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A Summary of

Discourses on Big Tech

Byrne Hobart
The Diff
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Machiavellian views on business…

  • Many people read Machiavelli for its insights on how to climb “The Corporate Ladder”
  • Machiavelli’s The Prince is “…a selfish person’s guide to achieving maximum power”
  • But his later work, Discourses on Livy, is “…a selfish person’s guide to creating sustainable institutions…”
  • What exactly did Machiavelli believe? It’s very controversial.
  • Are his writings relevant?
  • We have been looking at them since 1510 and the interest of so many scholars can’t be misguided
  • Also, he wrote about many major world empires so the works probably have relevance today
  • It’s wise to learn from history. Otherwise you are at risk of repeating the past
  • Machiavelli followed power, which meant getting into government
  • Today, that means “learn[ing] to code”.

Machiavelli on startups…

  • Modernizing his writings, there is a major question: is it better to start off with a thriving company or one that will struggle to make it?
  • In other words, is it better to be Google (no doubt it will be profitable) or Amazon (was predicted to tank in 2000’s)
  • Machiavelli concludes it’s better to start off thriving, but with an attitude geared towards offense (always be looking to solve inside issues – which can be erosive if not controlled).

Machiavelli on company culture…

  • “…culture starts at the top”
  • All company rules should be those the CEO would also follow
  • Bigger companies are less open to conspiracies (or takeovers)
  • Some bad employees that have high power and influence can “get away with things that would otherwise get them fired”
  • Often companies with successful founders are “surprisingly fragile internally”

Machiavelli on “founders and succession problems”…

  • Succession is important to an institute (reference “Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great”)
  • But Founder/CEO turnover is sometimes inevitable. So what do you do?
  • Machiavelli’s advice is “ambiguous” although he admits the importance of a having someone strong in charge during crisis.
  • Regardless, with founder/CEO turnover, the ensuing struggle can make the company stronger (like Rome after the invasion by the Veientes)

Machiavelli on a company’s “end state”…

  • Machiavelli basically founded realism
  • This is summarized as having good systems for picking and “incentivizing” the right leaders
  • His advice for cities is once survival has been secured, one should be concerned with “maximizing human flourishing”
  • So, once a big tech company has won a market, their goal should be fighting to deserve their “quasi-monopolies”.


  • The percentage of workers in unions with inflation provisions has decreased by 38% between 1976 and 1995.
  • Without this automatic adjustment, inflation will hit wages a lot differently in this cycle
  • Coal companies are currently experiencing a growth in profits due to “short-term energy demand”.
  • Even though these profits are “transient” it’s still good for the worth of the company.
  • Startups are finding ways to offer loans to people who own cars (have collateral, but perhaps bad credit for other loan types).
  • “Apple is working on adding more car controls to CarPlay”
  • The car business is increasingly becoming a “data business” in which Apple (with “tightly integrate[d]..products”) has the advantage
  • It was a “…great first week with Diff Jobs”
  • A contact form is available to get reviewed and see where is your best fit
  • New roles/companies are being added (in case the current list available is not in your wheelhouse)
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