Uighurs in Xinjiang Targeted by Potentially Genocidal Sterilization Plans, Chinese Documents Show Adrian Zenz - Foreign Policy A Theory of History and Society: Technology, Constraints and Measurement (TCM) Albert Wenger - Continuations
This is beyond sad. “…findings indicate that Beijing is complementing its pursuit of cultural genocide in Xinjiang with a campaign of ethno-racial supremacy—a campaign that meets at least 1 of the 5 criteria for physical genocide specified by the U.N.” Where is the international community? Who is denouncing China not on bogus claims on their culpability for the current crisis but instead on this very real and morally abhorrent policy? Similar reporting from the Associated Press as well as a short interview with Zenz in NPR.
The Dead End of Small Government Brink Lindsey - Niskanen Center
I very much enjoyed this. Wenger “proposes a theory of history in which technology changes the binding constraint for humanity.” As foragers, we were constrained by access to food. With the rise of agriculture we were constrained by land, and as we shifted to the industrial age we were constrained by capital. Today, he proposes the binding constraint on humanity is attention. I’m not fully bought into this last claim, but I still haven’t read his book, and I’m sure he has good arguments for it. In this piece he builds on that idea, pointing out that the complexity of measuring the impact of our decisions increases over time, making our incentives murkier. As in, it’s easy to see how much food hunters bring back, or how much grain came out of this years harvest. In today’s world, it is much harder to measure the value created by physical capital - there’s whole disciplines on this kind of measurement and optimization. Network effects are deeply linked to this. One of the reasons measuring gets tougher is that, previously, the impact of any one decision was isolated. They mostly had local effects; today, they’re global. Obviously, uncertainty plays a role here too. Measuring the value of an evening hunt is easier than the value of a harvest, because there’s less uncertainty than in the yearly cycle of weather. Increased societal complexity means increased uncertainty. It’s all about attribution. I’m really excited to see him develop this idea further.
Tim O’Reilly makes a persuasive case for why venture capital is starting to do more harm than good Connie Loizos - TechCrunch
This is the second in a three-part essay series starting here. In a way, this is one of the best responses I’ve seen to Russ Roberts’ essay The Economist as a Scapegoat, critiquing the neoliberal/libertarian project of the last few decades. Lindsey’s book The Captured Economy has been on my to-read list for a while, and after these essays I think I’ll have to read it sooner than expected.
Silicon Valley Can’t Be Neutral in the U.S.-China Cold War Jacob Helberg - Foreign Policy
Not the most informative piece on O’Reilly’s views, but I read his WTF a couple of years ago and I think I agree with a lot of his points. This is more of a fluff piece on his new fund though. He argues that optimizing for shareholder-return is a decision, and that that decision leads to financial instrument that don’t really benefit society as a whole. Instead he suggests that companies should make decisions based on whatever their values are (ie, local manufacturing vs outsourcing, or support for employee benefits vs gig economy contractor model) and that the market still gets to allocate capital based on those ideas, moving the market away from being a weighing machine for financial returns, and instead a weighing machine for “value.”
Philosophy, Progress, and Wisdom (Podcast) Agnes Callard and Russ Roberts - EconTalk
I have pondered some of these questions up-close myself, and I don’t like where they lead if the metric that defines the decision (at least for our side) is short-term “shareholder-value.” This is especially important when we look at the other link on China shared above.
The Fed is buying some of the biggest companies' bonds, raising questions over why Jeff Cox - CNBC
I haven’t been listening to many podcasts recently, but this conversation gave me a lot to think about.
Can We Please Pick the President by Popular Vote Now? Jesse Wegman - The New York Times
Raising questions indeed. I’m very much not fond of the idea of the government “picking winners and losers,” and there’s just no way to justify this move other than explicitly trying to prop up the market.
A Letter on Justice and Open Debate Many people you know - Harper's Magazine
The Electoral College is one of the most nonsensical features of the US political system. Almost 10 years into living here, I still don’t get it. Wegman asks the right question: “if electors are supposed to follow the voters, why have electors at all?”
The Slack Social Network Ben Thompson - Stratechery
You might have read about this as “The Letter” on social media. The amount of drama that came from this letter has been somewhat ridiculous. I mostly agree with their point that people should be able to argue for things the believe, and then change their beliefs. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be consequences to speech, and that anyone can say whatever they want without people reacting. Interesting times ahead.
Conflict Culture is making social Unsocial Om Malik
I ran a poll on Twitter that showed most people, at least in my circles, are members of many different Slack groups. It’s interesting to think of Slack not as a vertical company that is trying to lock-in enterprise customers one a time, but instead as one that brings multiple enterprises together in controlled environments.
Full Employment Cory Doctorow - Locus Online
On conflict as entertainment, and its evolution from bad TV to bad social media.
Is fiat money to blame for the Iraq war, police brutality, and the war on drugs? J.P. Koning - Moneyness
While I disagree with a lot of what Doctorow suggests here in terms of monetary policy, I am much more in favor of his fiscal ideas, and definitely agree with his points on climate change vs GAI. Reading this made me think of Nassim Taleb’s comments about redundancy vs. naïve optimization.
Survivalist Epistemology Sonya Mann
In short, no. “If you want to stop governments from engaging in bad policies […] Vote, send letters, go to protests. Sorry, but buying bitcoin or gold in the hope that it somehow defunds these activities by displacing the Fed is not a legitimate form of protest. It’s a cop-out.”
Yes, the Fed Makes Comic Books (2014) Nolan Feeney - The Atlantic
“Truth is that which remains regardless of whether anybody likes it or not.” - a good meandering essay.
2 + 1 = 4, by quinoa Jonathan Landy - EFAVDB
Interesting to see an institution like the Fed pushing out educational content aimed at kids. When I was in Cleveland a few years ago I was similarly surpirsed by how much the Fed Museum catered to children. Gotta start them young, I guess.
Zen Guardian Glyph - Deciphering Glyph
When you pour in two cups of water, one cup of quinoa, you somehow get out four cups of cooked quinoa. How? Spherical packing.
Why time feels so weird in 2020 Feilding Cage - Reuters
A riff on Moshe Zadka’s blog post, using new Python features to answer the riddle from the movie Labyrinth. I learned a thing or two!
A fun interactive piece that shows a few quirks of how we experience time. 2020 definitely feels a decade long so far.