Fundamentals: Why Blog?

‘Fundamentals’ is a series of posts laying out my priors and motivations.

Why blog?  Especially if you see my readership numbers, this is a pertinent question…

In order to get at this question, it’s necessary that I lay out some first principles.  My basic framework for operating revolves around a hierarchical structure, descending from fundamental goals.  Fundamental goals are when I can’t ask “But really, why do I want to do this thing?” anymore, and the answer is, “Because this thing seems fundamentally/existentially necessary for me to do, and serves no other end.”  Among a very small handful, one of those is “Improve as many people’s lives as possible, as much as possible, with distributional concerns in mind.”

In other posts, I’ll lay out why that’s a fundamental goal of mine in the first place (short version: Rawls).  Directly below that item, we have “Positively influence the rate and direction of innovative activity.”  Again, the reason behind that will be covered in another post (short version: Mokyr).

In service of this, I intend to pursue two avenues: learn what should be done, and put myself in a position to do it.

To that end, blogging serves several purposes simultaneously.  First and foremost, it acts as a prod for myself to keep reading, keep refining my ideas, and sharpen those ideas by putting them down on the page.  I can seed ideas here, and develop them more fully in other forums.  These purposes are served even if I have literally zero readership, and it is roughly equal to an online diary…

Second, it lends me some credibility.  In the short run: I can say that “my primary intellectual and career focus is innovation” all I want, but without something tangible to show, it’s hard (at this early stage) to provide a credible signal that I’m not just bullshitting.  The blog is a small token to that effect.  In the long run: the effect grows, maybe linearly, the longer I keep up the blog and keep up the writing.

Third, to the extent that anyone reads the damn thing ever, it’s useful in a couple of ways.  Primarily, as I took away from my time working at the Kauffman Foundation, it’s critical to expose your ideas (especially your favorite ones) to public criticism and scrutiny.  No one is always right, me especially so, and hearing critiques from others frequently corrects my course in invaluable/indispensable ways.  Secondarily, it provides a substantive but informal way to interact with other people thinking about these issues, even if we never (or long before we) meet.  Tweeting at someone is one step, pointing them toward a post responding to their work is another.

Finally, and this is probably a fever dream, but I am hoping that in the long-run we can foster some kind of community writing about innovation issues, with all of the above-mentioned benefits multiplying for everyone.  People do so now, but they do not really engage with each other.  Hopefully I can help start to link folks up, both through my own writing, and/or posting link roundups as a sort of hub.  Who knows.


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