Wiki Contributions


Marc Andreessen pens “Techno-Optimist Manifesto.” Discuss

Comments in no particular order:

Marc Andreessen continues to sound just like himself. I think this is good for the piece, it feels very genuine. In the main I agree.

Markets is the biggest section. This feels telling and also kind of wasteful. It also had the clunkiest bits which were, but of course, the ones about economics. By contrast the Technology section felt a bit thin, but I could easily forgive a certain amount of c'mon, you know why you are here in the effort.

What is this for, really? I can tell who it is for, because it doesn't seem like it would register much with people who didn't already mostly agree. But what problem is the manifesto solving? Guessing by some of the keywords included in the bad ideas list, this feels like maybe trying to further crystallize e/acc into a broader concern?

On the flip side, this bit here under The Enemy makes it seem more like talking book:

Our present society has been subjected to a mass demoralization campaign for six decades – against technology and against life – under varying names like “existential risk”, “sustainability”, “ESG”, “Sustainable Development Goals”, “social responsibility”, “stakeholder capitalism”, “Precautionary Principle”, “trust and safety”, “tech ethics”, “risk management”, “de-growth”, “the limits of growth”.

Purely as a matter of style, I thought the "we believe" and "we had a problem" chunks were great, that's what I want out of a manifesto. I would jettison all the quotes and argumentation, moving names and sources to footnotes or something; I mostly found it distracting, like he was so used to the argumentation side of things he had trouble letting it go (Not that I blame him, I would have the same issue were I to write a manifesto). I thought some of them were compacted too much, like compressing all the progress in agriculture into the green revolution, which sort of deprived it of emotional impact (not least because of term confusion, since green revolution shows up in advertising campaigns and slogans constantly meaning something entirely different).

All that said, I liked it and I wish more public figures like Marc would do things like this.

New Paths to Poetry

This post is fantastic. Also, the last 8 months have been an eternity for LLMs. Have you been tinkering with any of the new ones since this experiment, and if so how'd they do?

Japanese Political Economy and Industrial Policy

This review is fantastic, well done. I am now going to go seek out books about American government written by people in Japan or Finland or something.

Unblocking Abundance

For other aspiring policy hobbyists:

  1. A lot of changes at the legislative level are non-obvious, because stuff gets hidden away in huge bills ostensibly about something else. For example: The National Defense Authorization Act Contains AI Provisions

    My understanding of the last 10 years or so of policy is wide agreement that this is both the easiest way to get small changes made when you want them, and the hardest to stop when you don't, which is why the US government shuts down periodically.
  2. Most of the executive details can actually be influenced by well informed private citizens with no special access whatsoever, because regulatory agencies have public comment periods in the US. There was one for AI standards by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, for example.

    Naturally most of the public comments for this kind of thing are coordinated by lobbyists instead of actually being comments from the public, which makes a public comments a natural target for coordination effort from the Unblock.
Peter Thiel’s Pessimism Is (Largely) Mistaken

I 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.

Building Fast and Slow: The Empire State Building and the World Trade Center (Part I)

This is a fantastic writeup, thank you for putting in the effort!

Peter Thiel’s Pessimism Is (Largely) Mistaken

I like this time-price comparison mechanism, because it looks like it will better for tracking human-level impact than money will. I am looking forward to the book!

Out of curiosity, what was the time price gain for the previous 40-50 year spans before the ones you mention? The stagnation claim isn't that progress is literally zero, but that the last 50 years has shown us much less than the 50 years before that, and the 50 years before that. Thiel's position is more specific to the United States, and I note that in the link you compare the Chinese, Indian and American cases:

For the time it took to buy one unit in the three-commodity basket in 1960, they would get 27 units in 2021. The Chinese gained 7 hours and 42 minutes a day to devote to other activities.

The Indian case:

For the time it took them to buy one unit in the three-commodity basket in 1960, they got 5.35 baskets in 2021. Thus, they gained 6 hours and 30 minutes a day.

The American case:

For the time it took them to earn enough money to buy one unit in the three-commodity basket in 1960, they got 4.45 baskets in 2021. Americans gained 46.5 minutes a day to devote to other activities.

7.7 hours and 6.5 hours are very different from 0.775 hours. This makes it look like the Chinese made just shy of 10x the progress America did, by time-price comparisons. Following on the roughly 50 year chunks, this means that China made 10x the progress America did over the last 50 years, by following the path America did the 50 years before that.

This seems consistent with the claims in The Rise and Fall of American Growth, which to oversimplify amount to most of the growth after WWII being due to fully capitalizing on all the inventions from the end of the 19th century, and that there are limits to that growth.

"Progress" alternative to GiveWell?

In the context of federal government action, 5 years feels like a huge win! Out of curiosity, was there any kind of generic background on the kind of policy being worked on? For example, with ARPA-H, did the background include the founding of other ARPA-pattern agencies, the references about the relevant authority, or budgetary shenanigans?

It's unrelated to the OP, but what I am driving at here is how much pre-work on behalf of the government is a valid optimization target. I want to make a comparison with the legislative case, where a successful strategy in lobbying is providing draft language for a bill; is there an equivalent in the executive case?

AMA: Jason Crawford, The Roots of Progress

Do you have any methods of analysis or threads of scholarship that you think are definitely wrong, or seriously misleading, and so should be avoided?

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