They will make you smarter

“I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.” – Steve Jobs

I came up with the name ‘Curated Intelligence’, because I love learning, and most of the ‘intelligence’, comes from the outside world – it’s in other people’s minds, and love to read and listen to what they say.

So here, just want to share names of some of the people which help me learn regularly. They have worked to earn influence in their fields and knowing their ideas and their mental models gives us an edge.

Here they are, in no particular order:

People from technology and venture capital

Fred Wilson

A Venture Capitalist since 1987, he has seen the variations of the market up close, from the internet boom, to social media, and blockchain. He writes daily on AVC, and has been writing there daily for more than 15 years. As he mentions in this post from 2011,

Then, at age 42, I started blogging. And I’ve been writing daily ever since. Something like 5,600 blog posts have been entered into my Typepad CMS.

He talks about why he writes in this post from 2017.

But I do believe that writing regularly makes it so much easier to speak publicly in unscripted situations.

Writing forces you to work out your views and articulate them clearly and concisely.

Then when you are asked a question related to those views, you have already worked out the answer.

It is in the brain, waiting there to come out crisply and concisely.

I’ve been writing daily for going on fourteen years so that is a huge body of work, opinion, thought, and insight to be able to pull from.

You can subscribe to his blog and get daily updates. I do. But I don’t do this because of his writing. He gets you good ideas. He understood the potential of blockchain before others and invested in Coinbase. He is an old hand, and can look into the future better than most. I also discovered Carlota Perez through one of his posts.

And reading this updates daily a great window into the daily workings of an extremely well-informed and prescient mind. It will make you smarter.

I personally like him because of his humble, human style.

Benedict Evans

He works as a partner at the fabled Andreessen Horowitz. I read his tweets regularly and most of the times he presents an unbiased and data-driven perspective. Last year when everyone seemed to go crazy about Bitcoin – loving it or hating it, he had a cool head. Similarly, while everyone seems to be sharply divided on Tesla, he presents a reasoned and in-depth analysis.

Reading his blog will give you strong mental models for thinking about the future of technology. And his newsletter will keep you up to date the the current trends.

He is not funny or a warm personality, but the man knows his data.

Peter Thiel

I have mentioned him multiple times on Curated Intelligence. I enjoyed his book ‘Zero to One’ and I keep thinking about his quite difficult questions:

  • What is the important company no-one is building?
  • What truth do very few people in the world agree with you on?

He is controversial, but he also offers perspectives and provocative, thoughtful quotes which make you go ‘damn!’. I might have seen most of the talks he has on YouTube.

He also led me to the somewhat dangerous ideas of Rene Girard, which I am still chewing on, and almost feeling ignorant about my knowledge of humanity.

I have done it before, and I again recommend his splendid talk – ‘You are not a lottery ticket.’


He is secretive and it’s hard to form an opinion about him as a person. He is very controversial for multiple things – and I do not agree with them, but his ideas and thought process have no parallel. I think he is probably the greatest ‘big ideas’ thinker alive (tied with Nassim Taleb and Yuval Harari).

Chamath Pahilapithiya

I came to Chamath late. He is the classic immigrant in the USA, with a hard childhood and subsequent success and wealth. But then I watched one of his talks at Stanford and came to learn many interesting ways to think.

I looked at more videos and a podcast, he is quite original and a no-holds barred type of person, and he seems to be working on the right problems. He is fun to watch.

Comments on the above video of Chamath – I agree on a few of them.

Sometimes he seems a bit out of control but that only makes him human, and frequently quite funny. His ego can turn some people off, but I don’t mind it.

People from Product Design

Bret Victor

I am surprised I only discovered his work this year ! This man has a goldmine of ideas on interaction design. He seems to be the perfect blend of logical and creative thinking, while being a fount of knowledge. The following video is his genius in full display:

If I could recommend one video to you in this article, this would be it. Seriously. It will blow your mind.

And if I have still not sold him enough, here is a small piece of his bio:

Apple.Establishing member of the “HID Proto” future-interface prototyping team, designing UI concepts for experimental hardware platforms.

Initiated, designed, and prototyped over seventy concept projects, including radically reinvented interfaces for video editing, animation, drawing, learning, collaboration, mail, photos, and much more. Invented features for Mac OS and iOS. Worked with designers and engineers from all parts of Apple. Routinely presented to top-level management.

Even if you are not into product design, his work is worth checking out. We all process information, and he talks about how we can use today’s tools to make sense of it.

He comes across as someone who really, really cares about what he does, someone living a purposeful life. He is currently working at an initiative to help children learn better.

Luke Wroblewski

The designer who sold startups to Google and Twitter. His videos are informative, but I like how his twitter and LinkedIn timelines brim with well-crafted insights on how little things in Product Design influence big things in business, like this:

He seems to be a designer who thinks like a marketer, or the reverse. Source

He has invented design concepts like Skeleton Screens (which are now used across Google products, Facebook, and LinkedIn), and popularized design mottos like ‘Mobile First‘.

It is highly likely that you interacted with some idea today, which he has designed. In other words, his ideas have (probably) influenced at least one digital product you touched today.

As a person, he seems generic and very analytical. More of a researcher of  trends in mobile patterns than a designer. But man you can learn from him.

BJ Fogg

I mentioned his model of behavior a few days back and observed how this could explain how the Netherlands is so clean. I feel kind of stupid that I had kind of ignored that model in the smug thought that ‘all models are useless’ (reading too much of Nassim Taleb’s work can make you arrogant). But someone re-introduced it to me recently and since then, I am in thrall of his model.

I have applied it to other people, and it worked, and I just started an experiment to apply it to myself, and the early results look solid. No wonder his ideas are considered dangerous. From this article:

Fogg’s Atlanta talk provoked strong responses from his audience, falling into two groups: either “This is dangerous. It’s like giving people the tools to construct an atomic bomb”; or “This is amazing. It could be worth billions of dollars.”

Yeah, someone just compared a model of behavior to an atomic bomb. And they might not have been exaggerating. Lot of thinking about making products addictive, comes from Fogg or his students like Nir Eyal.

In 2006, two students in Fogg’s class collaborated on a project called Send the Sunshine. Their insight was that one day mobile phones (this was the pre-smartphone era) would be used to send emotions: if your friend was in a place where the weather wasn’t good and you were standing in sunshine, your phone could prompt you to take a picture and send it to them to cheer them up. One of the two students, Mike Krieger, went on to co-found Instagram, where over 400m users now share sunrises, sunsets and selfies.

One of his informative talks – Why tiny habits give big results.

As a person, he comes across and nice, funny, and genial, it sorts of masks how powerful the ideas are.

These are just a few people from whom I enjoy learning, some more I might cover in a later post: Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Clayton Christensen, Yuval Harari, Roberto Verganti, Austin Kleon, Michael Nielsen, Naval Ravikant, Robert Sapolsky, Auren Hoffman.

2 thoughts on “They will make you smarter

  1. Pingback: Bullish on crypto – Curated Intelligence

  2. Pingback: Bret Victor’s Bookshelf – Curated Intelligence

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