Saturday, May 14, 2022


Razib interviews Rand Simberg who has been an analyst and consultant in space technology for decades. He has been the blogger at Transterrestrial Musings for over 20 years. Those of you interested in why NASA is never going to Mars, why getting everything in space into low-earth orbit is going to make everything much safer, or why the Russians have gotten out of the game will find him interesting.  I remember him from years ago but haven't kept up with him.

Tyler Cowan at Conversations with Tyler interviewed Sam Bankman-Fried on arbitrage and effective altruism. He has made billions specifically to give it away. Bankman-Fried noted that "you can't major in trading at college" and I thought "Why not?  It sounds like a thing that could be studied and at least partially taught." He credits playing Magic: The Gathering from a young age as excellent instruction in the concepts of messy, rapidly-changing value, and recognising that real markets are necessarily not amenable to hard planning too many steps in advance while still requiring a constant eye on both short and long term. I guess when you make billions trading crypto you have the right to pronouncements on that.  Cowan challenges him on the moral consistency of his utilitarianism, which proved interesting to me.  We usually say that a controversial thinker is worth listening to because "they make you think," while really meaning that we agree with them but are not ready to commit or admit. But in this case making me think is exactly the value I got. I (still) think utilitarianism is ultimately incoherent and contradictory, but he did hit some new things I had not considered. 

Cowan is as pleasantly and respectfully challenging to his guests as anyone I am familiar with. He seems to know a great deal and I am constantly playing catch-up (as I often am with Khan as well). I don't know how well I'd do on a pop quiz after his podcasts.

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