Gifts for a Time of Inflation and Supply Bottlenecks

I’ve never been great at gifts, and don’t have much in the way of specific ideas now. But I’ve been thinking about what the macroeconomic environment means for gift-giving.

First, as you’ve probably heard by now from us or elsewhere, if you want to get any physical gift I’d order it now, since shipping is a mess and prices are only going up. I’d especially recommend this for complex electronics that could become hard to find- its part of why I got my wife an iPad for her birthday this summer. Foreign food and drink that can be stockpiled is always a good idea, but perhaps especially now; think wine, Scotch, or Beirao liqueur (a Portuguese drink that was my favorite discovery this year). Wine and liquor make good stores of value in an time of inflation.

Alternatively, you could avoid the scarcity of physical goods by turning to the digital realm. If your economistic heart yearns to give cash, consider giving some your favorite stock or cryptocurrency instead- its both more personalized and less subject to inflation. Or if you think you can judge the recipient’s taste well enough, subscribe them to one of your favorite Substacks or podcasts. My recommendations:

Unsupervised Learning, Razib Khan– Genomics and History

The Diff, Byrne Hobart– Finance and Strategy

Astral Codex Ten, Scott Alexander– Rationality, Psychiatry, Everything

The Readers Karamazov– Funny podcast on literature and philosophy (now seems entirely free though)

Or if you really have money to burn, go for the Bloomberg subscription. I always run out of free reads on the Tyler Cowen articles and so can’t read Matt Levine, even though he has the magic ability to teach you finance while making you laugh. But the subscription is expensive and Mike Bloomberg doesn’t need the money, while the Substacks are relatively cheap and enable talented writers to spend a lot more time writing instead of needing to focus on a real job.

Tyler Cowen, Talent Curator

Everyone else at EWED has been too classy (or earnest?) to post it, since it would implicitly be bragging.

But I’m home with a quarantined kid today and need the win. So here is biotech founder Tony Kulesa‘s article on how Tyler Cowen is the Best Curator of Talent in the World.

Highlights:

Tyler has identified talent either earlier than or missed by top undergraduate programs, the best biotech startups, and the best biotech investors, all without any insider knowledge of biotech. In comparison, Forbes 30U30, MIT Tech Review TR35, or Stat Wunderkind, and other industry awards that highlight talent are lagging indicators of success. It’s hard to find an awardee of these programs that was not already widely recognized for their achievements among insiders in their field. The winners of Emergent Ventures are truly emergent. 

What explains Tyler’s ability to do this?

1. Distribution: Tyler promotes the opportunity in such a way that the talent level of the application pool is extraordinarily high and the people who apply are uniquely earnest

2. Application: Emergent Ventures’ application is laser focused on the quality of the applicant’s ideas, and boils out the noise of credentials, references, and test scores. 

3. Selection: Tyler has relentlessly trained his taste for decades, the way a world class athlete trains for the olympics. 

4. Inspiration: Tyler personally encourages winners to be bolder, creating an ambition flywheel as they in turn inspire future applicants.

This seems right as far as it goes, and there is more depth in the article, but there has to be more to the story than we can see from the outside. Luckily Tyler has said he is writing a book on identifying talent.