Hiding In Plain Sight is a collection of essays that I have written on investing, healthcare, and life.
A Little Experiment
For the sake of experiment, read the next sentence once, while counting the number of “f”s that you see.
“Five-winged flies are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of many years.”
Most likely, you counted an “f” in each of the more vibrant words of the sentence: “five,” “flies” and “scientific.” Most people only see these three “f”s, when in fact there are six. The other “f”s are hidden in the unassuming preposition “of”. Your mind probably skipped over each “of” because it processed these words without absorbing the raw information of the letters that composed them.
We’ve all heard the thesis on real estate investing: “They’re not making any more land.” It turns out that before too long we may not be making enough people either.
Global population has been expanding since antiquity, interrupted by wars, disasters, pandemics, and famine. Malthusian predictions of overpopulation, unsustainability, and resource depletion have also been a part of conventional wisdom since antiquity and remain popular today (see Paul Gilding’s “The Earth is Full” TED talk). It is, after all, a common trait of the human mind to assume that the past is an accurate predictor of the future.
To “curate”, in the modern vernacular, is to select and design a collection from a larger set. In a world where people have access to too much of nearly everything — things, experiences, information, and people — curating has emerged as a core skill to succeed in life.
In a way, we are all curating whether we realize it or not. When we furnish a house, we select specific artifacts from a vast number of potential options and arrange them in a way that enables particular form and function. When we speak or write, we select words from an ever-burgeoning lexicon and order them in a way that produces a particular narrative. When we spend time during the day, we pick our activities from a virtually limitless set of possible choices according to a design of our choosing and call it a day. The company we keep is the small subset of people with whom we have chosen to interact out of the 6 billion other humans with whom we share this planet.
Milton Friedman famously claimed, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” Does this relationship also hold in reverse?
Decades ago, when everything and everyone from unions to cartels were blamed for inflation, Friedman rejected the conventional wisdom and posited on the basis of empirical data that money supply drives price levels. He argued that prices increased not due to price and wage increases, but because the federal government made the supply of money grow faster than the real economy created value. This groundbreaking theory, while highly controversial and almost revolutionary at the time, appeared to be vindicated by the “Great Inflation” of the 1970’s, and has since become the core tenet of monetarism and modern policymaking. However, in a mark-to-market world, a price may act insidiously to drive money supply and amplify boom-bust cycles.