Ezra Savard

More of What I've Been Reading

I read a fair amount of random interesting things, and these are some that I thought were particularly good, drawn from my last month of reading. These are presented in the order I read them in.

Historical Context Around Recent Crypto Events
This piece frames the recent crypto bubble and burst with history around:

  1. P2P file sharing, both trends and technologies
  2. Penny stock trading and the surrounding scams
  3. Bubbles as a means to create the overinvestment necessary in new technological infrastructure

Obituary for a Wolf
Why not write an obituary for a wolf? Short, interesting, sentimental.

Haidt on Lots of Stuff
Ties in nicely with some of what I was writing about in “(Self) Control Systems” – creating environments that produce the desired behavior for yourself, without relying on real-time control to achieve it. Haidt applies those ideas to teaching ethics, focusing on how to create systems that make ethical behavior the norm. I also always appreciate people who publically discuss changing their stance on things, and Haidt’s story about moving from liberal to centrist was also interesting and makes me want to read the best of both the right and left for foundational arguments. So far, I’ve found some good lists on conversative political thought, but I’m still looking for really good pieces that lay the philosophical groundwork for more socialist/marxist policies. Other than Marx.

Life as a Nurse
I find it hard to imagine having the nerves to work in medicine. Humanity is just too damn messy for me. I’m glad that people choose to do this job in our society.

El Chapo and Punishing Defectors
Fascinating piece on the changing landscape in cartel politics. They predict that collaboration with law enforcement is going to become a commonly used tactic going forward, since defectors are not being punished in the El Chapo case.

What is Amazon? What is Walmart?
Really interesting comparison of Amazon to Walmart, discussing the rise of both businesses, and their respective strengths and weaknesses. Largely, I feel like Amazon has given up on any kind of useful search or recommendations, since the only way I buy anything I don’t already know from Amazon is by searching through reviews websites first, and their recommendations usually just refer me to buy whatever it is I most recently bought (“Hey, I see you like that exact pair of boots, how about… another of that exact pair of boots?”).

Immigrant Earnings Futures
A policy idea for allowing people to invest in the future earnings of prospective immigrants, outsourcing immigration decisions to a market. I like that Lambda school exists, but I feel like doing this for immigration crosses a line… With Lambda school, people are trying to improve their economic prospects, and it is simply a form of student loan that has a redistributive/price-discimination element. I like this. With immigration, people are trying to improve their economic prospects, but might also be trying to do many other things, like move to a place with lower violent crime. This is a significantly different balance of power and could lead to the immigrants taking very bad deals in order to immigrate; deals that border on indentured servitude, rather than 15% of your income if you earn more than $50k. I would support this idea fully if it were applied on top of existing immigration systems, allowing extra immigrants in under an “earnings futures” investment system.

Dinosaur Extinction Event Record
Long read. Between new computer simulations of asteroid impacts and new discoveries by paleontologists, this New Yorker piece paints a really vivid scene for what the Chicxulub asteroid impact may have been like. This is the first I have read about the idea that impact debris (possibly including some ultra-resilient lifeforms) actually may have been scattered across our solar system.

The Persistence of the Upper Class

I’ve heard about some interesting study on how the pre-cultural-revolution-aristocracy in China is overwhelmingly represented amongst the entpreneurial elite in the country, but I can’t find it… It would be particularly interesting to add, since that was a natural experiment of wealth destruction that also destroyed the value of social networks.

Nationalism in AI Research
Presents some interesting arguments for why states may want to keep their AI researching companies independent from controlling foreign investments. It is mostly a UK perspective and circles back on discussing DeepMind’s acquisition by Alphabet.

Video Game Optimism
Fun NYT opinion piece on viewing Fortnite as a social network. They discuss how their children use the game to chat with their physical-world-friends, and how most of the issues they see with the game are more related to the very familiar problem of the horribleness of YouTube. This suggests that parents might want to regulate Fortnite use in the same manner as hanging out at the mall or texting, rather than as something like video watching.

Trump’s Policies as Normal Republican Policies
Interesting overview of American policy since WW2, starts and ends with tedious Trump bashing. The most interesting parts to me were about how so many of Trump’s actions can be reframed as typical Republican strategies, though now being applied more toward China, and with uglier presentation.

Traveling Alone with Dementia
On a lighter note, I loved this blogger’s description of traveling independently while suffering from dementia. Between the pragmatic optimism toward technology (her smartphone is a massive help for almost everything) and the stubborn attachment to her independence, this piece just made me really happy to read.