If You’re Lucky

... make sure a bunch of other people are lucky, too

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Happy Friday!

Another delayed send? Yep… sorry about that — I’m getting close to a finish line at the day job, so I hope to get back to the regular schedule soon.

Additionally, there should be an email sent out on Sunday this week as well — keep an eye out — 😉.

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On My Mind

Last week, I used this section to share a portion of This is Water by David Foster Wallace — and there was a significant click rate on the longer speech itself. Given I am working on a tighter timeline, I thought I would do something similar this week.

I reviewed something I last read about four years ago — De Senectute (On Old Age) by Cicero — and the below has always been a favorite passage. It is a good reminder that while we all eventually lose capabilities as time marches forward, who we choose to be along the way is what matters in the end.

But bear well in mind that in this entire discussion I am praising that old age which has its foundation well laid in youth. Hence it follows— as I once said with the approval of all who heard it— that that old age is wretched which needs to defend itself with words! Nor can wrinkles and grey hair suddenly seize upon influence; but when the preceding part of life has been nobly spent, old age gathers the fruits of influence at the last.

For if the ills of which they complained were the faults of old age, the same ills would befall me and all other old men; but I have known many who were of such a nature that they bore their old age without complaint, who were not unhappy because they had been loosed from the chains of passion, and who were not scorned by their friends. But as regards all such complaints, the blame rests with character, not with age. For old men of self-control, who are neither churlish nor ungracious, find old age endurable; while on the other hand perversity and an unkindly disposition render irksome every period of life

Undoubtedly, Scipio and Laelius, the most suitable defenses of old age are the principles and practice of the virtues, which, if cultivated in every period of life, bring forth wonderful fruits at the close of a long and busy career, not only because they never fail you even at the very end of life—although that is a matter of highest moment—but also because it is most delightful to have the consciousness of a life well spent and the memory of many deeds worthily performed.

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Quote of the Week

If you’re lucky in life, make sure a bunch of other people are lucky, too

— Warren Buffett, 2024 Annual Berkshire Shareholder Meeting

Poll of the Week

Would you trust an autonomous car to drive you down a busy street for 10 minutes?

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Last Week

Question: On average, how many hours do you work a week?

Results: I’d have to toss myself into the 60 - 80 hours camp at the day job. The last few weeks have toyed with the second to last category, though…

🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 20 hours

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 20 - 40 hours

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 40 - 60 hours

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 60 - 80 hours

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 80 - 100 hours

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 100 hours +

Things to Read

Tech Saving Lives | From Waymo Crashes a Lot Less 1 by Timothy Lee, 2023

Two Greater Phoenix injuries over 5.3 million miles works out to 0.38 injuries per million vehicle miles. One San Francisco injury over 1.75 million miles works out to 0.57 injuries per million vehicle miles. An important question is whether that’s more or less than you’d expect from a human-driven vehicle.

After making certain adjustments—including the fact that driverless Waymo vehicles do not travel on freeways—Waymo calculates that comparable human drivers reported 1.29 injury crashes per million miles in Phoenix and 3.79 injury crashes per million miles in San Francisco. In other words, human drivers get into injury crashes three times as often as Waymo in the Phoenix area and six times as often in San Francisco.

And Waymo argues that these figures actually understate the gap because human drivers don't report all crashes. Independent studies have estimated that about a third of injury crashes go unreported. After adjusting for these and other reporting biases, Waymo estimates that human-driven vehicles actually get into five times as many injury crashes in Phoenix and nine times as many in San Francisco.

News or Insider Information? | From Is Hunterbrook Media a Hedge Fund? 2 by Claire Malone, 2024

In many ways, Hunterbrook behaves more like a hedge fund than a journalism outlet. A core principle of traditional journalism, of course, is that reporters should pursue information if it is in the public good—not for remunerative reasons. Conflict disclosure is another basic tenet of journalism, but Hunterbrook doesn’t disclose the investors in its hedge fund…

Horwitz insisted that Hunterbrook is not a short-selling firm, not least because it sometimes goes long. The organization also publishes stories even if it’s not making trades on them and, Horwitz added, its investigators reach out to the targets of their investigations “in good faith” before publication. But Horwitz was slightly evasive when I asked what Hunterbrook pays its journalists. No one was making less than a hundred thousand dollars as a base salary, he said. “The upper limit is potentially incredibly high because it’s based on the performance of an investment fund, which is not an upside opportunity that reporters have had access to.” Another side market for Hunterbrook employees, he went on, is filing whistle-blower reports with the S.E.C….

Betting to Lose | From Martingale Beliefs 3  by Byrne Hobart, 2024

Martingale betting is a popular and effective way to lose all of your money. It goes like this: bet $1 on some game where your odds are 50/50 minus whatever the casino takes. If you win, go home. If you lose, double your bet…

Martingales are very obviously a bad idea, albeit a tempting one if you don't think through to the logical conclusion (or don't just take the first-principles view that if your expected value is negative on any given bet, there is no betting strategy that is superior to the others). Regardless, it's a useful pattern to look for, not just because the risk of ruin shows up in so many other places, but because the mid-Martingale psychology is so toxic.

There are many live examples, in finance and in other places.

Visuals

Data Center Compute Wallet Share (2018 - Today)

Startup Failures Increasing

If you found today’s issue interesting, more than anything, I would appreciate you forwarding it to someone that might also enjoy it. It is a big deal to me whenever someone reads my work, so I appreciate your support.

Have a great weekend,

EJ

Twitter / X: @HistoryEJ

Disclosure: Nothing in this article constitutes investment advice. More detailed disclosure here.

1  https://www.understandingai.org/p/new-data-shows-waymo-crashes-a-lot

2  https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-communications/is-hunterbrook-media-a-news-outlet-or-a-hedge-fund

3  https://www.thediff.co/archive/martingale-beliefs/

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