Weekend Longreads + Open Thread
Jaynes, Events, Surkov, Podcasts, Singapore, The First 1,000, The Small Web, Rises, Falls
Welcome to the weekly longreads / open thread, a collection of pieces I either highlighted in the daily edition of The Diff or thought would be of interest to readers.
Scott Alexander reviews Julian Jaynes' brilliant/completely insane Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind.
Ben Evans: solving online events. It’s very fortunate for digital conference organizers that the cost of a conference is one of the benefits: the way to make a conference valuable to everyone is to a) charge attendees a lot by default, and b) offer discounts on a case-by-case basis to people who have interesting things to contribute but not much money yet. It will be interesting to see if the companies that try to solve online-first college will pivot to conferences, or vice-versa.
This 2014 profile of Vladislav Surkov is mostly worth reading as a setup for the last paragraph.
Stitcher’s podcasting report has some good stats on who listens to what and when. Good to keep in mind when you think about how big the podcast market is.
Singapore’s prime minister has a long meditation on US/China conflict. It’s interesting to read, not just as an assessment of the facts, but as an open letter that’s meant to be read in Singapore, DC, and Beijing. An entrepôt/financial center is happiest when the world has more than one major power, but they’re both peacefully competing.
Lenny Rachitsky on how startups get their first 1,000 users. Every one of the launch stories cited is worth its own long-form piece. (If you write one, send it to me!)
A nostalgic look at the small web.
The rise and fall of Chesapeake Energy: one interesting dynamic in the energy sector is that individual companies go back and forth between being a bet on a new technology (like fracking) to being a levered bet on a commodity price. Under a CEO with high risk tolerance, these factors can combine explosively. Of course, since new technology increases the supply of the commodity in question, being bullish on the technology means being bearish on the commodity. So Chesapeake changed what kind of bet it was at exactly the wrong time.Welcome to the weekly longreads / open thread, a collection of pieces I either highlighted in the daily edition of The Diff or thought would be of interest to readers.
The rise and fall of Luckin Coffee. One surprising detail: “A group of Luckin employees had already begun helping sales along by engineering fake transactions, starting the month before the IPO…” A common pattern in frauds is that companies don’t engage in fraud to create completely fictional growth; they use fraud to maintain promised growth rates, but fraud makes the gap between promises and reality grow even faster.
Which companies are, right now, changing what kind of bet they represent?
It’s easy to read a new book and think it’ll be a big deal ten years from now. But a better test is to invert that: what’s a book you read that was published a) within your lifetime, but b) more than ten years ago, that you’re pretty sure will be read and referenced after your death? i.e. what lives up to Sapiens‘ hype?
Are retail investors really a major influence on the equity rally? Or just a fun story to cover with an effect on single names like SPCE and AAL?
And, as always: what are some good long-form pieces you’ve enjoyed in the last week? And what stories this week are mis-covered or under-covered?