Categories
Finance Startups

Day 1147 and Balkan Crypto

I’m in the Balkans for a few weeks doing some scouting and visiting with friends and colleagues. The western Balkans including Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro are known for their occasionally colorful participation in cryptocurrencies.

The region has experienced currency volatility, struggles with central banking and even in Albania a civil war stemming from a financial crisis over government Ponzi schemes.

These negative experience with currency instability, government corruption and sociopolitical unrest has led to a desire to experiment with transparency and decentralization amongst the region’s youth.

The ecosystem is host to serious projects has a talented base of engineers. Ripple is experimenting with a national stable coin in Montenegro. Zuzalu, the two-month invite-only gathering that Ethereum blockchain co-founder Vitalik Buterin led in Montenegro has been a regional hub. And it has inspired a new grants program Zu- villages that strikes me as a cross between network state and a DAO with Gitcoin.

In an editorial in Bitcoin Magazine the founder of the Belgrade Bitcoin Hub summed up the “why”

As a result of years of unfulfilled promises from regional politicians, people of the Balkans are hard to convince about the long-term benefits that can be realized by adopting Bitcoin in one’s life. A low time preference way of life to most people in this region is associated with disappointment and the lowered standards of living that have happened many times before.

Plumski founder of the Belgrade Bitcoin Hub.

Categories
Community Startups

Day 1145 and Vitality

The most gratifying part of early stage startup investing is the vitality. When you are in the mindset of optimism, all things are possible.

I first met Isaiah Taylor about a year ago. We found each other on Twitter. I cold DM’s him with “you seem interesting.” We’d hop on the phone and go through what he was working on in long strategy talks.

I think in our first conversation we spent half an hour just discussing origin stories. We’d both had strongly American west families and we were neighbors in the upper Rocky Mountains. We shared a Christian faith. I liked his style.

Those early rambling sessions when a founder is discovering their market and their unique talents is a precious time. I knew I wanted to invest in him long before Valar Atomics had come into focus.

Ambition and vision are honed over time as you broaden your horizons. It’s the most fascinating tension. The bigger you dream the more you must see your path clearly and pursue it relentlessly. Vitality begins with knowing where to apply your will.

I feel the optimism that Isiah has brought. And I admire how he has taken it to a bigger community. Watching the El Segundo community self-mythologize in real time during this weekend hackathon has been an exercise in collective application of will. Like its cousin in techno-optimism e/acc , the American dynamism “new vitalism” egregore values building for the future.

@ADoricko and @isaiah_p_taylor opening up the Gundo Defense Tech Hackathon via Rasmus

Categories
Startups

Day 1125 and Planting Seeds

I like to get to know founders over time. It’s a canonical piece of advice passed down over venture lore that one should invest in lines not dots. Consider the messenger of course.

I’m sure to founders it can feel a bit self serving of investors to want to see a lot of traction before a commitment. That’s not what I’m talking about. I think as an investor, we have an obligation get to know a founder’s character and their approach to problem solving. Especially if you believe their opportunity to be enormous.

At the earliest stage our responsibility is to assess your capacity to overcome obstacles and to improve your skill sets to match. We need to know you will grow and flourish.

Nurturing a seed is the entire metaphor behind early stage investing. A seed round is such an optimistic name. If we must extend the metaphor that we are planting seeds then the work starts before anything goes in the ground. Good soil, good weather conditions, and the right timing matter a lot.

The anxiety inducing part of this is that my approach years I take time to cultivate potential founders for years. I never quite know when someone will go up for a fundraise. I have to wait and see.

But when it does happen. It’s such a miracle. No finer feeling in the world than having cultivated the right conditions for something to grow.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1119 and Capacity for Presence

I trust my ability to be present now. I wish I was less present in some ways. I’ve learned to be present to the ways of the internet in particular as part of my general capacity with the signs and signals of those who communicate with words. I try not to show up in person too much anymore except for my own neighbors.

My capacity to be present waxes and wanes with the attention that I give to the margin. And I like to be present for the weirdos. I am not as detailed as some with effortful thought pieces but I pay very close attention. I diligently note and revise bigger trends here in public. It’s not my job to endlessly footnote it for everyone. That’s thankfully now in the hands of artificial intelligence.

I trust that I notice things when they need to be noticed and that I will curb my attention away from those who do not use me well. I will so rarely take it personally when someone tells me I do not serve them. The favor is usually returned when I say a hard no but I rarely have to give it. The average isn’t that persistent.

I do not wish to be become significantly more scaled than I am now in terms of presence with people. I am picky and I cultivate my taste and I believe I’ve built trust with the people who intend to build things. I will continue to be as widely available to them as possible if they do even a modicum of homework. My experience is not free but I do not horde it.

I believe I’ve shown my capacity to pick not through momentum or hype but early presence. It’s a long road and I’ve got the patience to walk it for decades more.

I leave you with a thing I noticed today from someone who is very effortful and has been for much longer than me. How we distribute our attention matters even in the most intimate of settings.

Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter

Mary Oliver on Molly Malone Cook in “Our World via Maria Popova at Marginalia

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1113 and Sorry Can’t

I dislike days where I spend too much of my energy doing stuff as it prevents me from spending time synthesizing stuff.

Of course, and I hope this is obvious, the opposite problem is much worse. If you spend too much time synthesizing stuff then you run the risk that you don’t actually do stuff.

You’ve got to keep your skills sharp with new conditions on the ground but you have to intake as much information in your field as possible.

“Sorry I can’t” is a strong signal. It means you are engaged in the productive middle of focus. Family is a productive middle of focus. Your business is a productive middle of focus. Your friends is a productive middle focus.

Maybe you picked something to focus on that someone powerful wishes you didn’t. Maybe you sold your focus to someone else. Maybe you are on the clock to a wider goal. The calculation of how we do that is best left to market forces in my opinion.

I will redirect my attention for someone that asks and shows me the incentives. I think it’s a worthwhile balance. If I believe my focus being redirected can help someone else execute on taking action I’ll do so. That usually means saying to someone else “sorry I can’t”

Categories
Media Startups

Day 1110 and Somatic

I’m upset. I feel it in my body. Soma apparently means “body” in Latin, somatic is “of the body” so to have a response in your body is a somatic response. I’m having a somatic response.

I’ve been surprised at the emotional campaigns that have been waged against technology in the general, and artificial intelligence in the specific, as of late. But I am starting to feel the emotional weight of the collective fear and emotion in my own body. Futureshock is here and the fear mongers are here to tell you and I that we should be afraid.

This weekend there was op-ed was published in IEEE entitled Open Source Artificial Intelligence is Uniquely Dangerous.”

The o-ed was written by David Evan Harris who is a chancellor’s public scholar at UC Berkeley. He used to work a Meta on ethical AI. Now this not the opinion of IEEE which is calls itself “the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.”

You’d think that sort of mission would be a little more on board with new technologies. But maybe David is just an extreme voice. Op-Ed’s are meant to represent a variety of opinions after all.

But how should I feel about the benefits of technology when it’s presented to me like this? They used a skull to really get across the visceral fear. No friendly face to make a concession to our silly human anthropomorphic desires. Let’s scare the stupid hairless apes.

Don’t worry the government and regulations will save us from this psychedelic skull

I have an inherent skepticism when someone wants to sell me on the dangers of regular people having access to something new and potentially transformative. Why must we always default to the precautionary principle? Why is fear always our default?

I don’t want to let this sort of thing get to me. But I can see the narrative campaign being waged against artificial intelligence and the sheer volume and tenor of coverage leads me to believe that everyone is aware of its potential.

Claiming artificial intelligence is only for the knowledgeable few chosen by committee of expert sounds so sensible. But I think my body knows better. I should be upset by this.

Categories
Culture Media

Day 1102 and Culture Matters

They say you shouldn’t talk yourself out of success. “You don’t know until you try” is the mantra of mothers, personal trainers and enthusiastic internet friends.

“Don’t negotiate against yourself.” People fumble their own ball all the time. Watching men strike out with women is practically an entire genre of social media. Confidence is key and reality might reward you more than you would be inclined to reward yourself. Go for the girl!

But I don’t think I realized we could talk an entire culture out of success until recently. Which is on me. I’m well versed in propaganda and media, so I should have had the priors for this intuition but it didn’t seem so clear to me until recently that humans were being talked into failure to launch.

This article in the Financial Times asks if the West is talking itself into decline. And it’s a bit bleak.

Another interesting theory is that of economic historian Joel Mokyr, who argues in his 2016 book A Culture of Growth that it was broader cultural change that laid the groundwork for the industrial revolution. Prominent British thinkers including Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton championed a progress-oriented view of the world, centred on the idea that science and experimentation were key to increasing human wellbeing

Is the west talking itself into decline?

It seems that there is now an interesting new overview that gives us some proof of what was being said across different narratives in different cultures. Mokyr’s theories being proven out by economic historians is encouraging for a few reasons. The British has a much more progress and technical oriented literature than the Spanish and got to the Industrial Revolution faster despite the Spanish lead on colonial mercantilism.

So what can we take away from this bit of economic history? The West has begun shifting its language away from technology and progress and back into caution, worry and threat.

Is the west talking itself into decline

If we can simply improve on our situation by believing we can advance, improve, and progress then we should spend all of our time talking about the possible better futures.

I wasn’t allowed much television as a child but my mother believed in Gene Roddenberry’s positive future. Wasn’t it a delight that the best of humanity was seeking out new life and new civilizations? Let’s try not to get too fixated on the failures to imagine perfect futures to remember that we aspired to good futures. No don’t let good be the enemy of perfect and get out there and make something.

Categories
Chronicle

Day 1095 and 2023 Round Up

I’ve been sick for the last week and a half or so, so this round-up is coming on the last day of 2023.

As you may have gathered from my title schema, I have been writing every single day for 1095 straight days.

That means I’ve been doing this for three years which is a satisfying achievement. If you’d like see my favorite posts of 2021 here is a link to my first year round up. My round up for the second year of writing in 2022 was quite comprehensive as well.

Below is a list of categories that held my attention in 2023 and the posts I wrote as I tried to make sense of my rapidly changing world.

It probably tells you a lot that the largest sections are artificial intelligence, startups and community. I think this includes almost 50 posts so it’s a testament to how busy the year was that I couldn’t narrow it further. I spent time in Prague, Puerto Vallarta, New York City, Austin, Seattle, Frankfurt, Tallinn, Helsinki, and Amsterdam which is way more travel than I expected. Much of my focus was on investing work for chaotic.capital and is reflected across almost all categories.

Artificial Intelligence

Day 1078 Why We Keep Centering Ourselves

Day 1072 and Math is Leverage.

1055 and Freedom to Compute

Day 989 and Autopoeitic Ergodicity

Day 980 and Beff Jezos

Day 897 and Cruft and Email Bankruptcy

Day 826 and Alignment

Day 780 and Copernican Crisis of Meaning

Community

Day 1070 and Allocating Social Capital

Day 1055 and Shipping, Smoothing Narratives and Making Reality or Effective Acceleration Is About Choice

Day 1053 and Neo Revivalism

1033 and Agency Explosion & The Network State

Day 1025 and Petit Aristocracy

Day 978 and The Great Twitter Unfollowing

Day 932 and Schisms

Day 847 and Erasure in Crypto

Aesthetics

Day 1040 and Being First

Day 1023 and Automatic Doors

Day 1007 and Half A Decade After Premium Mediocrity

Day 961 and Repeating 2003 Aesthetics.

Day 748 and Molly Millions (William Gibson Casting Choices)

Travel

Day 1038 and Travel, Middle Markets & American Exceptionalism

Day 1030 and Helsinki

Day 1029 and Nordic Ferries

Day 1019 and Old Town Tallinn

Day 876 and Americana in Germany

Day 863 and Abstract The Pain Away

Day 749 and Beef in Prague

Economics and Politics

Day 1019 and Tallinn’s Free Enterprise & Alcohol

Day 1010 and Exogenous Shocks

Day 907 and Unaccountable Bureaucracy

Day 904 and Wardogging on Mobile Phones

Day 817 and Mourning A Bank

Day 811 and Hierarchies

Day 807 and Hyperinflation

Day 803 and Killing Strangers

Day 799 and Black Friday in Silicon Valley

Day 740 and Immigration Failures

Emotional Work

Day 1014 and A Fragile Birthday

Day 1000 and Milestones

Day 987 and Eggs

Day 902 and The Singer Lasts A Season

Day 895 and How to Stop Being An NPC

Day 845 and Fucked Fertility

Day 791 and Bathing Suits I’ve Never Worn

Day 784 and Endocrine

Day 731 and Auld Lang Syne Motherfuckas

Startups

Day 1001 and Circumstances Change

Day 970 and I’ll Be Your Publicist

Day 962 and Milestone Based Seed Rounds

Day 939 and Culture Wins Not Culture Wars

Day 906 and Resilience Tech

Day 840 and Chaos Magic

Day 783 and The Alliance (Vanity Fair Magazine coverage of chaotic.capital which is covered in two pieces on the blog)

Homestead & Montana

Day 976 and Chores

Day 969 and Hot Chicks

Day 958 and Civic Engagement

Day 940 and Buying Dishes

Day 856 and Springing Into Action

Day 766 and Weather Station

Categories
Community

Day 1085 and Openness

I make a living pricing risk. I do that through investment but also a few highly specialized skills I deploy on behalf of founders of startups.

The shortest articulation is that I am very good at spotting subcultures and helping them come into the mainstream and find a market that will pay them.

Not all markets are liquid and lots of arbitrage happens between types of capital. Sometimes a culture doesn’t survive contact with the mainstream. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing if the culture can’t self police.

There have been three core subcultures that make up my world and have been core to the history of the American west. Hippies, hackers and hipsters. I contain bits of each. I made an early career in prestige industries like media, fashion, and cosmetics (hipster) but I was born into a Silicon Valley family (hackers) and raised by a counterculture mother (hippies).

I’ve got that particular syncretic experience that so typifies “Grey Tribe” as our values have often been at odds with institutional power but we are perfectly fine with wider coordination mechanisms being chosen at different levels of abstraction. This is fancy speak for we like markets but don’t seek them for every problem as trust is a personal choice.

I am feeling as if the openness of my tribes is under attack because signaling mechanisms are breaking down. Seeing bad behavior is always upsetting. Lots of groups are seeing enemies on all sides and sociopaths seeking power. It’s a bit depressing. All of the nodes of our network need to do a better job at signaling that some risks are unacceptable. You need to maintain openness but not so open your capacity to judge risk is affected.

Categories
Politics

Day 1076 and The Encryption Wars

I’ve been exploring historical American attempts at regulation of computing as part of my #FreedomToCompute effort. We have an excellent example from the Clinton era which are colloquially called the Encryption Wars.

This campaign might be instructive as we decide what kind of regulatory climate might best foster machine learning and artificial intelligence innovation globally as well as what might to the best defense protections for individuals and groups who wish to work productively with approaches like inference databases and large language models.

This overview of the pressure campaign against encryption and the ultimate triumph of strong encryption rights in Slate illustrates how we very nearly made privacy much harder to preserve in America. Note that Slate is a very liberal publication but wrote the piece in 2015. A very different era of liberal policy making.

That’s why the key takeaway from the conflict is that weakening or undermining encryption is bad for the U.S. economy, Internet security, and civil liberties—and we’d be far better off if we remembered why the Crypto Wars turned out they way they did, rather than repeating the mistakes of the past

Slate

This piece included a number of negative consequences from reducing encryption in exported products which eventually undermined our own national security interests in protecting citizen’s own privacy. A lesson we continued to learn the hard way in the middle aughts Patriot Act “war on terror” era.

It’s worth skimming a review of the era from ChatGPT.

Silicon Valley played a crucial role in lobbying for encryption during the late 1990s. Tech companies and privacy advocates, realizing the importance of secure communication, actively opposed government attempts to restrict encryption. They argued that strong encryption was essential for protecting user privacy, fostering e-commerce, and ensuring the security of digital communications.

In response to this pressure, the Clinton administration began to reevaluate its stance on encryption. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Executive Order 13026, which relaxed export restrictions on encryption products. This marked a shift towards recognizing the importance of strong encryption for both national security and the technology industry.

ChatGPT synopsis