Thoughts in Between

by Matt Clifford

TiB 226: 2022 in review - the best articles, tweets and episodes of the year

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2022 through the lens of Thoughts in Between

As you may have noticed (I hope?), TiB has been in a state of suspended animation since July, when I was appointed Chair of ARIA, alongside my day job at Entrepreneur First (EF). I'm sad to have missed out on commenting on ChatGPT, FTX / EA, a bunch of metascience developments, and more...

But the end of year round-up is always fun and I thought it was a good time to emerge from hibernation... Below are the most popular links of the year, as clicked on by you.

Speaking of ARIA and EF, I would be remiss not to point to two things. First, ARIA is nearly ready to launch! We are now recruiting for three critical executive roles on the founding team - Chief Engagement Officer, Chief of Staff and Director of Product. I think these will be three of the most exciting jobs anywhere in the world in 2023 and bring the chance to shape a brand new and super-ambitious R&D funding agency from scratch...

Second, there's still time to buy my and Alice Bentinck's book How to Be a Founder as a Christmas gift for the entrepreneurial people in your life... I think it's pretty good, but don't take my word for it; much smarter people than me think so too:

This book is even better than people are saying. Seriously insightful - I learnt a lot! It’s up there with the best from Thiel, Horowitz etc - IMO it’s the canonical view on how to found ambitious businesses. Chapeau @Alicebentinck & @matthewclifford

Top articles of 2022

Here are the ten (external) articles that you, discerning readers, clicked on most in 2022, in order of popularity:

(1) Me on the best books I read in the 2010s. Slightly oddly, this was the most clicked link of the year, despite it being nearly three years old. But I stand by it and there are some evergreen recommendations...

(2) John Luttig on why tech had such a horrible 2022. Probably the best analysis on tech's difficult year - it's just post-pandemic mean reversion.

(3) Atkin, Chen and Popov on the value of face-to-face interactions. Excellent paper exploring knowledge spillover effects in Silicon Valley. Lots of implications for technology clusters and remote work.

(4) Ben Thompson on tech and war. The peerless Ben Thompson, writing in March, on the implications of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on how we think about the geopolitics of technology.

(5) Michael Nielsen on scientists' surprising beliefs. A fascinating list of things extraordinary scientists believe(d) that "most of their contemporaries strongly believed were completely misguided". (Michael wrote several of my favourite pieces of the year, some in collaboration with Kanjun Qiu; they're compiled here.)

(6) Me on the history of ambitiom (and how technology is changing it). Another oldie - I first wrote this in 2017! - but worth a read if you've not seen it before: why have ambitious people chosen the careers they have, historically, and how might tech change that?

(7) Ben Reinhardt on why DARPA works. Ben provides a fascinating and comprehensive account of the inner workings of the US's Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency.

(8) Jason Sockin on global university quality and human capital. One of my favourite papers of the year. Sockin examines which university's graduates seem to acquire the most human capital, with some surprising results.

(9) Tanner Greer's books of 2021. This was in the first TiB edition of the year and is a remarkable list of books that sound excellent, but you've likely not come across...

(10) Holden Karnofsky on why you should care about AI safety. June, when Karnofsky published this, now feels like almost another era in AI capabilities, which makes his argument even more important.

Alongside these links, the most popular TiB podcast episodes of the year were Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross on Talent; Sebastian Mallaby on his book The Power Law, and Kyla Scanlon on how the internet is changing finance.

Top tweets of 2022

I link to a lot of tweets in TiB. Here are the ten you clicked on most:

(1) Russell Kaplan on the influence of DeepMind's AlphaFold

Today I saw the impact that AlphaFold is having on speeding up drug discovery firsthand:

(2) Simon Jäger on the distributional impact of managers with MBAs

Striking new paper @DrDaronAcemoglu, Alex He, and Daniel le Maire: Eclipse of Rent-Sharing: The Effects of Managers' Business Education on Wages and the Labor Share in 🇺🇸 + 🇩🇰. Managers with MBA ➡️ wages ⬇️ + labor share ⬇️

(3) Ethan Mollick on predicting personality from artistic taste

Its like a Buzzfeed quiz, but with real science: two papers show the movies and books you like can be used to accurately predict Big 5 personality traits. Take a look at the lists! (& some examples in the thread) Movie paper: Books:

(4) Gordon Hodson on the precipitous decline of reading

@jayvanbavel Good time to revisit @jean_twenge et al 2019 w/ their nationally representative data. (below) Can't help but think this is why younger generations stuggle with writing. Hard to imagine being a good writer if not an avid reader.

(5) J Chris on NFTs

When you buy an NFT, what are you actually getting?

(6) Rob Henderson on the value of height

"A 6-foot man earning $62,500 per year is, on average, as desirable as a similar 5'6" man who earns $237,500. In other words, those six inches of height are worth about $175,000 in salary on the dating market."

(7) Ethan Mollick on the worst colour

This is apparently the worst color: “People like colors strongly associated with objects they like (e.g., blues with clear skies and clean water) and dislike colors strongly associated with objects they dislike (e.g., browns with feces and rotten food).”

(8) Adam Tooze on reality vs perception of social mobility

Americans are wildly overoptimistic about chances of upward social mobility. Europeans are pessimistic. Actual mobility higher in Europe than in the US.

(9) Sebastiaan de With on the Tonga volcano eruption

I’ve seen a lot of videos showing the Tonga volcanic explosion from a satellite. Now see it at this scale, proportional to the size of the Earth: you can truly see how massive the eruption was. Nature is incredible and scary.

(10) Ethan Mollick (again!) on birth month and education

Being one of the younger kids in the class has drawbacks. You more likely to be diagnosed with a learning disorder & a lack of confidence can haunt you: Fund managers who were older in their class seem more confident & their funds outperform younger peers’ funds by 0.48% per year

Thank you...

Thanks for reading TiB in 2022. I'm sorry for the (much) slower service in the second half of the year, but I look forward to being in touch in 2023.

Hope you have a good break over the holidays!