Balaji Srinivasan on the end of legacy media

Legacy Media Is Lying To You | Balaji Srinivasan on the Modern Wisdom Podcast 519 with Chris Williamson

Check out Modern Wisdom’s Episode Page and Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Have a vector that orients your time, attention, and energy towards achieving your goal, and allow for subroutines to develop off of that vector that get you closer to your goal 
  • Design an information diet like you would design your diet with food: this information is good, this information is bad, don’t consume this type of information, only consume this type of media during this specific time of day, etc. 
  • Failing restaurants add sugar to their meals as a last-ditch effort to attract patrons back to their restaurant, and the legacy media does the same with information 
  • Twitter is the public war zone; it is the new parliament where ideas are shared and challenged, and it’s actually upstream of governments 
    • You can learn a lot from Twitter by following interesting people and accounts, but it is easy to overdose on the serendipity of it 
  • “What the smartest people do on the weekends is what everyone else will do during the week in 10 years.” – Chris Dixon
  • Technologies that Balaji is interested in today: digital nomadism, a “full crypto life”, AI content creation, and synthesis search engines
  • Wars fought today will not look like wars fought in the past; they will include terrorism, social media memes, hacks, de-platforming, assassination, and more
    • The new form of war is better because it’s less destructive to property, but it’s worse because the battlefield is everywhere and nowhere 
  • America’s conflict won’t be blue vs. red, it will be green vs. orange, or at a higher level: centralization vs. decentralization 
  • “I am not very confident in America’s hard power in a serious fight with China in its own backyard because America is overconfident.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
  • Russia cannot give up on Ukraine; China cannot give up on Taiwan; America can and probably will give up on Ukraine and Taiwan like it gave up on Afghanistan 
  • The resolution of the government’s war with Big Tech is to effectively nationalize Big Tech, regardless of the justification, and it will justify its measures in the name of combatting Chinese Control
  • Choosing between American Anarchy and Chinese Control is not ideal for most countries or most people 
  • The Cold War had a “third world” consisting of non-aligned countries with neither the U.S. nor the Soviets, but it was significantly behind the U.S. and Soviet blocs
    • Balaji thinks a third group could emerge in the America-China conflict, but perhaps this time, it comes in first because of the modern technologies that empower the individual 

Intro

  • Balaji Srinivasan (@balajis) is an entrepreneur and essayist, the co-founder of Counsyl, the former chief technology officer of Coinbase, and a former general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. His latest book, The Network State, explains how to build the successor to the nation-state, and is freely available online. 
  • In this conversation, Balaji Srinivasan and Chris Williams discuss the problems with the legacy media, how to improve your information diet, why testosterone numbers are dropping, how remote work changes everything, America’s upcoming conflict with itself, America’s conflict with China, how to prepare for a post-American age, Big Tech fusing with Big Govt, resisting the current thing, and more
  • Check out these Podcast Notes from Balaji’s chat on the rise of decentralized science
  • Host – (@ChrisWillx

Products & Media Mentioned

  • Soviet Story 
    • A 2008 movie that shows how similar the propaganda of the Soviets and Fascists were, among other things 
  • The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl 
    • A book published in1800 proposed the notion that the Jewish people were a stateless nation
  • The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare by Christian Brose 
    • A book published in 2020 describes how the future of warfare will be based on artificial intelligence and autonomous systems
  • 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by James G. Stavridis 
    • A New York Times Bestseller written by two former Navy officers that imagine a naval clash between the U.S. and China  
  • American Factory 
    • A 2019 documentary made by the Obamas about Americans and Chinese working together to build things  

Mental Information Management 

  • Entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk use a single unifying principle for decision-making
    • Jeff Bezos: “Does this make the customer experience better?”
    • Elon Musk: “Does this help us get to Mars?”
  • Learning to code is hard; it’s much easier to write a piece of code that does a specific thing
    • Balaji analogizes this coding example to argue that a purpose-driven life is good
  • On serving “two masters”, i.e. trying to accomplish two separate goals that compete for your time
    • Being purpose-driven helps you better decide what is worth your time and what is not 
  • Have a vector that orients your time, attention, and energy towards achieving your goal, and allow for subroutines to develop off of that vector that get you closer to your goal 

Source: dailystoic.com

  • Media sites like Reddit, Twitter, and HackerNews are entropic, optimized for novelty, and “random”: the user is pulled into several different directions that limit their ability to progress at any one thing
  • Entropic websites add up to nothing and do not allow for their users’ progress to compound  
  • There is some value to serendipity, but we are overconsuming novelty and under consuming purpose 
  • Design an information diet like you would design your diet with food: this information is good, this information is bad, I don’t consume this type of information, I only consume this type of information during this specific time of day, etc. 
  • Consume quality information and media that helps you boost measurable and critical variables like truth, health, and wealth

How to Become More Discerning with Media 

  • “The most nutritious food is the stuff that doesn’t have nutrition facts on it.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
  • Balaji wants someone to design a Google Chrome plug-in that pre-reads content and identifies all the words that are meant to enrage you 
    • He mentions a concept called the Russell Conjugation that explains how the same concept can be communicated with an entirely different tone depending on the emotion the speaker wants to elicit
    • Example: I sweat, you perspire, but she glows
  •  Machine learning can be used to detect Russell Conjugations in text 
  • Straight news is boring, so the legacy media adds salt and sugar to the content to make it more interesting 
  • Failing restaurants add sugar to their meals as a last-ditch effort to attract patrons back to their restaurant, and the legacy media does the same with information 
  • Consuming sugar can be addicting, and chronic consumption of it can have delirious effects, as shown in the graphic below that tracks obesity in the U.S. over time 

Men Are Losing Testosterone

  • Eight out of ten young Americans are ineligible to enlist in the U.S. military primarily due to obesity factors 
  • The cause of testosterone decline could be a single factor like inadvertent plastic consumption and exposure, or it could be a combination of factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, being fat, plastics, and consuming a poor information diet, for example  
  • “We know what’s going on in Budapest or Bangalore, but we don’t know what’s going on in our own body.” – Balaji Srinivasan 

The Death of Legacy Media 

  • Balaji thinks a “personal dashboard” will replace the daily newspaper
    • It will contain personal information on your fitness, diet, sleep, and family information like what your kids need that day, that month, etc. 
  • Reading the news is not the first thing you should do when you wake up in the morning 

Maintaining a Healthy Information Diet 

  • Balaji’s ideal day:
    • Jog on the home treadmill
    • Lift weights
    • Work on offline stuff, preferably writing long-hand because it forces focus  
    • Not connected to the internet for the first four hours of the morning 
    • “Plug-in” around 1 pm and answer calls, texts, and emails for the rest of the day
    • Go to sleep without having light in the eyes, i.e. listen to an audiobook 
  • Spend the first few hours of the day on the most important stuff before the outside world can rush in 

Balaji’s Social Media Habits 

  • You can learn a lot from Twitter by following interesting people and accounts, but it is easy to overdose on the serendipity of it 
  • “Win off Twitter to win on Twitter.” – Balaji Srinivasan
    • A concept of achieving things in the real world and then announcing those achievements on Twitter
    • You cannot “win” on Twitter itself 
  • Twitter is the public war zone; it is the new parliament where ideas are shared and challenged, and it’s actually upstream of governments  
  • People are “elected” by a large number of others choosing to follow them
  • Just like “Bitcoin is governments of governments financially, Twitter is governments of governments socially” 

How Balaji Predicts the Future

  • He taught a Bitcoin course before anyone knew what it was, he predicted the exit of Silicon Valley and the emergence of remote work (pre-pandemic), and he predicted most of COVID’s implications in January of 2020
  • His mental models are coming true because the world is getting “more Balaji-like” 
    • Everything he’s interested in today will become much more popular in 5-10 years
  • “What the smartest people do on the weekends is what everyone else will do during the week in 10 years.” – Chris Dixon
  • Concepts and ideas that Balaji is interested in today: digital nomadism, a full crypto life, AI content creation, and synthesis search engines, among many other topics 
  • Synthesis search engines turn art history into an “applied subject”, for example 
  • Balaji predicts that the plurality, if not the majority, of English speakers online, will be Indian by 2030

How Will Immigration Deal With Remote Work? 

  • “With telepresence, your immigration policy becomes your firewall.” – Balaji Srinivasan on the relationship between remote work and immigration 
  • Balaji does not use the terms “developed” and “developing” world anymore; he refers to them as “ascending” and “descending” 
    • Examples of ascending: India, parts of Southeast Asia, Nigeria, and Brazil 
    • Examples of descending: San Francisco, Los Angeles 
  • “San Francisco may be the single worst managed city in the world. It shows what American politicians are capable of if only they had the budget, which is to say capable of basically destroying civilization.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
  • Americans had a massive advantage in the 1950s considering the rest of the world was in ruin: Japan was recovering from being nuked, China had communism vs. nationist civil war, India had just gotten independence, and Europe’s infrastructure and economy were devastated from WW2, and the Soviet Union was still recovering from its war with Germany
    • As a result, the American worker faced little competition on the global stage during this period and was artificially propped up 
  • Today, the passage of time and an internet connection results in more competition for the American worker
  • This dynamic places the nationalist socialist and the international capitalist at odds

Technology’s Impact on Conflict 

  • With testosterone levels as low as they are, people are less likely to physically respond to various types of conflict
  • Examples of the extreme organization were prevalent throughout the West in the 20th century: factory workers taking orders from a foreman, platoon soldiers taking orders from their commander, players gathering around the quarterback, and school children circled around their teacher 
    • This organization is less prevalent in the West today due to the enabling of asynchronous work and screens 
    • Balaji has a Twitter thread on this concept where he explains it in greater detail
  • Wars fought today will not look like wars fought in the past; they will include terrorism, social media memes, hacks, de-platforming, assassination, and more
  • The new form of war is better because it’s less destructive to property, but it’s worse because the battlefield is everywhere and nowhere 
    • Balaji’s Twitter thread on American Anarchy vs Chinese Control 

Communism, Fascism, Wokeness, and Maximalism 

  • Wokeness and Maximalism have immense differences, but they are aligned on being against the current order, whether that is being against institutional racism or Klaus Schwab and the Great Reset  
  • Communism and Fascism are similar when pushed to the extremes, and they sum to totalitarianism and tyranny
  • Wokeness and Maximalism are similar when pushed to the extremes, and they sum to anarchy

Lessons Learned from Living in Singapore 

  • Singapore had a CEO-founder in Lee Kuan Yew: he wasn’t a war-time leader, he just leveled up the country 
  • “[Socialism] keeps on rising because it is the easiest way to become a leader of men.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
    • It’s easy to start yelling that 51% of society is oppressed by the other 49% of society
    • Conflict is attention, and attention is the currency 
  • “Socialism is the lowest-skilled way to put yourself at the head of a mob.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
  • Nationalism lessens internal conflict, but it often sparks external conflict 
  • The Four Categories of Leaders in order of increasing difficulty: demagogue (socialist leader), nationalist (American Revolutionists in 1775), capitalist (Jeff Bezos), technologist (Elon Musk) 
  • Back to Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew was somewhere between capitalist and technologist 
    • He dramatically improved the user interface and user experience of Singapore, which attracted outside investment 
  • Balaji’s Network State concept takes aspects from America, India, Israel, and Singapore
    • America: too many aspects to count, but a nation of emigrants, the Constitution, etc.
    • India: a nation that achieved independence non-violently 
    • Israel: a nation founded by a book 
    • Singapore: founder-CEO type leader of a city-state 
  • These four nations are forks of the “United Kingdom codebase”
    • They aren’t anti-UK, they are post-UK

America’s Upcoming Green vs. Orange Conflict 

  • He doesn’t think America’s conflict will be blue vs. red, it will be “green vs. orange”  

Source: Doranalytics 

  • At a higher level, the left-right conflict of Democrat-Republican will be replaced by the new conflict of centralization vs. decentralization 
  • The top two quadrants are American statism, nationalists, and socialists: “the land”
  • The bottom two quadrants are decentralization, capitalists, and technologists: “the cloud” 
  • Balaji predicts that the military-law enforcement group will turn to the dollar, and the more left, libertarian types will turn to Bitcoin  
    • This prediction includes many people currently in the blue-red conflict “switching sides” 
    • Even 20%-30% of people switching sides is enough to feel like a “new thing” 
  • People in the security state will go to dollar-green, despite their historic wariness of government overreach in their personal lives
  • People in the intelligentsia-journalist-Greenwald group go to Bitcoin-orange, despite their historic wariness of decentralization 

America is Fighting Too Many Battles

  • Smart and skilled people are no longer allowed in government because they are a conflict of interest for the government’s battles, i.e. the government’s fight with technologists
  • Balaji doesn’t think people respect the U.S. establishment anymore; a lack of deference results in the loss of soft power  

Digital Hard Power

  • The U.S. has “digital hard power” in its back pocket: the ability to deplatform, freeze, and seize
  • Balaji disagrees with Peter Zeihan’s evaluation of America’s power because he overindexes America’s power in physical space and underindexes America’s power in the digital space 
  • The bombs and bullets that Ukraine receives from the rest of the world are downstream of their campaign in the cloud that persuaded the rest of the world to side with it instead of Russia 
    • Ukraine used its digital resources in the cloud to print physical resources 

America’s Hard Power vs. China 

  • “I am not very confident in America’s hard power in a serious fight with China in its own backyard because America is overconfident.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
    • The U.S. hasn’t  faced a peer competitor in a long time
    • The U.S. doesn’t care as much as China does
    • China makes all the physical stuff
    • China cares about Taiwan and is geographically close to it
    • America has to project power from the other side of the world  
  • America’s recent wars have been “TV wars”, where Americans at home can just change the channel and turn the war “off” in their daily lives
  • The Ukraine-Russia conflict is actually being felt on American soil because of its impact on energy prices 
  • The politicization-of-everything will also organize 50% of Americans to be pro-war with China and the other 50% to be anti-war 

The Current Thing in America 

  • The Current Thing: Everybody suddenly starts caring about one specific thing, then two weeks later they don’t care about it anymore and there’s a new current thing that replaces the old one 
  • Resist the current thing and you will win, whether “you” are a nation or individual 
  • Russia cannot give up on Ukraine; China cannot give up on Taiwan; America can and probably will give up on Ukraine and Taiwan like it gave up on Afghanistan 
  • Americans just changed the channel on the War on Terror to the channel that had the War on Trump 
  • Balaji thinks America will change the channel on Ukraine-Taiwan to the channel that has the “gigantic, domestic, free-for-all” that will likely take place in 2024 

The Post-American Age of American Anarchy  

  • “I do think that we should prepare for a post-American age.” – Balaji Srinivasan 
  • Digital hard and soft power may keep the United States afloat longer than we think
  • The resolution of the government’s war with Big Tech is to effectively nationalize Big Tech, regardless of the justification
  • The government’s fusion with Big Tech will give the FBI, CIA, and NSA the backdoors they wanted ten years ago, but was denied 
  • America will justify its measures in the name of combatting Chinese Control: “At least we are free” 

Chinese Control 

  • China will justify these elements in the name of stability and the fight against American Anarchy 
  • Choosing between American Anarchy and Chinese Control is not ideal for most countries or most people 
  • Many countries will align with China for “stability” and allow the CCP to install its digital surveillance dystopia in their nation 
  • Many countries will opt for Iris scans from the China model instead of AR-15-chaos from the American model  

The Alternative to American Anarchy & Chinese Control 

  • Just as Americans have lost their minds in recent years, China has gone ultra-nationalist 
    • Xi Jinping has replaced 90% of CCP governors with ultra-nationalists starting in 2017 
  • China has gone as far to the nationalist right in some ways as America has gone to the woke left 
  • The Cold War had a “third world” consisting of non-aligned countries with neither the U.S. nor the Soviets, but it was significantly behind the U.S. and Soviet camps
  • Balaji speculates on a third group emerging in the new America-China conflict, but perhaps it comes in first this time
    • He calls this third group The Network State
    • 80% of the world is neither Chinese nor American
    • This third group could align behind cryptography protocols that provide a genuine rule of law
  • Take the American institutions and build them on-chain in more fair, meritocratic versions to prepare for the post-American age 
  • It’s not just about building the technology, it’s about building the community and the societies
  • The Network State is the alternative to American Anarchy and Chinese Control
Modern Wisdom : , , , , , , , , ,
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