The fabric of time 🕰
Bitcoin gets its first shot as a legal tender, monetary policy decisions make us wonder, and an exploration of the very nature of time. This is Issue #016 of Forward.
Hi there. Have you managed to get vaccinated yet?
In between all the waiting, outrage, fear, and confusion around their distribution, many of us have overlooked the sheer innovation behind how fast COVID-19 vaccines were developed. Just like how many of us have not truly acknowledged the sheer magnitude of the event depicted in this clip:
That’s NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter’s first flight on Mars. Just like a vaccine, it seems a simple thing.
What we don’t see is the decades of work it took to make these things happen.
Our collective perception of time cycles is getting shorter (from movies to television to Reels to Shorts). As Om Malik put it very succinctly:
“We are no longer living at human speed, but instead, are living in a world moving and beating at the speed of the network”
So, have we as a civilization lost sight of the big picture?
Let’s find out.
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A short-sighted view of the long term ✈
Long-term thinking is only fruitful when the entire collective believes in it. mRNA vaccines and flying helicopters on Mars are positive products of long-term thinking. Hedge funds bleeding money making excuses for long-term returns are the opposite. As this post by Morgan Housel astutely points out, saying you can ride out the short-term hurdles keeping a long-term goal in mind is easy. Doing it as pandemics rage, economies tumble, and climate change wreaks havoc — that’s a whole different thing.
That’s not to say long-term thinking is pointless. Balaji S talks about how as more value creation moves to the cloud, physical and geographical boundaries become increasingly irrelevant, leading to decentralized value creation.
We’re seeing this happen across the world now, but that’s not why we linked Balaji’s article. We did so because he wrote it back in 2013.
Long-term thinking. 👌
The big Bitcoin experiment 🚀
It’s official folks. El Salvador has become the first country to make Bitcoin legal tender. The country’s government has decreed that while individuals can choose whether to use the cryptocurrency, institutions must be able to accept payments in Bitcoin. The government has even gone so far as to offer citizenship to people who can show ownership of at least 3 BTC.
In a bid to offset the energy concerns surrounding Bitcoin, the government has directed public geothermal energy firm LaGeo to explore Bitcoin mining facilities powered by… wait for it… the country’s volcanoes. 🌋
After all the debate, someone has finally pulled the trigger. Now the entire world will be eyeing El Salvador to see how it manages policy to use the decentralized asset as legal tender.
More power to you, El Salvador.
It’s a game of hot potato 🔥
Has anyone ever recommended debt funds to you and called them ‘safe’ because “they’re backed by the government and the government never defaults”?
Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of Modern Monetary Policy. Now don’t worry, we’re not going to take up your entire Sunday with an economics lesson, but before you take the infallibility of sovereign debt for granted, maybe give this a read.
If you’d like to go a little deeper down the rabbit hole of how governments dig themselves out of trouble with ‘quantitative easing’ via repo and reverse repo, here’s a great deep dive.
(Also, why is no one talking about the fact that monetary policies of the world’s most powerful nations sound like a bunch of teens playing Uno? 👀)
The thing is, such economic decisions are an example of the short-term and long-term mindsets we talked about at the beginning of this newsletter. Economic policies, climate change, tectonic movements, operate on varying time cycles, and short-term bias when evaluating such things can be dangerous.
Here’s Ray Dalio, a guy who knows a thing or two about economic cycles, tying it all together neatly:
"Anybody who doesn’t change their mind a lot is dramatically underestimating the complexity of the world we live in.”
Stuff we loved this week
Whether you love him or hate him, Marc Andreessen has been one of the forces that helped shaped the Internet as we know it today. In this interview peppered with some hilarious questions, Andreessen talks about his bets on Clubhouse and Substack, the future, and more.
Sure, this video is almost a decade old, but much like Balaji’s article from the same period we showed you in the first section of this issue, it’s still a goodie. Here’s engineer/designer extraordinaire Bret Victor on finding personal ‘principles’ to invent the future.
We’ve heard the stories about over-population and stress on resources, but what happens when an increasingly ambitious yet underpaid and overworked generation begins to put off or decide against having children? Read about how crashing birth and fertility rates across the globe could lead to a very different future.
Food for thought
You can pick up a lot about history and geopolitics from maps. But sometimes, cartoons tell an equally compelling and layered story. Like this one by James Gillray.
Done observing? Take a moment to read the fascinating backstory behind the visual depicted in this picture.
Our latest musings on the meaning of life, embodied in this piece about marine biologist Rachel Carson, and how her poetic ruminations about oceans and life boosted the global movement for environmental conservation.
We spent a good part of this issue discussing time — shortening attention spans and long-term thinking, the dubious economic cycle, the uncertain future of fertility. We’ll leave you today with an analysis of time itself. How the time we adhere to is an unnatural construct — going against the ways of nature and biology and twisted for political and capitalist gains.
If you think this newsletter made your Sunday morning a little better, please spread the love and send it to your friends. We’ll see you again in two weeks.
Until next time,
Your friends at NEO