Yarrow Bouchard

pronouns: she/her or they/them

my blog: medium.com/@strangecosmos

Wiki Contributions


Neither EA nor e/acc is what we need to build the future

A potential area of overlap between effective altruism and Roots of Progress is the non-profit New Harvest, which funds research into making meat, eggs, and milk without animals.  

Marc Andreessen pens “Techno-Optimist Manifesto.” Discuss

What’s a good alternative word for someone who has a strong conviction in the past, present, and future benefits of technology?

Banning self-driving cars will not atone for urban planning’s sins

In theory, if they could be made to work, self-driving cars would be one of the best technologies ever. In practice, the technology seems stuck in a rut. Although exact statistics are hard to come by, the number of human interventions seems to remain high.

There is a very high burden of proof for self-driving car companies like Cruise and Waymo; they need to convincingly demonstrate, using robust statistical evidence, that their vehicles are indeed significantly safer than human drivers in the same locales. Cruise, Waymo, et al. have certainly had plenty of time to produce such evidence, but they have yet to do so.

As bullish as I once was on self-driving cars, I think it is reasonable for people to be worried about the potential danger posed by these prototypes driving around their streets. If self-driving car companies can't prove their worries are misplaced, then, well, banning such testing on public roads doesn't strike me as unreasonable. At the very least, there seems to be little excuse for taking safety drivers out of prototype cars.

My view on self-driving car bans is influenced by my view that fundamental research breakthroughs are needed to make wide-scale commercialization of self-driving cars a reality. I don't think the bottleneck is more public road testing. Deep learning researchers need to figure things out like self-supervised video prediction. Until then, self-driving cars will continue to spin their wheels.

Marc Andreessen pens “Techno-Optimist Manifesto.” Discuss

I think Ezra Klein has a lucid take on the "manifesto". Ezra observes that it's a covert anti-wokeness rant:

It's a mistake to read his manifesto as about technology. It's about how we were once brave and strong and we have become soft and weak.

In Ezra's New York Times column on Andreessen's rant, he writes:

It’s a coalition obsessed with where we went wrong: the weakness, the political correctness, the liberalism, the trigger warnings, the smug elites. It’s a coalition that believes we were once hard and have become soft; worse, we have come to lionize softness and punish hardness.

I would describe myself as a techno-optimist, but I find Andreessen's rant distasteful and alienating. I think allowing Andreessen to define what constitutes techno-optimism would do significant damage to the techno-optimist cause.