Podcast

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

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