reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 23


  1. On Labor Mobility, Economic Growth, and Targeted Programs – Center for Global Development
    For at least a couple of decades NGOs and others in developing countries have been designing, evaluating, tinkering, and trying to improve projects and programs that deliver specific in-kind “interventions” (e.g., micro-credit, asset transfers, business training, savings) to targeted individuals/households (e.g., women, the “ultra-poor”, small enterprises) in ways that raised their incomes in a sustained way. 

    This is a great, nuanced discussion on whether such interventions are of any significance as compared to the growth that can be achieved by focusing on big picture questions such as “How to achieve sustained economic growth?” or “How to prevent cyclical effects of recessions?” 

  2. Game of Thrones: A Girardian Reading – Dan Wang
    Girard’s ideas applied to ASOIAF.

  3. Peter Thiel Is a Closet Humanist (A review of Zero to One) – The New Republic
    “The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.”

    This call to intellectual originality is the core thesis of his new book, which isn’t really a management manual or guide to startups so much as an extended polemic against stagnation, convention, and uninspired thinking. What Thiel is after is the revitalization of imagination and invention writ large.

  4. Peter Thiel and thinking for yourself – Dan Wang
    Peter Thiel is asked the formula for starting great businesses at every talk he gives. His answer is every time the same: “There is no formula. You have to figure it out for yourself.”
    In his interview, Tyler offers a summary of Thiel’s thought. (Search for the paragraph that mentions Tocqueville.) I haven’t read enough Girard to follow the part about original sin, but Tyler describes Thiel as someone who is trying to get us to break free of socially-derived opinions and to see the world without distortions.
  5. I can tolerate anything except the outgroup – Slate Star Codex
    Scott Alexander on tolerance, forgiveness and group dynamics. 

  6. Violence and the Sacred: College as an incubator of Girardian terror – Dan Wang
    Where should we expect Girard’s predictions for mimetic crises to run most rampant? At places where values are confused and people are much the same. To me, that description best fits one place in particular: the American college.

    An excellent application of Girard’s ideas to elite universities where people are stuck playing zero-sum games driven by mimetic contagion. 

  7. Blockchains Never Forget – Venkatesh Rao 
    I’ll share more about the specifics of this experience, and lessons learned, but mainly I want to enter my first serious attempt at blockchain punditry into the public record: the blockchain is irreversible social computing. 
    The message of the medium is this: blockchains never forget. By providing an extra-institutional base layer of irreversibly settling collective memories that cannot be erased, blockchains create a foundation for fundamentally different institutional and technological landscapes. Ones based, as I will argue, on a notion of artificial forgiveness.
  8. The Rise of the Full-Stack Freelancer – Tiago Forte
    Full-Stack Freelancers respond to technology as an opportunity, not a threat. They leverage software-as-a-service and online platforms to vertically integrate a “full stack” of capabilities, instead of focusing on one narrow function. This allows them to capture a much greater percentage of the value they create, instead of giving it away to gatekeepers and distribution bottlenecks.
    Full-Stack Freelancers are responding to a series of technology-driven trends — contingent employment, intensifying globalization, and automation — by taking advantage of the other side of the coin: technology finally becoming powerful enough, cheap enough, and user-friendly enough to be deployed productively by a single individual.  
  9. The Blockchain Man – Taylor Pearson
    Or A Speculative Sociology of Our Blockchain Future

    The Blockchain Man’s world will be defined by the three tenets of the Protocol Ethic.

    a belief in the individual as the source of creativity
    a belief in serving the needs of the protocol as the ultimate purpose of the individual
    and a belief in the application of blockchains to achieve an individual’s highest potential.

  10. Ghost in the machine: Snapchat isn’t mobile-first , it’s something else entirely – Ben Basche
    It’s tempting to think of Snapchat as a part of the app revolution, as one of the shining examples of mobile-first design that has defined our smartphone age.
    This is of course true to an extent, but seeing Snapchat take its place at a consistent #1 or 2 in the US App Store alongside Facebook and Google’s main properties (and the other flavors of the week) somewhat obscures what is actually going on here.
    Snapchat is not mobile-first, and it’s not really an app anymore. Nor is it a meta-app platform at this point like Facebook Messenger is angling to become (at least not yet). Snapchat is a true creature of mobile, a living, breathing embodiment of everything that our camera-enabled, networked pocket computer can possibly offer. And in its cooption of smartphones into a true social operating system, we see the inklings of what is beyond mobile.

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