David Deutsch: Knowledge Creation and The Human Race, Part 1

I interview David Deutsch, physicist and author of The Beginning of Infinity. Also see Part 2. Background My goal isn’t to do yet another podcast with David Deutsch. There are plenty of those. I would love to tease out some of the very counterintuitive learnings, put them down canonically in such a way that future generations can benefit from them, and make sure that none of this is lost.  Your work has been incredibly influential for me. More

To a Caveman Very Few Things Are Resources

There was a time when coal wasn’t a resource
There was a story on ITV in the U.K. talking about how much supposed waste Amazon produces, that Amazon was routinely destroying a whole bunch of products. I thought, “Why are these people inserting their opinion into a business that they know absolutely nothing about?” Would they prefer Amazon to have the perfect knowledge of precisely how many products need to be made? In other words, an epistemologically impossible situation to be in. More

Knowledge Makes the Existence of Resources Infinite

We’re going to keep creating new knowledge and new resources
Knowledge is the thing that makes the existence of resources infinite. The creation of knowledge is unbounded. We’re going to keep on creating more knowledge and, thereby, learning about more and different resources. There’s this wonderful parable of europium in The Beginning of Infinity where David talks about when the first color television started to be manufactured about 60 years ago. More

Groups Never Admit Failure

You get a schism instead
Groups never admit failure. A group would rather keep living in the mythology of “we were repressed” than ever admit failure. Individuals are the only ones who admit failure. Even individuals don’t like to admit failure, but eventually, they can be forced to. A group will never admit they were wrong. More

Making Something Social Destroys the Truth of It

Science’s biggest breakthroughs came from unpopular people
Making something social destroys the truth of it because social groups need consensus to survive—otherwise they fight and can’t get along—and consensus is all about compromise, not truth-seeking. Science—at least the natural sciences—was this unique discipline where you could have an individual truth-seeking on behalf of the rest of society. Other individuals verify that they did, indeed, have the best current model of how reality works, and then that could be spread out through inventions to the rest of society. More

Free Markets Provide the Best Feedback

The alternative is feedback from whomever has the most guns
Marc Andreessen summarizes this nicely as “strong opinions, loosely held.” As a society, if you’re truth-seeking, you want to have strong opinions but very loosely held. You want to try them, see if they work, and then error-correct if they don’t. But instead what we get is either strong opinions strongly held—which is the intolerant minority—or we get weak opinions loosely held—which is this compromised model where no one really takes the blame, no one gets credit, no one gets to try the way that they want to, and everybody can then fall back on, “Real communism hasn’t been tried.” More