Sunday, September 28, 2014

Marc Andreessen, Fed Chairman

“ do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values...” - Alan Greenspan December 5th 1996.


While Alan Greenspan warned against a stock market bubble, Marc Andreessen prepared a Netscape 2-for-1 split at $165 after its $28 IPO 16 months earlier.  The NASDAQ peak was still 3 years 3 months 5 days away.

The recent tweetstorms by Andreessen and Bill Gurley have tremendous parallels to Alan Greenspan’s warning decades earlier. Not only in content but more importantly in the role these men play within their respective economic empires.  Marc Andreessen is the closest thing to the Federal Reserve Chairman for tech.  He and his VC compatriots are attempting to prevent a collapse like the one that destroyed the internet 1.0 economy (which was born the day of the Netscape IPO).

Alan Greenspan’s Fed in 1996 existed to prevent disruptive swings in demand. In the pre-globalization era when the United States was substantially isolated from capital flows the Fed was able to strongly modulate demand via the supply of money.  However, Mr. Greenspan was unable to stop the tech bubble because his control was not fine grained, he couldn’t pop a tech-localized equity bubble without killing the broader economy.

In the wake of the 2000 bubble, the flow of capital into tech companies is substantially gated by the venture capital community, with Mr. Andreessen in the lead.  A company like Uber with massive revenues and growth would have IPO’d in 1999, but in 2014 it remains private; recently raising over a billion dollars. VCs have built the capacity to inject massive amounts of capital; Andreessen’s own firm raising another $1.5 billion fund in March.

As long as a tight-knit, well organized VC community continues to substantially control capital flows, as well as public expectations through Twitter forward guidance, the number and size of new tech companies will be controlled.  To the extent that Marc Andreessen, Bill Gurley et al., the Tech Fed Chairmen, can sway public opinion The Bubble may be kept in check.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Non-uniformly Enforced Rules

Just read a story about OSU football players openly using drugs before games:

The main point is that good performance in games allows drug use to be overlooked. This not only allows drug use to be overlooked, but also establishes drug use as a status symbol. The more weed you smoke while still remaining on the team, the more valuable your play must be. In a college system where cash payments aren't allowed, smoking weed could become a replacement signaling method for high status.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kanye messes with the metadata

Kanye lists God as his co-creator on "I Am A God".  I guess I'm particularly sensitive to this transgression. It's one thing to issue an album cover that is just red tape, its another to pollute Spotify's DB. You've gone too far Yeezy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Telepresence vs. High Speed Rail

Elon Musk announced the Hyperloop to great excitement yesterday, presenting it specifically as a challenge to California's proposed HSR. I don't really have much to say about Hyperloop or its merits, but I have another proposal which solves the same fundamental problem as those two systems in a way that is far cheaper and can be finished by the end of the year: build state-of-the-art telepresence centers for the state of California.

To understand why telepresence  is a competitor to actual physical transport, we must realize that cars and planes will continue to be a huge source of traffic between LA and SF even in optimistic HSR/Hyperloop scenarios.   If our real job is to build a system that reduces the demand for dirty cars and planes, then options which discourage travel altogether will have the same effect as a method of transporting people efficiently. I propose that telepresence can be an effective discouragement for unnecessary transportation.

Building upon California's dominance in information technologies, companies like cisco could accomplish amazing feats of realism with conference rooms and convention centers built around modern telepresence systems. High-def cameras and screens, great audio, and even added benefits like 3D or haptic interfaces could significantly improve communication between urban centers. Businesses in the cities where these centers are built would immediately see gains in productivity without having to travel more than a few miles.  In off-business hours, these same centers could be reused for families to reconnect. The business-class and private individual alike would benefit, while utilizing these services day and night, 7 days a week.

Are we really trying to solve California's problems, or are we more interested in feeling futuristic?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Google is going to kill e-mail

For everyone who isn't already outraged at Google for killing Reader, prepare yourself.  Google+ has a new victim in its sights, Gmail.

I've come to this conclusion after I was in a chat session on my main Gmail account and I was asked for my email address. I responded, "this is my email address". It turns out the person I was chatting with is no longer able to see what email account is associated with that chat session. Clicking my name only goes back to the G+ user page.

This fact adds to a sinister set of trends. Disconnecting Google Hangouts from XMPP, and the aforementioned death of Reader (RSS) have forced more and more activity onto G+. Making hard for your friends and coworkers to figure out your email address is another huge step toward a G+  future, at the expense of Gmail (SMTP).

This all makes a ton of sense for Google. It must really hurt to hear about Facebook's enormous time on site per day per user when G+ gets no credit for my 16 hours a day in front of Gchat (now Hangouts) and Gmail.  For now I feel more paranoid than prescient, but I am going to stay on alert for the death of the email address at Google.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Art is memes

An article in the NY Times criticizes the buyers of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" who spent $120 Million for  the iconic painting (they could have purchased a slide sharing website instead!).  The painting is notable for it's popularity, but it is popular not because it is especially beautiful or deft. I believe the paintings immense popularity and value are derived from it's power as a meme.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Miniature Cold War.

The brinksmanship of the cold war was based on the idea that, in a game of chicken, it was best to make the other side think you are crazy.  Even if you had absolutely no plans to nuke the Russians, it's in your best interest to make them think you really want to. This game show gives a pretty good demonstration (most likely staged) of this principle.