223: Blackberry vs iPhone, Thoma Bravo, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Dow Jones FU Chart, Germany Shuts Down 3 Nuclear Plants, and Cameron & Villeneuve
"The opposite of an easy thing can also be an easy thing"
You can't fix internal problems with external accomplishments.
⏳ Every ‘content producer’ is doing something special at the end of the year. That feels like a crowded trade. Maybe I should do something special at the beginning of the year 🤔
🐦 Communities on Twitter — like Fintwit, the one I feel most part of — are self-organized. They’re emergent behavior from the organic interactions between independent nodes.
People and content aren’t “pushed” to people, they’re “pulled” by them.
Nobody is forcing you to follow anyone, even the bigger accounts, and it’s really easy to mute people… So in the end, what you get is what you pull in.
This is very unlike more traditional communities built around discussion forums, where there was a centralized location where everybody in the community was visible to everyone else, and every bit of content was pushed out to everyone.
A very different dynamic, and I’m sure I’ll still be finding ramifications of this new model for years to come (what I like to call the “interest graph”, which in many ways that matter, is more decentralized and amorphous than most Web3 communities run on a Discord server)…
😶 Edition #223?! Can it be that many already? I can’t possibly have that much to say, I’m sorry everyone.
I’ve always had a pretty bad sense of time.
For the first 5-7 years of my relationship with my now wife, I constantly felt like we “just got together recently” and “it’s a new thing” (which I thought was a good thing!).
I also feel like I “just started” this newsletter, yet I’m getting to the point where I’m forgetting some of the stuff I wrote about and need to search through the archives to verify if I published something or if I just thought about it… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’m afraid I’ll start to repeat myself more and OG readers will start to feel like I’m over the hill 🪦
Oh well — like the title of one of my favorite web comics,
we go forward.
🥅 Speaking of stuff I’ve already talked about… I was having a conversation with supporter (💚 🥃) Tobi, and it reminded me of how, back when I had a real job, I saved 50%+ of my income every year for 11 years.
That’s how I built up the capital that allowed me to become a full-time investor, which led me to having the time to sit around in pyjamas and build this steamboat 🚢👨✈️
My reflection was that to most people, the very idea of saving up that much would trigger instant “nope nope nope” — “I couldn’t deal with the deprivation, the point of life is to have fun, you deserve to spend on yourself! etc” with images of living in a cardboard box, when in fact they likely already have way more than they need, probably living in a very wealthy country during the wealthiest period in human history.
It’s funny because my experience — and I’m not saying we’re all wired the same, so I’m just speaking for me — is that it felt better to save than to spend when it was in the service of a big, audacious goal that I really wanted to achieve (buying my own freedom, control over my time, independence, etc. That was worth a lot to me).
Strangely, it was probably easier to save 50%+ to go independent relatively soon than it would’ve been to save 10% to retire “someday far off in the distant future”. The former is motivating and exciting, the latter feels like eating broccoli and doing homework 🥦📄 🖍
There’s kind of a smiling curve to this: It’s easiest to do nothing at all or really go for it, and it’s hardest to do a tepid job somewhere in the middle, which won’t pay off very big or very soon, so you have no motivation and the light at the end of the tunnel is so far that you can’t even detect it moving closer...
A bit like Rory Sutherland’s “The opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea”:
The opposite of an easy thing can also be an easy thing (even if that feels counter-intuitive to those who haven't done it).
📱 My 3yo son discovering what mobile computing was like when I was his age…
💚 🥃 I said I was going to do an Ask Me Anything (AMA) podcast when we got to 5% of subscribers being supporters.
In the last month, we went a bit backwards, from 4.74% previously to 4.66% this month (which means that 95.34% of subscribers don’t pay a single cent).
You can move the needle by becoming a supporter below, it’s quick and inexpensive (and if you don’t see the options, click on the button to log in your Substack account):
Liberty’s Highlights is reader-supported. To support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. 🦉
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Investing & Business
Most Important Dynamic in Blackberry vs iPhone
Trung Phan has a fun thread on RIM vs Apple back in 2007, back when the Backberry (so-called “Crackberry” because it was so addictive… if only people at the time knew where it was going) was on top and the iPhone was the niche new entrant. He gives some history and context, and points out 5 decisions/mistakes that RIM made that “led to its fall”.
It’s a good thread, but I think the most important and most decisive factor is missing. It’s something against which RIM basically couldn’t do anything.
The iPhone was a general computing device, not a phone, and there was no chance that phone makers like Nokia or RIM could compete with Apple on making general computing devices. It's a much much much much harder problem. Few companies in the world can even create and maintain an operating system (OS), a browser, or a quality software platform to begin with. In other words: It's easier for a computer & software maker to learn how to make good phones -- especially one as consumer-oriented as Apple -- than for a phone maker to learn how to make good computers & software.
Over time, more and more specialized devices get swallowed up by general computing devices (“software is eating the world”).
For years, many people claimed that “if Apple could do it to RIM, someone else could do it to Apple”, but that’s misunderstanding that once you get to a general computing device, there isn’t anything else above, so the structural advantage that Apple had won’t be used against them by someone else.
‘long-term performance of the US stock market’
Neat graph from Albert Bridge.
h/t My friend MBI (💎 🐕)
Interview: Orlando Bravo, Thoma Bravo
Good interview by Patrick (is he enough of a celebrity in these circles that he doesn’t even need a family name anymore?) with the “Bravo” in “Thoma Bravo”:
Interview: Elon Musk, you know who he is
Good stuff. Musk mentions doing an episode of the Hardcore History podcast with Dan Carlin on role of engineering in war (he mentions German vs US fuel quality in WWII). I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’ve got it queued up.
Perfect Encapsulation of the Zeitgeist Right Now
Source: Kenneth Dredd
Liberty’s Highlights is reader-supported. To support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. 🐙
Science & Technology
Electricity doesn’t work how almost everybody thinks it does
I knew some of the stuff in this video, but not all of it, and I found it pretty mind-bending. I hope you enjoy it too.
h/t Nick Ellis (💚 🥃 🎩)
On December 31st, 2021: ‘Germany pulled the plug on three of its last six nuclear plants’ 🤦♀️
What a blunder:
The six nuclear power plants contributed to around 12% of electricity production in Germany in 2021, BDEW preliminary figures showed.
Not only shutting down over a tenth of the electrical generation in a large industrialized country like Germany (so this is a huge absolute number of megawatts), but shutting down the cleanest, most reliable baseload, smallest-footprint source, instead of some other 12% that is dirty and dangerous… 😩
Oh, and you know what? That’s not all:
Germany's remaining three nuclear plants -- Emsland, Isar and Neckarwestheim -- will be powered down by the end of 2022.
Nuclear used to be ˜25% of the country’s electricity generation, and will soon be zero (because they had 9 plants, 3 others were shut down earlier).
Merkel pledged that the gap would be filled by renewables. That promise has not been kept. Germany’s top power source in 2021 has been coal, which provided 27 percent of the country’s electricity.
Can you imagine. They could’ve kept 25% nuclear and shut down 25% of baseload coal (which could’ve been pretty much *all* their coal, since it’s around 28%)…
Mark Yelland @ErrorFourOThreeTomorrow, DE are pulling the plug on Grohnde nuclear plant. This plant has set world records 8x for annual power gen, with an availability of ~92%. Over it's lifetime it has averted the emission of 400 million tonnes of CO2 that wld have otherwise been produced by coal/gas plants https://t.co/wHaP6nd6JD
Want more good news?
Germany is also burning more natural gas—about 40 percent of it imported from Russia. That dependence will rise in the years ahead. Germany is working with Russia to complete a second under-the-Baltic pipeline
I recently discovered a podcast called ‘Decouple’ (“There are technologies that decouple human wellbeing from its ecological impacts. There are politics that enable these technologies.”).
They have an episode about the closing of one of these plants, talking with Dr. Anna Veronika Wendland, a scientist at the Herder Institute and a historian of science and technology, calling in from inside the Grohnde Nuclear Power Plant in its final 24 hours of operation. Check it out:
Here’s a good thread by Jason Crawford:
The more I study nuclear technology the more I think that every problem of today's nuclear tech has a potential solution that has already been identified. They just haven't been brought to market, because the market is sclerotic.
Nuclear is slow and expensive? There are faster, cheaper ways to build.
It's dangerous? There are safer designs.
Nuclear plants are bespoke megaprojects? There are small, standardized, modular approaches?
Nuclear can't do load-following? Actually it can (and does in France).
It produces waste? There are designs that burn that “waste”.
Weapons proliferation? There are designs that don't produce weapons-grade material.
Nuclear has so many unsolved problems because we're still working with decades-old technology. The fundamental reactor design was created in the 1940s (and was intended for navy subs, not electric power plants).
If vaccines had been treated the same way, we'd still be using Jenner's smallpox vaccine—and nothing else. And we'd have vaccine myths like:
Vaccines can't fight polio or measles!
They're expensive and unhygienic, because they're grown in cows!
They cause pock marks on the arm!
If computers—invented at the same time as nuclear power—had been treated the same, we'd still be using mainframes, and we'd have computer myths like:
They're big & expensive! Only businesses can afford them!
They're extremely power-hungry, because of their vacuum tubes! Etc.
This is why I can't believe it's a good idea to just give up on nuclear R&D, despite all of the real problems that need to be solved. It just seems that the potential is enormous compared to what we've allowed ourselves to tap.
Meanwhile, California is planning to shut down its last nuclear power plant in Diablo Canyon…
📱 Remind Me Faster
If you’re on iOS and use Apple’s reminder app, here’s an app that may interest you:
I just discovered it thanks to Federico Viticci, and after giving it a try, I’ve added it to my home screen.
The general idea is simple: It’s a front-end for Apple’s Reminders. You fire it up and it makes it easier and faster to create a new reminder, which is then filed in the Reminders app and will behave exactly as if you had entered it through the official app or Siri.
But you get there with fewer taps, a better interface, and more customization options. What’s not to love?
Liberty’s Highlights is reader-supported. To support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. 🦤
The Arts & History
Mad Men S5E12, “Commissions and Fees”
Another one at the apex of the show’s powers. Another gut punch, with a so very grim joke about Jaguar’s reliability that was set up many episodes ago… ☠️
The moment where Lane breaks his glasses has pages of subtext. 👓
Conversation: James Cameron & Denis Villeneuve
29-minute conversation between the two directors, mostly talking about their current projects (Dune parts 1 & 2, Avatar 2 & 3).
It’s not the best conversation ever, and they don’t reveal huge new things, but I still found it interesting to get a better idea of how each thinks about making films.