Chrysopoeia

That’s the word for the transmutation of metals into gold. It’s what many alchemists throughout history were working on. Don’t get me started on it’s pronunciation.

Chrysopoeia is an interesting study in picking the right problems to work on. What if the alchemists studying Chrysopoeia were successful? They would be rich, right?

Possibly. Maybe even most likely, at first.

However, why is gold valuable in the first place? Well, a few reasons are:

  • It’s has a nice luster
  • It’s very malleable and ductile making it easy to craft.
  • It has good conductive properties and high density.
  • and, most of all, it’s rare.

In fact, for that last point, it’s been estimated that all the gold in the world melted down would fill a 70’x70’x70′ cube. There are many larger than that size. Think about how much iron in the form of steel there is in all the buildings of the world by comparison. It dwarfs gold. What would have happened if alchemists were successful?

They would have devalued gold. Gold would have been able to be produced in quantities much larger than it was mined in, and eventually as the world’s supply increased, the value of gold would come down. Perhaps the first alchemist to discover this method would be obscenely wealthy, but over time if others found out the trick, the value would plummet.

This is a problem where the early and the first successful person get the huge rewards, and after that it fades. It’s the massive speculation type problem that either ends in disappointment, or massive success. Not much room in between.

For most people, this isn’t the type of problem you should be seeking to work on. This is the type of problem that is going to end in heartache and disaster for 99.9% of people.

Compare this method of making money to painting pictures and selling them. Once you land on a subject matter people like, you can sell and make a living. If more people see them and want them, you can scale your sales. If copycats move in, you can create new works to differentiate yourself. That’s not possible with gold, after all gold is gold.

We all pick the types of problems we want to work on, the risk levels, and the rewards that are required for us. Don’t get stuck in a problem that doesn’t fit you. If you are risk-adverse, don’t pick Chrysopoeia to work on. If you are huge reward motivated, give it a try. Pick the problems that work for you. For me, I like ones that are:

  • Workable at any scale
  • Highly differentiable
  • Low cost to entry
  • Have some level of scalability to them

You may have different criteria, adjust appropriately.