Daily Balajisms – Mobile telescope
Discovering the dark talent hidden worldwide
Balaji Srinivasan uses a metaphor of “a mobile telescope” that searches for the dark talent worldwide – like a Hubble telescope that was built to search for dark matter.
Over hundred years ago, G.H. Hardy from Cambridge discovered Indian math genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan, who wrote letters to many Western mathematicians. Hardy brought Ramanujan to England, where he later made many unique contributions, also in the area prime numbers that underpin today’s cryptography.
Today billions of people have mobile phones and are much more discoverable. Balaji previously founded Earn.com built around tasking for crypto, that he sold to Coinbase. People today can work pseudonymously and earn crypto – and thus be a part of the emerging pseudonymous economy.
Balaji divides countries into the declining world and the ascending world, treating inequality dynamically, similarly to Taleb. Like Peter Thiel, he criticizes the division into developed and developing world. Because the word “developed” presupposes a certain stasis and completion.
Many radical innovations and impressive infrastructure improvements come from the ascending world. Rwanda has a drone delivery service for medicines. Kenyans pay with mobile phones since 2007, thanks to mobile banking revolution of M-Pesa. India has built its digital identity and payments stack – the India stack in rapid time. China managed to build 38,000km of high-speed rail in 15 years, and plans to build 150 nuclear reactors in the next 15 years.
Marc Andreesen says that most startup ideas weren’t wrong – they were just too early. Food delivery companies, after the dotcom bubble, were ridiculed, now they are mainstream. The previous initiatives to bridge the digital divide, like the One Laptop Per Child, were also too early, because a mobile phone happened to become the convergence device, instead of a laptop. Balaji thinks AR glasses are the most obvious convergence device that might happen this decade.
A mobile made us more mobile, says Balaji. Mobile apps were harder to use at the beginning, than their desktop versions, but people like to move and use technology on the go.
Social media business model is built around clicks and advertising – what Balaji calls the entropic media, showing you 20 random links that are interesting, but leaving you with a feeling that you just wasted an hour of your life on Twitter. Balaji mentions that entropy is heat – particles flowing in all directions. The opposite of heat is work – particles flowing in one focused direction.
Balaji sometimes mentions Brilliant.org as an app and a website for “the news you can use” that provides constant upskilling – a time well spent on improving your skills through study and smart tests.
Imagine media that would provide focus and work. A media feed that would help you level up and learn, burn (calories) and earn. There are some decentralized web3 social media, like Mirror, DeSo, Farcaster and Lens Protocol. And some of them might focus on learning, tasking and pseudonymous economy.
Solana is focusing heavily on mobile stack and even creating their own Saga mobile phone for web3. And there are $20 and $30 smartphones in Africa. Combining these two can give us a crypto phone under $100 – a mobile telescope for searching dark talent and a truly global pseudonymous economy.