Maybe it's the interview format, but to me this reads like a Gish Gallop (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gish_gallop) of ideas by a libertarian huckster.

No Gish Gallop can be answered completely except at book length, so I'll just mention a few of the worst points.

* The left-wing, right-wing tech dichotomy.

* The emphasis on government holding back business. Damn that government keeping us from making slavery more profitable!

* "Our public sector hates our private sector and wants to destroy it..." Yeah, right.

* The absence of discussion of problems of power, monopoly and externalities. Such as the dominance of the big information companies.

* Wow, we have supercomputers in our pockets! But that doesn't solve the big social issues or solve the stranglehold of control over our lives by plutocrats or autocrats: if anything, it makes them stronger.

* Crypto is not needed for any sort of incentive system except maybe illegal ones.

* "we should build in the next decade new technologies, businesses, and industries that break these price curves", as opposed to the anti-NIMBY and other policy solutions Noah is fond of.

On the bright side:

* I agree with his view of risks of Chinese technical dominance.

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I’ll note that nowhere in this discussion of technooptimism does he address the fundamental flaw of technology, its tendency to concentrate wealth and power. Virtually every internet company agglomerates success at a scale virtually unheard of in the analog world other than yesteryear’s imperial trading companies.

His skipping over the idea of valuing happiness in product development is similar in mindset to skipping over the idea of whether the fruits of this growth have actually benefitted society. He speaks glowingly about the opportunities for knowledge workers but ignores the existence of the much larger economically stagnant pool of service workers on whom their lives depend. Government is something holding back tech giants from achieving even greater success instead of restraining companies’ socially irresponsible practices.

Finally, there is the nod to the capacity of software to impact the experience and function of the material world, but not the acceptance of market failures such as the gravitation of the world’s greatest minds to finance and apps’ attention economy rather than climate. I’d love to hear someone be challenged on why Bezos and Musk think space travel is where to put their legacy rather than securing a safe planet for their descendants. How can tech improve our future in a capitalist incentive structure if the greatest money making opportunities - like crypto - are orthogonal to our well-being?

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Jun 23, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

Hi, Noah. My name is Tomoki Hirata.

I am a Japanese college student, and I love startups.

I just read this post and learned a lot of things.

As a Japanese who loves startups, I'd like to let Japanese people know more about this blog. So, could you please give me permission to translate your blog into Japanese and publish it?

Of course, I will link back to the original post.

Thanks for your consideration.

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Jun 22, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

Re: "a Navy that acts like a pirate", that's not too far from "a police force that acts like a gang", as vividly illustrated in The Wire, and fairly regularly in our modern news reports.

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Several non-fans of MA in the comments here, but I personally like his style. Simplistic in parts, but a techno-optimism that I identify with wholeheartedly. Thanks NS for the interview.

One comment on Substack - I agree that the model has created an explosion of writer creativity, but I think it might be short-lived. Frontrunners like NS and Matt Y may be raking it in, but soon there will be so many people on Substack that readers will begin to balk at the $10/mo everyone wants for their newsletter. Some sort of consolidation is bound to happen. Noah lucked out on this one IMO, or was prescient enough to grab it while he could.

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Great questions Noah

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"the systematic failure of virtually all public sector entities around the world (the formerly high functioning Asian nations are failing to vaccinate quickly) ... both political parties and their elected representatives are busily savaging the US technology industry every way they possibly can"

Conflating the technology industry at large with big tech monopolists in such an inaccurate way is disappointing. Marc seems very angry at government, and I can't figure out why. Is he being denied regulatory approval for one or more projects? It seems very personal in the way he describes the public sector as failing.

Which sector has been and will likely to continue to place housing, education, and healthcare out of reach of more and more people? It's not the public sector buying up housing units and keeping them unoccupied as investments. We let the market set the salaries of university administrators, not bureaucrats working to optimize budget allocations, and healthcare is a prime example of such corrupt regulatory capture that we take it as a given that insurance clerks who didn't go to medical school are given the power of life and death over medical doctors when deciding whether or not to approve their claims.

Those are private sector failings indicating the need for more policy and regulation, not less.

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A carpenter thinks everything can be fixed by a hammer

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Marc needs to be challenged on his firm's usage of deception and gaslighting to promote cryptocurrency and the significant harms this has done.

The latest balderdash is the claim by Katie Haun, one of his partners, that China is going all in on cryptocurrency. This is false. The central bank digital currency is nothing at all like cryptocurrency. Earlier examples include claims implying greater efficiency than other payment mechanisms.

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Is there any way to consume this magnificent piece auditorily, as podcast of sorts?

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"Our public sector hates our private sector and wants to destroy it" I think this is unfair. I don't see a lot of public sector actors motivate by the hate of the public sector. I certainly see the public sector worried about ceding too much power to private actors, especially those with behaviors that lean monopolistic, but that line just came off as libertarian hyperbole. I would argue that China's public sector hates it's private sector in that the Chinese authorities retain the right and the means to subsidize (or straight up own), influence, control and shut down its private sector in a way that US regulator can't. It's not like China is going to give that power up anytime soon, and while I'm sure there are champions of regulation that would like a lot more power to influence and even shutdown industries they see as problematic, our inherent federalism and rights due process keep that urge in check just fine. The "love" the Chinese public sector has for its private sector is mostly institutionalized cronyism and structural control.

That being said, the interview is a great glimpse into the thinking of a towering figure in tech, and I enjoyed it.

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This is just brilliant. If all the tech leaders were like Mark we would be parsecs away from where we now. We would not be in a situation where part of people impose something on others just because they do not like what those others do. Instead, we would end up with people just helping other people achieve what they really want.

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I don’t buy the Bay Area vs East Coast thing anymore.

I’m sure back in the 90s the Bay was great and very very different than besuited East Coast. But the cultural difference is much less distinct now, and also the Bay Area is much worse to live in.

It’s not like there aren’t a bunch of hackers in Cambridge or New York. Facebook has the main part of their AI research in NYC. CMU is very strong and so is Pittsburgh. Etc etc. East Coast elite college graduates now consider founding a startup or working for Big Tech to be legitimate prestige career choices.

I don’t claim that East Coast cities are beating the Bay Area on tech (yet) just that there’s no longer this huge gap in attitudes and opportunities.

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Learnt a lot from this !

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Has the estate of Steve Jobs asserted a copyright claim on the pirate vs navy comparison?


The lack of self-awareness or historical knowledge of these princelings no longer surprises me. I think he peaked when he argued the Windows was just a set of buggy device drivers: in hindsight I wish he hadn't said it so loud, as it woke MSFT up.

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