This Year’s Best Bits: Seven 2020 Reads:

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Dear Friends-

Here is the 15th annual Year’s Best Bits. Although 2020 was a year of all-caps NEWS, I have tried to avoid more ephemeral content.

As usual, I close with some new discoveries and sources that I hope will add nutrition to your information diet.

Happy and healthy holidays,

Tom

1. Aeon: Concentrate!

Why read: Over the last few years I’ve come to believe judicious use of attention is at the root of meaningful human experience. It’s our most valuable resource, and now one of the most threatened. This is a wonderful article by a chess grandmaster about the power of concentration in life and decision-making. It’s a critical skill in an increasingly complex world.

2. Media guru Matthew Ball’s most popular article of 2020: 7 Reasons Why Video Gaming Will Take Over.

Why read: The attention economy is the biggest trend in megacap tech & therefore markets. Video games are perpetually at the vanguard. As a companion read, Ball’s article on the Metaverse discusses perhaps the defining tech evolution of the next decade: The Third Platform.

3. Noema: China’s Radical New Vision Of Globalization.

Why read: This was one of internet-cheat-code The Browser’s 2020 recommendations. The article introduced me to the ‘deeply pessimistic’ Chinese strategy of dual circulation.

4. The Markets: Central Banks Have Become Irrelevant.

Why read: Scottish market strategist Russell Napier has made an interesting point. After more than two decades of calling for deflation, he has now shifted to anticipating inflation. The reasoning is more interesting than the forecast; control of the money supply has moved from central banks to governments. Politicians can create broad money through the banking system, and they have control of the ‘magic money tree’.

5. Alex Williams: Balanced Sheets.

Why read: Great explanation of the sometimes counterintuitive link between global trade and inequality as described in Michael Pettis & Matthew Klein’s book Trade Wars Are Class Wars.

6. Morgan Housel: 100 Little Ideas.

Why read: Honestly I could pick any of his articles. His book Psychology of Money was also one of the best reads of the year. He specialises in awareness-building non-ephemeral content. This was a great summary of 100 key concepts and ideas.

7. The Pull Request: Prophet of the Revolt (thanks to AB for the flag).

Why read: Transcript of a compelling email interview with former CIA analyst Martin Gurri. Gurri was well ahead of the mainstream in seeing the impact of the information tsunami on the fabric of society.

Fun Finds of 2020:

Colossus. I just can’t believe this is free. O’Shaughnessy Asset Management’s podcast Invest Like the Best has done something like 2 interviews a week for the last 4 years. Their guests have been some of the world’s most interesting business, tech and finance people around. They have now archived the entire catalogue with audio links and transcripts. I am going to be digging into this one for years.

Macro Ops. A wonderful collection of articles on trading greats and conceptual investing approaches. As with Colossus, I simply cannot understand how most of this content is free.

Rebel Wisdom. A defiantly non-mainstream podcast source that focuses on cultural meta-debates. Often variable in quality, but almost always provocative. We all need to broaden our information diet, and this is a stimulating way to do it.

Brain Pickings. I didn’t discover this site in 2020, but this was the year I really started to read it regularly. Maria Popova may be one of the most remarkable people alive! She has indexed all the greatest thoughts and thinkers and cross-referenced them to all the other relevant thinkers. It’s bonkers.

Slow.co. A 2020 palate cleanser. I’ve become more spiritually inclined in my middle years and this is a wonderful resource. Founder Kyle Kowalski summarises ‘big idea’ books really succinctly. He’s a great Twitter follow too.

Podcast of the year: Stuck inside without a commute I didn’t listen to as many as in previous years. But the clear standout was Hugh Jackman with Tim Ferriss. Wholesome, holistic and heartwarming. Rory Sutherland on Infinite Loops was another good one (thanks to TP for the flag). Jerry Seinfeld with Ferriss appears to be the consensus choice on Twitter, and it is indeed great.

Happy and healthy 2021 to you all!

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