New issue of Works in Progress

Issue 12 features:



Veritasium on cargo airships (via @elidourado, who else)


  • “I’m looking to talk (on the record) to expert on dealing with the result of car crashes—like an emergency medicine doctor, EMT, etc. Any suggestions?” (@binarybits)
  • “I want to go to a few talks at Berkeley or Stanford for fun—physics, biology, math + CS but also humanities. Any suggestions for ones w/ high quality content or attendees?” (@LauraDeming)


  • “This then is our task, to gather the highest discoveries that have been made in the sciences, to render them clear and fascinating, and to offer them to childhood.” Montessori (via @mbateman)
  • “If the world farmer reaches the average yield of today’s U.S. corn grower during the next 70 years, 10 billion people eating as people now on average do will need only half of today’s cropland. The land spared exceeds Amazonia.” Jesse H. Ausubel (via @Marian_L_Tupy)


  • Life before modern communication technology: “Despite being born in the same year and only about 130 kms apart, Bach and Handel never met. In 1719, Bach made the 35-km journey from Köthen to Halle with the intention of meeting Handel; however, Handel had left the town” (@StefanFSchubert)
  • Related: “The technology in this video is why you and your family don’t have to be subsistence farmers anymore” (@AlecStapp)
  • “1838: a Congressman is shot and killed in a duel over corruption. 1930s: 1 in 4 Americans are unemployed. 1968: riots break out in 130 cities. 1971-2: 2500+ domestic bombings occur” (@heyemmavarv highlighting points from a WSJ opinion piece via @sapinker, who comments “The best explanation for the good old days is a bad memory: America’s divisions were worse in the past (and not just in the run-up to the Civil War)”)


  • “For most of the time during which anatomically modern humans have existed, there were fewer of them on Earth than there are FLYING IN THE SKY at any given instant today” (@DavidDeutschOxf riffing on @michael_nielsen)
  • “Despite dire projections of climate impacts, many aspects of human well-being are expected to improve over time. Our climate assessments need to include this context. … How can the outlook be dire but improvements also be expected? It’s because well-being (health, living standards, food security, water security, etc.) is driven by multiple factors, not just climate. Climate effects may be negative while the effects of other drivers (economic development, technology, social change, policy, etc.) may be positive and outweigh climate effects. So, for example, we expect longer lifespans even as warming causes more temperature-attributable deaths, less poverty overall even while climate change pushes some into poverty, fewer people hungry even while climate change exacerbates hunger for some.” (@oneill_bc)
  • One of the challenges of arguing for (future) progress: (1) People don’t see how the future could be much better, and (2) when you tell them how, they don’t believe you because it sounds like science fiction. Of course, science fiction has come true, over and over again. But many people are only willing to extrapolate current trends, and not the meta-trend that current trends are always broken by new, unforeseen (and unforeseeable) developments. (Threads, Twitter)
  • “If GPT-4 could explain things to me by showing me simple animations or interactive examples… would learn so much” (@willdepue). This will happen, sooner than most people expect, and it will be amazing
  • “I’ve read two good books on advertising: David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man, and Byron Sharp’s How Brands Grow. Together they make a cohesive—and contrarian—picture of how advertising works.” Thread by @s_r_constantin
  • “Furniture doesn’t last long now because you the customer care more about cost than durability” (@robinhanson commenting on WaPo). Related, an old cast iron stove might last 100 years, but the new ones are better
  • “Using laser scanners with error tolerances below 65 microns,” manufacturers can now “scan, identify defects and effect a simple quick repair” using direct laser deposition, rather than replace highly expensive components: thread by @Jordan_W_Taylor
  • Public health communication in 1912 (@paulisci)


  • “I ran preschools for about a decade. The main drivers of child care costs are wages and real estate. Teachers demand higher pay where it’s expensive to live. If we want cheaper child care, we need to make it legal to build lower-cost housing types” (@RyanPuzycki). One more exhibit for The Housing Theory of Everything
  • Related: “The system isn’t slowing down because it’s failing—it’s slowing down because people are responding rationally to the incentives they face.” Thread from @MichaelDnes1 on what might speed up UK infrastructure. See also his previous thread on why it is slow in the first place, especially this diagram: “It takes 5.5 years to get to the point at which you can put a spade in the ground, assuming everything goes to plan”
  • “If you saved $100,000 USD of pesos in 1995, they’d be worth $137 USD today. Argentina has seen an average of 100% annual inflation for the last century” (@devonzuegel)
  • “It’s weird that people consider UBI some newfangled, speculative idea. In every way that matters ‘UBI’ is identical to ‘welfare’ ‘the dole’ etc. This has all been debated without pause since about twelve seconds into the Industrial Revolution” (@benlandautaylor)
  • “We need a concerted campaign against public clutter. Cookies banners, consent boxes, excessive street signs & markings, pointless loud safety announcements, etc—each one is small by itself, but they all add up and make everyday life uglier and more of a complicated hassle” (@s8mb). Leftover covid signage is a good example
  • “Single stair, no setbacks, buildings touching. All illegal in the United States or Canada, but legal everywhere else. They also win international awards. Maybe our [building] codes suck?” (@pushtheneedle commenting on @Architizer’s post about a building using prefab wood, 5 levels built in 10 days)


  • “‘Give yourself a lot of shots to get lucky’ is even better advice than it appears on the surface. Luck isn’t an independent variable but increases super-linearly with more surface area—you meet more people, make more connections between new ideas, learn patterns, etc” (@sama). Related, Marc Andreessen on the four kinds of luck
  • “Think of your favorite startup. No matter how good they look, I guarantee you they have almost died, multiple times, for reasons dumber then you can imagine. Their internal org is probably mostly chaos. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just keep building as fast as possible” (@thegarrettscott)
  • “It’s funny how heretical this statement is but: some of us really really like working hard on things that are important to us, especially surrounded by caring and sometimes brilliant people. No mojitos on the beach can possibly compete with that” (@tobi)


  • Solar deployment is now happening at a roughly $500B annualized rate (via @patrickc, who asks, “Which technology deployments were larger than this? The US’s aircraft production during WWII seems to have peaked at maybe $400B (inflation-adjusted). Global datacenter construction appears to be maybe $200B/year.”)


  • Had a great time meeting locals and chatting about progress at the Bangalore LessWrong / Astral Codex Ten meetup


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