After all the hot takes which have been offered in the wake of the FTX collapse, this is the hot take to rule them all. Okay probably not, and at this point it's probably a cold take. But I do think the whole FTX debacle carries some valuable lessons about risk. So that's what you're getting...
This is a review I did for the first issue of American Hombre, a new magazine being published by a friend of mine. I did an excerpt of it back in episode 292, but he’s graciously agreed to let me release it in its entirety. If this makes you interested in the full magazine, the PDF is currently available for free at americanhombre.gumroad.com. But also you should consider subscribing to the print version. This magazine deserves to be held.
You can use the coupon code ‘RW’ to get 10% off a subscription or $1 off the price of the print issue. The next issue is coming out in January and it will include another review by me. (The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter, if you’re curious.)
This review includes some pictures which you can find either in the PDF version of the magazine, or on wearenotsaved.com. But I will attempt to describe them in the course of my reading. They’re mostly pictures from the trip I took to Ireland this summer.
A somewhat discursive episode where I reflect on a book I just read about meritocracy and different answers for the best way to organize society. And how what we thought was the answer—liberal democracy—appears to be fracturing, leaving everyone to fight over what part of it is the most important. What part was truly The Answer.
Link to survey: https://forms.gle/tCxmpwM4RTxPCJKUA
It's time for me to stick my head out and see what people think of me. Yes I'd like you to fill out a survey. Tell me what you think. I mean it. Be brutal!
Recently the US enacted a set of punishing trade restrictions on China with respect to high-end chips. Some have called these restrictions the annihilation of China's semiconductor industry. Maybe so, but China's not going to go down without a fight, and the situation is complicated by numerous factors, including the complications of the technology itself. There's a lot going on and I attempt to cover a large portion of it.
We're a few weeks from the midterms and it seemed like a good time to review the state of things. Though they're changing rapidly. In between composing this episode and recording it people went from expecting the Democrats to keep the Senate expecting them to lose it by a few seats. Beyond the reshuffling the election is exciting (or terrifying, depending on your perspective) for other reasons. We get to see if polls are still horribly broken (probably) and if there's any hope for either party to become more moderate. And of course there's the eternal possiblity that we'll finally get a viable third party (almost certainly not but a man can hope).
Ray Dalio and Peter Zeihan have both written books about the future of America, China, and the world. On some points they agree and on some points they're profound disagreement. I compare and contrast these too books, hoping by doing so to tease out a credible view of the future. It's a view that's pretty pessimistic. But I think once you've looked at both of them, that's what you end up with.
I consider the predictions of three books and how one might approach these predictions when deciding how to prepare for the future.
It seems clear that most people start by trying to determine if a prediction is more likely than not to be accurate, but you should actually do somewhat the opposite, you should consider what the consequences are if the prediction is wrong.
This episode started as a tweet:
Technology bifurcates problems. 99% of problems go away, but the 1% that are left are awful. Case in point customer service: 99% of the time you don't even need customer service from Amazon, etc. but the 1% of the time you do you're suddenly in a story by Kafka.
Which I followed up with:
Additional thoughts/example: Self driving cars. Tech can take care of easiest 99%. Tosses most difficult 1% back to driver. Driver has no context, just suddenly in deep end, therefore much worse at hardest 1% than if they had just dealt with the full 100% from start.
What causes this phenomenon and how worried should we be?
If we imagine that culture has historically taken the form of a bell curve. Does it still do so? Or have we gutted the middle in service of making sure that the tails don't feel neglected? This seems very likely to be the case, and if it is what are the consequences?
An excerpt from a book review I recently did for the new magazine American Hombre (available here: https://americanhombre.gumroad.com/)
We covered the fragility of systems and technology in the last newsletter. In this newsletter I’d like to move from the material to the ephemeral. In other words, let’s talk about culture. This is a huge topic for a short newsletter, so while much of what I say can be applied to traditional culture in general, I want to focus on traditional taboos. The older and stronger and more widespread the taboo, the better...
Recently I came across a theory for the progression of subcultures, which seemed to have significant explanatory power for what's happening to Western culture in general. Among the many things this theory speaks to is why cultural fights have become so vicious, why young people are disengaging, and whether wokeism has peaked.
I use the baggage chaos I encountered on a trip to Ireland as an example of fragility.
I’m leaving for Ireland in just over a week. The trip is about half touristy stuff and half genealogical. I discuss my Irish ancestors, in particular Charles Conner who came to America during the Potato Famine. I then discuss some potential lessons that famine has for our own time.
The future is important, it is where we're going to spend the rest of our lives. But there are lots of different frameworks for how the future is going to go. Has technology saved us? Is it about to save us? Or will technology doom us? Does the arc of the moral universe bend towards justice or are we a few years away from collapse. In this episode I consider a half dozen eschatological frameworks, and what each of them say about the future and how things are going to end. In triumph or disaster.
Interestingly, the tragedy of Uvalde has been overshadowed by the unconscionable delay of the police. This is not the first time law enforcement has failed to operate in the way it should. An action by US Women Gymnasts seeking $1 billion dollars from the FBI for failing to stop Larry Nassar was also in the news recently. And again we have to ask why did law enforcement, in this case the FBI, fail so dramatically? This episode will explore both of these examples and attempt to come up with some sort of answer for that question.
Abortion is back in the news, but rather than arguing for one side or the other I thought I'd take a look at the arena of moral debates in general. Are we getting better at solving these thorny problems or worse? I suspect we're getting worse, both because of internet echo chambers, but also because we've solved all the easy problems and only the really tough ones remain.
As you can imagine, this is bad.
In an episode that draws heavily from the book The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos by Sohrab Ahmari I consider the apparently conflict between being authentic and doing what you're "supposed" to do.