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  1. Hey Ross, Since the topic of John Carmack working on AGI came up, are you interested in coming back to the subject of AI safety? A lot of vulgarization resources have come out recently, and also a lot of ML innovations have come out which make it a lot easier to reason about the relevant concepts (eg it's easier to talk about how AI might game its reward system when you can use the Hide-And-Seek video as a visual support). Do you think you might revisit the subject?
  2. I meant "political" in the sense of "structural changes that will significantly decrease the quality of life of their citizens". Getting countries all over the world all agree to do that kind of shit is hard. Having countries agree to pay large amounts of money to move millions of tons of rock around? A lot easier, and it fits better into existing economic structures. For instance, the EU ETS could be one of the schemes used to fund these carbon sinks. As long as the price of a ton of carbon is higher than the cost of offsetting it, these kinds of schemes can actually work. Yeah, but by the time we hit hard limits like conservation of energy, we'll have been through a few Singularities and the economic landscape will look completely different. We're not even leveraging the full power of nuclear fission, let alone nuclear fusion. Also, the economy doesn't actually need infinite growth. Like you said, at the end of the day people want goods and food to eat. At some point the economy has grown enough that you're essentially in a post-scarcity society with regards to the bottom of Maslow's pyramid. We're arguably already there: being homeless in a 21th century western country is not the same thing as being homeless in the 18th century. Demographic growth creates a demand for economic growth, but demographic growth also plateaus as contraception becomes cheaper and social systems become stronger. Someone on reddit put in a way I really liked: "The only resource that's actually scarce for this century is how much we can afford to fuck up the planet before it becomes unlivable". For everything else, we haven't even scratched the surface. (well, technically we're running out of oil and some rare earths, but alternatives exist, and eg hydrogen is not running out any time soon)
  3. Blush I didn't even think people read those. Really, it's just that sometimes Ross talks in great detail about a subject, with a lot of really smart arguments, and I completely disagree with the conclusion, so my "someone is wrong on the internet" mode activates.
  4. IRS: I think your summary of the Microsoft vs IRS article is a bit misleading. I think the situation is similar to a police department that starts a campaign to bring down drug dealers; they decide the dealers are too well-armed and organized, so just to be safe they'll hire private mercenaries with machine guns and tanks. The mob sees this, freaks out and sends its lawyers to the government; the lawyers argue "Hey, this is completely unprecedented, and we think it's wrong to give a public mandate to a private company, because they don't have the same incentives and approach". The state eventually agrees, and passes a law that says that police can only hire mercenaries in specific situations, with additional procedures, and also no tanks. So the police can still hire mercenaries and prosecute the dealers, but their effectiveness has been somewhat limited. (the part about slashing the IRS's budget is where the government really made a giant gift to private corporations, but that's what you get for being in the "Trump gets elected" timeline) Overall, I don't think this is as strong of a "we live in a cyberpunk world where corporations are stronger than government" signal as you think. Corporate income tax is hard to collect by nature, because it's the kind of tax where it's easiest to respect the letter of the law while evading it in spirit. On the long term, structural changes like the OECD's BEPS or an Europe-led GAFA tax will be more important than enforcement agencies targeting individual frauds. --- Oil: As I said in the Youtube comments, I went back to notes sent to me by a family member of mine, who works in raw material trading, and specializes in gold and oil. I initially thought you were being pessimistic, and that demand would just start falling as oil prices rose, but a few other articles old the subject told me that, nope, demand keeps increasing no matter what. One article in particular is terrifying: tl;dr: Because of low oil prices these last few years, and because people no longer want to invest in fossil fuels, oil production infrastructure has suffered from a massive lack of investment, which is going to result in a massive hit in production before the end of 2022. The lockdowns have given us a bit of a buffer while accelerating the long-term trend. Because oil alternatives are still extremely under-developed, this will result in massive spikes in energy prices, which will bring about a massive economic crisis that will affect all sectors. This might actually be a good thing on the long term, because this will force everyone to move away from oil dependency the hard way, but on the short term this will result in a whole lot of poverty and unemployment. ... yeah. If y'all have any long-term plans that rely on there being a functioning economy by the end of 2022... well, I'm not saying it's going to be the apocalypse, but start considering backup plans. Remember the early days of the pandemic: the right date to stockpile food and essentials is several months before everyone else realizes there's a crisis. (I disagree with the "infinite growth is not sustainable in a finite world" school of thought, but that's a different matter) --- Climate change: The situation is slightly less dire than you make it sound. The way I understand it, we still have some time before we enter an actual climate feedback loop, where global warming melts permafrost which releases gasses which accelerate global warming, etc. Some articles I've read suggest the current deadline is around 2040. The articles you linked are more about symbolical deadlines, the idea being that "if we don't take strong measures on year X, we're not going to take strong measures on year X+1 and on year X+2, etc". The year 2020 in particular seems like a very decisive year, because we're undergoing a massive economic crisis while climate change awareness is as high as it's ever been, so the decisions we'll take will show how willing we are to commit to climate change mitigation in times where unemployment is high and people are going hungry. The bad news is, so far signs point towards "not very willing". The covid crisis has seen a high number of countries relax their environmental regulations and develop their fossil fuel infrastructure. It looks like governments are mostly defaulting to "I'll worry about ecology once the economy starts improving", which is... not exactly ideal. Personally speaking, I don't hold out much hope for political solutions. Technological solutions (hydrogen engines, better electricity production, carbon sinks) might be our only hope. Olivine weathering in particular looks promising. If it scales well (and evidence suggests that it does), it mostly becomes a question of mining and moving very large quantities of rock worldwide, something our society is particularly good at. We'll need to combine it with global carbon tax schemes so that polluters are the ones who pay to offset the pollution they create, but if we can get that right, net carbon emissions might be reduced to zero decades before even our most optimistic scenarios.
  5. Oh man, I have so much to say on the "capitalism" topic. Ross's main point was that humanity's greatest problem was its inability to handle either far-away problems or extremely malicious powers eg (sociopaths becoming head of states). I agree with the gist of it (we're our own worst enemy), but I disagree with the specifics. Ross is framing the problem in terms of hostile actors who actually want to make everything worse for everyone else, or at least who want something selfish and are ready to endanger other people's lives to get it (eg someone who would go "everyone has just enough food to live and that's great, but I'm going to take as much food as I can to be rich"). I think the main problem with face when designing political and economical systems is that most people are decent people, but most decent people are really bad at cooperating when the stakes are serious. Regular people are the problem, not just nebulous greedy super-rich CEOs. Ross said that most people go with the flow, but that's not always a good thing. People don't think about their actions in terms of morality. Maybe they think they do, but when you look at economical trends, people mostly do what benefits them, especially when they're under pressure (eg because they're poor). Some people think that capitalism runs on "greed", but I think it mostly runs on "people need things (food, shelter, medicine, access to information, social activity, entertainment, etc) and the people who can provide those things also need things from other people, and everyone does what gets them the things they need". Corruption was rampant in the USSR because people went "I need food / furniture / a car, and I'm never going to get it in a public store. So I need to buy it on the black market", and so they did. Their decisions weren't based on what they thought the effects of their behavior were when generalized on an entire population, their decisions were based on "waiting for hours in the cold in a food line sucks!". The way AlexanderWales put in in The Dark Wizard of Donkerke, people follow the path of least resistance. So a good society is one where the path of least resistance for everyone is one that incentivizes people to act efficiently and cooperate with each other. XXth century communism was pretty bad in that regard. Capitalism isn't that great (because it wasn't designed, it's just the aggregation of individual incentives), but at least in a capitalist society people are mostly incentivized to produce things that other people want so they can get the things they want. --- By the way, Ross, if you're interested in this topic, look up "coordination problems", which is the technical name for what you were grasping at. Meditations on Moloch from Scott Alexander is a long-form dissertation on the subject.
  6. I know you're trying to keep this videos short(ish), and you had trouble meeting deadlines and all... but I kinda wish you'd developed more on the unrealistic parts of the game and what a more realistic version would look like. I think a lot of people who see the video would think "No, this is perfectly realistic, corporations do evil things like this all the time", which is kind of true but also ignoring a lot of nuance and complexity in what corporations can, can't and won't do. In particular, the story revolves around this magic alga that would somehow replace both petroleum and nuclear energy (presumably without just moving the problem around like hydrogen or or real life biofuels). The thing is, we have a ridiculously hard time moving past petrol and nuclear *because* there is no viable alternative to them. We're not putting these billions of dollars into fusion power research for fun. If we did have an ecological silver bullet energy (just for fun, let's call it "Argent energy"), then no amount of patent suppression, corporate corruption and sabotage would keep it from being released. The money oil companies could make by suppressing Argent energy would just be massively outweighed by the money investors could make by patenting it and selling it worldwide. (although now that I think about it, from what the episode shows us the game doesn't seem to say that the alga is ready for commercialization or even close, just that people are working on it; some of the shenanigans do make some sense if we assume the technology is still undeveloped, promising enough to warrant suppression by oil companies, but not promising enough that it would attract tons of investors and have backups everywhere; but then there's the question of why future people are even interested in this alga if they never use it in the future, and it was sabotaged before it could get any traction) Anyway, my point is I would have loved to hear you talk more about this stuff. Cynical rants about politics and economy are one of the reasons I love your channel
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