2021: Uncharted Territories Year in Review
What a year 2021 has been for Uncharted Territories (UT)! We’ve been together for 8 months, since the launch in May. Here is a look back on this year, with some stats, the most popular articles, and a framework so you can understand how the vast majority of articles fit into a grand project. I’d love to hear what you think, but also to know how you think we can improve the project. Let me know in the comments or by replying to this email!
The Most Popular Articles
45% of free subscribers open the free emails, and 75% of premium subscribers open theirs. From what I’ve been told, this compares to ~30% and 70% on average for Substack—and 10% for the standard corporate email. So thank you for your trust!
What were the most popular articles?
As premium subscribers know, I think it’s important to not let yourself read the news all the time. It’s like a drug that focuses your attention on the trees, and you miss the forest. That’s why I try to avoid writing articles focused on the news, even if they grow UT faster.
To my surprise, content is more successful when it’s newsworthy than when it’s focused on COVID! Articles like The Fail West, The Top 25 Mistakes of COVID Management, The Mental Pitfalls of COVID, or COVID FAQs 1 and 2 were well read, but they were not the most read articles.
This fact is deeply meaningful to me: most of you met me through COVID, but you stay for other content, too. You can’t imagine how moving it is for me to hold your interest week after week on completely different topics from the one that first introduced me to you. Thank you.
Most Read Non-COVID Articles
Outside of COVID, which were the most popular emails? It’s hard to tell based just on views or reads, because the newsletter has been growing through the year. I think a better way to look at it is: how many views did an article get based on the number of recipients? An article that has been viewed 10 times for every recipient means people are opening it, coming back to it, and sharing it. Here are the top five non-COVID free articles:
1. Geography Is the Chessboard of History
I introduced my take on geohistory in this article. I’m glad you liked it!
2. What China Wants and Why
100,000 of you read and shared this article about the geography and history of China and how they influence it to this day. I have another China article brewing. Maybe I’ll pull it forward.
3. Remote Work Is Inexorable
A lot of what we discussed here turned out to be true. Let’s see how the world evolves.
4. Internet and Blockchain Will Kill Nation-States
In this article, we introduced the replacement of the Church by nation-states through books.
5. The End of Nation-States
In this one, we expanded the concept to see how nation-states will lose influence in the 21st century because of the Internet
And here are the top five non-COVID premium articles:
1. How to Consume the News
Surprisingly, you guys loved this one—and debated it heatedly! When I told you you shouldn’t consume the news on the outlets’ terms, you were concerned by a lack of informed citizenry. I still think this is true: if you go to news portals, you will only learn what the outlets want you to learn about, instead of what matters.
2. What You Want, Switzerland, and How to Become a 3D Conversationalist
There were many topics in this article, I’m not sure which one you were most interested in! Maybe it was the explanation of why Switzerland is a mountainous country, yet rich. Or how exactly to manage the flow of a conversation.
3. Merchants of Risk
I’m glad you liked this one. It’s a series of very specific advice on how to handle risk. We are going into a world that is unpredictable, where data is everywhere but certainty is nowhere. As COVID has shown, managing risk has become a critical skill. This article looks into how to do it, specifically focused on predictions of the future.
4. 14 More Tips from a Financial Advice Industry Insider
The article on financial advice was very popular. I’m very glad it was! This one added 14 more tips that were subtler and more advanced than the 6 main tips from the free article.
5. A Space-Crafted Chessboard
I’m glad this one made it, because it proposes something that is quite ground-breaking and I’ve never seen before anywhere. If geography determines history, what determines geography? Hint: astrophysics! So astrophysics has determined history 🤯
But beyond popular articles, there’s been a common thread that connects most of them. Today, we’re finally connecting the dots looking backwards, so you can understand where we’re going moving forward.
History Moves to the Cloud
The biggest topic underpinning this newsletter is where the world is going and how to navigate it. I believe that to understand that, we need to know how geography used to influence history, and how that process is being replaced by technology, and now especially the Internet. This is how that thread connects all these articles:
Laying the groundwork:
Geography Is the Chessboard of History
This article explains how much geography has determined history, determining who we are and our wealth to this day.
Geography Is the Chessboard of History: Bonus Content
In this premium article, we went deeper into the topic, taking the examples of Spain, France, Germany, and the Balkans.
The Global Chessboard
We looked at the power of the US, why it’s so rooted in geography, how it determined the US’ politics over the last two centuries, and how it generalizes to the rest of the world.
A Space-Crafted Chessboard
As mentioned before, this premium article digs further: if geography determines history, what determines geography? The answer: astrophysics.
Country Deep Dives
We applied these concepts of geohistory to different regions of the world.
What China Wants and Why
About the main lens we must use to understand China: the Han.
A Brief History of India and the Indian Subcontinent
This premium article explores why China is so uniform when India is not. A hint: mountains and latitudes.
The Dictatorship of the Nile
Egypt can be understood just with one feature: the Nile.
A Brief History of the Caribbean
Why are the countries in the Caribbean the way they are today? How did the history of colonization influence this?
A Brief History of the Caribbean, Part 2
In this premium article, we explore key aspects of the Caribbean today, and how they’re also rooted in geography: slavery (including in the US South), plantations, oil, sinking cities. We then draw conclusions for space exploration.
Egypt vs. Ethiopia
This article explains why Africa is the way it is, based on its rivers and mountains, and then focuses on the main one: the Nile, and how it mediates the relationship between two behemoths: Egypt and Ethiopia.
The Splintering of the African Horn
This premium article dives deep into Ethiopia and its civil war.
What You Want, Switzerland, and How to Become a 3D Conversationalist
This article touches on many subjects, including why Switzerland is mountainous but rich.
The Rise of Technology
The reason why it’s important to understand how much geography has determined history is to highlight how much our lives are going to change. Once we realize that geography pervades everything we are, we can understand how dramatic the change will be in the coming decades.
History’s Network Effects
This article exposes why geography, for all its importance, has been relegated by technology over the last centuries as the main influence in human life.
The Rise and Fall of Civilizations—and What It Means for the US
This article illustrates the idea, by looking at how technology spread from the Middle East to Europe, and how as it spread technology became more and more important. This triggered the fall of Rome, and can help us understand how the fall of the US will unfold.
Non Plus Ultra
We applied this to the 20th and 21st century, to understand how the global economy is connecting, and how technological spread drives changes in global economic inequalities.
We discover here how nation-states emerged from the ashes of the Catholic Church, which was burned by the printing press.
Deep Dive on How Internet and Blockchain Will Kill Nation-States
In this premium article, we explore several fascinating aspects of the printing press’ impact on politics: how it likely drove the industrial revolution, how other communication technologies also drove political changes, how European dialects follow the same rules as national languages, and more.
The End of Nation-States
This article exposes the main thesis of History Moves to the Cloud: how the Internet is actually undermining nation-states.
The Illusion of Nation-States
This premium article reveals the secret of nation-states: most of them are fake.
Concentration of Force and the Future of Social Impact
In this premium article, we start to explore how conflict has been handled in history, how the Internet changes that, and what conclusions we can drive for social impact in a world based around the Internet.
Self-Improvement and Skills
It’s not enough to know where the world is going. We need to develop the right skills to navigate it.
Mental Models to Understand the New World
In a world where information primes over everything, understanding information and knowledge is the biggest driver of personal growth. That’s why epistemology, the study of knowledge, is so important.
You’re a Neuron
The Internet is important because it networks humans. Therefore, to maximize your potential, you need to understand your role in the network.
Society Is a Brain
You can then apply this to understand societies, and how the fact they’re connected into networks drives them.
Distribute the Future
The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. If you understand that, you can look for the future in the present, and make money distributing it.
Merchants of Risk
The world is changing all the time. We can’t predict everything that will happen. But we can predict some things. In this premium article, we explore risk and how to manage it, as a crucial skill to navigate the future. It helps us understand what we can predict and what we can’t.
The Tree of Knowledge
If you see knowledge as a tree, you can understand many ways that communication—including all sorts of learning—break. You can then communicate, educate, and learn better.
How to Consume the News
This article explains why you shouldn’t go to news portals to get your information, and in general why you should avoid seeking news. The most important news reaches you anyways. The time you save can be spent researching topics you think are important instead.
Does Free Will Exist?
As free will has been challenged recently, it’s important to understand exactly what is in our hands and what isn’t. This article explains that free doesn’t exist, yet exists.
In a world growing exponentially, exponential curves and S-curves are everywhere. This article explores S-curves, teaches you how to identify them, and how to use that to your benefit.
Skills to Navigate the World
How to Become the Best in the World at Something
Now you’re competing with eight billion people. There’s always someone better than you at something. But not at your particular combination of skills.
How to Pick Your Skill Stack
This premium article explains how to pick your personal combination of skills to become the best in the world at that combination.
How to Make Your Conversations Hyperproductive: 3D Conversation
Most of the time spent in conversations is wasted because people don’t control their flow. This article explains how to do that.
How to Change Beliefs
A key way to have impact as a node in the network of today’s world is by influencing other people’s beliefs. Here is how.
How to Get Feedback
Another way to have impact is by improving, but you can’t improve if you don’t get feedback. So how to get it? This article explains how.
How to Invest: The Few Key Things You Need to Know
Wealth is a path to freedom. Freedom is a path to happiness and impact. How to invest well opens up all your options
14 More Tips from a Financial Advice Industry Insider
This premium article went deeply into more financial advice to optimize your wealth.
What do you think? Do these make sense? What were your favorite articles of the year? What would you like more of? Less of? What else do you want to see? Please let me know in the comments and by answering this email, and I look forward to seeing you next year!
To a better 2022,
This week I’ll take a break for Christmas, so no premium article this week and no free article next week. I’ll be back later next week for the premium article. Happy New Year