reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 13


  1. What makes Sequoia Capital successful? “Target big markets” – Andrew Chen
    In the beginning of the video, Don Valentine asks, why is Sequoia successful? He says that most VCs talk about how they finance the best and the brightest, but Sequoia focuses instead on the size of the market, the dynamics of the market, and the nature of the competition.
    This is, of course, super interesting because in many ways it’s contrarian to the typical response that investing is all about “team.”

  2. Data and Discrimination: Fintech, Biometrics and Identity in India – Maya Ganesh
    In this essay I write about how two technology applications in India – ‘fintech’ and Aadhaar – are being implemented to verify and ‘fix’ identity against the backdrop of contestations of identity, and religious fascism and caste-based violence in the country. I don’t intend to compare the two technologies directly; however, they exist within closely connected technical infrastructure ecosystems. I’m interested in how both socio-technical systems operate with respect to identity.

  3. Dunbar, Altruistic Punishment, and Meta-Moderation – Christopher Allen
    In my post about the Dunbar Number I offered some evidence on the levels of satisfaction of various group sizes based on some empirical data from online games. There I was able to show that even though the Dunbar Number might predict a mean group size of 150 for humans, that in fact for non-survival oriented groups the mean was significantly less, probably between 60 to 90.
    I also offered a second hypothesis, that there is a dip in satisfaction level of groups at around the size of 15. Unfortunately, I could only offer anecdotal evidence that this threshold existed.
    In summary this research offers me another widget for my social software toolbox: in any group process look for the commons, allow participants to participate in identifying defectors; determine what the costs are for such identification (which may be as simple as requiring some attention or charging for such punishment); and encourage participation in the common good by punishing those who do not participate in seeking out defectors.

  4. Founders Fund Partner Cyan Banister on Kanye West, Elon Musk, and the Value of Independent Thought
    Founders Fund partner Cyan Banister says capitalism saved her life.
    Banister, who has made early bets on companies including Uber, SpaceX, and Postmates, was once a homeless high-school dropout who believed that corporations were pure evil. One paycheck, she said, is what fundamentally uprooted her entire world view.
  5. Media Bias and the Mob – Logan Allen
    Twin pitchfork-wielding mobs, the political right and left within the United States have become mimetic doubles of one another. They don’t know why they started arguing. At this point, all they know is that they hate each other.

  6. Networking for Nerds – Benjamin Reinhardt
    “Networking.” What a word. When I left grad school in 2015, networking was for slick-haired salesmen, former jocks, and social parasites in general. Real heroes built better mousetraps and the world beat a path to their doors. But then I looked at what real successes actually do – they lead a balancing act between connecting and building. 

  7. We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment
    What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation. Other animals have springtime rituals for educating the young, but only we subject them to “commencement” speeches grandly informing them that today is the first day of the rest of their lives.
  8. Keep your identity small – Paul Graham
    I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people’s identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that’s part of their identity. By definition they’re partisan.
    More generally, you can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn’t engage the identities of any of the participants. What makes politics and religion such minefields is that they engage so many people’s identities. But you could in principle have a useful conversation about them with some people.
  9. Luxury Branding The Future Leaders Of The World – The Last Psychiatrist
    The ads use black and white photos: we’ve been around for a long time.  Even the advertising campaign self-referentially broadcasts this– it has been the same since 1996, i.e. longer than a 40 year old has been in the market for an expensive watch to notice it wasn’t always thus, reinforcing the longevity of the brand.
    I know you probably figure this ad isn’t for you because you’re not a railroad baron or a Rothschild, but ask yourself a question: have you seen this ad?  Then it’s for you.  Time to learn why they know you better than you know yourself.
  10. Mimesis, Violence, and Facebook: Peter Thiel’s French Connection (Full Essay)
    Thiel invested in and promoted Facebook not simply because Girard’s theories led him to foresee the future profitability of the company, but because he saw social media as a mechanism for the containment and channeling of mimetic violence in the face of an ineffectual state.



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