Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future

A reflection

Kabakov, who provided the quote for the title of this post, is a conceptual artist. Kabakov makes art which feels like you are at the scene of an accident, but after it has happened. Something moved but it no longer does.

I am speculating here, but this feels like a metaphor for the decay of the Soviet Union which Kabakov escaped from. After a while those who are paying attention can probably tell something is off. This likely occurred in the USSR and is the reason why you hear of more migrants than those who stayed. As something deteriorates, it becomes parasitic on those who stay involved. A small group benefitted deeply; the oligarchs, but the rest rusted as the country crumbled under the pressures of designer clothing. Who is responsible? Is it wrong to search for a better life? Should you be beholden if you grant the curse of freedom on your people and they don't know what to do with it?

We are nearing the end of Passover. This is historically a holiday where Jews exiled themselves in search of a better life and didn't have enough time to fully bake bread. Whether you believe the rest of story, it's fair to say that there was probably an out-migration at one point in time. I'm not particularly religious, but I felt it right to celebrate this year. This year I made a personal migration. Thankfully I didn't face the same adversity detailed in the story, but searching for a better life is timeless. The stories are, I believe, mostly there as metaphors. Some of them are possibly hyperbole, but to be fair we did have a literal plague.

I'm buying a house

Who, Why, Where

Hey everyone. On Monday, March 29th I’m going to be closing on a house. It will be the largest individual purchase I’ve made in my life, doubley so considering my wife is roped into it. We did a lot of thinking about what values are important to us, and where we see ourselves for the next 10-ish years. We landed on Tampa.

If you’ve been reading my Twitter, you’ll know that we’ve lived here for the last year or so. We saw the trend of cases spreading increased in cold climates, as well as the remote work trend broadly. I’ve never been one to completely agree with how Florida handled the pandemic, but I’m broadly an advocate for high quality of life at lower cost with year-round warm weather. There’s a good write up here: The Curious Case of Florida’s Pandemic Response

Miami is a wonderful place. It was the only place for us in competition with Tampa. Miami’s benefits are also its detriments. The city is too reminiscent of New York, with the hustle and bustle beneficial for commerse but detrimental for the general fatigue COVID has caused. Miami is also a transcient city - single people come there to have fun, hook up, and then go back home.

A secondary city was much more appealing. People who come to Tampa typically stay in Tampa. The city has a number of vibrant places to visit and things to do, and a strong jobs market, presumably made stronger by tech remotee’s such as myself. It has the only award winning water treatment plant in Florida. Great air quality. Strong patronage and investment from Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates. The sports teams all win.

The house itself is in a suburb to the east of Tampa. It is in close proximity to the city, Orlando, and high enough of an elevation to not be impacted by rising water levels. Buying a house is a very long winded process that I’ll write about some other time. I’ll share photos soon, but needless to say we’re excited.

The Merit of Confidence

How to build stratospheric wealth

[Not investment advice. Past performance is no indicator of future success.]

When Roaring Kitty made 11 million dollars on Gamestop stock, he explained he did it based on the inherent value in the stock. His August 21st 2020 video:

is a great overview of the thinking that went into his decision, and how he ultimately managed his risks to overweight on his position in Gamestop. It's easy to ignore the fact that his initial price target was $50.

It leads me to believe being overweight on a specific idea, one which you have thoroughly vetted or have deep confidence in, is a successful strategy. There are multiple examples of this historically as well. Most individuals who have reached stratospheric wealth over weighted in a single company. Now, of course the opposite is true, that you can also lose everything on a single idea. That is why a truly deep knowledge or understanding will allow someone to also make snap decisions on an idea when presented with new information.

This is a response to a tweet which explores a Druckenmiller quote about George Soros. Soros was well known for being overweight on ideas he had confidence in, including notably regarding currency in 1992. But the quote from Druckenmiller needs additional context: Soros was also likely faster to recognize the risks of a strategy and cut his position than Druckenmiller was as well. In the same vein, it can be said that if you are ever going to overweight on something, you must understand it better than most anyone else. This will allow you to maneuver through new data and make informed decisions about your position.

In my life, I have been exposed to rapidly appreciating things. I have never overweighted my position on those things. Historically, this has probably cost me a tremendous amount of unrealized value. Maybe next time I will take a page out of Soros and spend a bit more time building my confidence.

NFT's and Provenance

What adds to the value of NFT's

When you pay millions of dollars for a piece of art, you want to be sure it is authentic. There are a number of chemical ways to authenticate the art, but there are also superficial ways. These include having critics familiar with the artist come and review it, or check the provenance. In art, provenance is a word that roughly means "ownership history". It can also be a way to ensure that piece of art was ethically transferred between custodians.

Above is a fake Rothko painting. The con artist that sold this painting to the Knoedler Gallery gave a vague provenance that sprinkled in just enough real details that the transaction closed. These details were hard to verify by non-experts, served by the fact that the people involved were largely long since deceased. Of course, artists typically live eccentric lives, and in some cases that eccentricity lends itself to a very interesting provenance that will add to the painting. If I can validate that a painting I own was formerly owned by Philip II of Spain, that is valuable in-and-of itself.

Enter NFT's: they are just tokens, sitting on a blockchain address. Blockchains "enforce scarcity" as @mattgcondon explains,

but they can also be used to show a network of connections. I can go on any blockchain explorer and see a list of transactions for any address. If I add attribution to those connections, I can make-shift my way into a history of provenance for any NFT1. I can also confirm without a shadow of a doubt that those transactions are accurate.

What happens when you have a near flawless2 history of ownership for an NFT? My assumption is that it will become just as valuable as to *who* owned the NFT as *what* it is. The provenance becomes a visible part of the NFT itself. Then, buying from people who you value itself becomes valuable. It becomes a literal signature from the prior owner, and we all know how valuable signatures are.

1

I used to work at Chainalysis, which derives a great deal of value out of adding attributions.

2

Technically you know who minted, or authored, that NFT. It just may not be the original artist. You could also obtain someone's private key and sign for them, or misattribute.

The 5 People That Influence Your Thoughts

Earlier in the week, I tweeted:

This thought came to me as a result of some tea research I was doing. This post on Reddit claimed that overseas delivery rates are going to increase starting April 1st:

The conversation continued in the comments. As it turns out, the UPU, which is a regulatory body for postage, passed a compromise to allow a phased change. The US is allowed to do it immediately through an exemption. A few different sources reported on it, and ultimately drove me to order some tea from some overseas vendors. Tucked between the comments actually discussing the subject was a comment discussing the nature of the USPS, or United States Postal Service. What drew me to that comment is that it used the line "the USPS is operating in the red". This means it operates at a loss.

This struck me as something I've heard repeated from a very specific party, in this very specific way, to justify disenfranchisement. Below that is the alternative party's response, of "USPS isn't a business, it's a service". It made me wonder how many of these people actually originated these thoughts, and how much of it is circulation of arguments seen before. It bubbled up that this little fact probably doesn't even matter, and that humans repeat stories all of the time. It did shed light on something else though.

The originator of these thoughts has a tremendous amount of influence. In general, many people probably owe 70-80% of the thoughts rolling around in their heads to a small group of people. For me, that group is probably no bigger than 5.

Those people, who essentially create the virus of the original idea, spread it so effectively that other people treat it as their own. It becomes a parasite, which the person repeats and continues to spread. It makes me wonder what the traits are that can create something like this in the first place. Can you quantify how sticky or good-at-spreading an idea will be? And then I realized - you totally can. Richard Dawkins basically summarized as much in The Selfish Gene. In a very meta way, I discovered that my investigation of trying to find the nature of original thought was a virus of its own, repeating familiar writing from The Selfish Gene and memes more broadly.

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