Today’s episode features one of my favorite thinkers and writers: Kevin Simler. Kevin has a background in technology and was one of the earliest employees at Palantir Technologies, which specializes in big data and has worked closely with clients ranging from the Department of Defense to the world’s largest hedge funds. In this conversation, Patrick and Kevin explore startup culture, how to spark creativity, how social status functions like money, and how to think about the universe. This will be one of the most unique conversations you will hear on this podcast.
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Some of Kevin’s Best Essays
1:35 – (First Question) – Patrick asks Kevin about his expertise in start-up culture and why Palantir will always be a start-up to Kevin.
3:56 – Growth and Government (Sam Altman Blog) “Democracy only works in a growing economy” was attributed this to Peter Thiel, but it is from Sam Altman
4:05 – A look at what other frontiers are left to explore; economic, physical, technological, etc.
5:45 – How we behave differently when the company’s trajectory is moving in the right direction
6:10 – Kevin reviews what Palantir does and his specific role there
8:44 – Kevin is asked to explain how Palantir could get people who were interested in a solution to solve the problem
11:39 – Patrick asks whether winning creates a good culture in a startup or does the creation of a good culture facilitate their success
14:11 – What are some of the most important elements of a good culture in a startup?
18:23 – The Crucible Effect and the Scarcity of Collective Attention (RibbonFarm Blog by Venkatesh Rao) – Said 11, meant 12 people
19:22 – Patrick asks Kevin whether someone can be impacted by the level of the people that are around you
21:30 – Why you only get one chance to set the right culture at a startup
23:30 – Exploring the ideas of the economics of social status
23:46 – The Economics of Social Status (Kevin Simler essay)
26:30 – Are there ways of earning social status that people practice
30:19 – How the effect of exposure impacts people’s status
32:42 – How to build prestige and some of the nefarious ways some people do it
33:56 – Honestly signaling prestige
37:17 – Why there’s always a group of cheats in life and in business and sociopaths in business
37:44 – Book Report: The Psychopath Code (Melting Asphalt)
39:21 – Most memorable day at Palantir
41:03 – The fine line between the things that will help a startup and what is pure fluff
45:14 – Changing your routine to change your mindset
45:33 – Carnival / carnivalesque
46:53 – How to improve off-sites and improve worker development
48:14 – Why these out of the box ideas have to be bottom-up/grassroots instead of top-down mandates
49:48 – Some of the most formative books/writers/essays for Kevin
51:08 – The Selfish Gene
57:24 – Two philosophy majors start to explore meaning of life
57:31 – A Nihilist’s Guide to Meaning
1:05:39 – Alan Watts on God Playing Hide-and-Seek
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