#thebalance: block's big week

May 11th, 2020 (vol34)

~ Welcome to the #thebalance 34 ~

For those of you who are crypto curious, Bitcoin Halving day happened today (read about what it means here) and it also corresponds with the now, formerly, NYC blockchain week.

Bitcoin GIF by eToro

Normally, this would be an EXTREMELY intense week for me had we not been in the midst of a global health crisis. Now, the organizer (Coindesk) of the main conference is putting on a 100% digitally distributed (and 100% 🆓) event called Consensus Distributed that is streaming live all week with lots of high profile speakers across the space (many of which are friends of mine☺️).

I recommend at least taking a peek of whats in store here. I mean BOTH Akon and Chainsmokers are involved… whats not to like??

heatwave GIF by Robin Schulz

♎ this week’s topic summary ♎

🤔🤔 #thinkingthings

📲🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏻 #followerthings

  • Smart people saying smart things with different perspectives, this week:

    —> @SuperMugatu (aka Dan McMurtie, Partner at Tyro Partners - a must follow)

    —> @AmandaGoetz (VP the Knot, ‘Builder of Brands’ - also a great follow)

    —> @ShaneParrish (Founder of Farnam Street blog, amazing podcast host)

📚⏯️🎤 #otherthings

  • Keeping it light this week!

⬇️ more below ⬇️

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🤔🤔 #thinkingthings

🟥 >>>> #trustandcompute

Highlighting a top technology fund’s investment thesis this week.

The fund, Andreessen Horowitz, is one of the most well known Silicon Valley firms out there — having backed some big name technology companies over the years (i.e. Facebook, Skype, Airbnb, Twitter, etc).

On par with today’s theme, I wanted to highlight their thinking on where the future may be headed while providing insight into where some of the brightest people in the world are spending their time… and hopefully convincing you that crypto as a business opportunity is not thaaaaaat crazy :)

Broad adoption of digital assets is coming much faster than you think and it will make a BIG impact on society. But don’t take it from me….

  • Historically, new models of computing have tended to emerge every 10–15 years: mainframes in the 60s, PCs in the late 70s, the internet in the early 90s, and smartphones in the late 2000s.

  • Each computing model enabled new classes of applications that built on the unique strengths of the platform. For example, smartphones were the first truly personal computers with built-in sensors like GPS and high-resolution cameras. Applications like Instagram, Snapchat, and Uber/Lyft took advantage of these unique capabilities and are now used by billions of people.

  • Blockchain computers were first proposed in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto in the Bitcoin whitepaper. Those original ideas have since been dramatically expanded by developers and researchers around the world. Blockchain computers are new types of computers where the unique capability is trust between users, developers, and the platform itself. This trust emerges from the mathematical and game-theoretic properties of the system, without depending on the trustworthiness of individual network participants.

  • Trust is a new software primitive from which other components can be constructed. 

GIF by Silicon Valley
  • The first and most prominent example is digital money, made famous by Bitcoin. But, as we’ve discovered over the past few years, many other software components can be constructed using the building blocks of trust. Smart contract platforms like Ethereum enable the creation of, among other things, application-specific currenciesdigital property rightsopen financial instruments, and software-based organizations.

  • Although the Bitcoin whitepaper is now almost 10 years old, we believe we are still early in the crypto movement. The infrastructure needs to be improved and the applications are difficult for non-early adopters to use. Many crypto applications still get dismissed as toys. We believe this will change quickly. For one, crypto is purely a software movement and doesn’t depend on a hardware buildout, in contrast to, say, the internet, which required laying cables and building cell towers. Second, the space is developing extremely rapidly, partly because the code, data, and knowledge is largely open source, and partly because of the increasing inflow of talent.

  • Finally, we are optimistic because we are deep believers in the power of software. Software is simply the encoding of human thought, and as such has an almost unbounded design space.

  • We believe that just as the last three megatrends—mobile, social, and cloud—intersected and reinforced each other, so will the next three megatrends—next-gen computing devices, AI, and crypto.

    About Andreessen Horowitz: a16z has $865M under management across two funds, investing in crypto companies and protocols. Our funds are designed to include the best features of traditional venture capital, updated to the modern crypto world. From their latest fund announcement…

    • Investments made in internet technologies over the last several decades have given rise to products and services used everyday by billions of people, including messaging, video conferencing, ecommerce and everything in between. We think it’s important to keep investing in the long-term development of the internet to address the needs of the coming decades. That’s why we’re excited to announce a new $515 million fund that will be used to invest in crypto networks and businesses. Here are some of the areas we’re excited about:

      • Next Generation Payments

      • Modern Store of Value

      • Decentralized Finance (where my company, Alkemi, is competing)

      • New Ways for Creators to Monetize

      • Web 3

🟥 >>>> #Breathoffreshair

From a Bloomberg Green report, sharing some interesting data about the Earth during this pause for humanity:

ImageImage

🟥 >>>> #SaganSkepticism

A longer essay by Carl Sagan on The Burden of Skepticism. Highlighting a few excerpts that stood out to me.

“It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous.” Great food for thought 😉

  • What is skepticism? It’s nothing very esoteric. We encounter it every day. When we buy a used car, if we are the least bit wise we will exert some residual skeptical powers—whatever our education has left to us.

  • Now this is not something that you have to go through four years of graduate school to understand. Everybody understands this. The trouble is, a used car is one thing but television commercials or pronouncements by presidents and party leaders are another. We are skeptical in some areas but unfortunately not in others.

  • If you were to drop down on Earth at any time during the tenure of humans you would find a set of popular, more or less similar, belief systems. They change, often very quickly, often on time scales of a few years: But sometimes belief systems of this sort last for many thousands of years. At least a few are always available. I think it’s fair to ask why. We are Homo sapiens. That’s the distinguishing characteristic about us, that sapiens part. We’re supposed to be smart. So why is this stuff always with us? Well, for one thing, a great many of these belief systems address real human needs that are not being met by our society. There are unsatisfied medical needs, spiritual needs, and needs for communion with the rest of the human community. There may be more such failings in our society than in many others in human history. And so it is reasonable for people to poke around and try on for size various belief systems, to see if they help.

    carl sagan life GIF
  • I’m often asked the question, “Do you think there is extraterrestrial intelligence?” I give the standard arguments—there are a lot of places out there, and use the word billions, and so on. And then I say it would be astonishing to me if there weren’t extraterrestrial intelligence, but of course there is as yet no compelling evidence for it. And then I’m asked, “Yeah, but what do you really think?” I say, “I just told you what I really think.” “Yeah, but what’s your gut feeling?” But I try not to think with my gut. Really, it’s okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.

  • “We also know how cruel the truth often is, and we wonder whether delusion is not more consoling.” That’s what I have tried to say with my examples. But I don’t think that’s the only reason credulity is rampant. Skepticism challenges established institutions. If we teach everybody, let’s say high school students, the habit of being skeptical, perhaps they will not restrict their skepticism to aspirin commercials and 35,000-year-old channelers (or channelees). Maybe they’ll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Then where will we be?

  • Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in the schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy?

  • It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs:

  • The most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, which ever one it is, you’re in deep trouble. If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.)

  • But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress. On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.

And finally, my favorite excerpt:

  • I believe that part of what propels science is the thirst for wonder. It’s a very powerful emotion. All children feel it. In a first grade classroom everybody feels it; in a twelfth grade classroom almost nobody feels it, or at least acknowledges it. Something happens between first and twelfth grade, and it’s not just puberty. Not only do the schools and the media not teach much skepticism, there is also little encouragement of this stirring sense of wonder. Science and pseudoscience both arouse that feeling. Poor popularizations of science establish an ecological niche for pseudoscience.

📲🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏻 #followerthings

+1 crazy

📚⏯️🎤 #otherthings

—————

Keeping it light here this week… so here is another social distancing funny for ya:

Making Out Kate Mckinnon GIF by Saturday Night Live

Stay safe, keep your distance, and WASH YOUR HANDS.

Curiously,

-Block

A little bit about me:

My friends call me Block. Minnesota born & raised, I now live and work in New York City.

I am endlessly curious and eternally optimistic. I have a passion for new ideas, obsessed with all things technology, and am always seeking to broaden my perspective while striving for balance.

I am an open finance enthusiast, futurist, investor, entrepreneur, builder, advisor, life long learner, hockey player, traveler, podcast addict, hip-hop head, e-newsletter junkie, event planner, and comedic-short producer. Follow me on Twitter here and Instagram here.

“Find a question that makes the world interesting.” - Paul Graham


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