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Cosmic Manifest Destiny

I read a very provocative interview of Elon Musk in Aeon Magazine in which he argues that we must put a million people on Mars if we were to ensure that humanity has a future. Whether you agree or disagree with that particular vision, it made me start to think about how powerful we are collectively when united to pursue something bigger than ourselves.

In an American context, this was most evident as a country in our period of Westward expansion and encapsulated by our sense of “manifest destiny.” This period of expansion was when the seeds of American hegemony were planted.

Most modern historians look at the US notion of manifest destiny with a very critical eye. After all, it is widely accepted that the concept is at the core of our imperialistic tendencies. It seems to justify a voracious need to expand, to dominate, to subjugate. It played a part in going to war with Mexico and it justified our treatment of the Native American population. Manifest destiny was about our right to control.

To some extent (even a large extent) they’re probably right. When applied in the context of imperialism, manifest destiny comes across as a terrible ideology. That only gets worse when notions of divine right or ideas of cultural or racial superiority are introduced to it. Manifest destiny is a dangerous tool.

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Is Privacy Dead?

Is privacy dead? Do we still maintain the desire to safeguard our habits and thoughts? Or does our recent disregard for privacy show that we have really lost this primal need?

In my opinion, our startling lack of concern for safeguarding our personal lives stems more from a lack of understanding about how much of our personal data is stored and analyzed in today’s digital world than from any fundamental disregard for our privacy.

Whatever the reason, we all seem increasingly oblivious to how much of our information we allow to be shared. If I wanted to, I could easily tell you where most of my friends are right now. With a little more effort I could put together what they’ve been up to every week for the last five years. Eating sushi at that restaurant? Traveling with HIM where!? The world probably knows it all.

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Building a Great Team & Executing Well – Startup Class Lecture 2 Notes

These are my notes for Lecture 2 of Sam Altman’s Startup class. The course, organized by Sam Altman, the President of YCombinator, has the express goal of teaching “everything we know about how to start a startup, for free, from some of the world experts.” You can also see my notes for the intro and Lecture 1.

OK. So whereas Lecture 1 focused on the five key attributes of a great startup and zeroed in on what makes for a good startup idea, Lecture 2 is focused on how to build a great team. The second half of the lecture then shifts away from one’s team and instead talks about your responsibilities as a Founder in terms of what you need to execute well on in order to succeed.

The team part of the lecture follows the following outline:

  1. CoFounders: Why they’re important, what to look for, and how to find them
  2. Why to NOT Hire: Burn rate, speed of execution, delicacy of the beginning
  3. Recruiting the best talent: What it takes to get the best
  4. Talent Retention: or, Don’t F*ck it Up
  5. Firing Fast:: or, Don’t let others F*ck it Up
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Your Next Fridge will Spy on You

With the proliferation of the connected world, privacy (or the lack thereof) should be a major concern for us as citizens. But it isn’t yet. So let me paint a picture of one potential not-so-distant future involving the most mundane of household appliances—your refrigerator.

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Startup Class Lecture 1 – The Five Components of a Great Startup

This post is a continuation of Lecture 1 of YCombinator’s class at Stanford called ‘Startup Class‘ which aims to teach “everything we know about how to start a startup, for free, from some of the world experts.” Whereas my first set of notes about the class talks about cautionary note on the difficulty of starting a startup (and why I’m writing these notes at all), this part of the lecture, given by Sam Altman, really starts delving into what makes a great startup.

The Five Components of a Great Startup

  • Great Idea
  • Great Product
  • Great Team
  • Great Execution
  • Luck