How to get rich with visions
And why there's a better way
On Disney's series That's So Raven, the main character can "see" glimpses of the future at random times during the day, and every episode is dedicated to her avoiding or pursuing what she saw in her "vision", only to realise and conclude that the future can't be changed.
This essay isn't about psychic visions or uncreative Disney shows. At Bright Mirror, we believe that the future can be changed.
More precisely, the future is being changed every day by visionary founders who dare to dream grand ambitions, nurturing contrarian visions of a future that’s far from what most people imagine the future to be.
This essay is about these contrarian's visions about the future, and I believe that it’s possible to be massively rich and successful if you just bet on what these visions are. There also exists a better, more fulfilling, but harder way, which I’ll explain at the end of this essay.
This essay is not your usual “How to get rich” essay. On the contrary, it doesn’t talk about making money at all. But if you truly understand what’s written here, getting rich won’t be a big deal.
Before we begin, let’s talk about visions.
You probably have a mental model about the future, one that is based on your worldview, current circumstances and knowledge about the world.
The more well read you are, the more knowledge you'll have and the better your mental model of the future will be. That is your vision.
Reading history helps a lot in crafting your vision. The more you learn about the past, the more you'll be able to reliably predict how things change and evolve over time periods. History never repeats, but it often rhymes and if you read the verses long enough, you'll be able to see the patterns emerge on the wrinkles of time.
If you're contrarian enough, you'll make predictions that most people don't agree with. Because most people don't, you'll be able to invest, work on, and build things that most people don't see as possible. And you need to be contrarian AND right. It's easy to be contrarian and wrong.
If Mark Zuckerberg believed 50-year-olds cared about the relationship status of their peers, over high schoolers- who do, he would have built a different, and definitely unsuccessful business. If he believed that MySpace will be the dominant social media platform forever, he wouldn't even start Facebook.
If you're not contrarian and your belief about the future aligns with everyone else's, you will face intense competition.
You can try to predict the yourself, and I have written about how to do that in the past.
But if it’s one thing it’s not, it’s that it’s not easy.
If it was easy to do this, everyone would be able to do it. If everything about the future was known, what's there to predict? Everyone would invest in the same companies, fund the same founders, start the right businesses and build the right things.
Trillions of dollars are paid to firms like hedge funds who claim to reliably anticipate the future. It's one of the hardest things to do, since infinitely complex systems like our entire world are very hard to predict.
Add to all this the inevitability of black swan events, events which are, by definition, impossible to predict, and you'd quickly question anyone's sanity who dare to have a contrarian vision of the future.
It’s often easier just to place your bets on what everyone else believes since the markets are fairly wiser than any one person.
But an easier option, and I’d argue the smarter option than going along with the wisdom of the crowds, is to place your bets on the founders with contrarian visions.
Your uncle might believe that smart phones will destroy the minds of the young generation till they're all drooling idiots, but he may not be as right as Sergey Brin of Google predicting that everyone will have access to the world's knowledge at their fingertips.
If you did believe in Sergey's vision of the world in the 90s, you'd probably heavily optimise for that version of the future. Whether that's investing in Google, starting a content management site, being the first company to do search engine optimisation, etc. Most of the paths you'd take just by trusting in Sergey's vision lead to wealth and success - and you didn't need to do your own thinking at all.
You'd be surprised at the number of people who did just this, every early employee & investor at Google being the biggest examples. Joining or backing Google when it wasn’t even the first search engine in the world was a contrarian bet, and it paid off.
I have chosen two founders who have contrarian visions today that have the most likely chance to change our world radically in the next decade. There are many founders I could’ve picked instead of them, who all are doing very important work, but these two are the ones who, if successful, will radically alter our lives.
Elon has always been visionary about the future, and he still works eighty hour weeks to make his visions come true.
It's not just him doing this work. Some of the smartest and most hard working people in the world are out there in the trenches with him, fully trusting his cause, working on the grand visions he has set for the world.
He wants humanity to be a space bearing civilisation, with the near term goal of colonizing Mars. Even if he doesn't succeed in this goal, there are milestones along the way that he'll accomplish just because he's trying, and if he fails to do that in his lifetime, someone else will come along and do what he envisioned.
The valuable businesses of Starlink and sending state satellites to space are just tiny byproducts of his grand vision playing out.
What would you do if you trusted fully that Elon's vision of the future is how it will all play out?
Keep in mind that a significant portion of the world isn't onboard with what he thinks of the future. If that was the case, there would be a bubble of private space companies today. That's not the case, so betting on Elon's vision is still contrarian today.
The lazy, but still potentially lucrative idea is to start a space tourism app and quickly onboard all the current businesses that are working on making space travel a reality in the next five years. Build the next Uber, but for space.
One step above that would be to start a simulation agency, that helps potential travellers prepare for such an excursion. A step lower than that would be to just create content related to this and get rich through ad revenue & sponsorships in a few years when all this is commonplace. Another step lower than these is to just save and invest in the SpaceX IPO.
Or, you could consider Elon's vision of self driving electric cars and try to think of ways to leverage that.
He has mentioned that we'll reach a time when you can call a Tesla from a different city and that'll reach you where you are, entirely on autopilot.
If we do eventually live in that world, how do you start preparing and building for that now?
One common answer is - you could start creating games and apps specifically meant for people travelling in their cars with nothing else to do. These can be immersive AR experiences on a phone that involves looking at the road and transforming objects on the road into AR items. Or, it could be closed-space workout equipment that people can use to get their workout in instead of sitting around.
Then there's Neuralink. Or, currently, X.com - which might become an everything app similar to WeChat in China.
You could take many different bets here and some of those bets would be more successful than others, and behind each bet, you have Elon Musk with his five companies of soldiers working to make that future a reality.
But before you go all-in on Elon's vision, there's one other founder that's worth careful consideration, and perhaps more so than Elon.
Among everyone's visions for the future, Sam's vision seems like the one that's most meticulously planned out to me - and that says a lot about him if you consider that I just mentioned Elon Musk.
Sam has strong opinions about the future, knows how to run a business and is often too early, rather than too late at trends - which is a better place to be.
Before being CEO of OpenAI, he was the CEO of YCombinator, where he guided hundreds of startups turning a few to them into billion dollar unicorns, but before all this, Sam was the founder of Loopt - a location-based, mobile social-network app.
Think about that for a moment, even if all those tags seem generic today. Loopt was a "location-based", "mobile", "social-network app". He started this company in 2005.
That's when Facebook was still confined to the campuses of Ivy League, and nobody was really thinking of anything location-based and mobile, let alone a social networking app in everyone's pockets.
Loopt raised 30M USD, and it failed. Sam sold it for 43.4M. He was just too early, but his predictions on what kind of applications would be mainstream today, were still directionally correct.
All social networks are now expected to be mobile. Location based mobile apps like Uber are worth billions of dollars. All this, because these applications started at the right time.
Sam Altman, is currently working on OpenAI - a company that is on everyone's radar in 2023. Since the release of ChatGPT, every business now talks about being "powered by AI", and he has defeated giants like Google to market, who have spent hundreds of millions working on it.
Sam's vision of the future, if it all comes true, will change the world drastically. At OpenAI, he's trying to build AGI - Artificial General Intelligence - an AI that has the same cognitive abilities as humans, which means an AI that can do everything a human being can do.
While GPT-4 is great today, if AGI exists, it could theoretically start building the next version of AGI till we get ASI, or Artificial Super Intelligence - an AI vastly more capable than human beings in every domain. Because AGI is just limited by the amount of compute, what a human accomplishes in years could be accomplished in minutes.
Everything would look drastically different if this vision of the world comes true. From near-light-speed space travel to immortality, everything we've wanted can be accomplished.
Humans may not need to work at all. According to Sam, there may be no jobs for a vast majority of us, which is why he has also started Worldcoin - a cryptocurrency on Ethereum that uses biometric orbs to verify that you're a human. While Worldcoin can have several use -cases for multiple types of businesses in the near term, in the long run, its grand goal is Universal Basic Income.
If OpenAI builds AGI and that will disrupt all industries, it'll be the company where trillions of dollars of capital will eventually accumulate. OpenAI's unique structure of a private company(OpenAI LP) that's controlled by a non profit version of the company(OpenAI Inc.) ensures that the excess capital that concentrates with them will be ready to be distributed. This distribution can happen to everyone on Earth, fairly and provably to every human, through Worldcoin.
If that's not being incredibly ready for a vastly different version of our future, I don't know what is.
There's one other piece to Sam Altman's vision that is important to talk about - which is Oaklo, a startup specialising in nuclear micro-reactors. The company has raised 50M USD and expected to go public in 2024. Other than this, his largest personal investment, of 375M USD, is in a nuclear energy company called Helion.
There's a lot I have to say about nuclear fusion that deserves its own essay, but in brief, what nuclear energy promises us is a future with unlimited clean energy. The cost of energy all around the world would be exponentially cheaper than what it is today.
Till 2020, I used to believe that it'd take a long time for this to work but several scientific breakthroughs in the last two years have not only made it possible, but inevitable within the next decade. Thus, this is the vision of Sam Altman that I think has the most chance of coming 100% true, which itself should help accelerate his other goals.
What does a world of unlimited free energy look like? What does a world where we coexist with intelligent machines who are equally smart or exponentially smarter than us look like?
If we just get nuclear fusion at scale, the cost of everything that requires energy go down dramatically. Things today which are limited by the cost of energy will no longer be, and new possibilities previously unimaginable will flourish.
For example, most of transportation would be electric and the cost of fuelling our cars, trains, planes or even rockets will be negligible. This would make long-distance travel exponentially more affordable and even make space travel a common phenomenon.
Cost of desalination would go down as well, allowing us to turn arid regions into fertile land. Developing economies would benefit from this cost reduction and manufacturing processes for every kind of material that depends on energy, would go down rapidly - making many things a whole lot cheaper and opening up newer trees of innovation.
What happens in a world where AGI / ASI & UBI are a reality?
I don't know, as that's very hard to predict with any specificity. I do know that art survives, like it has since the dawn of human time. Creativity survives and thrives. Entertainment may become the greatest industry as all humans engage in just keeping each other engaged.
AI today can generate the greatest artwork you can prompt it to make, but it'll still look boring compared to the art made by a child. The latter has emotional significance, and even though AI can act as an amplifier to art enabling a thousand different forms, it can't take away the human condition necessary in creating art.
This also works for other domains. AI today can beat any human at Chess, so watching two AIs play each other should be a better use of our time than watching humans play the game. Yet, everyone does the latter, and ignores the former.
Thus, truly believing in all of Sam's visions requires drastic lifestyle choice. Should you leave everything learn how to be an entertainer? But entertainer doing what?
Should you be a YouTuber? What if it turns out that AIs can disrupt that first with vastly more entertaining NPCs?
Should you just focus on being a prompt engineer? What if that's no longer necessary as AIs get smarter & can infer what you want it to do based on observing your past & current actions?
Overall, it's difficult to be concrete about the post-AGI age. One thing is for sure - if you don't agree with these visions and have a different model of the future that looks nothing Elon's or Sam's, it doesn't mean that there is no hope for you.
It doesn't mean that you're wrong about the future, and they're right (yet).
Because above Elon and Sam, there’s one guy’s whose advice we all have to consider, one lone outsider who had the most contrarian visions of all - and brought them to life with an elegance that hasn’t been replicated since.
No discussion on visionary founders would be complete without a nod to Steve Jobs. His ability to envision and create products that people didn’t even know they wanted was unparalleled. From the introduction of the Macintosh, which revolutionized personal computing, to the iPhone, which transformed not just communication but our very way of life, Jobs’ visions have consistently created and redefined industries.
You cannot bet on Jobs now, as he’s unfortunately no longer with us, but if there’s one person you can bet all your chips on - that is yourself.
Here’s Steve Job’s advice from an interview in 1994 -
“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use. And the minute that you understand that you can poke life, and actually something will, you know, if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it. You can mold it. That's maybe the most important thing is to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you're just going to live in it, versus embrace it. Change it. Improve it. Make your mark upon it. I think that's very important. And however you learn that, once you learn it, you'll want to change life and make it better. Because it's kind of messed up in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.”
You can bet on Sam’s vision or Elon’s vision and hope they radically change the future like they wish to do. But what they actually do is out of your control. No one knew Elon would buy twitter. No one knows if Sam could actually succeed, or if a newly competent Google manages to beat them.
But the greatest thing in your control, is what you envision the future to be.
This is where most of the leverage is - as you’re not stuck to betting a differen’t founder’s vision, even though you can still leverage them, but you’re also actively working to change the world with the visions that you have.
Sure, contrarian visions are hard, but in the end, it is yours. No one can take that away from you. You can create the future you want to see today, and you need nobody’s permission to do so.
If you don’t have a vision for the future yet, it’s time to start having one.
Ask yourself these questions - What will people want? How will people live? What will the society look like? What's casual today that will be considered terribly wrong in the future? What terrible thing didn't happen in the past, but is casual today?
As you reflect on these questions, you might discover insights that, in their contrarian essence, might not align with popular belief.
This is how you start.
How do you use visions to become massively rich?
You can bet on the contrarian visions of great founders today.
Or, you can change the world by being a founder yourself.
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