All of ErikSchmidt's Comments + Replies

Elle Griffin's Shortform

"Land value taxes are generally favored by economists as they do not cause economic inefficiency, and reduce inequality.[2] A land value tax is a progressive tax, in that the tax burden falls on land owners, because land ownership is correlated with wealth and income.[3][4] The land value tax has been referred to as "the perfect tax" and the economic efficiency of a land value tax has been accepted since the eighteenth century.[1][5][6] Economists since Adam Smith and David Ricardo have advocated this tax because it does not hurt economic activity, and enc

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2Elle Griffin7moThank you so much, this is very helpful!
Progress toward what? Understanding normative values in Progres Studies

"My theoretical challenge is: Progress Studies ought to be able to explain why two communities can view progress differently, and do so in its own terms; that is, in a theory that adequately defines what progress is..."

These are interesting questions, but, in my opinion, on the periphery of what "Progress Studies" is. Progress Studies generally pre-supposes that industrial, scientific, and economic development are good things. Most discussion seems to focus on better understanding how and why these things come about. At least, that's what attracted me to t... (read more)

1elsehow9moThanks for your reply! I appreciate the thought. Consider this: What's development? What subset of industrial, scientific, and economic labor count as development (versus business as usual)? Surely not everything - many things are dead-ends. Many developments, even ones that were temporarily widely used, turned out not to be worth the risk (see: thalidomide). Other developments are deemed, by some, not worth the risk, and well worth it by others (see: nuclear energy). On yet more, the jury is still out on whether the risk will have been worth it (like plastic). What makes any one thing a development? Progress Studies will at least need to agree on what is and is not development - if it can't, how does it know what's worth studying? Now, say we managed to come up with some criteria for what counts as "progress." Perhaps it's some mix of the technology's diffusion, or its ability to 'unlock' certain other technologies, discounted against its externalities. Now, if we had those criteria, we'd have to justify them: why are these the important things? To answer those questions, I reckon we'd find ourselves right back at the questions I asked in my original post. If this is all philosophy: fine. But can Progress Studies really work independently of these questions? I understand if they get offloaded to philosophers. (I'll do it; I'm a willing volunteer). But can Progress Studies afford to be agnostic about them? I'm trying to nudge at those points where philosophy may be subtly required to do the thing Progress Studies needs to do. Points where ideas about what progress is haven't been questioned as finely as they might be, and where some additional question-asking in those areas may substantially strengthen Progress Studies' analytical purchase---deciding what is Progress and why, then understanding what features allowed that progress to happen.
Quote quiz: “drifting into dependence”

My first instinct is Frank Herbert. But that seems too obvious, and your note that you brought it up to date makes me think it might be earlier. 

How can economic growth reduce carbon emissions?

Yes. I recommend this article which has some helpful data pulled from the World Bank and Our World in Data, and explains the trends.

But to summarize, as economic development advances, more people can spend more time inventing cleaner and better ways to do things, and industrial and economic development makes clean energy cheaper to deploy. 

1paulohearn1yThank you so much Erik!! This is brilliant! And encouraging!
When will AutoGPT like software be able to write Enviromental Impact Assessments?

Also, if GPT-4 raises the "productivity" of environmental impact statement, my guess is that they could only increase productivity so long as there is not broad awareness and acceptance of the technology in writing the statements. If GPT-4 becomes the standard in writing statements, then expectations for the length and breadth of the statements have the potential to rise as well. 

A 21st Century Progress Myth

I think I'm probably just not the target audience for your project, so I didn't "get it". I apologize for calling your stuff a cult and interpreting it through that lens.

A lot of what I was saying was an attempt to boil down your points to get to the meat of what the project is trying to say, but perhaps that kinda defeats the purpose of the artistic aspect of it. While I could argue about the numbered responses, or give suggestions on how to streamline the ideas you're proposing, if the point is in large part artistic I see how that's barking up the wrong tree. 

While I don't think this is for me, I apologize again for my critical tone and for calling it a cult. Best of luck.

A 21st Century Progress Myth

This may be a faux pass of the community rules about disagreement, but I don't think you've created anything interesting here. Your "new movement" comes across a lot more like a cult than a concrete way to find meaning.

You describe a crisis of modernity in very vague terms in this piece. You point to things that are bad, gesture that our emotions might not be positive, and suggest that we need to develop a new way of living and finding meaning. To find meaning, you recommend watching a video you made.

This is generally how your video comes across too. You d... (read more)

1elliehain1y1. We never claimed, in any of our comms, that this movement is about a "concrete way to find meaning". These are your terms, not ours. 2. In this particular thread, I don't "suggest that we need to develop a new way of living and finding meaning". I suggest we need to revaluate what our idea of progress is. It's very clear in my writing. 3. "To find meaning, you recommend watching a video you made." Eh... no? I suggest watching the video for my take on what the reframing of progress could be about (one that maximizes values alignment and meaning). Either you have extremely bad reading comprehension, or you're intentionally badly mischaracterizating what I'm saying. 4. "You provide a few exercises about how to find this meaning for yourself, but the exercises tend to focus more on making the viewer feel a certain way rather than clear exercises that the viewer can build upon or share with others". Yeah, because the video about explaining what meaning is, not a manual. We actually have a lot of techniques, even a course on it (!), but since the video isn't about finding meaning, that's not what I'm highlighting. 5. "It is a vibes-based way of thinking, not a structured one" — Look, it's fine if you don't the will or capacity to get through the 1.30h lecture, but then simply you don't get to critizice that this is a "vibes based" way of thinking. The video you watched is the only "vibey" thing that we have, everything else is extremely robust. 6. "The website touts the variety of people in the movement (Successful hedge fund managers! Interesting and cool anarchists!"..... Eh, what? This is my response to a comment above about how our notion of meaning is broad, not particular. Again, either you have very limited comprehension, or there's actually bad faith in your blunt mischarachterization. 7. The only thing you're right is that yes, our website doesn't have as much clear i
Tell Good Stories

The inventor of the cell phone was inspired by the TOS communicator. There's a lot of examples of this in engineering, I think.

I think you hit the mark with a lot of us having an underlying belief in progress independent of progress studies, and that a lot of that excitement/belief was inspired by media or culture. When I worked in sales, one of the team mottos we had was that people make decisions with emotions first, and then rationalize them later. Regardless of whether that's how people "should" make decisions, I think it's reasonably accurate. Creatin... (read more)

What do people make of growth diagnostics?

Thank you! I'll have to check these out

Philly Progress Studies - Happy Hour

Just arrived! We have a table in the way back but since it's restaurant week (which I did not realize) we may move to the bar, since they're not doing happy hour at tables.

Philly Progress Studies - Happy Hour

We're set for tomorrow - table has been reserved

1ErikSchmidt1yJust arrived! We have a table in the way back but since it's restaurant week (which I did not realize) we may move to the bar, since they're not doing happy hour at tables.
Revving up the Progress Studies Idea Machine

I think to get to the "agenda" stage of the idea machine, a key is making sure that we're acting in the real world. We can wish upon every star that zoning laws were reformed to make it easier to build housing, or that ALARA was repealed and more sensible nuclear regulation put in its place, but those items might not be the best fits for the agenda if we're not able to realistically achieve them. They're hard political problems to solve that will require a lot of resources, political savvy, and likely a large coalition! And others (such as YIMBY, for housi... (read more)

Progress studies as an (incomplete) “idea machine”

"Would want to keep any agenda specific enough to drive outcomes, but not too specific as to turn people off from petty disagreements."

I think unfortunately, this is the equivalent of eating your cake and having it too. Progress studies, if it's actionable, largely is going to impact into the political world (because we want to do xyz things, which government has some presence in, to accelerate the pace of progress), so disagreement is going to exist. 

For instance, you mention regulations that "if removed or revisited" would increase progress. Two are... (read more)

What do people make of growth diagnostics?

Unfortunately, all the links on explaining how Growth Diagnostics actually work appear to be dead links to me. Do you have another recommended source to understand exactly what growth diagnostics is and how it works? The EA forum post didn't really seem to get into the details.

3vollmer1yThe MCC chapter on constraints analysis is here: []
3vollmer1yThe how-to handbook is available here: [] []
Recommendations for things to read on well-run scientific labs?

I've only read a little bit of it so far, but maybe "Pieces of the Action" by Vannevar Bush? 

1krisgulati1yThanks Erik!
The Foundational Tech Manifesto: What it will take to break through to America 2.0

Hi Gary, what's your relationship to the "Foundational Tech Ecosystem"? I have a startup project that seems like it would fit into this bucket (making land use codes/zoning easier to navigate for developers & RE professionals) and would be interested in connecting with others in this ecosystem. Thanks!

2Gary Sheng1yHey Erik - I'm mostly just trying to manifest it into existence at this point. Would love to connect. You can DM me on Twitter []
The Enemy's Gate is Down: the State of NYC Housing Abundance

Great post. Seems like things in New York are turning in the right direction, and I'm impressed by your optimism. Hochul quoting Hseih and Moretti is pretty great!

Do you have any recommendations for low investment, high impact ways of reducing NIMBY power that many people might not be aware of? Either in New York, or generally in American cities. In my experience with YIMBY groups, it's difficult to get more than a a few people to show up for an event.  If those people don't feel like they're accomplishing much, they tend to get bored and do something... (read more)

4Daniel Golliher1yI don't really have any recommendations for low investment / high impact, just high investment / high impact. I think the nature of the problem "get people to do what is required in local government to reduce NIMBY power" inherently requires a lot of effort to do well. And the pre-requisite is educating people []. That's why one of the keystones of Maximum New York is my class, The Foundations of New York. [] In general, I think it's relatively easy to get people to show up to civic/government things if they really understand how the government works, the organizer keeps the environment chill/fun, and each individual can connect showing up to concrete longer term change. (This is part of what I call the "buddies and pals" theory of political change. It works []!) But the hard work that precedes this easy option is actually educating people to a pretty high level, at which point they possess the psychological capability of being intrinsically interested in government. You don't really have to force them to do anything at that point, they'll want to. As far as organizing something in Philly: I don't know the particulars of its governmental structure and relationship to Harrisburg as well as NYC/Albany. If I wanted to get a group together in Philly, I'd first find a cool story of relatively recent, impressive change that's occurred in that system, and then write a post that says something like "let's do this again, good change is possible!" That grounds the meetup with a concrete example of good change, and gives people something to grip as they ascend the education cliff, which I think is vital to civic motivation. (And political pedagogy [] is its own separate challenge for instructors and civic group leaders.)
Peter Thiel’s Pessimism Is (Largely) Mistaken

I don't think it makes sense to compare America's growth vs China or India's growth over this period.

Yes, the countries were adopting similar technologies, but when America was adopting them, they were adopting those technologies at the technological frontier. When China and India were adopting them, they were not. It's easier to grow by adopting already invented technologies than by inventing new ones. This is essentially the logic behind Solow-Swan convergence between rich and poor countries, which as an economic model has held up pretty well to what we ... (read more)

2ryan_b1yI agree that making direct comparisons don't make sense on their own merits; I used them as stand-ins for the previous period of American growth (which may be in the book, but were not in the link). I don't think the frontier-vs-catch-up distinction matters to the point argued in the post, though: I strongly expect the American technical frontier 1920-1970 period looks more like the China or India catch-up 1970-2020 period than it does the American technical frontier 1970-2020. Phrased another way, the time-price method gives us the same stagnation story as the conventional methods do. This is a separate question than what is to be done to speed up frontier progress. The tweet summary from Philippon is very interesting - I just pulled it from NBER, where the title appears to be Additive Growth [].
How is progress correlated with energy intensity?

I think that "Where is my Flying Car" makes this case persuasively, especially for the modern day. 

There are a few interesting articles on Anton Howe's substack if you are interested in a more historical perspective on energy use and technology. He writes on early modern economic history, 1550-1700 or so, and a lot of his writing relates to how the foundation for the Industrial Revolution was laid. Many of his posts are paywalled, however. 

Introductions thread (please introduce yourself)

Hey folks, I'm Erik. I heard about Progress Studies through an interest in economic history. I've always been very interested in the Industrial Revolution, why development occurs or why it doesn't, and what we could do to accelerate the rate of technological progress. Progress Studies appealed to me because it's a group of people very interested in those same questions through a modern lens - what works and what doesn't to increase industrial and technological advancement in the modern day? 

As some might guess from my earlier comment, my background is... (read more)