When we ask ourselves whether populist hostility should be directed against the rich or against the professional elite, the answer must be, “Yes, please!” From 1980 to 2007, the financial sector grew from 4 percent of GDP to 8 percent, but it’s shrunk since and may shrink further. The medical sector, on the other hand, grew in the same period from 9 percent to 16 percent — and is expected to account for a full 29 percent of the economy by 2030. Goldman Sachs makes for an attractive monster, but the bigger vampire squid may be the American Medical Association, which has colluded in blocking universal coverage and driving up health costs since World War II.
If not earlier: the AMA owes its authority to America’s most notorious robber barons, who invented philanthropy as we know it by establishing foundations capable of long-term, organized interventions in the country’s political and cultural life. The first foundations poured money into medical schools — but only if those schools followed the example set by Johns Hopkins, which in 1893 had introduced what’s now the standard formula: students attend four years of college, then four years of medical school. Institutions that didn’t follow this model did not get donations, and they also got denounced in a 1910 report sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation. After the Carnegie survey published its “findings,” scores of medical schools — schools whose students could not afford the additional years of study now required, and nearly all of the schools that admitted blacks and women — closed.”
”Death by Degrees” from the editors at n+1 mag
Rather than making themselves bigger and more visible, advanced civilizations may try to make themselves smaller, less visible, and thus more robust. These civilizations will devote their wisdom and energies to digging inward and exploring the life of the mind. After all, it is bigger, expansionistic civilizations that are going to collide or serve as targets for more advanced competitors. Perhaps galactic evolution and competition favor the small, just as insects seem to be doing so well here on planet earth…
[One annonymous commentator] had an interesting hypothesis in response to a post of mine about the Fermi Paradox:
‘Sufficiently advanced civilizations probably become utterly dependent on pervasive low-latency communications protocols, such that their members need to permanently remain within a fraction of a light-second’s distance from one another. … [They] will probably live accelerated lives: they will have a much higher clock speed, because electronic or photonic devices run much faster than the chemical reactions that power an electronic brain … due to speed of light issues, their entire civilizations may be constrained to exist within a sphere of a few hundred meteres in radius or less.’”
Age of the Infovore, Tyler Cowen
arrogance as survival strategy
Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford has been making the rounds in the wake of his passing. Robin Hanson zooms in on Jobs’ exhortation to never settle:
“Since following this advice tends to go better for really capable people, they pay a smaller price for following it. So endorsing this strategy in a way that makes you more likely to follow it is a way to signal your status. It sure feels good to tell people that you think it is important to ‘do what you love’; and doing so signals your status. You are in effect bragging. Don’t you think there might be some relation between these two facts?”
That, combined with all the storys of Jobs’ legendary outbursts, got me thinking to how arrogance was an optimal strategy for Jobs. If you are frequently proving other people wrong, either by well-thought-out arguments or your uncanny vision, it is likely that you will upset many people, independent of how nicely you treat the incorrect. An arrogant posture assumes that recovering your likeability would be stupid expensive via provision of more sympathy to your audience or interlocuter. On the other hand abandoning the remainder of your likeability probably comes at a low cost (what is the difference between a 25% and 35% approval rating for a politician; she is still going to lose). Adopting an arrogant posture makes it easier to value your own opinion most, a genuinely poor strategy for most people, but a costly position to not take for a person like Jobs.