When self-driving cars come (and I’m skeptical they will come in mass in the next 20 years … but that is for another post), everyone’s commute will be much faster. That is because cars will be able to coordinate with each other and rarely need to go below 80 miles/hour on highways (even during the busiest of times).
But once self-driving cars happen, the next thing is to allow cars to pay up to go EVEN faster. There is no reason a car can’t go 160 miles per hour and get you there in half the time.
Cars that don’t pay up for the privilege will be forced to yield to cars that do. Essentially expect to see surge pricing to get to places faster.
Would you pay an extra $100 to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 100 minutes by car? An extra $300?
Note: I’ve been thinking a LOT about transportation recently because of all the transportation-related companies that use SafeGraph Places.
Summation: while self-driving cars will be good for everyone, they will be GREAT for people with lots of money (especially in capitalist societies like the U.S. and China).
The old adage that “it’s not what-you-know but who-you-know” is so entrenched that we don’t question the premise. Undoubtedly, who-you-know has been important throughout history, whether in the trade networks of ancient Greece, or in the dense web of high tech companies in Silicon Valley. A good network is especially important when capital is scarce, information hoarded, and when finding the appropriate contacts is difficult. For much of history, knowing the right people was crucial if you wanted cash and cache.
By definition: a “What-You-Know” knows a lot about a certain thing. They possess a lot of knowledge, insight, and research. They usually spend a lot of time reading broadly and interacting with a few dozen select people (strong ties).
A “Who-You-Know” generally has a very large network of weak ties. The ultimate who-you-knows make money by being in a profession that introduce two what-you-knows together and taking a vig. In the 1980s, the professions with the highest prestige were the what-you-know professions (like investment banker, corporate lawyer, real estate agent, wealth manager, etc.).
Because the who-you-knows were constantly talking to smart what-you-knows, the who-you-knows ACTUALLY BECOME what-you-knows because they had access to a ton of proprietary knowledge.
Think back to the 1980s … there were no blogs and there were a very small number of news sources. Information was really hoarded and having a deep network was one of the best ways to get access to interesting and unique knowledge.
But something happened in the last 10 years … it is easier to find people, connect with them, learn new things, and get access to capital. So the what-you-know has been ascendant.
Finding people is easier. So is connecting with them.
Tools such as LinkedIn and Google, democratize the ability to network. If before it was difficult to ferret out the perfect contact, today finding a right marine biologist in New Zealand or the genetic researcher in Norway is as easy as a Google search. And social media has made it even easier to connect with that person.
Access to capital is much easier.
Today, capital is relatively plentiful and accessible. In fact, it is the easiest time in history to get capital. That does not mean getting capital is “easy” — it certainly is still really hard. But it is significantly easier than in the 1980s (and the 1980s were easier than the 1880s). It is also much easier than ever to get access to people who have money (accessing capital can be as easy as sending an email).
Access to information is easier.
Information, too, has been democratized. It used to be that if you wanted to get access to cutting-edge ideas in technology, you needed an invitation to an exclusive conference like TED … or to attend a university like MIT. Today, TED lectures and MIT courses are offered free online. The only barrier to most of the world’s best information is knowing English (and even that is changing). Some of the best information is available on blogs.
As an aside, I count myself extremely lucky to be friends with Tyler Cowen (who is truly a wondrous person). But if I knew someone like that in the 1980s, I might have 95% advantage (in getting interesting information) than people that did not know him. Today, anyone can read Tyler’s blog (which I highly recommend you do). It is chock-full of information. My information advantage in knowing Tyler may only be 15% more than those that do not. That is a huge change in a short time.
Given our hyper-connected world, could it be that “who you know,” while still important, matters a little less than in the past? Could it be that “what you know” carries more weight? The answer to both questions is undeniably “yes.”
My intuition is that “what you know” has now crossed the line to be more important … and possibly even MUCH MORE important … than “who you know.” Like Kurt Vonnegut said in Breakfast for Champions; “new knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.”
In today’s world, if you know something really compelling, you will be sought out … and sought out directly. In the past, the people with connections were gatekeepers who controlled access to the elite circle and got paid handsomely for that. Today, people that invent interesting things (the true What-You-Know people) will reap many more rewards than the brokers who make introductions.
Even the traditional who-you-know professions such as banking and law are becoming more specialized. The lawyer that understands the intricate tax implications of U.S.-Brazil joint ventures is now much more valuable than the generalist lawyer that introduces you to that person.
Today the professions most prized are the what-you-knows. The inventors, hedge fund managers, etc. One hundred years ago, most inventors would capture only a small portion of their intellectual property. Most of it would be taken by the who-you-knows.
All this does not mean that your network isn’t important. Of course it is. Who-you-know is still incredibly useful. But it will just be less important than it has been in the past. Even the Wizard of Oz was looking to network: just before he leaves the Emerald City he tells Dorothy that he is off “to confer, converse and otherwise hobnob with my brother wizards.”
Summation: In the new world of abundant capital, easy access to information and people with knowledge, the what-you-know skills are more important than those of the who-you-know.
Your decisions are easily primed by random factors
People are influenced by the strangest things and sometimes we make decisions because of random bias. We should be aware of our bias and how our opinions and actions can be shaped by priming.
Jonah Berger, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Business, conducted a terrific study where he demonstrates that where people vote affects how they vote. Essentially, people whose voting booth is located in a church are more likely to put more weight into social issues, people voting in fire houses care more about safety, and people voting in a school tend to put more weight on things like education.
Can you believe that where you vote affects how you vote?
People are easily primed by the simplest thing, like their name. University of Buffalo’s Associate Professor and Psychologist Brett Pelham conducted a groundbreaking study that some of the biggest decisions of our life – where we live, what we do, and who we marry – are influenced by our first name. The book The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt explains further:
Men named Lawrence and women named Laurie are more likely to become lawyers. Louis and Louise are more likely to move to Louisiana or St. Louis, and George and Georgina are more likely to move to Georgia.
My guess is that people with the last name of Clinton, Kennedy, and Bush (all relatively common last names) tend to have a more favorable opinion of the Presidents sharing the same last name than the rest of the population.
People can also start acting a certain way because other people expect them too. Berger has other studies which suggest people are more likely to conform to a stereotype of them because that stereotype exists.
In psychology, these actions are known as priming. And we humans are primed often. As advanced decision makers, we need to make sure we are making important decisions for the right reasons and not just because of being primed. Deciding to see a Dustin Hoffman movie just because we have the same last name is no big deal. But if I wanted to switch professions and become an actor because of my name, it might be a good idea to really understand why.
This is another reason why your “gut” isn’t always right. A gut reaction is generally a collection of biases and can be easily primed. While it can be right (the brain can often analyze information implicitly faster than it can explicitly), it can also be dangerously wrong. It would be a really bad idea to hire someone to watch over your child just because you got a “good feeling” about the person.
Your gut might be much better at telling you what not to do than giving you good direction on what to do. If your gut tells you something is wrong with someone, than you probably do not want to entrust your kid with her. But a positive gut-check often does little good (at least for me). When thinking about how this affects hiring, our goal at Rapleaf is to attempt to remove primed biases from hiring decisions. While you’ll never be able to remove all bias, removing just a few of them can give you a dramatically large advantage over a competitor. Malcolm Gladwell has a great anecdote about this in Blink where a metropolitan symphony decides to change its hiring by listening to someone play (person was behind a screen) rather than seeing them play. It turned out that the symphony in question massively increased the number of women they hired when they stopped watching people play and instead just listened to them. And, of course, the quality of the music got much better too.
So the next time you are voting in an elementary school, think twice to yourself if we really need this new school bond.
If you have premium status, you get better seats with more legroom. But those seats are the most coveted so you’ll almost certainly be sitting next to an occupied middle seat. But if you don’t have status you get worse seats (usuall near the back of the plane), but you have a better chance of not having to sit next to someone.
Bad coach seats with an empty middle seat is BETTER THAN a good seat with a full middle seat. So depending on when you are flying, you have to make a decision about how full the plane will be as you choose where you’d like to sit.
I love reading Paul Graham … I’ve read pretty much
everything he has written and while I don’t always agree, I always come away
from his articles with a new thought. In fact, I think he has most insightful blog/column out there.
this is well worth reading. Many people have trouble disagreeing and the most common way to
discredit an argument is to go after the messenger. Graham points out this is a really a poor
argument as to why the messenger’s point is bad.
but most humans give too much weight to the messenger and not
enough weight to the message. That
makes sense from a purely evolutionary point of view. If Stephen Hawking says something about
physics, you might want to listen. But
if Britney Spears starts discussing string theory, you might think she’s talking
about bikinis and not theoretical physics. This reasoning works most of the time as usually Hawking has interesting
things to say about science and Spears is known for other talents.
But in politics and business, not listening to the messenger
can lead to very bad decisions. Giving
a little more weight to a new opinion of someone you like over those that you
dislike makes sense. But a good
decision maker should only weigh the messenger a little and focus much more on
dissecting the message. The boy who
cries wolf might be right sometime … you shouldn’t just reject the message out
People always say women are better multi-taskers than men. My bet is that the stereotype is largely true. Most men I know can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Where many women I know can do multiple things at the SAME time.
For instance, if you want eliminate my productivity, just put on the television. If the television is on, there is almost nothing else I can do. I am absolutely powerless. I cannot watch television and do anything else that takes brainpower. I might be able to fold laundry or run on the treadmill, but nothing where I am really utilizing my brain.
Many women can compartmentalize their brains better and do many things at once. There has been a lot of studies that claim to prove this but I never believed the studies before because it seemed to me that men and women were equally productive in the workplace. But what I didn’t realize was while women really excel at multi-taking, men compensate for this by micro-tasking.
Micro-tasking is the ability to do lots of different things in series while multi-tasking is doing different things in parallel. While parallel-processing is inherently better, you can make up for it by being very efficient when working in series.
You might think someone is a really good multi-tasker because they get a lot of stuff done in an hour but they might actually be a really good micro-tasker (maybe doing 20 different things in order for an average of three minutes each).
Instant messaging is the bane to people that love to micro-task but cannot deal with true multi-tasking. I can’t deal with IM – it makes any other work I was considering doing fall by the wayside. So like many people who understand that they are not a parallel processor, they organize life hacks to compensate for this.
After actively using ICQ in 1997-1998, I eliminated IM from my life. In fact, I tried to eliminate all unnecessary synchronous communication (which is why I love email – it is by far the best asynchronous communication medium ever invented). And while I use IM to communicate with people occasionally (I don’t have an IM client, I always use Meebo) and recognized the power of IM (I even invested in Meebo), IM should be for people who truly can multi-task and not poor chaps like me (and most men) who have to resort to micro-tasking. And, of course, IM is for people that don’t want to be productive (most people in the world).
Another life hack I made four years ago was to eliminate TV. I canceled my cable subscription because TV, to me, was like chocolate cake – it is so addictive that if it was available in my home it would be consumed.
If you’re a man, chances are you’re not wired for parallel processing. So if you want to gain efficiency and output, you’ll need to set up your life inputs to better gel with your internal systems.
(special thanks to my office-mate, Vivek Sodera, who pointed out these differences to me)
Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology found that because people expect wines that cost more to be of higher quality, they trick themselves into believing the wines provide a more pleasurable experience than less expensive ones.
The researchers said that when 20 adult test subjects sampled the same wine at different prices, they reported experiencing pleasure at significantly greater levels when told the wine cost more. At the same time, the part of the brain responsible for pleasure showed significant activity.
people are hard-wired to believe that things that cost more MUST be better. like a Rolex watch must be better than a Seiko watch (it isn’t) or a low-end Mercedes must be better than a Toyota (it isn’t either). but the brand makes you feel better. and that’s what people are paying for.
I have a friend who owns a very successful club in San Francisco. The number one drink ordered is a Kettle One (high end vodka) and Red Bull. Now most vodka come from the same stock and there isn’t any proof that one vodka is more likely to prevent hangovers than another vodka (unless maybe if it is infused with vitamins). So I can understand if you are going to buy a high-end vodka if you claim it tastes better … but you can’t actually taste the vodka when mixed with Red Bull. So people are buying the brand, the “experience” (whatever that means), the split second when they order that it makes them feel rich and can try to impress the bartender that they are willing to spend 50% more for the same experience.
i admit that i fall for these things all the time.
people bank on price. because price is usually a good predictor of quality and if you don’t know any better, that’s all you have to go on. it makes sense.
in a hotel, price often equals quality (except in an Ian Shrager hotel where the quality and service is quite bad but the brand is strong). in a vodka, people pay more because they feel better … they feel they have a nicer experience (even though Absolute probably ranks just as high as the 2x priced Grey Goose). in a wine, people truly believe a $200 bottle bests a $20 bottle (i’ve done tons of taste tests that showed people cannot tell the difference) .. and they like the experience of buying the best stuff.
People get very passionate about their causes, their religion, their business. People are awesome that way.
Some passionate people are “sunny” and others are “angry”. Not surprisingly, I’ve always gravitated toward those who are sunny.
There are sunny Republicans (Schwarzenegger) and angry Republicans (DeLay). There are sunny religious leaders (Rick Warren) and angry ones (Farrakhan). There are sunny technology blogs (TechCrunch) and angry ones (gossip blogs).
And while more optimists are sunny and more pessimists are angry, there ARE plenty of angry optimists and sunny pessimists. But sunny people are far more pleasant to be around. They may be just as passionate, just as intense, but they usually have a deeper love of humanity.
Sunny people are lovers. They enjoy the success of others … in fact, they celebrate others’ successes. They trust others. Innocent until proven guilty. People in Silicon Valley tend to lovers.
Angry people are haters. They can’t stand the success of others and want to bring those people down. They’re jealous of innovation and attention that isn’t directed to them. They’re suspicious that everyone is trying to screw them over and take them for a ride. Guilty until proven innocent. A lot of people in New York and L.A. are really angry.
Great American leaders are generally sunny. Great Russian leaders are generally angry.
Roosevelt (both of them), Reagan, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and Clinton were sunny. Nixon and Johnson were angry. (Ford, Carter, and the Bushes are not entirely sunny nor angry). Mike Huckabee has ridden up in the polls because he is sunny while Sam Brownback (both with similar ideology) faltered because he wasn’t perceived as a lover. John Kerrey was angry in 2004 (which is, my theory, why he lost when he should have won). John Edwards is an interesting candidate – he can be a lover and a hater both in the same day (and sometimes in the same debate).
If you’re liberal, you are angry if you hate George W. Bush but you are sunny if you hate the war in Iraq. If you are conservative, you are angry if you hate Hilary Clinton but you are sunny if you hate her plan to raise taxes. Demonizing people – whether it be the President of the U.S. or an ethnic group is what haters do. Lovers debate ideas.
Are sunny people more successful that angry people? Not sure. They are certainly happier. Angry people have a real sad life.
A. People who’s day takes a long time but their month seems to go by so quickly
B. People who’s day flies by but a month seems so long ago
I tend to gravitate toward the latter. If a month ago seems like ages, it often means that you’ve done so many interesting things over that time. If it seems like just yesterday, then maybe you’ve done a lot of the same thing.
Conversely, if your day goes by quickly, you’re energized and excited. But if a day takes a long time, you might be bored and repetitive.
In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn’t stop the experts from describing the “red” wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its “jamminess,” while another enjoyed its “crushed red fruit.” Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.
The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was “agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded,” while the vin du table was “weak, short, light, flat and faulty”. Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.