This time is different

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

I was rereading one of my favorite philosophy books that’s disguised as a finance book and the idea of ‘retirement’ came up. The author lamented about abuse from the Internet Police, who mercilessly profile him. Retirement means not working, end of story. All these FIRE folks are done working!

Wait, why does anyone even care?

FIRE exists for two reasons: media and the markets. It’s easy to share your story and it’s easy to look like a genius during a looooong bull market. Those two factors make FIRE seem like a blip and the answer to, is this time different a resounding ‘No.’

Wait, but what if it is? What if the 1% of participants will double next year because this time different? 

One trick from a friend is to create mental IF/THEN statements. IF someone says to him that they should meet for lunch, THEN he immediately tries to set a time.

So if we hear that this time is different, then we can ask, ‘okay, what’s changed and is it something that changes fast?’

Some things change slowly. Coca-Cola changed slowly. People’s desire to drink Coca-Cola changed slowly. Warren Buffett’s affinity for Coca-Cola changed slowly. Some things like the tastiness of sugary beverages, the laws of physics, and human nature all change slowly.

Other things change rapidly; economic models, fashion trends, and governments. And work. People went from a single manual job with (mostly guaranteed) pensions to multiple intellectual jobs with a market retirement. Work has shifted from Coase’s firm to the iPhone and Slack. Taylor Pearson calls this the blockchain individual.  Some industries like Hollywood have long worked this way but due to falling transaction costs, maybe everything will.

Technology might be a canary that sings, yes this time is different. It’s the case for war. Carlin’s October 2019 podcast, Supernova in the East III focuses on this. It didn’t matter how many anti-aircraft guns were bolted onto the Pacific fleet, they weren’t effective against the Japanese airforce. This time is different. The Romans saw little changes, the Allied forces saw many.

In a history book, the separation from 1914 to 1944 is small. Landmasses didn’t move, consumers didn’t suddenly want more asparagus, and cars weren’t designed with three wheels. But countries were reformed, governments overthrown, and chemistry and physics were mechanized. This time is different. 

In an effort to understand people better I’ve started to read more fiction. I’m enjoying How to Stop Time and this quote in particular:

“The longer you live, the more you realise that nothing is fixed. Everyone will become a refugee if they live long enough. Everyone would realise that their nationality means little in the long run. Everyone would see their worldviews challenged and disproved. Everyone would realise that the thing that defines a human being is being a human.”

Thanks for reading. If you want more here’s a new ebook. It’s a collection of big ideas from this blog.

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