Questions

Evergreen questions that I think about, organized by topic. Inspired by Patrick Collison.

  • How can we amplify the work of experts? (currently working on, inspired by Sam Hinkie "Lend a Legend a Hand")

From Michael Nielsen's essay on scientific collaboration, "There is a fundamental scarce resource in science, one whose allocation largely determines how science progresses. That scarce resource is expert attention."

There is plenty of economic theory about the allocation of capital, but in a world in which capital is increasingly abundant, what models will we use to allocate expert attention?

Current institutions (e.g., corporations, academic research universities) are failing to allocate expert attention in a way that optimizes for progress (see more on this topic from Alexey Guzey).

Breakthroughs often require time and freedom. Throughout history, the patronage model was the most effective source of providing this - can we revive the patronage model?

How can we leverage developments in the modern era to allocate expert attention in new and novel ways (e.g., crowdsourcing)? Specifically, can an expert use their status / clout / following to get help and support in meaningful ways?

  • What would a structured talent development system for knowledge workers look like?

Sports have structured, incentive-aligned systems to invest in talent over long time periods. Teams invest time and money into a player's development because they own, and thereby benefit from, the rights to their future performance.

The education system invests in young people, but there is no incentive alignment, amongst many other issues, which leads to non-optimal outcomes.

Corporations invest in knowledge workers in the workforce on short time frames, but lack incentives to invest in long-term development because of the ability for people to freely switch jobs.

Currently, the idea of mentorship is amorphous, and committing to developing talent is a net-negative from an economic utility perspective (especially in the short-term). The best solution would be to make mentorship and development profitable financially. To what degree can financial instruments such as ISA's or self-tokenization provide proper incentive alignments between people and other parties? How do you balance between aligning incentives and extracting value from people's future performance (e.g., indentured servitude is probably net negative)?

I am hopeful with examples such as Lambda School and Alex Masmej, but there is a lot more to be proven. Beyond these examples, what would an institution that invested in long-term talent development, similar to the minor leagues in sports, look like?

  • How do you help people find their "tribe"?

Humans are an instinctively tribal species. We are programmed to seek friendship and close relationships. Having a "tribe" seems to me to be one of the best ways to find fulfillment and success in life. Yet, many people do not deliberately focus on building theirs.

The ability to form a tribe is seemingly a function of two vectors: the pool of people you are exposed to and the nature of the relationships with those people.

We come into contact with a tiny fraction of the 7.5 billion+ people on our planet - how do you connect with the "right" people? The status quo relies on serendipity. I am not a fan of the oxymoron "designing serendipity" but we do need better mechanisms for meaningfully increasing the chances that we meet the "right" people.

Specifically, I am wondering how could we better leverage our current relationships to find new ones (e.g., friends of friends)? And how can we create closer knit communities built on a spirit of giving (e.g., On Deck)?

Beyond meeting people, we need to strengthen the nature of our relationships. Many people opt for a widespread social graph full of loose connections. This approach may lend itself well to transactions (e.g., I want to find an investor), but it does not seem like the optimal way to play a long-term game. How do we create an environment that is more focused on playing infinite, positive-sum games with one another?

Perhaps this starts by convincing people that it is in their own self-interest to play this infinite game.

  • How could you help people make more mindful day-to-day decisions that are aligned with their best interests?

Humans are not particularly good at making decisions. There are entire fields of social science (e.g., behavioral economics) dedicated to the mistakes found in our choices.

Our decisions dictate our actions, which in turn, tend to influence our happiness (e.g., Buddhist karma). If our decision process is flawed, then our actions will be and our happiness will suffer.

Worse, many of our day to day, micro-decisions compound over time. Should I work out? How do I respond to my friend who is angry at me?

Much attention is paid to the "big" decisions in life, but the thousands of micro-decisions we make every day are ultimately what determine our happiness.

Many of us have clear intentions and values in our best state, yet find it difficult to apply them to our decisions and to maintain the right outlook. Much of the time, it is our emotions and desires that get in our way and lead to decisions that ultimately do not align with our long-term interests. How could you help people remember their intentions and values when making micro-decisions, with an eye for long-term benefit?

It is important to build these capabilities from within - an outsourcing of decision making could be catastrophic. How could you do help people make decisions in a way that does not provide a "mental crutch" that deteriorates the mind's own ability to make these decisions?

These are tough questions to answers with extremely serious implications on the mind. Because of these dangers, the best solution is likely to build up your own internal capabilities to make these decisions (e.g., the status quo). In the next best scenario, how could you build tools that help people develop their own tools for decision making?