Coming up with solutions is difficult. I've read many books that present an excellent diagnosis of the problem, but then finish things off by presenting utterly ridiculous solutions. I take one of these books Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan and go into detail on why the solutions he proposed are so inadequate and then go into some detail as to what I think good solutions should include.
With the stock market prices seemingly bearing little relationship to the actual economy, investment strategies are on the mind of many. Here I briefly describe my own investment strategy which unfortunately has very little to say about the current craziness, but hopefully contains some wisdom about longer term investing. In particular the idea that you should view investing as purchasing pieces in potential futures. This may not sound particularly radical, but I argue that this change in focus from what constitutes wealth now to what constitutes wealth in the future can be profoundly illuminating.
Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk by: Justin Tosi, Brandon Warmke
The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by: Iain McGilchrist
Peace Talks (The Dresden Files, #16) by: Jim Butcher
Cutting for Stone by: Abraham Verghese
How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by: Francis A. Shaeffer
We're told that in order to combat fake news, conspiracy theories, and misinformation of all kinds that we need to do a better job of examining the evidence, of looking at the data, but what if this is entirely backwards? What if we're too focused on the data, on the little bits of evidence that make up our world view, and that the problem is we're bad at organizing these bits of data into a coherent and common-sensical world view? What if we're so focused on justice, punishing people for the separate misdeeds that occur every day, that we neglect mercy, the art of seeing how interconnected everything and everyone really is.
After having a conversation with a friend I decide to dig into the numbers on police officer killings since 1965 as compiled by the Anti-Defamation League. In the process I discover that there's a lot of fairly obvious subjectivity to who those numbers can be interpreted, and the general impression that right-wing extremism is more dangerous is muddier than people think.
It's a long one, but it's got lots of numbers so that makes up for it. Right?
How is it, that the French and American Revolutions, so close in time and goals, had such different outcomes? One answer is that the American Revolution built on the foundation of English legislative traditions whereas the French had no such traditions (at the time of the revolution it had been 175 years since the last time the Estates General had been called). Which is to say the American Revolution modified the existing system, while the French Revolution was an attempt to completely replace the old system. This gave the American Revolution an obvious end point, which the French Revolution lacked.
Increasingly liberalism and the values associated with it have been judged inadequate to the task of rectifying racial inequalities. But the question is, what are the alternatives? One that has been mentioned is Critical Race Theory (CRT). In an article from The Economist these two approaches are pitted against one another. And despite the article's attempt to be balanced it seems clear that most people who advocate for CRT as some kind of alternative have never really grappled with the practical considerations of abandoning liberalism, an ideology that despite its failings has provided the underpinning for centuries of progress.
In which I present the parable of the traffic light, and a deep discussion of the various epistemologies at play in the world today including conflict vs. mistake theory, on which I spend quite a bit of time. Each of these frameworks has different consequences and benefits, but I contend that right now, no framework is dominant, and it's possible that having numerous frameworks is even worse than having a bad one.
The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder By: Peter Zeihan
The Good Soldier Švejk By: Jaroslav Hasek
The Diaries of Adam and Eve By: Mark Twain
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism By: Robin DiAngelo
Guns of August By: Barbara W. Tuchman
Euripides III: Heracles, The Trojan Women, Iphigenia among the Taurians, Ion (The Complete Greek Tragedies) By: Euripides
Acid Test: LSD vs. LDS By: Christopher Kimball Bigelow
The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Book of Mormon’s Missing Stories By: Don Bradley
I decide to offer an opinion on the current Black Lives Matter protests. I understand that there are a lot of opinions being offered on the subject, and it's entirely reasonable to assume that mine is not necessary nor welcome, but I hope despite that to add something to the conversation. In particular I think trying to combine combatting police brutality with eliminating all racism might make the first and arguably more important task, harder to accomplish.
Elon Musk really wants to establish a colony on Mars. One reason he keeps coming back to this the idea is that he claims it is the only way to prevent our eventual extinction. But is this really the best way to avoid the problems he fears? If we're really interested in increasing localism (which as strange as it might sound is what a Mars Colony is) are there better ways of achieving it if we focus on a better identification of what we're trying to prevent? And does this insight apply at scales much lower than preventing x-risk?
I relate a couple of stories (which are worth the price of admission all by themselves) about how once you've made an initial mistake it's so much more likely that you'll make additional mistakes. Recently we've made a lot of mistakes, and in this episode I suggest that there might be some precautions we can take letting the panic from the initial mistakes cause us to make further mistakes. Because the subsequent mistakes always end up being worse...
The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity By: Toby Ord
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction By: Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
Dune By: Frank Herbert
Marriage and Civilization: How Monogamy Made Us Human By: William Tucker
Euripides II: Andromache, Hecuba, The Suppliant Women, Electra By: Euripides
10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less By: Garett Jones
Saints Volume 2: No Unhallowed Hand By: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
After getting lots of feedback and some criticism of my previous episode on superforecasting I decide to make one final attempt to detail the issues I see with it. This episode ended up being pretty long, so while I normally wouldn't ever say this, if you had enough of superforecasting after the last episode, or if you're already in complete agreement with me (also possible I suppose) then you can probably skip this one.
I reluctantly go back to the well of COVID-19 commentary. In particular I wonder what leadership would look like. I conclude that where past instances of leadership emphasized sacrifice, that I'm not sure that this crisis is amenable to calls for that sort of sacrifice, rather our best bet is to be smart, implementing measures that work and easing off those where the evidence is weak. And that if we can't do that we might end up falling Sweden in a de facto and unorganized fashion.
Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models By: Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control By: Stuart J. Russell
Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts By: Milton Vaughn Backman
The Cultural Evolution Inside of Mormonism By: Greg Trimble
The Worth of War By: Benjamin Ginsberg
The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West By: David McCullough
Sex and Culture By: J. D. Unwin
A review of J.D. Unwin's 1934 book Sex and Culture which puts forth the theory that once a culture loosens up restrictions on pre-marital sex that this culture only has about 100 years before it sinks into irrelevance. If we take this prediction seriously and set the sexual revolution as the beginning of this countdown, then we're about halfway through it. What should we do with this possibility?
Recently it's become expected that if you want to be taken seriously as a forecaster that you should not only record your predictions in advance, but assign a confidence level. And that by following this methodology certain people, so called superforecasters, have been found who are significantly better at prediction than average. The problem with this approach is that while these individuals are great at predicting should things continue mostly as they have, they're actually worse at predicting extreme events, which are inevitably the most impactful.
I make some predictions for what the sort of changes COVID-19 will spawn in the world. In particular I think that gatherings of large groups of people will be affected for a very long time, but also I make some predictions for it's affect on preparation, US-China relations and ecoterrorists...
It's a two parter this week which starts with a review of The Decadent Society by Ross Douthat. His contention is that the world, but particularly the US has stagnated. That we have lost the ability to cooperate and do great things, or even to create new works of art. From the perspective of eschatology this is not what most people think of, but it is still an end of the world scenario, and in some respects a very depressing one, where we are forever close to the promised land but never quite able to enter...
Like everyone else I talk about the coronavirus, though hopefully in a way somewhat different from everyone else. In particular I focus on how efficiency ultimately equals fragility. Something this crisis has brought into sharp relief, where for the lack of a few hundred million dollars in precautionary spending we're going to end up spending billions if not trillions of dollars trying to fix the mess.
Once upon a time, in an effort to see if people read these show notes I offered an Amazon gift card for people who saw the message and contacted me. I'm going to do that again $20 to the first person to mention this message, and another $20 to the first person who mentions it in the month of May. Hopefully things will be better by then, but it's possible they'll be a lot worse.
Many years ago I read Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and thoroughly enjoyed it, enough so that when I made a goal to go back and start re-reading more books it was the first book I chose. In particular out of all the science fiction books I have ever read it may provide the very best defense of the connection between morality and civilization. It does this on top of having delightful characters and an excellent plot (except the ending, I apologize in advance for the ending...)
As I review my older episodes, I notice that some of them are less about being interesting in and of themselves, and more part of building the foundation for this crazy house I’m trying to erect. Some episodes are less paintings on a wall than the wall itself. This is such an episode.
We're going to talk about how Bostrom's Simulation Hypothesis necessary implies a theology. And that once you have a theology it's a natural next step to consider how that might connect to religion, and eschatology.