The oligarchy hiding in plain sight
Erik, as you maybe know I'm a huge fan of your podcasts and so on, but this piece that embodies Balaji's thesis of the world is not real. And I think that all of you have gotten routine-blinded by being in tech.
Balaji is obsessed with the US government forbidding him to start special ventures. He's also a prominent figure in the crypto space. He's obsessed with the techlash and he sees the issue as a tribalist cause between the grey tribe and others (see: his book).
To me, however, it makes no sense to paint a picture of an oligarchic state through the regulatory capture of banks or by what has been revealed in the Twitter files.
The de facto truth is that the big tech companies in Silicon Valley have captured a significant portion of the S&P500 and when they want to trend a topic - as we all know, they can do it.
Having worked in web3 for a long time, and being aware of its founding myth, web3 has always been about disrupting web2 companies and freeing us from their global choke-hold on technology through their offensive growth methods (chaos monkeys) and their closed source software attitude.
Balaji's core thesis, however, is that crypto's fight and the "exit" is really Bitcoin.
To me this is inconsistent with my experience as a software developer and being part of the crypto tribe. Balaji, one of crypto and web3's biggest proponents, never criticizes big tech - and those have even been identified as problematic by friendly states to the US, e.g. the EU.
I don't understand the unnecessary trampling around e.g. the New York Times, which is entirely irrelevant in any of the feeds that I consume daily. Why would it be relevant? And why would it be part of a tri-polar moment, where there are clearly much more potent powers in the game? To me, they are merely a content creator today and their attention capacity hinges on the will of big tech's distribution through feeds.
Meanwhile, the real bad mfs sit at the top of the tech companies, and as we've seen with the science-positive LK-99 psy-op, they can dial up excitement for science at the will of Lord Elon.
This is the main issue I take with Balaji's thesis: I do believe in oligarchic structures in the US and other places. But what I have an distaste for (even as a techie myself!) is this mood-affiliation with the tech tribe and its supposed infallibility. It is not the essence of truth-seeking and I expect more rigor.
Great piece, putting words to intuitions and ideas we haven’t quite placed so explicitly.
Give Orwell's objections to Burnham a read - https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/second-thoughts-on-james-burnham/
I think there is an overindexing on Burnham in tech. Organizations grow large and the people on top need people in the middle to make decisions that they don't. A good example is when Barack Obama talked about how any decision that reached his desk meant that it was a decision that no one else could/should/would make. Reading between the lines, it's the people in the middle who make decisions.
Generally I find it less conspiratorial/nefarious than I think you would (remember COVID being a vehicle for a new world order?)
Big fan of your writing. Proud to subscribe.
Love this media empire you’re building. Always big facts