What should I ask Balaji Srinivasan?

I will be doing a Conversation with him, no associated public event.  Here is his home page, here is his bio:

Balaji S. Srinivasan is the CEO of Earn.com and a Board Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Prior to taking the CEO role at Earn.com, Dr. Srinivasan was a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Before joining a16z, he was the cofounder and CTO of Founders Fund-backed Counsyl, where he won the Wall Street Journal Innovation Award for Medicine and was named to the MIT TR35.

Dr. Srinivasan holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University. He also teaches the occasional class at Stanford, including an online MOOC in 2013 which reached 250,000+ students worldwide.

His latest Medium essay was on ICOs and tokens.  I thank you all in advance for your wise counsel.


1. He gave a famous talk in 2013, Silicon Valley's Ultimate Exit. If he had to give the same talk today, what would he keep the same and what would he change?
2. What are the biggest opportunities for regulatory arbitrage today, crypto, medical tech, drones? And what constraints have prevented greater regulatory arbitrage?

Part 1 is the exact question I was going to post.

Balaji gave a somewhat related follow-up talk to the 2013 Voice/Exit talk last fall. https://youtu.be/KiLUPvUsdXg

1/ When is the conversation, can you link the podcast when available?
2/ Would Balaji if cryptocurrency projects are doomed due to regulation?
3/ What accomplishment is Balaji most proud of?
4/ What will his legacy be?

He also wrote a famous tweet (now removed). Something along the lines of: “don’t fight taxi regulation, build uber. Don’t fight central banks, build bitcoin, etc. “
But with Uber now banned in multiple cities and European countries it seems that you do have to change regulation/politics if you want to change the world. Is not now the time for voice vs exit?

Ask him about the poet Vikram Seth. He mentioned he hated him once in an interview but didn’t say why.

In the early years of the republic, private currencies and state issued currencies were the predominant currencies. Economic instability was the result. Indeed, one of the major themes at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia was stability, to be achieved by granting the national government exclusivity on such matters as the issuance of currency. Fast forward 229 years and one of the major themes is to go back in time, before the constitutional convention, before the national government had exclusivity for the issuance of currency, when economic instability prevailed. Sure, we have experienced periods of economic instability, but nothing compared to the economic instability before the adoption of the constitution. Question: why does he expect a different result this time?

Private and state currencies were considered junk, people used Mexican silver coins. Congress passed a law in 1857 making it a crime to use foreign money.

If the electric grid goes down, what good is crypto-currency? Better yet, what good is any kind of tech based on the Internet?

"The" electric grid? There's only one electric grid? If the one you're using fails, use a backup source.

How to pronounce his last name.

That wouldn't be his last name. Its his father's name. People native to that part of India (Tamilnadu) have father's name attached. Like the chess champion Anand , whom many think of as Vishy (Vishwanathan) , not realizing that its his father's name.

Is it part of his name? If so, Is it the latter part? If so, it is his last name.

Srinivasan is most likely his father's name.

It is a sanskrit word which means the one in which Sri resides.

Sri can variously mean prosperity, wealth , and / or the female divinity Lakshmi - the consort of the Vishnu

What a bizarre series of posts in response to a very straight forward question.

Seriously, how fucking hard is it to answer "is it part of his name, and if so, is it the latter part?"?

and you ramble on for multiple posts about completely irrelevant crap

To be technically correct the word should be spelt as Shri as it is done in my own name.

Sri without the h is a mistake. Nevertheless it has become a norm.

Srinivasa (the one in whom Sri resides) is also the appellation of one of the most popular Hindu deities in the town of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh, which houses a historic temple on top of a 3000 ft hill. It is one of the few places where we have had continuous worship for atleast some 1000 years.

The God of Tirupathi is a form of Vishnu, and is also known as Srinivasa and Balaji! So both he and his dad have been named after the same deity of Tirupathi.

Tirupathi is the richest temple in the world, and is the most visited holy place on earth, beating Mecca and Vatican.

Transliterating from Telugu , it would be Sri......, never Shri.

Shri is not a Telugu word. It is a Sanskrit word borrowed by other Indian languages. If they choose to spell it as Sri, it is wrong.

There are 3 sibilant letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, one that corresponds to s in English (like the words sammaana, samara), one that corresponds to sh (like Shanmukha), and one that is sort of in-the-middle (Siva, Sankara, SrI). This in-the-middle sibilant is pronounced closer to Sh in North India (which is why use see the word Shivjee for Siva in NI) and closer to S in South India.

So, your method of spelling your name is closer to NI than to SI.

I would disagree with that description. We don't have variants of Sri in Sanskrit depending on region. In Devanagari it is spelt as Shri, be it in Kashmir or Tamil Nadu.

"We don’t have variants of Sri in Sanskrit depending on region..." Right, because languages are spoken exactly the same everywhere and at all time periods. That is why your English sounds so Shakespearean, right?

Tell me, do your family members and friends call you SRIkanth or SHRIkanth? That should give you a clue right there.

They call me "Shrikanth". They are sticklers for pronunciation.

Sanskrit is not just another language like English. It is a time invariant, context free language

What is a "Board Partner"? What do they do, how many are there, how much time is devoted and what is his proudest "Board Partner" accomplishment?

What is the marginal benefit of a 4th degree from Stanford?

He could ask him why Indians like to collect degrees.

Because Indians are the most successful and hard working immigrant class in the world. Our diaspora has dominated every single industry where intellect is the main currency. Average income of Indians in USA is 80,000! More than 70% of Indians in USA have at least 1 college degree.

Why on Earth did he get a degree in chemical engineering? I can understand electrical engineering -- designing circuits is fun. A degree in chemistry would make sense -- for some people designing a synthesis is fun. But chemical engineering? Unless your goal in life is to babysit an oil refinery in Texas or Louisiana, I don't see it.

Now computers are the rage but in India which branch of engineering is the most popular runs in cycles. i remember in mid-70s, Chemical engg was the most popular in the Indian Institutes of Technology. Not sure that Chem engineering cannot be interesting ; one man's meat is another .......

A good question would be how highly educated Indians with multiple degrees seem to do things so incompetently. Is it their highly algorithmic thought processes, their slavish deference to authority, or is it their emphasis on appearing to do productive things over actually doing productive things?

"A good question would be how highly educated Indians with multiple degrees seem to do things so incompetently ...is it their emphasis on appearing to do productive things over actually doing productive things?" Perhaps we Indians know that an ounce of impression outweighs a tonne of performance.And about the Indians' mania for degrees , I am sure a guy like Balaji got the chemical engineering degree for a good reason other than just to add an additional degree in his business card. However it is true that most Indians who accumulate degrees do so not because they want to learn something new but because they think they can impress people with a string of degrees, most of them obtained through what we Indians call correspondence courses. Ask them to go to a good college where education is taken seriously, they will stop talking to you.

The latest mania in India is government officers wanting to get a PhD, not by sweating it out in a university campus but by sitting in the comfort of their government offices. And there are even some unscrupulous professors who are more than willing to write the thesis for those bureaucrats who just want to be addressed as "Dr so-and-so" .

Again I just give up at the india phobia j here.

Indians are the most wealthy ethnic group in US in terms of income. Several large companies in US including google, Pepsi and MS are headed by first generation Indians.

Sure...there are unproductive indians just as there are unproductive people in any other ethnic group. But I dont understand why you would harp on it unless you are blinded by a strong aversion which no doubt exists across the abrahamic world.

You arenot realizing freethinker is Indian.

I have interacted with freethinker for several years here on MR. And I know pretty well he is Indian.

Either audience question from the Matt Levine talk: how has the rise of crypto changed your beliefs around economics and finance? Do you buy the explanation that there are technical reasons (difficult to short, no binary options) why crypto prices are so high?

His company is betting on a transition from ad-funded services towards micropayments . What is unsustainable about our current ad based system? How prevalent does he see this shift happening across the internet?

How can crypto assets in their current non-stable coin form drive this change when late adopters would have to accept a reduced real value of their fiat wealth vis-a-vis early adopters?

Where exactly does the jump from tokens as "Tradeable API keys/Gift cards for use at a specific business" to "Investors should be buying these things" occur when it is explicitly illegal for companies to sell tokens that promise participation in dividends & profits?

In terms of speculation working out, wouldn't the main case for most of these use tokens going up in fundamental value be that the organization that issued the tokens is raising their prices for new buyers?

I'd be interested in what his original plan for 21 was, how and when he decided it wasn't working, and why he chose the earn.com concept instead.

Do you think the term Decentralized has become a catch all term and has lost most of its meaning in the context of the bitcoin network?

What would Balaji do if he were president

The future of identity

How his highschool experiences formed his worldview

Overrated/underrated: Twitter.

Can’t wait!

Favorite hip hop artists / hip hop influence in his life

Balaji is a mix of Marc (macroeconomics) and Ben (hip hop, operator)

What is ethereum or any smart contracts platform never gets to more than few hundred transactions per second? (Currently it’s at 14). There are theoretical limits in computer science to believe this maybe true. What would the use of a smart contracts platform be then? How many useful apps can we then really build?

What if ethereum or any smart contracts platform never gets to more than few hundred transactions per second? (Currently it’s at 14). There are theoretical limits in computer science to believe this maybe true. What would the use of a smart contracts platform be then? How many useful apps can we then really build?

Does 21.co do any due diligence on the coins that are bring air dropped via their platform? There are some questionable projects there.

What are the biggest remaining barriers to exiting geopolitical systems (The Land)?

Steelman bitcoin maximalism, and follow with actual opinion.

Any thoughts on how the extreme energy-intensive costs of bitcoin mining is going to subside?

You have said before that the book, "The Sovereign Individual" is the "Book of Prophecies". What prophecies will we see come to fruition over the next decade?

Who are the 3 most undiscovered/underrated independent thinkers in tech today?

i.e. Peter Thiel and Naval Ravikant are reasonable well known and "rated"; who are the next people like this

Looking forward to this! I'd be curious to hear @balajis
take on whether the "killer app" for bitcoin is UBI.

Also, how does the codebase / style of bitcoin impact the velocity of development and whether an alt. implementation like @bcoin might be a solution.

Ask him if he read this thread to prepare like Chris Blattman did.

What would he have done differently than Scott Gottlieb had he been name head of the FDA.

- What did he learn from 21.co's initial play in crypto? Did he underestimate transaction costs? The difficulty of adoption of a hardware device?

- Counsyl focuses on genetic screening for rare defects at a critical moment in life, which is exactly where you'd expect the first gene therapy breakthroughs to come (fixing one known defect with big downsides versus attempting to improving complex positive traits with unanticipated consequences). What's his take on the promises of gene therapy? How far ahead are the Chinese?

You like to talk about how telepresence can make national borders irrelevant. Perhaps it can also solve the excessive cost of living in certain wealthy and exclusive areas like Silicon Valley. But the "death of distance" we were promised in the 1990s does not seem to be coming yet. What are the fundamental barriers that today are preventing telepresence from achieving its full potential, and what technologies or policies do you recommend to overcome those barriers?

PS I did your MOOC in 2013 and it was incredible. Thank you.

Should he forget about digital currencies and focus on solid-state batteries?

Are there any alternative uses for my box full of Soylent?

1. Did his parents force him to marry someone?
2. What's with the head wiggles?
3. I've never met a non-charming Indian. Why the fuck is that? IT's downright wierd.

Most marriages in india are based on the consent of.the individuals atleast in urban India.

Arranged marriage merely means parents identify prospective partners. They seldom force you to marry the person.

Do you think Silicion Valley is in decline? The future of technology companies will be decentralized or Silicon Valley will continue to stand out?

Do you think Silicon Valley is in decline? Peter Thiel went to LA. Many people are going to the Midwest as it is very expensive to stay in SV. Will the future of technology companies continue to be in the Silicon Valley?

LOL all those thought pieces on how SF is getting too groupthinky are valid, but no one will leave and move to the boring ass midwest.

LA is awesome. Thiel made an excellent decision to move there.

Don't spring any of these questions on him, without a little advance consideration, but this is what I would ask - (letting him know the questions ahead of time - we are friends here):

Does he know who Yvor Winters is, and why someone would ask that?

What is his favorite movie filmed nearest Stanford?

Why is it that, 15 years after it would be cheap to do so, fans of black and white movies have so little access to color paintings of scenes of those movies (for comparative purposes, let me point out that I spent a few hundred dollars in the early 2010s buying art books that had fairly decent coverage of the landscape in the background windows of the Last Supper of Leonardo - in 2018 I found a web site where someone tried his best to show what those landscapes would have looked like before the colors of the fresco deteriorated - look, Stanford and Harvard and Yale have a few extra hundred gazillions of dollars floating around, why can't simple things like color paintings of key scenes in black and white movies and recreations of what lost paintings of supreme genius looked like be available more easily - why? is it laziness, is it lack of any basic human concern, or is all of that more difficult - at a more difficult than a gazillion dollars level - than I thought?

Has he visited Sunol Park, half an hour south of Livermore, in some weird hills that look like a French version of what the West of American Dreams looked like in the best movies of the 50s (I remember), or Main Street in Pleasanton on a celebratory day, or the Wente vineyards when the sun is high in the sky and the soil absolutely reeks of the flavors of unforgettably good wine? If he hasn't, is there a specific reason why not, or is it just that nobody has suggested to him that there are people in the world who cannot believe that anyone could live in Stanford for long and not visit Sunol, Pleasanton, and the Wente Vineyards?

Why do you support Tezos over decred creaetd by the btcd developers?

If you can't think of anything, always try the old standby, "boxers or briefs?"

The future of Silicon Valley. Will the network effects and other positives override the negatives of high prices and political culture driving out innovation? (As people like Peter Thiel, Tim Ferris and Sam Altman have commented on).

He also founded Teleport to encourage competition between cities. What does he think of the fragmentation of states, and how far will it go. Will future countries appear on the internet?

What is the most interesting areas of technology or societal movements today that most people aren't aware of?

How long will it be before Indians boast that they invented cryptocurrency? Do you want an increase in H-1B visas to fill new crypto positions, clearly jobs that Americans won’t do?

"How long will it be before Indians boast that they invented cryptocurrency?" Also ask Balaji what he thinks of the claim made by some influential guys in India that the ancient Hindus Invented aeroplanes thousands of years before the west reinvented them

The degree of self hate I see here is nauseating.

If anything Indian accomplishments in math, astronomy and medicine are underrated in the west. Not overrated.

Instead of projecting the accomplishments positively you have guys here constantly engaging in self deprecation by lampooning some crazy voices who are not taken seriously by anyone

You’ve been touring the world regularly — what do Americans least understand and/or over react (plus or minus) on China, Africa in particular Nigeria and Brazil?

1) Judging by his name, he is a South Indian. As a South Indian what is his take on the view that a) Hindi should be the only official language of India ( most South Indians prefer English over Hindi as the official language; the present central government is accused by them of imposing Hindi); and b) that the South Indian states would be more prosperous if they got together and formed a "Dravida Nadu". He will understand what that means!

2) Does he think India would be better off if Trump packs off the likes of him back to where they came from? Will they be able to contribute to India's development or will the policy and social environments make them utterly miserable?

3) what makes American universities a cut above the rest?

4) Does he agree with an Indian origin American politician that Indians who are US citizens should drop "hyphenated" phrases like Indian-American or African-American and instead just call themselves "Americans"?

The dravida nadu idea is not taken seriously by anyone in south India.

Indian nationalism is stronger than ever before across southern India. Though you may be disappointed with that.

"Will they be able to contribute to India’s development or will the policy and social environments make them utterly miserable? "

The country is growing at 7%. So it is doing alright as is without these "wonderful" people.

"As a South Indian what is his take on the view that a) Hindi should be the only official language of India ( most South Indians prefer English over Hindi as the official language; the present central government is accused by them of imposing Hindi)"

Nobody has ever made that assertion in the present government. South India has its own language chauvinisms, where English and Hindi are downplayed by the regional language aficionados. I don't understand why you want to selectively disparage Hindi chauvinism. I say all this as a native Tamil speaker.

And the fact is that the working class South Indian can speak better Hindi than English. You can choose to deny that. But it is a fact.

First, I am keen to know Balaji's views on these issues. Who knows. he may have a take on them which will surprise us. I am averse to all language ( including Sanskrit ) fanaticism. Incidentally for personal reasons English is the language of my extended family here in India and it has been so even from the time of my grand parents

Also , I said " I am sure a guy like Balaji got the chemical engineering degree for a good reason other than just to add an additional degree in his business card". I was referring not to Indians in the US but to the mania for degrees here in India, most recently for PhDs among civil servants. I don't live on the abrahamic world but in a "brhamanical" one. I had a good chance to become a US citizen and decided to stay put in India for which I am branded an idiot by Indians who want to live in US but hypocritically run down western culture they are benefitting from. And I don't expect an intelligent person like you to make personal attacks without checking the facts like some people, especially the left-liberals and dalits, do when discussing reservation policy in India.

Freethinker - Where have I launched a personal attack? I wouldn't dream of doing it. We have had sane discussions with genuine differences on this forum for a few years now. You should know me better.

In my previous comment the "you" was a rhetorical you and not you per se.

I got it. I was just surprised when in your reply to me you referred to the people who live in the "abrahamic world" and thought you had me in mind. But you are right: We have had sane discussions with genuine differences on this forum for a few years now.

Ask him his biggest lessson learned from earn.com.

They raised huge amounts of money and are now looking reportedly selling to Coinbase for a fraction of their prior funding valuation.

What went wrong and what has he learnt from the experience ?


What can you share with us about the experience of running one of the first crypto related startups?

Has he read Camus' The Rebel and what does he make of the thesis of metaphysical rebellion?

Given his keen observations on and sharing of Hirschman's most famous book, Exit, Voice & Loyalty:
- Is he familiar with the Rhetoric of Reaction? How does he think about the moderate message that both reactionary and progressive narratives can be dangerous to society?
- Is the Herfindahl–Hirschman Index a good measure of market concentration? Is it being gamed to get around the FTC/DOJ? How can one realistically opt out of Google, Amazon et. al? Is Tiebout migration even possible with supranational corporations?

Will the threat posed by hackers undo the protection offered by distributed financial, security and legal systems enabled by technology? In equilibrium, which is safer, bitcoin or a third party bank backed by the power (violence) of the state?

What radical options to opt out are not being taken? Which institutions do people not even realize they are opting into?

How important are the Voice actors? What, if anything, can they do to increase their power or are they at the mercy of those willing to Exit?

What is his reaction to Taleb's idea that "the most intolerant wins" (https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dictatorship-of-the-small-minority-3f1f83ce4e15). What does he think is the tipping point for various groups (social networks, financial networks, languages) 1%, 5%, 10%? What are some other things that follow minority rule?

Expand on Rwanda? He briefly mentioned it in his 2013 speech on Exit vs Voice.

Tiebout Sorting- Overrated/Underrated?

In your talks*, you (Balaji) advocate a digital nomad approach in order to extend financial runway for incubating ventures.

The Digital Nomads niche is a foil to the Complacent class. Was I (Tyler) mistaken for omitting them in my analysis?

*The Network State- Balaji Srinivasan (on YouTube)

If Balaji could only invest in two things (available to retail investors) for the next 10 years, what would it be?

Where do you think Tesla is in 5 years?

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