Our civilization was built on technology.
Our civilization is built on technology.
Technology is the glory of human ambition and achievement, the spearhead of progress, and the realization of our potential.
For hundreds of years, we properly glorified this – until recently.
I am here to bring the good news.
We can advance to a far superior way of living, and of being.
We have the tools, the systems, the ideas.
We have the will.
It is time, once again, to raise the technology flag.
It is time to be Techno-Optimists.
Over the last few years, effective altruism has gone through a rise-and-fall story arc worthy of any dramatic tragedy.
The pandemic made them look prescient for warning about global catastrophic risks, including biosafety. A masterful book launch put them on the cover of TIME. But then the arc reversed. The trouble started with FTX, whose founder Sam Bankman-Fried claimed to be acting on EA principles and had begun to fund major EA efforts; its collapse tarnished the community by association with fraud. It was bad for EA if SBF was false in his beliefs; it was worse if he was sincere. Now we’ve just watched a major governance battle over OpenAI that seems to have been driven by concerns about AI safety of exactly the kind long promoted by...
Imagine, just for a moment, that you happened upon a magic lamp and rubbed it. As the stories go, a genie popped out and offered you three wishes-
-warning you sternly that no shenanigans will enable you to gain infinite wishes-
and asks you for your first wish.
Being a virtuous sort, you wish for homelessness to be solved (with all the required caveats so the solution goes well for everyone).
The genie waves their arms around and - poof! - homelessness is solved. Nobody is homeless anymore.
(Maybe new houses magically appeared, in the names of homeless people, and they were all transported to their new houses, and all the issues that rendered them homeless to begin with were magically fixed. It doesn’t really matter what the solution is, only that...
My definition of “capitalism” is:
An economy with capital markets (in addition to markets in goods and services).
Most of my friends and acquaintances generally don’t have a precise definition of “capitalism”, but use the word to mean something like:
The economic status quo.
Before I realized this, these different definitions of “capitalism” led to conversations that were a lot less productive than they could have been. I argued from the pro-capitalist position, relying on an abstract view of economic systems, they argued from an anti-capitalist position, motivated by concerns about concrete problems like economic inequality, and we ended up talking past each other.
This semantic underdetermination (or, in simpler terms, vagueness) isn’t just relevant to laypeople. For example, the leftist economist Thomas Piketty advocates a series of...
My husband and I were spending a month in the Swiss Alps. We had just spent the day hiking up to the legendary Hotel Weisshorn and were enjoying a slice of blueberry pie with fellow backpackers as we took in the sunset.
“We had to wait until we retired to do what you’re doing now,” a Swiss couple next to us said. “We spent our careers in the office, used all of our vacation days to visit family, and didn’t have time to hike in our own backyard until now!”
We knew how good we had it. Though we’d taken some time off to hike famous Haute Route, we spent much of the trip working remotely, knocking out our tasks in the morning, then spending the day hiking before...
The most influential models of economic growth are all about people. These models predict that with a shrinking population, economic growth and technological progress stop and humanity stagnates into extinction. Metascience proposals focus mostly on improving the design of scientific institutions. This is surely important, but in the face of rapidly declining population growth rates it is like making a dam more efficient when the river is running dry.
Physical capital is subject to diminishing returns and depreciation which inevitably bring its impact on economic growth to zero. People, on the other hand, have increasing returns. As groups of people get larger, they can cooperate and specialize making the group more productive than the sum of its parts. But most importantly: People can share...
The backlash to self-driving cars is shifting into fifth gear. Last month, the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s autonomous taxis’ license to operate after a series of incidents and credible allegations the company withheld important evidence on at least one accident from state investigators.
In a statement celebrating the suspension, Safe Street Rebel, a San Francisco anti-car activist group that drew national attention for purposely disabling robotaxis across the city over the last few months, say they are far from done. Waymo, Cruise’s chief competitor in the city, is next. Their mission is not about the errant practices of one dishonest company or a plea for higher, attainable safety standards, but a campaign for permanent prohibition, full stop. And in San...
I swear I will get back to doing these weekly so they’re not so damn long. As always, feel free to skim and skip around!
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This addresses the democratic deficit in civilisational risk mitigation and facilitates resilience through collective intelligence.
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