YOLO, Crypto, WTF — Apropos of Nothing

Here’s an issue of Apropos of Nothing, my occasional newsletter on product and innovation. Sign up!

Hey friends!

This issue is apropos of money, wealth, art, and (dun dun dun!) the future. This issue also features more acronyms than any previous edition! Enjoy…

Can I SPAC My Stonks With NFTs?

That’s the arresting, nonsensical (or is it?) headline on the cover of New York magazine this week. Seeing it on the coffee table (yes, in print!), Leo, my nearly nine year old, asked me to explain it to him. Me: Uhhhhhhhhh….

Truth be told, though, I think I did a perfectly cromulent job of explaining it, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The articles in the issue are excellent (and should be interesting to you even if, unlike me, you’re not working as part of the innovation engine of a big bank). Scott Galloway’s predictions of how luxury brands and top tier universities will take advantage of NFT’s are dystopian, but probably not wrong, e.g. you may someday be able to buy an NFT to guarantee your kids admission to Stanford or to have exclusive access to newest / best stuff from Chanel. But the core of the piece centers on his theory that young people have nothing to lose right now. That today’s 30-year olds are not doing as well as their parents were at 30 and they see the deck irreparably stacked against them, so…

Hence, stonks, Doge, NFT’s, etc…

YOLO ZIRP SWAG

Felix Salmon wrote along similar themes in his excellent piece GME, Doge, Supreme: How Getting Rich Went Full Internet. While simultaneously invoking the philosophy of Richard Rorty, Salmon explains that three acronyms are driving the “irrational” investing behavior: YOLO (you only live once); ZIRP (zero interest rate policy), and SWAG (silver, wine, art, gold). Basically, because with interest rates near zero (ZIRP), it’s no longer really possible to, as Warren Buffet advises, “get rich slowly”, you might as well as put your money in weird stuff like cat-GIF NFT’s and other non-income producing assets (SWAG), because, fuck it, YOLO!

An image from Beeplegenerator.com which creates images that kinda match Beeple’s aesthetic.

Not The Hill I’m Going to Die On

NFT! Are you sick of reading about them? Me too! But, as my former colleague at WNYC, Jody Avirgan, tweeted (paraphrasing): this is not going to be the thing that I can’t understand that makes me… old. So, I’ve read a lot about them. Kara Swisher’s interview with Beeple, a.k.a. Mike Winkelmann, helped me understand why someone might want to pay millions to own a JPG file that can be easily reproduced. He likens owning the original file to owning the “master” copy of a Beatles album. You can buy a record or mp3 of Abbey Road but that doesn’t mean you own it. So, essentially, you’re buying bragging rights. Nah nah nah boo boo I own the Beeple! Not so different, I guess, from owning an original Picasso vs. a really impressive forgery of one (both will look pretty and be made from near identical materials; just one was touched by Pablo’s hand and one wasn’t). There’s lots of interesting stuff in the interview on the future of art, wealth, and crypto. Winkelmann is also adamant that he is not a crypto bro; he makes fun of the bros throughout the interview. Good deal: take $69M from the bros and then make fun of them. LOL.

+ Listening to Beeple is like skiing a bunny hill, compared to this interview with investor (crypto bro?) Chris Dixon, which felt more like skiing extreme, you-fall-you-die terrain. (Yes, I am already lamenting the end of ski season.) Approachable and understandable at times, and leaving me slackjawed and lost at others, this interview on the Invest Like the Best podcast helped me see the weird, wonderful, and weird (did I mention weird?) future that the blockchain may bring us to. The conversation around “smart contracts” and DeFi (decentralized finance) was especially illuminating as I seek to understand the space.

Apropos of Nothing

Have we settled on a name for the day that falls 2 weeks after your final vaccination shot? This day needs branding. Celebrating on the day you get your final shot is great (and there is actually a visual to share), but it’s premature. Ideas on a name? Please share. You can reply to this email.

I hope you are all doing… IDK… well… or as well as can be these days. I am all vaxxed up and ready to get coffee (IRL!) if you are…

Until next time,

Dan Blumberg

Sign up for Apropos of Nothing to get occasional thoughts on product and innovation delivered to your inbox.

You can also follow me on Twitter.

Product leader. I’ve shipped products that you know and love at LinkedIn, The New York Times, WNYC, and startups.