The Episode of Everything: Balaji on Bitcoin and Ethereum, Media Self-Defense, Drone Warfare, Crypto Oracles, India as Dark Horse, The Pseudonymous Economy, Beautiful Trouble, Ramanujan, Life Extension, and More (#506) | The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • “If code scripts machines, media scripts human beings” – Balaji Srinivasan
  • Financial independence is a requirement for individual and ideological independence
    • If you’re in debt and have high expenses you can’t help but be a conformist to survive
  • Where would Balaji invest $100M if someone handed it to him?
    • Simplest arrangement: Half in Bitcoin (BTC), half in Ethereum (ETH)
    • Precautions if you invest in crypto
      • Do not hold your crypto in exchanges
      • Keep your wallet’s keys locally (cold storage)
  • What he is actually working on
    • Building the first newsletter that pays you (1729.com)
    • 1729 bootstraps talent around the world
    • It pays people in crypto for doing tasks that involve
      • Creating online content
      • Learning skills
      • Working out
  • Balaji’s vision is: Infinite frontier (space), individual money (crypto), eternal life (life extension)
  • Innovative countries have leaders that approach their role as CEOs
    • The country takes the quality of a tech company, experimenting with new things
  • Types of voting and self-governing city-states
    • Ballot, Wallet (political donations), Feet (migration)
    • As mobility increases, new modes of self-governing networks will arise
    • Cities and communities could be started and run like startups
  • Amid the US-China conflict, India could leverage blockchain to build software for the world

Key Books and Essays Mentioned

Intro

  • Balaji Srinivasan (@balajis), is an angel investor and an entrepreneur, he co-founded Earn.com (acquired by Coinbase) and worked as Coinbase’s CTO and as a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)
  • In this chat, Balaji discusses a wide variety of topics, ranging from protecting yourself from the media to the future of technology and politics, transhumanism, and much more

Podcasts and Decentralizing Media

  • “Product is merit and distribution is connections” Balaji Srinivasan
    • You can have a great blog post that no one reads (or vice-versa)
  • In most of our traditional media ecosystem, the product is terrible, but it has great distribution
  • The large distribution of media companies give them disproportionate power
    • It creates a hierarchical relationship between the journalist and the subject interviewed
    • “If code scripts machines, media scripts human beings” Balaji Srinivasan
      • Individuals have no power to defend themselves from attacks or misquotations
  • In podcasts, individuals tend to have similar distributions
    • Podcasts shift the relationship to one among peers
  • In traditional journalism, there are strong incentives to act maliciously
    • Journalists are incentivized to optimize for views and clicks
  • The answer is not to reform the industry
  • We can change media through radical decentralization
    • Everyone becomes a journalist
      • Each person writes about their local issues or areas of expertise
  • Currently, a few people in media companies decide what’s true
    • This can change through decentralization
  • With crypto, we reach a collective consensus about how many coins everyone has
    • With blockchain, we can extend this collective consensus to other areas and agree on what facts are true and what facts aren’t
    • You can create a ledger of cryptographic time-stamped events

Protecting Ourselves from the Media

  • Drastically reduce your expenses
    • Financial independence is a requirement for individual and ideological independence
      • If you’re in debt and have high expenses you can’t help but be a conformist to survive
    • It’s much easier to reduce your costs by 5X than increase your top line by 5x
    • You can find a remote job and move to a cheap location
      • Check out living expenses around the world at Nomad Lists
      • You can accumulate savings and increase your personal runway
    • The risk of getting canceled drastically drops when you’re financially independent
  • Think about the nodes in your network
    • Choose your friends and employees wisely
      • Build a network resistant to potential attacks
    • Read books like Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution by Andrew Boyd
      • It helps you realize how much of the news comes from activists’ PR and what strategies they adopt
  • Using pseudonyms online, in social media, and crypto transactions
    • If the governments’ databases get hacked, all our private online information could be made public
    • It will become less common to have your real name publicly online
    • You can still build up a reputation with a pseudonym
      • But your physical person can’t be canceled or damaged
      • You aren’t vulnerable to discrimination
    • ZCash is the truly anonymous cryptocurrency
    • Check Balaji’s full talk on Building a Pseudonymous Economy

Predictions, Investing in BTC and ETH, Risks

  • Balaji has been making accurate predictions regarding crypto and COVID
  • Where would he invest $100M if someone handed it to him?
    • Simplest arrangement: Half in BTC, half in ETH
  • Whenever the internet touches an industry, variance increases
    • Both the upsides and the downsides grow
    • BTC and ETH are examples of the extreme upsides
  • Not many institutions that predated the internet will survive it
    • The internet connects people peer-to-peer making middlemen useless
    • Mediocre institutions won’t survive in the long term
      • The one exception might be the Chinese Communist Party
  • The future may be a centralized east vs. a decentralized west
  • BTC’s greatest risk is that the Chinese put the Great Firewall against it
    • May make it challenging to maintain a blockchain in China
    • If they allowed Chinese mining to continue on the China chain but not on the world chain there could be periodical issues with synchronization
      • If the China chain had more mining it could periodically throw away transactions from the rest of the world
    • Balaji assigns a 30% chance to such risk
    • If this were to happen, the Bitcoin ledger could be imported by other cryptocurrencies
  • If ETH successfully migrates to proof of stake, it won’t be vulnerable to this risk
  • There’s also a risk of a US regulatory attack on crypto
    • Balaji thinks that there’s a 100% chance of more crypto attacks
      • This doesn’t mean that they will be successful
    • To protect yourself
      • Do not hold your crypto in exchanges
      • Keep your wallet’s keys locally (cold storage)
    • Florida and Wyoming are attracting technology investments by embracing crypto
      • We are already seeing an increase in tech activity in Miami

What Balaji is Working On

  • Building the first newsletter that pays you (1729.com)
  • 1729 pays people in crypto for doing tasks that involve
    • Creating online content
    • Learning skills
    • Working out
  • Anybody can start earning by learning new skills
    • 1729 bootstraps talent around the world
  • Every time you solve a task, you receive a non-transferable badge attesting it
    • Badges build your reputation, helping you qualify for jobs
  • The principles of 1729 are Truth, Health, Wealth
    • Truth: Gain new knowledge
    • Health: Keep your body active and measure progress
    • Wealth: Gain wealth, but not at the cost of truth or health

Crypto Mindset

  • The best tech people’s mindset is “win and let win”
    • This is neither progressive, nor conservative, nor libertarian
      • It is ambitious in a way that conservatives are not
      • It is positive-sum in a way that progressives are not
      • It is collective in a way that libertarians are not

What The Future Holds

  • “I think the future will be more different than the present is commonly understood” Balaji Srinivasan
    • As time goes by daily life is changing faster and faster
    • Between 2000 and now, life changed much more drastically than it did between 1980 to 2000
  • We are moving back towards nomadic lifestyles
    • Humans evolved for years as nomad hunter and gatherers but started settling with farming
    • With remote work, increased mobility, and technology digital nomads are moving back to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle
  • As mobility increases, new modes of self-governing networks will arise
    • States will become less relevant

Transhumanism and Resources to Learn More

  • Balaji’s vision is: Infinite frontier, individual money, eternal life
    • He strongly believes in space, crypto, and life extension
    • We tend to have too low expectations for our future
  • The goal is for individuals to not need healthcare anymore
    • The goal is to become a self-healing, self-rejuvenating individual
  • If we can slow down aging we would massively reduce illnesses
    • There are already promising studies out there showing the potential of gene therapy
  • Transhumanism is a response to the growing Anarcho-primitivism
    • According to Anarcho-primitivists, people and technology are bad, they are destroying the world
    • They want to go back to their idealized fantasy of simpler times
  • There’s a famous Stanford Debate between these two views

Countries on Balaji’s Watchlist

  • Qualities of countries on Balaji’s watchlist
    • Innovative countries have leaders that approach their role as CEOs
    • The country takes the quality of a tech company, experimenting with new things
    • They are relatively small countries that had to do more “convincing than coercing”
  • A few examples
    • Estonia
      • The former President of Estonia, Toomas Ilves a Princeton computer scientist started embracing the internet in the mid-90s
    • Dubai
    • Singapore
    • Switzerland 
    • Taiwan
    • Israel
    • Principality of Monaco

Thoughts on China and the US

  • Most people tend to underestimate China 
    • We don’t understand how technologically advanced they are
    • Their response to COVID showed their ability to deal with crises
      • It’s difficult to imagine a hospital being built in 9 days in the US
  • It seems unlikely that the US would be able to confront China in a military or cyberwarfare conflict
    • We have to hope this cold war doesn’t turn into a hot one
  • China is getting more totalitarian
    • Increased censorship, they even introduced and spread a propaganda app
    • The party went after Jack Ma after a speech against regulation
      • They stopped Alibaba’s IPO
      • He might have been facing house arrest
  • America is not that different from China in that regard
    • Rights are guaranteed on paper
    • But the reality is different

How the US can Mitigate the Risks of a Conflict with China

  • Encouraging more Founding DNA instead of Inheriting DNA
  • The only things still functional in the US amidst COVID are the internet companies
  • They were new enough to have the founders still around to tweak things
    • Founders are selected for both legitimacy and competency
    • Those who inherit (companies, armies), have legitimacy, but they don’t necessarily have competency
    • There’s an argument to have Jeff Bezos, a founder expert in logistic, reorganize the military from scratch

100% Democracy vs. 51% Democracy

  • With 51% democracy, you need to use coercion when you are in power
    • 49% of people did not agree
  • The ideal would be to have a 100% consensus to minimize coercion
  • Three kinds of voting
    • At the Ballot
      • Small cost to voting, small power to affect the outcome
    • Voting with your wallet (political donations)
      • The higher the cost, the higher the impact
    • Voting with your feet (migration)
      • Highest cost of all
      • Anyone can pick the outcome they prefer
  • With increased mobility, we could have a system of a large number of city-states
    • People can periodically assess where to go
  • Cities and communities could be started and run like startups
    • Mayors would act more like CEO
    • CEOs tend to do a lot more convincing than coercing

Why India Should Invest in Crypto

  • India’s best move is to bet on BTC
    • India’s currency can’t be the global reserve currency
      • If you’re neither Windows nor MacOs, you go all-in on Linux
      • If you’re neither USD nor Yuan, you go all-in on BTC
    • As a nation, you don’t want other nations to be able to control the global currency
      • It’s better to have no one control it
      • China has significantly reduced its trade of USD
  • Amid this US-China conflict, India could leverage blockchain to build software for the world
    • Blockchain is globally neutral, everyone can trust it
    • Chinese investors don’t trust the US legal ecosystem and vice-versa
      • Both of them will invest in an Ethereum smart contract
  • India’s crypto ecosystem is still very early
    • It did not have the time to compound
      • Crypto was banned in 2018 and then unbanned
  • Other factors making crypto attractive for India
    • As remote jobs continue spreading, crypto payments will become more attractive
    • Lower fees on remittances
  • Balaji wrote two articles on this
  • India may not only build technology for the World, but also the media for the world
    • It could be a new media that portrays the good aspects of technology

Additional Notes

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Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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