Illustration via 99designs

“If code scripts machines, media scripts human beings.”

— Balaji Srinivasan

Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis) is an angel investor and entrepreneur. Formerly the CTO of Coinbase and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, he was also the co-founder of Earn.com (acquired by Coinbase), Counsyl (acquired by Myriad), Teleport (acquired by Topia), and Coin Center.

He was named to the MIT Technology Review’s “Innovators Under 35,” won a Wall Street Journal Innovation Award, and holds a BS/MS/PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering, all from Stanford University. Balaji also teaches the occasional class at Stanford, including an online MOOC in 2013, which reached 250,000+ students worldwide.

To learn more about Balaji’s most recent project, sign up at 1729.com, a newsletter that pays you. They’re giving out $1,000 in BTC each day for completing tasks and tutorials. Subscribers also receive chapters from Balaji’s new (free) book, The Network State.

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

If this nearly four-hour episode isn’t enough for you, perhaps you’d like to hear my three-and-a-half-hour conversation with Basecamp’s David Heinemeier Hansson (aka DHH)? In it, we discussed the power of being outspoken, running a profitable business without venture capital, Stoic philosophy, parallels across disciplines, and much more.

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Balaji Srinivasan:

Website | Twitter

  • Learn Skills & Earn Crypto | 1729.com
  • 1729: The Magic Of Hardy-Ramanujan Number | NDTV
  • Good Will Hunting | Prime Video
  • The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel
  • The Man Who Knew Infinity | Prime Video
  • Software Is Eating the World | Andreessen Horowitz
  • Hubble Space Telescope | NASA
  • A Complete List of MOOCs and Free Online Courses | MOOC List
  • Chasing the Parallel Postulate | Scientific American Blog Network
  • National Science Foundation Network and Acceptable Use Policy | Wikipedia
  • “‘Balaji Was Right’ Might Be the Most Terrifying Phrase in the English Language.” | Conor White-Sullivan, Twitter
  • Temptation at Checkout | Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Don’t Read This, Oracle… It’s the Rise of the Open-Source Data Strategies | The Register
  • Block the New York Times | BlockNYT
  • The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
  • Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday
  • American Resistance to a Standing Army | Teaching History
  • 8 Things You May Not Know About the Praetorian Guard | History
  • 300 | Prime Video
  • In Nagorno-Karabakh, Drones Gave Azerbaijan Huge Advantage and Showed Future of Warfare | The Washington Post
  • The Future Has Arrived — It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed Yet | Quote Investigator
  • 113 Journalists on Why They’re So Despised | NYMag
  • The Case Against the Media, by the Media | NYMag
  • The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism | Poynter
  • The Truth About Blockchain | Harvard Business Review
  • Inside the Twitter Hack — and What Happened Next | Wired
  • Smart Contracts | Investopedia
  • Oracles: The All-Seeing Eyes That Guide Crypto Networks | CoinMarketCap
  • Best Places to Live for a Digital Nomad | Nomad List
  • Compare Cities’ Quality of Life | Teleport Cities
  • LeanFIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) | Reddit
  • Early Retirement Through Badassity | Mr. Money Mustache
  • The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
  • Yes Chad | Know Your Meme
  • Books & Resources | Beautiful Trouble
  • Shift the Spectrum of Allies | Beautiful Trouble
  • What Is Cancel Culture? Why We Keep Fighting About Canceling People | Vox
  • The Cultural Revolution: All You Need to Know About China’s Political Convulsion | The Guardian
  • GOP Voters Trust CNN, NY Times Over Breitbart, InfoWars | Politico
  • Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James C. Scott
  • First Bolshevik Decrees: Seventeen Moments in Soviet History | Michigan State University
  • The Treaty of Westphalia | History Today
  • SolarWinds Hack Was ‘Largest and Most Sophisticated Attack’ Ever: Microsoft President | Reuters
  • Hackers Leak Customer Info from Crypto Wallet Ledger | Investopedia
  • Balaji Srinivasan on Building a “Pseudonymous Economy” | Blockstack
  • Corpse Husband | YouTube
  • “What If This Coronavirus Is the Pandemic That Public Health People Have Been Warning About for Years?” | Balaji Srinivasan, Twitter
  • Earn | Coinbase
  • Few Developing Countries Can Climb the Economic Ladder | St. Louis Fed
  • Learn the Latest Tech Skills; Advance Your Career | Udacity
  • Build Skills with Online Courses from Top Institutions | Coursera
  • Amazon Mechanical Turk
  • Ask HN: How to Earn Karma on HN? | Hacker News
  • Katie Haun on the Dark Web, Gangs, Investigating Bitcoin, and The New Magic of “Nifties” (NFTs) | The Tim Ferriss Show #499
  • Code Practice and Mentorship for Everyone | Exercism
  • The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss
  • The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss
  • Liberty, Equality, Fraternity | Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs
  • ‘Sorry’: Brokerage Chief at Heart of GameStop Saga Apologises | Al Jazeera
  • Discord Bans WallStreetBets for Hateful Conduct Amid GameStop Stock Surge | GamesIndustry.biz
  • US Government Financial Bailouts | Investopedia
  • A Deep Dive Into Satoshi’s 11-Year Old Bitcoin Genesis Block | Featured Bitcoin News
  • Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act | Investopedia
  • Balaji S. Srinivasan: The Network State | Foresight Institute
  • How a Centrifuge Works | Federation of American Scientists
  • China’s Communist Party Is at a Fatal Age for One-Party Regimes. How Much Longer Can It Survive? | Australian Broadcasting Corporation News
  • Some Oregonians Want to Leave and Take Part of the State to Idaho with Them | All Things Considered, NPR
  • Catalans Rally for Independence Despite Health Warnings | Reuters
  • How is America Going to End? Who’s Most Likely to Secede? | Slate
  • Silicon Valley’s Elite Don’t Want to Secede. They Just Want to Stay on Top | Wired
  • Fiat Money | Investopedia
  • Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino | FIAT
  • Hacker Houses Offer Shared Living for the Young, Green, and Tech-Obsessed | Grist
  • Bitcoin News: China’s Great Firewall to Block Crypto Websites | Fortune
  • (American) Successes Of The 20th Century | Pew Research Center
  • Music Piracy: From Napster to BitTorrents | The Runner
  • Magnet Links Become the Official Currency of Pirate Bay | Ars Technica
  • Popcorn Time
  • The Block Chain and the CAP Theorem | Stuff Yaron Finds Interesting
  • New York Moves to Lure Crypto Startups as BitLicense Turns Five | CoinDesk
  • How Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Is Luring Tech Players from Silicon Valley and New York | CNBC
  • “@LorenaSGonzalez: Message Received.” | Elon Musk, Twitter
  • Colombia, Estonia Upload the Bitcoin White Paper to Their Governmental Websites | CoinDesk
  • Wyoming Is Crypto’s ‘Wild West,’ Which Is Exactly What We Need | CoinDesk
  • “‘Win and Help Win’ Will Always Outcompete ‘Live and Let Live.’” | Balaji Srinivasan, Twitter
  • Little House on the Prairie | Prime Video
  • Why Is the Three-Body Problem Unsolvable? | Popular Mechanics
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  • The Cause of… and Solution to… All of Life’s Problems. | The Simpsons
  • Secure Storage Solutions for Bitcoin | Casa
  • Vitalik Buterin, Creator of Ethereum, on Understanding Ethereum, ETH vs. BTC, ETH2, Scaling Plans and Timelines, NFTs, Future Considerations, Life Extension, and More (Featuring Naval Ravikant) | The Tim Ferriss Show #504
  • Proof of Work vs. Proof of Stake: Basic Mining Guide | Blockgeeks
  • StarkWare Industries Ltd.
  • ZK-Rollups | Ethhub
  • How Life Has Changed in the Last 20 Years | Business Insider
  • Balaji Srinivasan: Coronavirus Will Shape This Decade Like 9/11 Shaped the 2000s | ReasonTV
  • Balaji Srinivasan: Applications: Today & 2025 | TechCrunch
  • Balaji Srinivasan: Technology Will Lead to a Borderless World | ReasonTV
  • Our Deepest Fears Realized: Most Couples Meet Online Now | Vice
  • Link Between Health Spending and Life Expectancy: The US Is an Outlier | Our World in Data
  • Balaji Srinivasan, Who May Run the FDA for Trump, Hates the FDA. But Silicon Valley Likes Srinivasan. | Vox
  • “Y-Shaped Recovery…” | Balaji Srinivasan, Twitter
  • Lung Cancer Immunotherapy Darkens Patients’ Hair | GEN
  • Forget Exercise — These Mice Got Ripped with Gene Therapy | Singularity Hub
  • Anarcho-Primitivism | Wikipedia
  • Voluntary Human Extinction Movement | VHEMT
  • No Death and an Enhanced Life: Is the Future Transhuman? | The Guardian
  • Zoltan Vs. Zerzan | Stanford Transhumanists
  • Superman II | Prime Video
  • Ready Player One | Prime Video
  • Another Inconvenient Truth: The World’s Growing Population Poses a Malthusian Dilemma | Scientific American
  • The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant
  • From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000 by Lee Kuan Yew
  • Disneyland with the Death Penalty | Wired
  • The Opium Wars in China | Asia Pacific Curriculum
  • Toomas Ilves: Lessons In Digital Democracy from Estonia | Stanford School of Engineering
  • Dramatic Photos Show How Radically Dubai Has Changed in 50 Years | Business Insider
  • Photos: Stunningly Green Dubai: What City Looks Like In 20 Years | Khaleej Times
  • Facebook and Google Won’t Save Local News | The New Republic
  • Switzerland: This European Nation Has Most Potential for Future Growth, Study Says | CNBC
  • Israel and Iran Just Showed Us the Future of Cyberwar With Their Unusual Attacks | Foreign Policy
  • Taiwan’s Digital Minister Knows How to Crush Covid-19: Trust | Wired
  • Monaco: From Billionaire’s Playground to Crypto Paradise? | Copper
  • The Hottest App in China Teaches Citizens About Their Leader — and, Yes, There’s a Test | The New York Times
  • Why Did Alibaba’s Jack Ma Disappear for Three Months? | BBC News
  • Balaji Srinivasan on Communist Capital vs. Woke Capital vs. Crypto Capital | CoinDesk
  • Why All Soviet Jokes Needed to Be Approved by the Department of Jokes | We Are the Mighty
  • US, Allies Announce Sanctions on China Over Uyghur ‘Genocide’ | Politico
  • Who Lives? Who Dies? NYC Hospitals Could Soon Be Forced to Triage Coronavirus Patients | NBC New York
  • The Maginot Line, Scapegoat of the French Defeat in May 1940 | Normandy American Heroes
  • The Story Behind That Viral Chinese Train Station Video | Slate
  • After Sinking 18 Inches, SF’s Millennium Tower Finally Has a Fix | SFGate
  • Salesforce Transit Center: It Was Supposed to Be the Safest Building in the World. Then It Cracked. | Popular Mechanics
  • Coronavirus: How Can China Build a Hospital So Quickly? | BBC News
  • Dr. Vivek Murthy — Former Surgeon General on Combating COVID-19, Loneliness, and More | The Tim Ferriss Show #417
  • Red Dawn (’84) | Prime Video
  • Niall Ferguson: A Taiwan Crisis May End the American Empire | Bloomberg
  • The Russo-Japanese War and its Impact on Anti-Colonial Nationalists | Faisal Ali, Medium
  • Buster Douglas Shocks the World with 10th-Round KO of Mike Tyson | ESPN Archives
  • What Happened to Occupy Wall Street? | The Atlantic
  • How 9/11 Caused An Increase In Islamophobic Hate Crimes | Refinery29
  • Hate Is Haunting Asian Americans. Their Fear Underscores a Racial Reckoning That Is Far from Over | CNN
  • Regaining the Edge In US Chip Manufacturing | SMG
  • The Hidden Troubles of the F-35 | Defense News
  • The Physics of the Fosbury Flop | Stanford University
  • Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
  • Selling Votes Is Common Type of Election Fraud | The Washington Post
  • Government Scraps ‘Shadow Mayor’ Plans for Big Cities | BBC News
  • Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
  • Thucydides Trap: An Overview | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
  • How the SWIFT System Works | Investopedia
  • Why India Should Buy Bitcoin | Balaji Srinivasan
  • How India Legalizes Crypto | Balaji Srinivasan
  • Jio 4G LTE Network | Reliance
  • Stablecoin Price and Circulation Monitor | Stablecoin Stats
  • China’s Massive Belt and Road Initiative | Council on Foreign Relations
  • Explainer: The Non-Aligned Movement in the 21st century | The Conversation
  • Socialism: Definition, Pros, Cons, Examples, Types | The Balance
  • Soviet Denim Smuggling: Jeans Behind the Iron Curtain | Heddels
  • China’s Fast Climb up the Value Chain | McKinsey
  • What Is Bollywood? What to Know About Hindi Language Movies and Music | Oprah
  • Tenet | Prime Video
  • ArcelorMittal
  • Black Mirror | Prime Video
  • Super 30 | Official Trailer
  • Rocky | Prime Video
  • The Terminator | Prime Video
  • India’s Ambitious Nuclear Power Plan – And What’s Getting in Its Way | The Diplomat
  • House of Cards | Netflix
  • Ghostbusters | Prime Video
  • Dallas Buyers Club | Prime Video
  • The Correction Heard ‘Round The World: When The New York Times Apologized to Robert Goddard | Forbes

SHOW NOTES

  • What is the significance of 1729, and what is Balaji’s mission in launching a website named after this “not boring” number? [06:02]
  • What was the subject matter and the intent behind the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Balaji taught prior to joining Andreessen Horowitz? [10:21]
  • Balaji’s thoughts on the state of media (particularly podcasts), how product is merit and distribution is connections, and why I trust my dog to tell me if a journalist is trying to set me up for a “gotcha.” [16:57]
  • Just as the Founding Fathers advised against the establishment of a standing army in the United States, Balaji wonders if we should be cautious of relying on a standing media to deliver us the news of the day — or if there are better, decentralized options. [29:57]
  • What can we do to protect ourselves as we wait for the future to be evenly distributed? We dive deep into everything from achieving financial independence to auditing our social ties to securing our privacy with a pseudonymous economy that could diminish the effects of cancellation and discrimination. [40:27]
  • Roam Research co-founder Conor White-Sullivan once said: “‘Balaji was right’ might be the most terrifying phrase in the English language.” Eerily accurate early speculation about the COVID-19 pandemic aside, how would Balaji strategize a sizeable investment made today? (A reminding disclaimer: we’re not registered investment advisors, so do not take this or anything else here as legitimate financial advice.) [1:07:29]
  • What participating in 1729 — “the first newsletter that pays you” — would ideally look like. [1:10:55]
  • How Balaji envisions 1729 as a skyhook to rescue the world’s brightest minds from places that usually get overlooked — like developing countries and war zones — or allow them to operate on home ground pseudonymously. [1:14:01]
  • A digital native solution to education that qualifies students to work as they go instead of waiting years until a full degree is earned. [1:17:37]
  • How do you pseudonymously show proof of skill? Enter the crypto credential. [1:21:33]
  • Don’t underestimate the power of microincentives. [1:25:27]
  • How does Balaji rationalize a “half in Bitcoin, half in Ethereum” investment, and how does it tie into shifting establishment dynamics? [1:27:51]
  • Why does Balaji believe that “not many institutions that predated the internet will survive the internet” — including nation states and fiat currencies? [1:35:44]
  • Addressing downside risk, what circumstances might make Bitcoin or Ethereum bad investments? [1:45:06]
  • How can we expect crypto regulation to play out in the United States? How are cities, states, and countries with an eye on the future currently signaling their friendliness toward innovation? [1:51:57]
  • Why Balaji believes “win and help win” is neither progressive, nor conservative, nor libertarian, but a concept that beats them all. [2:02:22]
  • How Bitcoin regulation thus far hasn’t followed the course that popular opinion predicted, and why you should hold your keys locally. [2:05:07]
  • How do Ethereum risks differ from those faced by Bitcoin? [2:09:44]
  • Want to get an understanding of how unrecognizable the near future will be? Consider how much the world has changed between the year 2000 and now — and how little it changed, comparatively, between then and 1970. [2:12:36]
  • Does Balaji believe the changes we’re about to experience en masse will be mostly positive or mostly negative? [2:22:16]
  • Thinkers, scientists, or resources Balaji would recommend for people who want to further explore life-extension and transhumanism. [2:32:16]
  • Who was Lee Kuan Yew, and why he is interesting? [2:35:04]
  • What countries are on Balaji’s shortlist to watch as examples of what the future holds? [2:39:56]
  • Woke capital vs. communist capital vs. crypto capital, the Maginot Line revisited, and why China is so underestimated while the US is overestimated when it comes to facing the challenges of present and future. [2:45:28]
  • If there were a conflict with China over Taiwan and the US lost, what would be the consequences? [2:56:44]
  • Does Balaji see any obvious fixes the US could implement to mitigate against the risks of a cold war with China turning hot? Is there any way we can select our leaders for legitimacy and competence over popularity and inheritance? [3:01:38]
  • Balaji explains how a 51 percent democracy is like a Fosbury Flop, and the types of votes that really make a difference in such a system. [3:05:18]
  • What a convince-oriented “crypto” government versus a coercion-focused fiat government might look like. [3:12:41]
  • India: the dark horse, what is currently at stake as it considers banning crypto, and what Balaji sees as its way forward — by embracing crypto, learning from China’s ascendancy in the global value chain, and claiming its rightful place in the media hierarchy. [3:17:42]
  • Parting thoughts. [3:40:00]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

DISCLAIMER FROM TIM FERRISS: I am not an investment adviser. There are risks involved in placing any investment in securities or in Bitcoin or in cryptocurrencies or in anything. None of the information presented herein is intended to form the basis of any offer or recommendation or have any regard to the investment objectives, financial situation, or needs of any specific person, and that includes you, my dear listener or reader. Everything in this episode is for informational entertainment purposes only.

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