Balaji Srinivasan — Centralized China vs Decentralized World, The DeFi Matrix, Ascending vs Descending Trends, Bitcoin Mining as Energy Storage, Reputational Civil War, and Maximalism vs. Optimalism (#547)

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“The monopoly of truth is upstream of the monopoly of violence.”

— Balaji Srinivasan

Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis) is an angel investor and entrepreneur. Formerly the CTO of Coinbase and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, he was also the co-founder of (acquired by Coinbase), Counsyl (acquired by Myriad), Teleport (acquired by Topia), and Coin Center.

He was named to the MIT Technology Review’s “Innovators Under 35,” won a Wall Street Journal Innovation Award, and holds a BS/MS/PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering, all from Stanford University. Balaji also teaches the occasional class at Stanford, including an online MOOC in 2013, which reached 250,000+ students worldwide.

To learn more about Balaji’s most recent project, sign up at, a newsletter that pays you. They’re giving out BTC each day for completing tasks and tutorials. Subscribers also receive chapters from Balaji’s free book, The Network State.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#547: Balaji Srinivasan on Bitcoin, The Great Awokening, Wolf Warrior Diplomacy, Open-Source Ecology, Reputational Civil War, Creating New Cities, and Options for Becoming a Sane but Sovereign Individual

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


If this powerhouse episode leaves you thirsting for more, make sure to check out my first conversation with Balaji, in which we discussed the significance of 1729 as a “not boring” number, decentralizing the state of media, achieving financial independence, why “Balaji was right” might be the most terrifying phrase in the English language, a digital native solution to education that qualifies students to work as they go, the power of micro incentives, shifting establishment dynamics, life-extension and transhumanism, woke capital vs. communist capital vs. crypto capital, what a convince-oriented “crypto” government versus a coercion-focused fiat government might look like, the consequences governments trying to ban crypto face, and much (much!) more!

#506: Balaji Srinivasan on The Future of Bitcoin and Ethereum, How to Become Noncancelable, the Path to Personal Freedom and Wealth in a New World, the Changing Landscape of Warfare, and More
  • Connect with Balaji Srinivasan:

Website | Twitter |


  • Why Balaji believes the combination of administrations over the last three decades has blown the biggest lead in human history — and what this illustrates about the decline of state capacity. [07:22]
  • “Asia isn’t really the future, it’s present.”: The forces that guide Balaji’s current worldview, including a comparison of GDP in the East vs. the West over the past 40 years. [12:01]
  • Thoughts on China’s 2021 challenges to the cryptocurrency status quo. [15:24]
  • The Great Awokening, Wolf Warrior diplomacy, and the changing nature of change itself in China. [22:43]
  • “Will the US lose?”: What Balaji foresees as the ripple effects of China’s efforts to solidify its own centralization in a growingly decentralized world, and where India fits into such a world. [32:45]
  • OTC in crypto context and the energy considerations of cryptomining. [43:02]
  • Plausible things Balaji sees happening with crypto in India and the country’s role over the next couple of decades. [49:41]
  • A deeper dive into the woke capital (NYT), communist capital (CCP), and crypto capital (BTC) triangle and how they exercise their power. [51:13]
  • The Russell Conjugation and pondering the meaning of “real” journalism. [1:03:15]
  • Future projections of a Chinese control/American anarchy scenario and what it might look like if the US government tried to seize crypto in order to “protect” the dollar. [1:06:49]
  • Why DeFi (decentralized finance) is able to offer interest rates that make traditional finance laughable, but also how risky it can be. [1:13:07]
  • How cryptocurrency solves the principal-agent problem. [1:15:13]
  • On automation and eliminating human error. [1:21:09]
  • Reluctant sovereignty, the tendency of civilizations to collapse, and other potholes on the road to a utopian decentralized world. [1:29:14]
  • Transhumanism versus anarcho-primitivism and the unbundling and rebundling of society in the Bitcoin Reformation and beyond. [1:41:49]
  • How Balaji sees the counter-decentralization going down differently in China and the US. [1:55:03]
  • What Balaji foresees from the regulatory state’s inevitable collision with crypto. [2:01:26]
  • If Balaji had to live in the United States, what states would be given top consideration, and why? In his estimation, what makes some states more “free” than others? [2:06:33]
  • “Governments aren’t households.” But maybe they can be subscription or inflation models. [2:12:14]
  • What is the DeFi Matrix? [2:27:51]
  • What is NIMBY-YIMBY? [2:34:10]
  • What the current powers that be stand to lose by overregulation. [2:46:15]
  • How a flat coin would work. [2:52:47]
  • Bitcoin: better than gold? [2:55:00]
  • American anarchy, political actors, tensegrity, and San Francisco as a descending world city. [2:57:42]
  • One important lesson learned from COVID: a lot of us don’t have to live where we work anymore — especially if we don’t like it. [3:05:07]
  • The problems with a 51 percent democracy, how the conditions for victory in a modern cold civil war differ from those of 1865. [3:07:24]
  • The coming conflict: centralization versus decentralization. [3:13:13]
  • Has Balaji always said RTed instead of retweeted? [3:20:54]
  • BTC or ETH? [3:21:11]
  • What is the Cantillon Effect? [3:25:26]
  • How do we ensure that the future is governed not by crypto-anarchy, but crypto-civilization? [3:32:49]
  • Where Balaji stands on the idea of secession in a less United States. [3:35:24]
  • Big tech companies in the US on which Balaji is most bullish [3:38:11]
  • On cryptography becoming the new hard truth over once-trusted journalism. [3:40:52]
  • On block explorers as the stealth threat to search. [3:47:16]
  • Why Balaji believes blockchain will make everything more secure in spite of the hacks we’re seeing today. [3:49:28]
  • Social engineering in the anarcho-tyrannical state. [3:53:57]
  • Lawful evil China vs. chaotic evil United States. [3:57:50]
  • On “tech bros” in politics and the unfairness of judicial discretion. [4:00:26]
  • An AUKUS among us and current geopolitical power shifts going on in real-time. [4:04:19]
  • Balaji’s thoughts on angel investing in this part of the 21st century. [4:16:38]
  • The current state of 1729. [4:23:59]
  • Parting thoughts. [4:26:34]


“The monopoly of truth is upstream of the monopoly of violence.”
— Balaji Srinivasan

“Cryptography is hard truth, and corporate journalism has lost control over hard truth.”
— Balaji Srinivasan

“Block explorers are actually the stealth threat to search.”
— Balaji Srinivasan

“Right now we sort of think of companies, currencies, cities, countries, communities as being different things, but they’re all going to become the same thing.”
— Balaji Srinivasan

“The two business models of states in the future will be subscription and inflation.”
— Balaji Srinivasan


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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21 Replies to “Balaji Srinivasan — Centralized China vs Decentralized World, The DeFi Matrix, Ascending vs Descending Trends, Bitcoin Mining as Energy Storage, Reputational Civil War, and Maximalism vs. Optimalism (#547)”

  1. As the first one a super interesting and challenging listen.
    Couple of thoughts: 3:23 it seems like Balaji treats Bitcoin as a “false God” even going back to it’s own mythological origins.
    I can’t reconcile his distributed future from the totalitarian base of the “root” he seems to think it requires: his China or Singapore homerism (not necessarily homerism but discounting mass surveillance/Uygher or cultural destruction). America and it’s leadership is distributed, the rise of states vs federal is further distributed, but we’re to believe freedom/development of a distributed future will be best realized by the root controlled states?
    Crypto civilization as sci fi seems to be the best descriptor: I think about this talk parallel to Disunited Nations by Peter Zeihan. Balaji has no national pride in a place that allowed a construct for his education/wealth, but humans have always been tied to place/proximity/geography/etc. All these things don’t matter in a cryptoverse: so what is left of us as humans/spiritual beings/everything we’ve evolved to be to date?

    1. Good questions.
      When the U.S. dollar (i.e. fiat currency) left the gold standard, it became an abstraction away from the physical realm (i.e. a materially useful thing that must be stored in a place) towards the digital world, where most of our money are just numbers in a database proclaiming who owns it.
      A Bitcoin civilization isn’t a huge leap from that – it’s just decoupled from the fiat part, which is a system of governance based on laws that humans can vote or lobby to change (or appoint new leaders, such as Fed Chairman Powell), where that eligibility is based on some residence status inside physical borders.
      Thus the only thing dissolving or changing in a crypto civilization are the standards for citizenship such that you can shape the rules (or logic) that govern the monetary system.
      In this case, it seems programming knowledge or at least a familiarity with computer algorithms is a basic requirement.

      1. If going from Gold to fiat was a decoupling from the physical reality and going from Fiat to BTC is a decoupling from a false physical reality to a digitized one. Doesn’t any currency still have physical limitations from a resource perspective? In a BCT world we still have to pull physical resources out of the ground and put them into action allocating them to those who need it? From where we are now isn’t Fiat running into major challenges with the resources running out or low? I’ve heard the World economic forum say “in the future you’ll own nothing and be happy about it”. And my thought is who’s version of happy are we talking about? Meaning the only trajectory for Fiat currency to move forward is a form of Totalitarianism. If BTC takes over majority of control doesn’t it still have the same and worsening physical limitations. Making it possibly dead on arrival? We’d just have a new currency but the same totalitarianism outcome?

  2. Hey Tim, would you ever have anyone on that would challenge some of the ideas presented here? There are a lot of smart people out there who have ideas on how to change media who don’t think that the NYT is run by incompetent people who don’t know how to build anything. Or someone who sees the value in crypto understand but also understand the value in Fiat Currency. Finally I know it’s not as much up your ally but maybe a historian focusing on the reasons of the Fall of the Roman Empire who is younger than Gibbons 🙂

  3. This is the first podcast, I haven’t heard one where the discussion has gone almost close towards 5 hrs mark, something incredible. Kudos to the loads of patience of Tim and the overflowing energy of Balaji, so much of subject matter and almost every matter was getting dissected. The depth and diversity of topic, and the relationship between such different subject matter from politics to governace to technology to economy to history to future to investment to startup, you just name it, it was there in the discussion. Deeply insightful and highly intriguing…

    Indeed, there is so much on the aspect of what has happened between US and China, and matters of Asia cannot be discussed by keep India out of picture, the decline of China has to have an equilibrium somewhere else, and it is happening in India. Balaji was so bullish about India, and here are some of the figures to corroborate his analysis.

    India is the top country by listed domestic companies in the world. As of 2020, listed domestic companies in India was 5,215 that accounts for 13.63% of the world’s listed domestic companies. India is the third in the list of countries having the most unicorns, trailing the US (396) and China (277). India had about 50,000 startups; around 8,900 – 9,300 of these are technology-led startups whereas, 1300 new tech startups were born in 2019 alone, implying there are 2-3 tech startups born every day…

  4. Balaji is a
    super unique thinker and I don’t always agree but his ideas are the
    kind of heterodox thinking we need to keep innovative solutions at the
    forefront of people’s minds. His mindset reminds me of how Bret
    Kugelmass talks about nuclear. Would love to see a conversation with
    both of them sometime.

  5. “Never, before, in the course of Ferriss Podcasting, has one man, made me feel so stupid !!!”

    As always just brilliant

  6. I am 77 years old, retired, but read widely. This was an excellent podcast and I am going through the copious show notes with much interest. Thank you so much for providing such viewpoints to those of us who are trying to figure out the world and politics of today. Now more makes sense to me!

  7. Oh, made it (I hang in there) through the 5 hours at Sam Harris’ some time ago.
    This man is no doubt smart and has some ideas, but very tiresome, big ego, doesn’t listen and doesn’t capture the nuances of things. There is a lot more to life.

    1. I listened to both of Tim’s interviews with Balaji. That’s a lot of time and overall I get why people liked listening to him. I did and then I really didn’t.

      I’ll first say that I don’t ever remember listening to a person that could summarize and articulate such a wide variety of topics as well as try to place them in a broader framework from which he could intuit future events. The centralized vs. decentralized paradigm is completely new to me as was many of is classifications. However, about half way through listening he started to hit some topics that (as a mathematician) I knew a far bit about and noticed that his summaries tended to not be quite accurate or that there were some connection we was trying to make (or fancy words he was using like talking about functional analysis and the Navier Stokes equation) that seemed incorrect or maybe just unnecessary.

      After this realization, I started to think that maybe this is how he is with everything. He has a 1 in 100 million ability to retain and access knowledge and make connections. He uses this skill in conversation to completely overwhelm mere mortals (like me) with a constant stream of tangental references to the point were you give up and maybe just stop questioning and take it all in. But, when he gets to something you understand and it’s not quite right! Is the NYT really so bad? Is dictatorship in Singapore really so great (or aspirational)? You can’t throw it all out but it might no be worth the effort (or, indeed, the injury) to wade through this mess.

      I have been a long time fan of Tim, his books, and his podcasts. I realize this was his most downloaded in 2021 and I fear he will take this as a lesson moving forward. In all it was more political than Tim’s podcasts usually are and that was disappointing. It also doesn’t do Tim any favors to platform him. Tim is a man of exceptional skill, poise, and intelligence. But, in the presence of a filibustering, ideologue his usually permissive style is insufficient.

      1. Thank you very much for your contribution @Kevin Beanland. I so much agree with you. I am concerned that people like Balaji get so much airtime and are not challenged more thoroughly. Unfortunately, amongst all the accolades we are the minority.

  8. Wow epic, so many thought provoking topics and resources to explore. Thanks Balaji, Thanks Tim, especially for going to the trouble of documenting all of the resources.

  9. I listened several times to this podcast as well as the one from March. Lots of good thoughts that have changed my perspective on the current state of affairs in the US.

    One thing that came across is that Balaji equates capitalism to free market and indirectly to the decentralization.
    As far as I remember, capitalism is the opposite of decentralization: it is actually accumulation of the capital. Winner takes it all, if you will. Think of the major tech companies mentioned in the podcast.

    As far as markets are concerned, Chinees bureaucracy has been creating and running markets in China close to thousand years. Markets have to be created and maintained, just like crypto market.

    The talk about mythical beginnings of BTC, and disappearance of its creator sounded like pages from a manga book.

  10. Interesting and annoying. A spaghetti code of a conversation. Constant execution of subroutines without returning to the original flow of execution. Definitely some worthwhile concepts. But please, just answer at least one question without descending into more topics with more questions that never really get answered. At least, that’s how it felt to me.

    1. Brilliant guy, for sure. Many epiphanies while listening. Among so many insights, one thing that’s confusing me is Balaji’s assumption that a higher sovereignty (decentralization) of cities and states would create better entities by spurring competition between them for citizens. He compares this to the state of internet-era media, where many subpar journalism outlets die off, leaving only those that provide better value (implied). At the same time, however, he decries that same media — especially in it’s current state, where only those outlets who have outcompeted the others for eyeballs survive — for having a potentially devastating amount of power over the truth, and for manipulating that truth for their own interests (the top interest being gaining more eyeballs, regardless of whether or not what they provide is in the best interest of the owners of those eyeballs). So is he saying that concentration of the most popular ideas (in cities or in media outlets) would create the best possible outcomes or devastating outcomes? He seems to simultaneously argue for both.

  11. Very thought provoking and for sure intimidating listening to…it is also amusing to hear Tim said “No, I don’t know what it means…” so many times. It makes me feel a little better. hahah

  12. Tim I can’t believe you didn’t know NIMBY and YIMBY!:) Great episode though. You’re very patient with a guy who basically wants to give a long speech and hear himself talk. And let’s face it, that’s what Balaji is excellent at and we all actually enjoy it. I do think you’d benefit from some foreign policy immersion classes or something. To be clear, he mentions a ton of things that even someone well rounded in foreign policy wouldn’t necessarily know, but listeners can hear your lack of confidence on the issue and I think you’d enjoy it.

  13. Hahahahahahahaha – Sovereign right to tax….

    Officially, though, India still hasn’t made its mind up about whether cryptocurrencies are even legal.

    “[Whether crypto is] legitimate or illegitimate, it is a different question, but I will tax because it is a sovereign right to tax,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in February.
    While the legality of crypto in India is still a matter of debate….

  14. I really liked the first podcast I heard with Balaji on the show, to the point I went out and researched some of his stuff. But this one was literally the worst Ferris podcast I’ve listened to. Not Tim’s fault – purely Balaji. As another commenter said, incredibly annoying. Didn’t follow Tim’s cues or redirect questions at all – just continued talking about whatever he wanted to talk about for as long as he wanted to talk about it. He should start his own radio show where he can broadcast uninterrupted for 3 hours if that’s what he wants to do (sort of what he did here).