A Few Things....

November 25 2019

A. The Silk Roads: A New History Of The World (by Peter Frankopan)

A book like this fits under the category of Big History .

Bill Gates called Big History his favorite course of all time, blurring the boundaries between science, geography & history.

If you haven’t seen David Christian’s 17-min TED talk, you should check it out immediately (it only has 10 mm views on TED and 5 mm more on Youtube).

But back to Silk Roads - Peter Frankopan tries to put western civilization in the broader context of global history and how much we have really learnt and benefited from the East.

The bottom line is that regions come and go, cities and empires rise and fall. In reality, we have massively interconnected and borrowed histories.

History is the story of interaction amongst empires and people. What seems like the success of the West now is a) an accident of history and b) something that will pass.

Peter did a great and watchable documentary in 2017 that helps us understand our place in the world today.

If you wanted a more condensed version of the ideas here you could read Will & Ariel Durant’s classic - The Lessons of History or dive deeper by taking David Christian’s Big History course on Coursera.


B. This changes everything…..

Over 20% of current couples met online, a number that has grown exponentially over the last decade, to the detriment of everything.

The reason for that exponential growth is because an estimated 65% of new relationships are beginning online.

That is an insane statistic, and probably not one that most people reading this have been exposed to. But it’s important because of what it means and what it changes…..

When you dig deeper into online dating, you discover that just like other technologies, it has brought down the costs associated with dating - safety, monetary, time, social frictions, physical safety and social stigma…….

Quoting from the attached piece on The Dating Market (highly recommended to understand the future of our society):

With the advent of online dating, women in prime reproductive age are in the dominant position in the dating market for the first time in human history. This comes with huge social ramifications. Setting aside local and recent context, dating has historically been drastically riskier for women than men (and it still is, but less so). In the era of online dating, women are at significantly less risk simply by not being in the immediate proximity of their prospects, and rejecting a prospect has no downside risk. 

Women globally also have more upside potential because they can draw from larger prospect pools than ever before. Due to the significantly higher biological risks associated with reproduction, women are intrinsically far more selective when evaluating potential mates than males.

In an online dating context, this selectivity is more apparent than ever, with significant knock-on effects for the rest of the culture. There is less pressure to "settle" than at any other time in modern history because of the availability of alternatives and the speed of interactions. 

Which leads to the two charts below:

Men online rate women broadly on a normal distribution…..

but, women rate men on what looks more like a Pareto distribution.

That puts a lot of the stuff Jordan Peterson talks about in a whole different light….but that’s for another time.


C. A Few Things Worth Checking Out:

1. Edward Snowden was on the Joe Rogan show discussing his book, Permanent Record. It is a impressive tour deforce of how privacy has changed. They also discussed what is broken in our democracy. Great and wide ranging discussion that really has me bothered.

2. A lot of you have watched the Game Changers documentary on Netflix, extolling the virtues of a vegetarian diet…..turns out there’s a lot wrong in that documentary. A lot of lies and mistruths.

Here’s a categorical debunking of the Game Changers with Joe Rogan done by Chris Kresser, one of the most respected clinicians and educators in the field of Functional Medicine.

3. Two great Farnam Street articles, one on Signaling as a hidden method of communication and two on Elastic Thinking, Flexible thinking in a changing world.

4. Zucked……continued. Sacha Baron-Cohen (of Borat and Ali G fame), gives a staggeringly good 24-minute speech on the twisted logic of ‘free speech’ on social networks.

This speech marries well with two recent books - Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism and Rana Foroohar’s Don’t Be Evil.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

- Voltaire

5. Rana Foroohar did a great podcast on Hidden Forces, discussing our modern monopolies.


Quotes I’m thinking about:

"To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top."

“The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality."

- Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“Like Warren, I had a considerable passion to get rich, not because I wanted Ferraris – I wanted the independence. I desperately wanted it.”

- Charlie Munger