Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads Jan 2nd, 2022

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1. “this is an actor who built a Hollywood career playing as gritty and heavy as you can get: a copper-coiffed and upsettingly horny Bond villain (Skyfall), a tormented priest experiencing a dark night of the soul (To the Wonder), a quadriplegic fighting for his right to assisted suicide (The Sea Inside), a terminally ill street hustler rushing to settle his affairs for his young children before he dies (Biutiful), the murderous drug lord Pablo Escobar (Loving Pablo). What happens when a celebrated actor known for exploring the bleakest corners of the human psyche and its most base passions decides to start belting out musical numbers?

Bardem’s face, one of the most distinct in cinema, is made for gritty and heavy. Hooded eyes complement a Picasso-angled nose, fortuitously broken in a bar fight when he was 19.”

2. Lock downs and Zero-Covid is an intensely stupid policy 2 years into the pandemic. Fundamentally does not work.

“Though economic knock-on effects are concerning for China and the world, a bigger issue might be the isolation of China. “If the rest of the world learned to live with Covid, is China going to be the only country that locks itself out of conferences, international travel, and students going there? They are going to pay a high price for going this path,” Dollar said.”

3. “In other words, trumpeting American freedom as a way to lure scientists permanently away from China will both reinforce the U.S.’ moral image in the world, and gather needed tech talent in a way that doesn’t encourage the sending of ideas overseas. Of course, that effort would have to be paired with vigorous efforts to present the U.S. as a place where Chinese people can feel safe and free from racial discrimination. That will require cracking down further on anti-Asian hate crime, as well as stepping up rhetorical efforts to make Asian immigrants feel like America cares about them and can be their family’s permanent home.

But it’s worth it. America needs talent to innovate and grow, and China has a lot of it. We can get that talent and burnish our moral credentials as defender of the Free World at the same time.”

4. “Here we clearly see that talk of China’s massive navy is rather out of proportion. It should be noted that China’s fleet relies disproportionately on smaller classes of ships, like the frigate and corvette, which are widely considered not to be major surface combatants. Even still, the bulk of its numbers advantage comes from its coastal patrol ships which, while not insignificant, have limited capacity to project power beyond China’s near seas. Further, the United States maintains a massive carrier advantage.

While the United States does remain the primary guarantor of security for states such as Japan and South Korea, they are by no means helpless. Indeed, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force maintains one of the largest surface fleetsin the world, containing 51 major surface combatants. Likewise, South Korea’s naval forces total 23 major warships, with eyes on major expansions. Nonetheless, the role of allied fleets goes largely unmentioned in U.S. national security discourse.”

5. “Omicron probably is less severe than previous strains of Covid.

So although Omicron is burning through the U.S. population like a wildfire, there are plenty of reasons for optimism this Christmas season. A less severe form of the disease, combined with effective vaccines and treatments, means that we may be closer to the end of mass Covid death than it looked a month ago. Knock on wood. Fingers crossed.

As a coda, however, Covid’s economic impact will still reverberate around the world for a while. This is especially true because China is sticking doggedly to a “zero Covid” policy that almost all other countries have abandoned in the face of hyper-contagious new variants. That requires locking down whole cities whenever there’s so much as a whiff of Covid.

And because the world depends so much on China to sustain its manufacturing supply chains, that means more disruptions in the works, potentially adding to the inflation problem. According to reports, Xi Jinping’s advisors are begging him to drop the “zero Covid” policy, but the supreme leader remains unmoved.”

6. Still bullish on the USA but you need to diversify to other regions period.

“while the future of the USA and of the Western World is dark and will continue to get darker, the future for the world is actually very bright. While people in the West will be angrily complaining about how horrible everything is getting, most people in other countries outside of the West will be experiencing huge and dramatic increases in technology, lifestyle, standard of living, and income.

I’m not betting on the West, but I am betting on the world outside the West, and in a very strong way.”

7. This is a pretty good framework to evaluate your business. Dude is weird but this framework is quite good.

8. “Many of these common questions stem from the belief that tech debt should be as low as possible and close to zero. But, companies and products never win by having as little as possible tech debt. Speed to delivery, being first to market, and constantly adding value to the product are things that lead to winning. And, most tech debt can make sense to accumulate as a tradeoff in order to get more of the things that lead to winning.

Just like with debt in real life, if you take on debt right now, you can get something of higher value today and pay it off over time. This means you should view tech debt as a strategic lever for your organization’s success over time.”

9. “The pattern of mainstream culture neglecting the people who started the trend or fad isn’t that surprising when you consider that gatekeepers, tastemakers, and critics have tended to skew white and male. But social media and the internet have been leveling the playing field by giving people — young people, people of color, women, LGBTQ people — a place to gather and be heard.

The internet makes the line that separates fads and mainstream culture incredibly thin. Even niche corners of the pop culture landscape feel five seconds away from becoming swept up by the masses. A fad is so quickly adopted that it’s almost futile to fight it; by the time a hater has heard of it, chances are so have many millions of fans.

Something odd is happening: People you may have thought were chic and hip are falling into fads, drinking the popular drink that’s all over Instagram, reading the novel a celebrity promoted in their book club, or wearing that overpriced shoe everyone has — and people you thought were dorky may now be trendsetters, pioneering viral recipes from their mom’s kitchens on TikTok. It’s all strange in this moment, and even I, who might scoff if one of my friends ordered an espresso martini, understand it.

It’s indicative of how the pandemic may have changed all of us. It’s made people a little more earnest about what they do like and won them a bit more slack. Given the litany of bummers over the past year and a half, we’re entitled to a little bit of that.

Over the pandemic, as I watched friends turning into plant dads, knitters, bread bakers, and cat moms, I began to realize that these fads and trends were bridges to human connection, allowing us to build communities that we might not have otherwise. Granted, some of these hobbies are much more permanent and carry more commitment than others (say, making the photogenic Dalgona coffee is a lot less investment than getting a pet), but the end result is the same. There’s a second level of enjoyment unlocked by joining and participating in a community.”

10. This is such a great interview with one of the smartest and original thinkers on the planet. Balaji S. A Must listen to if you want to understand the future.

11. This is a good description of the lack of vitality and mess that America is in right now.

“Why does it matter that young people have a voice in tech and culture? Because young people are our most dependable source of new ideas in culture and science. They have the least to lose from cultural change and the most to gain from overthrowing legacies and incumbents.

The philosopher Thomas Kuhn famously pointed out that paradigm shifts in science and technology have often come from young people who revolutionized various subjects precisely because they were not so deeply indoctrinated in their established theories. One of the revolutionaries he mentioned, the physicist Max Planck, quipped that science proceeds “one funeral at a time” because new scientific truths thrive only when their opponents die and a new generation grows up with them.”

12. This is a boss level framework for creators. Who doesn’t want to become a mogul?

13. “Finally, in February 2021, the NFT market roused from hibernation — and went crazy. In July, OpenSea processed $350 million in NFT trades. That same month, in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz, it raised $100 million in venture capital at a $1.5 billion valuation. In August, as NFT hype (and FOMO) reached a fever pitch, volume spiked tenfold to $3.4 billion — an $85 million commission windfall for OpenSea in a month when it likely burned less than $5 million on expenses.

Although transactions have since retreated to around $2 billion a month, the platform now has 1.8 million active users and a dominant share of the market. It’s up to 70 employees and is scouting for dozens more, including much-needed customer service reps.”

14. “Fundamentally, the growth of DAOs has been driven by many of the same tailwinds that Web2 communities are experiencing. Amid rising loneliness, people are increasingly searching for connection within digital communities — a trend that was only accelerated by pandemic lockdowns. On top of this, people are dramatically rethinking their relationship with work and consumer adoption of crypto is accelerating — all of which is driving more people into DAOs.

DAOs are not just another use case of Ethereum — they are organizations that give users a home to explore the entire Web3 ecosystem. Packy McCormick wrote in The Dao of DAOs: “If blockchains, NFTs, smart contracts, DeFi protocols, and DApps are the what, DAOs are the how.”

15. This is a great thread. India on the rise.

16. Wow, this is an eye opening interview. He is rightfully negative on USA, bit too optimistic on the state capacity of China. But lots of food for thought.

17. No surprise here. 2 years in: Zero Covid policy makes no sense.

Sadly this is still being hewed to across Asia & in Australia and New Zealand.

What a stupid destructive policy. Learn from Hong Kong & China who are wrecking themselves.

“With China exercising ever-tighter control over Hong Kong, the city is hewing to the country’s strict “zero covid” policy extolled by Beijing as evidence of a superior political system. Yet the approach has largely cut off Hong Kong from both China and the world — a severe blow for a place that built its success on global connections. Even more than recent political changes, the authorities’ refusal to adapt to living with the virus is eroding Hong Kong’s viability as an international city……”

18. If you are interested in Life Longevity, this is worth listening to. All 2 hours.

19. “Governments are not thrilled in these scenarios to take responsibility due to previous monetary or fiscal decisions. Instead, they historically blame corporations for price gouging, implement price controls, and even institute capital controls in the most extreme examples. The higher the inflation gets, the more severe the government’s response tends to be.

The United States is experiencing nearly 7% inflation and we see our politicians calling out various industries, from beef producers to grocery stores, in regards to alleged price gouging. If history serves as a guide, it is unlikely that the corporations are actually price gouging. It is much more likely that their labor and material costs have drastically increased, so they need to raise their prices in order to still have any profit.”

20. This is a bit dark but I definitely have come around to this view. And my awakening also happened on the same timeline as my friend Tucker.

I definitely am a Doomer Optimist myself. Worth a read here, especially if you live in the USA.

21. Super interesting idea. Useful for all startup investors. Hope someone is working on this. MirrorTable versus the traditional Cap Table.

“As motivation, angel investing is through the roof. With the physical decentralization of technology away from Silicon Valley, the simultaneous acceleration of many tech trends, and the money released by a slew of liquidity events, there are more high net worth individuals writing more checks into more tech startups in more countries than ever before.”

22. Very excellent tech industry predictions here for 2022. Some of the best I’ve read. Recommend.

23. Learned something new. Always found Shen Yun to be kind of creepy (although I like their anti-CCP stance, the enemy of my enemy is my not-enemy?).

“While their ultimate goals are certainly very different, both Falun Gong and VCs are betting that if they invest in customer acquisition now, there will be a long-term payoff. For VCs, that payoff is either that a) the acquired customers’ LTVs grow to the point that the businesses’ economics make sense or b) their investment exits before unsustainable economics bring down the company. For Falun Gong, that payoff is a growing number of adherents and a global understanding and appreciation of their worldviews.

Ideas are only as strong as the economic models supporting them.

Falun Gong and Shen Yun have the world’s most patient LPs — volunteers and adherents who are committed to changing the world. While Silicon Valley trumpets the same mission, VC LPs are not philanthropists, and they will only subsidize the products and services we consume for as long as they can reasonably expect a positive financial outcome.”

24. Drake is crushing it these days. Music artist, businessman and investor. We can all learn something from this guy.

25. Word. Go where you are treated best.

26. Hopeful news on the Covid Endemic front. Hope he is right.

27. This is a great summary of business predictions for 2022.

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com