WARNING: Summaries are generated by a large language model and may be inaccurate. We suggest that you use the synopsis, short and long summaries only as a loose guide to the topics discussed. The model may attribute to the speaker or other participants views that they do not in fact hold. It may also attribute to the speaker views expressed by other participants, or vice versa. The raw transcript (see the bottom of the page) is likely to be a more accurate representation of the seminar content, except for errors at the level of individual words during transcription.


South Australia's economy is set to be disrupted in the next 15-20 years due to automation, precision fermentation, cheaper energy, and artificial intelligence. To maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of this transformation, meaningful action must be taken now. The speaker looks at the potential of renewable energy sources, soil resources, positional goods, and technology to create a brighter future. They also discuss the potential of robots, universal basic income, and decentralization of production to reduce rent-seeking behavior and create more equitable markets. With ambition and discipline, progress is possible.

Short Summary

The speaker is discussing the potential implications of an economy based on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, by looking at an example case of South Australia. They suggest that in the next 15-20 years, four sectors of the economy will be disrupted due to automation, precision fermentation, cheaper energy, and artificial intelligence. To maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of the transformation, meaningful action must be taken now. The speaker also discusses how the availability of water and energy has opened up new possibilities for how land can be used, and suggests inverting the assumption that resources are scarce.
The speaker discusses the limited demand in the economy, even for billionaires. They suggest that soil is a complex resource that is difficult to produce in large quantities, and that it is important to focus on invariant things that cannot be changed by disruption. They also discuss the concept of positional goods, such as wealth and energy, as well as the transformative character of the shift between here and there, and the limits of demand for calories. Finally, they mention David Deutch's framing of the planet's carrying capacity and how technological advances could increase it.
The speaker is making a case for optimism and progress, citing examples such as SpaceX's ambition to go to Mars and the potential of renewable energy to enable energy-intensive projects and undertakings in Australia. They also discuss the implications of flooding Australia, which could bring irrigation and lower sea levels, and the potential of greening North Africa. They discuss the chief constraints of metal production, the potential of robotics, and the possibility of taking advantage of seasonal energy sources. In conclusion, with ambition and discipline, progress is possible and the future can be bright.
The speaker argues that the current labor-based economic model could be disrupted in the coming decade due to the presence of robots, the concept of universal basic income, and new technologies such as 3D printing and cheap energy. They suggest that rent-seeking behavior could be reduced, and that decentralization and localization of production should be facilitated with strong regulation to prevent monopolies and ensure markets are fair. Tony has a two-pronged perspective on rent seeking and cronyism, wanting government efficiency to prevent benefits from being captured by a small number of people.

Long Summary

The speaker is interested in exploring the potential implications of an economy based on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, on an example case of South Australia. They want to consider how this abundance of cheap, low-impact inputs could drive down the cost of production and how this might affect the economy. They want to explore this by looking at the assumptions that may be invalidated by these changes and how we need to think differently about them.
The speaker is discussing the changes that will occur in the next 15-20 years due to the technologies available today and those that are close to being commercialized. These changes will disrupt four sectors of the economy: energy, transportation, food and agriculture, and human labor. Automation will play a major role in the disruption of human labor, with the automation of driving being the first proof of concept. Once this works, the floodgates will open and the automation of much of the rest of human labor will be possible. This will lead to substantial changes in the global economy in the next 15-20 years.
The speaker discusses the four main disruptions likely to occur in the global economy over the next 25 years: precision fermentation, cheaper energy, automation, and artificial intelligence. These disruptions, if all four occur, could have staggering consequences across the world. The speaker suggests that to maximize the benefits of the transformation and minimize its harms, meaningful action must be taken now. He also suggests that analyzing the disruptions in tandem could help us make better decisions and avoid mistakes. To do this, we must think and talk about the disruptions in a rigorous way.
The transcript discusses the implications of the convergence of clean energy and electric vehicles, and how this can lead to surprising phenomena in global shipping, steel and iron ore industries. The speaker mentions climate change as an example of one domain of implications, and suggests a systematic approach to thinking through such implications. This involves noticing certain things while being out in the world, and approaches such as first principles thinking.
The transcript discusses how the availability of water and energy has opened up new possibilities for how land can be used in Australia, such as making large parts of it rainforest. It suggests inverting the assumption that resources are scarce and instead consider an economy that is demand limited. This could challenge the idea of Homo Economicus, which assumes wants are unlimited and that a perfectly rational agent seeks to maximise utility in all domains.
The transcript discusses the limits of demand in an economy, even for billionaires. It is not an infinite amount of demand, but rather a limited amount. Examples of this can be seen in food, energy and water scarcity. This would lead to a complete transformation of the economy, where demand would be the fundamental constraint, rather than supply. The transcript concludes with the suggestion that more specifics are needed to do something productive with this idea.
The speaker suggests that soil is a complex resource that cannot be easily produced in large quantities, and that it takes time and living things to grow it. They propose that when considering the impact of disruptions, it is important to focus on invariant things that are expected to remain unchanged by the disruption. Biodiversity is one such example, as it is very easy to destroy and difficult to create. They suggest that attention and time complexity may become more valuable as a result of these disruptions, as resources become hyper abundant.
The transcript discusses how AI cannot make the fungus grow any faster and how this has an economic consequence. It also talks about the concept of positional goods, which are goods where the relative rank of one's goods compared to the rest of the world matters. It is suggested that demand for such goods is functionally unlimited and could continue to increase no matter how high the supply goes. An example of this is the use of blockchain technology, which uses a lot of energy and generates wealth for people.
Wealth is a positional good, meaning there is a large demand for it, but the supply is limited. Bitcoin is a good example of this, as there is a cap on the number of coins and transaction costs associated with it. Energy is another example of a positional good, where we expect the energy consumption to increase by an order of magnitude in the next century or two. This is compared to today's levels, and is a much larger demand than prior human experience. Superpower is just a small beginning to this, and is limited by the demand.
The speaker discussed the transformative character of the shift between here and there, and how demand for certain things, such as the number of calories consumed, is properly limited and unlikely to grow much more. Population growth is currently projected to level off between 9 and 10 billion, but if the livable landscape is transformed through renewable energy, this number could multiply several times. David Deutch's framing of the planet's carrying capacity was used to discuss how technological advances could increase the carrying capacity of the planet, both in terms of resource provision and human population.
Dan is concerned about the pessimism that has been pervading society and believes it could have serious consequences. He suggests that thinking of ambitious but achievable projects, such as turning a desert into a rainforest, could motivate people to take action and avert disaster. He believes that SpaceX's success in achieving its goal of going to Mars is an example of this concept.
The speaker is motivated to provide tools to justify optimism and think more constructively about progress in order to restore people's faith in human progress. He is attempting to chart the path between now and a more positive future, and is advocating for disciplined and rigorous decision making in the present. He believes that progress and optimism are essential, and that science fiction has long provided ways to imagine a future that is bright. He is also keen to avoid potential pitfalls along the way.
The speaker is discussing the potential implications of a future where clean energy is abundant and cheap in South Australia. They cite the possibility of flooding Australia, which could bring irrigation and lower sea levels, as well as bring back rainforest in the central part of the country. They also mention the serious proposals for greening North Africa and the potential global climate impacts of such mega projects.
The book Superpower by Roscano discusses the potential of renewable energy to enable energy-intensive forms of farming, such as a tomato farm in South Australia that uses desalination and solar power to grow tomatoes, and other energy-intensive physical processes such as aluminium manufacturing. These processes could be done in Australia, instead of shipping the materials to countries such as China, Japan and the US. This would enable projects and undertakings at a scale that has not been possible in the past, due to the lack of technical and economic capacity.
The chief constraints of metal production are energy inputs. Metal production can be done more energy-efficiently, but it is more expensive. Recycling is a key part of this process. Energy is an enabler for production and people are beginning to talk about how to structure businesses to take advantage of seasonal energy sources. This could include taking advantage of superabundant sources of energy like sunshine to structure businesses around intermittent energy or energy that isn't uniformly available 24/7.
Robotics are a key bottleneck in achieving transformative visions, as the labor cost of machines can approach zero if the robots are able to build more robots and solar panels to capture energy required to mine materials. Human labor, however, has a non-zero floor limit which must be taken into account when considering labor cost. If all loops are closed, labor cost could approach zero, but this is not true for human labor.
The speaker discusses the current relationship between labor and humans, and suggests that it could change in the future due to the presence of robots and the concept of universal basic income. They distinguish between physical labor and mental labor, and suggest that the machinery currently doing heavy lifting in the mining industry is different from the cognitively heavy lifting needed for other tasks. The speaker then introduces the concept of work versus labor, and suggests that machines are much better suited for work than humans. In conclusion, they suggest that the cost of labor could go to zero in the future.
My boss is keen on the concept of a social contract, which involves exchanging labour for access to resources and currency. This could be replaced by a situation where everyone has a basic right to a share of resources, such as with a universal basic income. This would be a major change in the general social contract, where people no longer have to earn their access to resources.
The speaker discusses the potential for disruption of our current economic arrangement, suggesting that certain items such as food could be free and labor could be more accurately described. They also suggest that pervasive high-speed internet access, such as Starlink, could be as transformative as low-cost energy, as it would enable people to access resources in areas that were previously un-developed. This could lead to an increase in rent-seeking behaviour and could reduce the need for people to congregate in cities due to a lack of scarce resources.
The transcript discusses how disruptive technologies such as 3D printing and cheap energy will enable social change in the coming decade. It suggests that rent-seeking behavior is a constraint on what is possible and desirable, and that these transformations will dismantle it. It also suggests that it is important to look for potential rent-seeking behavior in the future and take steps to mitigate it to ensure an ideal outcome. This could include considering how automation could be monopolised and the potential for a company to take advantage of their position and take some of the value out of the future for themselves.
Tony has a two-pronged perspective on rent seeking and cronyism. He believes decentralization and localization of production should be facilitated by new technologies. He also wants government out of markets, but to ensure strong regulation to prevent monopolies and ensure markets are fair. He was livid about government bailouts of the banking industry and wants government efficiency. He believes this will prevent the risk of benefits being captured in a small number of hands.
My boss is a naturalized American citizen from Venezuela and has a libertarian bent in his views. He is anti-corruption and believes that government should only intervene in certain areas, while markets should be allowed to do their work. He is frustrated with people who complain about government but are fine with the excesses of businesses. He believes that if given the choice between big government and big business, people should prefer the former as it is democratic.
The speaker discusses how people are often wary of governments and big companies interfering with their freedoms, while they are content to let the information they receive be controlled by one or two companies. They suggest that it may feel like a radical move to be mad at companies and governments alike, but that society is giving these companies a license to do whatever they want. The speaker argues that they don't want to yield power over their life to either, and that this inconsistency is interesting in the context of the discussion.
The transcript discusses the need for a first principles analysis of society in order to better understand how different institutions (such as government and companies) coordinate and solve problems. The speaker suggests that the labels and boundaries between these entities are not necessarily fundamental, and that discussions about big tech companies should not be seen in a purely 20th century mindset. He also suggests that the current vocabulary is inadequate to properly describe the situation, and that we may be in a transitional period. Finally, he suggests that rent-seeking behavior should be examined to see how changes to the economy and society might affect it.
China is a major player in discussions about modern transformations, and it is important to compare notes on the different perspectives from different civilisations. Lavender is looking to diversify its team and network by bringing in people from China and India. In 2017, Lavender's transportation report got a lot of interest in China, and recently China has announced plans for precision fermentation and cellular agriculture for food production. These technologies will have major implications for food independence and geopolitics. It is important to consider the Chinese perspective on all of these developments.

Raw Transcript

okay so um and when we were uh going back and forth on email uh not last week but the week before we talked about maybe um thinking through some of the possibilities of what a relatively near future of economic abundance might look like um i was curious if we could sort of contemplate that through the lens of maybe a specific case i'm thinking kind of specifically about south australia and uh what an energy abundance from renewable er power from from solar and wind might look like and um uh but but with looking further ahead to you know what what what happens to economies when things become really really cheap thanks to an abundance of um of inputs funded you know sort of fundamental factors of production like energy and transportation and uh machine labor and just just sort of in combination each individually but certainly in combination just sort of serve to drive the basic cost of things way way down um but but that are also low impact so that that economic reduction in cost doesn't come at the expense of the environment or society in the way that it might have uh in eras of cheap oil energy abundance in certain parts of the world in the past so um i was i i didn't really want to have sort of a very super narrow and constrained conversation i was just hoping hoping to kind of think everybody's brains about um not so much you know what what do we i i mean yes it would be fun to contemplate what might the future look like and that and do some of that sort of visioning work that's great but what i'm actually more interested in is um how to think about this stuff and this is sort of following our you know my organization's basic recipe uh which is what assumptions do we make explicit and implicit that are just not going that are going to be obviated they're going to be invalidated by the changes that are coming that are coming and as a result of those how would we need to think differently not necessarily you know okay well let's imagine exactly what the future of you know x y or z is going to look like when these changes come but but more important than that i think because that's very difficult to probably to predict or foresee um how do we think differently about about all of this um so anyway that i think that that would be useful very useful for me i think it probably would it has the potential to be a fun kind of free-ranging conversation but i think that would be very helpful to me because i'm now um in my organization under pressure to put the the disruptions together so to say okay
well you've talked about you've talked about energy and maybe what's going to happen there you talked about transportation maybe what's going to happen there food what's going to happen there and the questions that we get now are of the kind of okay so you put all these things together and what but why why should i how do i how should i think differently how should i make decisions differently how should i plan differently in my industry and my society and my decision-making roles and whatever they might be knowing these things and we need we are hoping to come up with ways to start answering those sorts of questions or at least begin conversations about them so anyway that's where i'm coming from if that sounds like something that might be fun let's do it good i'm writing on the board here what should i add to this list energy transportation food intelligence is there anything else i missed well the the big four in my mind and intelligence captures the the fourth one is human labor so basically what we are what we're entering i think is an era maybe over the next 15 to 20 years where uh the technologies that are either commercialized today or are are and ready for deployment and scaling or are going to be commercialized in this in the foreseeable future those are going to disrupt in our terms you know technology disruption are going to disrupt those four sectors of the economy so energy transportation food and agriculture and then human labor and um i mean they're all quite extraordinary but i do suspect that in in the final analysis the human labor one's probably the biggest um and that's automation i've said dan you know going back a decade many times um i personally suspect that the automation of driving is the tip of the uh automation iceberg that that will be the the the advancement that triggers an automation avalanche um and that that it's sort of the the first initial case and proof of concept and that if if and when a autonomous driving solution emerges it really works and whatever approach i'm thinking you know software software as very broadly conceived and defined but whatever software approach slash you know machine intelligence approach works with self-driving vehicles is going to open the door to proper automation of much of the rest of human labor and uh the floodgates are going to open and it won't be you know 100 years um it'll be something more like 15 years from that point until a uh you know we start seeing very substantial uh changes in the global
human labor market where machines are just you know um are are built and uh um are used to displace human human work and um yeah so i i kind of suspect that that's the big one and there's been a lot of talk in science fiction and in various you know futurist communities and so on for many years about about the significance of that so we you know we tend not to focus on it it's hard to it's far enough away still that details are difficult to you know to put into um into modeling strict modeling terms or anything like that but i it is a big one it's definitely coming we have to keep it in mind okay um but yeah the four of them the other thing is that the four of them in combination i mean holy crap right i mean even just one of these in a generation would be you know that would be more than enough to be very impressed by it but but if all four of these things are going to change sort of fundamentally um within a 20 or 25 year period so by 20 by 2040 probably 20 45 and i think we can imagine uh some pretty staggering frankly uh consequences across siding in the global economy um so uh the the questions are is there anything meaningful that we can do now right now think more clearly about this so that we can play more clearly so that we can avoid mistakes so that we can basically maximize the benefits of this tremendous transformation that's likely to occur minimize the harms along the way that's the basically our mission is to is to help uh facilitate a a journey for all of us that is maximally beneficial minimally harmful that's the that's the general idea and presumably there are good decisions to be made are mistakes to be made there are better ways to do things and worse ways to do things if we can discover what they are and um uh the only way to do that is to start thinking about them and start talking about them in in a discipline in a rigorous way so that's the i that's that's that's the general picture here it seems to me that in many of your reports you're already considering at least two of these disruptions in tandem right i mean often you're discussing say the precision fermentation changes in the context of much cheaper energy and so on so you sort of mean maybe when you talk about considering more than one at once you maybe mean something like three at once or something i'm not sure yes that's that's correct that it's it's we have a with a few instances where we have put two obvious uh pieces together so for example um electric vehicles and solar uh winding batteries and clean
clean energy and electric vehicles those that's a natural fit uh certainly the the batteries that are used in the energy disruption and the batteries that are used in the transportation disruption a direct connection very clear very clearly something that that we would need to think about and so we've mentioned that before but many things are not obvious at all when you are talking about a the convergence of the three of these really quite surprising things emerge um which is what my colleague brad you know talked us through several weeks ago a few examples of those i mean one of the ones that i continue to be have my mind blown a bit about are the implications for global shipping and uh for global uh steel iron ore and steel the the though in my mind those are not obvious really at all and yet and those are very very large industries and they are really going to going to be impacted by these things and you just if you didn't really have this lens through which to see you would not see any of that coming um and i suspect that there's an entire you know i i don't have a metaphor like a whole a whole a whole panoply galaxy of of phenomena that are going to be like that um over the next 20 you know 20 years or so where we're retrospectively maybe feel a bit obvious but it's very difficult to see that coming ahead of time unless you really put work into you know and to try to try to try to think through it so um yeah i think all three or all four of these things in combination that's where the that's where the non-obvious stuff is um and uh it would be great to to gain some insight there um and and the one the one piece of work that we did when we tried to do that so far is bidding climate change where we put the you know the the at least the first order um impacts that we could attempt to quantify in general you know in in in it's in broad terms in three different scenarios we put that together for energy transportation and food and said okay here's here's what the big picture is climate change and for greenhouse gas emissions and so forth but but that's just one one example one domain of implications among however many dozens right yeah what's the best way to systematically approach this i mean i suppose there's various scenarios and things i've been doing over the last few years to get myself to think through these things from a more first fin principles approach but that's more like just noticing certain things while being out in the world uh i can give some examples i guess but
i mean the south australia when i'm struck just traveling around in australia which is a large and largely arid continent how much the way we think about i mean our sense of national identity or just even the words we use like outback right which sort of has no clear meaning but means something like further towards the center of the country than i usually go these terms refer to basically patterns of rainfall and how much water is available whereas if you think through the kind of things you've talked about with the exponential decrease in the cost of energy thanks to solar and the possibility for very large-scale desalinate desalination um you the landscape literally of possibilities of what how we choose to uh use land basically opens up in a way that's never been possible before i mean we could choose to make huge parts of australia rainforest if we wanted really yeah i mean one one way that i've been thinking about this recently is to is to invert the assumption about scarcity i mean you know what one of the one of the mental definitions of economics or an economy um is uh uh is is the the allocation of scarce resources and what that assumption presumes is that uh the system is supply limited and uh and and relative to supply demand is is either extremely large or or limited um it's some i i mean you often see slot more sloppy use of the term infinite but but what people really mean is that it's it's functionally unlimited that you know the demand um always outstrips supply by some very large uh uh margin and so all of our allocation resources and and so forth is all sort of structured around this around scarcity around around constraints on demand and and so one thing i've been trying to think through is what would an economy look like was instead demand limited it was structured around limitations on demand where you know because and i i see this in environment permit me a quick aside environmental discourse i often hear this this this um still this this uh tendency to invoke outdated um stereo stereotype or or or whatever of um the the i believe it's called homo economicus it's this mythological perfectly rational um uh wealth maximizing utility maximizing consumer or something like that and um one of the one of the embedded assumptions within that that that very simple um uh you know caricatured agent is that that that wants are unlimited that the you know the the this this this rational agent wants an unlimited amount of utility in all domains you know and and when you stop and think
through this it just it actually doesn't hold up and a really great example of that is in food i mean even billionaires don't you know there's a limit how many calories they consume they just there's this is uh and it's pretty low limit right i mean i mean i guess you could even if you're being completely wasteful and throwing crazy parties and you know buying five or ten times more food than anybody could possibly eat um ten times more food than we than we produce today is a lot more than we produce today but it's not unlimited and it's certainly nowhere near infinitely more um and you know it's not even a hundred or a thousand times more it's just ten times more and so the more i've thought about it the more i see through um throughout the economy examples like that where demand is you know in principle people might like a lot more than they have today a lot more and i you know if you think of a very rich person's lifestyle but it's it's nowhere near unlimited and um uh and other limits you know come into play the things like social pressures to not be you know a douchebag or whatever um start to constrain people's behaviors um fairly quickly i think um or might well um presumably no cultural major cultural shifts although those presumably those would happen too but at any rate this is a lens that i've been now trying to think through this for through this um which is what you would you would still have an economy um there would still be production there would still be consumption there would still need to be um coordination of those two things what's produced and what's you know consumed what's what if there you know there is demand and why would you supply it and so forth um but it would but this fundamental constraint would be on demand it wouldn't be necessarily on supply which would be a completely complete transformation a very very profound change so if that's the general picture what does that look like in any given domain and then you know you you made some really great uh you know big picture examples there dan like if if energy wasn't constrained we could do some pretty astonishing things um one of which is solve a lot of uh concerns around water scarcity um but uh uh i think there's a lot of examples like that so anyway that's that's just one sort of one sort of 35 000 way to view on this um i don't know i think maybe all of this is still too too vague and abstract in general and maybe we need to get to specifics to do something productive here but um anyway
that's that's where i where i'm at yeah honestly it's coming from on a specific let me ask you how you think about soil so when you say allocation of scarce resources that often suggest like commodities right like oil or something oil is finite but it's simple i mean maybe its process of production is not straightforward but it's something you could imagine producing in large quantities from a relatively simple process if you chose to but soil is not like that right i mean to grow food in soil i mean you can't just make soil cheaply as far as i know you need to it's basically a living thing or a semi-living thing but you know more about it than i do but certainly the you need all sorts of fungal growth in it and mycelial networks and many other very complicated things so it seems like soil you need to basically grow or some sort of process like growing so maybe there aren't i mean the kind of resources that will be made hyper abundant by these disruptions maybe don't include resources that have an aspect of time complexity from a computer science point of view that is you know there's a certain amount of time or maybe a certain amount of steps that it takes to produce soil which involves living things growing and dying and some of the complexity inherent in the resources you can't really cheat that time that process so maybe i mean moving a wave i mean that moving away from using soil to produce food as you seem to be kind of uh that's what the precision fermentation at least maybe this feedstock that goes into it but maybe it's fairly simple feedstock um but there are other resources involved which maybe you can't cheat in a way right biodiversity is one i guess where it's very easy to destroy and very hard to create so if those other resources become hyper abundant it tends to suggest that attention and everything i mean we will come to value much more highly those things which have an aspect of time complexity right i'm just thinking around the question of how to think through the impact of the disruptions i mean maybe it makes sense to focus on the invariant things that's what a mathematician will do right if there's changes you want to understand then you focus on those quantities which are invariant and if so that means that maybe if the disruption is changing many many things you focus on exactly those things that you expect to be completely invariant to the disruption so what things are left what things do you have for some reason to believe are left unchanged by any of
these disruptions no matter how much ai there is doesn't make the fungus grow any faster so that's my first thought on that i think that has like an economic consequence because you can talk about um supply and demand but and and like unleashing supply but if there are still some things that are um supply limited then there will still be a need for um that that will still drive um prices and like people will still want money for example for the things that they do they still need to like have money to buy you can famously see that in the graphs of costs of living over the last 20 years you can see health and education i forget the other major one maybe it's housing they go up like crazy and everything else is collapsing down to nothing i think at least health and education clearly have this kind of characteristic like i'm describing of soil right housing i guess it's just different there's actually this is a little bit back to something we're talking about earlier um i think there's a class of things that people study in economics where you do have a functionally unlimited demand which means that you can't really um you can't really stop them from being scarce without some other like i mean maybe there's another solution but and so i i'm talking about positional goods which you've probably heard about um these are goods where you know it's like a um it's like an arms race um between you and other members of society how much of this good you owned and what matters is like the relative rank of your um your goods compared to the um rest of the world and because it's kind of like a race it kind of keeps driving demand up and up um no matter how high you go because it's all relative um and there are lots of examples of this think you would find lots of them if you if you look but i i'm not an economist so this is not my thing but um that so actually a question that i that i've had since i think one of the first meta uni events um adam you talked about the superpower idea and i was just thinking would this actually let's say you let's say you have you unlock the supply of electricity through renewables and i was just wondering if demand would really have a limit like you would really see a limit because it seems to me like if you if you have more energy we're just going to use more energy and for example i can think of things like um cryptocurrency mining or just um block blockchain technologies in general um where these use in some models lots of energy um and generate wealth for people and
wealth is um i you might consider a positional good or you might consider it a key to other positional goods um there's still a lot of demand for wealth so why wouldn't that be just like an unlimited demand for bitcoin suddenly and um or not unlimited but you know like it would increase along with the increasing supply and so i'm not sure we would ever get to this concept of abundance where supply far outweighs demand that example is a bit flawed because there's a cap on the number of bitcoins and once we hit that then there's only transaction costs so it would come down to the amount of economic activity that's taking place uh but yeah i guess i take the point i think that's like i i take the point and and i i probably should have been probably i was probably a bit sloppy when i originally laid out um sort of this general framing um but uh uh i i s i i think it's really what it points to is that we need to make a distinction between things that are sort of properly in some formal sense um unbounded or unlimited and positional goods is a great example of that that's a very very good example um there are there are others that uh are sort of um conceivably could demand could become very very large under certain circumstances but one could imagine supply perhaps again you know after time if you've got it it could have time complexity so time things could be time constrained but one might imagine at least in in principle supply could expand enormously relative to today um and uh costs could remain very low and energy may fall into a category like that where i think we quite fully expect um uh the energy consumption to increase by at least an order of magnitude um i i just you know as a long time science fiction and and and so forth i mean i'm um i'm thinking more on the kardashev scale right i mean you know you first it's the entire planet and then it's the entire stars energy output and then it's the whole galaxy you know i mean that that is is maybe a you know in the longer term and and this is maybe not thousands of years even away but but perhaps a century or two we start getting to very very very very large uh levels of energy consumption relative today today so super power is just you know a very small beginning to that really but nevertheless compared to today we are talking about massive increases right compared to today and compared to prior human experience so that's another that is a that's that's demand is demand is limited there but it's it's so much more than today that
you have this this transformation this transformation transformative character through the shift between here and there um to consider and then finally there are things things that are where where where demand is properly limited and really isn't likely to grow very much more than where we are today and that may be examples like the number of calories that human beings consume right what about the number of human beings oh good one very very good one because in relation to the calories because like it may not be about it's not really about how many calories an individual consumes because there's not a fixed number of individuals that's true that's true yeah um yeah it's a good it's a very good question um i mean right now now we're on trajectory to have population growth fault and the the the um population level off somewhere between nine and ten billion those are the latest uh projections that i've seen maybe you guys have seen different but is that taking there's a lot of assumptions yeah that's interesting because you know let's say we let's say we transform um the livable landscape through an abundance of um renewable energy or something like that and now suddenly um all of australia that is currently underpopulated or really not very um populated can become as dense as melbourne or other places in the world i mean like just hypothetically um you you could multiply the current population of the world probably several times if you start considering what you could do with all of the land right apparently right now another another other way to think about uh is the who who is maybe i'm not sure anyway somebody i've read fairly recently used the framing of carrying capacity it was it was probably because i've read his work recently i'm it was probably david deutch i'm thinking of um because i've read a couple of his books recently but i think i think his framing and it wasn't him it was it was you know somebody else not me but um uh framing the the the what we're finding the large-scale impact the totality of all these changes in terms of the planet's carrying capacity and the idea being that that that together um these technological advances that we're talking about would would radically increase the carrying capacity of the planet um in terms of you know the the resource provision um and i suppose if you want to think about it through the lens of population as well you could think about it in terms of you know the human population carrying capacity um another way to
think about it would be sort of the the carrying capacity in terms of lifestyle so um uh if the carrying capacity increases then if for any given uh population that the per capita income and by proxy that being a proxy for the the the quality of life um that could increase uh as the carrying capacity of the planet increases um with with these sort of technological tools so that's that's perhaps a way to think about it too can you be more precise about what the purpose of envisioning i mean obviously if there are big changes coming you want to understand their joint effects but i sense behind this question that your maybe real intent is a little bit different maybe i can say what i think it is and then you can tell me whether you agree or not if you're concerned about what widespread depression about the end of the world and people choosing actively to not pursue improvements in technology and other things that would avert that [Applause] that maybe having in mind actually possible projects like i mean i'm not saying turning the desert into rainforest is actually a thing we want to do deserts are not bad places for some things but if you have a vision of doing something crazy but awesome like that uh maybe that's a way of actually motivating people to do the more mundane things on the way which if you do them avert disaster but if you just tell people to avert disaster nobody is sufficiently motivated to do those things they just crawl up into balls and die i mean maybe one way of saying that in short is spacex seems to get a lot done because they want to go to mars you could have aimed to do those things just to make a lot of money uh or to avert some you know disaster but somehow people seem more motivated to go to mars in some sense than to avert those things so as usual dan you you've i must be very transparent to you at any rate this is this is very very close to the mark um so my uh my motivations here are two things uh the the first is that um i think it's now become a a deep concern of mine that shapes all of my thinking and we these conversations go back a ways with you and i dan um that i'm deeply concerned about pessimism um and because i think it's very consequential i think that the the pessimism has tre has already and has the potential to translate into some very serious problems and some real harms um and we would really be shooting ourselves in the foot especially this sort of quite extraordinary turning point in human history if if we allow that to prevail and to
undermine our um uh the enterprise of human progress itself i think this is a this is a i think this is a as you and i have discussed and i think this is an under appreciated problem that that humanity now has that people's faith in um or confidence in human progress has been eroded by a variety of uh forces not you know one of which is is this the idea that we can't solve climate change and we're all doomed um but others as well and a general pervasive pessimism and and so forth um and so part of my motivation is is to provide um tools with which to uh justify optimism and think um uh more constructively about progress and what can be achieved so that's that's that's the first thing is is that i think that that's important um uh uh second piece of it is that what i'm trying to do and what my i you know rethink acts my organization i think in a way also although i don't speak exactly for everybody and i'm not you know um we're all not a single of a single mind of any different views my bosses tony and jamie have slightly different perspectives on these things but anyway my view is that um we we want to be doing something quite different than the you're then the the the um more typical science fiction singularity uh you know transhumanist kind of crowd because what we want to do is the hard work of of charting the path between here and a more positive future at some interval at some point uh you know it's it's obviously the target's never static it's always moving but at some point in the future so instead of saying well listen you know here here are 100 ways in which things are going to be amazing in the future at some point which anybody can do and science fiction's been doing for a very long time the much harder thing to do i think to say okay well the future is is you know we have a good reason to believe the future's bright but what do we need to do here and now what specific things do we need to do not do um in order to get from here to there and because there's a lot at stake and a lot of you know a lot a lot of bad things can happen along the way so um and that's it's those two things is that i think that that progress and optimism are very important and i think it's important to be disciplined and rigorous in providing you know meaningful uh uh uh insight into planning and decision making in the here and now as opposed to just you know listen 100 years from now everybody will be fine we'll all be uploaded and you know we'll be we'll have a you know a dyson sphere
under construction or whatever the nutty stuff is right maybe maybe all that's great maybe that's all fine um but we're not going to get from here to there but as smoothly as we otherwise could if we don't think carefully about these things right now so anyway that's that's that's kind of where i'm coming from i think a lot of that you you're very correctly very keenly um spotted a ahead so yeah okay well sorry maybe we could maybe we can dial something back down to something very specific um which is again what would what would super cheap very very abundant clean energy look like for south australia because that's coming right i mean that that is not far away so so what what will change in australia does that that becomes a reality that's my question to you guys wait are you talking about if all the ice melted because i was actually just talking about that with my friend sorry i haven't been paying attention yeah every every coastal city like adelaide melbourne sydney and perth they'd all be under if all the ice melted because it'd be 70 meters and adelaide would be the last place so at 50 meters so yeah australia it would just be no more the plan plan would be to just flood australia because i mean last time that happened it lowered the sea level by seven millimeters so if we do that again just flood most of central australia would bring irrigation it would uh lower the sea levels there's a lot of reasons to flood australia i have nothing against australia i think it would help them a lot more than it would hurt them like sure you'll lose a few snakes and some kangaroos but it would also since most of australia is just crappy crappy desert basically just arizona but even more somehow it would uh bring rainflow back because i'm pretty sure australia back before the aboriginals got there it was a rainforest in the central part and they burned it all down because that's how they hunted so i mean i i there there have there are some quite serious proposals for greening uh north africa um for example and we know that that there's a cyclical greening and then and then desertification that occurs across the um saharan belt and uh so i mean there are these there are some quite serious proposals for those sorts of things and i know there actually has been some effort at modeling probably in australia you're talking about as well modeling what the you know the global climate impacts of those sorts of mega projects might be yeah and i don't think it would actually be that
expensive if you do enough it would only cost like a couple billion too which is nothing if the hell i think some people would be able to afford that it's probably like 14 15 billion at most to flood them and i i i see absolutely no reason not to we could i can think of a a few reasons but at any rate the the what this does is it opens up consideration of projects and undertakings that at a perhaps a scale that that we haven't taken it seriously before and the reason why is because they become technically and economically feasible in a way that they haven't been in the past it's it's actually kind of an irony because in the past um things were more socially feasible perhaps right there was you know there wasn't as much hesitancy to really reshape landscapes and and and make major changes but we lacked the technical capacity and economic capacity to do it and now that situation's inverted where the you know we may have we may well have the power to do so but we're we're not perhaps as reckless as as uh societies were hundreds of years ago in terms of in terms of you know reshaping the world um for a variety of different reasons right social ecological concerns and so on um but presumably we will have that power it's a good question uh will we exercise and how will we and under what circumstances um okay but i was actually thinking more specifically about it let's go back to the specifics yeah so there's this book um i guess also called superpower by um roscano that um that heath winning was talking about in the event last year uh which details at least several things that will happen once renewable energy becomes cheap in the very short term one of them is sort of fresh water intensive and energy-intensive forms of farming which are already starting to come up in south australia so there's a tomato farm that's out in the middle of nowhere has no access to fresh water just as a desalination plant combined with a large solar installation and greenhouses um i think they grow i don't know if it's as high as 10 but it's maybe not a tiny percentage of the tomatoes that are consumed in south australia already and that will increase rapidly so that's one thing i guess the other thing it talks about in that book is various kinds of energy intensive physical processes like aluminium manufacturing or aluminum for you that could be we dig up a lot of that stuff in australia but then we ship it to china japan the us for the energy intensive and somewhat messy parts that could be done in australia
is there also a labor cost component there yeah that's right i mean i guess that part itself is maybe not super labor intensive but the manufacturing downstream from that would be i mean steel producing is very labor-intensive i don't know about a little bit isn't aluminum easier to recycle than plas i know it's i know it's not a net loss sorry oh crap i'm unmuted um yeah the the the chief constraints as i understand it especially with with metals uh uh steel um aluminum copper um others the the fundamental constraint really is energy and um the energy inputs take a number of different forms um sometimes the chemical processes are used that could be it could be replaced with a more energy-intensive process but you know we use a chemical alternative um because you're doing the same you're doing the same process via energy would be more expensive so for example um for for iron ore and steel um uh you you can just uh i believe you can um understanding is that you can you can uh you could do all of the processing with electricity without um coking coal and uh redox chemistry and a number of other processes like that um but it would be much more energy intensive and uh so i think they're i think they're no i'm not a chemist but i think believe there are a number of uh heavy industry examples like that where where the the if if energy were super abundant then um it wouldn't be it would it would if energy were super abundant we would be able to undertake those um processes differently than we do today and uh um clean them up a fair bit um and uh uh recycling certainly is is is a is a big piece of that right because obviously metals can be recycled infinitely they're just a stock there's no flow there so again energy is sort of a key enabler um in in you know however you want to think about these function the functions of production there but the you know energy seems to be really enabled a lot of of uh what's going on there um and superpower yes our superpower um the the one of the things that we're seeing people beginning to talk about is um how to structure a business so that it can take advantage of very inexpensive energy that isn't available all the time so so um if it's for example only available um for parts of the year sort of seasonal availability like in the summer when there's a super abundance of sunshine and and so forth um could you structure your business around intermittent energy or or not perfectly um uh uniformly available 24 7 energy could you could you could you uh could you
shape it around when it is it is extremely abundant and therefore very cheap um so that's the sort of thing that we're starting to hear people talk about see if they can figure out ways to do that and heavy industries like mining and metal production are are where my team is already hearing those conversations yeah i do there's a very dramatic tipping point when you have uh when you start to do those kinds of processes so you mine the metals you have factories that uh appropriately refine them and then then you have factories that build robots out of those resources and then the robots are helping to dig up the resources um so i guess robotics is one of the key bottlenecks that lies between where we are now and most of the really transformative visions right where if if you just have a lot of resources and a lot of energy the constraint is how much you can act in the physical world i mean that's i guess the labor part that matt was referring to and if that remains relatively constrained and you know human population growth is vast but pretty slow relative to these changes i would say yeah labor could labor could remain constrained and um presumably there's a uh you know there's there's some floor um it's discouragingly low obviously in some parts of the world um but there's a there's a there's a there's a level below which labor can labor could only get so cheap right because i mean people have to be able to survive um and uh so so there's only so cheap that human labor labor can at least in principle actually get unless you have you know uh unless you're intervening in the labor market with you know uh regulatory uh mechanisms of policies that that are that are intervened um to alter that you know the the missing structures there but um yeah there's only so leap is there's only so even even if you had an unlimited supply of human labor you there's there's still a sort of a minimum amount you could pay them and with robots i don't believe that that's true if you close this loop you sort of get a yet labor approaching zero a cost of machine labor approaching zero if if the robots are literally building more robots and building more solar panels to capture the energy required to mine the materials to build more robots i mean if you if all of those loops are closed then presumably you get something approaching zero cost of labor but um uh with human beings i think that the limit at the floor is high it's not is nonzero correct me if i'm wrong it's just my thinking yeah
i don't know if it's that simple go ahead i i think um i think there's like multiple things going on there that if you want to have this conversation in a more careful way it's worth disentangling i'm not exactly sure how to disentangle them but for example um labor and humans go together at the moment because that's how our civilization is kind of built um i don't know that that's like a fundamental concept so you could imagine a society and this might there are people talking about universal basic income and stuff so this might be more relevant in the future i don't know um where you kind of start to disentangle those things um and then for example if you if you're talking about physical labor versus mental labor um there's a there's a difference again in what the robots are doing so you could consider the machinery that is currently um doing a lot of the heavy lifting literally speaking in the mining industry um but that isn't doing the kind of cognitively heavy lifting um you you could you could be um you could that that's the actual metal part right so you could be doing that in a closed loop um with humans kind of controlling the machines um or you could be in a future where the machines are controlling themselves those are kind of two different features right um so i think it's worth clarifying what those like what kind of robots are we talking about and also what is the um what is the kind of i don't know what to call it the word for what capitalism is um the way that we're arranging our society in relation to people and how much labor they need um or whether it's some whether it's capitalism and people are working or if something else um that's probably worth distinguishing to talk about like the cost of labor going to zero i think those are really good points we m my team has a couple of has a little bit of a some terms you used to describe the concepts you mentioned um so and these are sort of pet definitions they're not they're not sort of widespread but we at least internally we distinguish work from labor so work can be mechanized and a lot of it has been some big machines do huge huge amounts of work again these are not formal terms in economics or anything these are just internal to my team and the way we think about it but we sort of distinguish work which which you know sort of brute force and machines can do just so much more work than a human being can do right um right bulldozer can move more earth than in an hour than 100 human beings with shovels can move in a
month um but uh but still work labor labor has this dimension of intelligence to it and and um it seems inseparable and so the you know the the bulldozer although it can do a great deal of work it still needs a pilot an operator or whatever um and that that is labor because it involves cognitive effort cognitive capacity so you need some intelligence there and and and so this that intelligence is some some extremely um fundamental piece of what humans do when they labor that is in addition to um just bru you know just just you know simple mechanistic that's that's one thing the other concept um that makes sense that my boss is very um uh jamie is very very keen on is he he borrows the term from elsewhere in social sciences and doesn't quite doesn't quite hold but anyway again this is in terminal my team uses the this idea of a social contract and there's a large social science literature around social contracts but what he takes that to mean and i don't have a better term for but anyway this is the one we use internally is um this idea of a sort of general social agreement that we've had up until now um uh we're certainly have now i think we've had it in most instances in some ways in societies in the past but anyway this idea that that you earn your purchasing power earn your access to claim on resources across society um with with uh work at least that's one way to do it it's one one your labor is is something that you exchange for and we have currency so the currency is is the is the medium the mechanism that gives you purchasing power um and of course the other way to earn that is with economic rents so if you you own capital and yeah and you you generate rents then you then you you generate this currency from that um money and then you have you know you have purchasing power with that and of course that could change completely if purchasing power becomes a right of citizenship and then you have some mechanism like universal basic income perhaps which still gives people money but what it's really doing is giving them a claim on some fraction some share of resources across society and um uh so the these this this it's it it is it's we could certainly envision a situation where you know we really have a major change in what my boss calls this this general social contract right where we shift from thinking that you have to earn your crust to some situation where it's just a rite of citizenship that everybody has some baseline uh uh you know claim um and maybe that's via
that's via money money maybe it's via something else like vouchers or coupons or or you know some some something like certain things are just free like you know i mean maybe maybe food is just free certain types of food are just free you just whatever however much you want you can just go get them i don't know different things have been proposed but um yeah we can certainly imagine a quite a big shift from our current um arrangement right yeah yeah that makes sense i like those terms except for labor because it it really evokes for me um manual labor when when you say label but maybe with maybe you can qualify it or something i i know you're saying these words are just relative to your team so that's that's all they're meant to do but um i think i think it would help to clarify because at least i was uh misled by that particular term yeah well that would be that would be helpful to me to come up with a better term for that because i i i i internally we tend to distinguish human labor and machine labor but maybe what would be a better way to think about that thing is productive action intelligently directed is different from work or that what i was using you know that term work this this this sort of productive action that is not intelligently directed or or or or um intelligence isn't necessarily embedded within that anyway um be helpful to me to get better terms um uh and you you started to say something a couple times it didn't mean it interrupted you no i i'm not sure what i was going to say those times i was just thinking through uh one of the well another disruption i think is quite important and i don't know where it fits on that list but uh pervasive high-speed internet access even in regions that are currently un underdeveloped say like starlink sort of promises i think is as transformative as low-cost energy i think because if you think about why do people congregate in cities i mean we have we have so much rent-seeking behavior in society that it you know it's sometimes very hard to motivate oneself to do anything and a lot of that comes down to scarce resources like land but it's not like we have a shortage of land i mean there's really a lot of land out there in australia that i mean it's it's quite cheap you just don't want to go there because you couldn't do anything there but that's pretty rapidly changing i mean you can get 4g in much of the country now and if if the cost of infrastructure say from robotics laying pipelines and desalination plants
making free water very cheap and you can take it wherever you want and your 3d printing robot can print you a house in a weekend you know those kinds of things exist already it's just you know there are startups in the us that can 3d print your house in a weekend right now you have to pay for the final product but if someone could just lend you their 3d printing robot there's i think a lot of this social change i'm expecting to see over the next decade actually comes from that more than cheap energy i mean cheap energy enables that but i think we'll live in a much more innovative and equal society when a lot of the rent seeking that currently dominates the way we organize things is is undermined by by these um transformations so i guess when i think through scenarios another thing i'm doing in practice is looking for rent-seeking behavior and the constraints it currently imposes on what we think is possible or desirable and how these disruptions will dismantle that rent seeking one second let me i'm just typing to capture that that's fantastic one second i wanna i wanna chime in because i think that um i think that sounds good but i think so this is getting back to like ways to think about these kind of transformations i think i have something to add to that which is that the people who are out there rent seeking uh also thinking presumably about what is going to happen and finding ways to rent seek in the future world so one thing you could do in thinking about how these transformations are going to happen is try and think about ways that this transformation might be captured by um by interests that will kind of take advantage of the transformation and prevent us from getting to the kind of ideal scenario that we might like to envisage and then if you could think about these kind of vulnerabilities um then you then you might be able to take steps to patch them to mitigate them and then help get to the actual ideal rather than sub-optimal outcome so for example maybe you imagine that um automation is going to replace a lot of human labor um and you could think that oh you know that would be great if everyone has access to labor but what if the company that is out there that ends up developing the best smart robot ends up kind of creating a very solid monopoly over this and then derives a lot of power from that and um ends up taking advantage of their position and taking some of the value out of the future for themselves rather than sharing it around equally or something
like that um i guess you could you could think about that kind of opportunity and then you could um try and think of ways whether or not that will happen and if it could happen how might you prevent it from happening i don't know so this is very this is very interesting my um my other boss tony and this is a key focus of of his um and he doesn't frame it in terms of like red sea king and capital owners it's his oh to be clear i don't they the only rent it's not like capitalists are the only rent seekers i mean elites that sit in public institutions are very good at rent seeking yeah absolutely well this is so then that fits even better with with what tony his perspective is on this because he is he has he has a uh he's very concerned about rent seeking um within government institutions about cronyism and and so forth so he's got he has a his is he sorted out as a two he has a two-pronged perspective on on this it's basically um he agrees that this is a you know this is a great deal of risk there that that that um a lot of these benefits could be captured in a small number of hands um uh going forward and this is a real concern and his so his perspective on this is that number one decentralization is hugely important and will also be very valid valuable and so by that what that means is he's he's uh super focused on how um regions cities individual communities even individual households can become independent in terms of their energy their um uh their food production their transportation capacities they all they're all of that sort of stuff yeah he he he's he's very focused on on how these new technologies facilitate decentralization and localization of production um so that's that's the first thing that's sort of the first prong of his two pro the other thing is um he's uh uh sort of hyper focused on um not he's not a libertarian or conservative really um but he's he's he's hyper focused on government that's the right way to frame it um he wants government efficiency so he he's he is uh on the one hand wants government out of markets uh and out of sectors where government has a corrupting influence so for example where governments prop up energy utilities uh for example um or uh bail out auto the auto industry and that kind of thing he's it would bail out the banking industry he was just absolutely livid furious about those those sorts of arrangements but at the same time um he wants a very strong regulation to to to prevent monopolies and to ensure that markets
are competitive so that markets maintain their efficiency so he wants a heavy hand from government but only in very specific ways and he wants government to be completely hands off the areas where markets can do the work and um you know corruption is is is a real um real sort of hazard moral hazard and otherwise so uh yeah this is sort of right in my other boss's wheelhouse this this set of concerns right um and uh yeah we don't have we mean we don't yeah we don't have a good view a good answer for for how to put all that together it's funny that you i i can tell a little bit that you're trying to distance your boss and from from like a libertarian perspective but um i'm familiar with that distinction then it occurs to me that um it's more um perhaps more libertarian or more like truly libertarian or something to be pro-market in the way that you're talking about um as opposed to um pro-business um i'm sure you're familiar with that distinction of pro-market versus for a business um that's that's the key that's the key absolutely um in one way perhaps to i should mention this because it's relevant for context i'm tony my boss he is venezuelan birth he's a naturalized american citizen he moved alone the united states at 17 to go to mit um and then naturalized since then he's the only i think some of his family has joined him in the us now but he basically moved from venezuela and so he's sort of fervently anti um uh corruption anti communist anti you know social socialist on the one hand so in that respect he just sort of has a libertarian bent to him but at the same time you know he's he's he's he he despises uh corruption in companies and industries every bit as much as within governments and so what he really is focused on is markets and that distinction between businesses and markets yes um so anyway that's interesting this is getting a little off off track but i wanted to say that it's growing um kind of frustrating to me the amount of times i see people kind of complaining about um the excesses of governments but then turning around turning a blind eye to i guess the alternative being these businesses who are growing massive so if people say for example you want small government but then they're totally fine with amazon and google um and it just seems to me like how if you could have big government or big business surely you'd prefer big government because then at least it's democratic but anyway yeah this is really becoming a bit of a tangent i wanted to um
suggests that um your boss who's looking into this stuff about um how to arrange society to be more kind of uh robust through decentralization i hope he's reading people who are writing even sort of historically about um different schemes of arranging societies and i haven't read some of these verses guys i'm really i'm really sorry i have to pause you for just a second i have a baby monitor my toddler just got out of bed and now jumping around upstairs one second i will be back as soon as i can i'm really sorry to interrupt you just a second yeah i guess the point about people worried about governments and big companies uh to to inconsistent degrees yeah this is uh i i'm often struck in discussions how how willing how paranoid people are maybe paranoid is the wrong word uh how cognizant people are of governments paying attention to their private communications uh uh-huh or interfering with their freedoms yeah all while they're very content to let like the information stream of everything that goes into their head be controlled by like one company or maybe two yeah and it's i don't actually i think the mental model sometimes is very tribal so it's something like i can't tolerate whichever side of politics dictating something in my life because they're the enemy tribe but at least historically maybe facebook doesn't feel to you like it fits into either tribe maybe that will change as those companies become thoroughly dominated by you know by politics to a degree that they aren't right now but that's so [Music] it may feel like it makes me some kind of radical live i'm aimed at companies and government please come and say it's i i get mad at i get mad at amazon and i get mad at facebook when they when they make decisions and they're like why won't you even let me do it this way all you would have to do is implement this feature um and give me like some choice you're really harming my freedom and like that's the kind of argument that people make against governments when they um want to protect their their freedoms and yeah our society i guess is kind of giving a bit of a license to these companies to do whatever they want i mean i'm not saying that they that facebook should um um just bend itself to my whims but um but i guess it's the same kind of frustrations i i don't want to yield power over my life to them um any more than i want to yield it to anyone else and i think yeah that's kind of inconsistent i think it's it's interesting in this context of this discussion because i
think what has to happen is a kind of more first principles analysis of what makes up society i mean we have this kind of stable equilibria where we solve certain coordination problems among people and we allocate certain you know we sort of agree to stick certain parts of that solution to the coordination problem in various institutions some of it's in government some of it's in companies and then we kind of get over attached to those labels and those boundaries and then there's nothing really fundamental about them right it's like at this point in time with this technology we solve these coordination problems with these institutions but we get yes we get very used to them and then you know a lot of these discussions around facebook and these big tech companies now they're kind of clearly like actually the vocabulary is wrong there's like a 20th century way of thinking about these things but in the 21st century you really shouldn't make it like an overly strong distinction between a nation state and something like google apple or amazon right i mean in many respects there yeah so there's this funny tinge to discussions where like the categories they're sort of antiquated in a way and we don't have the new vocabulary or something right like there's like a we're in a transitional period somehow i think people i know there's a book that connection um and like um mostly in the gym rather than the the hey guys i'm back thanks for being patient yeah welcome just going to say so but actually i head out soon this week this is a little bit competitive oh this has really been this has been very interesting giving me lots of of uh lots of great things to think about as you always do so i i really do appreciate it i wish you know i wish you could do it in person over beers for you know more than just an hour at a time but um it's really really interesting and uh yeah i've got a big set of notes here it's fun to be fun to go back and think through them um i'm now really going to spend some time looking for this rent-seeking behavior that we simply presume is you know a fixture you know because it's a feature of the institutions that we've got um and and and how might things look different or change if those if those uh if some of those fundamental elements of the economy really start and society start start shifting or if the ground shifts underneath those things i suppose it may be a better way to think about it could i also very very cool you guys should hire some brilliant young chinese
intellectual or something like it seems to me actually a lot of these discussions are happening at a very high level uh by very smart people in china in a way that's probably inaccessible to you unless there's chinese people on your team that i'm not aware of but um and the style thinking about these problems is very different there so it's i think there's a lot to be gained from from comparing notes on the different perspectives on the same sort of set of transformations but coming from a very different civilizational legal you know the way chinese people solve coordination problems and imagine solving them in the face of these disruptions will be very different and that's probably very useful absolutely absolutely i don't know anybody off the top of my head because that's not the circle of people that lavender is usually plugged into in china but there must be a way of finding all right here thanks all thanks especially adam see ya yeah it's it's uh something that my team is definitely looking at is is uh diversifying the um folks that we that are both on our team and that are in our um uh sort of sort of first concentric ring around us in in a network of people that we coordinate and and partner with in various capacities and very very very high in the list are um bringing people in from both china and india because because those are those societies you know anything that anything that shifts in those societies shifts the planet um and uh uh you saw your point very well taken down i i could not agree more um and exciting things are happening in china already we had a you know we like to flatter ourselves i suppose and think that maybe we we you know tipped the needle a little bit um in in china's transportation policy and back in 2017 with the first um transportation report we wrote it got a lot of interest then and very recently um china has announced um more detailed plans um i don't know if it's officially part of any five-year plan yet but at any rate there's now quite a bit of attention and a big spotlight on precision fermentation and cellular agriculture both of those technologies together for food production food in in independence and so on because of course china has a lot of food imports so major major implications there are strategic and geopolitical implications not just economic and and so forth so um fascinating developments and you're right the perspective in the the the chinese perspective on all of this is something that we absolutely must uh be