My Must Read/Watch/Listen List

Here's my collection of articles, podcasts, videos, etc. that are important to me.

July 18, 2018

I’ve decided to compile a “must-consume” living list of all my favorite pieces of media, whether it be articles, videos, or podcasts. Every single one of the items on this list changed the way I look at a topic, challenged my beliefs, or taught me something new and (I would like to think) had some role in shaping who I am currently. Obviously all of these pertain to my interests (and I really want to make another list of my favorite trash, but funny, pieces of media one day), but hopefully you too can gain something from this list. I’ve split them up roughly into topics and I’ll definitely be adding to this list as time goes on.

Economics/Income Inequality

[Read] "The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them" by Joseph Stiglitz
Income inequality is one of the topics I'm most passionate about and "The Great Divide" is a fantastic book covering the growing inequality within American and the world, i.e. the 99% vs the 1%. It was a required book for a class covering income equality I took and it quickly became my favorite class out of my four years at UVa. The lowdown: the best method to kickstart next generation upwards economic mobility is to provide free daycare for single mothers. Turns out this fairly simple lever is the most effective, economically proven method to encourage children to not drop out of school systems, successfully graduate high school, and go to college. Intuitively, this makes sense. Single mothers are among the most vulnerable to financial instability. Older children are also often forced to drop out to support their family and providing free daycare allows for the older children to continue going to school while simultaneously allowing mothers to work during normal business hours.
[Read] "The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy" by Matthew Steward for The Atlantic
While much of the debate around economic inequality pits the top 1% against the 99%, this article delineates the socioeconomic classes a little bit further. While the amount of wealth the top 0.1% in the United States holds grew 10% since the 1960s to the current 22%, the bottom 90% of America saw their share fall by almost the same exact amount since their peak in the 1980s. This means that while income inequality is obviously growing, it came disproportionately from the bottom while the remaining 9.9% between them saw pretty much no change. This is where the problem lies. While the 9.9% insists they're the "middle class" ($1.2M net worth is required to be part of the 9.9% — think lawyers, doctors, general working professionals), Steward breaks down how the 9.9% is complicit (if not outright responsible) for the roadblocks they set behind them while hiding behind imagery of "hard work" and "grit" that got them to where they are now. In general, it's important to be stay cognizant of and regularly reflect upon the institutional systems that might have awarded you opportunities while simultaneously hindering other less-priviledged groups of people.
[Read] "Stop Pretending You're Not Rich" by Richard Reeves for New York Times Opinion
Similar to the piece above by Steward, this short opinion piece covers the harmful nature of denying one's priviledge and playing the game required to maintain one's priviledge at the cost of those under them. Examples include gated communities causing a physical divide between socioeconomic classes that also manifests itself in school district provisioning.
[Watch] "How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio" by Ray Dalio
First off, I know. I just wanted to remain consistent with the titles. This is a basic introduction into how economic cycles works from the founder of one of the largest hedge funds in the world, Bridgewater Associates. The video is pretty long (~30 mins) but it gives you a fairly solid foundation.

Venture Capital/Startups

[Read] "The Mind of Marc Andreessen" by Tad Friend for The New Yorker
This piece on Marc Andreessen, one of the most successful VCs in the world, is one of the most thorough and interesting profiles I've read in a while. I'm fairly sure the title of the article changed at one point to what it is now, so I'll just keep the original title here.
[Read] "WTF is Product/Market Fit?" by Merci Victoria Grace
A quick article on how to evaluate product/market fit. This article is mainly for growth hackers/PMs, but I found it valuable for venture investing too.

Tech

[Read] "Artwork Personalization at Netflix" by Ashok Chandrashekar, Fernando Amat, Justin Basilico and Tony Jebara
Did you know Netflix changes its title cards for shows/movies based on what other shows or movies you like to watch?? Quick excerpt to reel you in: "...let’s imagine how the different preferences for cast members might influence the personalization of the artwork for the movie Pulp Fiction. A member who watches many movies featuring Uma Thurman would likely respond positively to the artwork for Pulp Fiction that contains Uma. Meanwhile, a fan of John Travolta may be more interested in watching Pulp Fiction if the artwork features John." This is a more technical read, but the first section of this article is amazing even for non-technical people.
[Read] "Palantir Knows Everything About You" by Peter Waldman, Lizette Chapman, and Jordan Robertson for Bloomberg
Shrouded in secrecy, Palantir is one of my favorite companies to talk about because so few people outside of the tech/venture industry know about it. With my [major] concerns of using data to provide actionable insights for law enforcement agencies aside, what Palantir was able to accomplish is nothing short of amazing. Plus, Peter Thiel is an enigma that makes reading this article all the more worth it. C'mon, he hated how liberal Silicon Valley was so he moved and brought his VC operations down to the conservative stronghold of... Los Angeles???
[Listen] "Google is God, Facebook is love and Amazon will be worth $1 trillion" hosted by Kara Swisher for Recode Decode
Scott Galloway is my role model when it comes to his ability to spit out statistics about consumer behavior and company metrics. I want to get to his level one day, both in sheer knowledge and in speaking speed. Kicker: He correctly predicted on this episode that Amazon was going to acquire Whole Foods months before the news was actually announced. If you have any interest in tech, this will be an incredibly entertaining hour — seriously, he talks a mile a minute.
[Watch] "Humans Need Not Apply" by CGP Grey
There's a lot of misconceptions about AI and automation. Chiefly among them is how widespread automation will actually be and its effects are often underestimated by the general public. CGP Grey does a great job outlining the future of automation. This could also fit into the Economics/Income Inequality section, but I'll leave it here in Tech for now.
[Read] "Mt. Gox and the Surprising Redemption of Bitcoin’s Biggest Villain" by Jen Wieczner for Fortune
Mt. Gox used to the one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in the world, until it was hacked and (seemingly) all of its Bitcoins were stolen. However, the CEO found 200,000 Bitcoins in an archive of the server and due to the more recent skyrocket in Bitcoin prices, the newfound stash is actually worth more than the total of all the claims at bankruptcy. The former-CEO is now at a loss on how to handle the situation and Japanese bankruptcy laws don't help any.
[Read] "The Most Important Apple Executive You’ve Never Heard Of" by Brad Stone, Adam Satariano, and Gwen Ackerman for Bloomberg Businessweek
The vertical-integration monster that is Apple has two incredibly important and massive, yet secretive, divisions within its walls: its in-house camera development and testing division and its in-house chip design and fabrication division. This article covers the latter and the man behind it all. Apple utilizes its own CPUs for all iOS devices, instead of the standard ARM-based chips that Android manufactures uses (typically made by Qualcomm) that allows Apple to stay ahead of the curve on power and resource management, even with technically slower chips.

Music

[Read] "Tbilisi and the politics of raving" by Will Lynch for Resident Advisor
Rave culture, and disco culture before it, was always about creating a space where fringe groups were free to express themselves. While electronic music is (for the most part) commercialized in the United States, in many countries abroad clubs are still important cultural hubs where political dissidents organize and launch underground grassroots movements. Nowhere is a better current-day example than Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia in Eastern Europe. Recently the Georgian special forces stormed and shut down Bassiani (a famous club where just about every major DJ on the planet has played) with the premise of a drug raid. However, the true reason was that Bassiani was another symbol of pervading liberalism in the otherwise staunchly conservative former-USSR nation and there were growing talks of protests against the country's excessively strict drug laws. Bassiani's owners were eventually released and the club is back up and running, but this article really illuminates the role of raving in a country that has "been the scene of two wars and years of abject poverty".
[Listen] Luney Toons by Anna Lunoe
On a lighter note, Anna Lunoe single-handedly got me interested in making mixes and DJing after seeing her live in 2014. Shortly after, I joined my undergrad's student-run radio station (WXTJ Charlottesville 100.1 FM) and it was probably my best decision in a while. Just a radio booth, filled with my close friends, listening to and sharing rad tunes. Linked is my favorite mix from Anna from her Luney Tunes series, which was the precursor to her Apple Music Beats 1 show that is now broadcasted weekly worldwide.
[Watch] "Stephan Bodzin Boiler Room Berlin Live Set" from Stephan Bodzin
Luney Toons is what got me into DJing general electronic music, and Stephan Bodzin and this Boiler Room set got me into techno. Truthfully, it was more Bodzin and Max Cooper combined, but seeing this bald-headed German man just perform his heart out in a dark club is just a gem. Plus, the faces he makes when really getting into it are just gold.

Miscellaneous

[Watch] "Malcolm Gladwell - Zeitgeist Americas 2013" by Malcolm Gladwell
Whether you think Malcolm Gladwell is a genius or a far-reaching hack (I'm more of the former camp, but I get his critics), Gladwell's talk at Google is an incredibly interesting one. He highlights that those that perform well at lower ranked colleges are regularly more successful post-grad (in academia, measured by number of publications in top journals) than their peers who were ranked lower at more prestigious universities. This begs the question: would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? Apparently the right answer is big fish if you like publishing.
[Read] "Domino's Atoned For Its Crimes Against Pizza and Built a $9 Billion Empire" by Susan Berfield for Bloomberg Businessweek
Do you remember the old Domino's TV commercials where the CEO basically said, "Yeah, our pizzas suck. We know. But we worked really hard to make it better and we promise that you'll like it now. Give us a shot, please." Well, turns out that was the beginning of one of the most unexpected company turnaround stories ever. Their stock price used to be ~$9/share back then, and now it's ~$283/share at the time of this writing. One of the most important changes was the ability to order a pizza completely online back when you had to physically call in for every chain, but let's be real. The pizza tracker did it.
[Read] "When the government doesn’t fund astronomy, we all get left in the dark" by Max Genecov for The Outline
The current state of affairs between the astronomical community and the US Government is not fantastic. This is a fantastic rundown of how the current administration looks at space and Max Genecov always kills it with his closing paragraphs — this one is no exception.
[Read] "In Conversation: Conan O'Brien" by David Marchese for Vulture
I love Conan O'Brien and he always seemed like one of the more thoughtful comedians out there. This interview really solidified that in my mind — it becomes clear how much he thinks about and internally processes each and every part of his career, from his decision to cut his show down to half-hour segments to realizing the efficacy of Youtube as a medium.