The Rise of Cloud Cities & Citizen Journalism | Balaji Srinivasan on The Paradox Podcast

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Key Takeaways

  •  Balaji is optimistic about the technological change in biomedicine because of COVID
    • Telemedicine is being pushed forward, people have started to talk more about genetic testing, and have started to look at death as a disease
  • Starting a new city would require a lot of land, but starting a cloud city would be much easier
    • There is an infinite amount of land on the internet
    • “In the same way that social media turned a lot of people in publishers, I think that VR is going to turn a lot of people into architects” Balaji Srinivasan
  • A new business model for building a city: Instead of owning specific pieces of land, you own equity in the entire city. This way, you have equity alignment with everyone else in the city. 
  • “The internet is the next Silicon Valley”Balaji Srinivasan
  • Every company is now a media company and every person is now a citizen journalist:
    • “Media corporations are not the free press, you’re the free press. Right as a citizen, you’re the person who’s supposed to hold everyone accountable.” Balaji Srinivasan
  • People are becoming personal media corporations. Ex: Substack and Twitter enable people to make a living creating media and content
  • “Cryptocurrency will be seen as the most important thing happening in the 2010s by future historians” – Balaji Srinivasan
    • Just like the internet was the most important thing of the 1990s, crypto will be the thing in 2010s
  • “Twitter is actually the government of Western civilization right now” – Balaji Srinivasan
    • With Twitter, you’re seeing elections happen every day because the Twitter mob can have a strong influence on people with power

Intro

  •  Balaji Srinivasan (@balajis), is an angel investor and an entrepreneur, He is formerly the CTO of Coinbase and General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
  • Host: Kyle Tibbitts (@KyleTibbitts)

Books Mentioned

Areas of Acceleration

  • Balaji is optimistic about the technological change in biomedicine because of COVID
    • Telemedicine is being pushed forward, people have started to talk more about genetic testing, and have started to look at death as a disease
  • Balaji is pessimistic about the political order in the US
    • There’s a lot more conflict and polarization between Americans
    • In the US keeps its current trajectory, Asia will likely pass it
  • Disruption is great but only when you have a positive alternative to take its place
    • Netflix was a great alternative to Blockbuster

Balaji’s Influences

  • As a kid, Balaji came across Richard Feynman’s lectures on physics which shaped his view of the world. As did the books:
  • The internet opened up a new frontier for learning and building
    • There are countless books available on the internet
    • If you want to build a physical object like a shed, you may need a permit but if you want to build a website, all you need is a domain name and you can build almost anything you want
      • Balaji believes the next frontier will be virtual reality

Cloud Cities

  • Starting a new city would require a lot of land, but starting a cloud city would be much easier
    • You start with the people and culture first, and do the architure in VR
      • “In the same way that social media turned a lot of people in publishers, I think that VR is going to turn a lot of people into architects” Balaji Srinivasan
        • There is an infinite amount of land on the internet
  •  To start a new physical city, all you really need is a lack of regulation:
    • A city that allows the testing of autonomous driving
    • A city that allows stem cell testing
  • A new business model for building a city: Instead of owning specific pieces of land, you own equity in the entire city. This way, you have equity alignment with everyone else in the city. 
  • “The internet is the next Silicon Valley”Balaji Srinivasan
    • Tech workers are already spending 10 hours a day on their laptop, all they need is an internet connection
  • There are 4 places you can build: Land, Internet, Sea, and Space
    • There are about 7 billion people on land
    • About 2-3 billion on the internet
    • About 2 million on the sea
    • About 10 people in space

The News

  • When China locked down Balaji, he saw it as a signal to take COVID seriously
    • Why? China is no longer a poor or developing country, and they’re not known for stopping economic growth so for them to shut down a city was a serious matter
  • You can’t always trust the news to tell you the complete truth
    • The news has been wrong about the internet, bitcoin, and many other topics including COVID
    • Early news reports made fun of people who wore masks or didn’t want to shake hands in the office
  • The news doesn’t have much incentive to issue corrections or retractions, doing so is sometimes seen as humiliating
    • Just as people who talk about law have to give a disclaimer that they aren’t lawyers, journalists reporting on COVID should say they aren’t a scientist
  • “Tech wants media to share our values and media wants tech to share our resources” – Balaji Srinivasan

Citizen Journalism

  • We’re starting to see more journalists become independent by having their own paid newsletter or website
    • One idea: Have those writers network together and make it easy for them to interact with one another
  • One of the bad things about Twitter is that it’s instability and mob behavior is leaking into real life
  • Every company is now a media company and every person is now a citizen journalist:
    • “Media corporations are not the free press, you’re the free press. Right as a citizen, you’re the person who’s supposed to hold everyone accountable.” Balaji Srinivasan
  • People are becoming personal media corporations. Ex: Substack and Twitter enable people to make a living creating media and content
  • There are Oracles and Advocates:
    • Oracles take facts and figures from sources and wrap it around an article
    • Advocates take that same data but put on a narrative around it so it suits what they’re advocating for
  • “There’s legacy media corporations and social media corporations and we do need to hold both of them accountable”Balaji Srinivasan

Bitcoin, Twitter & Life Advice

  • Balaji is bullish on crypto
    • “Cryptocurrency will be seen as the most important thing happening in the 2010s by future historians” – Balaji Srinivasan
      • Just like the internet was the most important thing of the 1990s, crypto will be the thing in 2010s
        • Crypto needs to be baked under the hoods of applications to take it to the next level
    • “Speculation is installation”
      • Now that bitcoin is valued by people, you can now build an economy around it
  • “Twitter is actually the government of Western civilization right now” – Balaji Srinivasan
    • With Twitter, you’re seeing elections happen every day because the Twitter mob can have a strong influence on people with power
  • “Manage yourself before managing others” – Balaji Srinivasan
    • You need to be able to set and hit goals for yourself before trying to lead others

Addendum From Balaji (via Twitter)

  • “Very obvious point, but the other major trend on the same level of potential as crypto is AI (meaning the strong form version, what DeepMind and OpenAI are doing). A bit like the nuclear bomb & the transistor as the most important breakthroughs of the 1940s.” – Balaji Srinivasan
  • “AI is more widely acknowledged as being a big deal though, while crypto is still relatively underrated. This is probably because AI (like mobile) came top down from elite institutions, while crypto was a very bottom up phenomenon.” – Balaji Srinivasan
  • “Super helpful framing @balajis. The top down vs. bottom up/centralized vs. decentralized origins of AI vs. crypto seems to have a significant impact on the dominant narratives around these technologies.” – Kyle Tibbits

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Notes By Alex Wiec

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