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Saturday 10 July 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week. If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate it.

1. Changing your mind
When it comes to the idea that we are wrong, or that we should change our opinions, we are incredibly adept at resisting. We possess an astonishing array of cognitive biases telling us, You are right—disregard all evidence to the contrary. These include confirmation bias (we focus on and preferentially remember information that reinforces our beliefs); anchoring bias (we over-rely on one key piece of information—usually the first one we received); the illusion of validity (we overestimate the accuracy of our own judgments and perceptions); and many other related tendencies. These biases are like a crocodile-filled moat around the fortress of our beliefs. They turn us into hermit kings, convinced that any counterarguments that break through our walls will bring us misery.

If your goal is to find the truth, admitting you are wrong and changing your beliefs based on new facts makes you better off in the end. 

2. Why is China attacking its US listed tech giants?
They’re specifically targeting large tech companies that have gone to list on the US — like Alibaba for instance. And while on the face of it, this makes no sense, you have to pay close attention to what China is up to. Sure, the likes of Didi bring in foreign currency and carry the Chinese flag with pride. But China doesn’t need the money. Nor the validation. They need data. And they’ll go to extreme lengths to protect their digital assets.

Government intervention has never worked well in the past because the task simply proved too overwhelming. Bureaucrats failed to micromanage the economy because they didn’t have access to real-time information. They couldn’t stay on top because the free markets did it better. But with the data revolution, the old constraints may no longer apply. With digital currency, you can decide how people get to use their money. With surveillance, you can decide how people socialize with their communities. With better real-time information, you can decide how to lend to businesses and individuals. And the only common denominator here is 'data'. With data, you can do anything that you want and the real threat to these ambitions seem to stem from the ambitions of tech overlords like Didi.

3. Obesity reducing drug from the venom of the Gila monster!!
After learning that the venom of a Gila monster lizard contained hormones that can regulate blood sugar, Daniel Drucker started wondering why. 
Ten years later, a synthetic version of a hormone in the venom became the first medicine of its kind approved to treat type 2 diabetes. Known as a GLP-1 (for glucagon-like peptide-1) receptor agonist, the medicine set off a cascade of additional venom-inspired discoveries.

After doctors noticed mice and humans on the drug for diabetes appeared to lose weight, they began to consider its use in obesity science. In June 2021, another effective treatment, this one for obesity, got Food and Drug Administration approval. Called semaglutide and marketed as Wegovy, it also takes its structure from the lizard’s venom.

4. Software is modern day alchemy
A common criticism of software is that it’s not something that takes physical form in the real world. For example, software is not a house, or a school, or a hospital. This is of course true on the surface, but it misses a key point.

Software is a lever on the real world.

Someone writes code, and all of a sudden riders and drivers coordinate a completely new kind of real-world transportation system, and we call it Lyft. Someone writes code, and all of a sudden homeowners and guests coordinate a completely new kind of real-world real estate system, and we call it AirBNB. Someone writes code, etc., and we have cars that drive themselves, and planes that fly themselves, and wristwatches that tell us if we’re healthy or ill.

Software is our modern alchemy. Isaac Newton spent much of his life trying and failing to transmute a base element -- lead -- into a valuable material -- gold. Software is alchemy that turns bytes into actions by and on atoms. It’s the closest thing we have to magic.

5. Working hard
What I've learned since I was a kid is how to work toward goals that are neither clearly defined nor externally imposed. You'll probably have to learn both if you want to do really great things.

The most basic level of which is simply to feel you should be working without anyone telling you to. Now, when I'm not working hard, alarm bells go off. I can't be sure I'm getting anywhere when I'm working hard, but I can be sure I'm getting nowhere when I'm not, and it feels awful. 

Once you know the shape of real work, you have to learn how many hours a day to spend on it. You can't solve this problem by simply working every waking hour, because in many kinds of work there's a point beyond which the quality of the result will start to decline.

The only way to find the limit is by crossing it. Cultivate a sensitivity to the quality of the work you're doing, and then you'll notice if it decreases because you're working too hard. Honesty is critical here, in both directions: you have to notice when you're being lazy, but also when you're working too hard. And if you think there's something admirable about working too hard, get that idea out of your head. You're not merely getting worse results, but getting them because you're showing off — if not to other people, then to yourself.

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