I recently listened to the entire 4-hour interview of Balaji Srinivasan by Sam Harris. I was mainly struck by how poorly someone with a resume as impressive as Balaji’s (Stanford, A16z, etc.) conveyed his worldview and (presumed) theses. I came out of the experience not knowing what to make of that multi-hour apparent confusion. Is Balaji a visionary? Or is he under a weird spell of techno-utopia that can’t see its own shortcomings? Or something else?
Now this impression might be partly due to the fact that I was not familiar with Balaji’s ideas and work before that podcast. But this reminds me of something that Stephen Wolfram (fairly arrogantly) said. Paraphrasing: if I can’t understand what you are trying to explain, maybe the issue is on your side. 1
This is not to say that there is absolutely nothing interesting in this mostly one-sided conversation, even for the newcomer. Mostly, the interest to me consists in the number of unanswered questions that it raises. For example, on top of my head:
- Is there truly a path from centralized to decentralized that consists in developing parallel institutions?
- Is it possible or desirable that everybody will become an “investor” (directly or indirectly)?
- If Bitcoin is going to be the digital gold, is that desirable, and what problems does this solve?
- Isn’t the idea that science can be entirely codified in machine-readable and executable data and/or code something unachievable?
- Does “knowing math” (compared maybe with having a fairly logical mind) matter that much in politics?
And so on.
This means that I will probably have to dig into Balaji’s blog post archive one of these days!