Podcast appearances and mentions of Tyler Cowen

American economist

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Tyler Cowen

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Best podcasts about Tyler Cowen

Latest podcast episodes about Tyler Cowen

HR Famous
Can you Freelance Your HR Shop?

HR Famous

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 18, 2023 36:38


On episode 111 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Jessica Lee, Madeline Laurano, and Tim Sackett come together to discuss 2022 and give their thoughts about this year in HR and talent.  Listen below and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (iTunes) and follow (Spotify)! 1:00 - Tim asks the crew what their favorite TV show, movie, or book from 2022 was. Madeline is a big Euphoria fan, JLee loved Ted Lasso, and Tim couldn't choose one (House of Dragon, Peaky Blinders. 2022 was a great year for TV! 8:00 - The crew name some of their favorites (Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is Madeline's). Tim loves Talent by Tyler Cowen.  10:00 - JLee tried to get Cowen to come speak at a Marriott event and she found that he isn't too fond of HR folks. She wants to dig in with him and see his real feelings about people who work in HR.  12:00 - It's time for the HR and talent year in review! JLee mentions the transition from The Great Resignation into Quiet Quitting. She found that we can get worked up over things that end up not being as noteworthy in the long run.  14:00 - Tim tried to make “The Big Regret” happened but it never took off… 16:50 - Tim thinks that the HR and talent community needs someone that we can trust for facts and information. He shouts out Roy from SHRM for his journalism work.  19:00 - Madeline brings up how the biggest topic that isn't being discussed in HR is the rise of freelancing within the job market. She notes that by 2030, 50% of an organization's workforce will be freelancers.  24:00 - Tim says that he thinks there has been a de-emphasis on DEI in 2022. Madeline thinks that within the HR technology space, DEI wasn't the hot topic of the year. JLee notes that in 2020 there were so many topics culturally that forced the conversations around DEI to be at the forefront.  26:00 - As we look ahead to 2023, Tim asks the team what points of emphasis he sees coming to the head. Madeline thinks the skills conversation has surprised her in its prominence. She thinks it's the topic that everyone is obsessed with.  28:00 - Tim asks JLee where they are at Marriott with skills. She thinks that organizations can be intimidated by the topic and that people are over contemplating where to get started.  31:30 - JLee's focus for 2023 is AI and how it will affect content creation.

The Nonlinear Library
LW - On AI and Interest Rates by Zvi

The Nonlinear Library

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 17, 2023 12:32


Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: On AI and Interest Rates, published by Zvi on January 17, 2023 on LessWrong. Note, To say it up front: None of this, or anything ever on this blog, is investment advice. This post on the EA form, highlighted by Tyler Cowen, points out that Transformative aligned AI would increase real interest rates. A lot. Transformative unaligned AI would increase real interest rates. A lot. Markets continue to have low interest rates not pricing this in. Therefore, either (A) AI not only isn't about to end the world it also is not about to do anything economically that powerful or (B) the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) is false. In conclusion: There is no one in the market to price this in. Beyond avoiding wrong-way investments and locking in low-interest loans, the few who buy the hypothesis have better trades to make than betting on future interest rates. Nor is the market meaningfully considering and then rejecting the hypothesis. The pre-Covid-pandemic market did not peak until February 20, 2020. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. Treasure Everywhere The OP claims that option B implies there is treasure everywhere. No. A lot of comments attempt to explain. Even the OP's proposed trade would, under favorable assumptions, only return about 10%. That's at best a highly mediocre trade, in its full context. At a minimum, again assuming you buy the hypothesis, buying a portfolio of companies that would profit from transformative AI is a superior play. So is shorting a portfolio of assets that would not profit from this scenario but do depend on low interest rates to justify their valuations, if you want that level of risk. If you're so sure interest rates will go up, why settle for ~10% returns when there are Bitcoins (and many other assets including stocks) you can short? Don't forget to consider the marginal utility of capital in various scenarios. Many traders at Jane Street Capital are aware of the potential of AI, or at least have considered strong arguments for it. On the time horizon of almost all their trades, this makes almost zero difference. If We Will All Go Together When We Go Eliezer Yudkowsky points out that taking advantage of knowing that the world will be ending is difficult. How do you collect? If you did collect, how would you spend it? He then goes into more detail in this comment and then this second attempt, too long to quote here in full, but recommended if you remain confused or unconvinced here. That does not mean none of your financial choices change in such a world. While there are not amazing winning moves, there are plenty of losing moves you can avoid if you are sufficiently confident in doom. For example: You can spend down capital and other resources. You don't have to save for retirement. You can avoid making long term or illiquid investments. You can borrow money rather than loaning out money, especially locking in low long term interest rates. This is more like a win. You still can't that win big this way, even if you're fully confident you never have to pay it back, because there is a limit to how much money you can borrow over a 10-year horizon. You can also alter other life choices, including whether to have children. Unless your certainty level is far higher than I believe is justified, I think this is almost always a mistake. Children and ordinary life well lived are great joys, keep you sane and grounded, give you something to protect, improve how you are treated. Often they teach you something. The more extremely you modify your choices, the more you really will be doomed even in relatively ‘normal' futures, and dread of this will impact your experience and life now. Yes, there are perhaps exceptions to this where your focus really is that important, but if you are not mentioned in this post by name you probably don't count for that. C...

The Nonlinear Library: LessWrong
LW - On AI and Interest Rates by Zvi

The Nonlinear Library: LessWrong

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 17, 2023 12:32


Link to original articleWelcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: On AI and Interest Rates, published by Zvi on January 17, 2023 on LessWrong. Note, To say it up front: None of this, or anything ever on this blog, is investment advice. This post on the EA form, highlighted by Tyler Cowen, points out that Transformative aligned AI would increase real interest rates. A lot. Transformative unaligned AI would increase real interest rates. A lot. Markets continue to have low interest rates not pricing this in. Therefore, either (A) AI not only isn't about to end the world it also is not about to do anything economically that powerful or (B) the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) is false. In conclusion: There is no one in the market to price this in. Beyond avoiding wrong-way investments and locking in low-interest loans, the few who buy the hypothesis have better trades to make than betting on future interest rates. Nor is the market meaningfully considering and then rejecting the hypothesis. The pre-Covid-pandemic market did not peak until February 20, 2020. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. Treasure Everywhere The OP claims that option B implies there is treasure everywhere. No. A lot of comments attempt to explain. Even the OP's proposed trade would, under favorable assumptions, only return about 10%. That's at best a highly mediocre trade, in its full context. At a minimum, again assuming you buy the hypothesis, buying a portfolio of companies that would profit from transformative AI is a superior play. So is shorting a portfolio of assets that would not profit from this scenario but do depend on low interest rates to justify their valuations, if you want that level of risk. If you're so sure interest rates will go up, why settle for ~10% returns when there are Bitcoins (and many other assets including stocks) you can short? Don't forget to consider the marginal utility of capital in various scenarios. Many traders at Jane Street Capital are aware of the potential of AI, or at least have considered strong arguments for it. On the time horizon of almost all their trades, this makes almost zero difference. If We Will All Go Together When We Go Eliezer Yudkowsky points out that taking advantage of knowing that the world will be ending is difficult. How do you collect? If you did collect, how would you spend it? He then goes into more detail in this comment and then this second attempt, too long to quote here in full, but recommended if you remain confused or unconvinced here. That does not mean none of your financial choices change in such a world. While there are not amazing winning moves, there are plenty of losing moves you can avoid if you are sufficiently confident in doom. For example: You can spend down capital and other resources. You don't have to save for retirement. You can avoid making long term or illiquid investments. You can borrow money rather than loaning out money, especially locking in low long term interest rates. This is more like a win. You still can't that win big this way, even if you're fully confident you never have to pay it back, because there is a limit to how much money you can borrow over a 10-year horizon. You can also alter other life choices, including whether to have children. Unless your certainty level is far higher than I believe is justified, I think this is almost always a mistake. Children and ordinary life well lived are great joys, keep you sane and grounded, give you something to protect, improve how you are treated. Often they teach you something. The more extremely you modify your choices, the more you really will be doomed even in relatively ‘normal' futures, and dread of this will impact your experience and life now. Yes, there are perhaps exceptions to this where your focus really is that important, but if you are not mentioned in this post by name you probably don't count for that. C...

Bankless
153 - Why Crypto is Underrated with Tyler Cowen

Bankless

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 16, 2023 59:39


✨ DEBRIEF | Unpacking the Episode: https://shows.banklesshq.com/p/tyler-cowen-debrief  ------ Tyler Cowen is an American economist, columnist, and blogger. He's also a professor at George Mason University, where he also produces the Conversations with Tyler podcast with guests like Vitalik Buterin. Marc Andreessen, and Ray Dalio. In today's episode, Tyler shares why he thinks regulators should pause and wait before passing crypto regulation in the wake of FTX, how FTX and Enron are similar, why he calls himself a crypto-hopeful (even though he thinks Balaji's Network State idea is utterly wrong). And finally, we play Tyler's favorite game—Overrated vs. Underrated—about everything relevant in 2023: Crypto AI, Inflation, America, China, Social Media, Wealth Inequality, and more. ------

The Nonlinear Library
EA - EA should help Tyler Cowen publish his drafted book in China by Matt Brooks

The Nonlinear Library

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 15, 2023 5:17


Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: EA should help Tyler Cowen publish his drafted book in China, published by Matt Brooks on January 14, 2023 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Tyler Cowen was on the Jan 9th episode of ChinaTalk, a podcast hosted by Jordan Schneider. Podcast: China Talk Substack: At 39:45 Tyler mentions writing a book to improve US relations with China that will likely never be published. We should help him publish it!Edit: Tyler is interested although worried about censorship I transcribed this part of the podcast with Whisper, so there may be mistakes. Go listen to the entire episode anyway, it's worth a listen. Transcription JordanSo shortly, millions of Chinese nationals who've been playing World of Warcraft their entire lives will no longer be able to. I'm curious, how important shared cultural touchstones, like video games, the NBA and Marvel movies are to keeping the peace? Tyler I don't know, we had plenty such touchstones with, say, Germany before World War I, World War II, it didn't matter. But certainly worth trying, you know, I had my own project to improve relations with China, which failed, by the way. I wrote a manuscript for a book, and my plan was to publish it only in China. And it was a book designed to explain America to the Chinese, and make it more explicable, more understandable. So I wrote the book, I submitted it to Xinhua, which gave me a contract, even paid me in advance. But then a number of events came along, most specifically the Trump trade wars, and the book never came out. They're still sitting on it. I don't think it will ever come out. That was my, you know, you could call it, misguided project, to just do a very small amount to help the two countries get along better. Jordan Wow, what were your, what were your themes? Tyler Well, if you think of Tokvill, he wrote democracy in America, so that Europeans would understand America better, right? So I thought, well, if we're trying to explain America to Chinese people, it's a really very different set of questions, especially in the 21st century. Though I covered a lot of basic differences across the economies, the policies, why are the economies different? Why is there so little state ownership in America? Why are so many parts of America so bad at infrastructure? Why do Americans save less? How is religion different in America? That was, I think, an especially sensitive topic. And just try to make sense of America for Chinese readers, but not defending it. Just some kind of, all of branch of understanding. Here's how we are. And I don't know. I don't think they'll ever put the book out. And of course, by now, it's out of date. Jordan Yeah, but there's, I mean, there's plenty of other people. Other like countries on the planet who could use a little, you know, a civics 101. Tyler They could. I mean, this is a book written for Chinese people with the contrasts and data comparisons to China. So to sort of send the same book to, you know, Senegal, I don't think would really make sense. Jordan Yeah, but if you publish it in the US, it will like, you know, Osmos out. I don't think it needs to be published by Xinhua for Chinese people to read it, Tyler. Tyler I've thought of having it translated into Chinese distributed Somersault in some way. Haven't ruled that out. No downside for me, but you want to do things right. And I kept on waiting for Xinhua. And now I've really completely given up. The book is out of date with facts. That's not a big problem. Facts you can update, but it's very out of date with respect to tone. So right now, everyone feels you need to be tough with China. You can't sort of say nice things to China about China, you're pandering. You look like LeBron James or you're afraid to speak up. And the book would have made a lot of sense, say in 2015 that its current tone doesn't make sense in ...

444
BH105: Van ez az Erasmus fele olyan jó, mint a Néphadsereg?

444

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 14, 2023 54:17


Forradalmi formátumfejlődés. A BH bemutatja: tartalomjegyzék! 00:00 Hölgyeink és uraink: tartalomjegyzék! 02:00 Winkler Róbert megismerkedik a Decathlon mély üregével. 04:10 Az a durva mennyi a vietnamiban a Barilla. Tyler Cowen a kínai szupermarketekről. 07:00 Winkler Róbert megismerkedik a karajszerű makrélával. 10:20 Bezár a Noma, ahol nem voltunk. Morális és gazdasági problémák egy jobb konyhában. Az El Bulli  egyébként 2011-ben zárt be, és Andy Haylernek egyszer tetszett, egyszer nem. A Nomat viszont tényleg lehúzta. 17:00 Egyes vélemények szerint ez a fine dining alkonya. Salt Bae és Gerendai Károly Dubajban. 18:58 A ravasz Luka Doncic a gyűrűre dobja a büntetőt. Reggie Miller 8 pontot dobott 8,9 másodperc alatt. 21:08 Winkler Róbert megismerkedik a dupla kiszállással. 23:25 Az EU először orbánkodik Orbánnal. Magyari Péter cikke. 25:08 A Horizon még keményebb. A kétségebeesett Kemenesi Gábor hüledezik. 26:55 Na vajon miért nem volt Erasmus a mi időnkben???? 28:44 Jó lesz Brüsszelnek a Szijjártó futsalos haverja? Deutsch Tamás még a legkisebb baj. A Milton Friedman Egyetem jogelődje a Zsigmond KIrály Főiskola volt. 32:27 Nem, az nem egyetem. Nem, az nem újság. Nem, az nem demokrácia. 33:42 Ez van, mi így leszünk középhatalom. Németországnak annyi, de talán Franciaországnak is. Bede cikke. Zsiday cikke. 37:44 Tessék, nézd meg Nagy-Britanniát. 39:15 A mindig kussolók az SZFE mellett sem voltak képesek kiállni. Bezzeg Szentgotthárd. 41:26 Patrónus-kliens rendszer a magyar felsőoktatásban, mint kádári örökség. 43:10 Orbán Viktor újra feltalálja a nemzetközi rendszert. 48:34 Uj Péter homályos emlékei a Fekete Vonatról. Elég a poptörténelmi revizionizmusból! 52:05 Ketten Dopeman mellett. Scatman John. Informer. (De UP Busta Rhymes nevét volt képtelen előszenvedni a memóriájából.) See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

The Valmy
Tyler Cowen on Effective Altruism (University of St Andrews)

The Valmy

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 13, 2023 79:28


Release date: 2023-01-13Notes from The Valmy:Source: YouTube https://youtu.be/ZzV7ty1DW_c Release date: 2022-12-15

The Nonlinear Library
EA - Tyler Cowen on effective altruism (December 2022) by peterhartree

The Nonlinear Library

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 13, 2023 28:38


Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Tyler Cowen on effective altruism (December 2022), published by peterhartree on January 13, 2023 on The Effective Altruism Forum. In December 2022, Tyler Cowen gave a talk on effective altruism. It was hosted by Luca Stroppa and Theron Pummer at the University of St Andrews. You can watch the talk on YouTube, listen to the podcast version, or read the transcript below. Transcript The transcript was generated by OpenAI Whisper. I made a couple of minor edits and corrections for clarity. Hello everyone, and thank you for coming to this talk. Thank you Theron for the introduction. I find effective altruism is what people actually want to talk about, which is a good thing. So I thought I would talk about it as well. And I'll start by giving two big reasons why I'm favorably inclined, but then work through a number of details where I might differ from effective altruism. So let me give you what I think are the two big pluses. They're not the only pluses. But to me, they're the two reasons why in the net ledger, it's strongly positive. The first is that simply as a youth movement, effective altruism seems to attract more talented young people than anything else I know of right now by a considerable margin. And I've observed this by running my own project, Emergent Ventures for Talented Young People. And I just see time and again, the smartest and most successful people who apply get grants. They turn out to have connections to the EA movement. And that's very much to the credit of effective altruism. Whether or not you agree with everything there, that to me is a more important fact about the movement than anything else you might say about it. Unlike some philosophers, I do not draw a totally rigorous and clear distinction between what you might call the conceptual side of effective altruism and the more sociological side. They're somewhat intertwined and best thought of as such. The second positive point that I like about effective altruism is simply that what you might call traditional charity is so terrible, such a train wreck, so poorly conceived and ill thought out and badly managed and run that anything that waves its arms and says, hey, we should do better than this, again, whether or not you agree with all of the points, that has to be a big positive. So whether or not you think we should send more money to anti-malaria bed nets, the point is effective altruism is forcing us all to rethink what philanthropy should be. And again, that for me is really a very significant positive. Now before I get to some of the more arcane points of difference or at least different emphasis, let me try to outline some core propositions of effective altruism, noting I don't think there's a single dominant or correct definition. It's a pretty diverse movement. I learned recently there's like a sub movement, effective altruism for Christians. I also learned there's a sub sub movement, effective altruism for Quakers. So I don't think there's any one way to sum it all up, but I think you'll recognize these themes as things you see appearing repeatedly. So my first group of themes will be those where contemporary effective altruism differs a bit from classic utilitarianism. And then I'll give two ways in which effective altruism is fairly similar to classical utilitarianism. So here are three ways I think current effective altruism has evolved from classical utilitarianism and is different: The first is simply an emphasis on existential risk, the notion that the entire world could end, world of humans at least, and this would be a very terrible thing. I don't recall having read that, say, in Bentham or in John Stuart Mill. It might be in there somewhere, but it certainly receives far, far more emphasis today than it did in the 19th century. The second point, which I think is somewhat in c...

ChinaTalk
Tyler Cowen on AI and China

ChinaTalk

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 9, 2023 81:58


Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution makes his ChinaTalk debut! We get into: How AI is going to change art, education, politics and human relationships Why Tyler tried to write a book to explain America to the PRC How babies born in 2023 will see their educations changed by AI; Playing chess against the computer and creativity in the AI era; Religion, American antisemitism, and the movie Her; Writing a book about America for Chinese people; Why China is one of the hardest countries to predict. Outtro Music: Beethoven X, an AI-assisted version of Beethoven's unfinished 10th symphony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rvj3Oblscqw For more context: smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-artificial-intelligence-completed-beethovens-unfinished-10th-symphony-180978753/ Image by midjourney seeded with a photo of Tyler. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

ChinaEconTalk
Tyler Cowen on AI and China

ChinaEconTalk

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 9, 2023 81:58


Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution makes his ChinaTalk debut! We get into: How AI is going to change art, education, politics and human relationships Why Tyler tried to write a book to explain America to the PRC How babies born in 2023 will see their educations changed by AI; Playing chess against the computer and creativity in the AI era; Religion, American antisemitism, and the movie Her; Writing a book about America for Chinese people; Why China is one of the hardest countries to predict. Outtro Music: Beethoven X, an AI-assisted version of Beethoven's unfinished 10th symphony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rvj3Oblscqw For more context: smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-artificial-intelligence-completed-beethovens-unfinished-10th-symphony-180978753/ Image by midjourney seeded with a photo of Tyler. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

The Valmy
Nadia Asparouhova - Tech Elites, Democracy, Open Source, & Philanthropy

The Valmy

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 3, 2023 82:10


Podcast: The Lunar Society (LS 37 · TOP 2.5% )Episode: Nadia Asparouhova - Tech Elites, Democracy, Open Source, & PhilanthropyRelease date: 2022-12-15Nadia Asparouhova is currently researching what the new tech elite will look like at nadia.xyz. She is also the author of Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software.We talk about how:* American philanthropy has changed from Rockefeller to Effective Altruism* SBF represented the Davos elite rather than the Silicon Valley elite,* Open source software reveals the limitations of democratic participation,* & much more.Watch on YouTube. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform. Read the full transcript here.Timestamps(0:00:00) - Intro(0:00:26) - SBF was Davos elite(0:09:38) - Gender sociology of philanthropy(0:16:30) - Was Shakespeare an open source project?(0:22:00) - Need for charismatic leaders(0:33:55) - Political reform(0:40:30) - Why didn't previous wealth booms lead to new philanthropic movements?(0:53:35) - Creating a 10,000 year endowment(0:57:27) - Why do institutions become left wing?(1:02:27) - Impact of billionaire intellectual funding(1:04:12) - Value of intellectuals(1:08:53) - Climate, AI, & Doomerism(1:18:04) - Religious philanthropyTranscriptThis transcript was autogenerated and thus may contain errors.Nadia Asparouhova 0:00:00You start with this idea that like democracy is green and like we should have tons of tons of people participating tons of people participate and then it turns out that like most participation is actually just noise and not that useful. That really squarely puts SPF into like the finance crowd much more so than startups or crypto. Founders will always talk about like building and like startups are like so important or whatever and like what are all of them doing in their spare time? They're like reading books. They're reading essays and like and then those like books and essays influence how they think about stuff. Dwarkesh Patel 0:00:26Okay, today I have the pleasure of talking with Nadia Asperova. She is previously the author of Working in Public, the Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software and she is currently researching what the new tech elite will look like. Nadia, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for having me. Yeah, okay, so this is a perfect timing obviously given what's been happening with SPF. How much do you think SPF was motivated by effective altruism? Where do you place them in the whole dimensionality of idea machines and motivations? Nadia Asparouhova 0:01:02Yeah, I mean, I know there's sort of like conflicting accounts going around. Like, I mean, just from my sort of like character study or looking at SPF, it seems pretty clear to me that he is sort of inextricably tied to the concepts of utilitarianism that then motivate effective altruism. The difference for me in sort of like where I characterize effective altruism is I think it's much closer to sort of like finance Wall Street elite mindset than it is to startup mindset, even though a lot of people associate effective altruism with tech people. So yeah, to me, like that really squarely puts SPF in sort of like the finance crowd much more so than startups or crypto. And I think that's something that gets really misunderstood about him. Dwarkesh Patel 0:01:44Interesting. Yeah, I find that interesting because if you think of Jeff Bezos, when he started Amazon, he wasn't somebody like John Perry Barlow, who was just motivated by the free philosophy of the internet. You know, he saw a graph of internet usage going up into the right and he's like, I should build a business on top of this. And in a sort of loopholy way, try to figure out like, what is the thing that is that is the first thing you would want to put a SQL database on top of to ship and produce? And I think that's what books was the answer. So and obviously, he also came from a hedge fund, right? Would you play somebody like him also in the old finance crowd rather than as a startup founder? Nadia Asparouhova 0:02:22Yeah, it's kind of a weird one because he's both associated with the early computing revolution, but then also AWS was sort of like what kicked off all of the 2010s sort of startup. And I think in the way that he's started thinking about his public legacy and just from sort of his public behavior, I think he fits much more squarely now in that sort of tech startup elite mindset of the 2010s crowd more so than the Davos elite crowd of the 2000s. Dwarkesh Patel 0:02:47What in specific are you referring to? Nadia Asparouhova 0:02:49Well, he's come out and been like sort of openly critical about a lot of like Davos type institutions. He kind of pokes fun at mainstream media and for not believing in him not believing in AWS. And I think he's because he sort of like spans across like both of these generations, he's been able to see the evolution of like how maybe like his earlier peers function versus the sort of second cohort of peers that he came across. But to me, he seems much more like, much more of the sort of like startup elite mindset. And I can kind of back up a little bit there. But what I associate with the Davos Wall Street kind of crowd is much more of this focus on quantitative thinking, measuring efficiency. And then also this like globalist mindset, like I think that the vision that they want to ensure for the world is this idea of like a very interconnected world where we, you know, sort of like the United Nations kind of mindset. And that is really like literally what the Davos gathering is. Whereas Bezos from his actions today feels much closer to the startup, like Y Combinator post AWS kind of mindset of founders that were really made their money by taking these non-obvious bets on talented people. So they were much less focused on credentialism. They were much more into this idea of meritocracy. I think we sort of forget like how commonplace this trope is of like, you know, the young founder in a dorm room. And that was really popularized by the 2010s cohort of the startup elite of being someone that may have like absolutely no skills, no background in industry, but can somehow sort of like turn the entire industry over on its head. And I think that was sort of like the unique insight of the tech startup crowd. And yeah, when I think about just sort of like some of the things that Bezos is doing now, it feels like she identifies with that much more strongly of being this sort of like lone cowboy or having this like one talented person with really great ideas who can sort of change the world. I think about the, what is it called? The Altos Institute or the new like science initiative that he put out where he was recruiting these like scientists from academic institutions and paying them really high salaries just to attract like the very best top scientists around the world. That's much more of that kind of mindset than it is about like putting faith in sort of like existing institutions, which is what we would see from more of like a Davos kind of mindset. Dwarkesh Patel 0:05:16Interesting. Do you think that in the future, like the kids of today's tech billionaires will be future aristocrats? So effective altruism will be a sort of elite aristocratic philosophy. They'll be like tomorrow's Rockefellers. Nadia Asparouhova 0:05:30Yeah, I kind of worry about that actually. I think of there as being like within the US, we were kind of lucky in that we have these two different types of elites. We have the aristocratic elites and we have meritocratic elites. Most other countries I think basically just have aristocratic elites, especially comparing like the US to Britain in this way. And so in the aristocratic model, your wealth and your power is sort of like conferred to you by previous generations. You just kind of like inherit it from your parents or your family or whomever. And the upside of that, if there is an upside, is that you get really socialized into this idea of what does it mean to be a public steward? What does it mean to think of yourself and your responsibility to the rest of society as a privileged elite person? In the US, we have this really great thing where you can kind of just, you know, we have the American dream, right? So lots of people that didn't grow up with money can break into the elite ranks by doing something that makes them really successful. And that's like a really special thing about the US. So we have this whole class of meritocratic elites who may not have aristocratic backgrounds, but ended up doing something within their lifetimes that made them successful. And so, yeah, I think it's a really cool thing. The downside of that being that you don't really get like socialized into what does it mean to have this fortune and do something interesting with your money. You don't have this sort of generational benefit that the aristocratic elites have of presiding over your land or whatever you want to call it, where you're sort of learning how to think about yourself in relation to the rest of society. And so it's much easier to just kind of like hoard your wealth or whatever. And so when you think about sort of like what are the next generations, the children of the meritocratic elites going to look like or what are they going to do, it's very easy to imagine kind of just becoming aristocratic elites in the sense of like, yeah, they're just going to like inherit the money from their families. And they haven't also really been socialized into like how to think about their role in society. And so, yeah, all the meritocratic elites eventually turn into aristocratic elites, which is where I think you start seeing this trend now towards people wanting to sort of like spend down their fortunes within their lifetime or within a set number of decades after they die because they kind of see what happened in previous generations and are like, oh, I don't want to do that. Dwarkesh Patel 0:07:41Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, it's interesting. You mentioned that the aristocratic elites have the feel that they have the responsibility to give back, I guess, more so than the meritocratic elites. But I believe that in the U.S., the amount of people who give to philanthropy and the total amount they give is higher than in Europe, right, where they probably have a higher ratio of aristocratic elites. Wouldn't you expect the opposite if the aristocratic elites are the ones that are, you know, inculcated to give back? Nadia Asparouhova 0:08:11Well, I assume like most of the people that are the figures about sort of like Americans giving back is spread across like all Americans, not just the wealthiest. Dwarkesh Patel 0:08:19Yeah. So you would predict that among the top 10 percent of Americans, there's less philanthropy than the top 10 percent of Europeans? Uh, there's... Sorry, I'm not sure I understand the question. I guess, does the ratio of meritocratic to aristocratic elites change how much philanthropy there is among the elites? Nadia Asparouhova 0:08:45Yeah, I mean, like here we have much more of a culture of like even among aristocratic elites, this idea of like institution building or like large donations to like build institutions, whereas in Europe, a lot of the public institutions are created by government. And there's sort of this mentality of like private citizens don't experiment with public institutions. That's the government's job. And you see that sort of like pervasively throughout all of like European cultures. Like when we want something to change in public society, we look to government to like regulate or change it. Whereas in the U.S., it's kind of much more like choose your own adventure. And we don't really see the government as like the sole provider or shaper of public institutions. We also look at private citizens and like there's so many things that like public institutions that we have now that were not started by government, but were started by private philanthropists. And that's like a really unusual thing about the U.S. Dwarkesh Patel 0:09:39There's this common pattern in philanthropy where a guy will become a billionaire, and then his wife will be heavily involved with or even potentially in charge of, you know, the family's philanthropic efforts. And there's many examples of this, right? Like Bill and Melinda Gates, you know, Mark Zuckerberg. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And Dustin Moskovitz. So what is the consequence of this? How is philanthropy, the causes and the foundations, how are they different because of this pattern? Nadia Asparouhova 0:10:15Well, I mean, I feel like we see that pattern, like the problem is that what even is philanthropy is changing very quickly. So we can say historically that, not even historically, in recent history, in recent decades, that has probably been true. That wasn't true in say like late 1800s, early 1900s. It was, you know, Carnegie and Rockefeller were the ones that were actually doing their own philanthropy, not their spouses. So I'd say it's a more recent trend. But now I think we're also seeing this thing where like a lot of wealthy people are not necessarily doing their philanthropic activities through foundations anymore. And that's true both within like traditional philanthropy sector and sort of like the looser definition of what we might consider to be philanthropy, depending on how you define it, which I kind of more broadly want to define as like the actions of elites that are sort of like, you know, public facing activities. But like even within sort of traditional philanthropy circles, we have like, you know, the 5.1c3 nonprofit, which is, you know, traditionally how people, you know, house all their money in a foundation and then they do their philanthropic activities out of that. But in more recent years, we've seen this trend towards like LLCs. So Emerson Collective, I think, might have been maybe the first one to do it. And that was Steve Jobs' Philanthropic Foundation. And then Mark Zuckerberg with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative also used an LLC. And then since then, a lot of other, especially within sort of like tech wealth, we've seen that move towards people using LLCs instead of 5.1c3s because they, it just gives you a lot more flexibility in the kinds of things you can fund. You don't just have to fund other nonprofits. And they also see donor advised funds. So DAFs, which are sort of this like hacky workaround to foundations as well. So I guess point being that like this sort of mental model of like, you know, one person makes a ton of money and then their spouse kind of directs these like nice, feel good, like philanthropic activities, I think is like, may not be the model that we continue to move forward on. And I'm kind of hopeful or curious to see like, what does a return to like, because we've had so many new people making a ton of money in the last 10 years or so, we might see this return to sort of like the Gilded Age style of philanthropy where people are not necessarily just like forming a philanthropic foundation and looking for the nicest causes to fund, but are actually just like thinking a little bit more holistically about like, how do I help build and create like a movement around a thing that I really care about? How do I think more broadly around like funding companies and nonprofits and individuals and like doing lots of different, different kinds of activities? Because I think like the broader goal that like motivates at least like the new sort of elite classes to want to do any of this stuff at all. I don't really think philanthropy is about altruism. I just, I think like the term philanthropy is just totally fraud and like refers to too many different things and it's not very helpful. But I think like the part that I'm interested in at least is sort of like what motivates elites to go from just sort of like making a lot of money and then like thinking about themselves to them thinking about sort of like their place in broader public society. And I think that starts with thinking about how do I control like media, academia, government are sort of like the three like arms of the public sector. And we think of it in that way a little bit more broadly where it's really much more about sort of like maintaining control over your own power, more so than sort of like this like altruistic kind of, you know, whitewash. Dwarkesh Patel 0:13:41Yeah. Nadia Asparouhova 0:13:42Then it becomes like, you know, there's so many other like creative ways to think about like how that might happen. Dwarkesh Patel 0:13:49That's, that's, that's really interesting. That's a, yeah, that's a really interesting way of thinking about what it is you're doing with philanthropy. Isn't the word noble descended from a word that basically means to give alms to people like if you're in charge of them, you will give alms to them. And in a way, I mean, it might have been another word I'm thinking of, but in a way, yeah, a part of what motivates altruism, not obviously all of it, but part of it is that, yeah, you influence and power. Not even in a necessarily negative connotation, but that's definitely what motivates altruism. So having that put square front and center is refreshing and honest, actually. Nadia Asparouhova 0:14:29Yeah, I don't, I really don't see it as like a negative thing at all. And I think most of the like, you know, writing and journalism and academia that focuses on philanthropy tends to be very wealth critical. I'm not at all, like I personally don't feel wealth critical at all. I think like, again, sort of returning to this like mental model of like aristocratic and meritocratic elites, aristocratic elites are able to sort of like pass down, like encode what they're supposed to be doing in each generation because they have this kind of like familial ties. And I think like on the meritocratic side, like if you didn't have any sort of language around altruism or public stewardship, then like, it's like, you need to kind of create that narrative for the meritocratically or else, you know, there's just like nothing to hold on to. So I think like, it makes sense to talk in those terms. Andrew Carnegie being sort of the father of modern philanthropy in the US, like, wrote these series of essays about wealth that were like very influential and where he sort of talks about this like moral obligation. And I think like, really, it was kind of this like, a quiet way for him to, even though it was ostensibly about sort of like giving back or, you know, helping lift up the next generation of people, the next generation of entrepreneurs. Like, I think it really was much more of a protective stance of saying, like, if he doesn't frame it in this way, then people are just going to knock down the concept of wealth altogether. Dwarkesh Patel 0:15:50Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that's really interesting. And it's interesting, in which cases this kind of influence has been successful and worse not. When Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, has there been any counterfactual impact on how the Washington Post has run as a result? I doubt it. But you know, when Musk takes over Twitter, I guess it's a much more expensive purchase. We'll see what the influence is negative or positive. But it's certainly different than what Twitter otherwise would have been. So control over media, it's, I guess it's a bigger meme now. Let me just take a digression and ask about open source for a second. So based on your experience studying these open source projects, do you find the theory that Homer and Shakespeare were basically container words for these open source repositories that stretched out through centuries? Do you find that more plausible now, rather than them being individuals, of course? Do you find that more plausible now, given your, given your study of open source? Sorry, what did? Nadia Asparouhova 0:16:49Less plausible. What did? Dwarkesh Patel 0:16:51Oh, okay. So the idea is that they weren't just one person. It was just like a whole bunch of people throughout a bunch of centuries who composed different parts of each story or composed different stories. Nadia Asparouhova 0:17:02The Nicholas Berbaki model, same concept of, you know, a single mathematician who's actually comprised of like lots of different. I think it's actually the opposite would be sort of my conclusion. We think of open source as this very like collective volunteer effort. And I think, use that as an excuse to not really contribute back to open source or not really think about like how open source projects are maintained. Because we were like, you know, you kind of have this bystander effect where you're like, well, you know, someone's taking care of it. It's volunteer oriented. Like, of course, there's someone out there taking care of it. But in reality, it actually turns out it is just one person. So maybe it's a little bit more like a Wizard of Oz type model. It's actually just like one person behind the curtain that's like, you know, doing everything. And you see this huge, you know, grandeur and you think there must be so many people that are behind it. It's one person. Yeah, and I think that's sort of undervalued. I think a lot of the rhetoric that we have about open source is rooted in sort of like early 2000s kind of starry eyed idea about like the power of the internet and the idea of like crowdsourcing and Wikipedia and all this stuff. And then like in reality, like we kind of see this convergence from like very broad based collaborative volunteer efforts to like narrowing down to kind of like single creators. And I think a lot of like, you know, single creators are the people that are really driving a lot of the internet today and a lot of cultural production. Dwarkesh Patel 0:18:21Oh, that's that's super fascinating. Does that in general make you more sympathetic towards the lone genius view of accomplishments in history? Not just in literature, I guess, but just like when you think back to how likely is it that, you know, Newton came up with all that stuff on his own versus how much was fed into him by, you know, the others around him? Nadia Asparouhova 0:18:40Yeah, I think so. I feel I've never been like a big, like, you know, great founder theory kind of person. I think I'm like, my true theory is, I guess that ideas are maybe some sort of like sentient, like, concept or virus that operates outside of us. And we are just sort of like the vessels through which like ideas flow. So in that sense, you know, it's not really about any one person, but I do think I think I tend to lean like in terms of sort of like, where does creative, like, creative effort come from? I do think a lot of it comes much more from like a single individual than it does from with some of the crowds. But everything just serves like different purposes, right? Like, because I think like, within open source, it's like, not all of open source maintenance work is creative. In fact, most of it is pretty boring and dredgerous. And that's the stuff that no one wants to do. And that, like, one person kind of got stuck with doing and that's really different from like, who created a certain open source projects, which is a little bit more of that, like, creative mindset. Dwarkesh Patel 0:19:44Yeah, yeah, that's really interesting. Do you think more projects in open source, so just take a popular repository, on average, do you think that these repositories would be better off if, let's say a larger percentage of them where pull requests were closed and feature requests were closed? You can look at the code, but you can't interact with it or its creators anyway? Should more repositories have this model? Yeah, I definitely think so. I think a lot of people would be much happier that way. Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's interesting to think about the implications of this for other areas outside of code, right? Which is where it gets really interesting. I mean, in general, there's like a discussion. Sorry, go ahead. Yeah. Nadia Asparouhova 0:20:25Yeah, I mean, that's basically what's for the writing of my book, because I was like, okay, I feel like whatever's happening open source right now, you start with this idea that like democracy is green, and like, we should have tons and tons of people participating, tons of people participate, and then it turns out that like, most participation is actually just noise and not that useful. And then it ends up like scaring everyone away. And in the end, you just have like, you know, one or a small handful of people that are actually doing all the work while everyone else is kind of like screaming around them. And this becomes like a really great metaphor for what happens in social media. And the reason I wrote, after I wrote the book, I went and worked at Substack. And, you know, part of it was because I was like, I think the model is kind of converging from like, you know, Twitter being this big open space to like, suddenly everyone is retreating, like, the public space is so hostile that everyone must retreat into like, smaller private spaces. So then, you know, chats became a thing, Substack became a thing. And yeah, I just feel sort of like realistic, right? Dwarkesh Patel 0:21:15That's really fascinating. Yeah, the Straussian message in that book is very strong. But in general, there's, when you're thinking about something like corporate governance, right? There's a big question. And I guess even more interestingly, when you think if you think DAOs are going to be a thing, and you think that we will have to reinvent corporate governance from the ground up, there's a question of, should these be run like monarchy? Should they be sort of oligarchies where the board is in control? Should they be just complete democracies where everybody gets one vote on what you do at the next, you know, shareholder meeting or something? And this book and that analysis is actually pretty interesting to think about. Like, how should corporations be run differently, if at all? What does it inform how you think the average corporation should be run? Nadia Asparouhova 0:21:59Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think we are seeing a little bit, I'm not a corporate governance expert, but I do feel like we're seeing a little of this like, backlash against, like, you know, shareholder activism and like, extreme focus on sort of like DEI and boards and things like that. And like, I think we're seeing a little bit of people starting to like take the reins and take control again, because they're like, ah, that doesn't really work so well, it turns out. I think DAOs are going to learn this hard lesson as well. It's still maybe just too early to say what is happening in DAOs right now. But at least the ones that I've looked at, it feels like there is a very common failure mode of people saying, you know, like, let's just have like, let's have this be super democratic and like, leave it to the crowd to kind of like run this thing and figure out how it works. And it turns out you actually do need a strong leader, even the beginning. And this, this is something I learned just from like, open source projects where it's like, you know, very rarely, or if at all, do you have a strong leader? If at all, do you have a project that starts sort of like leaderless and faceless? And then, you know, usually there is some strong creator, leader or influential figure that is like driving the project forward for a certain period of time. And then you can kind of get to the point when you have enough of an active community that maybe that leader takes a step back and lets other people take over. But it's not like you can do that off day one. And that's sort of this open question that I have for, for crypto as an industry more broadly, because I think like, if I think about sort of like, what is defining each of these generations of people that are, you know, pushing forward new technological paradigms, I mentioned that like Wall Street finance mindset is very focused on like globalism and on this sort of like efficiency quantitative mindset. You have the tech Silicon Valley Y company or kind of generation that is really focused on top talent. And the idea this sort of like, you know, founder mindset, the power of like individuals breaking institutions, and then you have like the crypto mindset, which is this sort of like faceless leaderless, like governed by protocol and by code mindset, which is like intriguing to me. But I have a really hard time squaring it with seeing like, in some sense, open source was the experiment that started playing out, you know, 20 years before then. And some things are obviously different in crypto, because tokenization completely changes the incentive system for contributing and maintaining crypto projects versus like traditional open source projects. But in the end, also like humans are humans. And like, I feel like there are a lot of lessons to be learned from open source of like, you know, they also started out early on as being very starry eyed about the power of like, hyper democratic regimes. And it turned out like, that just like doesn't work in practice. And so like, how is CryptoGhost or like Square that? I'm just, yeah, very curious to see what happened. Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:41Yeah, super fascinating. That raises an interesting question, by the way, you've written about idea machines, and you can explain that concept while you answer this question. But do you think that movements can survive without a charismatic founder who is both alive and engaged? So once Will McCaskill dies, would you be shorting effective altruism? Or if like Tyler Cowen dies, would you be short progress studies? Or do you think that, you know, once you get a movement off the ground, you're like, okay, I'm gonna be shorting altruism. Nadia Asparouhova 0:25:08Yeah, I think that's a good question. I mean, like, I don't think there's some perfect template, like each of these kind of has its own sort of unique quirks and characteristics in them. I guess, yeah, back up a little bit. Idea machines is this concept I have around what the transition from we were talking before about, so like traditional 5.1c3 foundations as vehicles for philanthropy, what does the modern version of that look like that is not necessarily encoded in institution? And so I had this term idea machines, which is sort of this different way of thinking about like, turning ideas into outcomes where you have a community that forms around a shared set of values and ideas. So yeah, you mentioned like progress studies is an example of that, or effective altruism example, eventually, that community gets capitalized by some funders, and then it starts to be able to develop an agenda and then like, actually start building like, you know, operational outcomes and like, turning those ideas into real world initiatives. And remind me of your question again. Dwarkesh Patel 0:26:06Yeah, so once the charismatic founder dies of a movement, is a movement basically handicapped in some way? Like, maybe it'll still be a thing, but it's never going to reach the heights it could have reached if that main guy had been around? Nadia Asparouhova 0:26:20I think there are just like different shapes and classifications of like different, different types of communities here. So like, and I'm just thinking back again to sort of like different types of open source projects where it's not like they're like one model that fits perfectly for all of them. So I think there are some communities where it's like, yeah, I mean, I think effective altruism is maybe a good example of that where, like, the community has grown so much that I like if all their leaders were to, you know, knock on wood, disappear tomorrow or something that like, I think the movement would still keep going. There are enough true believers, like even within the community. And I think that's the next order of that community that like, I think that would just continue to grow. Whereas you have like, yeah, maybe it's certain like smaller or more nascent communities that are like, or just like communities that are much more like oriented around, like, a charismatic founder that's just like a different type where if you lose that leader, then suddenly, you know, the whole thing falls apart because they're much more like these like cults or religions. And I don't think it makes one better, better or worse. It's like the right way to do is probably like Bitcoin, where you have a charismatic leader for life because that leader is more necessarily, can't go away, can't ever die. But you still have the like, you know, North Stars and like that. Dwarkesh Patel 0:27:28Yeah. It is funny. I mean, a lot of prophets have this property of you're not really sure what they believed in. So people with different temperaments can project their own preferences onto him. Somebody like Jesus, right? It's, you know, you can be like a super left winger and believe Jesus did for everything you believe in. You can be a super right winger and believe the same. Yeah. Go ahead. Nadia Asparouhova 0:27:52I think there's value in like writing cryptically more. Like I think about like, I think Curtis Yarvin has done a really good job of this where, you know, intentionally or not, but because like his writing is so cryptic and long winded. And like, it's like the Bible where you can just kind of like pour over endlessly being like, what does this mean? What does this mean? And in a weird, you know, you're always told to write very clearly, you're told to write succinctly, but like, it's actually in a weird way, you can be much more effective by being very long winded and not obvious in what you're saying. Dwarkesh Patel 0:28:20Yes, which actually raises an interesting question that I've been wondering about. There have been movements, I guess, if I did altruism is a good example that have been focused on community building in a sort of like explicit way. And then there's other movements where they have a charismatic founder. And moreover, this guy, he doesn't really try to recruit people. I'm thinking of somebody like Peter Thiel, for example, right? He goes on, like once every year or two, he'll go on a podcast and have this like really cryptic back and forth. And then just kind of go away in a hole for a few months or a few years. And I'm curious, which one you think is more effective, given the fact that you're not really competing for votes. So absolute number of people is not what you care about. It's not clear what you care about. But you do want to have more influence among the elites who matter in like politics and tech as well. So anyways, which just your thoughts on those kinds of strategies, explicitly trying to community build versus just kind of projecting out there in a sort of cryptic way? Nadia Asparouhova 0:29:18Yeah, I mean, I definitely being somewhat cryptic myself. I favor the cryptic methodology. But I mean, yeah, I mean, you mentioned Peter Thiel. I think like the Thielverse is probably like the most, like one of the most influential things. In fact, that is hard. It is partly so effective, because it is hard to even define what it is or wrap your head around that you just know that sort of like, every interesting person you meet somehow has some weird connection to, you know, Peter Thiel. And it's funny. But I think this is sort of that evolution from the, you know, 5163 Foundation to the like idea machine implicit. And that is this this switch from, you know, used to start the, you know, Nadia Asparova Foundation or whatever. And it was like, you know, had your name on it. And it was all about like, what do I as a funder want to do in the world, right? And you spend all this time doing this sort of like classical, you know, research, going out into the field, talking to people and you sit and you think, okay, like, here's a strategy I'm going to pursue. And like, ultimately, it's like, very, very donor centric in this very explicit way. And so within traditional philanthropy, you're seeing this sort of like, backlash against that. In like, you know, straight up like nonprofit land, where now you're seeing the locus of power moving from being very donor centric to being sort of like community centric and people saying like, well, we don't really want the donors telling us what to do, even though it's also their money. Like, you know, instead, let's have this be driven by the community from the ground up. That's maybe like one very literal reaction against that, like having the donor as sort of the central power figure. But I think idea machines are kind of like the like, maybe like the more realistic or effective answer in that like, the donor is still like without the presence of a funder, like, community is just a community. They're just sitting around and talking about ideas of like, what could possibly happen? Like, they don't have any money to make anything happen. But like, I think like really effective funders are good at being sort of like subtle and thoughtful about like, like, you know, no one wants to see like the Peter Thiel foundation necessarily. That's just like, it's so like, not the style of how it works. But you know, you meet so many people that are being funded by the same person, like just going out and sort of aggressively like arming the rebels is a more sort of like, yeah, just like distributed decentralized way of thinking about like spreading one's power, instead of just starting a fund. Instead of just starting a foundation. Dwarkesh Patel 0:31:34Yeah, yeah. I mean, even if you look at the life of influential politicians, somebody like LBJ, or Robert Moses, it's how much of it was like calculated and how much of it was just like decades of building up favors and building up connections in a way that had no definite and clear plan, but it just you're hoping that someday you can call upon them and sort of like Godfather way. Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. And by the way, this is also where your work on open source comes in, right? Like, there's this idea that in the movement, you know, everybody will come in with their ideas, and you can community build your way towards, you know, what should be funded. And, yeah, I'm inclined to believe that it's probably like a few people who have these ideas about what should be funded. And the rest of it is either just a way of like building up engagement and building up hype. Or, or I don't know, or maybe just useless, but what are your thoughts on it? Nadia Asparouhova 0:32:32You know, I decided I was like, I am like, really very much a tech startup person and not a crypto person, even though I would very much like to be fun, because I'm like, ah, this is the future. And there's so many interesting things happening. And I'm like, for the record, not at all like down in crypto, I think it is like the next big sort of movement of things that are happening. But when I really come down to like the mindset, it's like I am so in that sort of like, top talent founder, like power of the individual to break institutions mindset, like that just resonates with me so much more than the like, leaderless, faceless, like, highly participatory kind of thing. And again, like I am very open to that being true, like I maybe I'm so wrong on that. I just like, I have not yet seen evidence that that works in the world. I see a lot of rhetoric about how that could work or should work. We have this sort of like implicit belief that like, direct democracy is somehow like the greatest thing to aspire towards. But like, over and over we see evidence that like that doesn't that just like doesn't really work. It doesn't mean we have to throw out the underlying principles or values behind that. Like I still really believe in meritocracy. I really believe in like access to opportunity. I really believe in like pursuit of happiness. Like to me, those are all like very like American values. But like, I think that where that breaks is the idea that like that has to happen through these like highly participatory methods. I just like, yeah, I haven't seen really great evidence of that being that working. Dwarkesh Patel 0:33:56What does that imply about how you think about politics or at least political structures? You think it would you you elect a mayor, but like, just forget no participation. He gets to do everything he wants to do for four years and you can get rid of in four years. But until then, no community meetings. Well, what does that imply about how you think cities and states and countries should be run? Nadia Asparouhova 0:34:17Um, that's a very complicated thoughts on that. I mean, I, I think it's also like, everyone has the fantasy of when it'd be so nice if there were just one person in charge. I hate all this squabbling. It would just be so great if we could just, you know, have one person just who has exactly the views that I have and put them in charge and let them run things. That would be very nice. I just, I do also think it's unrealistic. Like, I don't think I'm, you know, maybe like modernity sounds great in theory, but in practice just doesn't like I really embrace and I think like there is no perfect governance design either in the same way that there's no perfect open source project designer or whatever else we're talking about. Um, uh, like, yeah, it really just depends like what is like, what is your population comprised of? There are some very small homogenous populations that can be very easily governed by like, you know, a small government or one person or whatever, because there isn't that much dissent or difference. Everyone is sort of on the same page. America is the extreme opposite in that angle. And I'm always thinking about America because like, I'm American and I love America. But like, everyone is trying to solve the governance question for America. And I think like, yeah, I don't know. I mean, we're an extremely heterogeneous population. There are a lot of competing world views. I may not agree with all the views of everyone in America, but like I also, like, I don't want just one person that represents my personal views. I would focus more like effectiveness in governance than I would like having like, you know, just one person in charge or something that like, I don't mind if someone disagrees with my views as long as they're good at what they do, if that makes sense. So I think the questions are like, how do we improve the speed at which like our government works and the efficacy with which it works? Like, I think there's so much room to be made room for improvement there versus like, I don't know how much like I really care about like changing the actual structure of our government. Dwarkesh Patel 0:36:27Interesting. Going back to open source for a second. Why do these companies release so much stuff in open source for free? And it's probably literally worth trillions of dollars of value in total. And they just release it out and free and many of them are developer tools that other developers use to build competitors for these big tech companies that are releasing these open source tools. Why did they do it? What explains it? Nadia Asparouhova 0:36:52I mean, I think it depends on the specific project, but like a lot of times, these are projects that were developed internally. It's the same reason of like, I think code and writing are not that dissimilar in this way of like, why do people spend all this time writing, like long posts or papers or whatever, and then just release them for free? Like, why not put everything behind a paywall? And I think the answer is probably still in both cases where like mindshare is a lot more interesting than, you know, your literal IP. And so, you know, you put out, you write these like long reports or you tweet or whatever, like you spend all this time creating content for free and putting it out there because you're trying to capture mindshare. Same thing with companies releasing open source projects. Like a lot of times they really want like other developers to come in and contribute to them. They want to increase their status as like an open source friendly kind of company or company or show like, you know, here's the type of code that we write internally and showing that externally. They want to like recruiting is, you know, the hardest thing for any company, right? And so being able to attract the right kinds of developers or people that, you know, might fit really well into their developer culture just matters a lot more. And they're just doing that instead of with words or doing that with code. Dwarkesh Patel 0:37:57You've talked about the need for more idea machines. You're like dissatisfied with the fact that effective altruism is a big game in town. Is there some idea or nascent movement where I mean, other than progress ideas, but like something where you feel like this could be a thing, but it just needs some like charismatic founder to take it to the next level? Or even if it doesn't exist yet, it just like a set of ideas around this vein is like clearly something there is going to exist. You know what I mean? Is there anything like that that you notice? Nadia Asparouhova 0:38:26I only had a couple of different possibilities in that post. Yeah, I think like the progress sort of meme is probably the largest growing contender that I would see right now. I think there's another one right now around sort of like the new right. That's not even like the best term necessarily for it, but there's sort of like a shared set of values there that are maybe starting with like politics, but like ideally spreading to like other areas of public influence. So I think like those are a couple of like the bigger movements that I see right now. And then there's like smaller stuff too. Like I mentioned, like tools for thought in that post where like that's never going to be a huge idea machine. But it's one where you have a lot of like interesting, talented people that are thinking about sort of like future of computing. And until maybe more recently, like there just hasn't been a lot of funding available and the funding is always really uneven and unpredictable. And so that's to me an example of like, you know, a smaller community that like just needs that sort of like extra influx to turn a bunch of abstract ideas into practice. But yeah, I mean, I think like, yeah, there's some like the bigger ones that I see right now. I think there is just so much more potential to do more, but I wish people would just think a little bit more creatively because, yeah, I really do think like effective altruism kind of becomes like the default option for a lot of people. Then they're kind of vaguely dissatisfied with it and they don't like think about like, well, what do I actually really care about in the world and how do I want to put that forward? Dwarkesh Patel 0:39:53Yeah, there's also the fact that effective altruism has this like very fit memeplex in the sense that it's like a polytheistic religion where if you have a cause area, then you don't have your own movement. You just have a cause area within our broader movement, right? It just like adopts your gods into our movement. Nadia Asparouhova 0:40:15Yeah, that's the same thing I see like people trying to lobby for effective altruism to care about their cause area, but then it's like you could just start a separate. Like if you can't get EA to care about, then why not just like start another one somewhere else? Dwarkesh Patel 0:40:28Yeah, so, you know, it's interesting to me that the wealth boom in Silicon Valley and then tech spheres has led to the sound growth of philanthropy, but that hasn't always been the case. Even in America, like a lot of people became billionaires after energy markets were deregulated in the 80s and the 90s. And then there wasn't, and obviously the hub of that was like the Texas area or, you know, and as far as I'm aware, there wasn't like a boom of philanthropy motivated by the ideas that people in that region had. What's different about Silicon Valley? Why are they, or do you actually think that these other places have also had their own booms of philanthropic giving? Nadia Asparouhova 0:41:11I think you're right. Yeah, I would make the distinction between like being wealthy is not the same as being elite or whatever other term you want to use there. And so yeah, there are definitely like pockets of what's called like more like local markets of wealth, like, yeah, Texas oil or energy billionaires that tend to operate kind of just more in their own sphere. And a lot of, if you look at any philanthropic, like a lot of them will be philanthropically active, but they only really focus on their geographic area. But there's sort of this difference. And I think this is part of where it comes from the question of like, you know, like what forces someone to actually like do something more public facing with their power. And I think that comes from your power being sort of like threatened. That's like one aspect I would say of that. So like tech has only really become a lot more active in the public sphere outside of startups after the tech backlash of the mid 2010s. And you can say a similar thing kind of happened with the Davos elite as well. And also for the Gilded Age cohort of wealth. And so yeah, when you have sort of, you're kind of like, you know, building in your own little world. And like, you know, we had literally like Silicon Valley where everyone was kind of like sequestered off and just thinking about startups and thinking themselves of like, tech is essentially like an industry, just like any other sort of, you know, entertainment or whatever. And we're just kind of happy building over here. And then it was only when sort of like the Panopticon like turned its head towards tech and started and they had this sort of like onslaught of critiques coming from sort of like mainstream discourse where they went, oh, like what is my place in this world? And, you know, if I don't try to like defend that, then I'm going to just kind of, yeah, we're going to lose all that power. So I think that that need to sort of like defend one's power can kind of like prompt that sort of action. The other aspect I'd highlight is just like, I think a lot of elites are driven by these like technological paradigm shifts. So there's this scholar, Carlotta Perrins, who writes about technological revolutions and financial capital. And she identifies like a few different technological revolutions over the last, whatever, hundred plus years that like drove this cycle of, you know, a new technology is invented. It's people are kind of like working on it in this smaller industry sort of way. And then there is some kind of like crazy like public frenzy and then like a backlash. And then from after that, then you have this sort of like focus on public institution building. But she really points out that like not all technology fits into that. Like, not all technology is a paradigm shift. Sometimes technology is just technology. And so, yeah, I think like a lot of wealth might just fall into that category. My third example, by the way, is the Koch family because you had, you know, the Koch brothers, but then like their father was actually the one who like kind of initially made their wealth, but was like very localized in sort of like how he thought about philanthropy. He had his own like, you know, family foundation was just sort of like doing that sort of like, you know, Texas billionaire mindset that we're talking about of, you know, I made a bunch of money. I'm going to just sort of like, yeah, do my local funder activity. It was only the next generation of his children that then like took that wealth and started thinking about like how do we actually like move that onto like a more elite stage and thinking about like their influence in the media. But like you can see there's like two clear generations within the same family. Like one has this sort of like local wealth mindset and one of them has the more like elite wealth mindset. And yeah, you can kind of like ask yourself, why did that switch happen? But yeah, it's clearly about more than just money. It's also about intention. Dwarkesh Patel 0:44:51Yeah, that's really interesting. Well, it's interesting because there's, if you identify the current mainstream media as affiliated with like that Davos aristocratic elite, or maybe not aristocratic, but like the Davos groups. Yeah, exactly. There is a growing field of independent media, but you would not identify somebody like Joe Rogan as in the Silicon Valley sphere, right? So there is a new media. I just, I guess these startup people don't have that much influence over them yet. And they feel like, yeah. Nadia Asparouhova 0:45:27I think they're trying to like take that strategy, right? So you have like a bunch of founders like Palmer Luckey and Mark Zuckerberg and Brian Armstrong and whoever else that like will not really talk to mainstream media anymore. They will not get an interview to the New York Times, but they will go to like an individual influencer or an individual creator and they'll do an interview with them. So like when Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta, like he did not get grant interviews to mainstream publications, but he went and talked to like Ben Thompson at Strategory. And so I think there is like, it fits really well with that. Like probably mindset of like, we're not necessarily institution building. We're going to like focus on power of individuals who sort of like defy institutions. And that is kind of like an open question that I have about like, what will the long term influence of the tech elite look like? Because like, yeah, the human history tells us that eventually all individual behaviors kind of get codified into institutions, right? But we're obviously living in a very different time now. And I think like the way that the Davos elite managed to like really codify and extend their influence across all these different sectors was by taking that institutional mindset and, you know, like thinking about sort of like academic institutions and media institutions, all that stuff. If the startup mindset is really inherently like anti-institution and says like, we don't want to build the next Harvard necessarily. We just want to like blow apart the concept of universities whatsoever. Or, you know, we don't want to create a new CNN or a new Fox News. We want to just like fund like individual creators to do that same sort of work, but in this very decentralized way. Like, will that work long term? I don't know. Like, is that just sort of like a temporary state that we're in right now where no one really knows what the next institutions will look like? Or is that really like an important part of this generation where like, we shouldn't be asking the question of like, how do you build a new media network? We should just be saying like, the answer is there is no media network. We just go to like all these individuals instead. Dwarkesh Patel 0:47:31Yeah, that's interesting. What do you make of this idea that I think, let's say, that these idea machines might be limited by the fact that if you're going to start some sort of organization in them, you're very much depending on somebody who has made a lot of money independently to fund you and to grant you approval. And I just have a hard time seeing somebody who is like a Napoleon-like figure being willing long term to live under that arrangement. And that so there'll just be the people who are just have this desire to dominate and be recognized who are probably pretty important to any movement you want to create. They'll just want to go off and just like build a company or something that gives them an independent footing first. And they just won't fall under any umbrella. You know what I mean? Nadia Asparouhova 0:48:27Yeah, I mean, like Dustin Moskovitz, for example, has been funding EA for a really long time and hasn't hasn't walked away necessarily. Yeah. I mean, on the flip side, you can see like SPF carried a lot of a lot of risk because it's your point, I guess, like, you know, you end up relying on this one funder, the one funder disappears and everything else kind of falls apart. I mean, I think like, I don't have any sort of like preciousness attached to the idea of like communities, you know, lasting forever. I think this is like, again, if we're trying to solve for the problem of like what did not work well about 5.1c3 foundations for most of recent history, like part of it was that they're, you know, just meant to live on to perpetuity. Like, why do we still have like, you know, Rockefeller Foundation, there are now actually many different Rockefeller Foundations, but like, why does that even exist? Like, why did that money not just get spent down? And actually, when John D. Rockefeller was first proposing the idea of foundations, he wanted them to be like, to have like a finite end state. So he wanted them to last only like 50 years or 100 years when he was proposing this like federal charter, but that federal charter failed. And so now we have these like state charters and foundations can just exist forever. But like, I think if we want to like improve upon this idea of like, how do we prevent like meritocratic elites from turning into aristocratic elites? How do we like, yeah, how do we actually just like try to do a lot of really interesting stuff in our lifetimes? It's like a very, it's very counterintuitive, because you think about like, leaving a legacy must mean like creating institutions or creating a foundation that lasts forever. And, you know, 200 years from now, there's still like the Nadia Asparuva Foundation out there. But like, if I really think about it, it's like, I would almost rather just do really, really, really good, interesting work in like, 50 years or 20 years or 10 years, and have that be the legacy versus your name kind of getting, you know, submerged over a century of institutional decay and decline. So yeah, I don't like if you know, you have a community that lasts for maybe only last 10 years or something like that, and it's funded for that amount of time, and then it kind of elbows its usefulness and it winds down or becomes less relevant. Like, I don't necessarily see it as a bad thing. Of course, like in practice, you know, nothing ever ends that that neatly and that quietly. But, but yeah, I don't think that's a bad thing. Dwarkesh Patel 0:50:44Yeah, yeah. Who are some ethnographers or sociologists from a previous era that have influenced your work? So was there somebody writing about, you know, what it was like to be in a Roman Legion? Or what it was like to work in a factory floor? And you're like, you know what, I want to do that for open source? Or I want to do that for the New Tech Elite? Nadia Asparouhova 0:51:02For open source, I was definitely really influenced by Jane Jacobs and Eleanor Ostrom. I think both had this quality of, so yeah, Eleanor Ostrom was looking at examples of common pool resources, like fisheries or forests or whatever. And just like, going and visiting them and spending a lot of time with them and then saying like, actually, I don't think tragedy of the commons is like a real thing, or it's not the only outcome that we can possibly have. And so sometimes commons can be managed, like perfectly sustainably. And it's not necessarily true that everyone just like treats them very extractively. And just like wrote about what she saw. And same with Jane Jacobs sort of looking at cities as someone who lives in one, right? Like she didn't have any fancy credentials or anything like that. She was just like, I live in the city and I'm looking around and this idea of like, top down urban planning, where you have like someone trying to design this perfect city that like, doesn't change and doesn't yield to its people. It just seems completely unrealistic. And the style that both of them take in their writing is very, it just it starts from them just like, observing what they see and then like, trying to write about it. And I just, yeah, that's, that's the style that I really want to emulate. Dwarkesh Patel 0:52:12Interesting. Nadia Asparouhova 0:52:13Yeah. I think for people to just be talking to like, I don't know, like Chris just like just talking to like open source developers, turns out you can learn a lot more from that than just sitting around like thinking about what open source developers might be thinking about. But... Dwarkesh Patel 0:52:25I have this, I have had this idea of not even for like writing it out loud, but just to understand how the world works. Just like shadowing people who are in just like a random position, they don't have to be a lead in any way, but just like a person who's the personal assistant to somebody influential, how to decide whose emails they forward, how they decide what's the priority, or somebody who's just like an accountant for a big company, right? It's just like, what is involved there? Like, what kinds of we're gonna, you know what I mean? Just like, random people, the line manager at the local factory. I just have no idea how these parts of the world work. And I just want to like, yeah, just shadow them for a day and see like, what happens there. Nadia Asparouhova 0:53:05This is really interesting, because everyone else focuses on sort of like, you know, the big name figure or whatever, but you know, who's the actual gatekeeper there? But yeah, I mean, I've definitely found like, if you just start cold emailing people and talking to them, people are often like, surprisingly, very, very open to being talked to because I don't know, like, most people do not get asked questions about what they do and how they think and stuff. So, you know, you want to realize that dream. Dwarkesh Patel 0:53:33So maybe I'm not like John Rockefeller, and that I only want my organization to last for 50 years. I'm sure you've come across these people who have this idea that, you know, I'll let my money compound for like 200 years. And if it just compounds at some reasonable rate, I'll be, it'll be like the most wealthy institution in the world, unless somebody else has the same exact idea. If somebody wanted to do that, but they wanted to hedge for the possibility that there's a war or there's a revolt, or there's some sort of change in law that draws down this wealth. How would you set up a thousand year endowment, basically, is what I'm asking, or like a 500 year endowment? Would you just put it in like a crypto wallet with us? And just, you know what I mean? Like, how would you go about that organizationally? How would you like, that's your goal? I want to have the most influence in 500 years. Nadia Asparouhova 0:54:17Well, I'd worry much less. The question for me is not about how do I make sure that there are assets available to distribute in a thousand years? Because I don't know, just put in stock marketers. You can do some pretty boring things to just like, you know, ensure your assets grow over time. The more difficult question is, how do you ensure that whoever is deciding how to distribute the funds, distributes them in a way that you personally want them to be spent? So Ford Foundation is a really interesting example of this, where Henry Ford created a Ford Foundation shortly before he died, and just pledged a lot of Ford stock to create this foundation and was doing it basically for tax reasons, had no philanthropic. It's just like, this is what we're doing to like, house this wealth over here. And then, you know, passed away, son passed away, and grandson ended up being on the board. But the board ended up being basically like, you know, a bunch of people that Henry Ford certainly would not have ever wanted to be on his board. And so, you know, and you end up seeing like, the Ford Foundation ended up becoming huge influential. I like, I have received money from them. So it's not at all an indictment of sort of like their views or anything like that. It's just much more of like, you know, you had the intent of the original donor, and then you had like, who are all these people that like, suddenly just ended up with a giant pool of capital and then like, decided to spend it however they felt like spending it and the grandson at the time sort of like, famously resigned because he was like, really frustrated and was just like, this is not at all what my family wanted and like, basically like, kicked off the board. So anyway, so that is the question that I would like figure out if I had a thousand year endowment is like, how do I make sure that whomever manages that endowment actually shares my views? One, shares my views, but then also like, how do I even know what we need to care about in a thousand years? Because like, I don't even know what the problems are in a thousand years. And this is why like, I think like, very long term thinking can be a little bit dangerous in this way, because you're sort of like, presuming that you know what even matters then. Whereas I think like, figure out the most impactful things to do is just like, so contextually dependent on like, what is going on at the time. So I can't, I don't know. And there are also foundations where you know, the dono

From the New World
(Classic Episode) Tyler Cowen: The Dark Side of Talent, Sorting and Institutions

From the New World

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 2, 2023 106:14


Last week I brought you my favorite episode from the archives, with Samo Burja. I asked on twitter for my audience's favorite episode and unsurprisingly it is this one. There's no doubt that part of this is because Tyler is the most well-known guest on this podcast. But listening to the episode in hindsight, my impression of it is better than it was before. It remains true that I didn't have the time to ask many questions I was interested in (I have whole sections of prep labelled “Georgism”, “economics^2“, “global hierarchies“ that were left untouched, and there was much more on immigrant subcommunities). Nonetheless, it seems to be like my podcast contained much novelty on an avenue of the Tyler Cowen thought, at least in public, and preceeded some popular marginal revolution posts, such as https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2022/10/classical-liberalism-vs-the-new-right.html. Tyler Cowen is a Professor of Economics at George Mason University and writer of the legendary blog Marginal Revolution alongside Alex Tabarrok. We discuss talent, Ontario, immigrants, institutional trust, power attractors, the Intellectual Dark Web, public health, the internet, generation Z, the significance of social change versus technology, upsides of wokeness, populism, imposter syndrome, self-deception, and corporate hiring.Marginal Revolutionhttps://marginalrevolution.com/Talent by Tyler Cowen and Daniel Grosshttps://www.amazon.ca/Talent-Identify-Energizers-Creatives-Winners/dp/1250275814From the New World Episode with Zvi Mowshowitz:From the New World Episode with Robin Hanson: Get full access to From the New World at cactus.substack.com/subscribe

The Jolly Swagman Podcast
#142: Talent Is That Which Is Scarce — Tyler Cowen

The Jolly Swagman Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 31, 2022 48:21


In the long run, talent allocation is almost everything. But as a society, we're not actually very good at it. The question of how to reliably match people with jobs they are well suited for is one of the big unsolved problems of our times.  Joe catches up with return guest Tyler Cowen to discuss the art of identifying talent. Tyler is a professor of economics at George Mason University and host of the podcast Conversations with Tyler. He is also the co-author of a new book, Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World. Full transcript available at: thejspod.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Turing School Podcast
The Shape of Risk

Turing School Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 21, 2022 52:05


Cohosts Jeannie, Jesse, Mark and Marshall explore some of the themes that have spanned multiple episodes including changing our lives, the future of software development, taking risks, authenticity, and slack bugs. This will be the last episode of the year, happy holidays! Book mention: Average is Over by Tyler Cowen.

CoinDesk's Money Reimagined
What the 2022 Crypto Year Revealed and How Humanity Failed Again

CoinDesk's Money Reimagined

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 16, 2022 45:20


This episode is sponsored by Roofstock onChainWhat went wrong? How could companies valued in the tens of billions of dollars a few months ago suddenly be worthless? Was everything that came before FTX a mirage? Is it nothing but a shell game? A Ponzi scheme?What let us down wasn't a technology failure; it was a human one.On this episode of “Money Reimagined,” hosts Michael Casey and Sheila Warren speak with Simon Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, about what this year's crypto effect means for the future. Simon is the author of five books, including his latest, co-written with Daron Acemoglu, “Power and Progress: Our 1,000-Year Struggle over Technology and Prosperity,” which will be published in May.Tyler Cowen has 16 books written to his credit; his latest is “Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World.”-This episode was produced and edited by Michele Musso with announcements by Adam B. Levine and our executive producer, Jared Schwartz. Our theme song is “Shepard.”-Roofstock onChain allows you to instantly transfer ownership of real-world homes using standard NFT smart contracts. Buy and sell homes with one click, pay with crypto, and access DeFi lending options. Find our web3 homes at onchain.roofstock.com or your favorite NFT marketplace.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Late Confirmation by CoinDesk
MONEY REIMAGINED: What the 2022 Crypto Year Revealed and How Humanity Failed Again

Late Confirmation by CoinDesk

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 16, 2022 45:20


This episode is sponsored by Roofstock onChainWhat went wrong? How could companies valued in the tens of billions of dollars a few months ago suddenly be worthless? Was everything that came before FTX a mirage? Is it nothing but a shell game? A Ponzi scheme?What let us down wasn't a technology failure; it was a human one.On this episode of “Money Reimagined,” hosts Michael Casey and Sheila Warren speak with Simon Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, about what this year's crypto effect means for the future. Simon is the author of five books, including his latest, co-written with Daron Acemoglu, “Power and Progress: Our 1,000-Year Struggle over Technology and Prosperity,” which will be published in May.Tyler Cowen has 16 books written to his credit; his latest is “Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World.”-This episode was produced and edited by Michele Musso with announcements by Adam B. Levine and our executive producer, Jared Schwartz. Our theme song is “Shepard.”-Roofstock onChain allows you to instantly transfer ownership of real-world homes using standard NFT smart contracts. Buy and sell homes with one click, pay with crypto, and access DeFi lending options. Find our web3 homes at onchain.roofstock.com or your favorite NFT marketplace.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

The Lunar Society
Nadia Asparouhova - Tech Elites, Democracy, Open Source, & Philanthropy

The Lunar Society

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 15, 2022 82:10


Nadia Asparouhova is currently researching what the new tech elite will look like at nadia.xyz. She is also the author of Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software.We talk about how:* American philanthropy has changed from Rockefeller to Effective Altruism* SBF represented the Davos elite rather than the Silicon Valley elite,* Open source software reveals the limitations of democratic participation,* & much more.Watch on YouTube. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform. Read the full transcript here.Timestamps(0:00:00) - Intro(0:00:26) - SBF was Davos elite(0:09:38) - Gender sociology of philanthropy(0:16:30) - Was Shakespeare an open source project?(0:22:00) - Need for charismatic leaders(0:33:55) - Political reform(0:40:30) - Why didn't previous wealth booms lead to new philanthropic movements?(0:53:35) - Creating a 10,000 year endowment(0:57:27) - Why do institutions become left wing?(1:02:27) - Impact of billionaire intellectual funding(1:04:12) - Value of intellectuals(1:08:53) - Climate, AI, & Doomerism(1:18:04) - Religious philanthropyTranscriptThis transcript was autogenerated and thus may contain errors.Nadia Asparouhova 0:00:00You start with this idea that like democracy is green and like we should have tons of tons of people participating tons of people participate and then it turns out that like most participation is actually just noise and not that useful. That really squarely puts SPF into like the finance crowd much more so than startups or crypto. Founders will always talk about like building and like startups are like so important or whatever and like what are all of them doing in their spare time? They're like reading books. They're reading essays and like and then those like books and essays influence how they think about stuff. Dwarkesh Patel 0:00:26Okay, today I have the pleasure of talking with Nadia Asperova. She is previously the author of Working in Public, the Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software and she is currently researching what the new tech elite will look like. Nadia, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for having me. Yeah, okay, so this is a perfect timing obviously given what's been happening with SPF. How much do you think SPF was motivated by effective altruism? Where do you place them in the whole dimensionality of idea machines and motivations? Nadia Asparouhova 0:01:02Yeah, I mean, I know there's sort of like conflicting accounts going around. Like, I mean, just from my sort of like character study or looking at SPF, it seems pretty clear to me that he is sort of inextricably tied to the concepts of utilitarianism that then motivate effective altruism. The difference for me in sort of like where I characterize effective altruism is I think it's much closer to sort of like finance Wall Street elite mindset than it is to startup mindset, even though a lot of people associate effective altruism with tech people. So yeah, to me, like that really squarely puts SPF in sort of like the finance crowd much more so than startups or crypto. And I think that's something that gets really misunderstood about him. Dwarkesh Patel 0:01:44Interesting. Yeah, I find that interesting because if you think of Jeff Bezos, when he started Amazon, he wasn't somebody like John Perry Barlow, who was just motivated by the free philosophy of the internet. You know, he saw a graph of internet usage going up into the right and he's like, I should build a business on top of this. And in a sort of loopholy way, try to figure out like, what is the thing that is that is the first thing you would want to put a SQL database on top of to ship and produce? And I think that's what books was the answer. So and obviously, he also came from a hedge fund, right? Would you play somebody like him also in the old finance crowd rather than as a startup founder? Nadia Asparouhova 0:02:22Yeah, it's kind of a weird one because he's both associated with the early computing revolution, but then also AWS was sort of like what kicked off all of the 2010s sort of startup. And I think in the way that he's started thinking about his public legacy and just from sort of his public behavior, I think he fits much more squarely now in that sort of tech startup elite mindset of the 2010s crowd more so than the Davos elite crowd of the 2000s. Dwarkesh Patel 0:02:47What in specific are you referring to? Nadia Asparouhova 0:02:49Well, he's come out and been like sort of openly critical about a lot of like Davos type institutions. He kind of pokes fun at mainstream media and for not believing in him not believing in AWS. And I think he's because he sort of like spans across like both of these generations, he's been able to see the evolution of like how maybe like his earlier peers function versus the sort of second cohort of peers that he came across. But to me, he seems much more like, much more of the sort of like startup elite mindset. And I can kind of back up a little bit there. But what I associate with the Davos Wall Street kind of crowd is much more of this focus on quantitative thinking, measuring efficiency. And then also this like globalist mindset, like I think that the vision that they want to ensure for the world is this idea of like a very interconnected world where we, you know, sort of like the United Nations kind of mindset. And that is really like literally what the Davos gathering is. Whereas Bezos from his actions today feels much closer to the startup, like Y Combinator post AWS kind of mindset of founders that were really made their money by taking these non-obvious bets on talented people. So they were much less focused on credentialism. They were much more into this idea of meritocracy. I think we sort of forget like how commonplace this trope is of like, you know, the young founder in a dorm room. And that was really popularized by the 2010s cohort of the startup elite of being someone that may have like absolutely no skills, no background in industry, but can somehow sort of like turn the entire industry over on its head. And I think that was sort of like the unique insight of the tech startup crowd. And yeah, when I think about just sort of like some of the things that Bezos is doing now, it feels like she identifies with that much more strongly of being this sort of like lone cowboy or having this like one talented person with really great ideas who can sort of change the world. I think about the, what is it called? The Altos Institute or the new like science initiative that he put out where he was recruiting these like scientists from academic institutions and paying them really high salaries just to attract like the very best top scientists around the world. That's much more of that kind of mindset than it is about like putting faith in sort of like existing institutions, which is what we would see from more of like a Davos kind of mindset. Dwarkesh Patel 0:05:16Interesting. Do you think that in the future, like the kids of today's tech billionaires will be future aristocrats? So effective altruism will be a sort of elite aristocratic philosophy. They'll be like tomorrow's Rockefellers. Nadia Asparouhova 0:05:30Yeah, I kind of worry about that actually. I think of there as being like within the US, we were kind of lucky in that we have these two different types of elites. We have the aristocratic elites and we have meritocratic elites. Most other countries I think basically just have aristocratic elites, especially comparing like the US to Britain in this way. And so in the aristocratic model, your wealth and your power is sort of like conferred to you by previous generations. You just kind of like inherit it from your parents or your family or whomever. And the upside of that, if there is an upside, is that you get really socialized into this idea of what does it mean to be a public steward? What does it mean to think of yourself and your responsibility to the rest of society as a privileged elite person? In the US, we have this really great thing where you can kind of just, you know, we have the American dream, right? So lots of people that didn't grow up with money can break into the elite ranks by doing something that makes them really successful. And that's like a really special thing about the US. So we have this whole class of meritocratic elites who may not have aristocratic backgrounds, but ended up doing something within their lifetimes that made them successful. And so, yeah, I think it's a really cool thing. The downside of that being that you don't really get like socialized into what does it mean to have this fortune and do something interesting with your money. You don't have this sort of generational benefit that the aristocratic elites have of presiding over your land or whatever you want to call it, where you're sort of learning how to think about yourself in relation to the rest of society. And so it's much easier to just kind of like hoard your wealth or whatever. And so when you think about sort of like what are the next generations, the children of the meritocratic elites going to look like or what are they going to do, it's very easy to imagine kind of just becoming aristocratic elites in the sense of like, yeah, they're just going to like inherit the money from their families. And they haven't also really been socialized into like how to think about their role in society. And so, yeah, all the meritocratic elites eventually turn into aristocratic elites, which is where I think you start seeing this trend now towards people wanting to sort of like spend down their fortunes within their lifetime or within a set number of decades after they die because they kind of see what happened in previous generations and are like, oh, I don't want to do that. Dwarkesh Patel 0:07:41Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, it's interesting. You mentioned that the aristocratic elites have the feel that they have the responsibility to give back, I guess, more so than the meritocratic elites. But I believe that in the U.S., the amount of people who give to philanthropy and the total amount they give is higher than in Europe, right, where they probably have a higher ratio of aristocratic elites. Wouldn't you expect the opposite if the aristocratic elites are the ones that are, you know, inculcated to give back? Nadia Asparouhova 0:08:11Well, I assume like most of the people that are the figures about sort of like Americans giving back is spread across like all Americans, not just the wealthiest. Dwarkesh Patel 0:08:19Yeah. So you would predict that among the top 10 percent of Americans, there's less philanthropy than the top 10 percent of Europeans? Uh, there's... Sorry, I'm not sure I understand the question. I guess, does the ratio of meritocratic to aristocratic elites change how much philanthropy there is among the elites? Nadia Asparouhova 0:08:45Yeah, I mean, like here we have much more of a culture of like even among aristocratic elites, this idea of like institution building or like large donations to like build institutions, whereas in Europe, a lot of the public institutions are created by government. And there's sort of this mentality of like private citizens don't experiment with public institutions. That's the government's job. And you see that sort of like pervasively throughout all of like European cultures. Like when we want something to change in public society, we look to government to like regulate or change it. Whereas in the U.S., it's kind of much more like choose your own adventure. And we don't really see the government as like the sole provider or shaper of public institutions. We also look at private citizens and like there's so many things that like public institutions that we have now that were not started by government, but were started by private philanthropists. And that's like a really unusual thing about the U.S. Dwarkesh Patel 0:09:39There's this common pattern in philanthropy where a guy will become a billionaire, and then his wife will be heavily involved with or even potentially in charge of, you know, the family's philanthropic efforts. And there's many examples of this, right? Like Bill and Melinda Gates, you know, Mark Zuckerberg. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And Dustin Moskovitz. So what is the consequence of this? How is philanthropy, the causes and the foundations, how are they different because of this pattern? Nadia Asparouhova 0:10:15Well, I mean, I feel like we see that pattern, like the problem is that what even is philanthropy is changing very quickly. So we can say historically that, not even historically, in recent history, in recent decades, that has probably been true. That wasn't true in say like late 1800s, early 1900s. It was, you know, Carnegie and Rockefeller were the ones that were actually doing their own philanthropy, not their spouses. So I'd say it's a more recent trend. But now I think we're also seeing this thing where like a lot of wealthy people are not necessarily doing their philanthropic activities through foundations anymore. And that's true both within like traditional philanthropy sector and sort of like the looser definition of what we might consider to be philanthropy, depending on how you define it, which I kind of more broadly want to define as like the actions of elites that are sort of like, you know, public facing activities. But like even within sort of traditional philanthropy circles, we have like, you know, the 5.1c3 nonprofit, which is, you know, traditionally how people, you know, house all their money in a foundation and then they do their philanthropic activities out of that. But in more recent years, we've seen this trend towards like LLCs. So Emerson Collective, I think, might have been maybe the first one to do it. And that was Steve Jobs' Philanthropic Foundation. And then Mark Zuckerberg with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative also used an LLC. And then since then, a lot of other, especially within sort of like tech wealth, we've seen that move towards people using LLCs instead of 5.1c3s because they, it just gives you a lot more flexibility in the kinds of things you can fund. You don't just have to fund other nonprofits. And they also see donor advised funds. So DAFs, which are sort of this like hacky workaround to foundations as well. So I guess point being that like this sort of mental model of like, you know, one person makes a ton of money and then their spouse kind of directs these like nice, feel good, like philanthropic activities, I think is like, may not be the model that we continue to move forward on. And I'm kind of hopeful or curious to see like, what does a return to like, because we've had so many new people making a ton of money in the last 10 years or so, we might see this return to sort of like the Gilded Age style of philanthropy where people are not necessarily just like forming a philanthropic foundation and looking for the nicest causes to fund, but are actually just like thinking a little bit more holistically about like, how do I help build and create like a movement around a thing that I really care about? How do I think more broadly around like funding companies and nonprofits and individuals and like doing lots of different, different kinds of activities? Because I think like the broader goal that like motivates at least like the new sort of elite classes to want to do any of this stuff at all. I don't really think philanthropy is about altruism. I just, I think like the term philanthropy is just totally fraud and like refers to too many different things and it's not very helpful. But I think like the part that I'm interested in at least is sort of like what motivates elites to go from just sort of like making a lot of money and then like thinking about themselves to them thinking about sort of like their place in broader public society. And I think that starts with thinking about how do I control like media, academia, government are sort of like the three like arms of the public sector. And we think of it in that way a little bit more broadly where it's really much more about sort of like maintaining control over your own power, more so than sort of like this like altruistic kind of, you know, whitewash. Dwarkesh Patel 0:13:41Yeah. Nadia Asparouhova 0:13:42Then it becomes like, you know, there's so many other like creative ways to think about like how that might happen. Dwarkesh Patel 0:13:49That's, that's, that's really interesting. That's a, yeah, that's a really interesting way of thinking about what it is you're doing with philanthropy. Isn't the word noble descended from a word that basically means to give alms to people like if you're in charge of them, you will give alms to them. And in a way, I mean, it might have been another word I'm thinking of, but in a way, yeah, a part of what motivates altruism, not obviously all of it, but part of it is that, yeah, you influence and power. Not even in a necessarily negative connotation, but that's definitely what motivates altruism. So having that put square front and center is refreshing and honest, actually. Nadia Asparouhova 0:14:29Yeah, I don't, I really don't see it as like a negative thing at all. And I think most of the like, you know, writing and journalism and academia that focuses on philanthropy tends to be very wealth critical. I'm not at all, like I personally don't feel wealth critical at all. I think like, again, sort of returning to this like mental model of like aristocratic and meritocratic elites, aristocratic elites are able to sort of like pass down, like encode what they're supposed to be doing in each generation because they have this kind of like familial ties. And I think like on the meritocratic side, like if you didn't have any sort of language around altruism or public stewardship, then like, it's like, you need to kind of create that narrative for the meritocratically or else, you know, there's just like nothing to hold on to. So I think like, it makes sense to talk in those terms. Andrew Carnegie being sort of the father of modern philanthropy in the US, like, wrote these series of essays about wealth that were like very influential and where he sort of talks about this like moral obligation. And I think like, really, it was kind of this like, a quiet way for him to, even though it was ostensibly about sort of like giving back or, you know, helping lift up the next generation of people, the next generation of entrepreneurs. Like, I think it really was much more of a protective stance of saying, like, if he doesn't frame it in this way, then people are just going to knock down the concept of wealth altogether. Dwarkesh Patel 0:15:50Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that's really interesting. And it's interesting, in which cases this kind of influence has been successful and worse not. When Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, has there been any counterfactual impact on how the Washington Post has run as a result? I doubt it. But you know, when Musk takes over Twitter, I guess it's a much more expensive purchase. We'll see what the influence is negative or positive. But it's certainly different than what Twitter otherwise would have been. So control over media, it's, I guess it's a bigger meme now. Let me just take a digression and ask about open source for a second. So based on your experience studying these open source projects, do you find the theory that Homer and Shakespeare were basically container words for these open source repositories that stretched out through centuries? Do you find that more plausible now, rather than them being individuals, of course? Do you find that more plausible now, given your, given your study of open source? Sorry, what did? Nadia Asparouhova 0:16:49Less plausible. What did? Dwarkesh Patel 0:16:51Oh, okay. So the idea is that they weren't just one person. It was just like a whole bunch of people throughout a bunch of centuries who composed different parts of each story or composed different stories. Nadia Asparouhova 0:17:02The Nicholas Berbaki model, same concept of, you know, a single mathematician who's actually comprised of like lots of different. I think it's actually the opposite would be sort of my conclusion. We think of open source as this very like collective volunteer effort. And I think, use that as an excuse to not really contribute back to open source or not really think about like how open source projects are maintained. Because we were like, you know, you kind of have this bystander effect where you're like, well, you know, someone's taking care of it. It's volunteer oriented. Like, of course, there's someone out there taking care of it. But in reality, it actually turns out it is just one person. So maybe it's a little bit more like a Wizard of Oz type model. It's actually just like one person behind the curtain that's like, you know, doing everything. And you see this huge, you know, grandeur and you think there must be so many people that are behind it. It's one person. Yeah, and I think that's sort of undervalued. I think a lot of the rhetoric that we have about open source is rooted in sort of like early 2000s kind of starry eyed idea about like the power of the internet and the idea of like crowdsourcing and Wikipedia and all this stuff. And then like in reality, like we kind of see this convergence from like very broad based collaborative volunteer efforts to like narrowing down to kind of like single creators. And I think a lot of like, you know, single creators are the people that are really driving a lot of the internet today and a lot of cultural production. Dwarkesh Patel 0:18:21Oh, that's that's super fascinating. Does that in general make you more sympathetic towards the lone genius view of accomplishments in history? Not just in literature, I guess, but just like when you think back to how likely is it that, you know, Newton came up with all that stuff on his own versus how much was fed into him by, you know, the others around him? Nadia Asparouhova 0:18:40Yeah, I think so. I feel I've never been like a big, like, you know, great founder theory kind of person. I think I'm like, my true theory is, I guess that ideas are maybe some sort of like sentient, like, concept or virus that operates outside of us. And we are just sort of like the vessels through which like ideas flow. So in that sense, you know, it's not really about any one person, but I do think I think I tend to lean like in terms of sort of like, where does creative, like, creative effort come from? I do think a lot of it comes much more from like a single individual than it does from with some of the crowds. But everything just serves like different purposes, right? Like, because I think like, within open source, it's like, not all of open source maintenance work is creative. In fact, most of it is pretty boring and dredgerous. And that's the stuff that no one wants to do. And that, like, one person kind of got stuck with doing and that's really different from like, who created a certain open source projects, which is a little bit more of that, like, creative mindset. Dwarkesh Patel 0:19:44Yeah, yeah, that's really interesting. Do you think more projects in open source, so just take a popular repository, on average, do you think that these repositories would be better off if, let's say a larger percentage of them where pull requests were closed and feature requests were closed? You can look at the code, but you can't interact with it or its creators anyway? Should more repositories have this model? Yeah, I definitely think so. I think a lot of people would be much happier that way. Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's interesting to think about the implications of this for other areas outside of code, right? Which is where it gets really interesting. I mean, in general, there's like a discussion. Sorry, go ahead. Yeah. Nadia Asparouhova 0:20:25Yeah, I mean, that's basically what's for the writing of my book, because I was like, okay, I feel like whatever's happening open source right now, you start with this idea that like democracy is green, and like, we should have tons and tons of people participating, tons of people participate, and then it turns out that like, most participation is actually just noise and not that useful. And then it ends up like scaring everyone away. And in the end, you just have like, you know, one or a small handful of people that are actually doing all the work while everyone else is kind of like screaming around them. And this becomes like a really great metaphor for what happens in social media. And the reason I wrote, after I wrote the book, I went and worked at Substack. And, you know, part of it was because I was like, I think the model is kind of converging from like, you know, Twitter being this big open space to like, suddenly everyone is retreating, like, the public space is so hostile that everyone must retreat into like, smaller private spaces. So then, you know, chats became a thing, Substack became a thing. And yeah, I just feel sort of like realistic, right? Dwarkesh Patel 0:21:15That's really fascinating. Yeah, the Straussian message in that book is very strong. But in general, there's, when you're thinking about something like corporate governance, right? There's a big question. And I guess even more interestingly, when you think if you think DAOs are going to be a thing, and you think that we will have to reinvent corporate governance from the ground up, there's a question of, should these be run like monarchy? Should they be sort of oligarchies where the board is in control? Should they be just complete democracies where everybody gets one vote on what you do at the next, you know, shareholder meeting or something? And this book and that analysis is actually pretty interesting to think about. Like, how should corporations be run differently, if at all? What does it inform how you think the average corporation should be run? Nadia Asparouhova 0:21:59Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think we are seeing a little bit, I'm not a corporate governance expert, but I do feel like we're seeing a little of this like, backlash against, like, you know, shareholder activism and like, extreme focus on sort of like DEI and boards and things like that. And like, I think we're seeing a little bit of people starting to like take the reins and take control again, because they're like, ah, that doesn't really work so well, it turns out. I think DAOs are going to learn this hard lesson as well. It's still maybe just too early to say what is happening in DAOs right now. But at least the ones that I've looked at, it feels like there is a very common failure mode of people saying, you know, like, let's just have like, let's have this be super democratic and like, leave it to the crowd to kind of like run this thing and figure out how it works. And it turns out you actually do need a strong leader, even the beginning. And this, this is something I learned just from like, open source projects where it's like, you know, very rarely, or if at all, do you have a strong leader? If at all, do you have a project that starts sort of like leaderless and faceless? And then, you know, usually there is some strong creator, leader or influential figure that is like driving the project forward for a certain period of time. And then you can kind of get to the point when you have enough of an active community that maybe that leader takes a step back and lets other people take over. But it's not like you can do that off day one. And that's sort of this open question that I have for, for crypto as an industry more broadly, because I think like, if I think about sort of like, what is defining each of these generations of people that are, you know, pushing forward new technological paradigms, I mentioned that like Wall Street finance mindset is very focused on like globalism and on this sort of like efficiency quantitative mindset. You have the tech Silicon Valley Y company or kind of generation that is really focused on top talent. And the idea this sort of like, you know, founder mindset, the power of like individuals breaking institutions, and then you have like the crypto mindset, which is this sort of like faceless leaderless, like governed by protocol and by code mindset, which is like intriguing to me. But I have a really hard time squaring it with seeing like, in some sense, open source was the experiment that started playing out, you know, 20 years before then. And some things are obviously different in crypto, because tokenization completely changes the incentive system for contributing and maintaining crypto projects versus like traditional open source projects. But in the end, also like humans are humans. And like, I feel like there are a lot of lessons to be learned from open source of like, you know, they also started out early on as being very starry eyed about the power of like, hyper democratic regimes. And it turned out like, that just like doesn't work in practice. And so like, how is CryptoGhost or like Square that? I'm just, yeah, very curious to see what happened. Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:41Yeah, super fascinating. That raises an interesting question, by the way, you've written about idea machines, and you can explain that concept while you answer this question. But do you think that movements can survive without a charismatic founder who is both alive and engaged? So once Will McCaskill dies, would you be shorting effective altruism? Or if like Tyler Cowen dies, would you be short progress studies? Or do you think that, you know, once you get a movement off the ground, you're like, okay, I'm gonna be shorting altruism. Nadia Asparouhova 0:25:08Yeah, I think that's a good question. I mean, like, I don't think there's some perfect template, like each of these kind of has its own sort of unique quirks and characteristics in them. I guess, yeah, back up a little bit. Idea machines is this concept I have around what the transition from we were talking before about, so like traditional 5.1c3 foundations as vehicles for philanthropy, what does the modern version of that look like that is not necessarily encoded in institution? And so I had this term idea machines, which is sort of this different way of thinking about like, turning ideas into outcomes where you have a community that forms around a shared set of values and ideas. So yeah, you mentioned like progress studies is an example of that, or effective altruism example, eventually, that community gets capitalized by some funders, and then it starts to be able to develop an agenda and then like, actually start building like, you know, operational outcomes and like, turning those ideas into real world initiatives. And remind me of your question again. Dwarkesh Patel 0:26:06Yeah, so once the charismatic founder dies of a movement, is a movement basically handicapped in some way? Like, maybe it'll still be a thing, but it's never going to reach the heights it could have reached if that main guy had been around? Nadia Asparouhova 0:26:20I think there are just like different shapes and classifications of like different, different types of communities here. So like, and I'm just thinking back again to sort of like different types of open source projects where it's not like they're like one model that fits perfectly for all of them. So I think there are some communities where it's like, yeah, I mean, I think effective altruism is maybe a good example of that where, like, the community has grown so much that I like if all their leaders were to, you know, knock on wood, disappear tomorrow or something that like, I think the movement would still keep going. There are enough true believers, like even within the community. And I think that's the next order of that community that like, I think that would just continue to grow. Whereas you have like, yeah, maybe it's certain like smaller or more nascent communities that are like, or just like communities that are much more like oriented around, like, a charismatic founder that's just like a different type where if you lose that leader, then suddenly, you know, the whole thing falls apart because they're much more like these like cults or religions. And I don't think it makes one better, better or worse. It's like the right way to do is probably like Bitcoin, where you have a charismatic leader for life because that leader is more necessarily, can't go away, can't ever die. But you still have the like, you know, North Stars and like that. Dwarkesh Patel 0:27:28Yeah. It is funny. I mean, a lot of prophets have this property of you're not really sure what they believed in. So people with different temperaments can project their own preferences onto him. Somebody like Jesus, right? It's, you know, you can be like a super left winger and believe Jesus did for everything you believe in. You can be a super right winger and believe the same. Yeah. Go ahead. Nadia Asparouhova 0:27:52I think there's value in like writing cryptically more. Like I think about like, I think Curtis Yarvin has done a really good job of this where, you know, intentionally or not, but because like his writing is so cryptic and long winded. And like, it's like the Bible where you can just kind of like pour over endlessly being like, what does this mean? What does this mean? And in a weird, you know, you're always told to write very clearly, you're told to write succinctly, but like, it's actually in a weird way, you can be much more effective by being very long winded and not obvious in what you're saying. Dwarkesh Patel 0:28:20Yes, which actually raises an interesting question that I've been wondering about. There have been movements, I guess, if I did altruism is a good example that have been focused on community building in a sort of like explicit way. And then there's other movements where they have a charismatic founder. And moreover, this guy, he doesn't really try to recruit people. I'm thinking of somebody like Peter Thiel, for example, right? He goes on, like once every year or two, he'll go on a podcast and have this like really cryptic back and forth. And then just kind of go away in a hole for a few months or a few years. And I'm curious, which one you think is more effective, given the fact that you're not really competing for votes. So absolute number of people is not what you care about. It's not clear what you care about. But you do want to have more influence among the elites who matter in like politics and tech as well. So anyways, which just your thoughts on those kinds of strategies, explicitly trying to community build versus just kind of projecting out there in a sort of cryptic way? Nadia Asparouhova 0:29:18Yeah, I mean, I definitely being somewhat cryptic myself. I favor the cryptic methodology. But I mean, yeah, I mean, you mentioned Peter Thiel. I think like the Thielverse is probably like the most, like one of the most influential things. In fact, that is hard. It is partly so effective, because it is hard to even define what it is or wrap your head around that you just know that sort of like, every interesting person you meet somehow has some weird connection to, you know, Peter Thiel. And it's funny. But I think this is sort of that evolution from the, you know, 5163 Foundation to the like idea machine implicit. And that is this this switch from, you know, used to start the, you know, Nadia Asparova Foundation or whatever. And it was like, you know, had your name on it. And it was all about like, what do I as a funder want to do in the world, right? And you spend all this time doing this sort of like classical, you know, research, going out into the field, talking to people and you sit and you think, okay, like, here's a strategy I'm going to pursue. And like, ultimately, it's like, very, very donor centric in this very explicit way. And so within traditional philanthropy, you're seeing this sort of like, backlash against that. In like, you know, straight up like nonprofit land, where now you're seeing the locus of power moving from being very donor centric to being sort of like community centric and people saying like, well, we don't really want the donors telling us what to do, even though it's also their money. Like, you know, instead, let's have this be driven by the community from the ground up. That's maybe like one very literal reaction against that, like having the donor as sort of the central power figure. But I think idea machines are kind of like the like, maybe like the more realistic or effective answer in that like, the donor is still like without the presence of a funder, like, community is just a community. They're just sitting around and talking about ideas of like, what could possibly happen? Like, they don't have any money to make anything happen. But like, I think like really effective funders are good at being sort of like subtle and thoughtful about like, like, you know, no one wants to see like the Peter Thiel foundation necessarily. That's just like, it's so like, not the style of how it works. But you know, you meet so many people that are being funded by the same person, like just going out and sort of aggressively like arming the rebels is a more sort of like, yeah, just like distributed decentralized way of thinking about like spreading one's power, instead of just starting a fund. Instead of just starting a foundation. Dwarkesh Patel 0:31:34Yeah, yeah. I mean, even if you look at the life of influential politicians, somebody like LBJ, or Robert Moses, it's how much of it was like calculated and how much of it was just like decades of building up favors and building up connections in a way that had no definite and clear plan, but it just you're hoping that someday you can call upon them and sort of like Godfather way. Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. And by the way, this is also where your work on open source comes in, right? Like, there's this idea that in the movement, you know, everybody will come in with their ideas, and you can community build your way towards, you know, what should be funded. And, yeah, I'm inclined to believe that it's probably like a few people who have these ideas about what should be funded. And the rest of it is either just a way of like building up engagement and building up hype. Or, or I don't know, or maybe just useless, but what are your thoughts on it? Nadia Asparouhova 0:32:32You know, I decided I was like, I am like, really very much a tech startup person and not a crypto person, even though I would very much like to be fun, because I'm like, ah, this is the future. And there's so many interesting things happening. And I'm like, for the record, not at all like down in crypto, I think it is like the next big sort of movement of things that are happening. But when I really come down to like the mindset, it's like I am so in that sort of like, top talent founder, like power of the individual to break institutions mindset, like that just resonates with me so much more than the like, leaderless, faceless, like, highly participatory kind of thing. And again, like I am very open to that being true, like I maybe I'm so wrong on that. I just like, I have not yet seen evidence that that works in the world. I see a lot of rhetoric about how that could work or should work. We have this sort of like implicit belief that like, direct democracy is somehow like the greatest thing to aspire towards. But like, over and over we see evidence that like that doesn't that just like doesn't really work. It doesn't mean we have to throw out the underlying principles or values behind that. Like I still really believe in meritocracy. I really believe in like access to opportunity. I really believe in like pursuit of happiness. Like to me, those are all like very like American values. But like, I think that where that breaks is the idea that like that has to happen through these like highly participatory methods. I just like, yeah, I haven't seen really great evidence of that being that working. Dwarkesh Patel 0:33:56What does that imply about how you think about politics or at least political structures? You think it would you you elect a mayor, but like, just forget no participation. He gets to do everything he wants to do for four years and you can get rid of in four years. But until then, no community meetings. Well, what does that imply about how you think cities and states and countries should be run? Nadia Asparouhova 0:34:17Um, that's a very complicated thoughts on that. I mean, I, I think it's also like, everyone has the fantasy of when it'd be so nice if there were just one person in charge. I hate all this squabbling. It would just be so great if we could just, you know, have one person just who has exactly the views that I have and put them in charge and let them run things. That would be very nice. I just, I do also think it's unrealistic. Like, I don't think I'm, you know, maybe like modernity sounds great in theory, but in practice just doesn't like I really embrace and I think like there is no perfect governance design either in the same way that there's no perfect open source project designer or whatever else we're talking about. Um, uh, like, yeah, it really just depends like what is like, what is your population comprised of? There are some very small homogenous populations that can be very easily governed by like, you know, a small government or one person or whatever, because there isn't that much dissent or difference. Everyone is sort of on the same page. America is the extreme opposite in that angle. And I'm always thinking about America because like, I'm American and I love America. But like, everyone is trying to solve the governance question for America. And I think like, yeah, I don't know. I mean, we're an extremely heterogeneous population. There are a lot of competing world views. I may not agree with all the views of everyone in America, but like I also, like, I don't want just one person that represents my personal views. I would focus more like effectiveness in governance than I would like having like, you know, just one person in charge or something that like, I don't mind if someone disagrees with my views as long as they're good at what they do, if that makes sense. So I think the questions are like, how do we improve the speed at which like our government works and the efficacy with which it works? Like, I think there's so much room to be made room for improvement there versus like, I don't know how much like I really care about like changing the actual structure of our government. Dwarkesh Patel 0:36:27Interesting. Going back to open source for a second. Why do these companies release so much stuff in open source for free? And it's probably literally worth trillions of dollars of value in total. And they just release it out and free and many of them are developer tools that other developers use to build competitors for these big tech companies that are releasing these open source tools. Why did they do it? What explains it? Nadia Asparouhova 0:36:52I mean, I think it depends on the specific project, but like a lot of times, these are projects that were developed internally. It's the same reason of like, I think code and writing are not that dissimilar in this way of like, why do people spend all this time writing, like long posts or papers or whatever, and then just release them for free? Like, why not put everything behind a paywall? And I think the answer is probably still in both cases where like mindshare is a lot more interesting than, you know, your literal IP. And so, you know, you put out, you write these like long reports or you tweet or whatever, like you spend all this time creating content for free and putting it out there because you're trying to capture mindshare. Same thing with companies releasing open source projects. Like a lot of times they really want like other developers to come in and contribute to them. They want to increase their status as like an open source friendly kind of company or company or show like, you know, here's the type of code that we write internally and showing that externally. They want to like recruiting is, you know, the hardest thing for any company, right? And so being able to attract the right kinds of developers or people that, you know, might fit really well into their developer culture just matters a lot more. And they're just doing that instead of with words or doing that with code. Dwarkesh Patel 0:37:57You've talked about the need for more idea machines. You're like dissatisfied with the fact that effective altruism is a big game in town. Is there some idea or nascent movement where I mean, other than progress ideas, but like something where you feel like this could be a thing, but it just needs some like charismatic founder to take it to the next level? Or even if it doesn't exist yet, it just like a set of ideas around this vein is like clearly something there is going to exist. You know what I mean? Is there anything like that that you notice? Nadia Asparouhova 0:38:26I only had a couple of different possibilities in that post. Yeah, I think like the progress sort of meme is probably the largest growing contender that I would see right now. I think there's another one right now around sort of like the new right. That's not even like the best term necessarily for it, but there's sort of like a shared set of values there that are maybe starting with like politics, but like ideally spreading to like other areas of public influence. So I think like those are a couple of like the bigger movements that I see right now. And then there's like smaller stuff too. Like I mentioned, like tools for thought in that post where like that's never going to be a huge idea machine. But it's one where you have a lot of like interesting, talented people that are thinking about sort of like future of computing. And until maybe more recently, like there just hasn't been a lot of funding available and the funding is always really uneven and unpredictable. And so that's to me an example of like, you know, a smaller community that like just needs that sort of like extra influx to turn a bunch of abstract ideas into practice. But yeah, I mean, I think like, yeah, there's some like the bigger ones that I see right now. I think there is just so much more potential to do more, but I wish people would just think a little bit more creatively because, yeah, I really do think like effective altruism kind of becomes like the default option for a lot of people. Then they're kind of vaguely dissatisfied with it and they don't like think about like, well, what do I actually really care about in the world and how do I want to put that forward? Dwarkesh Patel 0:39:53Yeah, there's also the fact that effective altruism has this like very fit memeplex in the sense that it's like a polytheistic religion where if you have a cause area, then you don't have your own movement. You just have a cause area within our broader movement, right? It just like adopts your gods into our movement. Nadia Asparouhova 0:40:15Yeah, that's the same thing I see like people trying to lobby for effective altruism to care about their cause area, but then it's like you could just start a separate. Like if you can't get EA to care about, then why not just like start another one somewhere else? Dwarkesh Patel 0:40:28Yeah, so, you know, it's interesting to me that the wealth boom in Silicon Valley and then tech spheres has led to the sound growth of philanthropy, but that hasn't always been the case. Even in America, like a lot of people became billionaires after energy markets were deregulated in the 80s and the 90s. And then there wasn't, and obviously the hub of that was like the Texas area or, you know, and as far as I'm aware, there wasn't like a boom of philanthropy motivated by the ideas that people in that region had. What's different about Silicon Valley? Why are they, or do you actually think that these other places have also had their own booms of philanthropic giving? Nadia Asparouhova 0:41:11I think you're right. Yeah, I would make the distinction between like being wealthy is not the same as being elite or whatever other term you want to use there. And so yeah, there are definitely like pockets of what's called like more like local markets of wealth, like, yeah, Texas oil or energy billionaires that tend to operate kind of just more in their own sphere. And a lot of, if you look at any philanthropic, like a lot of them will be philanthropically active, but they only really focus on their geographic area. But there's sort of this difference. And I think this is part of where it comes from the question of like, you know, like what forces someone to actually like do something more public facing with their power. And I think that comes from your power being sort of like threatened. That's like one aspect I would say of that. So like tech has only really become a lot more active in the public sphere outside of startups after the tech backlash of the mid 2010s. And you can say a similar thing kind of happened with the Davos elite as well. And also for the Gilded Age cohort of wealth. And so yeah, when you have sort of, you're kind of like, you know, building in your own little world. And like, you know, we had literally like Silicon Valley where everyone was kind of like sequestered off and just thinking about startups and thinking themselves of like, tech is essentially like an industry, just like any other sort of, you know, entertainment or whatever. And we're just kind of happy building over here. And then it was only when sort of like the Panopticon like turned its head towards tech and started and they had this sort of like onslaught of critiques coming from sort of like mainstream discourse where they went, oh, like what is my place in this world? And, you know, if I don't try to like defend that, then I'm going to just kind of, yeah, we're going to lose all that power. So I think that that need to sort of like defend one's power can kind of like prompt that sort of action. The other aspect I'd highlight is just like, I think a lot of elites are driven by these like technological paradigm shifts. So there's this scholar, Carlotta Perrins, who writes about technological revolutions and financial capital. And she identifies like a few different technological revolutions over the last, whatever, hundred plus years that like drove this cycle of, you know, a new technology is invented. It's people are kind of like working on it in this smaller industry sort of way. And then there is some kind of like crazy like public frenzy and then like a backlash. And then from after that, then you have this sort of like focus on public institution building. But she really points out that like not all technology fits into that. Like, not all technology is a paradigm shift. Sometimes technology is just technology. And so, yeah, I think like a lot of wealth might just fall into that category. My third example, by the way, is the Koch family because you had, you know, the Koch brothers, but then like their father was actually the one who like kind of initially made their wealth, but was like very localized in sort of like how he thought about philanthropy. He had his own like, you know, family foundation was just sort of like doing that sort of like, you know, Texas billionaire mindset that we're talking about of, you know, I made a bunch of money. I'm going to just sort of like, yeah, do my local funder activity. It was only the next generation of his children that then like took that wealth and started thinking about like how do we actually like move that onto like a more elite stage and thinking about like their influence in the media. But like you can see there's like two clear generations within the same family. Like one has this sort of like local wealth mindset and one of them has the more like elite wealth mindset. And yeah, you can kind of like ask yourself, why did that switch happen? But yeah, it's clearly about more than just money. It's also about intention. Dwarkesh Patel 0:44:51Yeah, that's really interesting. Well, it's interesting because there's, if you identify the current mainstream media as affiliated with like that Davos aristocratic elite, or maybe not aristocratic, but like the Davos groups. Yeah, exactly. There is a growing field of independent media, but you would not identify somebody like Joe Rogan as in the Silicon Valley sphere, right? So there is a new media. I just, I guess these startup people don't have that much influence over them yet. And they feel like, yeah. Nadia Asparouhova 0:45:27I think they're trying to like take that strategy, right? So you have like a bunch of founders like Palmer Luckey and Mark Zuckerberg and Brian Armstrong and whoever else that like will not really talk to mainstream media anymore. They will not get an interview to the New York Times, but they will go to like an individual influencer or an individual creator and they'll do an interview with them. So like when Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta, like he did not get grant interviews to mainstream publications, but he went and talked to like Ben Thompson at Strategory. And so I think there is like, it fits really well with that. Like probably mindset of like, we're not necessarily institution building. We're going to like focus on power of individuals who sort of like defy institutions. And that is kind of like an open question that I have about like, what will the long term influence of the tech elite look like? Because like, yeah, the human history tells us that eventually all individual behaviors kind of get codified into institutions, right? But we're obviously living in a very different time now. And I think like the way that the Davos elite managed to like really codify and extend their influence across all these different sectors was by taking that institutional mindset and, you know, like thinking about sort of like academic institutions and media institutions, all that stuff. If the startup mindset is really inherently like anti-institution and says like, we don't want to build the next Harvard necessarily. We just want to like blow apart the concept of universities whatsoever. Or, you know, we don't want to create a new CNN or a new Fox News. We want to just like fund like individual creators to do that same sort of work, but in this very decentralized way. Like, will that work long term? I don't know. Like, is that just sort of like a temporary state that we're in right now where no one really knows what the next institutions will look like? Or is that really like an important part of this generation where like, we shouldn't be asking the question of like, how do you build a new media network? We should just be saying like, the answer is there is no media network. We just go to like all these individuals instead. Dwarkesh Patel 0:47:31Yeah, that's interesting. What do you make of this idea that I think, let's say, that these idea machines might be limited by the fact that if you're going to start some sort of organization in them, you're very much depending on somebody who has made a lot of money independently to fund you and to grant you approval. And I just have a hard time seeing somebody who is like a Napoleon-like figure being willing long term to live under that arrangement. And that so there'll just be the people who are just have this desire to dominate and be recognized who are probably pretty important to any movement you want to create. They'll just want to go off and just like build a company or something that gives them an independent footing first. And they just won't fall under any umbrella. You know what I mean? Nadia Asparouhova 0:48:27Yeah, I mean, like Dustin Moskovitz, for example, has been funding EA for a really long time and hasn't hasn't walked away necessarily. Yeah. I mean, on the flip side, you can see like SPF carried a lot of a lot of risk because it's your point, I guess, like, you know, you end up relying on this one funder, the one funder disappears and everything else kind of falls apart. I mean, I think like, I don't have any sort of like preciousness attached to the idea of like communities, you know, lasting forever. I think this is like, again, if we're trying to solve for the problem of like what did not work well about 5.1c3 foundations for most of recent history, like part of it was that they're, you know, just meant to live on to perpetuity. Like, why do we still have like, you know, Rockefeller Foundation, there are now actually many different Rockefeller Foundations, but like, why does that even exist? Like, why did that money not just get spent down? And actually, when John D. Rockefeller was first proposing the idea of foundations, he wanted them to be like, to have like a finite end state. So he wanted them to last only like 50 years or 100 years when he was proposing this like federal charter, but that federal charter failed. And so now we have these like state charters and foundations can just exist forever. But like, I think if we want to like improve upon this idea of like, how do we prevent like meritocratic elites from turning into aristocratic elites? How do we like, yeah, how do we actually just like try to do a lot of really interesting stuff in our lifetimes? It's like a very, it's very counterintuitive, because you think about like, leaving a legacy must mean like creating institutions or creating a foundation that lasts forever. And, you know, 200 years from now, there's still like the Nadia Asparuva Foundation out there. But like, if I really think about it, it's like, I would almost rather just do really, really, really good, interesting work in like, 50 years or 20 years or 10 years, and have that be the legacy versus your name kind of getting, you know, submerged over a century of institutional decay and decline. So yeah, I don't like if you know, you have a community that lasts for maybe only last 10 years or something like that, and it's funded for that amount of time, and then it kind of elbows its usefulness and it winds down or becomes less relevant. Like, I don't necessarily see it as a bad thing. Of course, like in practice, you know, nothing ever ends that that neatly and that quietly. But, but yeah, I don't think that's a bad thing. Dwarkesh Patel 0:50:44Yeah, yeah. Who are some ethnographers or sociologists from a previous era that have influenced your work? So was there somebody writing about, you know, what it was like to be in a Roman Legion? Or what it was like to work in a factory floor? And you're like, you know what, I want to do that for open source? Or I want to do that for the New Tech Elite? Nadia Asparouhova 0:51:02For open source, I was definitely really influenced by Jane Jacobs and Eleanor Ostrom. I think both had this quality of, so yeah, Eleanor Ostrom was looking at examples of common pool resources, like fisheries or forests or whatever. And just like, going and visiting them and spending a lot of time with them and then saying like, actually, I don't think tragedy of the commons is like a real thing, or it's not the only outcome that we can possibly have. And so sometimes commons can be managed, like perfectly sustainably. And it's not necessarily true that everyone just like treats them very extractively. And just like wrote about what she saw. And same with Jane Jacobs sort of looking at cities as someone who lives in one, right? Like she didn't have any fancy credentials or anything like that. She was just like, I live in the city and I'm looking around and this idea of like, top down urban planning, where you have like someone trying to design this perfect city that like, doesn't change and doesn't yield to its people. It just seems completely unrealistic. And the style that both of them take in their writing is very, it just it starts from them just like, observing what they see and then like, trying to write about it. And I just, yeah, that's, that's the style that I really want to emulate. Dwarkesh Patel 0:52:12Interesting. Nadia Asparouhova 0:52:13Yeah. I think for people to just be talking to like, I don't know, like Chris just like just talking to like open source developers, turns out you can learn a lot more from that than just sitting around like thinking about what open source developers might be thinking about. But... Dwarkesh Patel 0:52:25I have this, I have had this idea of not even for like writing it out loud, but just to understand how the world works. Just like shadowing people who are in just like a random position, they don't have to be a lead in any way, but just like a person who's the personal assistant to somebody influential, how to decide whose emails they forward, how they decide what's the priority, or somebody who's just like an accountant for a big company, right? It's just like, what is involved there? Like, what kinds of we're gonna, you know what I mean? Just like, random people, the line manager at the local factory. I just have no idea how these parts of the world work. And I just want to like, yeah, just shadow them for a day and see like, what happens there. Nadia Asparouhova 0:53:05This is really interesting, because everyone else focuses on sort of like, you know, the big name figure or whatever, but you know, who's the actual gatekeeper there? But yeah, I mean, I've definitely found like, if you just start cold emailing people and talking to them, people are often like, surprisingly, very, very open to being talked to because I don't know, like, most people do not get asked questions about what they do and how they think and stuff. So, you know, you want to realize that dream. Dwarkesh Patel 0:53:33So maybe I'm not like John Rockefeller, and that I only want my organization to last for 50 years. I'm sure you've come across these people who have this idea that, you know, I'll let my money compound for like 200 years. And if it just compounds at some reasonable rate, I'll be, it'll be like the most wealthy institution in the world, unless somebody else has the same exact idea. If somebody wanted to do that, but they wanted to hedge for the possibility that there's a war or there's a revolt, or there's some sort of change in law that draws down this wealth. How would you set up a thousand year endowment, basically, is what I'm asking, or like a 500 year endowment? Would you just put it in like a crypto wallet with us? And just, you know what I mean? Like, how would you go about that organizationally? How would you like, that's your goal? I want to have the most influence in 500 years. Nadia Asparouhova 0:54:17Well, I'd worry much less. The question for me is not about how do I make sure that there are assets available to distribute in a thousand years? Because I don't know, just put in stock marketers. You can do some pretty boring things to just like, you know, ensure your assets grow over time. The more difficult question is, how do you ensure that whoever is deciding how to distribute the funds, distributes them in a way that you personally want them to be spent? So Ford Foundation is a really interesting example of this, where Henry Ford created a Ford Foundation shortly before he died, and just pledged a lot of Ford stock to create this foundation and was doing it basically for tax reasons, had no philanthropic. It's just like, this is what we're doing to like, house this wealth over here. And then, you know, passed away, son passed away, and grandson ended up being on the board. But the board ended up being basically like, you know, a bunch of people that Henry Ford certainly would not have ever wanted to be on his board. And so, you know, and you end up seeing like, the Ford Foundation ended up becoming huge influential. I like, I have received money from them. So it's not at all an indictment of sort of like their views or anything like that. It's just much more of like, you know, you had the intent of the original donor, and then you had like, who are all these people that like, suddenly just ended up with a giant pool of capital and then like, decided to spend it however they felt like spending it and the grandson at the time sort of like, famously resigned because he was like, really frustrated and was just like, this is not at all what my family wanted and like, basically like, kicked off the board. So anyway, so that is the question that I would like figure out if I had a thousand year endowment is like, how do I make sure that whomever manages that endowment actually shares my views? One, shares my views, but then also like, how do I even know what we need to care about in a thousand years? Because like, I don't even know what the problems are in a thousand years. And this is why like, I think like, very long term thinking can be a little bit dangerous in this way, because you're sort of like, presuming that you know what even matters then. Whereas I think like, figure out the most impactful things to do is just like, so contextually dependent on like, what is going on at the time. So I can't, I don't know. And there are also foundations where you know, the donor like, writes in the charter like, this money can only be spent on you know, X cause or whatever, but then it just becomes really awkward over time because

Made You Think
85: Lessons from Laozi, the Tao Te Ching

Made You Think

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 15, 2022 95:53


In today's episode, Nat Neil and Adil discuss the Tao Te Ching by Laozi. We each picked a few of our favorite chapters from the book to read and discuss, resulting in a wide-ranging discussion of work, happiness, ambition, finance, philosophy, and all our usual favorite subjects.  Some of the topics we covered were: The importance of not over-extending yourself, being moderate and patient What does it mean to prioritize “inaction”?  The balance between short and long-term productivity Which parts of the Tao do we each struggle with the most What it means to seek a “middle path.”  Plus lots of tangents around fitness, entrepreneurship, work, other books, and more. Be sure to stick around for the end, where Nat and Neil discuss our new plans for the show and where it's going in 2023.  Remember to subscribe if you haven't, and leave us a review on iTunes or Spotify if you liked the episode! Timestamps (1:10) - How different drugs created different financial crashes & philosophies (3:22) - Background on the Tao Te Ching (11:15) - Variations in the translations of the Tao Te Ching (17:00) - What is the “real” version of old texts? (21:20) - The theme of finding the middle ground, and inaction. Chapter 64. “If you rush into action, you will fail. If you hold on too tight, you will loose your grip. Therefore the Master lets things take their course and thus never fails.” (27:00) - The importance of doing nothing. Chapter 48. “He who conquers the world often does so by doing nothing. When one is compelled to do something, The world is already beyond his conquering.” (33:50) - The difference between short-term and long-term productivity. Sometimes doing nothing in the short term is the best strategy for the long term.  (42:00) - Chapters 68, 24. The importance of being balanced, avoiding going to extremes. Avoiding the consequences of intense competition. “He who stands on tiptoe does not stand firm.” (51:00) - What's something you're doing that's incongruous with the advice in the Tao? Neils: Shiny object syndrome. (54:00) - Nat's: Impatience with professional success. (1:05:00) - Adil's: Shiny object syndrome. (1:07:00) - The problem with the practical vs. the ideal, giving and receiving advice.  (1:15:00) - Unintuitive advice in fitness. (1:21:00) - Aiming at a specific goal vs. aiming in abstract. (1:24:00) - The power of having a good adversary for bringing out your best. (1:28:00) - Wrapup: Upcoming books, plans for the podcast Mentioned in the Show Byrne Hobart (on Lunar Society) (1:10) Analects of Confucius (two episodes from now) (4:51) Tao in You Website (11:15) ChatGPT (14:00) Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle (25:00)  The Alchemy of Finance by George Soros (29:05) Tyler Cowen (31:50) Cal Newport on Sam Harris (33:40) John McPhee (34:00) Children of Time, Adrian Tzchaicovsky (Nat got the age wrong, he was 46) (56:00) Godel Escher Bach, Douglas Hofstadter. Episode link (1:04:00) Antifragile, Nassim Taleb. Episode link (1:12:00) The Gibraltar skull (1:14:00) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Episode link. (1:15:00) Finite and Infinite Games. Episode link. (1:22:00) The Inner Game of Tennis. Episode link. (1:23:00) Robert Nozick (1:24:00) John Rawls (1:24:00) Huberman Lab Podcast (1:25:00) The Comfort Crisis (next episode!) (1:29:00)

The Pete Kaliner Show
NIMBYism and BANANAism hampering US energy production (12-15-2022--Hour2)

The Pete Kaliner Show

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 15, 2022 32:19


Edward Luce at the Financial Times says the political left in America has a "NIMBY problem." This pinpoints two problems with America's left. The first is an instinct for moral gesture over practical action. Many philosophers judge the goodness of an action by its outcome — in this case, sharply cutting carbon emissions. Others say an action's morality should be judged by its intention – in this case, refusing to compromise on your reputational virtue. If you want to know why New York still lacks a congestion pricing system, or California's high-speed rail system is a white elephant, you must confront the left's moral preferences. In neither of those stymied projects are Republicans the main problem. The left's second failing is hypocrisy. The “not in my backyard” instinct is hidden everywhere in plain sight. It explains why ultraliberal San Francisco's housing is unaffordable: rich people do not want their property values marred by construction or their neighbourhoods filled with the wrong people. It explains why residents of the wealthy holiday island of Nantucket are blocking an offshore wind farm on the flimsy claim that it would disturb the local whales. The reality is they do not want their view spoiled. This could have been America's first major offshore wind farm. The previous attempt in nearby Cape Cod was partly killed by the late Ted Kennedy, the local senator and scion of the family's Hyannis Port compound. Nimbyism captures both of the left's worst traits: it is often those who most loudly profess their principles who are quickest to veto any disruption to their own lives. The economist Tyler Cowen labels the problem “banana” – build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything. The left and Republicans are strewing banana skins in the way of America's clean energy transition.    Get exclusive content here!: https://thepetekalinershow.com/See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

The Lunar Society
Aella - Sex, Psychedelics, & Enlightenment

The Lunar Society

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 12, 2022 76:49


Sex tips, porn revolutions, psychedelics, and enlightenmentAella writes at knowingless.com. Her posts and tweets provide a unique perspective about the data on sexual kinks and on being an escort & camgirl.In this episode, Aella talks about:* her escorting sex tips,* how tech will change pornography,* & whether trauma & enlightenment are realEnjoy!Watch on YouTube. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform. TimestampsSex Tips - (0:00:21)Porn-tech Revolutions: Tiktokified Erotica? - (0:02:02)Trad Christian Life - (0:05:11)Can you be Naturally Talented at Enlightenment? (0:06:52)Camgirling, Escort Marketing, & Bulk deals  - (0:09:15)Sex Work vs Student Loans  - (0:13:25)Psychedelics and Deconstructive Suffering - (0:15:30)Aella's Extreme Reading Addiction -  (0:21:08)Radically Authentic People are Hot? - (0:27:29)Some Advice for Making Better Internet Polls - (0:39:32)Hanging out with Elites - (0:43:59)Is Trauma Fake? - (0:53:49)Spawning as a Woman and Being Extremely Weird - (1:07:19)Boring Podcast Conversations - (1:12:09)TranscriptTranscript is autogeneratedDwarkesh Patel 0:00:00Okay, today I have the pleasure of speaking with Ayela, who needs no introduction.Aella 0:00:07So it's Ayla. Is it actually? Yeah.Dwarkesh Patel 0:00:10Okay, gotcha. The first question from Twitter from Nick Camerota.Aella 0:00:14It's about banging, right?Dwarkesh Patel 0:00:16It's right.Aella 0:00:17Smashing. As one might do in the dirty.Dwarkesh Patel 0:00:21I don't see it here, but he was basically asking, there's meditators who are experts, have all kinds of like special tips. He was talking about how they know how to hold their breath or close their eyes in aAella 0:00:31particular way.Dwarkesh Patel 0:00:32What do escorts know about sex that the mediocre new doesn't know?Aella 0:00:38Well, I don't know because like escorts don't necessarily have more sex. They just have sex with different people. Like if you're in a community relationship, you're probably like becoming an expert at your partner. So it's like, I guess like you're an expert at like very quickly figuring out so like what a new partner likes. So it's really dependent. It's like super dependent on like reading the person. But one is like, don't assume what they like. Because like for a while, it was like all guys like their balls fondled gently, right? You'd think this is a universal malpreference.Dwarkesh Patel 0:01:11It's not. Well, it's changed or it just never was?Aella 0:01:14Well, some people are just like, get the f**k off my balls. And you're like, okay. But also like, I don't know, I like learning how to ride dick. I didn't really know how to ride dick properly before being an escort. And when I first started escort, it was terrible. I was like, like clumping kind of like in a really unattractive fashion. Maybe something about like, like enthusiasm of b*****b is better than technique or something like more important than technique. Like you don't have to be the best b*****b giver at all. But if you're just like, you know, really going to town.Dwarkesh Patel 0:01:44Yeah, it's not like dancing as well, where they say you don't have to be a dancer, just like have fun.Aella 0:01:48Yeah, not there. Yeah, a lot of it's just having fun, right? Like really, like letting loose as much as you can. These are not like really excellent, like, go get them, hit them techniques. Like probably Cosmopolitan has published all those already.Dwarkesh Patel 0:02:02But the 10 things that drive your man crazy. Okay, I'm curious. There's been a lot of innovation in how movies and TV shows are shot and what kinds of plots and tropes they've used. I'm wondering over the next few decades, are you expecting what kinds of like innovations in erotic content are you expecting?Aella 0:02:22It'd be great if there were more funding for erotic content. Like if we had more money, like that would be excellent. But obviously AI. Like ignoring the funding issues. But AI clearly. Like I know that a lot of the models right now are not allowing not safe for work stuff. Do you want to like a normal pillow?Dwarkesh Patel 0:02:41Yeah, let me get her up. Leaning in like Sheryl Sandberg. Sheryl Sandberg?Aella 0:02:47Oh, she's the CEO of Facebook.Dwarkesh Patel 0:02:50Yeah, I've heard a book about leaning in. Like when you lean in. That's an escorting technique.Aella 0:02:54Well, I mean, it's just a generic seduction technique. Leaning in? Yeah. Like when I'm on it, like, usually when I'm as an escort, you meet a guy beforehand. And you're supposed to signal that you're really interested in him and leaning in.Dwarkesh Patel 0:03:08Oh, yeah. Yeah. By the way, do you? This is something I'm curious about. I watched your YouTube video about tips to have more seductive behavior. Are you always doing that or is that just in very specific scenarios when you're online? But like when you go to a meetup or something?Aella 0:03:22I think there's like degrees of it. Like some of it's not just seduction. Some of it's just like normal social behavior. Like I don't think I'm doing anything right now. I'm checking. I think this is how I would normally be with like friends.Dwarkesh Patel 0:03:35Right.Aella 0:03:36But I think there's like some, like there's a spectrum and obviously I turn it all the way up when I'm trying to be very seductive. But sometimes if I'm like enjoying the experience of being attractive, like trying to play into that for any reason, like pure fun, then I'll do it a little bit.Dwarkesh Patel 0:03:50Usually not to that degree, though. OK. Another question I was wondering about is TikTok. Are we going to have porn that's TikTok-ified where we'll have like one minute shorts, you just scroll through.Aella 0:04:02They've tried.Dwarkesh Patel 0:04:03They've really tried. Why has it not worked? Well, you can't get on app stores.Aella 0:04:08So there's not like what kind of money like your sort of market is limited, your marketDwarkesh Patel 0:04:13cap. You can just have a website, though, right?Aella 0:04:16Yeah, you can. But it really reduces the total amount of conversion for like when you're advertisingDwarkesh Patel 0:04:22it.Aella 0:04:23And they've tried it a couple of times, but they just didn't have enough people uploadingDwarkesh Patel 0:04:27things.Aella 0:04:28There are some other competitors like Sunroom right now is doing the thing that they're trying to get on the app store. But it's not porn. Like they can be optimized to be sexy, but like really right now, like the markets are not aligned such that like a porn TikTok. I mean, it's possible that if you did it really, really well, but I don't know. A lot of porn is shot this way, too.Dwarkesh Patel 0:04:49So if you want to take like pre-existing porn, it like never really looks good. I guess it depends on position as well, right? Like there's some positions where a vertical would work.Aella 0:04:58Yeah. It's like a TikTok for like only for like cowgirl standing. They have it, by the way. I don't remember if I said that, but there are products that are trying to replicateDwarkesh Patel 0:05:09TikTok for porn.Aella 0:05:10They're just not very good.Dwarkesh Patel 0:05:11Yeah, and another thing is you had to learn user behavior, but people are probably doing, you know, doing their porn and incognito. So you can't, you can't like learn their preferences that TikTok learns. Okay. People with your genetics, like your psychology, they probably existed like a hundred years ago or 200 years ago. But what would you have been doing if you were born in 1860? Because there was no OnlyFans back then, but would you have become a trad wife or what would happen?Aella 0:05:35Yeah, I probably would have been insufferable. Like I was raised Christian and so I got to see what my psychology does in like a very trad religious atmosphere and it took it very seriously. It kind of went just to the opposite extreme. I was like, ah, if I'm in this religion, like let's actually live the religion. Like we can't just like half believe in it. Like let's actually think it through, take it to the logical conclusion and live that. Yeah. And so I was like, I was maybe even a little bit more conservative than the people around me and took it very seriously.Dwarkesh Patel 0:06:03Do you think if you grew up in a left wing polycule, you would have become a super trad by the time you grew up?Aella 0:06:09I doubt it. I might have become like even like a hardcore polycule, I don't know. But my guess is like I'm probably actually suited to being a polycule. Like I am more like, even when I was Christian, I was like sexually deviant and like obsessed with sex and like just I just suffered immense guilt over it.Dwarkesh Patel 0:06:28Yeah. What are you the Christian men you were growing up with? Did they not jerk off? Like what did they do?Aella 0:06:32Well, all of the messaging when I was growing up was for men. It's like they have like men meetups about not jerking off and s**t. Like you're not supposed to masturbate as a Christian man.Dwarkesh Patel 0:06:42But did they actually not?Aella 0:06:44A lot of them would. Well, I don't know. I never like did a survey. My impression is they probably had a lower masturbation rate than most people and feltDwarkesh Patel 0:06:52worse about it when they did it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I'm Christian. Do you think that, so you've done these really interesting enlightenment surveys and interviews. Do you think there's people who are just naturally enlightened because they're just so stoic and happy all the time, but they just don't have the spiritual vocabulary to describe their experiences as in these sorts of like, you know, boo-hoo ways? Is it possible that the guy who's just like super stoic is like actually just enlightened?Aella 0:07:16Well, it there's different like it depends what you mean by enlightened. Like stoic and happy is like one sort of conception of enlightenment, but there's lots of differentDwarkesh Patel 0:07:23ones.Aella 0:07:24There are probably people who like I interviewed one person who seemed like they didn't do anything. They just sort of like are that way all the time. It didn't seem like it was like a thing that occurred to them with any. So yeah, probably. I mean, like, I don't think that there's any like special soul like quality about it. I think like you could probably study the science of enlightenment or whatever kind of enlightenment you're talking about. Like obviously, it's replicable with brain states. And obviously, if you are enlightened, and we went to brain surgery, we could like undoDwarkesh Patel 0:07:48that.Aella 0:07:49So in that case, like it doesn't seem impossible to me that somebody could just be born with that like naturally very close to already there.Dwarkesh Patel 0:07:56Yeah, yeah. Did you meet anybody who you felt was enlightened in the strong sense in the Buddhist sense of like, this person has no thoughts? And no, like you could set him on fire and he would not suffer.Aella 0:08:06Is that the I'm terrible at Buddhism?Dwarkesh Patel 0:08:08No, but like in that sense of like, this guy's almost a god.Aella 0:08:12I've definitely met people who report not having like an internal monologue.Dwarkesh Patel 0:08:16Hmm. I don't believe them. Like they were answering questions. Yeah.Aella 0:08:20Like I've had experience times where I have no internal monologue before, but like the like responses still come out or something interesting.Dwarkesh Patel 0:08:28Like there's no distance between you and what comes out.Aella 0:08:31Well, are you having an internal monologue right now? Yes. Like as you're talking, like, are there words coming in your head that aren't what you'reDwarkesh Patel 0:08:37saying? Yeah, I just I'm not self aware enough right now to observe them. But if I was, I'm pretty sure I would, because I'm thinking about what I'm gonna ask you next or how I'm like, they just yeah, you're saying, yeah, I'm not exactly sure how toAella 0:08:48interpret it. Like there's a way where my guess is the words just like kind of emerge without there being any sort of like word process that happens beforehand. Which seems like a plausible state to me, seems like not an insane thing that human brains can do. Human brains can do insane s**t, right? Like, like your internal felt sense can be so radically different, just just literally evidenced by drugs, like you just take an insane drug, your mental state can change. So we know that it's possible for the brain to be in a state where this is the case.Dwarkesh Patel 0:09:15When you escort, do you charge extra to men who you find less attractive?Aella 0:09:19No, not at all. Uh, no, it feels like counter sort of my psychology. Like in my, my psychology around escorting is that it's like a job, and it doesn't have to do with my personal desires whatsoever. So if I were like charging, I don't really enjoy the same way. It's like, I don't know.Dwarkesh Patel 0:09:39Right, right. It's like, it's like completely independent, which is necessary for me, like, I think IAella 0:09:46have to be completely independent in some way of like my actual preferences in order to do it. Like if I were actually checking in with like, what do I want in this moment? I'd probably be like, I don't want to be here, I don't want to be f*****g a stranger. So I guess like, I just can't let that in at all.Dwarkesh Patel 0:10:00Yeah, how about both bulk discounting?Aella 0:10:03Both discounting?Dwarkesh Patel 0:10:04Discounting, like if somebody gets like a, like a lot, four straight sessions or somethingAella 0:10:08that that seems like more reasonable. That's like a business choice. I don't, I never did that.Dwarkesh Patel 0:10:13But like, I think that could do that. When I tell her how it on the podcast, we're talking about how the people who are top in any field often are smarter, because they have to think about how to get top in their field, somebody like a top YouTube creator, they've actually done a lot of analysis of how to get to the top of, you know, the leaderboards there. Yeah, are the top X-Squads and cam girls, are they noticeably smarter?Aella 0:10:35My guess is yes. Like, like, for example, the OnlyFans, I did very, very well on OnlyFans. I think that was because probably I'm like, smarter than the average. But it was surprising to me, like, especially like camming. Like, I was a cam girl and then for a long time, and this is like really, really competitive. It's competitive because you can see what other girls are doing at all times. So you know exactly what the techniques are, and the techniques proliferate much faster. And there's also stuff like branding and seduction and it's really high intensity, high pressureDwarkesh Patel 0:11:03environment.Aella 0:11:04Again, because like with camming, the site I was using, MyFreeCams, your ranking is determined by your average earnings per hour of live streaming over the past 60 days. And your rankings affect how many more people come into your room. So every time you're streaming, it's like really high pressure, because if you don't do well for an hour, this is gonna make it harder for you in the future. So it's really stressful. Anyway, so I went from that to escorting and escorting what other people are doing are not visible, or techniques are not viewable at all. And they and I think as a result of this, like low pressure, like, private slow thing, there was no ecosystem for like escort like tech strategies to really have like a highly competitive atmosphere. So I just brought all of my techniques from camming in regards to marketing, and I think I just blew it out of the water. Interesting. It was like I was shocked at how terrible the cop I was like this is what the landscape is like, like I could beat.Dwarkesh Patel 0:11:54How do you figure out what the competition is like?Aella 0:11:56You just talk to people? You can look at other escort websites.Dwarkesh Patel 0:11:58Oh, yeah, sure.Aella 0:11:59And you don't exactly know how much they're earning. I did a survey where I asked about earnings.Dwarkesh Patel 0:12:05But it's hard to know. What has building an escort profile? What does that talk to you about building a dating profile? Like, what advice would you give to somebody on building a Tinder or Bumble profile basedAella 0:12:15on I mean, the incentives are different. If you're building an escort profile, the thing that you want is money. Yeah, like that's what you're optimizing for on an escort or sorry, dating profile, you're optimizing for compatibility. So like with escorting, like you're trying to like, make find the kind of messaging that is appealing to the maximum number of people, which maybe is what men do when they're on a dating profile. But for me, I'm trying to alienate the correct people as as a dater. Like I don't want the people coming to me who aren't going to enjoy me actually. Like if I like did the same kind of escort advertising as I did dating, like I would just get a billion men and then like not want them because like, no, it's not I'm not like presenting my my real self like the kinds of things that are actually definitive about like what's going to make us a good match or not. So it's really all about like, sorry, dating profiles or advertising is all about likeDwarkesh Patel 0:13:04D selection.Aella 0:13:05Like how are we not going to get along here that like the deal breakers, you put them up front like. So in my dating profiles, I'm always like I'm poly, sex worker, like weird, right?Dwarkesh Patel 0:13:15That sort of thing. Yeah, narrow casting versus broadcasting. At what age do you feel like you could have consented to sex work? Is like 18 too young, too high?Aella 0:13:25Me personally, could have consented probably 15. I don't know. Like I think like if I had if I were in like the right kind of culture and at 15, like this were available to me and I took it, I think in hindsight, I've been like, yeah,Dwarkesh Patel 0:13:38that seems like a.Aella 0:13:40Right decision that I made that I'm willing to take responsibility for.Dwarkesh Patel 0:13:43Yeah, personally, how about the difference between I guess escorting a cam girl is that when you're putting video out there, it stays there forever, escorting it just like you regret it. I guess it's not there forever. I mean, do you see a difference there or in terms of like, would you is there a different age that makes sense for both or? Oh, yeah.Aella 0:14:02I mean, it's like a little confusing. We don't really have consistent standards about like how many permanent decisions youngDwarkesh Patel 0:14:08people can make.Aella 0:14:09Like we groom young teens into paying a lot of money for college pretty early, which I consider to be like a worse decision than going into sex work. Like in regards to the permanent impact it has on your life.Dwarkesh Patel 0:14:25So I don't know.Aella 0:14:26Yeah, but yeah, I mean, in regards to like the thing is, it depends heavily on culture. Like we're in a culture where like we have a lot of incentive against doing your sex work. I'm uniquely suited to it, but a lot of women aren't. And a lot of women would like suffer actual emotional damage if they did it. And like, it's important to know that. And so if we had like a culture that like adequately informed people, if you're like, ah, like, you kind of know a little bit earlier on whether or not this is going to like destroyDwarkesh Patel 0:14:51your soul or not.Aella 0:14:54So it depends on like how much knowledge we have access to. If we had really good access to it, then I'd be like, yeah, you could probably consentDwarkesh Patel 0:14:59younger. You should actually make that a goal or you might have already had. Would you rather be $200,000 in debt at 22 or have a porn video of you out there?Aella 0:15:07I have done this. I mean, a version of this. Yes. And it was I think most people would rather have a porn video.Dwarkesh Patel 0:15:11Okay.Aella 0:15:12Yeah. But again, a lot of my response, respondents are male, which might be skimming it.Dwarkesh Patel 0:15:16Yeah, yeah. Fair enough. Fair enough. So I've read this theory that if you're a medieval peasant and you encounter a beautiful church symphony for the first time, before you would be like a psychedelic experience. Do you find that plausible given your experience with psychedelics?Aella 0:15:30Have you just said? Yeah.Dwarkesh Patel 0:15:32Okay.Aella 0:15:33Maybe. Yeah. Like, I guess there's like a test where like, if you encountered a church service as a medieval peasant for the hundredth time, it would be like, so beautiful, but less cool. And this also seems to hold true with psychedelics, at least for me.Dwarkesh Patel 0:15:44Yeah.Aella 0:15:45I don't. I mean, what the thing is, you're just finding like a level of beauty that you had not found before that is really incredible.Dwarkesh Patel 0:15:51Yeah, which seems to be true. So yes. I guess then the question is, is it just that is the experience of listening to your first symphony the same as me putting on Spotify, except you just haven't heard it before? So surprising, or is the actual experience like getting on a psychedelic high? You know what I mean?Aella 0:16:09There's nothing like getting on a psychedelic high. Nothing. I mean, like, there's like the sense of beauty and awe is great. And I think there's that in psychedelics. But there's like a kind of like novelty in psychedelics that are just utterly on. Like I can conceive of like a beautiful thing. But like, even right now, I cannot easily conceive of being on psychedelics, despite having taken them a huge amount of time.Dwarkesh Patel 0:16:32Right. If I told you, you can press a button, and you will experience one random emotion or sensation in the whole repertoire of everything a human can experience, including on drugs, you press that button? Yes.Aella 0:16:45You do?Dwarkesh Patel 0:16:46Okay. Yeah, would you?Aella 0:16:48There's a lot of like, a lot of suffering states.Dwarkesh Patel 0:16:49Yeah.Aella 0:16:50But I guess I'm like, I optimize really hard for interesting as opposed to pleasant.Dwarkesh Patel 0:16:54Yeah. I guess that is what taking psychedelics is like. But I don't know, it's a daunting prospect. It could get pretty bad.Aella 0:17:03Are you trying to figure out if you should take them more?Dwarkesh Patel 0:17:05No, this is not even about psychedelics. It's just, are you maximizing the value of your experiences? Or I guess the volatility of your experiences?Aella 0:17:15I just like trying to feel everything that there is.Dwarkesh Patel 0:17:17Do you feel like you've done that?Aella 0:17:21Probably not. But there's a lot to feel.Dwarkesh Patel 0:17:25Is it important that you remember what it was like? Because we were just talking about how you'll forget what many of the sensations were like.Aella 0:17:31Maybe? I mean, depends on what it's for. It's nice to remember, but it's also kind of nice to forget too. There's a way where I just don't have easy access to a lot of quite intense suffering memories, which is nice right now because I can talk to you. So I don't know.Dwarkesh Patel 0:17:47When you think back to the days when you were taking a lot of psychedelics, how much do you feel like you actually uncovered the truths about your mind and the universe? And then how much are you just like, I was just tripping back then. I don't know how much of the stuff was accurate. It was good.Aella 0:18:02Well, I think that for me, the vast majority of psychedelic experience was like, in my head I have a division. Like for me, it was deconstruction as opposed to construction. I think like some people, not due to any fault of their own, I think it's like a brain chemistryDwarkesh Patel 0:18:16thing.Aella 0:18:17Like the experience they have in psychedelics is constructing beliefs. And usually you have this, when you do this, you kind of look back on the trip and you're like, well, I was believing some crazy s**t there for a while. That was kind of weird. But I never really had that because I never really believed a thing. It was more like observing my existing beliefs and then sort of taking them as object. Sort of no longer finding them to be like an absolute thing about reality, but rather like sort of a construction that I was already doing. And that I hold to all of it. I think everything that I experienced tripping was valuable in that way and led me to where I am now.Dwarkesh Patel 0:18:51What were the downsides? How is your personality change? Is there a downside you can identify in the deconstruction? It was just like so overwhelmingly worth it. I mean, the experience itself was often quite painful. And I was pretty non-functional during the time I was taking a lot and for like about a year afterwards.Aella 0:18:58So that was a downside. I would happily pay that downside several times over. But it wasn't like the most rewarding experience. I think it was like the most rewarding experience. I mean, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, I was like,Dwarkesh Patel 0:19:18you had that tweet recently about how you experienced executive dysfunction sometimes. And then there's a story about you working at 50 five hours a week at the factory when you were 19, right?Aella 0:19:29Yeah.Dwarkesh Patel 0:19:30So is do you think that might be because this I can elitist or executive disruption?Aella 0:19:34when I worked at the factory.Dwarkesh Patel 0:19:35But you were just working 55 hours a week anyways?Aella 0:19:37Yeah, well, I was horrible. I remember being at that factory and being really confused about the way other people were there. I was like, this is clearly not what I wanna do with my life. This is actively terrible. But other people were like, oh, I've been here 10 years and this is just fine.Dwarkesh Patel 0:19:56And I was not doing well.Aella 0:19:57I think I'm pretty, Jess would be like, we're pretty smart. But I was scoring really low in my accuracy and speed at the factory. And I think this is an example of my executive dysfunction issues. And even when I wasn't working at the factory, it was not very productive at all.Dwarkesh Patel 0:20:12What do you think is the difference between psychology between you and those people? Was it just that they enjoyed it more or they just were able to suppress the boredom? Or what do you think happened?Aella 0:20:22Yeah, I'm not sure. Part of it might be just they, maybe if I had just done it for some more years, I would have adjusted. But also, I don't know, I had been homeschooled and I think maybe school prepares you, like normal school prepares you better for a job like that. But you just have to sit and do tasks you don't want to for the entire day.Dwarkesh Patel 0:20:41So, I don't know.Aella 0:20:44I do think also just my brain's different. I seem to be extremely novelty-oriented compared to most people. And my guess is that just made me really not, and just attention, my attention is terrible.Dwarkesh Patel 0:20:56Speaking of which, if you were homeschooling your kids, or I guess if you were raising kids, what does their schooling look like? What kinds of decisions do they get to make when? Do you have some sense of how would you raise a child?Aella 0:21:08I'm not sure, I think maybe unschooling.Dwarkesh Patel 0:21:10Yeah.Aella 0:21:11I'm leaning more and more in that direction. My school wasn't great. The quality of it wasn't excellent. It also, I was forced to learn things I didn't want to, but at least it wasn't a huge part of my life. And the things that, now when I look back on my childhood, the things that feel the most valuable for me to have learned was almost entirely stuff that I did myself. On my off time, the learning that I performed by my own incentive, that's what stuck with me. That's what feels like it lasted. And so I'm like, s**t, if that's the case, I should just let my kids learn what the f**k they want, and just enable them, right? Put interesting things around them, and give them a project, if you wanna do this project, you're gonna have to learn these skills in order to do it.Dwarkesh Patel 0:21:51Well, what are some examples?Aella 0:21:53Of projects?Dwarkesh Patel 0:21:54Things you taught yourself when you were a kidAella 0:21:55that you thought were invaluable.Dwarkesh Patel 0:21:56Well, I read a huge amount,Aella 0:21:58which I think led to me being a good writer today. I just read books about things, I don't know. I learned juggling, a lot of physical comedy stuff. I did some movies, some short movies. You know, something like that.Dwarkesh Patel 0:22:15Could you juggle right now? I'm not asking you to.Aella 0:22:17I could, not super well, but a lot of random little skills, which have turned out to be much more relevantDwarkesh Patel 0:22:23to my life than before. Yeah, yeah, interesting.Aella 0:22:26But also, I remember I read psychology books. Just stuff that, in hindsight, psychology books about personality.Dwarkesh Patel 0:22:33I really liked that. I mean, it sounds like you probably didn't have a TV in your Christian fundamentalist house. Oh, we did.Aella 0:22:39We just had TV Guardian installed on it.Dwarkesh Patel 0:22:41Gotcha. So, could you just have watched TV the entire day if you wanted to, or was that not an option? I'm wondering if the voracious reader was because of all the other options were cut off, or you could have just explored?Aella 0:22:53Oh, no, I was obsessed with the reading, yeah. No, not because other options were cut off.Dwarkesh Patel 0:22:57Yeah, yeah, yeah.Aella 0:22:58I made it a vice to read in the shower, because I didn't like showering without reading.Dwarkesh Patel 0:23:03It just took too long without reading.Aella 0:23:06I would read by moonlight after my parents to turn off the lights. When we were driving in the car, you'd hold up the book to read by the headlights of the person behind you.Dwarkesh Patel 0:23:13Yeah, yeah, sounds like an addiction. Yeah.Aella 0:23:16I read about, for a while, I was reading about a novel a day.Dwarkesh Patel 0:23:20Hmm, was it science fiction or fantasy?Aella 0:23:22Anything I could get my hands on.Dwarkesh Patel 0:23:23Yeah, yeah, yeah. How did you get your hands on it? Was there a library nearby?Aella 0:23:28No, well, I would just reread what I had a lot.Dwarkesh Patel 0:23:30Uh-huh.Aella 0:23:31And just, I would get books as gifts for Christmas,Dwarkesh Patel 0:23:36because clearly that was my priority. Right, right, yeah. Do you think that the ratio of submissives and dominance has changed over time? If you went back 50 years, do you think there'd be more dominance than submissives, or even more so, or?Aella 0:23:50Well, my one hypothesis is tied to testosterone, and if testosterone levels have actually been decreasing over time, then this would cause people to get more submissive.Dwarkesh Patel 0:23:59Yeah.Aella 0:24:00So maybe.Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:02Berne Hovart had this interesting theory, where he was pointing out, it's possible that the decline in testosterone we've seen, that's not just the last 50 years, it's been going on for hundreds or thousands of years. So if you went back to the ancient Greeks, they just steroided up men.Aella 0:24:16Like masks. Yeah. That's such a funny idea. But if that were true, would we be seeing a decline in testosterone over the last, I don't know how many decades,Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:28enough to notice? I don't know how you would notice that. You would maybe notice that there's fewer wars, which it is the case, there's fewer wars. I mean.Aella 0:24:38How do we know that testosterone has been decreasing?Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:40Is it just? Oh yeah, we measure the blood concentration, right?Aella 0:24:42Okay, okay, yeah.Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:44I'm assuming. That's what I thought.Aella 0:24:45So it's gotta be over the last few decades, right?Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:47Yeah, yeah, but we don't know. We don't have any data before that.Aella 0:24:50Yeah, but we know the rate of change,Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:52so we could like. Yeah. Well yeah, I mean it wasn't infinite in history,Aella 0:24:57so at some point it's like.Dwarkesh Patel 0:24:58I know.Aella 0:24:59Kind of like, kind of peaked, right?Dwarkesh Patel 0:25:01Yeah.Aella 0:25:02Oh. Yeah, I don't know. I really don't. I should have the data now to look, because I did a survey for people on hormone replacement therapy. To see if people who've started testosterone report. Yeah. And I did find that. But it is a little confusing, because you don't know how much of it is like, narrative or culturally induced. Like, if you're expected to become more masculine when you take testosterone. Like, is this like, psychologically making you believe that you are more interested in being dominant? It's unclear. So I incorporated a question into my survey recently. Like, just the last minute, honestly. Asking just like, are you on HRT? If so, how long?Dwarkesh Patel 0:25:37Yeah.Aella 0:25:38So I should be able to just see if that correlatesDwarkesh Patel 0:25:40with just interest in dominance. Yeah. It would also be interesting to see, another question might be, what age are you? And when you were 20, were you more dominant than submissive?Aella 0:25:53And then- Oh, to see if it changes over time?Dwarkesh Patel 0:25:54Or you would just have, if a 60 year old was really dominant when he was 20, then you'd know that, I don't know, 60 year old. People who were born in 1980 or something. Yeah.Aella 0:26:03Oh, you mean like, if it's correlated with age?Dwarkesh Patel 0:26:05Yeah. Or just like, if people born earlier were more dominant.Aella 0:26:08I found like, a surprisingly lack of correlations with age. Interesting. I mean, yeah, I could put my laptop on my lapDwarkesh Patel 0:26:14and then look at the correlations live here, but. Do you think weird fetishes, like the weirdest stuff, is that a modern thing? Or if you went back 500 years, people would have been into that kind of s**t? Yeah, I think so.Aella 0:26:25It's just like, the really weird stuff is very rare. Like we're talking like 1%, 0.1%. Like, I mean, it's correlated with rarity. Like the weirder it is, the more rare it is.Dwarkesh Patel 0:26:34Kind of necessarily, because if people had it,Aella 0:26:36then everybody would be like, oh, this is normal. But yeah, my guess is that it's like,Dwarkesh Patel 0:26:39has something to do with like a randomAella 0:26:42early childhood neonatal thing. And like, I haven't been able to find any correlates with childhood stuff, which makes me think it's more innate. And if it's more innate, then it's more likely to have existed for a very long time.Dwarkesh Patel 0:26:53Yeah, yeah. And people who just had weirder and more different experiences in the past. Like if you're just in some sort of cult without any sort of internet or any other sort of experience with the outside world. I don't know, the volatility of your kinks might've just been more, I don't know. Is that possible?Aella 0:27:11Well, the data seems to suggest it's not really based on experience.Dwarkesh Patel 0:27:14Yeah.Aella 0:27:15Mostly, I mean, there's like some small exceptions. Interesting. But, so no, also I'm like, I'm not sure that experience was more varied in the past. Like maybe, like the internet is kind of homogenizing, but.Dwarkesh Patel 0:27:29So, since the FTX saga happened, people have discovered Caroline Ellison's blog. I don't know if you've seen this on Twitter. And now she's become, you know, every nerd's crush because of her online writing.Aella 0:27:40Oh, really? I mostly just see people dunking on her.Dwarkesh Patel 0:27:43Oh yeah, well, there's both, there's both. Do people, this probably wasn't in your kinks survey, but in just general, what is your suspicion about, do people find verbal ability and, you know, that kind of ability very attractive based on online writing or, is that a good signal you can send?Aella 0:28:02I mean, yes, like intelligence and competence is pretty attractive across the board.Dwarkesh Patel 0:28:07So if you're signaling that you're smart. You can signal that by just, I don't know, having a college degree from an impressive university, right, but.Aella 0:28:15I mean, it's like kind of better signal.Dwarkesh Patel 0:28:17Yeah, yeah.Aella 0:28:18Like people who have college degrees from impressive universities, I don't think are really that smart.Dwarkesh Patel 0:28:23Yeah.Aella 0:28:24And like probably like actually demonstrating like direct smartness is a lot more convincing.Dwarkesh Patel 0:28:30Yeah, yeah.Aella 0:28:31So it makes sense.Dwarkesh Patel 0:28:32I think her writing is funny and good. You had this really interesting post. I forgot the title of it, but it was a recent one about how the guys who are being authentic are more attractive.Aella 0:28:44Yeah. The thing that like I noticed while I was doing this, that I was attracted to,Dwarkesh Patel 0:28:49was like somebody like,Aella 0:28:50like sort of being independent of my perspective. Like a lot of time in, when I'm like talking to a guy who I can tellDwarkesh Patel 0:28:56is attracted to me and he's like, I don't know.Aella 0:28:59Like there's a way where he's like trying to orient himself to be what I want. Like very subconsciously, I think, or like subtly in body language, like mirroring, for example, like if I like sit one way and then he sits that way, I'm like, okay, this is an example of like trying to orient yourself into like the kind of person that is going to like be, make me attracted to you. Yeah. I was just like a reasonable strategy. You know, I'm not begrudging anybody this, but I think like women in general are kind of, like it's sort of like an arms race between the genders. And I think women are really attuned to this. Like women are like really good at like sussing out how much authenticity is going on. And so in this experience, when the guy was like talking to me, like some part I noticed that I was like meditating on my experience and connection with this person or these people, I noticed that some part of my brain was like, just like checking like really hard. Like, do I think this person is like masking anything at all right now?Dwarkesh Patel 0:29:54Or is he like unashamed about what he is? Sort of thing. I guess I still understand if somebody is attracted to you, they're going to maybe mirror your body language. What is the way they do that in which they're masking? And what is the way they're doing that in which they're being honest about their intentions? Is it, how does their body language change?Aella 0:30:17Like usually what you are is like quiet and flattering to somebody else. Like when I was like doing this workshop, like people were saying things to me that would typically be considered faux pas. And make people not attracted to you. Like somebody's expressing that they wanted to hurt me,Dwarkesh Patel 0:30:33for example.Aella 0:30:38But like I would prefer somebody do that or something.Dwarkesh Patel 0:30:42Say that they want to or? Yeah. Not to it.Aella 0:30:45Well, not actually hurt me. I prefer not to be hurt most of the time. But there's something like, like there's a way when somebody is like attracted to me and like doing a modified thing. It feels like, one, I don't get to actually know what's going on with them. Like I don't get to see them. I'm seeing like a machine designed to make me feel a certain way. And this is like scary because I don't know what's going on. And I don't know who you are. Like I don't know what's going to happen once you finally have like come and no longer want me anymore. And like somebody who, and it also like is like, my cynic side interprets it as like a dominance thing. Like if you actually don't need me, if your self-worth is not dependent on me whatsoever, if this is like truly an equal game, then you aren't going to need to modify yourself at all. You can just like be who you are, alienate me, like be at risk of alienating me and then f*****g alienate me and you're going to be 100% fine. And like, that's hot. That's hot because like when a guy can signal he doesn't need me, this means that he's like a higher rank than me,Dwarkesh Patel 0:31:51like equal or higher. Yeah. No, okay, so that doesn't sound like authenticity then but it sounds just like how badly do you want me? You know what I mean? Like how, yeah, how eager are you?Aella 0:32:03Well, it's like, it's kind of like a loop or something. Like it's hot to not want somebody, but it's hot because you actually have to not want them. Like it's hot to not have somebody like be trying to get something from youDwarkesh Patel 0:32:17for their purposes.Aella 0:32:19Like just don't conceal.Dwarkesh Patel 0:32:20Right.Aella 0:32:21Like, and even if the thing you're not concealing is like a desperate burning desire, if you're like, man, I just like really would want to bang you and I'm like afraid of what you think of me. And, but I'm like, I want you so bad. Like that's hotter than trying to hide the fact that you're doing it.Dwarkesh Patel 0:32:35Yeah.Aella 0:32:36Yeah. I would like, I would consider banging a guy who's just like laid it all out because like by laying it all out, you're like offering up yourself to be rejected. This means that you're like, you're going to be okay even if I reject you.Dwarkesh Patel 0:32:48And like, that's the, so nice. I wonder how universal that is. Like you go to the average girl and you're just like, I really want to just f**k your face or something. What would happen?Aella 0:32:58I mean, it would probably be polarizing. Yeah. The thing is like by being honest, like you might actually make yourself be rejected. Like the point is not like if you're doing it to be accepted, like that's defeating the purpose. Like you just like offer yourself up and they accept you or they reject you. It's like the stupid f*****g annoying Buddhist concept where like by not trying you get the thing, but you have to like actually not try. You have to actually be in touch with the negative outcome and be like, this is real. And which just happened. Like there, like I probably wouldn't f**k a lot of the guys that I talked to despite non-concealing, but like I still, when they were like open and honest, it still like put them into a frame where they could have been sexual. Whereas like before I was like, you're not even in my landscape of like a potential partner. But like by being honest, I was like, now I'm actually doing the evaluation, like actively doing it and considering you in a sexual way, which was like a big leap.Dwarkesh Patel 0:33:51Yeah, yeah. The Buddhist guy to pick up artistry.Aella 0:33:54I'm like, that's a great, that'd be a great book.Dwarkesh Patel 0:33:57What is charisma? When you notice somebody is being charismatic, like what is happening? Is that body language? Is that internal? And I guess more fundamentally, what is it that you're signaling about yourself when you're being charismatic?Aella 0:34:11I mean, like charismatic, charisma can probably refer to a lot of things, but like the concept that I'm mapping it onto is something like when they make me think that they like me in a way that feels like not needy. And you can break it down into like body language signaling or like social moves. But I think like the core of it is like, like you know when you enter a party and like there's somebody who like is like fun to be around and they really like you, or it seems like they're like welcoming or like, ah, hey, you know, they put you on the back, they make a joke and then they like,Dwarkesh Patel 0:34:43you know, flitter off and you're like, ah, that's that person. Yeah. In movies, TV shows, games, what is the most inaccurate, what do they get most wrong about sex and relationships? What is the trope that's most wrong about this?Aella 0:34:58Well, I mean, okay, I'm, I have a personal pedestal, which might be like slightly besides your question, but like the f*****g monogamy thing. Like I get, I'm down if people want to do monogamy, but it's always, it's like 100% monogamy. And cheating is like always like the worst possible thing ever and that bothers me. I just wish there was a little bit of occasionally, once in a while, there's like, you know, we call it monoplot. My, I have a friend who yelled like monoplot every time there's like a plot, lining in a story that is, could be resolved by being just likeDwarkesh Patel 0:35:32slightly less monogamous.Aella 0:35:34And I'm like, every plot's a monoplot, like you don't even have to be full poly, you just have to like have like a slight amount of flexibility, like, oh, well, then just bring me over for a threesome. Like, but that's not even on the table. I'm like, not, well, not only is it not on the table, but like, it feels like it doesn't represent the general population either. Like around 5% of people are polyamorous and probably like 15 to 30% are like, would be like open to some kind of exploration, like a little bit of looseness, which where is that in media? Nowhere, drives me crazy.Dwarkesh Patel 0:36:01But what you're saying is you take Ross's side and they were on a break. Have you seen Friends?Aella 0:36:06No.Dwarkesh Patel 0:36:07Okay, nevermind. It's a joke. The plot basically of the show, Money Seasons, was that one of the main characters thought he was on a break with his girlfriend and cheated on her or not. He had sex with somebody else. And that was just basically the plot for like three seasons.Aella 0:36:22Oh man. So you've engaged in activities,Dwarkesh Patel 0:36:26which are most likely to change a person, you know, psychedelics, you know, stuff relating to sex. How much do you think people can change? Because you're on like the spectrum of the things that are most likely to change you. You think people can fundamentally change?Aella 0:36:43No, I mean, like, it's like a weird question, but like, no. Like if I had to give a simplistic answer, like I think I'm very much the person that I was when I was a child or a teenager. I think it's like innate stuff is like really strong. Like I have a friend who was adopted, but happened to know both of his adoptive and his biological father, fathers. And so I asked like, what, like, who are you more like? Like which one impacted you more? And he says that he just has the temperament of his biological father, but like all of like the weird quirks and hangups of his adopted one. And I think like when it comes like temperament or like your base brain functioning in general, like this is like much more persistent and less open to change than most people think. Like, I think I'm basically the same as I was pre psychedelics,Dwarkesh Patel 0:37:29except with like a lot of maturity over timeAella 0:37:33being added on.Dwarkesh Patel 0:37:35So your mission to experience every single experience out there, is that, that's not geared towards changing your personality anyway. It just.Aella 0:37:43No, yeah.Dwarkesh Patel 0:37:44Yeah, yeah. But you're not, you say you can't remember many of these. So what is motivating it? Like it's not to remember it, it's not to change yourself. What is the-Aella 0:37:53Curiosity? I'm just very curious.Dwarkesh Patel 0:37:56I don't know what it's like. Yeah. But it's weird, right? Because when you're curious about something, you hope to understand it and then internalize it. Like if I'm curious about an idea, it would be weird if I like read the book and I forgot about it. It wouldn't feel satisfying to my curiosity.Aella 0:38:11Yeah, well, there's some, like I think a lot of the way people operate is like sometimes you read a book and you might forget the book, but the book like updates your priors. Like the book like describes some way that the world like history worked in the war. And then you sort of like, kind of update your predictions about like the kinds of things that caused war and the kinds of reactions people have. And you forget the book, but you hold the priors. I think that's still really valuable. And I think like a lot of that has happened to me. Like I may have forgotten the experience themselves specifically, but it updated my model of the world. And also like my model of how I react and what I'm capable of. Like I went through like a lot of, you know, intense pain and suffering with psychedelics. And I maybe have forgotten that, but like there's some like deep sense of safety I have now around experiencing pain and grief that like I just carry with me all the time. So like it like sort of molded. And I know that I said that people don't really change, but I mean, that was like a little bit offhanded. Like there's obviously ways people grow. Like obviously people, you're very different from yourself, you know, seven years ago or whatever.Dwarkesh Patel 0:39:08Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. I hope that's the case that you're updating your priors. Cause that would mean that all the books I don't remember, should they have like in some sense been useful to me, but I suspect that that might just be co-op on my end and it's like gone forever.Aella 0:39:23I doubt it. I mean, did you have like any sort of like, ah, that sentence when you were reading the books?Dwarkesh Patel 0:39:28Yeah.Aella 0:39:30That's probably still there.Dwarkesh Patel 0:39:32Hopefully, hopefully. You've done a bunch of internet polls, many of them in statistically significant. What advice do you have for political pollsters based on?Aella 0:39:42I don't really follow political pollsters. I don't know. I mean, advice for polls in generalDwarkesh Patel 0:39:48is just have better wording.Aella 0:39:49Like I'm really surprised. I was, I mean, again, I'm taking a side note, but like I went, I want to include some big five questionsDwarkesh Patel 0:39:56in my really big survey.Aella 0:39:58And I understand that the way that they selectDwarkesh Patel 0:40:00big five questions is just,Aella 0:40:02as far as I know, like factor analysis, you just pick the most predictive questions. So it's not like people were like, ah, this is the question, but still like the wording of the questions was terrible. Like it's so much easier to make clearer questions. And I did use the big five questions. I forget exactly what they were, but I'm just like, is this what's going on with surveys in general? Like you don't want to, you want to be careful when you have a question to have it as worded so that people take them as homogenous a meaning from it as possible. But most of the other polls I see in other surveys and other research, it's like people just sort of thought of a good question and kind of slapped it down and never really deeply dug into like studied how people respond to this question, which I think is probably my best comparative advantage is that I've had like a really massive amount of experience over many years and thousands of polls to see exactly how your wording can be misinterpreted in every possible way. And so right now I think probably my best skill is like knowing how to write something to be as like very precise as possible.Dwarkesh Patel 0:41:02Yeah. How do you come up with these polls by the way? You just have an interesting question that comes up in a discussion or?Aella 0:41:07Often it's with discussions with friends. Like we'll be talking about something and somebody brings up like a concept or a what if. And I just have like a module in my brain now that translates everything to potential Twitter polls. So like whenever something like generates a concept,Dwarkesh Patel 0:41:20I'll go put that in a poll. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hey guys, I hope you're enjoying the conversation so far. If you are, I would really, really appreciate it if you could share the episode with other people who you think might like it. This is still a pretty small podcast. So it's basically impossible for me to exaggerate how much it helps out when one of you shares the podcast. You know, put the episode in the group chat you have with your friends, post it on Twitter, send it to somebody who you think might like it. All of those things helps out a ton. Anyways, back to the conversation. I found it surprising you've been tweeting about your saga of learning and applying different statistical tools in Python. And I found it surprising, don't you have like a thousand nerdy reply guys who would be happy to help you out? How is this not a soft problem?Aella 0:42:16People are not good at helping you learn Python.Dwarkesh Patel 0:42:18At least not good at helping you.Aella 0:42:20At least not good at helping me learn Python. There are some people who are really good, but sometimes when I'm trying to learn Python, it's like at 3 a.m. and they're all sleeping. So I'm not saying that like everybody, I have some people who are like really excellentDwarkesh Patel 0:42:30at understanding and responding to me.Aella 0:42:31But when I'm tweeting, usually it's like, I don't wanna bother them or they're on break or something. And I have a chat where people help me, but often it's very frustrating. Because I, they just like, they're trying to explain, what I want, the way that I like to learn is, you just give me the code, give me the code that I know works. I do it, I test it, I see it, whether it works. And after that, then I go throughDwarkesh Patel 0:42:51and I try to understand the code.Aella 0:42:52But what people wanna do is they wanna explain to meDwarkesh Patel 0:42:54how it works before they do it.Aella 0:42:55Or, and it's not really their fault, but it's like there's the unfortunate thing where if somebody wants to help you do a problem, usually they have to go do a little bit of research themselves because programming is such a wide, vast landscape. Like people just don't offhandedly know the answer to your question. And so it requires a bit of work on their part. And it requires them being like, oh, maybe it's this. And then they post a bit of code. And, but you don't know, I try it and like it doesn't work. And they're like, ah, well, I'll try this other thing. And then it becomes like a collaborative problem solving process, which is like more annoying to me. I mean, it's necessary. I'm not saying it's their fault at all. It's like my fault for being annoyed. But I just want like, give me the answer. And then we can go through the whole like questions about it.Dwarkesh Patel 0:43:32Have you tried using CoPilot by the way? I haven't.Aella 0:43:34You got it.Dwarkesh Patel 0:43:35Yeah.Aella 0:43:36It's gonna solve all your problems.Dwarkesh Patel 0:43:37That's what people said. Yeah. It's like the ultimate. Okay. Autocompletor. It's like basically what you're asking for.Aella 0:43:42I was like trying to like look into it recently,Dwarkesh Patel 0:43:44but this is like the push that I need to. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had heard about it too. And then my friend is just like, I'm gonna watch you install CoPilot right now. Don't say you're gonna install it. And yeah, it's been very valuable.Aella 0:43:57That's good. That's a useful anecdote.Dwarkesh Patel 0:43:59Yeah, yeah. I found your post about hanging out with elites really interesting.Aella 0:44:05Hanging out with elites, yeah. Do you, and I was wondering,Dwarkesh Patel 0:44:08is it possible that all the elites feel the same way about being there that you did? They're all like, this is kind of bizarre and boring. And I guess I'll just try to fit in. You know, is that possible? Or do you think they were actually different?Aella 0:44:22I guess it's probably a little of both. Like I wouldn't be surprised if everybody else felt it more than I thought. But also I would be surprisedDwarkesh Patel 0:44:28if everybody else felt it as much as me.Aella 0:44:30Because like when I do have like, it seems like I do have a like actually very different background than most of the people. And most of the people I asked about their backgrounds and they usually come from like much wealthier familiesDwarkesh Patel 0:44:41than I did.Aella 0:44:42Like went to school. Usually that's a big thing.Dwarkesh Patel 0:44:43They went to college. That's a huge, big, to me,Aella 0:44:47like if you're in my group or not in my group,Dwarkesh Patel 0:44:48is did you go to college? Yeah. And I feel like much more at ease with people who didn't. But when you're talking about these boring conversations, I know you were calling them. Do you think that they also thought it was boring, but that they were supposed to have those conversations? Or do you think they were actually enjoying it?Aella 0:45:01I don't know. Like recently I was at a party and I was like, okay, I'm not, I'm just staying at this party, but like, okay, let's take matters into our own hands. I'm just gonna run up to groups of peopleDwarkesh Patel 0:45:11and ask them like the weirdest question I can think of.Aella 0:45:14And then, and in my mind, I was like, okay, if I'm standing up there, standing at a party and somebody runs up to me with a weird question, I'd be like, f**k yes, let's go. Like, okay, I would like respond with a weirder question. I'd be like, let's dig into this. You know, I would be so f*****g thrilled. And so I was at this party, what I would consider to be like in the crowds of elite. It was like a little bit of a, it was like a party, less like a cocktail thing where people like be smart at each other and more like a get drunk and dance thing. But it was still like a much higher end kind of, so tickets were like really expensive. So I went around, I ran, I asked a whole bunch of people weird questions and just, like people obviously were like down to participate in like somebody trying to initiate conversation with them. But like the resulting conversations were not interesting at all.Dwarkesh Patel 0:45:57I was shocked with like how few conversationsAella 0:46:01were interesting. It was just people,Dwarkesh Patel 0:46:02it was just like, there was nothing there.Aella 0:46:05And I'm like, are you not all desperate to like cling on to something more fascinating than what's currently happening? It seemed like they weren't. I just got that impression.Dwarkesh Patel 0:46:12But do you think they were enjoying what they were doing?Aella 0:46:15That you mean just the normal conversation? Yeah. I think so. If they weren't, they would be searching for something else, right?Dwarkesh Patel 0:46:21That's not obvious to me. Like people can sometimes just be super complacent and they're just like a status quo bias. Or they're just like, I don't wanna do anything too shocking.Aella 0:46:28Yeah, but if I'm handing them shocking on a platter, I run up to them. They didn't even have to do anything. I just like walk into the, I interrupt their conversation. I'm like, here's something.Dwarkesh Patel 0:46:36What is an example?Aella 0:46:38Like, like, like, you know, like what's the most controversial opinion you have?Dwarkesh Patel 0:46:43You just walk in like Peter Thiel.Aella 0:46:44Is that what he does?Dwarkesh Patel 0:46:46Oh, well, he has this, there's a famous Peter Thiel question about what is something you believe that nobody else agrees with you on? Or very people agree with you on.Aella 0:46:53Yeah, okay. I didn't know that, but yeah. My version is like, what's the most controversial? And then usually I say either like in the circle people discussingDwarkesh Patel 0:47:01or like people at this party.Aella 0:47:02And it's shocking how many people are like, I don't have a controversial opinion on. How do you, like out of all culture, like you think that this culture is the one that's 100% right and you don't agree with all of it? Like out of all of history, you think in like 500 years, we're gonna look back and be like, ah, yes, 2022, that was the year.Dwarkesh Patel 0:47:19So in their defense, I think what could be going on is you just have a bunch of beliefs and you just haven't categorized them, indexed them in terms of controversial or not controversial. And so on the spot, it just like you gotta search through every single belief you have. Like, is that controversial? Is that controversial?Aella 0:47:37Yeah, but you can make allowances for it. Like sometimes people are like, ooh, I don't know like which one is the most, you know, I'd have to think like.Dwarkesh Patel 0:47:43I have so many.Aella 0:47:44Right, or like, well, I mean, there's some things I disagree on, but they're not sure they're controversial. Like these count. Like there's like a kind of response people give when you know that the thing, the issue is not that they don't have a controversial opinion, but rather that like it's sorting. But like I've talked to people who are like, oh, I don't really have one. And I was like, you mean you don't have any? And I would like pride, like there's nothing that you believe. And they'd be like, no, not really. And like, maybe they were lying, but like usually people are like,Dwarkesh Patel 0:48:12well, I have one, but I'm afraid to say. And like that's. No.Aella 0:48:17Anyway, I don't know. I don't understand.Dwarkesh Patel 0:48:20I wonder if you were more specific, you would get some more controversial takes.Aella 0:48:24Like what's your most controversial opinionDwarkesh Patel 0:48:25like about this thing? Yeah, yeah. What should the age of consent be? You know what I mean?Aella 0:48:29Yeah, yeah. Sometimes I do questions like that,Dwarkesh Patel 0:48:31but I like the controversial one is a good opener.Aella 0:48:34It's like it gives you a lot of information about the other person. Like it gives you a fresh about what their social group is. But I also like the game. I've started transitioning to a game where I'm like, okay, you have to say a pin you hold. And if anybody in the group disagrees with it, they hold up a hand and you get pointsDwarkesh Patel 0:48:50for the amount of people that hold up a hand. Oh, yeah.Aella 0:48:52And the person who gets the most points wins. Because people have this horrible tendency. Like I'll be like, what's the most controversial opinionDwarkesh Patel 0:48:57that you have in this group?Aella 0:48:59And then they'll say a controversial opinion for the out group. And I'll be like, but does anybody actually disagree with that here? Like, oh, like Trump wasn't as horrible as people say he is.Dwarkesh Patel 0:49:09I'm like. Yeah, no. One interesting twist on that, by the way. Tyler Cowen had a twist on that question in his application for emergent mentors. So everybody's been asking the P.J. Teal question about what do you believe? And nobody else agrees with the most controversial opinion. And so it's kind of priced in at this point. And so Tyler's question on the application was, what is, what do you believe, what is like your most conventional belief? Like what is the thing you hold strongest that most people would agree with you on? And it kind of situates you in terms of what is the, where are you overlapping with the status quo?Aella 0:49:47Like, I feel confused about this. So I would probably say something like gravity is real.Dwarkesh Patel 0:49:52No, exactly. I think he's like looking for. Oh, something like that? You being conventional in a contrarian way. Maybe you just said something weird. Like, I believe that the feeling of the waves on my skin is beautiful and feels great, you know? It just shows you're not answering it in the normal way.Aella 0:50:08Oh, he wants the non-conventional answer.Dwarkesh Patel 0:50:10Yeah, yeah.Aella 0:50:12Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of that question though. Like I'm like not sure that question is like, like the best question to test for non-conventionality.Dwarkesh Patel 0:50:18Yeah, yeah. I would have thought by the way, that high-end escorts would be very familiar with elite culture. Because you watch these movies and these, you know, these escorts are going with rich CEOs at fundraiser dinners and stuff like that. I would have thought that actually the high-end escorts would be like very familiar with elite culture. Is that not the case or?Aella 0:50:38I mean, probably some are, but I'm not. I mean, like I've had a few people offer to take me to public events, but never actually happened. I've never appeared, like been hired to be aroundDwarkesh Patel 0:50:51like a man's social circle.Aella 0:50:53Usually people are very private about that.Dwarkesh Patel 0:50:55That's interesting. Because I would have thought one of the things rich men really probably want to do is signal social status. Probably even, potentially even more than have sex, right?Aella 0:51:04Maybe.Dwarkesh Patel 0:51:05To show that they have beautiful women around them.Aella 0:51:07Yeah, I think my guess is they would be seen as high risk. And I've known other escorts who have in fact been brought to events. So it's not that this doesn't happen, but like, I don't think it happens a lot,Dwarkesh Patel 0:51:17at least based on my experience. No, interesting.Aella 0:51:20It's possible that I'm not like pretty enough. It's possible that like a woman is very beautiful that she might get invited more often.Dwarkesh Patel 0:51:25But my guess is like,Aella 0:51:29like they can't trust that I know enough to be able to pass as an elite in those circles. Like I'm a weirdo sex worker who the f**k knows. Like, am I going to be doing drives in the bathroom? Am I going to be ta

Slate Star Codex Podcast
The Psychopharmacology Of The FTX Crash

Slate Star Codex Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 18, 2022 46:03


https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/the-psychopharmacology-of-the-ftx Must not blog about FTX . . . must not blog about . . . ah, $#@% it         Tyler Cowen linked Milky Eggs' excellent overview of the FTX crash. I'm unqualified to comment on any of the financial or regulatory aspects. But it turns out there's a psychopharmacology angle, which I am qualified to talk about, so let's go. I wrote this pretty rushed because it's an evolving news story. Sorry if it's less polished than usual.1 1: Was SBF Using A Medication That Can Cause Overspending And Compulsive Gambling As A Side Effect? Probably yes, and maybe it could have had some small effect, but probably not as much as the people discussing it on Twitter think. Milky Eggs reports a claim by an employee that Sam was on “a patch for designer stimulants that mainlined them into his blood to give him a constant buzz at all times”. This could be a hyperbolic description of Emsam, a patch form of the antidepressant/antiparkinsonian agent selegiline. The detectives at the @AutismCapital Twitter account found a photo of SBF, zoomed in on a scrap of paper on his desk, and recognized it as an Emsam wrapper.

CapX presents Free Exchange
Tyler Cowen on talent, economic optimism – and where to find a decent curry

CapX presents Free Exchange

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 18, 2022 40:08


Our guest this week is one of a kind. A truly polymathic personality, there's not much Tyler Cowen doesn't have a well informed view on, from the merits of Bradford curry houses to the future of cryptocurrencies and the fate of Trussonomics. That breadth of interest is evident from his prolific writing on his Marginal Revolution blog, in the pages of various newspapers and in the 20-odd books he's written in the last three decades or so. Tyler is also an avowed friend of the free market ,as Professor of Economics at George Mason University where he is chair and faculty director of the Mercatus Center. His latest book, co-authored with Daniel Gross, is Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World. As Tyler explains on the podcast, it's essentially a one-stop shop for companies and organisations looking to zero in on the best possible employees. As you would imagine with Tyler, our discussion was as wide-ranging and entertaining as the man himself. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Working It
How to win the war for talent

Working It

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 15, 2022 18:41


Businesses are competing to attract the people they consider the most skilled workers, but if hiring challenges can be described as a war, then the past two years have been one long battle. Host Isabel Berwick hears from Tyler Cowen, an economist and co-author of a new book called ‘Talent', about how to spot and retain the skilled recruits, and from FT management editor, Anjli Raval, about how skills shortages are affecting recruitment practices.Want more?Talent wars: why businesses have to battle to hire the best https://www.ft.com/content/e79e1497-1eb3-4ca1-bd1f-b12679e24576The global war for talent https://www.ft.com/content/61cc947c-c44c-4340-897a-8bd947227c05FT subscriber? Sign up for the weekly Working It newsletter with one click, here. We cover all things workplace and management — plus exclusive reporting on trends, tips and what's coming next. We love to hear from you. What do you like (or not)? What topics should we tackle? Email the team at workingit@ft.com or Isabel directly at isabel.berwick@ft.com. Follow @isabelberwick on Twitter Subscribe to Working It wherever you get your podcasts — and do leave us a review!Presented by Isabel Berwick. Editorial direction from Manuela Saragosa. Produced by Novel.Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

GoodFellows: Conversations from the Hoover Institution
“Deep Thoughts”: Tyler Cowen on AI and the Future of Work | GoodFellows: John Cochrane, Niall Ferguson | Hoover Institution

GoodFellows: Conversations from the Hoover Institution

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 10, 2022 62:36


A world where artificial intelligence completes your work and thoughts? And what's the wiser bet: “short Meta” or “long Twitter”? Tyler Cowen, a George Mason University economist and coauthor of the Marginal Revolution blog, joins Hoover senior fellows Niall Ferguson and John Cochrane to discuss whether technological advancements will improve the human condition.  

Mises Media
Misunderstanding Mises, Again

Mises Media

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 9, 2022


After praising Mises for his work on socialism, Tyler Cowen goes on to claim Human Action is "cranky and dogmatic." "Brilliant and insightful" would have been more truthful. Original Article: "Misunderstanding Mises, Again" This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. '

Audio Mises Wire
Misunderstanding Mises, Again

Audio Mises Wire

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 9, 2022


After praising Mises for his work on socialism, Tyler Cowen goes on to claim Human Action is "cranky and dogmatic." "Brilliant and insightful" would have been more truthful. Original Article: "Misunderstanding Mises, Again" This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. '

From the New World
Richard Bruns - Inside the FDA

From the New World

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 7, 2022 174:15


Richard Bruns is an economist who worked on cost-benefit for the FDA and now works at a biosecurity organization funded by the Open Philanthropy Foundation.Tyler Cowen on From the New WorldZvi Mowshowitz on FTNW:Scott Alexander on the FDA This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit cactus.substack.com

fda tyler cowen richard bruns
Lexman Artificial
Guest: Tyler Cowen on Refugees and Cornucopia Returns

Lexman Artificial

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 2, 2022 4:50


In this episode, Lexman interviews Tyler Cowen, an economist and professor at George Mason University. They discuss the recent arrival of refugees at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, and Cowen's thoughts on the issue. They also discuss the meaning of repentance in Christianity, and Cowen's experience as a leaseholder on a cornucopia (a kind of fruit market).

The Lunar Society
Brian Potter - Future of Construction, Ugly Modernism, & Environmental Review

The Lunar Society

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 27, 2022 145:57


Brian Potter is the author of the excellent Construction Physics blog, where he discusses why the construction industry has been slow to industrialize and innovate.He explains why:* Construction isn't getting cheaper and faster,* We should have mile-high buildings and multi-layer non-intersecting roads,* “Ugly” modern buildings are simply the result of better architecture,* China is so great at building things,* Saudi Arabia's Line is a waste of resources,* Environmental review makes new construction expensive and delayed,* and much much more!Watch on YouTube. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform. Read the full transcript here.Follow me on Twitter for updates on future episodes.More really cool guests coming up; subscribe to find out about future episodes!You may also enjoy my interviews with Tyler Cowen (about talent, collapse, & pessimism of sex). Charles Mann (about the Americas before Columbus & scientific wizardry), and Austin Vernon about (Energy Superabundance, Starship Missiles, & Finding Alpha).If you end up enjoying this episode, I would be super grateful if you share it, post it on Twitter, send it to your friends & group chats, and throw it up wherever else people might find it. Can't exaggerate how much it helps a small podcast like mine.A huge thanks to Graham Bessellieu for editing this podcast and Mia Aiyana for producing its transcript.Timestamps(0:00) - Why Saudi Arabia's Line is Insane, Unrealistic, and Never going to Exist (06:54) - Designer Clothes & eBay Arbitrage Adventures (10:10) - Unique Woes of The Construction Industry  (19:28) - The Problems of Prefabrication (26:27) - If Building Regulations didn't exist… (32:20) - China's Real Estate Bubble, Unbound Technocrats, & Japan(44:45) - Automation and Revolutionary Future Technologies (1:00:51) - 3D Printer Pessimism & The Rising Cost of Labour(1:08:02) - AI's Impact on Construction Productivity(1:17:53) - Brian Dreams of Building a Mile High Skyscraper(1:23:43) - Deep Dive into Environmentalism and NEPA(1:42:04) - Software is Stealing Talent from Physical Engineering(1:47:13) - Gaps in the Blog Marketplace of Ideas(1:50:56) - Why is Modern Architecture So Ugly?(2:19:58) - Advice for Aspiring Architects and Young Construction PhysicistsTranscriptWhy Saudi Arabia's Line is Insane, Unrealistic, and Never going to Exist Dwarkesh Patel Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Brian Potter, who is an engineer and the author of the excellent Construction Physics blog, where he writes about how the construction industry works and why it has been slow to industrialize and innovate. It's one of my favorite blogs on the internet, and I highly, highly recommend that people check it out. Brian, my first question is about The Line project in Saudi Arabia. What are your opinions? Brian Potter It's interesting how Saudi Arabia and countries in the Middle East, in general, are willing to do these big, crazy, ambitious building projects and pour huge amounts of money into constructing this infrastructure in a way that you don't see a huge amount in the modern world. China obviously does this too in huge amounts, some other minor places do as well, but in general, you don't see a whole lot of countries building these big, massive, incredibly ambitious projects. So on that level, it's interesting, and it's like, “Yes, I'm glad to see that you're doing this,” but the actual project is clearly insane and makes no sense. Look at the physical arrangement layout–– there's a reason cities grow in two dimensions. A one-dimensional city is the worst possible arrangement for transportation. It's the maximum amount of distance between any two points. So just from that perspective, it's clearly crazy, and there's no real benefit to it other than perhaps some weird hypothetical transportation situation where you had really fast point-to-point transportation. It would probably be some weird bullet train setup; maybe that would make sense. But in general, there's no reason to build a city like that. Even if you wanted to build an entirely enclosed thing (which again doesn't make a huge amount of sense), you would save so much material and effort if you just made it a cube. I would be more interested in the cube than the line. [laughs] But yeah, those are my initial thoughts on it. I will be surprised if it ever gets built. Dwarkesh Patel Are you talking about the cube from the meme about how you can put all the humans in the world in a cube the size of Manhattan? Brian Potter Something like that. If you're just going to build this big, giant megastructure, at least take advantage of what that gets you, which is minimum surface area to volume ratio.Dwarkesh Patel Why is that important? Would it be important for temperature or perhaps other features? Brian Potter This is actually interesting because I'm actually not sure how sure it would work with a giant single city. In general, a lot of economies of scale come from geometric effects. When something gets bigger, your volume increases a lot faster than your surface area does. So for something enclosed, like a tank or a pipe, the cost goes down per thing of unit you're transporting because you can carry a larger amount or a smaller amount of material. It applies to some extent with buildings and construction because the exterior wall assembly is a really burdensome, complicated, and expensive assembly. A building with a really big floor plate, for instance, can get more area per unit, per amount of exterior wall. I'm not sure how that actually works with a single giant enclosed structure because, theoretically, on a small level, it would apply the same way. Your climate control is a function of your exterior surface, at some level, and you get more efficient climate control if you have a larger volume and less area that it can escape from. But for a giant city, I actually don't know if that works, and it may be worse because you're generating so much heat that it's now harder to pump out. For examples like the urban heat island effect, where these cities generate massive amounts of waste heat, I don't know if that would work if it didn't apply the same way. I'm trying to reach back to my physics classes in college, so I'm not sure about the actual mechanics of that. Generally though, that's why you'd want to perhaps build something of this size and shape. Dwarkesh Patel What was the thought process behind designing this thing? Because Scott Alexander had a good blog post about The Line where he said, presumably, that The Line is designed to take up less space and to use less fuel because you can just use the same transportation across. But the only thing that Saudi Arabia has is space and fuel. So what is the thought process behind this construction project? Brian PotterI get the sense that a lot of committees have some amount of success in building big, impressive, physical construction projects that are an attraction just by virtue of their size and impressiveness. A huge amount of stuff in Dubai is something in this category, and they have that giant clock tower in Jeddah, the biggest giant clock building and one of the biggest buildings in the world, or something like that. I think, on some level, they're expecting that you would just see a return from building something that's really impressive or “the biggest thing on some particular axis”. So to some extent, I think they're just optimizing for big and impressive and maybe not diving into it more than that. There's this theory that I think about every so often. It's called the garbage can theory of organizational decision-making, which basically talks about how the choices that organizations make are not the result of any particular recent process. They are the result of how, whenever a problem comes up, people reach into the garbage can of potential solutions. Then whatever they pull out of the garbage can, that's the decision that they end up going with, regardless of how much sense it makes. It was a theory that was invented by academics to describe decision-making in academia. I think about that a lot, especially with reference to big bureaucracies and governments. You can just imagine the draining process of how these decisions evolve. Any random decision can be made, especially when there's such a disconnect between the decision-makers and technical knowledge.Designer Clothes & eBay Arbitrage Adventures Dwarkesh PatelTell me about your eBay arbitrage with designer clothes. Brian Potter Oh man, you really did dive deep. Yeah, so this was a small business that I ran seven or eight years ago at this point. A hobby of mine was high-end men's fashion for a while, which is a very strange hobby for an engineer to have, but there you go. That hobby centers around finding cheap designer stuff, because buying new can be overwhelmingly expensive. However, a lot of times, you can get clothes for a very cheap price if you're even a little bit motivated. Either it shows up on eBay, or it shows up in thrift stores if you know what to look for. A lot of these clothes can last because they're well-made. They last a super, super, super long time–– even if somebody wore it for 10 years or something, it could be fine. So a lot of this hobby centered around finding ways to get really nice clothes cheaply. Majority of it was based around eBay, but it was really tedious to find really nice stuff on eBay. You had to manually search for a bunch of different brands, filter out the obviously bad ones, search for typos in brands, put in titles, and stuff like that. I was in the process of doing this, and I thought, “Oh, this is really annoying. I should figure out a way to automate this process.” So I made a very simple web app where when you searched for shoes or something, it would automatically search the very nice brands of shoes and all the typos of the brand name. Then it would just filter out all the junk and let you search through the good stuff. I set up an affiliate system, basically. So anybody else that used it, I would get a kick of the sales. While I was interested in that hobby, I ran this website for a few years, and it was reasonably successful. It was one of the first things I did that got any real traction on the internet, but it was never successful in proportion to how much effort it took to maintain and update it. So as I moved away from the hobby, I eventually stopped putting time and effort into maintaining the website. I'm curious as to how you even dug that up. Dwarkesh Patel I have a friend who was with you at the Oxford Refugees Conference, Connor Tabarrok. I don't know if you remember him. Brian Potter Nice. Dwarkesh Patel Yeah. Finding other information about you on the internet was quite difficult actually. You've somehow managed to maintain your anonymity. If you're willing to reveal, what was the P&L of this project? Brian Potter Oh, it made maybe a few hundred dollars a month for a few years, but I only ever ran it as a side hobby business, basically. So in terms of time per my effort or whatever, I'm sure it was very low. Pennies to an hour or something like that. Unique Woes of The Construction Industry   Dwarkesh Patel A broad theme that I've gotten from your post is that the construction industry is plagued with these lossy feedback loops, a lack of strong economies of scale, regulation, and mistakes being very costly. Do you think that this is a general characteristic of many industries in our world today, or is there something unique about construction? Brian Potter Interesting question. One thing you think of is that there are a lot of individual factors that are not unique at all. Construction is highly regulated, but it's not necessarily more regulated than medical devices or jet travel, or even probably cars, to some extent, which have a whole vat of performance criteria they need to hit. With a couple of things like land use, for example, people say, “Oh, the land requirements, could you build it on-site,” explaining how those kinds of things make it difficult. But there is a lot that falls into this category that doesn't really share the same structure of how the construction industry works.I think it's the interaction of all those effects. One thing that I think is perhaps underappreciated is that the systems of a building are really highly coupled in a way that a lot of other things are. If you're manufacturing a computer, the hard drive is somewhat independent from the display and somewhat independent from the power supply. These things are coupled, but they can be built by independent people who don't necessarily even talk to each other before being assembled into one structured thing. A building is not really like that at all. Every single part affects every single other part. In some ways, it's like biology. So it's very hard to change something that doesn't end up disrupting something else. Part of that is because a job's building is to create a controlled interior environment, meaning, every single system has to run through and around the surfaces that are creating that controlled interior. Everything is touching each other. Again, that's not unique. Anything really highly engineered, like a plane or an iPhone, share those characteristics to some extent. In terms of the size of it and the relatively small amount you're paying in terms of unit size or unit mass, however, it's quite low. Dwarkesh Patel Is transportation cost the fundamental reason you can't have as much specialization and modularity?Brian Potter Yeah, I think it's really more about just the way a building is. An example of this would be how for the electrical system of your house, you can't have a separate box where if you needed to replace the electrical system, you could take the whole box out and put the new box in. The electrical system runs through the entire house. Same with plumbing. Same with the insulation. Same with the interior finishes and stuff like that. There's not a lot of modularity in a physical sense. Dwarkesh Patel Gotcha. Ben Kuhn  had this interesting comment on your article where he pointed out that many of the reasons you give for why it's hard to innovate in construction, like sequential dependencies and the highly variable delivery timelines are also common in software where Ben Koon works. So why do you think that the same sort of stagnation has not hit other industries that have superficially similar characteristics, like software? Brian Potter How I think about that is that you kind of see a similar structure in anything that's project-based or anything where there's an element of figuring out what you're doing while you're doing it. Compared to a large-scale manufacturing option where you spend a lot of time figuring out what exactly it is that you're building. You spend a lot of time designing it to be built and do your first number of runs through it, then you tweak your process to make it more efficient. There's always an element of tweaking it to make it better, but to some extent, the process of figuring out what you're doing is largely separate from the actual doing of it yourself. For a project-based industry, it's not quite like that. You have to build your process on the fly. Of course, there are best practices that shape it, right? For somebody writing a new software project or anything project-based, like making a movie, they have a rough idea for how it's going to go together. But there's going to be a lot of unforeseen things that kind of come up like that. The biggest difference is that either those things can often scale in a way that you can't with a building. Once you're done with the software project, you can deploy it to 1,000 or 100,000, or 1 million people, right? Once you finish making a movie, 100 million people can watch it or whatever. It doesn't quite look the same with a building. You don't really have the ability to spend a lot of time upfront figuring out how this thing needs to go. You kind of need to figure out a way to get this thing together without spending a huge amount of time that would be justified by the sheer size of it. I was able to dig up a few references for software projects and how often they just have these big, long tails. Sometimes they just go massively, massively over budget. A lot of times, they just don't get completed at all, which is shocking, but because of how many people it can then be deployed to after it's done, the economics of it are slightly different. Dwarkesh Patel I see, yeah. There's a famous law in software that says that a project will take longer than you expect even after you recount for the fact that it will take longer than you expect. Brian Potter Yeah. Hofstadter's law or something like that is what I think it is. Dwarkesh Patel Yeah. I'm curious about what the lack of skill in construction implies for startups. Famously, in software, the fact that there's zero marginal cost to scaling to the next customer is a huge boon to a startup, right? The entire point of which is scaling exponentially. Does that fundamentally constrain the size and quantity of startups you can have in construction if the same scaling is not available?Brian Potter Yeah, that's a really good question. The obvious first part of the answer is that for software, obviously, if you have a construction software company, you can scale it just like any other software business. For physical things, it is a lot more difficult. This lack of zero marginal cost has tended to fight a lot of startups, not just construction ones. But yeah, it's definitely a thing. Construction is particularly brutal because the margins are so low. The empirical fact is that trying what would be a more efficient method of building doesn't actually allow you to do it cheaper and get better margins. The startup that I used to work at, Katerra, their whole business model was basically predicated on that. “Oh, we'll just build all our buildings in these big factories, get huge economies of scale, reduce our costs, and then recoup the billions of dollars that we're pumping into this industry or business.” The math just does not work out. You can't build. In general, you can't build cheap enough to kind of recoup those giant upfront costs. A lot of businesses have been burned that way. The most success you see in prefabrication type of stuff is on the higher end of things where you can get higher margins. A lot of these prefab companies and stuff like that tend to target the higher end of the market, and you see a few different premiums for that. Obviously, if you're targeting the higher end, you're more likely to have higher margins. If you're building to a higher level of quality, that's easier to do in a factory environment. So the delta is a lot different, less enormous than it would be. Building a high level of quality is easier to do in a factory than it is in the field, so a lot of buildings or houses that are built to a really high level of energy performance, for instance, need a really, really high level of air sealing to minimize how much energy this house uses. You tend to see a lot more houses like that built out of prefab construction and other factory-built methods because it's just physically more difficult to achieve that on-site. The Problems of Prefabrication Dwarkesh Patel Can you say more about why you can't use prefabrication in a factory to get economies of scale? Is it just that the transportation costs will eat away any gains you get? What is going on? Brian PotterThere's a combination of effects. I haven't worked through all this, we'll have to save this for the next time. I'll figure it out more by then. At a high level, it's that basically the savings that you get from like using less labor or whatever is not quite enough to offset your increased transportation costs. One thing about construction, especially single-family home construction, is that a huge percentage of your costs are just the materials that you're using, right? A single-family home is roughly 50% labor and 50% materials for the construction costs. Then you have development costs, land costs, and things like that. So a big chunk of that, you just can't move to the factory at all, right?  You can't really build a foundation in a factory. You could prefab the foundation, but it doesn't gain you anything. Your excavation still has to be done on-site, obviously. So a big chunk can't move to the factory at all. For ones that can, you still basically have to pay the same amount for materials. Theoretically, if you're building truly huge volume, you could get material volume discounts, but even then, it's probably not looking at things like asset savings. So you can cut out a big chunk of your labor costs, and you do see that in factory-built construction, right? These prefab companies are like mobile home companies. They have a small fraction of labor as their costs, which is typical of a factory in general, but then they take out all that labor cost while they still have their high material costs, and then they have overhead costs of whatever the factory has cost them. Then you have your additional overhead cost of just transporting it to site, which is pretty limited. The math does not really work out in favor of prefab, in terms of being able to make the cost of building dramatically cheaper. You can obviously build a building in a prefab using prefab-free methods and build a successful construction business, right? Many people do. But in terms of dramatically lowering your costs, you don't really see that. Dwarkesh Patel Yeah, yeah. Austin Vernon has an interesting blog post about why there's not more prefabricated homes. The two things he points out were transportation costs, and the other one was that people prefer to have homes that have unique designs or unique features. When I was reading it, it actually occurred to me that maybe they're actually both the result of the same phenomenon. I don't know if I'm pronouncing it correctly, but have you heard of the Alchian-Allen theorem in economics? Brian Potter Maybe, but I don't think so. Dwarkesh Patel Basically, it's the idea that if you increase the cost of some category of goods in a fixed way––let's say you tax oranges and added a $1 tax to all oranges, or transportation for oranges gets $1 more expensive for all oranges––people will shift consumption towards the higher grade variety because now, the ratio of the cost between the higher, the more expensive orange and the less expensive orange has decreased because of the increase in fixed costs. It seems like you could use that argument to also explain why people have strong preferences for uniqueness and all kinds of design in manufactured houses. Since transportation costs are so high, that's basically a fixed cost, and that fixed cost has the effect of making people shift consumption towards higher-grade options. I definitely think that's true. Brian PotterI would maybe phrase this as, “The construction industry makes it relatively comparatively cheap to deliver a highly customized option compared to a really repetitive option.” So yeah, the ratio between a highly customized one and just a commodity one is relatively small. So you see a kind of industry built around delivering somewhat more customized options. I do think that this is a pretty broad intuition that people just desire too much customization from their homes. That really prevents you from having a mass-produced offering. I do think that is true to some extent. One example is the Levittown houses, which were originally built in huge numbers–– exactly the same model over and over again. Eventually, they had to change their business model to be able to deliver more customized options because the market shipped it. I do think that the effect of that is basically pretty overstated. Empirically, you see that in practice, home builders and developers will deliver fairly repetitive housing. They don't seem to have a really hard time doing that. As an example, I'm living in a new housing development that is just like three or four different houses copy-pasted over and over again in a group of 50. The developer is building a whole bunch of other developments that are very similar in this area. My in-laws live in a very similar development in a whole different state. If you just look like multi-family or apartment housing, it's identical apartments, you know, copy-pasted over and over again in the same building or a bunch of different buildings in the same development. You're not seeing huge amounts of uniqueness in these things. People are clearly willing to just live in these basically copy-pasted apartments. It's also quite possible to get a pretty high amount of product variety using a relatively small number of factors that you vary, right? I mean, the car industry is like this, where there are enough customization options. I was reading this book a while ago that was basically pushing back against the idea that the car industry pre-fifties and sixties we just offering a very uniform product. They basically did the math, and the number of customization options on their car was more than the atoms in the universe. Basically just, there are so many different options. All the permutations, you know, leather seats and this type of stereo and this type of engine, if you add it all up, there's just a huge, massive number of different combinations. Yeah, you can obviously customize the house a huge amount, just by the appliances that you have and the finishes that are in there and the paint colors that you choose and the fixtures and stuff like that. It would not really theoretically change the underlying way the building comes together. So regarding the idea that the fundamental demand for variety is a major obstruction, I don't think there's a whole lot of evidence for that in the construction industry. If Construction Regulation Vanished… Dwarkesh Patel I asked Twitter about what I should ask you, and usually, I don't get interesting responses but the quality of the people and the audience that knows who you are was so high that actually, all the questions I got were fascinating. So I'm going to ask you some questions from Twitter. Brian Potter Okay. Dwarkesh Patel 0:26:45Connor Tabarrok asks, “What is the most unique thing that would or should get built in the absence of construction regulation?”Brian Potter Unique is an interesting qualifier. There are a lot of things that just like should get built, right? Massive amounts of additional housing and creating more lands in these really dense urban environments where we need it, in places like San Francisco–– just fill in a big chunk of that bay. It's basically just mud flat and we should put more housing on it. “Unique thing” is more tricky. One idea that I really like (I read this in the book, The Book Where's My Flying Car),  is that it's basically crazy that our cities are designed with roads that all intersect with each other. That's an insane way to structure a material flow problem. Any sane city would be built with multiple layers of like transportation where each one went in a different direction so your flows would just be massively, massively improved. That just seems like a very obvious one.If you're building your cities from scratch and had your druthers, you would clearly want to build them and know how big they were gonna get, right? So you could plan very long-term in a way that so these transportation systems didn't intersect with each other, which, again, almost no cities did. You'd have the space to scale them or run as much throughput through them as you need without bringing the whole system to a halt. There's a lot of evidence saying that cities tend to scale based on how much you can move from point A to point B through them. I do wonder whether if you changed the way they went together, you could unlock massively different cities. Even if you didn't unlock massive ones, you could perhaps change the agglomeration effects that you see in cities if people could move from point A to point B much quicker than they currently can. Dwarkesh Patel Yeah, I did an episode about the book, where's my flying car with Rohit Krishnan. I don't know if we discussed this, but an interesting part of the book is where he talks about transistor design. If you design transistors this way, can you imagine how slow they would be? [laughs] Okay, so Simon Grimm asks, “What countries are the best at building things?”Brian Potter This is a good question. I'm going to sort of cheat a little bit and do it in terms of space and time, because I think most countries that are doing a good job at building massive amounts of stuff are not ones that are basically doing it currently.The current answer is like China, where they just keep building–– more concrete was used in the last 20 years or so than the entire world used in the time before that, right? They've accomplished massive amounts of urbanization, and built a lot of really interesting buildings and construction. In terms of like raw output, I would also put Japan in the late 20th century on there. At the peak of the concern and wonder of “Is Japan gonna take over the world?”, they were really interested in building stuff quite quickly. They spent a lot of time and effort trying to use their robotics expertise to try to figure out how to build buildings a lot more quickly. They had these like really interesting factories that were designed to basically extrude an entire skyscraper just going up vertically.All these big giant companies and many different factories were trying to develop and trying to do this with robotics. It was a really interesting system that did not end up ever making economic sense, but it is very cool. I think big industrial policy organs of the government basically encouraged a lot of these industrial companies to basically develop prefabricated housing systems. So you see a lot of really interesting systems developed from these sort of industrial companies in a way that you don't see in a lot of other places. From 1850 to maybe 1970 (like a hundred years or something), the US was building huge massive amounts of stuff in a way that lifted up huge parts of the economy, right? I don't know how many thousands of miles of railroad track the US built between like 1850 and 1900, but it was many, many, many thousands of miles of it. Ofcourse, needing to lay all this track and build all these locomotives really sort of forced the development of the machine tool industry, which then led to the development of like better manufacturing methods and interchangeable parts, which of course then led to the development of the automotive industry. Then ofcourse, that explosion just led to even more big giant construction projects. So you really see that this ability to build just big massive amounts of stuff in this virtuous cycle with the US really advanced a lot of technology to raise the standard of development for a super long period of time. So those are my three answers. China's Real Estate Bubble, Unbound Technocrats, and JapanDwarkesh Patel Those three bring up three additional questions, one for each of them! That's really interesting. Have you read The Power Broker, the book about Robert Moses? Brian Potter I think I got a 10th of the way through it. Dwarkesh Patel That's basically a whole book in itself, a 10th of the way. [laughs] I'm a half of the way through, and so far it's basically about the story of how this one guy built a startup within the New York state government that was just so much more effective at building things, didn't have the same corruption and clientelism incompetence. Maybe it turns into tragedy in the second half, but so far it's it seems like we need this guy. Where do we get a second Robert Moses? Do you think that if you had more people like that in government or in construction industries, public works would be more effectively built or is the stagnation there just a result of like other bigger factors? Brian Potter That's an interesting question. I remember reading this article a while ago that was complaining about how horrible Penn Station is in New York. They're basically saying, “Yeah, it would be nice to return to the era of like the sort of unbound technocrat” when these technical experts in high positions of power in government could essentially do whatever they wanted to some extent. If they thought something should be built somewhere, they basically had the power to do it. It's a facet of this problem of how it's really, really hard to get stuff built in the US currently. I'm sure that a part of it is that you don't see these really talented technocrats occupy high positions of government where they can get stuff done. But it's not super obvious to me whether that's the limiting factor. I kind of get the sense that they would end up being bottlenecked by some other part of the process. The whole sort of interlocking set of institutions has just become so risk averse that they would end up just being blocked in a way that they wouldn't when they were operating in the 1950s or 1960s.Dwarkesh Patel Yeah, yeah, that's interesting. All right, so speaking of Japan, I just recently learned about the construction there and how they just keep tearing stuff down every 30 to 40 years and rebuilding it. So you have an interesting series of posts on how you would go about building a house or a building that lasts for a thousand years. But I'm curious, how would you build a house or a building that only lasts for 30 or 40 years? If you're building in Japan and you know they're gonna tear it down soon, what changes about the construction process? Brian Potter Yeah, that's interesting. I mean, I'm not an expert on Japanese construction, but I think like a lot of their interior walls are basically just paper and stuff like that. I actually think it's kind of surprising that last time I looked, for a lot of their homes, they use a surprising post and beam construction method, which is actually somewhat labor-intensive to do. The US in the early 1800s used a pretty similar method. Then once we started mass producing conventional lumber, we stopped doing that because it was much cheaper to build out of two-by-fours than it was to build big heavy posts. I think the boring answer to that question is that we'd build like how we build mobile homes–– essentially just using pretty thin walls, pretty low-end materials that are put together in a minimal way. This ends up not being that different from the actual construction method that single-family homes use. It just even further economizes and tightens the use of materials–– where a single-family home might use a half inch plywood, they might try to use three-sixteenths or even an eighth inch plywood or something like that. So we'd probably build a pretty similar way to the way most single-family homes and multi-family homes are built currently, but just with even tighter use of materials which perhaps is something that's not super nice about the way that you guys build your homes. But... [laughs]Dwarkesh Patel Okay, so China is the third one here. There's been a lot of talk about a potential real estate bubble in China because they're building housing in places where people don't really need it. Of course, maybe the demographics aren't there to support the demand. What do you think of all this talk? I don't know if you're familiar with it, but is there a real estate bubble that's created by all this competence in building? Brian PotterOh, gosh, yeah, I have no idea. Like you, I've definitely heard talk of it and I've seen the little YouTube clips of them knocking down all these towers that it turns out they didn't need or the developer couldn't, finish or whatever. I don't know a huge amount about that. In general, I wish I knew a lot more about how things are built in China, but the information is in general, so opaque. I generally kind of assume that any particular piece of data that comes out of China has giant error bars on it as to whether it's true or not or what the context surrounding it is. So in general, I do not have a hard opinion about that. Dwarkesh Patel This is the second part of Simon's question, does greater competence and being able to build stuff translate into other good outcomes for these countries like higher GDP or lower rents or other kinds of foreign outcomes? Brian Potter That's a good question. Japan is an interesting place where basically people point to it as an example of, “Here's a country that builds huge amounts of housing and they don't have housing cost increases.” In general, we should expect that dynamic to be true. Right? There's no reason to not think that housing costs are essentially a supply-demand problem where if you built as much as people wanted, the cost would drop. I have no reason to not think that's true. There is a little bit of evidence that sort of suggests that it's impossible to build housing enough to overcome this sort of mechanical obstacle where the cost of it tends to match and rise to whatever people's income level are. The peak and the sort of flattening of housing costs in Japan also parallel when people basically stopped getting raises and income stopped rising in Japan. So I don't have a good sense of, if it ends up being just more driven by some sort of other factors. Generally though I expect the very basic answer of “If you build a lot more houses, the housing will become cheaper.”Dwarkesh PatelRight. Speaking of how the land keeps gaining value as people's income go up, what is your opinion on Georgism? Does that kind of try and make you think that housing is a special asset that needs to be more heavily taxed because you're not inherently doing something productive just by owning land the way you would be if you like built a company or something similar?Brian Potter I don't have any special deep knowledge of Georgism. It's on my list of topics to read more deeply about. I do think in general, taxing encourages you to produce less of something for something that you can't produce less of. It's a good avenue for something to tax more heavily. And yeah, obviously if you had a really high land value tax in these places that have a lot of single-family homes in dense urban areas, like Seattle or San Francisco, that would probably encourage people to use the land a lot more efficiently. So it makes sense to me, but I don't have a ton of special knowledge about it. Dwarkesh Patel All right, Ben Kuhn asked on Twitter, “What construction-related advice would you give to somebody building a new charter city?”Brian Potter That is interesting. I mean, just off the top of my head, I would be interested in whether you could really figure out a way to build using a method that had really high upfront costs. I think it could otherwise be justified, but if you're gonna build 10,000 buildings or whatever all at once, you could really take advantage of that. One kind of thing that you see in the sort of post-World War II era is that we're building huge massive amounts of housing, and a lot of times we're building them all in one place, right? A lot of town builders were building thousands and thousands of houses in one big development all at once. In California, it's the same thing, you just built like 6 or 10 or 15,000 houses in one big massive development. You end up seeing something like that where they basically build this like little factory on their construction site, and then use that to like fabricate all these things. Then you have something that's almost like a reverse assembly line where a crew will go to one house and install the walls or whatever, and then go to the next house and do the same thing. Following right behind them would be the guys doing the electrical system, plumbing, and stuff like that. So this reverse assembly line system would allow you to sort of get these things up really, really fast, in 30 days or something like that. Then you could have a whole house or just thousands and thousands of houses at once. You would want to be able to do something similar where you could just not do the instruction the way that the normal construction is done, but that's hard, right? Centrally planned cities or top-down planned cities never seem to do particularly well, right? For example, the city of Brasilia, the one that was supposed to be a planned city— the age it goes back to the unfettered technocrat who can sort of build whatever he wants. A lot of times, what you want is something that will respond at a low level and organically sort out the factories as they develop. You don't want something that's totally planned from the top-down, that's disconnected from all the sorts of cases on the ground. A lot of the opposition to Robert Moses ended up being that in a certain form, right? He's bulldozing through these cities that are these buildings and neighborhoods that he's not paying attention to at all. So I think, just to go back to the question, trying to plan your city from the top down doesn't have a super, super great track record. In general, you want your city to develop a little bit more organically. I guess I would think to have a good sort of land-use rules that are really thought through well and encourage the things that you want to encourage and not discourage the things that you don't want to discourage. Don't have equity in zoning and allow a lot of mixed-use construction and stuff like that. I guess that's a somewhat boring answer, but I'd probably do something along those lines. Dwarkesh Patel Interesting, interesting. I guess that implies that there would be high upfront costs to building a city because if you need to build 10,000 homes at once to achieve these economies of scale, then you would need to raise like tens of billions of dollars before you could build a charter city. Brian Potter Yeah, if you were trying to lower your costs of construction, but again, if you have the setup to do that, you wouldn't necessarily need to raise it. These other big developments were built by developers that essentially saw an opportunity. They didn't require public funding to do it. They did in the form of loan guarantees for veterans and things like that, but they didn't have the government go and buy the land. Automation and Revolutionary Future Technologies Dwarkesh Patel Right, okay, so the next question is from Austin Vernon. To be honest, I don't understand the question, you two are too smart for me, but hopefully, you'll be able to explain the question and then also answer it. What are your power rankings for technologies that can tighten construction tolerances? Then he gives examples like ARVR, CNC cutting, and synthetic wood products. Brian Potter Yeah, so this is a very interesting question. Basically, because buildings are built manually on site by hand, there's just a lot of variation in what ends up being built, right? There's only so accurately that a person can put something in place if they don't have any sort of age or stuff like that. Just the placement itself of materials tends to have a lot of variation in it and the materials themselves also have a lot of variation in them. The obvious example is wood, right? Where one two by four is not gonna be exactly the same as another two by four. It may be warped, it may have knots in it, it may be split or something like that. Then also because these materials are sitting just outside in the elements, they sort of end up getting a lot of distortion, they either absorb moisture and sort of expand and contract, or they grow and shrink because of the heat. So there's just a lot of variation that goes into putting a building up.To some extent, it probably constrains what you are able to build and how effectively you're able to build it. I kind of gave an example before of really energy efficient buildings and they're really hard to build on-site using conventional methods because the air ceiling is quite difficult to do. You have to build it in a much more precise way than what is typically done and is really easily achieved on-site. So I guess in terms of examples of things that would make that easier, he gives some good ones like engineered lumber, which is where you take lumber and then grind it up into strands or chips or whatever and basically glue them back together–– which does a couple of things. It spreads all the knots and the defects out so they are concentrated and everything tends to be a lot more uniform when it's made like that. So that's a very obvious one that's already in widespread use. I don't really see that making a substantial change.I guess the one exception to that would be this engineered lumber product called mass timber elements, CLT, which is like a super plywood. Plywood is made from tiny little sheet thin strips of wood, right? But CLT is made from two-by-four-dimensional lumber glued across laminated layers. So instead of a 4 by 9 sheet of plywood, you have a 12 by 40 sheet of dimensional lumber glued together. You end up with a lot of the properties of engineered material where it's really dimensionally stable. It can be produced very, very accurately. It's actually funny that a lot of times, the CLT is the most accurate part of the building. So if you're building a building with it, you tend to run into problems where the rest of the building is not accurate enough for it. So even with something like steel, if you're building a steel building, the steel is not gonna be like dead-on accurate, it's gonna be an inch or so off in terms of where any given component is. The CLT, which is built much more accurately, actually tends to show all these errors that have to be corrected. So in some sense, accuracy or precision is a little bit of like a tricky thing because you can't just make one part of the process more precise. In some ways that actually makes things more difficult because if one part is really precise, then a lot of the time, it means that you can't make adjustments to it easily. So if you have this one really precise thing, it usually means you have to go and compensate for something else that is not built quite as precisely. It actually makes advancing precision quite a bit more complicated. AR VR, is something I'm very bullish on. A big caveat of that is assuming that they can just get the basic technology working. The basic intuition there is that right now the way that pieces are, when a building is put together on site, somebody is looking at a set of paper plans, or an iPad or something that tells them where everything needs to go. So they figure that out and then they take a tape measure or use some other method and go figure out where that's marked on the ground. There's all this set-up time that is really quite time consuming and error prone. Again, there's only so much accuracy that a guy dragging a tape 40 feet across site being held by another guy can attain, there's a limit to how accurate that process can be. It's very easy for me to imagine that AR would just project exactly where the components of your building need to go. That would A, allow you a much higher level of accuracy that you can easily get using manual methods. And then B, just reduce all that time it takes to manually measure things. I can imagine it being much, much, much faster as well, so I'm quite bullish on that. At a high level and a slightly lower level, it's not obvious to me if they will be able to get to the level where it just projects it with perfect accuracy right in front of you. It may be the case that a person moving their head around and constantly changing their point of view wont ever be able to project these things with millimeter precision––it's always gonna be a little bit jumpy or you're gonna end up with some sort of hard limit in terms of like how precisely you can project it. My sense is that locator technology will get good enough, but I don't have any principle reason believing that. The other thing is that being able to take advantage of that technology would require you to have a really, really accurate model of your building that locates where every single element is precisely and exactly what its tolerances are. Right now, buildings aren't designed like that, they are built using a comparatively sparse set of drawings that leaves a lot to sort of be interpreted by the people on site doing the work and efforts that have tried to make these models really, really, really precise, have not really paid off a lot of times. You can get returns on it if you're building something really, really complex where there's a much higher premium to being able to make sure you don't make any error, but for like a simple building like a house, the returns just aren't there. So you see really comparatively sparse drawings. Whether it's gonna be able to work worth this upfront cost of developing this really complex, very precise model of where exactly every component is still has to be determined. There's some interesting companies that are trying to move in this direction where they're making it a lot easier to draw these things really, really precisely and whave every single component exactly where it is. So I'm optimistic about that as well, but it's a little bit TBD. Dwarkesh Patel This raises a question that I actually wanted to ask you, which is in your post about why there aren't automatic brick layers. It was a really interesting post. Somebody left in an interesting comment saying that bricks were designed to be handled and assembled by humans. Then you left a response to that, which I thought was really interesting. You said, “The example I always reach for is with steam power and electricity, where replacing a steam engine with an electric motor in your factory didn't do much for productivity. Improving factory output required totally redesigning the factory around the capabilities of electric motors.” So I was kind of curious about if you apply that analogy to construction, then what does that look like for construction? What is a house building process or building building process that takes automation and these other kinds of tools into account? How would that change how buildings are built and how they end up looking in the end? Brian Potter I think that's a good question. One big component of the lack of construction productivity is everything was designed and has evolved over 100 years or 200 years to be easy for a guy or person on the site to manipulate by hand. Bricks are roughly the size and shape and weight that a person can move it easily around. Dimensional lumber is the same. It's the size and shape and weight that a person can move around easily. And all construction materials are like this and the way that they attach together and stuff is the same. It's all designed so that a person on site can sort of put it all together with as comparatively little effort as possible. But what is easy for a person to do is usually not what is easy for a machine or a robot to do, right? You typically need to redesign and think about what your end goal is and then redesign the mechanism for accomplishing that in terms of what is easy to get to make a machine to do. The obvious example here is how it's way easier to build a wagon or a cart that pulls than it is to build a mechanical set of legs that mimics a human's movement. That's just way, way, way easier. I do think that a big part of advancing construction productivity is to basically figure out how to redesign these building elements in a way that is really easy for a machine to produce and a machine to put together. One reason that we haven't seen it is that a lot of the mechanization you see is people trying to mechanize exactly what a person does. You'd need a really expensive industrial robot that can move exactly the way that a human moves more or less. What that might look like is basically something that can be really easily extruded by a machine in a continuous process that wouldn't require a lot of finicky mechanical movements. A good example of this technology is technology that's called insulated metal panels, which is perhaps one of the cheapest and easiest ways to build an exterior wall. What it is, is it's just like a thin layer of steel. Then on top of that is a layer of insulation. Then on top of that is another layer of steel. Then at the end, the steel is extruded in such a way that it can like these inner panels can like lock together as they go. It's basically the simplest possible method of constructing a wall that you can imagine. But that has the structural system and the water barrier, air barrier, and insulation all in this one really simple assembly. Then when you put it together on site, it just locks together. Of course there are a lot of limitations to this. Like if you want to do anything on top of like add windows, all of a sudden it starts to look quite a bit less good. I think things that are really easy for a machine to do can be put together without a lot of persistent measurement or stuff like that in-field. They can just kind of snap together and actually want to fit together. I think that's kind of what it looks like. 3D Printer Pessimism & The Rising Cost of LabourDwarkesh Patel What would the houses or the buildings that are built using this physically look like? Maybe in 50 to 100 years, we'll look back on the houses we have today and say, “Oh, look at that artisanal creation made by humans.” What is a machine that is like designed for robots first or for automation first? In more interesting ways, would it differ from today's buildings? Brian Potter That's a good question. I'm not especially bullish on 3D building printing in general, but this is another example of a building using an extrusion process that is relatively easy to mechanize. What's interesting there is that when you start doing that, a lot of these other bottlenecks become unlocked a little bit. It's very difficult to build a building using a lot of curved exterior surfaces using conventional methods. You can do it, it's quite expensive to do, but there's a relatively straightforward way for a 3D-printed building to do that. They can build that as easily as if it was a straight wall. So you see a lot of interesting curved architecture on these creations and in a few other areas. There's a company that can build this cool undulating facade that people kind of like. So yeah, it unlocks a lot of options. Machines are more constrained in some things that they can do, but they don't have a lot of the other constraints that you would otherwise see. So I think you'll kind of see a larger variety of aesthetic things like that. That said, at the end of the day, I think a lot of the ways a house goes together is pretty well shaped to just the way that a person living inside it would like to use. I think Stewart Brand makes this point in––Dwarkesh Patel Oh, How Buildings Learn. Brian Potter There we go. He basically makes the point that a lot of people try to use dome-shaped houses or octagon-shaped houses, which are good because, again, going back to surface area volume, they include lots of space using the least amount of material possible. So in some theoretical sense, they're quite efficient, but it's actually quite inconvenient to live inside of a building with a really curved wall, right? Furniture doesn't fit up against it nicely, and pictures are hard to hang on a really curved wall. So I think you would see less variation than maybe you might expect. Dwarkesh Patel Interesting. So why are you pessimistic about 3D printers? For construction, I mean. Brian Potter Yeah, for construction. Oh God, so many reasons. Not pessimistic, but just there's a lot of other interesting questions. I mean, so the big obvious one is like right now a 3D printer can basically print the walls of a building. That is a pretty small amount of the value in a building, right? It's maybe 7% or 8%, something like that. Probably not more than 10% of the value in a building. Because you're not printing the foundation, you're not printing like the overhead vertical, or the overhead spanning structure of the building. You're basically just printing the walls. You're not even really printing the second story walls that you have in multiple stories. I don't think they've quite figured that out yet. So it's a pretty small amount of value added to the building. It's frankly a task that is relatively easy to do by manual labor. It's really pretty easy for a crew to basically put up the structure of a house. This is kind of a recurring theme in mechanization or it goes back to what I was talking about to our previous lead. Where it takes a lot of mechanization and a lot of expensive equipment to replace what basically like two or three guys can do in a day or something like that. The economics of it are pretty brutal. So right now it produces a pretty small value. I think that the value of 3D printing is basically entirely predicated on how successful they are at figuring out how to like deliver more components of the building using their system. There are companies that are trying to do this. There's one that got funded not too long ago called Black Diamond, where they have this crazy system that is like a series of 3D printers that would act simultaneously, like each one building a separate house. Then as you progress, you switch out the print head for like a robot arm. Cause a 3D printer is basically like a robot arm with just a particular manipulator at the end, right?So they switch out their print head for like a robot arm, and the robot arm goes and installs different other systems like the windows or the mechanical systems. So you can figure out how to do that reliably where your print head or your printing system is installing a large fraction of the value of the building. It's not clear to me that it's gonna be economic, but it obviously needs to reach that point. It's not obvious to me that they have gotten there yet. It's really quite hard to get a robot to do a lot of these tasks. For a lot of these players, it seems like they're actually moving away from that. I think in ICON is the biggest construction 3D printer company in the US, as far as I know. And as far as I know, they've moved away from trying to install lots of systems in their walls as they get printed. They've kind of moved on to having that installed separately, which I think has made their job a little bit easier, but again, not quite, it's hard to see how the 3D printer can fulfill its promises if it can't do anything just beyond the vertical elements, whichare really, for most construction, quite cheap and simple to build. Dwarkesh Patel Now, if you take a step back and talk how expensive construction is overall, how much of it can just be explained by the Baumol cost effect? As in labor costs are increasing because labor is more productive than other industries and therefore construction is getting more expensive. Brian Potter I think that's a huge, huge chunk of it. The labor fraction hasn't changed appreciably enough. I haven't actually verified that and I need to, but I remember somebody that said that they used to be much different. You sent me some literature related to it. So let's add a slight asterisk on that. But in general the labor cost has remained a huge fraction of the overall cost of the building. Reliably seeing their costs continue to rise, I think there's no reason to believe that that's not a big part of it. Dwarkesh Patel Now, I know this sounds like a question with an obvious answer, but in your post comparing the prices of construction in different countries, you mentioned how the cost of labor and the cost of materials is not as big a determiner of how expensive it is to construct in different places. But what does matter? Is it the amount of government involvement and administrative overhead? I'm curious why those things (government involvement and administrative overhead) have such a high consequence on the cost of construction. Brian Potter Yeah, that's a good question. I don't actually know if I have a unified theory for that. I mean, basically with any heavily regulated thing, any particular task that you're doing takes longer and is less reliable than it would be if it was not done right. You can't just do it as fast as on your own schedule, right? You end up being bottlenecked by government processes and it reduces and narrows your options. So yeah, in general, I would expect that to kind of be the case, but I actually don't know if I have a unified theory of how that works beyond just, it's a bunch of additional steps at any given part of the process, each of which adds cost. Dwarkesh Patel Yeah. Now, one interesting trend we have in the United States with construction is that a lot of it is done by Latino workers and especially by undocumented Latino workers. What is the effect of this on the price and the quality of construction? If you have a bunch of hardworking undocumented workers who are working for below-market rates in the US, will this dampen the cost of construction over time? What do you think is going to happen? Brian Potter I suspect that's probably one of the reasons why the US has comparatively low construction costs compared to other parts of the world. Well, I'll caveat that. Residential construction, which is single-family homes and multi-family apartment buildings all built in the US and have light framed wood and are put together, like you said, by a lot of like immigrant workers. Because of that, it would not surprise me if those wages are a lot lower than the equivalent wage for like a carpenter in Germany or something like that. I suspect that's a factor in why our cost of residential construction are quite low. AI's Impact on Construction ProductivityDwarkesh Patel Overall, it seems from your blog post that you're kind of pessimistic, or you don't think that different improvements in industrialization have transferred over to construction yet. But what do you think is a prospect of future advances in AI having a big impact on construction? With computer vision and with advances in robotics, do you think we'll finally see some carry-over into construction productivity or is it gonna be more of the same? Brian Potter Yeah, I think there's definitely gonna be progress on that axis. If you can wire up your computer vision systems, robotic systems, and your AI in such a way that your capabilities for a robot system are more expanded, then I kind of foresee robotics being able to take a larger and larger fraction of the tasks done on a typical construction site. I kind of see it being kind of done in narrow avenues that gradually expand outward. You're starting to see a lot of companies that have some robotic system that can do one particular task, but do that task quite well. There's a couple of different robot companies that have these little robots for like drawing wall layouts on like concrete slabs or whatever. So you know exactly where to build your walls, which you would think would not be like a difficult problem in construction, but it turns out that a lot of times people put the walls in the wrong spot and then you have to go back and move them later or just basically deal with it. So yeah, it's basically a little Roomba type device that just draws the wall layout to the concrete slab and all the other systems as well–– for example, where the lines need to run through the slab and things like that. I suspect that you're just gonna start to see robotics and systems like that take a larger and larger share of the tasks on the construction site over time. Dwarkesh Patel Yeah, it's still very far away. It's still very far away. What do you think of Flow? That's Adam Neumann's newest startup and backed with $350 million from Andreeseen Horowitz.Brian Potter I do not have any strong opinions about that other than, “Wow, they've really given him another 350M”. I do not have any particularly strong opinions about this. They made a lot they make a lot of investments that don't make sense to me, but I'm out of venture capital. So there's no reason that my judgment would be any good in this situation–– so I'm just presuming they know something I do not. Dwarkesh Patel I'm going to be interviewing Andreeseen later this month, and I'm hoping I can ask him about that.Brian Potter You know, it may be as simple as he “sees all” about really high variance bets. There's nobody higher variance in the engine than Adam Neumann so, maybe just on those terms, it makes sense. Dwarkesh Patel You had an interesting post about like how a bunch of a lot of the knowledge in the construction industry is informal and contained within best practices or between relationships and expectations that are not articulated all the time. It seems to me that this is also true of software in many cases but software seems much more legible and open source than these other physical disciplines like construction despite having a lot of th