About / Best Of / FAQ

  • Productivity growth is the most important variable for ensuring that people can do the stuff they want, broadly defined. Productivity growth gets you rich, it gives you money to raise kids and take care of your parents; and if your ambitions lean to the spiritual or the artistic, it’s perhaps more important. The only way the economy can support people who aren’t trying to get rich is if a lot of people find it easy to get rich.
  • Finance is full of useful metaphors for other aspects of the human experience. Since finance is all about uncertainty, expectations, and disagreements, it gives us a rich vocabulary for describing other instantiations of these behaviors. For example, a huge number of risky activities are, in finance terms, a form of put-writing: doing things at the last minute, living paycheck-to-paycheck, making excuses when you’d rather not tell the truth — all of these things have the same payoff function as selling insurance against disaster. Since we have a lot more data on the finance version, we can get a lot more theoretical knowledge out of it.
  • On the other hand: reifying imperfect theories is the single biggest source of avoidable trouble in the world.
  • Opinionated beats objective. Your allies will be more likely to read you; your enemies will want to correct you.
  • I’m 32, married, two kids with a third on the way in June.
  • I live in New York.
  • Yes, we can get coffee some time. Email me.

The Hits

Best-Of

FAQ

  1. Set a very, very early alarm. 4:30 is a good time to shoot for. That gets me a solid 1–2 hours every morning for reading and writing.
  2. Read a lot. Or, if you want the negative version: never watch TV, and put strict limits on your social media time.
  3. Use airplane mode when you write.
  4. Bang out rough drafts at maximum speed. My rule when I’m writing draft one is that if anything slows me down, I write “TK” followed by a quick note about what I need to add, and then move on to the next topic. Then once I’m done with the draft I can quickly search through all the TKs and fill things in. This also works for links; nothing breaks up your flow like trying to find that one story that was on Hacker News last month about logistics in Kenya (or was it Nigeria? Was it Hacker News, or Marginal Revolution?). I can usually finish 1k-2k words of a draft in 45 minutes. Some things take longer, though; the Voegelin piece took a whole day.
  5. Keep a running list of ideas in a physical notebook. A notebook is good because it’s a) something you can grab and doodle in when you’re bored, but b) not something with an Internet connection, so you won’t accidentally waste an hour.
  6. Economize on other stuff. I watch about two movies a year and never do cardio; some things just take a ton of time.
  1. Me. I’m writing the kind of stuff I’d like to read. I wanted there to be a good article on the social impact of The Social Network, so I wrote one.
  2. My friends.
  3. My general target audience might be described as “median Matt Levine or Hacker News reader.” i.e. probably someone who works in finance, technology, or both; someone who is generally interested in pulling on intellectual threads; not somebody who is trying to find Five Amazing Hacks To Improve Your Whatever.
  1. Writing is a good way to rigorously explore ideas. Try it. The next time you find some weird similarity between the Nixon presidency and the way your last employer handled crises, or between the spread of sail technology in the Renaissance and the rise of the shipping container, I highly recommend exploring it at length. (Send me a link.)
  2. I hate to tell the same story twice, and a lot of the stuff that I end up writing about starts as some point that I make in three separate conversations in the space of a week. Instead of delivering the same lecture to the same person twice, which is awkward, I’d rather be able to say I wrote it up in more detail and point them to a link.
  3. Writing is a good way to meet interesting people. Since I sometimes write about obscure stuff, anyone who searches for that topic and finds my writing is, almost by definition, someone I’d enjoy hanging out with.
  4. I want to set a good example for my kids. My wife and I plan to homeschool, and that will work best if the kids are used to the idea that everybody has demanding academic side projects.
  5. I hate the feeling of looking back on a month, a year, or a decade, and worrying that I haven’t accomplished anything. Writing is a tangible way to avoid this.

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I write about technology (more logos than techne) and economics. Newsletter: https://diff.substack.com/

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Byrne Hobart

Byrne Hobart

I write about technology (more logos than techne) and economics. Newsletter: https://diff.substack.com/

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