The Poverty of Compromise

Compromises test ideas no one ever thought were correct in the first place
This idea of questioning things that hitherto you thought were unassailable in a particular domain is really interesting. For millennia people have wondered about the best way to conceive of what democracy is. Plato asked, “What is democracy?” and he had the question about who should rule. That’s the whole idea of democracy, supposedly. More

Innovation Requires Decentralization and a Frontier

Technology has swung us towards centralization in the last decade
Innovation requires a couple of things. One of the things that it seems to require is decentralization. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Athenian city-states or the Italian city-states or even the United States—when it was more freeform and less federal government controlled—were hotbeds of innovation, because you had lots and lots of competition. More

Don’t Rely on Credibility Stamps

The generation-long shift from institutions to individuals will be messy
There are a lot of institutions in our society today that rely on credibility stamps. They used to be how you gain credibility in society. If you were a journalist writing for The New York Times or The Washington Post, then you had the masthead of The Times and The Post. More

One Einstein Is Worth A Legion Of PhD Drones

Creativity goes from 0 to 1 and bodies aren’t going to solve the problem
China keeps graduating more bachelor of science and bachelor of engineers than anywhere else in the world. China’s universities are pumping out more science graduates than us, but they’re not pumping out more innovators. It’s not like the students that are coming out of those universities in China with their science degrees are going off and doing innovative stuff. More

Ideas Are the New Oil

All the new fortunes are created with ideas
Humans have a history of conquest because we fight for the same exact resources, but even in human history the first explorers were traders. They were going out there to find spices, gold, silk, new plants to domesticate, new animals. They weren’t going out there necessarily to conquer the land. Eventually they did because of the finite resource dilemma when you’re stuck on Earth. More

Aliens Would Visit for Knowledge, Not Resources

The only thing they will lack is the knowledge they don’t have
I think Stephen Hawking said that it was a mistake to broadcast radio waves out into the universe because the aliens are going to be out there and they’re going to be like conquistadors. They’re going to want to take over our planet for their resources and various other things.  There’s a couple of responses you can have to the idea of evil aliens coming to get us. More

Aliens Might Just Be Too Far Away

We may not be alone in the universe, just too far apart
We still have this problem of what DNA was doing for that approximately two and a half billion years—the overwhelming majority of the history of life on Earth. Why didn’t it evolve at all during that time? What’s going on? There’s a book, Rare Earth, by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, and these guys talk about all the quirky things that happened in the evolutionary history of the Earth. More

If You Can’t Program It, You Haven’t Understood It

Evolutionary algorithms don’t produce living beings
These are all uncertain hypotheses, but we also have to keep in mind that there’s so much about evolution by natural selection that we don’t know. David Deutsch has this little quip, “If you can’t program it, you haven’t understood it.” In the case of AGI, this means we can’t program it because we don’t understand this idea of general intelligence. More

The Probability of Human Existence Is Infinitesimally Small

From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s near impossible
Here’s another way to think about it that is mathematically frightening for the people who think that the aliens are out there and they’re going to visit us sometime in the future. We were talking earlier about trillions of planets that exist throughout the known universe that might even be friendly for life to arise. More