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North Star Podcast

Aug 24, 2020

My guest today is Balaji Srinivasan, an angel investor and entrepreneur. When it comes to the future, he's the single most creative person I know because he's so technical, innovative, and polymathic. Talking to him is an experience unlike talking to anybody else, which I tried to replicate in this conversation.

A little bit about Balaji. He's worked as the Chief Technology Officer at Coinbase and a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. In the world of academia, he holds a BS/MS/PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering, all from Stanford University. He's also taught at Stanford, where his online course has reached 250,000 students worldwide.

This episode is a whirlwind through Balaji's interests. We started by talking about his production function. We talked about what holding all those degrees from Stanford taught him about learning, how he identifies talent, and what building and selling two companies for more than $100 million taught him about management. We also talked about his interests in genomics, how to reverse aging, and why living forever is the ultimate goal of technology. At the end, we built off the ideas I talk about in my online writing school called Write of Passage to talk about his plan to fund online writers with a project called MediaFund.


Show Notes

2:42 - What Balaji learned about how to learn from his extended time in academia and why he doesn't read the instructions until he has to.

4:21 - Why knowing philosophy and history is so integral to starting a successful company.

6:54 - Why Balaji thinks we are severely underutilizing the collaborative potential of the internet.

12:45 - How remembering references to knowledge instead of the knowledge itself gives Balaji a better way to argue his points.

13:47 - Why searching for people who are "hungry and can teach us something" serves everybody who is involved very well.

19:39 - The "tour of duty" and how to create a great strategy for developing and managing yourself and your team.

24:25 - The movement from a centralized century to a decentralized century and why Balaji feels the future is moving more towards his lifestyle.

31:19 - How technology hyper-deflates the market of everything it touches.

38:23 - How the past is wrapping back around to the future and how the evolution of education is leading the way.

44:49 - Why abstraction means progress as a culture up to a certain point and can become harmful beyond that.

48:57 - How to optimize your information diet to make you smarter, more effective, and more honest about where you spend your energy.

54:07 - The future of online education and why it doesn't end with Wikipedia.

59:32 - New ways to look at incentive structures for writing and how it inspires technological and social growth.

1:04:27 - How to bridge the gap between Hollywood, big data, and education.

1:12:43 - The future of the internet and why the pseudonymous economy seems likely to Balaji.

1:15:04 - How we can use a "crypto oracle" to create an unfalsifiable history of our digital information.

1:21:31 - Why a worldwide ledger of record is the future we need in an information-driven world.

1:26:59 - Why Balaji believes that the pinnacle and goal of technology is to help humans live forever.

1:32:50 - How to build a digital country through writing.

1:39:34 - Why genomics needs more attention from the general population and technology.

1:44:42 - Why writers will be the future of millionaires and billionaires.