I don't see that there's a better way to divine the truth in historical, economic, and political matters.

I didn't ask for a full statistical analysis. Although it would certainly be nice, it seems like a lot of work - deductive reasoning is but a tiny subset of probabilistic reasoning. However, I suppose one could use random sampling methods to make sure that you didn't go far wrong. New field name: asymptotically correct history.

Anyhow, what I said was lacking was evidence in general - arguments that are harder to make when false than when true. This sort of thing often does mean statistics, but not because statistics are magical - because when you use statistics it's easy to see when you leave stuff out.

I find that a sharp mind - Moldbug's is extremely sharp indeed - is capable of achieving a high signal-to-noise ratio using this style of reasoning where others might not.

Correct reasoning is not a magical power, it's a process that anyone can follow. A->B to ~B->~A, non-replicable reasoning is highly suspicious.

After all, a direct confrontation of the reasoning style you disparage and an approach I expect you might consider more "evidence-based" is found in macroeconomics

If we drag economics into this we'll be here all day :P Anyhow, I'd rather pick an example with representation from the "literary" side, and maybe a control group. Unfortunately, no clean examples come to mind.

Arguing from principles and representative quotations is a good way to give evidence for claims about the way people say things

I can only interpret this as the idea that all speech and writing provides evidence only about the speaker or author himself. I disagree in the strongest terms!

Please interpret it literally.

Peter Thiel warns of upcoming (and current) stagnation

by SilasBarta 1 min read4th Oct 2011121 comments


SIAI benefactor and VC Peter Thiel has an excellent article at National Review about the stagnating progress of science and technology, which he attributes to poorly-grounded political opposition, widespread scientific illiteracy, and overspecialized, insular scientific fields.  He warns that this stagnation will undermine the growth that past policies have relied on.

Noteworthy excerpts (bold added by me):

In relation to concerns expressed here about evaluating scientific field soundness:

When any given field takes half a lifetime of study to master, who can compare and contrast and properly weight the rate of progress in nanotechnology and cryptography and superstring theory and 610 other disciplines? Indeed, how do we even know whether the so-called scientists are not just lawmakers and politicians in disguise, as some conservatives suspect in fields as disparate as climate change, evolutionary biology, and embryonic-stem-cell research, and as I have come to suspect in almost all fields? [!!! -- SB]

Grave indictors:

Looking forward, we see far fewer blockbuster drugs in the pipeline — perhaps because of the intransigence of the FDA, perhaps because of the fecklessness of today’s biological scientists, and perhaps because of the incredible complexity of human biology. In the next three years, the large pharmaceutical companies will lose approximately one-third of their current revenue stream as patents expire, so, in a perverse yet understandable response, they have begun the wholesale liquidation of the research departments that have borne so little fruit in the last decade and a half. [...]

The single most important economic development in recent times has been the broad stagnation of real wages and incomes since 1973, the year when oil prices quadrupled. To a first approximation, the progress in computers and the failure in energy appear to have roughly canceled each other out. Like Alice in the Red Queen’s race, we (and our computers) have been forced to run faster and faster to stay in the same place.

Taken at face value, the economic numbers suggest that the notion of breathtaking and across-the-board progress is far from the mark. If one believes the economic data, then one must reject the optimism of the scientific establishment. Indeed, if one shares the widely held view that the U.S. government may have understated the true rate of inflation — perhaps by ignoring the runaway inflation in government itself, notably in education and health care (where much higher spending has yielded no improvement in the former and only modest improvement in the latter) — then one may be inclined to take gold prices seriously and conclude that real incomes have fared even worse than the official data indicate. [...]

College graduates did better, and high-school graduates did worse. But both became worse off in the years after 2000, especially when one includes the rapidly escalating costs of college.[...]

The current crisis of housing and financial leverage contains many hidden links to broader questions concerning long-term progress in science and technology. On one hand, the lack of easy progress makes leverage more dangerous, because when something goes wrong, macroeconomic growth cannot offer a salve; time will not cure liquidity or solvency problems in a world where little grows or improves with time.

HT: MarginalRevolution