New Home Top Carousel

The Green Protocol: A New Vision for Crypto, Pt 2

By Ben Hunt | September 8, 2021 | 23 Comments

The Green Protocol is a set of rules for the tokenization of symbolic betting markets in positive social good.

I think this is how crypto saves the world.

Our first step on this new path? Let’s plant one billion new trees in North America over the next ten years.

Read more

ZG-item-cap-black

Coming Soon to CBS

From the ET Forum ...

The Activist is an upcoming reality show that really shouldn’t have made it past the “there are no bad ideas” stage of development. It’s the most tone deaf, disconnected concept I’ve ever seen.

The basic idea is that the show will feature six activists from around the world and follow them as they “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events”. Think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice. Contestants will be judged on how much social media engagement they receive, and the grand prize is an opportunity to attend the G20 Summit in Rome.

Yeah.

Contestants will be judged not by quality of their work but by the quality of their Instagram captions.

The show and its marketing campaign present this very shallow idea of supporting activism and getting them mainstream attention. But the show isn’t prepared to follow through on helping create change. The prize isn’t money or manpower. It’s a chance to beg powerful people to pretend to care.

At its core, this show is not about activism and social change. It’s about social media attention. Just look at the judges! Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough have no experience in activism aside from Instagram posts and speaking at charity events. They’re not leaders of change. They’re mid-level celebrities who wouldn’t be out of place judging The Masked Singer.

The show has been justly lambasted on social media as literally everyone has a problem with the premise. It’s been called “performance activism personified” and it is. It’s encouraging participants and viewers to see activism not as something meant to enact change, but a way to get attention. It sets a standard that successful activism isn’t making change, it’s getting likes and views. It ignores the small, boring, and thankless work that is done on a grassroots level. The work we need to see more of.

We don’t need more beautiful people talking about how they use metal straws to save the sea turtles. We need more people who are willing to do the work. This show isn’t doing anything to help anyone and I, for one, will not be watching.

— Harper Hunt | September 16, 2021|

The Widened Gyre

From the ET Forum …

Yesterday, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I read and heard several mainstream references to “the Widening Gyre”. It makes sense that yesterday would spur that sort of narrative connection, as the juxtaposition of the political images and texts from then and now is breathtaking. It’s amazing (and obvious), how polarized we’ve become over the past two decades.

But at this point – where the Widening Gyre is not happening but has already occurred – I think what we’re seeing is the Widened Gyre, where everything is autotuned to the poles of the gyre, including references to the Widening Gyre itself!

Case in point, on Twitter I am now routinely criticized for “contributing” to the Widening Gyre if I don’t engage in perfunctory political whataboutism on any topic that has a political dimension … which is to say ALL topics.

What is the Widened Gyre?

Yesterday, the most recent former president of the United States gave a paid speech to Moonies and then made a paid appearance at a sham boxing match where 58-year-old Evander Holyfield was knocked out in 90 seconds.

On 9/11.

And it will change no one’s politically polarized views. Not his supporters. Not his detractors. No one.

The Widened Gyre is a VERY stable equilibrium.

— Ben Hunt | September 12, 2021|

Oh, a Rhinoceros

A video made the rounds on various social media platforms last night and this morning. By now you have probably seen it. A young man presents his case for a mask policy to the school board in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He recalls the death of his grandmother by COVID and begins to express fear that this could happen to other people he cares about.

And that’s where most cuts of the video end. You see, the young man’s speech was interrupted by the shouting and snickering of adults behind him. Adults holding ‘Let our kids smile’ signs.

Source: Rutherford County (TN) Board of Education

Elsewhere on the internet, there is a very similar – and very different – trend emerging. It is a simple meme. You find someone who dies of COVID or asks for prayer or good thoughts after having downplayed the virus, the vaccine or masks only weeks or days before. Then you juxtapose their statements for internet points. If you’re in a particularly virulent version of this community, maybe you even post something vile on their family’s announcement of the person’s passing on Facebook. This is NOT cherry-picking. There are entire social media sub-communities and hashtags devoted to these memes.

We have written several times about the imagery of Ionesco’s landmark play Rhinoceros. I’m abridging rather thoroughly here, but the main conceit of the play is that the humans gradually change into rhinoceroses. But the shock of the story isn’t the devastation the beasts cause, rampaging about town. The shock is that, at some point, we are no longer shocked. We see the family, friend, neighbor or colleague we once knew and and say simply, “Oh, a rhinoceros.”

Many of us today will shrug and say, “Oh, a rhinocerous” to adults laughing and jeering at a child discussing his grandmother’s death. The Real Issue, you see, is that the child made a statement about the role of masks with inadequate information to justify his claim, and that might unduly influence local policy.

Many of us today will shrug and say, “Oh, a rhinoceros” to those who barge in on a family grieving the loss of someone they shared their entire lives and dreams with. The Real Issue, you see, is the good we can do by making an example of how wrong they were about COVID.

Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves that it isn’t normal for humans to transform into rhinoceroses.

Maybe it’s time to wrap up a little bit less of our individual and collective identity in Being Right About COVID.

Burying the Lede

For news junkies and the Very Online, one of the most well-traveled news stories over the past couple days has been the story of the “American students who are stranded in Afghanistan.”

The first version I read of the story came from this piece published by The Hill, although it borrows heavily from a piece published in the LA Times and San Diego Union-Tribune the same day.

Dozens of California students, parents stranded in Afghanistan after summer trip abroad [The Hill]

The key excerpt if you don’t feel like clicking over is here:

Dozens of California students and parents are stranded in Afghanistan after taking a summer trip to the country.

More than 20 students and 16 parents from the Cajon Valley Union School District in El Cajon, Calif., visited Afghanistan on summer vacation. Now they are among thousands of people who are waiting to leave the country amid the chaotic U.S. withdrawal that has caused political unrest across the nation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cajon Valley Superintendent David Miyashiro alerted school board members on Tuesday that he would be meeting with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to discuss the situation, the Times noted.

Source: The Hill

However much of the headline or article you read, you will still arrive at the same two questions that roughly half of America has since yesterday: (1) What the devil were a group of students doing taking a summer trip abroad in Afghanistan, and (2) Why is one of the students’ parents talking about worries that they are missing class?

It’s the funny thing about news. We more or less define it based on the assumption that it tells the truth, and this article does. These students from California absolutely went to Afghanistan over the summer. They are absolutely stranded there. These are facts.

But at some point here, you have to feel like a writer without an axe to grind might have felt inclined to mention that the California students are LITERALLY REFUGEES FROM AFGHANISTAN WHO WENT TO THEIR OLD HOME TO VISIT FRIENDS AND FAMILY. And look, that doesn’t change that they are people just as deserving of our efforts to extract safely as anyone else. It just takes away the single reason the article went viral, that is, that a bunch of kids going to Afghanistan for summer vacation seemed pretty wacky.

The ability to influence our behaviors as information consumers isn’t confined to whether we are explicitly being told how to think about something. Narrative is just as easily communicated through the selective absence of information, through its placement on a page, and through editorial decisions regarding the volume and emphasis of its coverage.

So which explanation for this preposterous framing do you think is true? And remember, you can always pick more than one:

  1. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. They just didn’t think about the very obvious omission, or they didn’t do the basic research to inform it.
  2. They were terrified of getting canceled for maybe implying that refugee status was a relevant detail to the story.
  3. Clickbait. C’mon.

Join us in the forum which you think it is – or offer another explanation!

— Rusty Guinn | August 26, 2021|

C’mon, Australia

From the ET Forum …

An Australian Pack member living abroad published what I think is an outstanding review of the depths to which Australia’s Covid-zero policy has descended. Here’s the skinny:

We are a country that pulls things out of the ground, sells coffee to each other, and invests every dollar we don’t have in residential property. And that’s been fine until this point. Australia, more than any other country, has ridden a wave of prosperity over the last 30 years that resulted in a quality of life almost unsurpassed anywhere in the world. But it has bred complacency, and the country’s response to COVID has revealed this complacency and its worrying lack of urgency. We’ve convinced ourselves that we generated long-term prosperity because there’s something special about us; but a lot of it’s been due to luck.

Taking a step back, Australia’s approach to COVID implicitly includes the following: a comfort with severely curtailing its citizens’ liberties; the capacity to absorb and pay for economic calamities; a belief that its brand is strong enough to recover from the damage inflicted and to once again attract talent and capital; zero tolerance for risk or its citizens ability to manage it; and conviction that trust in authority will remain despite all the failures, hostility and dishonesty.

Daniel Bookman

— Ben Hunt | August 25, 2021|

Proof of Plant: A New Vision for Crypto, Pt 1

By Ben Hunt | June 23, 2021 | 39 Comments

I want to change the language of crypto from mining to growing. I do not mean this in a metaphorical sense. I mean a proof-of-plant method for literally growing cryptocurrency tokens as a representation of the value stored in the human cultivation of plants.

Read more

In Praise of Bitcoin

By Ben Hunt | April 28, 2021 | 57 Comments

What made Bitcoin special is nearly lost, and what remains is a false and constructed narrative that exists in service to Wall Street and Washington rather than in resistance.

The Bitcoin narrative must be renewed. And that will change everything.

Read more

Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

By Ben Hunt | May 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

More on Information Theory.

Read more

Recent Notes

I’m So Tired of the Transitory Inflation “Debate”

By Ben Hunt | July 1, 2021

When a famous person shakes his or her finger at you, they’re not telling you a fact.

They’re telling you how to think about a fact.

Read more

Litigation Finance

By Bruce Packard | June 28, 2021

The formation of new “asset classes” and their associated narratives is a fascinating sight.

Using Burford Capital as a case study, new ET contributor Bruce Packard gives us a great primer on litigation-finance-as-an-asset-class.

Read more

Day-One Advice for New Hedge Fund Portfolio Managers

By Brent Donnelly | June 25, 2021

Over the last 6 months, there’s been a mass influx of new hedge fund PMs, many from bank trading seats leaving for greener (?) pastures. I’ve been in both seats. I’ve had good years and disappointing years. So I present this advice with the utmost humility …

Read more

Proof of Plant: A New Vision for Crypto, Pt 1

By Ben Hunt | June 23, 2021

I want to change the language of crypto from mining to growing. I do not mean this in a metaphorical sense. I mean a proof-of-plant method for literally growing cryptocurrency tokens as a representation of the value stored in the human cultivation of plants.

Read more

Cursed Knowledge #1: The Fast Saga

By Harper Hunt | June 21, 2021

The Fast and Furious movies are famous for intense action and ridiculous plots. But the truth about how these stories get made has more to do with the drama happening behind the camera than in front of it.

Read more

ET Podcast #11 – A Working Narrative

By Ben Hunt | June 16, 2021

We write a LOT about work. And the responses we get are … weird.

Once again, the most important narratives are the ones we tell ourselves.

Read more

Reinventing the Financial System

By Marc Rubinstein | June 15, 2021

If you’re like me, you’ve been put off from digging deeper into DeFi by the terrible signal-to-noise ratio of anything crypto-related on the interwebs. That’s why I found this DeFi primer (using Maker DAO as a specific example) by ET contributor and banking analyst Marc Rubinstein to be so fantastic.

Read more

A Working Narrative

By Rusty Guinn | June 7, 2021

The future of remote work after the pandemic ends has been a part of the zeitgeist for more than a year.

Now it IS the zeitgeist. It is also a narrative battlefield being actively conflated with a half dozen other major social and policy topics.

Read more

ET Zeitgeist: Deadly Theatre

By Ben Hunt | June 4, 2021

What is Deadly Theatre?

It’s corporate logos for Pride Month. It’s speaking gigs for Deborah Birx. It’s the cover up for Leon Black.

#BITFD

Read more

ET Zeitgeist: Raccoons Never Sleep

By Ben Hunt | May 28, 2021

Lemonade (LMND) isn’t just an insurance company. No, no … they’re an AI Company! ™.

Plus Chamath is up to his old tricks.

I hate raccoons.

Read more

ET Zeitgeist: With Enemies Like This

By Ben Hunt | May 21, 2021

This has been a bad week for Bitcoin and Bitcoin! TM alike. There’s no getting around that.

But whenever Paul Krugman and the Wall Street Journal agree on something … I want to be on the other side of that trade!

Read more

Mortgage Mayhem

By Marc Rubinstein | May 18, 2021

Mortgages are pretty standard fare in the world of finance, but the American version is special: it grants its user a free option to refinance if they can get a cheaper rate elsewhere.

Every lender thinks they can thrive in this market. But every lender can’t be right.

Read more

Financing the American Home

By Marc Rubinstein | May 18, 2021

As a non-American there are many things I don’t understand about America.

Most of all though, I don’t understand the most American of products: the 30-year fixed-rate fully prepayable mortgage.

Read more

ET Zeitgeist: Ransom Paid

By Ben Hunt | May 14, 2021

The Colonial Pipeline embarrassment will accelerate the US gov’t’s efforts to control and co-opt crypto.

Binance, Kraken, BitMEX … they’re all squarely in the wrathful gaze of the Eye of Sauron now.

Read more

Wage Inflation Isn’t Coming. It’s Already Here.

By Ben Hunt | May 12, 2021

Over the past four quarters, the United States has generated more wage inflation than at any point over the past 40 years.

This is not an anomaly. This is not a single quarter aberration. A wage-price inflation cycle is here.

I’m not predicting. I’m observing.

Read more

I’m Trying To Understand Hedonic Adjustments

By Brent Donnelly | May 10, 2021

A Honda Accord cost $12,000 in 1990 and it costs $25,000 now.

A Mustang was $9,000 and now it’s $27,000.

The BLS has new car prices close to unchanged over the past 30 years.

ET contributor Brent Donnelly tries to wrap his brain around hedonic adjustments to CPI.

Read more

ET Zeitgeist: Now Hiring

By Ben Hunt | May 7, 2021

Our weekly digest on what we’re working on …

Including this article from the WSJ: Millions Are Unemployed. Why Can’t Companies Find Workers?

I dunno, if only there were some mechanism by which companies could entice people to work for them. Weird.

Read more

ET Podcast #10 – In Praise of Bitcoin

By Ben Hunt | May 5, 2021

Bitcoin has been subverted by the neutering machine of Wall Street and the regulatory panopticon of the US Treasury Dept.

What remains is a constructed narrative that exists in service to Wall Street and Washington rather than in resistance.

Read more

What Sort of Business is Investment Banking?

By Marc Rubinstein | May 4, 2021

What do investment banks do, and why are European investment banks so bad at doing it?

Great piece by new ET contributor Marc Rubinstein!

Read more

The Zeitgeist – April 30, 2021

By Ben Hunt | April 30, 2021

Here’s what we’re reading and working on this week at Epsilon Theory.

Read more

ZG-item-cap-black

Coming Soon to CBS

From the ET Forum ...

The Activist is an upcoming reality show that really shouldn’t have made it past the “there are no bad ideas” stage of development. It’s the most tone deaf, disconnected concept I’ve ever seen.

The basic idea is that the show will feature six activists from around the world and follow them as they “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events”. Think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice. Contestants will be judged on how much social media engagement they receive, and the grand prize is an opportunity to attend the G20 Summit in Rome.

Yeah.

Contestants will be judged not by quality of their work but by the quality of their Instagram captions.

The show and its marketing campaign present this very shallow idea of supporting activism and getting them mainstream attention. But the show isn’t prepared to follow through on helping create change. The prize isn’t money or manpower. It’s a chance to beg powerful people to pretend to care.

At its core, this show is not about activism and social change. It’s about social media attention. Just look at the judges! Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough have no experience in activism aside from Instagram posts and speaking at charity events. They’re not leaders of change. They’re mid-level celebrities who wouldn’t be out of place judging The Masked Singer.

The show has been justly lambasted on social media as literally everyone has a problem with the premise. It’s been called “performance activism personified” and it is. It’s encouraging participants and viewers to see activism not as something meant to enact change, but a way to get attention. It sets a standard that successful activism isn’t making change, it’s getting likes and views. It ignores the small, boring, and thankless work that is done on a grassroots level. The work we need to see more of.

We don’t need more beautiful people talking about how they use metal straws to save the sea turtles. We need more people who are willing to do the work. This show isn’t doing anything to help anyone and I, for one, will not be watching.

— Harper Hunt | September 16, 2021|

The Widened Gyre

From the ET Forum …

Yesterday, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I read and heard several mainstream references to “the Widening Gyre”. It makes sense that yesterday would spur that sort of narrative connection, as the juxtaposition of the political images and texts from then and now is breathtaking. It’s amazing (and obvious), how polarized we’ve become over the past two decades.

But at this point – where the Widening Gyre is not happening but has already occurred – I think what we’re seeing is the Widened Gyre, where everything is autotuned to the poles of the gyre, including references to the Widening Gyre itself!

Case in point, on Twitter I am now routinely criticized for “contributing” to the Widening Gyre if I don’t engage in perfunctory political whataboutism on any topic that has a political dimension … which is to say ALL topics.

What is the Widened Gyre?

Yesterday, the most recent former president of the United States gave a paid speech to Moonies and then made a paid appearance at a sham boxing match where 58-year-old Evander Holyfield was knocked out in 90 seconds.

On 9/11.

And it will change no one’s politically polarized views. Not his supporters. Not his detractors. No one.

The Widened Gyre is a VERY stable equilibrium.

— Ben Hunt | September 12, 2021|