Latest reading

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been reading a startup essay series on the train to and from work. It’s Blake Masters’ notes from a startup class Peter Thiel taught at Stanford last year converted to essay form.

It’s been interesting–not quite the mythmaking or buzzword dump that most talk about startups devolves into. It’s not even all about startups or even technology–there are forays into the nature of capitalism, the contemporary social and political zeitgeist, themes about heroism and independent thinking I’d previously only seen in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and the basic narratives of Western civilization. I didn’t agree with all of it, but it was worthwhile reading.

The first essay starts off like basically every frickin’ class at the School of Information seems obligated to do, with lip service to the history of technology and globalisation and whatnot. If you didn’t go to the ISchool, though, you might not find it tiresome. And even I didn’t, once I forced myself to not skim it–there’s a few new ideas in there.

My favorite essays:

  • Class 9: Distribution (Why selling things is hard and matters and goddammit you need it)
  • Class 11: Secrets (Relies on some concepts introduced in class 5)
  • Class 13: You Are Not A Lottery Ticket (Something completely different than what I expected from the title, but still good: the role of luck in startups and other crazy endeavours and how different time periods and societies think about the future)
  • Class 18: Founder as Victim, Founder as God (The role of startup founders–and iconoclastic hero-villains of all sorts–in society. Aka “What do Oedipus, Zulu kings, Britney Spears, and Sergey Brin have in common?”)