Balaji on social media, war, technology, censorship, and more

Balaji Srinivasan: Social Media, War, Censorship, Wokeism, Crypto, and AI | Lex Fridman Podcast #331 Part 3/3

Check out the Lex Fridman Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes.

These are notes taken on the last third of Balaji and Lex’s eight hour conversation. 

Key Takeaways

  • If a giant corporation can de-platform the sitting president and “most powerful man in the world,” then he is not the most powerful man in the world, and the Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon network leaders have become more powerful than the democratically elected leaders
  • The Future is Our Past Thesis: history is running in reverse, with similar scenarios but it will ultimately yield opposite outcomes
  • The United States was able to defeat Nazi Germany because it had a giant manufacturing base overseas; it simply out-produced the Nazis
    • Today, the United States’ manufacturing base is in China, the country it may fight a war with 
  • Don’t be anti-conventional for the sake of being anti-conventional; iterate on conventional wisdom to contribute to progress
  • The coming decade in America will be green vs orange, not red vs blue; that is, the US dollar and its supporters vs Bitcoin and its supporters  
  • Crypto Capital is an attractive alternative for countries that don’t want to be dominated by US media corporations (Woke Capital) or China (Communist Capital)
  • Digital property rights enabled by decentralized social media will spark a productivity boost that will mirror China’s switch from communism to capitalism
  • “The most predictable innovation in the world, in my view, is the AR glasses.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
  • Balaji predicts that the future will consist of much smaller digital networks, but each will be much “deeper” in regards to its tech stack, thus creating a Network State
  • Instead of dismissing the FDA, Federal Reserve, and Academic Establishment, optimistically think of the v1, v2, v3 of them and build them
  • The ideal combination of skills that young people should aspire to acquire are those of a full-stack engineer and full-stack influencer
  • If you’re going to build a billion-dollar company, you should also build a media company in tandem with it that has a million followers because the legacy media companies will not be economically or socially aligned with your business
  • New states and countries can advance on their own axis; they don’t have to be “with or against” America, as much as politicians want you to believe that   

Intro 

  • Balaji Srinivasan (@balajis) is an angel investor, tech founder, philosopher, and author of The Network State: How to Start a New Country. He was formerly the CTO of Coinbase and a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. 
  • In this part of their conversation, Balaji Srinivasan and Lex Fridman discuss Donald Trump’s banning from social media, war, censorship, social media, Wokeism, Communism, the NYT-CCP-BTC triangle, cryptocurrency, open AI, AR, VR, and how young people should prepare for the future
  • Check out these Podcast Notes from Balaji’s conversation with Chris Williamson 
  • Host – Lex Fridman (@lexfridman

Donald Trump’s Ban from Social Media

  • Balaji steel mans the case for Donald Trump’s removal from social media:
    • A would-be dictator used social media to run a coup against democracy
    • He used a social platform to stir up his supporters around the country to storm the seat of government   
    • The executive of the platform did their part to preserve democracy, taking actions well within the law to take Donald Trump’s megaphone away 
  • There are many “against cases” for Donald Trump’s de-platforming from the Trump supporters, left-libertarian, and rest-of-world factions
  • The against case for de-platforming from the perspective of Trump supporters:
    • In the name of defending democracy, they corrupted democracy; whether it was vote counts or changing the rules around mail-in ballots, etc. 
    • The Trump opposition had BLM on a string, for example, and demonstrated its ability to coordinate protests where and when it was strategically beneficial 
  • The against case for de-platforming from the perspective of left-libertarians:
    • Regardless of what you think about Trump, do we really want giant corporations determining who can say what on the internet?
    • If a giant corporation can de-platform the sitting president and “most powerful man in the world”, then he is not the most powerful man in the world 
    • If this de-platforming can happen, the people are electing democratic figure-heads who have less power than the heads of networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Amazon who colluded to remove the elected leader
  • The Future is Our Past Thesis: history is running in reverse, with similar scenarios but it will ultimately yield opposite outcomes 
  • One nation under God is no longer true; America is at least two nations with cultural Democrats and Republicans who largely no longer believe in God    

War

  • The United States was able to defeat Nazi Germany because it had a giant manufacturing base overseas; it simply out-produced the Nazis
    • Today, the United States’ manufacturing base is in the country it may fight a war with (China)
    • Trying to fight your factory in the physical world is probably not going to work
  • Pelosi going to Taiwan did not strengthen Taiwan; it’s important to actually strengthen Taiwan if you’re going to provoke China  
  • The United States did not do enough to supply Ukraine with the resources it needed prior to the Russian invasion, an argument also made by Palmer Luckey
  • An effective military must contribute to the deterrence of conflict

Censorship 

  • “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, this must be done.” – Balaji Srinivasan on a framework that is used to rationalize anything 
    • Example: Punch a Nazi. I decide who is a Nazi. You’re a Nazi. Therefore, I punch you. 
  • An example of platforming someone leading to a bad outcome: Herbert L. Matthew’s article on Fidel Castro provided positive press for Castro’s point of view that helped lead to the Communist Revolution in Cuba, which resulted in all types of horrors
  • Many leftist dictators in history had their own American journalists who amplified their message to the masses:
    • John Reed brought Lenin’s message to the world
    • Walter Duranty helped Stalin starve out the Ukrainians
    • Edgar Snow was Mao’s biographer
    • Herbert Matthews was Castro’s microphone
    • David Halberstam was used by Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam
  • Communists don’t understand self-interests; Nationalists don’t understand other-interests
  • Putin, Xi, and Trump are very clearly “out-groups” for both the left and right in the US
    • Balaji doesn’t think interviewing these three is a bad idea because there is so much other coverage of them 
    • Being the sole source of information is where it gets dangerous
  • The most popular thing in a supermarket is not on the shelf because it’s been sold out: the “known” people aren’t as dangerous as the unknown people that may emerge

Source: Squarespace CDN

  • Identify the dark matter and ask the questions that are not being asked
  • Don’t be anti-conventional for the sake of being anti-conventional; iterate on conventional wisdom to contribute to progress 
  • Instead of dismissing the FDA, Federal Reserve, and Academic Establishment, optimistically think of the v1, v2, v3 of them and build them 

Social Media 

  • Balaji Srinivasan uses Twitter like coders use Github; it is a scratch pad for floating concepts and receiving feedback 
  • The city-state is v1, the nation-state is v2, and the Network State is v3
  • Twitter is a place where people like Elon Musk can attract the best engineers to work on the most important problems in our society, according to Lex Fridman
  • Fact-checking on social media requires someone to know what is true, which really means the assertion of political power
    • Fact-checking on social media can be useful, but it must be decentralized and open sourced 
  • Balaji proposes the idea of Troogle, an open-source alternative to Google that returns whether something is true or false based on probabilities from a given knowledge graph
  • “Social media today is like China under communism in a really key sense.” – Balaji Srinivasan   
    • You don’t get any revenue share for your Tweets
    • You don’t have any digital property rights on Twitter
    • A giant entity can hit a button and everything you’ve worked on for years is gone  
  • Before 1978, capitalism was punishable by death in China 
    • Communism: work hard, don’t work hard, everyone gets the same
    • Every tooth in the farmer’s head belongs to the collection just like every piece of hay in the farmer’s field belongs to the collective 

Wokeism and Communism 

  • Left is a new right, right is a new left 
    • Examples of revolutionary left movements becoming the ruling class right: the Christian King, the Republican conservative, the CCP entrepreneur, and the WASP establishment
  • “If you’re so woke, why are you so rich?” is the new, “If you’re so smart why aren’t you rich?”
  • If the Democrats are the woke capitalists, the Republicans will become the Bitcoin maximalists 
    • If one guy picks left, the other picks right
    • When one person signals economics, the other signals culture 

The NYT-CCP-BTC Triangle 

  • NYT, CCP, and BTC is Woke Capital, Communist Capital, and Crypto Capital, respectively
    • Woke Capital: you must sympathize 
    • Communist Capital: you must submit
    • Crypto Capital: you must be sovereign  
  • Balaji’s full Twitter thread on Woke Capital vs Communist Capital vs Crypto Capital 
  • Trying to live at the extremes of this triangle will result in massive trade-offs and will likely reduce your standard of living 
  • It is best to find your happy intermediate between these three poles 
  • Paul Graham shared an image from David Rozado that reveals tech’s impact on traditional media, specifically how it may have influenced publications to “pick a side” to survive tech’s entrance into the market

Source: Paul Graham and David Rozado

  • In the image above, there is an inflection point in the NYT’s usage of more controversial words starting in the year 2013
  • The media’s attention on terrorism switched to wokeism when tech entered its market
  • The woke establishment is pro-federal and anti-local and anti-state: abolish the local police who tend to be rightest, but fund the capital police who tend to be less rightest 
  • In this decade, Balaji believes there will be a shift in signaling from wokeism to American statism
    • He estimates that a 30 degrees shift back to the political center 
  • The coming decade in America will be green vs orange, not red vs blue; that is, the US dollar and its supporters vs Bitcoin and its supporters 

Cryptocurrency 

  • Balaji believes that crypto will rise again (in terms of the USD exchange rate) and may “go to a million dollars” because a lot of things will probably go to a million dollars as inflation roars 
  • Energy is the choke point on the economy; a lot of prices for goods and services are going up in a foundational way due to constraints in the energy market 
  • Bitcoin Maximalists believe that bitcoin will go to infinity (in terms of its USD exchange rate) because its “price” will eventually be everything divided by 21 million
    • Print all the dollars you want, there are only 21 million bitcoin
  • Just like Internet Explorer is still around today, the US dollar will still be around in a Hyperbitcoinized world; it will just be smaller and less powerful  
  • Like there was a “third world” during the Cold War, Balaji believes “Web3” will become the modern-day third world, and that it will emerge triumphant in its conflict vs Woke and Communist Capital 
    • The non-aligned group led by India, Israel, non-establishment Americans on both the left and right, and Chinese liberals will be enabled by Web3 protocols to stand up another pole of peace, trade, and freedom 
  • Crypto Capital is an attractive alternative for countries that don’t want to be dominated by US media corporations (Woke Capital) or China (Communist Capital)
  • Digital property rights enabled by decentralized social media will spark a productivity boost that will mirror China’s switch from communism to capitalism
  • Crypto gives you the functionality of the cloud with some of the functionality of the outside world (sovereign private key management) 
  • Crypto is more than its financial use cases; Balaji believes it will be applied to social media, search engines, messaging, and operating systems  
  • Ethically and operationally, is there any difference between an American corporation locking you out of your device, versus the Chinese state doing so?

Open AI, AR, and VR

  • AI, AR, and VR will enable entirely new social media companies and technologies 
  • “[AI, AR, VR, Open AI] is going to melt Hollywood.” – Balaji Srinivasan  
  • Centralized AI is unethical; decentralized AI enabled by Stable Fusion is more representative and will reduce AI bias 
  • “The most predictable innovation in the world, in my view, is the AR glasses.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
  • Balaji believes that NFTs and AR in tandem will enable the return of secret societies 
  • Today, Facebook and Twitter consist of a bunch of communities that don’t share the same values with one another
  • Balaji predicts that the future will consist of much smaller digital networks, but each will be much deeper 
    • “Deeper” in the sense that it is a full tech stack consisting of a social network, a cryptocurrency, a co-living community, a messaging app, etc.
    • This stack is the Network State 

Legacy Media

  • Legacy media has delegitimized itself 
  • The investigative journalists will investigate everyone’s boss except their own 
  • NYT ran a 1984-style “Truth” campaign in 2017

Source: Miro

Advice for Young People 

  • The ideal combination is to be a full-stack engineer and a full-stack influencer
  • Master computer science and statistics to become a full-stack engineer 
  • Computer science and stats are to this century what physics was to the last
    • Physics is essential for the natural world, but computer science and stats are essential for the digital world, a world in which people are spending more and more time 
  • Social media is about to become far more lucrative and monetizable when crypto-enabled property rights are built into it
  • If you’re going to build a billion-dollar company, you should also build a media company in tandem with it that has a million followers because the legacy media companies will not be economically or socially aligned with your business 
  • Up-and-coming creators will have to compete with the legacy media  
    • Legacy media will attack the emerging creators who counter the mainstream narrative
    • Apple didn’t do deals with Blackberry. Amazon didn’t do deals with Barnes and Noble. Netflix employees did not socialize with Blockbuster employees.  
  • Go direct, build your own audience, and tell your own stories 
  • Build peaceful alternatives to legacy institutions 
  • “The internet will be to the Americas what the Americas were to Europe.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
    • America is post-British, not pro or anti 
    • The internet is post-American, not pro or anti
  • New states and countries can advance on their own axis; they don’t have to be “with or against” America, as much as politicians want you to believe that    

Additional Notes

  • FDR was the “least bad communist dictator of the 21st century”, according to Balaji Srinivasan: he nationalized the economy, repealed the 10th amendment, tried to pack the courts and sicked the government on all of his enemies, interned the Japanese, entrapped gay sailors in Navy, and created the alphabet soup of government agencies that still persists to this day   
    • CEOs tried to get FDR removed from his presidency, in something that became known as The Business Plot, but ultimately failed; in 2020, the business plot against Trump prevailed
  • A financial secession might happen in America where Bitcoin maximalist states advocate for freedom and fight against a tyrannical state grasping onto its waning power and control
  • Balaji agrees with about 20-30% of Peter Zeihan’s frame of thinking, which suggests the Chinese system will terminally collapse due to unfavorable demographics, the US is strong, and the rest of the world is screwed 
  • Block explorers like Blockchain.com are a stealth threat to Google Search 
  • Lex and Balaji spoke for 8 hours and didn’t get through 50% of the questions they had planned to cover 

Books, Articles, & Documentaries Mentioned

Lex Fridman Podcast : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Notes By Stan Rizzo

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 35,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks