Weely Round Up 8th May 2022

What I've been reading, listening to and watching this week, featuring the history of paper money, the Great Depression, the gold standard, Tim Urban and Lex Friedman.

In a format totally lifted from Tim Ferriss:

What I'm Reading:

* The Great Depression: A Diary - Benjamin Roth (edited by James Ledbetter, Daniel B Roth) - first mentioned here

Chronologically, we've just gotten to when the US went off the gold standard; a decision which was extremely controversial. To understand this better, I had to do a quick dive into the history of the gold standard and paper money (links are below to particularly helpful videos I found). I seem to understand it in principle (paper money backed by a set amount of gold; and you can play with the ratio of paper money to gold) but I am struggling a bit to understand arguments for and against this that are outside of inflation.

It seems to me that if you are setting the value of your dollar to something with a limited supply, there may be a more inflexible cap to growth (at least the creation of more credit in the economy?) and flexibility when it comes to the supply of money. I suppose you could continue to adjust the ratios to get around this and this is only part of the equation - the other part being the flow of capital itself (plus many others) - but it seems extremely cumbersome. I hope to get a better grasp of this all as I believe it is key to better understanding the current monetary system as well as the future of certain cryptocurrencies (such as bitcoin).

On another note, time and time again, this book reminds me that humans tend to react similarly to things throughout time - and that one of the most valuable lessons and things you can learn for investing is to make sure you stay in the game; i.e. don't make decisions that will cause you to have to sell to recoup your losses prematurely.

"I see now how very important it is for the professional man to build up a surplus in normal times. A surplus capital of $2500 wisely invested during the depression might have meant financial security for the rest of his life. Without it, he is at the mercy of the economic winds."

Of course, the psychology of being able to do so is an entire matter in itself.

Who I'm Listening To:
Podcasts
* Tim Urban on Lex Friedman #264 (on Elon Musk, Neuralink, AI, Aliens and the future of humanity)

A wonderful podcast with @lexfridman (an AI researcher who I find a compelling interviewer) and Tim Urban (his blog Wait, But Why? is full of really interesting articles on a huge range of topics - if you enjoy xkcd / Randall Munroe you might enjoy Wait, But Why). I came away from listening to this with a renewed sense of optimism for the future.

They briefly cover the benefits of consistency (while admitting they struggle with it) in producing work; think the aspiring author who writes 2 pages a week vs the aspiring author who never manages to do that consistently. At the end of 2 years, the first author has a book ready to publish (not to say anything of the quality of said book, however).

Having said that, I am also intrigued by the idea of approaching things as projects (via Ali Abdall) to make life goals/habits you want to gain more achievable. Projects are where you have deadlines and a specific outcome - e.g. I want to be able run 5km non stop by the end of the next 12 weeks; I want to quit drinking for the next 5 months etc. As Abdall says 'Habits help us stay consistent. Projects focus our mind and energy'. I've been seeing some success here with my personal running journey (I have somehow managed to get to Week 4! More to follow about this), which is not something I could have predicted a while back.

As a side note, one of my favorite twitter threads from Tim Urban is this one:

Music
* Again, An Education In The Rolling Stones (1964 - 1968) (this is a playlist that was put together by Michael V as a chronological introduction to the band's early days)

What I've Been Watching:

These videos by Extra Credits on the History of Paper Money and the Gold Standard really helped me start to wrap my head around the whole thing:

Extra History: The History of Paper Money (6 Part Series)

It's a fascinating story and one of my favorite discoveries is Nicholas Barbon (supposedly officially Nicholas 'If-Jesus-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned' Barbon - which made me realize that the Good Omens character Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer is based on something historical!); a pioneer of fire insurance and mortgages - two things that helped the economy grow. Fire insurance enabled people to pool resources together for the first time to be able to cover the costs in an emergency, instead of being financially wiped out immediately, and mortgages freed up capital to be readily injected back into the economy.

What I've Been Thinking About:
* Mental models; I keep flitting back and forth with the goals I want to achieve and the things that I want to write about but I think I should probably just prioritize writing what I want to write about, rather than planning something out that will never happen. My first piece in a long while is about how I've managed to stay sober for the past few months; it's scary to admit to having a problem online and scarier still to admit that the problem is still ongoing, but it was the first thing that has flowed naturally for me in months.

In the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of the mental models we developed at work that I've really found valuable across multiple areas of life. The plan is to also include some doodles, but I'm no illustrator by any means so we'll see how that one goes.


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