. . .

Random notes 2: bitcoin as pure money; inequality between countries is decreasing; “a corporation is like a rogue AI”

I’ll try to share a post like this every week, it’s an opportunity for me to organize and review my notes from what I’ve watched/read/listened to over the past week. Here is the first installment from last week.
My favorite information mediums right now are podcasts and online articles (queued in Pocket), followed by ebooks (Kindle) and YouTube.
First, some art:

Australia Autos Market Report 2010-2025
Saturday October 10, 2020

Australia Autos Market Report 2010-2025 features historical data and insights plus professional forecast on new vehicles sales by type, manufacturer, brand and model providing an easy-to-use picture of current and future competitive landscape. Research Contents Focus2move Automotive Market Reports provide a comprehensive and extensive overview about this market including information on the cars and light commercial market size, […]

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The piece is called Sunshine, by Hiroshi Nagai.

Ark’s new paper on “Bitcoin as novel economic institution” [download here]

How to Buy Your Dream Motorcycle
Saturday October 31, 2020

Finding your very first motorcycle can be just as exhilarating as getting on it and going for that first ride. While you might be so excited about getting your dream bike that you’re not too worried about the details, it’s important to be pragmatic as well when thinking about your dream motorcycle. There are many […]

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During the last 10 to 15 years, countries have been increasing capital controls rather than decreasing them. Since 2007, the share of countries increasing capital controls has soared 300% to 15%, while the share of countries reducing them has dropped 60% to 5%,
In the last century, three monetary policy changes cascaded, cutting the purchasing power of almost half of the world’s currencies by 50%: the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and Europe’s decision to abandon the gold standard in 1918, the US shift from the gold standard to the gold-exchange standard in 1933, and US abandonment of the gold exchange standard in 1971.,
Moreover, in the US today the minimum reserve requirement for deposit institutions is zero. Indeed, since 1995 the average bank reserve requirement globally has dropped by nearly 80%,
Lowercase ‘b’ bitcoin, the asset, is a standardized unit of value embedded in the network. Its value acts as the signaling mechanism that aligns network stakeholders. In some ways, we believe it is the purest form of money ever created:
Since its creation, Bitcoin has settled more than $2.5 trillion in transactions, as shown in Figure 8, the average size of which has been $2,000.

…eagerly awaiting Ark’s part 2.
If you want a better understanding of the global economy and how it relates to your own investment decisions, you can’t do better than Lyn Alden. I’ve been binging her newsletter and writings and podcast appearances. Here are some excerpts:

here is how the Bank of England defines QE on their website, in case we want to hear what the Brits would call it: “Money is either physical, like banknotes, or digital, like the money in your bank account. Quantitative easing involves us creating digital money. We then use it to buy things like government debt in the form of bonds. You may also hear it called ‘QE’ or ‘asset purchase’ – these are the same thing.”
Currently, the U.S. has about $1.8 trillion in currency in circulation and $16 trillion in broad money supply (which also includes checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, all sorts of digital cash and cash-like assets).
Russia, for example, is buying massive amounts of gold year after year, including buying straight through their 2015/2016 recession. They’ve increased their gold reserves by 5x over the past decade, from 400 tons to 2,000 tons
Historically, the bond market has been the “smart money” because it is largely driven by institutional investors rather than retail investors. It tends to be more focused on near-term math than on emotion or long-term projections, and as such tends to front-run the equity market, at least in terms of major transitions.
There was a nearly four-decade period from the mid-1930’s to the mid-1970’s where buying and holding Treasuries was a fool’s errand, because they mostly lost purchasing power by failing to keep up with inflation. This was during a period of major long-term debt deleveraging and currency devaluation.

Honduras 2020. Nissan holds 21.4% share in a market steadily down 24.8%
Monday November 16, 2020

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The Foreign Affairs has a very striking article on how global inequality is falling between countries:

People in the middle of the global income distribution, whose incomes grew substantially, overwhelmingly lived in Asia, many of them in China. People farther to the right, who were richer than the Asians but experienced much lower income growth rates, mainly lived in the advanced economies of Japan, the United States, and the countries of western Europe. Finally, people at the far right end of the graph, the richest one percent, enjoyed high income growth rates much like those in the middle of the global income distribution.
As measured by the Gini coefficient, which ranges from zero (a hypothetical situation in which every person has the same income) to one (a hypothetical situation in which one person receives all income), global inequality fell from 0.70 in 1988 to 0.67 in 2008 and then further to 0.62 in 2013
High growth in China, in global terms, is ceasing to be an equalizing force. Soon, it will contribute to rising global inequality. But India, with a population that may soon surpass China’s and is still relatively poor, now plays an important role in making the world more equal. In the last 20 years, China and India have driven the reduction in global inequality. From now on, only Indian growth will perform that same function
If China’s growth continues to exceed Western countries’ growth by two to three percentage points annually, within the next decade many middle-class Chinese will become wealthier than their middle-class counterparts in the West. For the first time in two centuries, Westerners with middling incomes within their own nations will no longer be part of the global elite—that is, in the top quintile (20 percent) of global incomes. This will be a truly remarkable development. From the 1820s onward—when national economic data of this kind were first collected—the West has consistently been wealthier than any other part of the world

Thought provoking tweet from Brian Roemmele (his account drops similar thought-provokers on a daily basis):

Consider one Venus day is longer then one Venus year.
One year on Venus is equal to 224 Earth days. And one day on Venus is equal to 243 Earth days.
Venus is also the only planet in our solar system that rotates backwards thus the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. pic.twitter.com/RSxrgVC463
— Brian Roemmele (@BrianRoemmele) September 12, 2020

Apparently, negative emotions can be useful if we believe they’re useful:
The team found that the link between negative mental states and poor emotional and physical health was weaker in individuals who considered negative moods as useful. Indeed, negative moods correlated with low life satisfaction only in people who did not perceive adverse feelings as helpful or pleasant.
Some of my own notes from TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm on the Indie Hackers podcast:

Their best performing pieces are explainer-y pieces eg how to structure a cap table; insane shelf life but also a lot of planning and work
Really important to write about current events because that’s what gets attention and gets shared.
If you have a broader point, connect it to a news story that’s happening right now
It’s about the “newshook” – the key news event that happened (eg, Tesla shares soared 20% after stock split; father of three killed in 4-way crash)

Are we presently in a fourth turning?
Howe and Strauss observe that American history shows a new era, or “turning” about every 20 years. In simplest terms, the “First Turning” is an upbeat era of strengthening institutions. The “Second Turning” is an awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the old order comes under attack. The “Third Turning” is an unraveling — a time when individualism is strengthened and institutions are weakened. The “Fourth Turning” is a crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval — the old order is toppled and a new one put in its place.
For me, the concept has echoes of Sovereign Individual.
On the rise and rise of US disability benefits recipients:

The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined
“That’s a kind of ugly secret of the American labor market,” David Autor, an economist at MIT, told me. “Part of the reason our unemployment rates have been low, until recently, is that a lot of people who would have trouble finding jobs are on a different program.”

Real estate investor with large YouTube following believes a housing crash is coming in 2021. Here are my notes on his reasons why:
1. There was a temporary supply decline during the pandemic, but a lot of supply is coming back now
2. Interest rates can’t get lower
3. There are millions with no or reduced jobs
Lastly, he believes property taxes will increase in most metros
Luke Gromen on Erik Townsend’s Macro Voices podcast

Biggest surplus nations: EU then China then Japan
Biggest deficit nations: US then UK
Eurodollar market is 60-100T, and Luke believes Fed willing to bail out whole thing if necessary to prevent system collapse
Global banks have stopped buying US Treasuries for first time in 70 years…this already started in 2014
US true interest payments already more than 100% of tax receipts
Luke quoting Marc Faber: when things get really bad, the price of everything goes up
Dutch National Bank: If whole thing collapses, we own gold because gold will be used to rebuild the whole thing
It’ll be gold at 22K – 10x from here, not 10-20% moves
If that happens there will be a debt jubilee. Bond holders and creditors would get burned

Enjoyed this NYT profile of mathematician Eugenia Cheung

Deep nonfiction takes longer to absorb, and math books take years. I love the act of turning pages when I’m reading a novel; when I’m studying a math book I might need to spend several weeks on one paragraph.
It’s easier to “bridge” science and art when you don’t really think there’s a gap between them in the first place, as I don’t. The boundaries between subjects are really artificial constructs by humans, like the boundaries between colors in a rainbow.

Improve your posture, improve your teeth? from the NYT
If you’re wondering why a dentist cares about ergonomics, the simple truth is that nerves in your neck and shoulder muscles lead into the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, which connects the jawbone to the skull. Poor posture during the day can translate into a grinding problem at night
From The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which I am enjoying in spite of its depressing revelations:
Creating an easy-to-learn language had been President Sukarno’s highest priority after Indonesia won its independence from the Netherlands. More than 350 languages and dialects are spoken throughout the archipelago, and Sukarno realized that his country needed a common vocabulary in order to unite people from the many islands and cultures. He recruited an international team of linguists, and Bahasa Indonesia was the highly successful result. Based on Malay, it avoids many of the tense changes, irregular verbs, and other complications that characterize most languages.
Darius Kazemi’s AI and Art talk on YouTube had me scratching my head in a good way.

“A pun is a context switch”
“Corporation is like a rogue AI”
“Capital is teleological, it has goals, and it’s goal is to increase capital”
Humans are really good at enslaving others, which is why we also fear AI will enslave us (in other words, we are projecting)

After watching, I immediately queued several of his YT talks.
Reed Hastings interviewed on The Economist podcast:

Netflix key metric is the ratio of total-time-watched-to-cost
Has $15B in debts
Added 30M subscribers in 1H2020
Question he likes to ask: Is the internet going to grow or shrink in next 20 years?
Admire and fear Disney, it’s streaming service grew to 60M subscribers in first year, it took Netflix 12 years

That’s it folks. All typos and misrepresentations are 100% mine! Here’s the first random notes post if you like informational potpourri. Til the next one!