8 Fascinating Reads

Good reads, short quotes.

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:43PM


Happy Friday! There are more good articles on the Web every week than anyone could read in a month. Here are eight fascinating ones I read this week.

Deep thoughts
The blog Farnam Street offers 11 rules for critical thinking. My favorites:

  1. A theory should not attempt to explain all the facts, because some of the facts are wrong. (Francis Crick)
  2. Never fall in love with your hypothesis. (Peter Medawar)
  3. All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second, it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident. (Arthur Schopenhauer)
What a life
Former Wall Streeter Sam Polk writes a great story about his addiction to money:
In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million -- and I was angry because it wasn't big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.
"The no profit prophet" 
Matt Yglesias writes a great piece on how Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) gets away without making much profit:

I once characterized Amazon as a "charitable institution being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers." Bezos took issue with this in a letter to shareholders. His argument is that Amazon isn't a charity; it's a business -- a business whose strategy is to make its customers as happy as possible. And that, fundamentally, is what makes Amazon great. Profits are in severe tension with the idea of pleasing customers -- a profitable firm is, by definition, charging customers more than it needs to.

But of course, there's a reason that most companies try to make healthy profit margins: financial markets demand it. Only a Wall Street darling, a firm whose senior leadership has the confidence of markets, could get away with being as daring as Amazon is.

Outgrowing ourselves
Bill Gates and Ezra Klein talk about population growth:

EK: Usually when you hear people talk about overpopulation and Malthus today they're arguing that population growth is fine because we innovate our way out of the problems. I'm struck that that's not the argument you're making here. You're saying ceaseless population growth wouldn't be fine, but it doesn't actually happen, because as people get richer and healthier their birth rates decline and that that's really what saves us.

BG: We won't need to answer the question of how much innovation allows us to support 20 or 30 billion people on the planet. It's possible some miracle like reinventing photosynthesis could do it. We invest in miracles like that. But the amount of innovation it would take to support 20 billion or more is pretty phenomenal and would likely not show up in time. So the fact that the population will peak is great news. We've already had the largest birth cohort -- the most children born in a year. We're past the peak on that. We'll probably only have to support 10 to 11 billion. Now we still need to raise food production and avoid climate change. And when people get richer we have to worry about things like diabetes. So I'm not saying fulfilling the development agenda makes the world all good. But in terms of injustice and equity, doubling down to finish the development agenda should be the top priority.

Your tax dollars at work
Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets a chart showing the highest-paid government employees in each state. See if you can spot the trend: 


Getting ahead 
The blog Monevator writes a great post about "How to be a Capitalist."

We live in a capitalist world, and it's only by living as capitalists that we can truly make the best of it. Capitalism isn't just for golf club swingers and septuagenarians in South Kensington. It's the system we all work within.

Unless you're a dropout living in a tree tent above an anti-fracking campsite, you need to know the rules of the game to thrive. Taking a half-hearted approach to capitalism is like a goldfish taking a half-hearted approach to swimming.

The good life
Mr. Money Mustache gives a great interview on how he retired at age 30: 

Q: Some people might think so much cost-cutting is akin to living like Scrooge and not having any fun. How would you respond to that?

A: If you tell yourself that is how it will be, then you will create your own truth and life will not be fun. But if you understand the fundamentals of what it means to be a happy person, you realize that buying more stuff for yourself has no relationship at all to how happy you are. These fundamentals include things like close relationships with other people, health, rewarding work, a chance to be creative and help others.

Work on those things and you'll start living a much better life immediately, and soon wonder where the odd compulsion to own a yacht with a submarine came from in your old self.

The new boom
This one statement from a Slate article got my attention:

Meanwhile, residential solar-panel installations are booming: Americans installed more solar panels in 2013 than in the past 20 years combined.

Enjoy your weekend. 

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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