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Zero to One

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Challenge of the future

Technology vs globalization.

There’s too much talk about globalization instead of creating new technology. Technology pushes us forward, globalization merely spreads out what we already have. We can’t sustainably have 7,000,000,000 people live Western lives without technology breakthroughs.

Party like it’s 1999

Historical context for the dotcom boom: People went nuts about the “new economy”, but it’s because nothing else was doing well and we needed something to give us hope about economic growth.

All happy businesses are different

What valuable company is no one building?

Watch out: Monopolies hide their monopoly (e.g. Google talking about “tough competition”), competitors exaggerate their uniqueness.

The ideology of competition

A different way of thinking about competition vs monopoly

Creative monopoly — new products or services that benefit everybody (that add new value to the world), and so good and hard to replicate, they provide sustainable profits for its creators

Perfect competition — no profit for anybody, no meaningful differentiation, struggle for survival. (!)

A monopoly doesn’t have to be made by creating artificial scarcity, you can have a “creative monopoly” by creating new wealth for everyone. (Example: Apple’s iPhone, madly profitable)

Last mover advantage

To achieve a creative monopoly, you need to be:

Don’t fall into competition. Don’t disrupt. Make something uniquely differentiated and reap the high profits.

You are not a lottery ticket

We need more definite optimism

4 ways to look at the world:

We have too much indefinite optimism in the world. People are optimistic about the future, but without a concrete reason. We just assume things will magically get better.

Finance is based on indefinite optimism. Markets (diversify everything). Modern political theories. Poll driven politics (vs grand visions). Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers). Startup theory (Lean Startup) — all indefinite.

We caught a strain of incrementalism — we polish, optimize, and iterate. But we don’t have grander visions, goals, and plans for new and greater things.

We need definite, planned optimism back. Jobs, Musk, even Zuckerberg — they all started with a vision to create something new.

(Can you even be an indefinite optimist? How can the future be optimistic if there isn’t a plan to achieve it?)

Secrets

People don’t believe in secrets anymore

There are secrets — things we don’t know — in the world. Natural secrets (properties of the world), and secrets about people (the way we think and act).

But people don’t look for secrets and breakthroughs anymore.

Again, there’s incrementalism (optimizing instead of looking for new things). And there’s flatness of the world — everyone is connected, so we think “if none of the 7B people discovered it already, it must be impossible”.

Math breakthroughs are still being made, some answering questions asked hundreds of years ago. These were secrets, and now they’re not.

Schools, professor tenure — they teach people incrementalism. And elites have the greatest capacity for discovering secrets, but believe in them the least.

If something as simple as Uber or AirBnB can exist, how many great companies are yet to be made (discovered)?

Man and machine

Complimentarity instead of displacement

Some of the greatest companies of the next decades will use technology, computers, artificial intelligence to compliment, enhance, and work with humans, instead of replacing them altogether.

Humans and computers have different capabilities. Until we build artificial general intelligence, the two working together can be greater than either on its own.

Automating things is easy. Building tools that combine best of computers and human judgement is harder but very valuable.

Seeing green

Again, to succeed, you need all, or at least most of these 7 things:

In 2000s, there was a huge green tech boom. Almost all of it failed. They had great intentions, but rarely could actually check many of the 7 boxes.

One notable exception: Tesla. And guess what? They have all 7. (They sell powertrain technology to other companies. They started just in time for a one-time opportunity of a $400M green tech grant. They’re unique, have great brand — monopoly. Started by Elon Musk and people from AC Propulsion. They have their own stores and charger stations. They’re ahead of everyone else and great brand, which means their lead will likely become only greater. And they have their “secrets” — like the fact that people won’t buy electric cars just because they’re electric, they need to be awesome first.)

Annihilation or singularity?

4 possible outcomes in the future:

We need to create greater technology.

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