Daily Balajisms - Win and help win
Being smart is being positive-sum. Optimalism vs maximalism.
Balaji Srinivasan summarizes his ideology as “win and help win”, in that order. You first have to establish yourself and win in some domain or market, and then you can enable others to do the same.
It is like Google winning in search big time, and then supporting their “other bets” in more speculative areas or doing some philanthropic endeavors with their Google Ideas think/do tank.
Balaji thinks that true charity is investment. Charity decelerates, but investment accelerates both sides – the venture capital investor and the founder. The famous example is Peter Thiel being the first angel investor into Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. They both get richer. And while this was probably the best investment of Peter Thiel, Zuckerberg got much richer than Thiel.
Balaji sees failure mode of progressives as being too zero-sum and competitive. Social progressives often can’t imagine that the proverbial pie can grow and everyone can prosper. They are all about redistribution and transfers. This is the idea of surplus elites externalizing their internal cut-throat mimetic competition onto scapegoating and demonizing the Other – the rural conservative or the uncivilized masses from other countries.
The failure mode of conservatives is that they are too risk averse – they want to stay in their small town or village, spend time with their families and “just grill”. They often care about values and the actual truth, and therefore don’t understand that progressives care about attaining power and power only.
Libertarians have a failure mode of too much individualism and solipsism – and in the extreme this is counterproductive – as you need a functional high-trust society and division of labor. Steven Job has a famous email where he writes that he doesn’t grow his own food and makes his cloths. Balaji says that even privacy can be seen as a collective good – giving an example how Monero transactions work – you can hide within a crowd. And you need a crowd, a high-trust community and a parallel society, to be truly private. Besides Sovereign Individuals we also need sovereign collectives.
Technological progressives are positive-sum. They are often tech founders who saw the proverbial pie grow and understand that everyone can get their incentives aligned – for example through startup equity.
Balaji explains that good and evil are both zero-sum. Being good is sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others. And being evil is benefiting ourselves, while hurting others. Being smart is benefiting ourselves while benefiting others (positive-sum). Being stupid is hurting ourselves, while hurting others (negative-sum).
Balaji has a brand of transhumanism he calls Optimalism (as opposed to maximalism), in the sense of optimizing an objective function, and having an optimistic view about the future – stressing the importance of technological progress as well as moral progress.