154Joined May 2018


My impression is that cryptocurrencies face some major challenges in achieving some of the basic functions of money. For example, check out Bitcoin – The Promise and Limits of Private Innovation in Monetary and Payment Systems by Beer and Weber. They argue (persuasively in my opinion) that traditional currencies have three functions that cryptocurrencies would have significant challenges in achieving, replicating, or challenging:

  1. unit of account
  2. means of payment
  3. store of value

Based on the Beer and Weber paper, here's my brief expansion of these problems as they relate to Bitcoin: 

  • Having prices in one currency is more efficient than having them in many. Thus, having just one currency (e.g., a national currency) is more efficient than having multiple. Also, having just one currency facilitates trade. Bitcoin in particular struggles to achieve this because a) it introduces a separate unit of account, b) is has no single and identified issuer, and c) its quantity is fixed. 
  • If prices in the cryptocurrency change dramatically and unpredictably compared to standard currencies, then measuring prices in the cryptocurrency don’t make sense.  It’s hard to imagine this asymmetry being overcome entirely unless a single cryptocurrency became so widespread and dominant that it achieved more stability than reserve currencies. 
  • Since there is no institution guaranteeing that the currency will be a reliable store of value, the currency is not a reliable store of value. Bitcoin in particular is a speculative asset.

See also the Impossible Trinity in international political economy to get a sense of yet another problem that cryptocurrencies do not yet have a solution for. 

I have not yet seen solutions to these problems and there appear to be good reasons to believe that a system similar to Bitcoin cannot solve them. Future cryptocurrencies may put a serious dent in these problems, but I remain skeptical of their near-term (within a few decades) potential to "fix money".

A few months later, I want to note that my impression is that the Red Cross is indeed quite ineffective in this regard (helping Ukraine in the war). Other options are better. I came to this conclusion soon after writing the above comment, but I didn't come back here (till now) to correct myself. I still think that the original comment in this thread was made in good faith, and thus I wouldn't downvote it. I did, however, want to make clear that my thoughts had evolved significantly after writing the above comment.

Convergence also does a lot of work on the strategic level.

This is a legit suggestion, so I'm going to strongly upvote the comment. Not sure why the downvotes are coming in, other than, as you say, perhaps indicating that people think that the Red Cross is ineffective, or that Canadian-specific multipliers aren't highly relevant for this discussion.

Most of these are pithy statements that serve as reminders of much more complicated and nuanced ideas. This is a mix of recitation types, only some of which are explicitly related to motivation. I've summarized, rephrased, and expanded most of these for clarity, and cut entire sections that are too esoteric. Also, something I'd love to try, but haven't, is putting some of these into a spaced repetition practice (I use Anki), since I've heard surprisingly positive things about how well that works.

  1. Be ruthlessly efficient today
  2. <Specific reminder about a habit that I'm seeking to break>
  3. Brainstorm, then execute
  4. If you don't have a plan for it, it isn't going to happen.
  5. A long list of things that you want to do is no excuse for not doing any of them.
  6. Make an extraordinary effort.
  7. <Reminders about particular physical/emotional needs that are not adequately covered by existing habits>
  8. Remember the spheres of control: Total control. Some control. No control. For more info, see here:
  9. Every problem is an opportunity
  10. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. (might be from Heartsill Wilson)
  11. Think about what isn't being said, but needs to be.
  12. Get results
  13. Life is finite; pursue your cares.
  14. The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression. (paraphrased from Simon Sutton-Smith)
  15. Move gently
  16. Weighted version of "shortest processing time" scheduling algorithm is close to optimal on all metrics. (from "Algorithms to live by")
  17. Exponential backoff for relationships: finite investment, infinite patience. (from "Algorithms to live by")
  18. Doing things right vs doing the right thing.
  19. 10-10-10. (Reference to the technique of thinking about how a decision would be viewed 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years in the future. Modify at your discretion.)
  20. Bookending (think of extreme cases of what you are trying to predict)
  21. Triage - nowadays I'd tell people to go read Holly Elmore's writeup on this, with an emphasis on "We are always in triage. I fervently hope that one day we will be able to save everyone. In the meantime, it is irresponsible to pretend that we aren’t making life and death decisions with the allocation of our resources. Pretending there is no choice only makes our decisions worse."
  22. <several reminders about how I want to act in my relationships>
  23. Change expectations and you change people, including yourself.
  24. What you see is all there is. (Fallacy explained by Philip Tetlock)
  25. The bait and switch - replacing a hard question with an easy one. (Fallacy explained by Philip Tetlock)
  26. Reverse the phrasing of questions and statements (a standard technique for testing the credibility / reasonableness / usefulness of statements or questions)
  27. Destroy your fear of criticism.
  28. Constructive critiques are precious.
  29. <Various personal techniques for de-stressing>
  30. Use counterfactuals.
  31. Mental parliament. (Also see related Moral Parliament or "personal board of directors" ideas.)
  32. Try hard for five minutes. (Reference to Yudkowsky's techniques of this sort.)
  33. The 80-20 rule. Focus on doing 80% of the good.
  34. Deep work.
  35. Every moment is practice. What are you practicing?
  36. Murphyjitsu.
  37. Remember that it is the "experiencing self" who has to execute any plan you make.
  38. Do your work in a way that allows other people to follow you.
  39. Clairvoyance test (Another Tetlock idea: if you passed the question to someone who could see the future, they could give you the answer without having to come back for a re-specification of what the question actually is.)
  40. When you reach the end of what you can comprehend, you probably haven't found nature's limits, but your own.
  41. Wittgenstein's ruler (Unless you have confidence in the ruler's reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.)

For me what leaps to mind is all of the in-between stuff, like proofreading, LateX issues, graphics, plots, etc. Of course, I've also tried to hire help on some of these fronts with very mixed results (generally negative). So I guess I'd say that fundamentally, independent work can really suffer from its independence (not having various supports and connections that would make it better). Building relationships and collaborations that alleviate these problems is part of being an effective independent researcher.

Prioritize ruthlessly. Very few ideas can even be examined, let alone pursued.

Productivity + meta: Learn to be an effective Red Team, and use this ability on your own ideas and plans. 

Motivation: Find a way to remind yourself about what you care about (and if needed, why you care about it). This could manifest in any way that works for your. A post-it could be useful. A calendar notification. A standing meeting with colleagues where you do a moment of reflection (a technique that I've seen used to great effect at the Human Diagnosis Project). A list of recitations embedded among TODO list items (my personal technique). 

Allocate some time to "meta", like studying habit formation and self-management. For starters I might recommend Atomic Habits and some of Cal Newport's work.

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