As I have been reading about the social history of the world (how and why various groups come together), I have become more and more interested in cultural landscapes and trends. 

I have been thinking about the idea that “social stigmas distort markets and create opportunities for truth-seekers.” What I mean by that is that cultural fads and tastes and preferences often misalign incentives and occlude talent from innovating in certain spaces. Culture dictates what is cool versus what is not. Culture evolves in certain contexts, among certain groups based on socio/political/ethnic/etc. demographics. 

People make decisions based off of what is cool to work on, and thus, there is an arbitrage opportunity whenever “culture’s cool” is misaligned with the “problems that need fixing.”

Perhaps it is cool, now, to work at Google.

It is not cool, perhaps even forbidden, to work on national defense.

Is “Searching for information and selling ads” soooo much more noble than defending a country?

You’d imagine that stigmas exist for sound reasons. And sometimes they do. But I find that often they exist for “convenience sake.” People do not enjoy casually talking about complex, politically-charged things. 

That is an opportunity. 

Working on “unsexy things” (that you believe in) provides long term returns because, on an infinite time horizon, the truth becomes apparent and “unsexy” becomes “sexy.” If you spot “unsexy turning sexy” before the crowd, then you are likely on to something. Stigmas and religion and culture distort people’s view of the truth and what is important. The crowd goes with culture. And culture often leaves out opportunity when it is not appealing for the masses. 


Also published on Medium.