To build a better future with infrastructure and economies we all collectively own and benefit from we need an order of magnitude more people participating. But if no one can get in and experience things first hand than web3 will just be a repeat of the oligarchy of web2. It’s honestly my worst fear for crypto. We will accidentally exclude the people who will benefit the most from our innovations.

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Finance Internet Culture Startups

Day 414 and Empire’s End

Being at a crypto convention in 2022 is something else. It’s full jubilee at the end of the world shit. You are surrounded by millennials and gen-zers who know in their gut that their future has been stolen from them. And instead of being pissed they decided to build. And they decided to gamble. And it’s not clear which one is which sometimes.

You’d be forgiven being a nihilist right now. Capitalism looks like an excuse for the oligarchs to consolidate state and private power to enrich themselves. Everyone is soaking in student debt and working shitty interchangeable jobs for corporations owned by private equity. No one can afford a house. No one is stable enough for a marriage and children. Our fucking parents won’t retire and won’t listen to reason when we say their neighborhood needs more housing density.

But if you are in crypto the future looks pretty rosy. You are discussing real estate for your second home and the tax advantages of different jurisdictions. Swapping stories about your friend who accidentally didn’t set up estate planning and his company had a big exit and now he’s got to pay full rate to some expensive Democratic run city and state. If you are at the nice cocktail parties you are building the future and the venture capital is flowing and it’s possible that this is the next big wave of innovation. It’s time to fuck around and find out.

But not everyone in crypto is part of the smart money. Not everyone has institutional backing and the professionalization of long time startup operators coming to build real value. Right right below that success is a teeming horde of brutalized and completely marginalized people who are praying they hit it big on some new coin or hot new NFT project. They saw Bitcoin and then Ethereum go to the moon. So now they are praying to the full moon and hoping they ape into the next big thing.

But what’s scarier is that the prevailing attitude is who cares if it’s risky because no one believes they are going to have a future anyway so you might as well gamble. They might get lucky and build the next Google if they join the right DAO and buidl. Yes I typed buidl. I’m a degen too. I’m a doomer that isn’t convinced the empire is going to hold for much longer. And if I’m going to watch it all crash down I want to be a part of building something better for all of us. Maybe we get lucky and innovative faster than the apocalypse. To be fair, humanity always has in the past.

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Internet Culture Startups

Day 413 and Don’t Believe the Hypebeast

My early twenties were heavily influenced by streetwear and sneakerhead culture. I lived in the Lower East side and hung out with all the kids who would go on to dominate what is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

It feels weird listing out my bonafides as it’s pretty name drop-y but at the time it was like yeah my friends at Alife or High Snobiety or even god forbid Supreme meant basically nothing. I was in the absolute epicenter of hypebeast mania.

So I’ve got a gut sense of what a genuine upswell of obsession looks like. The kind of irrational social capital driven cool mania of the sneakerhead world has a specific vibe to it. Almost illegible to anyone outside. But to the in group? It’s powerful chaos magic binding geas shit.

That’s what EthDenver felt like today. A kind of disorganized overflow of true believers converging into a space about a quarter of the size required. It’s like if TechCrunch disrupt accidentally got overrun by the entire readership of HypeBeast. Honestly it kinda sucks.

You’ve got a number of accomplished teams and founders and investors all trying to figure out how to navigate long lines and complete chaos with no clear programming goal or event schedule. And then you’ve got thousands and thousands of NFT weirdos just shilling and excited and ebullient about stuff they freely admit they don’t technically understand. It’s going to be a wild ride for crypto.

Categories
Startups

Day 412 and Status Anxiety

I’m attending Ethereum Denver through the weekend. If you aren’t familiar it’s a fairly substantial crypto conference with wide appeal and good credibility across the entire ecosystem. I don’t have any special hookups nor do I have a careful plan of attack. It’s my first time attending a large industry event as an investor.

Truthfully I’m incredibly nervous. I’ve never been on this side of the table before. I’ve always attended events as a founder. Which is an entirely different mix of status and social positioning from a venture capitalist. Founders are the cool ones. The top of the social hierarchy. It’s the hardest job in the business and in exchange we revere them as a kind of messianic class. We all place our belief in the people who start building from nothing. Even if you haven’t yet had a big success it’s the act of beginning that has the potency. Anyone who has the guts and steel to try to make something new is part of that rarified class.

So while I ostensibly have more power than I’ve ever had in my entire career, I also feel a slight sense of social anxiety. This is the first time I’ve not been in the anointed. So in a very real sense I’m walking in without any of the power that I’ve had before. And I’m a little scared.

Will people think I’m cool? Will I get invited to go to the right parties? Will the right people want to talk to me? Will I look good enough? Will I be able to hold my own such that I can capture the attention of other peers?

I’m used to needing to network hard to find the money. I’d roll into events with my team squashed into one room and we’d plan out every single minute to maximize our budget. Now I’m the one teams will be searching for pitch.

It’s this strange blend of gaining new status but missing the old place and position in a culture that has me a little nervous. So if you find me at the conference know that if you are scared to strike up a conversation you are not alone. We are all looking to find each other and connect.