Category Archives: Growth

36 Questions to Greater Intimacy

Source: Ideas & Discoveries, Nov 2019

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Power of Questions

Source: Farnham Street, Sep 2019

The quality of the answers we get are directly correlated with the quality of the questions we ask. Here’s how to improve your questions.

Asking questions gives you a better understanding of everything: the situation you are in, the challenges you are facing. Life.

Let me share a story that took place in my second-year history class in university. We started discussing the assigned reading. I didn’t really understand it, but I figured I’d get it just sitting there. Then this guy raised his hand and said, “Hey Professor, could you explain [technical term]? It wasn’t clear to me from the article.”

Boom. I had this startling insight. Up until then, I had always been afraid to ask questions like that for fear of looking stupid [read about pluralistic ignorance here]. But this guy didn’t appear stupid. At that moment, he seemed like the smartest guy in the class.

Asking questions means you want to learn. You want to understand and know. So where do you start? Anywhere you want. But don’t feel pressure to begin with the big questions, the ones we all confront at one time or another, like the meaning of life, or what exists beyond our physical experience of earth. There is a significant amount to be learned from the seemingly mundane ones, questions that seem so basic, once we reach about age 12 we no longer bother asking them—because we either think we know the answer or are afraid of admitting we don’t.

We can learn a lot, often more, from the work involved in answering a question than from the answer itself.

There are no dumb questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them. They are the most straight forward path to learning.

The Biggest Economies in 2030

Source: Visual Capitalist, Mar 2019

US$86 trillion global economy

Source: ZeroHedge, Sep 2019


Human Progress

Source: Roots of Progress, Sep 2019

Progress Studies

Source: AIER, Aug 2019

My work has argued that nations that are open to risk-taking, trial-and-error experimentation, and technological dynamism (i.e., “permissionless innovation”) are more likely to enjoy sustained economic growth and prosperity than those rooted in precautionary principle thinking and policies (i.e., prior restraints on innovative activities).

Collison and Cowen suggest that “there can be ecosystems that are better at generating progress than others, perhaps by orders of magnitude. But what do they have in common? Just how productive can a cultural ecosystem be?” Beyond gaining a better understanding of how innovation ecosystems work, they also want to nurture them. “Can we deliberately engineer the conditions most hospitable to this kind of advancement or effectively tweak the systems that surround us today?” they ask.

Mokyr has argued that technological innovation and economic progress can be viewed as “a fragile and vulnerable plant, whose flourishing is not only dependent on the appropriate surroundings and climate, but whose life is almost always short. It is highly sensitive to the social and economic environment and can easily be arrested by relatively small external changes.” McCloskey’s work has shown that cultural attitudes, social norms, and political pronouncements have had a profound and underappreciated influence on opportunities for entrepreneurialism, innovation, and long-term economic growth

Many scholars have surveyed the elements that contribute to a successful innovation culture and their lists typically include:

  • trust in the individual / openness to individual achievements;
  • positive attitudes towards competition and wealth-creation (especially religious openness toward commercial activity and profit-making);
  • support for hard work, timeliness, and efficiency;
  • willingness to take risks and accept change (including failure);
  • a long-term outlook;
  • openness to new information / tolerance of alternative viewpoints;
  • freedom of movement and travel for individuals and organizations (including flexible immigration and worker mobility policies);
  • positive attitudes towards science and development;
  • advanced education systems;
  • support for property rights and contracts;
  • reasonable regulations and taxes;
  • impartial administration of justice and the respect for the rule of law; and,
  • stable government institutions and transfers of power.


Terror without Trust – Without Morals, there’s no Societal Stability

Source: PJMedia, Aug 2019

without morality there is no trust and without trust, nothing works. Unchecked, this will result in a low-trust society where nobody can rely on the formal rules and reliance is placed on nepotism, tribalism, personal loyalty, and threats to transact business at all.

while systems can capture what is through the blockchain and other devices, no amount of technology can say how things ought to be without postulating a set of values.

“Christian writer and medievalist C. S. Lewis made the argument in his popular book Mere Christianity that if a supernatural, objective standard of right and wrong does not exist outside of the natural world, then right and wrong becomes mired in the is-ought problem. Thus, he wrote, preferences for one moral standard over another become as inherently indefensible and arbitrary as preferring a certain flavor of food over another or choosing to drive on a certain side of a road.”

The great advantage of morality based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition is stability. By claiming roots outside the human systems, traditional values like the gold standard change but little over years. It is very difficult for elites to “print” new morals to enhance their power and privilege.

But replacement religions are not similarly constrained. They have the inherent defect of incentivizing constant changes to obtain political advantage. Their biggest problem is preventing those in charge of the new morality supply from creating ever more values leading to runaway inflation.

In a moral vacuum, the power of elite social networks consists in concealing the “is” while defining the “ought.”

In a society without external reference, the question is not what is right or wrong but who has the most powerful social network.

The instability of moral currency combined with the immutable record-keeping of blockchain systems creates the worst of all possible environments: one in which people are irrefutably responsible for acts that may become retroactively reprehensible. Today’s hero can easily be tomorrow’s racist. You live in fear. Just as money is the measuring stick of economic values a stable morality is the necessary metric of political and social action. Without it, you can have terror but not trust.