Discover more from Infinite Loops
Talent, Genius & Longtermism
Dwarkesh Patel is the host of The Lunar Society podcast, where he interviews scientists, historians, economists, intellectuals, & founders about their ideas. He also writes about tech, progress, talent, science, and the long-term over at his Substack.
Dwarkesh has been described as “one of the best young podcasters alive”, and his Substack has been praised by the likes of Jeff Bezos, Paul Graham and Tyler Cowen.
Ahead of his appearance on Infinite Loops (scheduled for release next Thursday, 16 February 2023), we prepared a research note synthesising the key themes of Dwarkesh’s work.
Thanks for reading Infinite Loops! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.
Podcasting and Blogging
Genius and Innovation
Effective Altruism and Longtermism
Knowledge and Ideas
Theme 1: Podcasting and Blogging
Dwarkesh hosts the ‘Lunar Society’ podcast, which is popular among the rationalist/FinTwit/EA/progress studies communities on Twitter. He has been called “the next break-out podcast host” and “one of the best young podcasters alive”.
His approach to interviews is to read everything written by the guests and ask short, direct questions that assume prior knowledge. He aims to ask guests questions that they haven’t been asked elsewhere.
He also blogs about tech, long-termism, and innovation. His post ‘The mystery of the miracle year’ went viral in 2022 after being shared by Mark Andreessen, Jeff Bezos and Paul Graham, bumping him from c.800 Twitter followers to c.15,000.
His writing style often draws analogies across different fields: ‘X is like Y’. (E.g. ‘talent is leverage’, ‘scouting talent as buying options’).
What is the equivalent of ‘practising your scales’ for asking good questions?
Is it possible to be over-prepared for a podcast?
Does podcasting have a monetisation problem?
How important are style and presentation to a good podcast? Does Dwarkesh spend much time thinking about how he sounds? If the content is sufficiently good, then do people care?
How does writing an essay differ from preparing a podcast? Which is harder? Which does Dwarkesh learn more from?
Theme 2: Talent
Dwarkesh has written about how Emergent Ventures (Tyler Cowen’s grant program) operates to transfer ambition from the “simply great to the truly excellent” by reducing the rejected applicants' confidence and raising the accepted ones' confidence. His concern is that the people who succeed don’t need their ambition raised.
On the other hand, it may be that however ambitious and excellent someone is, mimetic pressures will drive them towards low-volatility career paths.
There is a period when someone is old enough to do something great, but too young to decide that they will. During this period you can drastically change their ambition.
Talent curation is vulnerable to Goodhart’s law – “People notice how good he [the talent curator] is at finding talent, turn his approval into a credential, and thus destroy his ability to exclusively attract earnest people with certain specific interests.”
Talent curation doesn’t benefit a scout – there are rarely fund manager style returns to talent spotting. “We need new financial and reputational instruments which help scouts like Tyler capture part of the massive value they create by boosting a career. What these instruments will look like remains to be seen.”
Talent is leverage. Companies become highly leveraged when they hire lots of superstars. Firms leveraged with talented employees are at huge risk during rough times as their talent will have a lot of other options. Leverage is also a risk during a boom – “Many on the PayPal board, including Musk, thought that eBay’s offer undervalued them. But after three gruelling years, the company’s A players were just too tired to continue and wanted the exit that an eBay acquisition would provide. PayPal’s talent forced the company to sell its implicit short against the rest of the e-payments industry early, just as a hedge fund can be forced by its creditors to liquidate a wise short position prematurely.”
Extremely talented people also accelerate tech bubbles – “No prospect is more attractive to a 10x engineer than working with other 10x engineers, and no opportunity is more irresistible to an investor than funding a team of 10x engineers.”
The ‘failed simulation effect’ (Newport) – “if we find it hard to mentally simulate how a person could have completed a certain activity given their age, situation, and other factors, we find it much more impressive.”
Scouting talent can be likened to buying options. Identifying potential is like buying a call option on someone’s prospect of success in future. An option is worth more if the underlying asset is more volatile; hence we are more excited by a young person who has unconventional, rather than conventional, success (even if the conventional success involved more hard work).
An option is worth less the closer it gets to the date of maturity. Therefore there is more to gain from investing in younger people.
My model of the advantages of being young is that you simply have a greater appetite for risk, and therefore can take on higher volatility paths. This suggests that there is a huge pool of talent waiting to be unlocked amongst older people if we can find a way to change their attitudes to risk, either on a psychological level or by improving the safety net available to those who try and fail. Thoughts?
Can one be conformist and achieve great things? Are the two mutually exclusive
Are firms ever incentivised not to seek great talent?
Cliff Asness argues that the purpose of leverage is to diversify, not amplify. When used correctly, leverage therefore allows investors to take on the same level of risk but with a more diversified and higher return for the risk taken. How does this interpretation of leverage impact the ‘talent as leverage’ model?
What would be the steelman case against monetising talent curation?
Could talent spotting be a myth? I.e. that there are too many contingent / confounding factors actually to be able to assess it with any real insight?
Is talent culturally relative?
Applicants come in with some implicit prior about their own competence and potential (which will be very plastic because of their age). If an applicant wins, she finds out that Tyler thinks she is promising, and her confidence increases. But if she is rejected, she finds out that Tyler does not think she has much potential, and her confidence decreases. This may be net positive, because it is much more important to raise the ambitions of the very best people, but it does come at a cost. Under this model, Emergent Ventures works by transferring ambition from the simply great to the truly excellent. Average is over and Tyler killed it.
If this model is correct, one worry is that the young people who get picked out by this program are precisely the ones who didn’t need the help. The impact of philanthropy must be evaluated in comparison to the counterfactual in which it is not deployed. It is hard to imagine that a 17 year old building a fusion reactor in her garage or developing a new macroeconomic model for growth and sustainability isn’t already bound for greatness.
But we might be underestimating the extent to which mimetic forces will drive these kids towards low-volatility competitive tracks. Find a 30 year old who is on a mediocre career trajectory. If you ask him to tell you about the coolest thing he did before he turned 20, you often hear of some really interesting projects. A young writer who started a popular amatuer blog on ancient Rome in college is now churning out low value academic sludge. The coding prodigy who was a white hat hacker in high school is now nudging a few pixels here and there for Google.
The first and most obvious reason is that identifying talent often doesn’t personally benefit a scout. He may get a collector’s satisfaction and a philanthropist’s pleasure, but not necessarily a hedge fund manager’s returns. Talent curators, just like innovators, often can’t internalize most of the gains from their activities, so it’s no surprise that both are undersupplied2. In some sense, better talent curation actually is a type of innovation.
During a bust, a highly leveraged hedge fund can experience a death spiral, where people react to bad financial news by calling in their loans, which forces the fund to sell its positions in a weak market, causing lenders to pull back further, and so on. Something very similar happens when you hire superstar employees. By virtue of their talent, these people have lots of options. As soon as you run into trouble and stop being the best place in the world for them to work, some of these 10x’ers will leave (remember, one of the things that makes them 10x is their ambition). And once their peers leave, the remaining A players will scatter too1. The leverage you get from hiring really talented people is a huge risk during rough times, because these people have lots of other options and the ambition to pursue them.
As an investor, if you’re certain about your positions, you ought to be more leveraged. For the same reason, when you have reached product market fit and are confident in your company’s trajectory, you should hire more superstar employees. When we see companies like Netflix only hire senior engineers, we should take that as a signal that they are sure of their strategy - a good omen if you think the belief is justified, but a sign of high fixed costs and fragility if you think they may need to pivot or reform in the future.
But if this self-reinforcing cycle is not backed up by a legitimate and scalable vision which can make use of the influx of talent, then you have a bubble.
Companies become highly leveraged when they hire lots of superstar talent. They can reduce the risk this creates by hedging against their business model. Basically, this involves asking, “In a world where our main product fails, what other products or services are likely to be successful?” and then building those themselves.
Identifying potential is like buying a call option (the right to buy an asset at a predetermined price on a set date in the future). You buy this option by giving a promising young person mentorship, employment, connections, or capital. In exchange, you receive something if they become successful in the future - a superstar employee, a grateful protegee, a IPO on your seed investment, or simply the status and satisfaction of kickstarting the great things the person ends up doing.
Why are kids that do new and interesting things more impressive? An option is worth more if the underlying asset is more volatile - the option holder can make an arbitrarily large profit if the asset shoots to the moon, but if it goes to zero, he only loses what he paid for the option. Which means an option on the kid who started a successful business in high school is worth way more than one of the kid who grinded his way into “leadership” positions in clubs. The best case scenario for the first kid is that he becomes the next Patrick Collison - the best case scenario for the second is that he works for Patrick Collison.
An option is worth less the closer you get to the date of maturity (the date on which the option can be exercised). Why? Because there’s less time left for the asset to experience large fluctuations in value. If you’re holding an option, you want these kinds of fluctuations - you’re entitled to the full upside but don’t have much to lose from the downside.
The time to maturity for talent depends heavily on what kind of talent you’re investing in. For an employee, it might be a year. For a startup founder, it might be a decade. But in either case, you have more to gain from investing in younger people. If a 20 year old really is as impressive as you suspect, then he will spend the next five years doing a bunch of cool things that get noticed by lots of people - and once that happens, the price of the option on him will increase. To invest in someone talented at age 20, you can give him a 10,000 dollar grant. To invest in the same person at age 25, you have to chip in half a million in his seed round.
The takeaway is that time is working against you. Do something really creative and interesting as early as you can so that you can show people that you have potential (i.e. you’re high volatility). Then convert people’s willingness to buy options on you into connections, capital, and mentorship. Use these resources to do even more impressive things. Rinse and repeat.
Theme 3: Genius and Innovation
Great scientists often have a miracle year in which they make multiple independent breakthroughs over a short period of time.
There are a number of possible explanations for miracle years. The likely explanation is “being young, concentrating intensely on the right problems, and remaining open to fresh perspectives”.
We should free ambitious people in their 20s from distractions and obligations and arbitrary busy work to cultivate an environment in which they are likely to have a miracle year.
One reason for the success of Unix is that it was built by one person, under material constraints, as quickly and simply as possible.
Cities are hubs of innovation as they make it easy for smart people with expertise to interact and talk about ideas. Bell Labs was a ‘tiny city’ – a dense network of geographically aligned talent.
Networks are crucial to progress – “the history of rapid progress is largely a catalog of legendary networks”.
Matt Ridley argues that innovation is inexorable. To what extent does Dwarkesh think that the major scientific discoveries of the past couple of centuries were already baked into the cake? How much do individuals actually matter?
Dwarkesh makes the case that Unix potentially succeeded as it was developed under severe time and resource constraints by one person. If this holds, can one make the case that an era of abundance will stifle rather than encourage innovation? Are resource constraints an asset or a liability?
Are cities likely to decline in importance as innovation hubs due to the breaking down of geographical boundaries? If not, then what x factor do cities provide that online collaboration can’t?
How can one cultivate a good network? How important is it to have some form of moderation and barriers to entry? Are the best networks top-down or bottom-up?
This is a question Dwarkesh asked Ananyo Bhattacharya in the context of Von Neumann – what explains genius clusters?
There is a tension between Dwarkesh’s (1) model of Unix’s success (one man building it under material constraints as quickly as possible), and (2) proposed way of cultivating miracle years (removing the constraints which are obstructing people in their 20s). If constraints are a key factor in innovation, and if these people are as smart as we think they are, then shouldn’t the constraints imposed by daily life force them to iterate quickly, simply and effectively? Less time thinking, more time doing?
Is exceptional intelligence a precondition to having a miracle year?
But maybe Unix succeeded because it was initially developed in a three week frenzy by one person. Ken Thompson was trying to test out a disk scheduling algorithm on a shitty machine with low memory. He didn’t have the time, inclination, or pressure to complicate things. He built a simple recursive file system, he allowed any program to process any kind of file regardless of format, and he implemented a small number of intuitive system calls. At the time, he was doing what was expedient, but only later would the wisdom of these decisions become apparent.
If you want to build a program that runs on thousands of computers, you had better assemble a big team of expert engineers. But if you want to build a program that runs of millions of computers, well, find the smartest person in the room, give him the shittiest of those million computers, tell him what you want, and leave him the hell alone.
In How Innovation Works, Matt Ridley argues that innovation is inexorable - that if someone had run over Thomas Edison the day before he found the right filament for a light bulb, another inventor would have lit up our homes with only a negligible delay.
A lot of research shows that cities are big hubs of innovation, especially if they have a university and lots of companies from the same industry there. This is because cities make it really easy for smart people with expertise to interact with each other and talk about their ideas. If an idea seems particularly good, then they can try to build it out and start a new company
The history of rapid progress is largely a catalog of legendary networks. Perhaps we will remember Emergent Ventures as one more item in this inventory which includes the Lunar Society of Birmingham and Building 1 at Bell Labs.
An interesting pattern recurs across the careers of great scientists: an annus mirabilis (miracle year) in which they make multiple, seemingly independent breakthroughs in the span of a single year or two.
In Kuhnian terms, you could say that the great scientists found a new paradigm and then spent a year gobbling up all of the important, low hanging discoveries before their competitors could catch up.
Perhaps there’s a brief window in a person’s life where he has the intelligence, curiosity, and freedom of youth but also the skills and knowledge of age. These conditions only coincide at some point in a person’s twenties. It wouldn’t be surprising if the combination of fluid intelligence (which declines steeply after your 20s) and crystalized intelligence (which accumulates slowly up till your 50s and 60s) is highest during this time. Stephan and Levine (1993) find that most Nobel laureates do their prize winning work in their late 20s or early 30s.
There are so many distractions that come from being successful. The university wants you to become department head and serve on a committee or two. Some government panel wants you to advise them on a growing security threat. Now you’re getting handsome offers from startups looking for advisers, publishers looking for new pop-sci books, and online course platforms looking for celebrity teachers. A new paper comes out claiming to demolish a prominent result of yours from a decade ago, and you must respond. And then there’s aging itself, which brings family, dullness, and complacency.
Given how many of the great scientific discoveries have come about during miracle years, we should do everything we can to help smart Twentysomethings have an annus mirabilis. We should free them from rote menial work, prevent them from being overexposed to the current paradigm, and give them the freedom to explore far-fetched ideas without arbitrary deadlines or time-draining obligations.
Theme 4: Effective Altruism and Longtermism
Dwarkesh distinguishes between two types of longtermism:
Burkean longtermism is premised on the question “Could you get a longtermist from 100 years ago to sympathize with your priorities?”
Effective altruist (EA) longtermism focuses on today's specific issues (e.g. AI).
Burkean longtermism is a more historically grounded form of longtermism – it focuses on eternal problems such as economic growth, population level, wars and plagues etc. We should prize the forces that have been robustly good over long periods of time and vice versa.
Dwarkesh wonders if EA longtermism fails to integrate the lessons of historical collapse into their worldview. EA longtermism is predicated on a Whig view of history where the human story only began about 200 years ago.
Dwarkesh has argued that we will have more effective altruist billionaires because:
“Effective altruism allows thymotic natures to achieve recognition and impact that is otherwise unavailable in the modern world.
Effective altruism acts as a Schelling point for ambitious and risk-taking founders.
Effective altruism creates alignment in an organization and reduces adverse selection.”
He has also argued that it is possible for the world to continue to grow at a slower but consistent rate for the foreseeable future (the “simmer scenario”).
How did Dwarkesh update his model of SBF after interviewing him? Having interviewed him, is he more, or less, surprised than he would otherwise have been about how things have turned out?
In one of Dwarkesh’s pieces, he provides a number of reasons why we will have more EA billionaires. He says that it (1) provides an outlet for the super ambitious, (2) is a schelling point for talent, and (3) allows businesses to coordinate employees’ desire for impact, prestige and money. Which of these three criteria has been vindicated and/or undermined by the FTX saga?
Dwarkesh argues that EA is an outlet for people who would have been the Caesars and Napoleons of the past. A defining characteristic among Caesar-style figures is a willingness to take an existential risk and to gamble at the highest odds (e.g. Caesar crossing the rubicon). Does EA moderate or encourage such tendencies?
One of the main criticisms of rationalism is that it over-optimises for legible inputs and in doing so under-optimises for illegible/unquantifiable inputs. Where does Dwarkesh stand re this critique?
How important is deep historical knowledge in formulating a workable form of longtermism?
Dwarkesh argues that EA should explicitly encourage radical innovations and new ideas which are compatible with liberalism – “The marginal nerdy programmer who joins EA should feel more encouraged to start a startup which directly helps longtermist goals rather than donate a tenth of his six-figure salary to the Against Malaria Foundation.” I’ve seen this argument made in a few places. But why does EA specifically need to fill this function? We already have a market – a vast number of non ‘EA’ businesses are aiming to deliver social good, just not under the EA banner. When viewed in a societal context rather than in isolation, is EA, therefore, performing a specific function in focusing on tractable and solvable problems? If we expand EA away from solving these types of problems, what does the ‘EA’ part mean, other than a vague sense of doing good?
A heuristic for distinguishing Burkean longtermism from EA style longterism maybe this: Could you get a longtermist from a 100 years ago to sympathize with your priorities? You could probably convince such a person that we must increase economic growth, sustain the population level, protect the environment, and fight wars, plagues, and tyrannies. But you would have a hard time convincing him that artificial intelligence was the greatest risk to ever face humanity.
I wonder if we longtermists lack historical maturity. To talk about the long term - to consider the fate of empires, the consequences of technologies, and the trajectory of progress - without this maturity will be as frustrating and unenlightening an experience as walking into Scott Aaronson’s quantum computing class without really understanding linear algebra.
Perhaps it is because we lack an understanding of the problems the ancients faced that we assume we live in a uniquely dangerous and promising century. More dangerous than when mankind numbered less than 10,000, more promising than when two halves of globe were at long last reunited.
Our lack of context gives us this Whig view of history where the human story only began in earnest about 200 years ago. It has since been a tale of accelerating ethical and scientific improvement which has placed us conveniently in the position of absolute moral superiority. We have thus been freed from quaint problems like foreign invasion, societal collapse, scientific stagnation, and technological decay.
We should be more open to improbable crazy sounding plans which don’t undermine economic growth, human rights, and the possibility of criticism. This excludes plans like, Rob everyone and donate the proceeds to GiveWell, but not schemes like, Start a nuclear fusion company and see if you can crack the technical challenges.
We should explicitly encourage radical innovations new ideas which are compatible with liberalism. The marginal nerdy programmer who joins EA should feel more encouraged to start a startup which directly helps longtermist goals rather than donate a tenth of his six-figure salary to the Against Malaria Foundation.
You can always have a great late night conversation by asking, “What would Napoleon or Ceasar do if he was born in modern America?” Surely the unique combinations of genes which make up the will and capacities of such men have not disappeared. But today their ambition cannot be exercised through great conquests and wars. So how is their energy redirected?
Effective altruism’s lasting significance will be greater than the lives it has saved. The ledger will also include the damage prevented by giving Alexanders and Pompeys something compelling to do other than recreate the metaphysical meaning and unparalleled stakes of great wars. Having these ambitious individuals in your society without release valves like effective altruism is as dangerous as having crackling kindling in your house but no fireplace to put it in.
One useful way to think about effective altruism is as a Schelling point for young, risk-neutral, ambitious, pro-social tech nerds - i.e. exactly the kind of people you would want to build a startup with. You’re a programmer who wants to have a big impact with his career? I’m also a programmer who wants to have a big impact with my career! Let’s build a billion dollar company and give away our wealth!
Effective altruism is an ingenious coordination mechanism which allows you to channel your employees’ desire for impact, prestige, and money towards improving your company’s bottom line:
Obviously, SBF didn’t adopt effective altruism cynically in order to recruit and motivate workers, nor could he have achieved that end if he had pursued EA deceptively. SBF has clearly and credibly been an EA since his college years. He has already given away 100 million dollars just this year and pledged to give away the rest of his wealth in his lifetime. If his EA bona fides weren’t without question, then he couldn’t get super talented people to work 60 hour weeks for him. And even if you could become an EA just to recruit and motivate more effectively, it wouldn’t exactly be a bargain. After all, you still have to actually have to give away your money. So becoming an EA cynically would only make sense if all you cared about was the success of your company (and not how much of its wealth you get to keep). But if your company is worth caring about intrinsically (because of the direct impact it has, for example), then you don’t need EA to galvanize your employees.
Theme 5: Knowledge and Ideas
Dwarkesh has been struck by the extent to which his knowledge of the world is a ‘strict subset’ of certain of his guests such as Byrne Hobart and Tyler Cowen.
It is possible to understand a wide range of topics and fields from a pretty limited number of books. “In most fields, you really could understand the most important ideas by reading a dozen books (or depending on the technical complexity of the field, a textbook or two plus a handful of seminal papers). If you took reading seriously and read a book a week (approximately an hour or two of reading a day), that’s just 3 months of reading. Half a semester to understand much of an entire field. That is unreasonably effective.”
The returns to reading scale with intelligence.
You can improve what you get out of reading by doing things which force you to absorb book’s main ideas, e.g. podcasting or writing reviews.
Intellectual scenes have ‘market makers’. “These are popularizers who notice that some academic is shilling a theory or a study that could have far reaching implications. They realize that people aren’t paying attention to this idea right now, but they might in the future once its importance is understood and it is explained to the right audience in an engaging and accessible way.”
Intellectual market makers increase the value of ideas by making them more liquid. “We need people who buy these forgotten intellectual goods (i.e. spend time explaining and synthesizing them) and sell them to others (i.e. incorporate these ideas in a viral blog post or a New York Times bestseller).”
Is an ‘intellectual market maker’ a fancy word for a curator? If not, what is the difference?
Dwarkesh argues that intellectual market makers’ key function is to create liquidity. Counterpoint: we live in an age of information abundance – information has never been more liquid. What is scarce isn’t information, it is attention. The role of a market maker, therefore, isn’t to make ideas more liquid, it is to impose artificial scarcity – a market maker is saying to their followers: ‘trust me to pick out the best ideas and filter out the weakest ones”. So in this sense the market maker isn’t making ideas more liquid, they are doing the opposite. Thoughts?
What has struck me in talking to these polymaths is how functionally illiterate I am in comparison to them. My knowledge about the world is a strict subset of theirs. There is no counterexample or counterargument I could present which they have not already considered and reconsidered. The best I can do is jog their memory.
So you don’t have to be scouring through the newest papers on Arxiv in order to know the most important things. A dozen or so textbooks even from a few decades ago contain about 80% of legible scientific knowledge.
Which means it is actually possible to understand a wide range of topics and fields with a reasonable number of books.
The returns to reading scale with intelligence, and most people are just not smart enough to comprehend a vast stock of knowledge. If intelligence is the ability to understand complex ideas, to notice patterns and make inferences, and to build connections between new information and existing knowledge, then it’s no surprise that dull people don’t get that much out of reading a lot.
People often use these failure modes as a reason for reading less. They’ll say, “I used to read 50 books a year but then I realized that I forgot most of what I read.” That’s a bit like saying, I used to invest for retirement but then I realized that I wasn’t saving as much as I would want to, so now I don’t even bother. The appropriate response is to cut other costs, or at least save what you can.
Same goes with reading. Do things which force you to absorb the main ideas from books, like writing reviews or organizing discussions. And if that doesn’t work, it is still better to learn what little you can than to decay intellectually and abandon that dream you must have had as a teenager to conquer every region of knowledge.
So knowledge has gotten cheaper at the same time that it is gotten more valuable. If you’re reasonably intelligent, curious, and motivated, an hour a day of reading could really add up to a comprehensive summary of much that has transpired and been thought and discovered in history.
When I suggest that there is a myth of a well read person, I’m not saying that people explicitly deny the scope and depth of knowledge one can gain over years and decades of reading. I mean that they do not seem aware that becoming extremely well read is a thing you can do.
One reason why is that most people don’t have a living breathing demonstration of a well read person. If they get one while they are still young and impressionable, it can alter their reading habits for life. Tyler Cowen said on my podcast:
Before I die, I hope to glimpse this comprehensive perspective, from which every event and discovery is placed in historical continuity, illuminated through scientific understanding, elevated by philosophical analysis, and softened with literary sympathy.
People roll their eyes when you defend the financial industry by saying that it “provides liquidity”, and similarly people dismiss intellectual market makers who get famous off the spread between an interesting study and a New York Times best selling book. But without liquidity, ideas can’t spread, and the entire point of creating ideas is to spread them to where they can be useful.
Intellectual market makers increase the value of ideas (and thus the incentive to come up with new ones), because an asset is worth more in a liquid market than in an illiquid market. In a liquid intellectual market, you can be confident that if you come up with an important idea, some popularizer will come along and make you famous. So you’re willing to devote years of your life to researching ideas that are potentially important.
If anything, there is a greater shortage of liquidity providers in the intellectual marketplace than there is of actual idea creators. There are lots of interesting theories and datasets out there stuck in some academic press book that a hundred people will read. We need people who buy these forgotten intellectual goods (i.e. spend time explaining and synthesizing them) and sell them to others (i.e. incorporate these ideas in a viral blog post or a New York Times bestseller).
Understanding the value of intellectual market makers can help bloggers, podcasters, and popular science writers stop navel-gazing about how they’re just trading other people’s ideas, not creating any themselves. There can be no intellectual marketplace without liquidity.
In fact, since there is no such thing as a new idea, all intellectuals are market makers. They buy a cluster of existing concepts and reorganize them in a way that can give insight to other topics or be of interest to other audiences. The creators of the original ideas gain even more impact, the audience obtains a new thinking tool, and the market maker profits by being recognized for connecting the two.