Life As A Tournament

Let’s start with this single reply in a thread that caught fire.

I encourage you to scroll the thread — it’s like having a listening device inside a confessional. Every living generation’s gripes being aired out. Enough baggage to weigh down an Airbus A380.

If you have been reading Moontower for at least 2 years you know where some of my sympathies lie:

In Adding My .02 To The WSB Insanity, I offered:

A hypothetical.

Suppose there are 15 courses of actions one can take. 5 are illegal, 5 more are unethical. That leaves 5 acceptable actions. It feels like our collective calculus is moving to a rule of “if it’s legal, why not?”

The ethics ozone layer between what’s legal and what we should do is fully depleted. The air is irrevocably polluted. I’m not pointing fingers solely on daytraders who are openly coordinating behavior in ways that stun anyone who has ever sat through securities compliance training. There is a sense that the game is rigged and while I think the specific targets in these trading examples are misdirected, it certainly feels that way in a broader sense. Especially when we consider the runaway examples of inequality I’ve discussed [see Is Social Harmony The Last Collateral?]

The last tweet in the side chat below is an echo of Adam Singer’s tweet at the start of this post.

Browsing Twitter this week I saw an account announce that people have an imperative to make as much money as they want within the confines of the law.

Look, last week I admit I have a fast cringe reflex. Hustlers are quick to say that instead of abstaining from cringey activity, the key to your dreams is killing the cringe reflex. This is reasonable. And that’s why it’s dangerous — it’s written in the same ink as the grift manuals. It’s the raw material for collapsing the firewall known as ethics that runs along the letter of the law and its spirit. It takes but 1 second of second-order reasoning to understand this does not scale. The proverbial picture replacing 1000 words:

Annoyed by the profit-as-religion tweet, I crafted a thread response (because I’m childish) and the janky Twitter app failed to send it. 4x. There was 2 silver linings to my frustration:

  1. I deleted the Twitter app (again)
  2. I hopped on a video call with Dave, Tom and Adam — a group of investors who have been thinking deeply about how we climb out of the collective Molochian quicksand.Here’s the recording:PolyCrisis, Institutional Decay, and AI in Q2 2023: An Update with Dave Nadig (53 min)

There’s a sense that life is increasingly turning into a tournament. There will always be some group of psychopathic wealthy with self-serving comprehensions of evolution and a strain of ambition who would have been warlords in a different era. Today, most of those outliers express their sociopathy in token-collecting.

But there’s a thick layer of grounded rich people who don’t feel rich enough because they see the minimum acceptable life as becoming increasingly unattainable for younger generations and their perfectly rational individual response is to make even more money so they can self-insure their children’s safety nets. This mindset taken to its extreme closes the self-fulfilling behavior loop promoted by the cringe-merchants.

I guess if prisoner’s dilemmas were a cinch to solve we wouldn’t have needed Nash-level minds wasting cycles on them. But alas, it’s still fun to bang your head on such puzzles.

If you are interested, Dave hosted a panel at a conference with Adam, Tom and several finance minds to discuss these topics. I reached out to tell him how much I enjoyed it. Our ongoing conversations on these subjects is what earned my naive role on the video call in the first place — the Straussian inference here is to listen to the panel talk if you only have time for one.

  • Exchange 2023 – The Future of Finance (98 min)

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