Exploring the Frontier with Kevin Simler – [Invest Like the Best, EP.12]

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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Please enjoy!

Some of Kevin’s Best Essays

The Economics of Social Status

Crony Beliefs

Technical Debt of the West

Honesty and the Human Body

A Nihilist’s Guide to Meaning

Books Mentioned

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

The Selfish Gene

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

Links Referenced

Growth and Government

The Crucible Effect and the Scarcity of Collective Attention

Book Report: The Psychopath Code

Carnival / carnivalesque

Alan Watts on God Playing Hide-and-Seek

Show Notes

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

50:35 – Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

51:08 – The Selfish Gene

51:11 –The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

53:41 – Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

57:24 – Two philosophy majors start to explore meaning of life

57:31 – A Nihilist’s Guide to Meaning

1:00:38 – The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

1:05:39 – Alan Watts on God Playing Hide-and-Seek

Learn More

For more episodes go to InvestorFieldGuide.com/podcast.

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Follow Patrick on twitter at @patrick_oshag