If you want to understand economics more rapidly … you really need to slow down and READ … not just read, but read a lot more … you do not want to waste ANY time taking in the news or reading the current headlines … you want to READ things that are timeless.

Economics and the topics that humans concern themselves with are exactly the kinds of things that humans have been writing about for as long as people have been writing things for others to read.

It’s not just the Classics … or material that has become recognized and defined as Classic because the writing speaks to some sort of deeper, more lasting, more profound human truth … essentially, at its core, economics is about the kinds of practical ideas and choices that re-occur throughout the ages and will always preoccupied human thinkers and visionaries … as these topics have done for five thousand years and probably more.

These topics are important enough that you probably will want to curate and annotate your own reading lists … the following reading list EXAMPLES are about value, choice, prices, markets, auctions, trading exchanges, information, capital, technology, data, AI/ML, human capital, skills, talent and, of course, slavery, liberty, freedom and DISCIPLINE.

Why curate reading lists?

READ … read a LOT more … rather than listen to current news or experts … newcasters or the content-provider expert discs which newscasters spin on their channels will tell you extra hyperdramatic things such as “American is at a crossroads now like never before.” … the nations of the world have ALWAYS been at crossroads like never before … almost all of the news has happened before except maybe 50, 500 or 5,000 years ago. Read the Classics, read History … pay attention to how things happened 50 to 100 years … human activity is almost entirely about the echoes.

You slowly curate reading lists to expand on that same reason for why you should READ … you should think like a hunter rather than be chased like a hunted animal … all news organizations are driven by similar motivations which are about turning their audience into prey animals, to make them predictable, so that they can marketed to or perhaps vote in a particular manner … in order to help yourself THINK, you need to think more deeply, to revisit what you and others have read after a [long] period … letting your thoughts go cold is about removing the excess drama and spin from the equation … you curate so that you can more deeply explore what you have read and thought … and to maybe get yourself back on track when you are questioning your thinking.

You curate reading lists in order to escape drama and tactics used in the prison of Time; you want to have a more meaningful conversation with your own mind.

Time plays cruel tricks on us … especially when it comes to urgencies and the urgencies forced on us by others … our daily lives are imprisoned by Time, but our thoughts do not need to be held by the time prison. Perhaps an example can illustrate. As you may recall, around roughly 2000ish … or maybe slightly before, ie your mileage may vary … the world changing more rapidly than it had changed before.

The change that mattered was primarily a cultural phenomenom, driven the affordability of increasingly powerful information technology that actually proved to be quite useful, even mission-critical for many enterprise billions could level-up develop their communication skillset. As humans upped their game in the mastery of information technology, they found that they not only could accelerate the on-the-job productivity but maybe what mattered more was in how they manage their human-to-human networks. Yes, it was certainly possible to fritter away time with memes and porn … but life has always offered way too many distractions to the newly affluent … after 2000ish or slightly before, people had email addresses and their friends had email addresses and maybe webpages or then things like walls on Facebook or other social media presences.

Then around 2010 or maybe slightly before … the same thing happened that had happened with the critical mass of email … because their friends, college buddies, professional colleagues were also using the stuff, people started really using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn to better stay in touch without having to physically attend class reunions, uncomfortable extended family gatherings or stuffy professional conferences … the affordability of productive technology mattered, but not because of the technologies or applications themselves, but it was because of the critical mass of PEOPLE using the communication channel which actually mattered.

Then, in pace of change accelerated or hit something of an inflection point, roughly around 2020, ie coincident with the global worries and restrictions over covid … at first, it was just Zoom making things like work, funerals or important meetings or conferences even possible … so that modern life could go on. MORE IMPORTANTLY, as a result of this shared experience, billions of PEOPLE learned that ALMOST ALL routine expense/effort such as like commuting to a physical workplace OR going to funerals or concerts or or college football tailgates or other cant-miss events OR flying to urgent business meetings and too important to miss professional conferences were actually entirely OPTIONAL.

The Earth didn’t stop spinning and, for almost everyone … life actually found a way to go on … without the entirely OPTIONAL routine, formerly unquestioned expense/effort … yes it was extremely stressful for people and for some it was the straw that broke the camel’s back – but BY ITSELF, being forced to participate in the virtual realm did not kill anyone.

We also saw a gigantic economic change … meaningful content with Google Analytics tracking became pretty routine and necessary in the 2000s and after 2010 or so the analytics and observability of people interacting with content emerged as a vitally important part of conducting business … but after 2020, we started seeing that content needs a skillful bench of people looking at analytics dashboards to make that content more responsive, more intelligent but subtly providing business’s recommendations, ie past the Google Ads or Amazon product selections based on browser cookies.

So, we are entering a brand new, much SMARTER form of commerce … in the 2000s was just Google Analytics … then, in the 2010s, business development and prospecting really changed Dharmesh Shah’s The Hubspot Culture Code explained how/why inbound marketing works … and how/why constant contact email spam just pisses people off … others like Salesforce based their business franchise on helping businesses really understand how to REALLY USE customer relationship management and business development SYSTEMS … to stay in touch with customers in a manner that customers actually somewhat value and respect, ie it is NOT like the annoying email spam that has to be unsubscribed every day from the businesses and political organizations that PROVE how clueless they are by using email span.

Lately, we have seen a gigantic shift toward shiny things [which someone thinks are cute] like chatbots and somewhat intelligent recommender systems … but frankly, much of the early adoption of AI/ML has been painfully, brutually ANNOYING … and so annoying that people stopped paying attention AT ALL – early AI/ML has been much like the blinking, flourescent rainbow text of the 90 interwebs, ie fortunately, the AI/ML so far has not quite been bad enough to completely drive ALL people away … but AI/ML has not YET turned the corner of utilitarian usefulness like email or virtual conferencing.

AI/ML for accelerating business development will turn that corner … out of necessity. Enterprise depends upon outreach and NEW customers … it used to [and still does] depend upon the stall in the bazaar or farmer’s market and then auction event or salebarn to develop a reputation, make connections and set a price for premium quality produce … then outreach became a matter of a bricks and mortar location or a shopping venue which people valued strictly for the experience of shopping – then online shopping venues established themselves by offering an embarrassingly massive selection of comparable items to shoppers who valued comparison [and sometimes price] over the experience of physical shopping.

We have not yet seen AI/ML offer RADICALLY compelling reason for customers, shoppers, earnest able-to-pay bidders, appraisers or sellers … in the manner that Amazon or PayPal / eBay offered RADICALLY more comparison in a massively global sense to their audience of monetizable users … people are trying lots of things, but it’s not yet clear that any of the mud being thrown at the wall is actually sticking … someone’s mud will stick and that enterprise will be the next Amazon or PayPal/eBay.

Value

You might imagine that you have a pretty good idea of what value is, as long as you actually bother to spend some time actually THINKING deeply about what is valuable to you. Most people REFUSE to do this; it makes them a bit uncomfortable – they prefer to dwell upon what others value, what is currently fashionable or how fashions are changing. The biggest truth of economics is that whatever is truly, intrinsically, deeply valuable to you has absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with what is valuable to another person. And vice versa. People might imagaine that value the same things as others, eg a person might value being warm in the Winter or cool in the Summer, but exact degree to which any person values their choice of ideal temperatures settings or the flucuation in temperature over the day or year or lifetime is very, VERY, VERY different for each one of us. For more billions different reasons than there are billions of humans.

Choice

Perceptions, judgements, valuations of choice vary immensely … by the moment … even in something as mundane and ordinary as the temperature or the comfort settings of our immediate environment. Of course, physiologically, all of those 9 billion value-ers are basically all the same members of the same species, ie they could have their temperatures managed as if they were livestock [or in prison] but they would lose something intrinsically valuable by having their temperature or ambient comfort choice taken from them. Each individual will value some attribute of some thing, like the air in their immediate environment, differently … valuation is UNIQUE. Your values or valuations completely define your life – although those values shift not just over your life, but from year to year, from day to day and even from second to second. It’s almost ridiculous to talk about shared values in the inherently ephemeral environment of the human mind … values are HELD, opinions can be shared, values cannot be shared – they must be arrived at on personal level … that’s why taking choice away from human beings is why fights break out, people choose sides and wars and massive killing gets underway.

The behavioral economists have been pretty effective at pointing the inconsistencies, irrationalities and psychological issues in human choices … but that should not change things. We should NEVER advocate taking choice away from other human beings unless we really desperately want to initiate an all out war.

Price

Mandelbrot and fractal price jump stochastics

Antifragile

Derivatives and Options

Graham, Buffett and Seth Klarman’s Margin of Safety

Markets

Markets might not be perfect, but as economic institutions go … free, fair and open markets really are humanity’s “cleanest dirty shirt.”

Auctions

Price discovery for unique items through human-accelerated or technology-accelerated group negotiation.

Exchanges

Price discovery for standard items and commodities through nearly instantaneous technology-accelerated group negotiation.

Information

Only actually informative when it surprises or somehow radically changes our mind or our mood.

Capital

FIXED assets or things that have a ready, fungible market.

Technology

What are investments in technology really for? How do we determine whether or not technology is really what is driving productivity. It is quite reasonable to be extremely skeptical about whether technology alone really does raise productivity or does the availability of technology simply provide the option for human expertise to overcome some constraint … so that operational systems can be developed into the kinds of things that actually produce or realize productivity gains … it’s not just the technology – how can we USE the technology in a production system … can we make this other people and other resources which are involved or have a stake in the productive system. Finding ways to USE technology in a disciplined, efficacious manner is difficult … having the vision, workflow discipline and will to create a disruptive new productive system from assembled technology is very HARD [and most often fails].

Data

What is data? Printed content?

AI/ML

LessWrong … or it’s [autodidact founder, Eliezer Yudkowsky] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliezer_Yudkowsky

Human capital

All that matters in the discussion of human capital is the productivity of that human capital [in the foreseeable future] or expected return on investments. what matters is all about what will be demanded in the labor markets of tomorrow, next month, next year, the next five years or the foresable future.

Human capital is neither a heart-warming topic, nor is it evil or something that should provoke horror. Human capital is really mundane stuff, basically drama-free [until people work at making it otherwise] and definitely not something that is any good for movies or novels. Most people tend to over-anthropomorphize the topic of human capital, ie to see the topic in context of their own fears about employment or insecure egotistical, backward-looking assessments of their professional competence, but human capital is ice-cold, view from space, comparative value of human effort and skill in FUTURE labor markets – it’s not about YOUR past education, YOUR acquired skills … it’s not about YOU … if you cannot view human capital as if you were looking at the planet from space, you should avoid any consideration of the topic of human capital because you will inject too much PERSONALIZED drama into it.

Unless you are well-versed in the jargon of economics, it is worth at least skimming over the material in EconLib “Human Capital” topic. Human skills and competencies that have ready buyers or something that would lead to a job [if a job was actively-sought] in the quasi-fungible skilled labor market. Expenditures on education, training, fitness or health and so on can be seen as investments in upgrading or at least maintaining their knowledge, skills, health, or demonstrated ability to actually deliver results in a workplace … until someone establishes a record delivering results, an employer may offer to compensate on the basis of interviews and other evidence such as a verifiable resume/CV, references, transcripts, certificates and other credentials which indicate that the person will be likely to help staff a team or project which produce results or value for the employer. Employers effectively pay to use human capital ONLY to the degree that capital produces values which makes it possible for the employer to pay compensation. This nebulous things is called human capital because it is tied to one very specific living human being; it is VERY different from fungigle financial or physical assets which could be used or auctioned if the living human were to be unavailable [or die]. However, human capital is similar to financial or physical assets in that the human’s opinion of what their capital is worth is not especially important when it comes to setting price or the wage or salary compensation; the financial renumeration is set in a more or less free input market in which employers pay based upon productivity and results. Humans as owners of human capital must not only compete effectively against other humans offering similar skills, they must also offer compelling value in comparison to things like services or automation-augmented humans. For example, hundreds of those good ditch-digging jobs that hundreds of skilled ditch-diggers with strong backs could once do are now done by one guy with a backhoe, a truck/trailer and his affiliated excavating equipment … the same applies to tedious knowledgework such as reproducing computer code which lots of other developers have already made work in similar situations.

Skills

As with technology, skill are productive assets, but what or who are skills for? The human skills that matter are increasingly dynamic and a matter of learning and teaching others. Skills must be creative, flexible, highly-ADAPTIVE use of other technologies and team-based problem-solving. There is little need anymore for someone who thinks that they are skilled because they know things. Increasingly, nowadays, skill really comes down to answering the question, “How does this one *skilled individual make others more productive and ultimately more skilled [and able to make others more skilled in the future]*”.

Talent

Talent is human inventiveness or creative competency which cannot be automated.

Given the increasing role of automation, the market for human talent has changed DRAMATICALLY in the last 5, 10 or 25 years. Not everyone gets this … they choose not to participate in this realm because they still think of resumes, interviews, company visits and rejection flush letters as being just like it was 40 years ago. It’s not … now the rejection is more pervasive, less deserving of a flush letter in the mail. The talent game is much TOUGHER than it was 40 years ago … because companies who are hiring choose to demonstrate their power thoughout the process, ie providing massive clues about what kinds of HELL it is to work inside of those monsters.

SLOWLY people are getting smarter. Maybe the rate of change is slow, but by the day … or even by hour … people are learning. We see new ways of building professional brands and even earning revenue through the rise of things like subscription-based content provided by professionals with vitally important skills.

Developing a personal brand … takes an enormous amount of time, effort and diligent discipline … it IS a fight. But, slowly humans are becoming more independent in how they work, how they spend their hourly lives … slowly, slowly, SLOWLY we are seeing the demise of slavery, that includes the wage slavery of typical worklives.

This is all about the listing that companies post … we are probably not actually going to apply for these positions, but these posted positions do give an indication of what kinds of skills were important when the positions were posted … things change rapidly, but other than talking directly with companies who need services (ie what inbound marketing is about), there’s probably not a better way to find out where the needs for talent/skills is the hottest.

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