A Fireside Chat with Naval Ravikant – New Frontiers March 2019 Summit

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Key Takeaways

  • Computers are the most powerful tool ever created by humanity
    • Think of computers as a creative instrument
  • Silicon Valley isn’t a place that creates entrepreneurs, wealth, and technology. It’s a place that attracts entrepreneurs who create wealth and technology.
  • It’s the nature of technology that the destructive power arrives before the creative power
  • Blockchains solve the problem of getting a bunch of people who don’t know and don’t trust each other to still be able to agree on something
    • Blockchains bring the ability to utilize markets into any digital domain
    • They use mathematics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking to create digital consensus and allow for truly leaderless digital networks
  • Crypto is a REALLY hard problem and is still very much in development
    • “Crypto is not simple computer science, it’s bleeding edge computer science”
  • “Most entrepreneurs walking around know they don’t have product-market fit and live in great terror of it. They’re not allowed to talk about it and everyone has to pretend they’re crushing it all the time.”
    • This is STRESSFUL

Intro

  • Naval (@Naval) is the co-founder of AngelList
  • He hosts The Naval Podcast – check out the Podcast Notes
    • If this is your first introduction to Naval, gives these Podcast Notes a read from his appearance on The Knowledge Project, thought by many to be the best podcast of all time

Naval’s Background

  • “Technology is the business of applied science”
  • Naval has founded/co-founded quite a few companies:
    • One that became Google Earth
    • One called Epinions that went public as part of shopping.com
    • “Dozens of failed efforts, things that you’ve never heard of…things that you might yet hear of”
    • AngelList
  • Naval is an angel investor in quite a few companies (most notably Twitter, Uber, and Postmates)
  • He co-authored the Venture Hacks blog

Digital Literacy

  • “Computers are the most powerful tool ever created by humanity”
    • They allow for infinite leverage without permission
    • Being good with computers is like modern literacy
    • “Just the fact that you can use this creative tool to its maximum output gives you a leg up in every possible way”
      • You can make better podcasts, you’ll be better at coding up your ideas, etc.
  • A society made up of a large majority of people who really understand computers would do wonders for innovation and employment
    • This might also raise all the wages across the board in other professions – how?
      • Due to Baumol’s cost disease – you have to pay someone the opportunity cost based on what else they could be doing, not necessarily what they are doing
        • So if every barista had a computer science degree, they’d get paid a lot more
  • In a way, using a computer is like using a paintbrush
    • “It’s a creative instrument for self-expression, it’s a blank canvas of possibilities”

Immigration

  • “Silicon Valley isn’t a place that creates entrepreneurs, wealth, and technology. It’s a place that attracts entrepreneurs who create wealth and technology.”
    • Just like Hollywood attracts potential actors, it doesn’t create them
  • “An intelligent immigration policy is the largest wealth creator in the world”
  • New Zealand has a ton of the elements needed to use immigration policy as a force multiplier
    • Good weather, clean water, clean air, a good time zone, access to the Pacific Rim

Technology Trends

  • Over the last decade, we’ve created and rolled out new platforms that changed many things, like:
    • The internet
    • Mobile phones
    • Personal computers
  • Then we “exploited” these platforms by building apps on top of them
    • Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • “Now technology is going back into the paradigm-busting phase” (building new platforms)
    • Supersonic airplanes
    • Sending rockets to Mars
    • Electric cars 
    • Autonomous vehicles
    • Automated/virtual reality (A/VR)
    • Synthetic biology
  • But – “It’s the nature of technology that the destructive power arrives before the creative power”
    • Nuclear weapons came before safe/functioning nuclear plants
    • Gun powder came before steam engines and airplanes
  • Artificial Intelligence
    • Computers are getting better and better at solving specific types of problems
  • “I give full credit to Elon Musk for raising the bar on what’s conceivable…even if he fails…the vision inspires people to move forward”

The Entrepreneurship Cult

  • There’s definitely one in Silicon Valley
  • “I just think it’s the nature of humans that you’ll always have some hero worship and you’ll always create a cult”
    • Just like celebrities are worshiped in Hollywood – “There’s such a cult that they give each other rewards every year and we tune in to watch it”
  • “It’s fine to use an entrepreneur as a source of inspiration, but it’s silly to use them as a source of truth”

Blockchain and Crypto

  • They solve the problem of getting a bunch of people who don’t know each other/don’t trust each other to still be able to agree on something
  • The ability to unite/cooperate/organize is foundational to the human species. In the past, we’ve used:
    • Dictatorships
    • Aristocracies
    • Democracies
    • But as of late, we’ve created markets
  • Blockchains bring the ability to utilize markets into any digital domain
    • Here are some really interesting potential applications of crypto and the blockchain technology:
      • Self-driving cars bidding each other for rights of way on the fly
        • Think of a car “saying” to another – “I want that red light to turn green right now, so I bid X coin to make that happen”
      • A network to allocate bandwidth
      • A solar network, where everyone puts a solar panel on their house, and they pay into the network with solar power, and they get paid back out with a solar coin
  • Blockchain-based networks aren’t owned by anybody
    • Blockchains use mathematics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking to create digital consensus and allow for truly leaderless digital networks
  • We’re starting to use blockchains for financial applications, but over time as they prove useful for transferring/keeping track of money, they’ll come to be trusted in other aspects of life

Was crypto a fad?

  • The market is down 90% plus over the last year
  • But – Dot-com went through this in the late 90s
  • “Crypto is a REALLY hard problem” 
    • “It’s still very much in development” – Kind of like computers were in the 1980s
    • “Crypto is not simple computer science, it’s bleeding edge computer science”
  • The total Bitcoin market is valued at $80-100 billion, while the total gold supply is valued somewhere around $7-10 trillion
    • Bitcoin does a lot of the things gold does
      • What it does better – it’s digitally transmissible, easier to secure, and more scarce
      • What it does worse – there might be a bug, you can get hacked, or you can lose your passkey 
    • So the market price of Bitcoin continuously fluctuates as being in the range of 1/100th to 1/1000th the value of gold
      • Hence, we see changes in the Bitcoin price

Twitter, Stress, and Happiness

  • “Fame is a curse, I don’t recommend it for anybody”
    • “You want to be rich and anonymous, not poor and famous”
  • “This is the disease of social media – everybody is getting their 5 seconds of fame and becoming a celebrity….but celebrities are the most miserable people in the world”
  • Part of what makes entrepreneurship so stressful is you’re never supposed to show weakness (whether to employees, board members, investors, etc.)
    • But it’s the nature of the tech business that 99/100 startups effectively fail (as the winners are so outsized and rare)
    • “Most entrepreneurs walking around know they don’t have product-market fit and live in great terror of it. They’re not allowed to talk about it and everyone has to pretend they’re crushing it all the time.”
      • This is STRESSFUL
      • “Most people just melt down under the stress and just hide it”
      • Naval, like many, was forced to work through this stress in his entrepreneurial days and started using Twitter as an open diary
        • “I just decided 5 or 6 years ago that I was done being miserable and I was going to be happy”

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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