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Transcript: https://wearenotsaved.com/2022/05/19/thoughts-on-yard-care-and-the-modern-world/ I'm moving and as a result I'm thinking of my decades long battle with my yard, and I'm wondering if there is any lesson for the modern world. I suspect that there is, but you should also consider that fact that I really hate yard work.…
 
The Divide: How Fanatical Certitude Is Destroying Democracy by: Taylor Dotson Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by: Mark Fisher The Age of AI and Our Human Future by: Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Huttenlocher A Confederacy of Dunces by: John Kennedy Toole Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter…
 
Transcript: https://wearenotsaved.com/2022/05/01/eschatologist-16-the-right-amount-of-danger/ You may be familiar with the hygiene hypothesis, which holds that the increase in allergies we've been seeing are due to inadequately stressed immune systems. That in the absence of parasites and pathogens our immune systems overreact to things which aren'…
 
Transcript: https://wearenotsaved.com/2022/04/28/the-drug-crisis-part-2-wrapping-up-and-maybe-some-solutions/ I wrap up my discussion of the drug crisis. I begin with discussing the fact that the US appears to be unique in the rate at which overdose deaths are increasing. This is not quite true, but there are some peculiarities which make the US a …
 
Transcript: https://wearenotsaved.com/2022/04/18/the-drug-crisis-part-1-the-role-of-progress-and-technology-in-creating-the-crisis/ An examination into how deaths from overdosing on drugs got so bad. Everyone knows how Oxycontin contributed to the problem, but there's far more to the story than that. Join me for a discussion of drug marketing, meth…
 
When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management by: Roger Lowenstein How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by: Arnold Bennet Burning Chrome by: William Gibson Public Choice Theory and the Illusion of Grand Strategy: How Generals, Weapons Manufacturers, and Foreign Governments Shape American Foreign Policy by: Richard Hanania Virtue Ho…
 
Transcript: https://wearenotsaved.com/2022/03/31/eschatologist-15-covid-and-ukraine-the-return-of-messiness/ The last few decades have been a historical aberration, a time when things seemed simple and progress seemed inevitable. Alternatively we threw up our hands and assumed that our problems were so great that they risked causing the "End of the…
 
I initially decided to to weigh in on Ukraine because so many other people were. But as the situation becomes more and more potentially apocalyptic it started to appear that I would have to. But don't worry, I don't rehash the same talking points as everyone else. My big worry is whether we can figure out some point of stability where nukes exist, …
 
The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth by Jonathan Rauch Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality by: Helen Joyce The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup by: Evan Hughes Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by: Adam M. Grant The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories about Defying the Impossible by: Vari…
 
At some point, in some episode (and probably several episodes) I asserted that: The world is changing faster than we can adapt to it. Then (and now) this statement seemed obvious, so I remember being surprised when I got some pushback on it. But upon reflection it was also illuminating. Many disagreements come down to core values and assumptions wh…
 
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by: Patrick Radden Keefe Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19 by: Matt Ridley and Alina Chan Exact Thinking in Demented Times: The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundations of Science by: Karl Sigmund Columbus Day: Expeditionary Force, Book 1 by: Craig Alanson SpecOps: Exp…
 
It's time for my newsletter again, and after going step by step through the ideas of Taleb we finally arrive at his crowning idea: antifragility. Perhaps the biggest contribution Taleb makes to our understanding of the world that by grappling with the idea of the opposite of fragility he was able to define fragility, and point out that the modern w…
 
It's not the end of the pandemic or even the beginning of the end, but we might be at the end of the beginning, and since I just read three books on the subject I thought I'd see what could be said at this point. Come for the discussion of school closure and why it might have seemed so important in the beginning, stay for an overview of the lab lea…
 
I return to a discussion of Douthat's "Deep Places" in particular what it tells about modern epistemology, or as I like to call it, "reality construction". I examine the reality constructed by Douthat, but also the differences between how we constructed reality during the 1918 pandemic vs. how we construct it now. Come for the history, stay for the…
 
It's that time of year when people make predictions. I also make predictions though I do them somewhat differently. Mostly I'm interested in Identifying potential catastrophes and dismissing potential salvation. For example, nukes will get used again, and a benevolent AI won't save us. The key thing is not to make accurate predictions, but to make …
 
I decide to take the end of the year off. But I didn't want to leave my loyal listeners without the normally scheduled episode. So here you go the first ever "We Are Not Saved" Classic!! It's my review and discussion of Neil Postman's classic "Amusing Ourselves to Death". One of the best books of the last 50 years!…
 
The ninth book and sixth season of The Expanse were both just released. I haven't watched much of the TV show, but I did just finish reading the final book and as I did so it occurred to me that the way it handled Fermi's paradox might provide a useful way of understanding my own fixation on it. And why I think it presents a huge challenge to anyon…
 
The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery by: Ross Douthat Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History by: Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damien Paletta The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by: Michael Lewis Morning Star by: Pierce Brown Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever Teleplay by: Harl…
 
Lately people have been using the idea that something is a black swan as excuse for being powerless. as an excuse. But this is not only a massive abdication of responsibility, it’s also an equally massive misunderstanding of the moment. Because preparedness has no meaning if it’s not directed towards preparing for black swans. There is nothing else…
 
A couple of months ago Gwern published a list of improvements since 1990. I thought it gave short shrift to the many changes which have been wrought upon society by technological progress. He does include a section on "Society" but it's woefully inadequate, and despite having a further theme to the list of identifying "unseen" changes he overlooks …
 
I got some pushback on the episodes I did about Afghanistan. Some of it was directed at the idea that "we are no longer a serious people". But this pushback, rather than talking me out of the position made me explore it even more deeply. This episode is the result of that exploration. As part of it I bring in recent difficulties experienced by the …
 
Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? by: Michael J. Sandel Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills by: Jesse Singal Kingsport: (The Weird of Hali #2) by: John Michael Greer The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by: H. W. Brands Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir by: Norm Mac…
 
There are at least two kinds of randomness in the world: normal, as in a normal distribution or a bell curve, and extreme. As humans we're used to the normal distribution. That's the kind of thing we dealt with a lot over the thousands of years of our existence. It's only recently that the extreme distribution has come to predominate. Nassim Taleb …
 
As I record this Congress is debating whether they should pass a $3.5 trillion bill or only a $1.5 trillion one. The former would equal $27,000 per household, while the latter would only be $12,000 per household. And yet when people are asked whether they would pay more to deal with problems like climate change only 34% are willing to pay more than…
 
Risk comes in lots of different forms. In Skin in the Game, Taleb's last, underrated book. He breaks risk down into ensemble probabilities and time probabilities. On top of that he demonstrates that risk operates differently at different scales. And that if we want to avoid large scale ruin—ruin at the level of nations or all of humanity—that we sh…
 
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by: Carl R. Trueman Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by: Elizabeth Kolbert Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t by: Julia Galef Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Rev…
 
As human beings we have a unique ability to recognize patterns, even when confronted events that are completely random. In fact sometimes it's easier to see patterns in random noise. We pull narratives out of the randomness and use them to predict the future. Unfortunately the future is unpredictable and even when we have detected a pattern the out…
 
Philip Tetlock has been arguing for awhile that experts are horrible at prediction, but that his superforecasters do much better. If that's the case how did they do with respect to the fall of Afghanistan? As far as I can tell they didn't make any predictions on how long the Afghanistan government would last. Or they did make predictions and they w…
 
This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race by: Nicole Perlroth Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by: Mark Manson Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by: Chris Voss Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore by: Michele Wucker Golden Sonby: Pierce Brown Red …
 
When people consider the harms which might be caused by technology, they often point to the "precautionary principle" as a possible way to mitigate those harms. This principle seems straight forward but once you actually try to apply it the difficulties become obvious. In particular how do you ensure that you're not delaying the introduction of ben…
 
My hot take on the situation in Afghanistan. Highlights: -Why couldn't we have maintained a presence at Bagram, even if we pulled out everywhere else (think Guantanamo and Cuba). -Biden had more flexibility than he claimed. -It feels like this might lead to a loss of confidence similar to what we experienced after Vietnam -The effect on our allies …
 
Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race by: Shanna H. Swan End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking) by: Katie Mack Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America by: Charles Murray Winning: The Unforgiving Race to Greatness by…
 
I discussed Fermi's Paradox in my last newsletter. In this I discuss the hint it provides that technology may be inevitably linked to extinction. That the reason the universe is not teeming with aliens is that the technology to get to that point presents insuperable risks which cannot be overcome. As I said this is a hint, but I think it's a hint w…
 
Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters by: Steven E. Koonin Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science by: Peter Godfrey-Smith The Start 1904-30 by: William L. Shirer The Storm on Our Shores: One Island, Two Soldiers, and the Forgotten Battle of World War II by: Obmascik, Mark Catherine t…
 
The massive attention being paid to UFOs in the form of the Pentagon/Naval videos has rekindled interest in the subject and by extension interest in Fermi's Paradox. I think people's interest in these subjects is entirely too trivial. Treating it as a curiosity rather than one of the most important indications of what the future has in store for hu…
 
In a continuation of the last episode I examine my favorite explanation for the inflection point in 1971: that this is when energy decoupled from economic growth. Economic output which has no connection to energy usage is a new and strange beast, much easier to manipulate in ways that produce inequality and inflation and all the other ills which ha…
 
The website wtfhappenedin1971.com presents a series of charts which show that there was inflection in rates of everything from inequality to obesity in 1971. In every case with things getting worse. Why would that be? In this episode I examine at 8 explanations (possibly more depending on how you count). Full warning, my favorite explanation is not…
 
My capsule reviews for the month: Persepolis Rising by: James S. E. Corey Project Hail Mary by: Andy Weir The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century by: Stein Ringen The Ethics of Authenticity by: Charles Taylor Legal Systems Very Different From Ours by: David D. Friedman Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by: Alfred Lansing The Gra…
 
I've been talking about the knobs of society in my newsletters. Well one of the knobs we appear to have lost all fear of is the spending knob and we've decided we can pretty much turn it as high as we want without consequence. And yet everyone regardless of their economic ideology realizes that we can't turn it up forever. And the key problem is th…
 
I recently encountered the term Wizards and Prophets as a way of describing those who were, respectively, optimistic about technology or pessimistic about it. I think this is a good way of thinking about things, and as the context I encountered these terms ended up being a full-throated defense of wizardry, I thought it might be worthwhile to offer…
 
Making any predictions about China is difficult, but that doesn't mean it's not important. It may in fact be one of the most important things we can do if we want to have some idea of what the future holds. And while predictions are difficult, it does seem like a worthwhile endeavor to look at potential inflection points. Points where we can defini…
 
“Engineering the Apocalypse” Podcast Episode by Sam Harris and Rob Reid This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World by: Yancey Strickler The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life by: Boyd Varty Babylon’s Ashes by: James S. E. Corey Peter the Great: His Life and World by: Robert K. Massie Exhalation: Stories by: Ted Chiang What’s Wrong Wi…
 
In my last newsletter I described the temple of technology and progress with a countless knobs that could be turned. Some of the knobs obviously inspire caution, but some seem like an unalloyed good. Like the knob for safety. Accordingly that's what we've done we've turned the knob of safety all the way to 11, but as with all progress the effects h…
 
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