Founder, The Roots of Progress (rootsofprogress.org). Part-time tech consultant, Our World in Data. Former software engineering manager and tech startup founder.

Wiki Contributions


I don't think that's right. The world now is much better than the world when it was smaller, and I think that is closely related to population growth. So I think it is actually possible to conclude that more people are better.

Software/internet gives us much better ability to find.

Re competitors, the idea is that we're not all competing for a single prize; we're being sorted into niches. If there is 1 songwriter and 1 lyricist, they kind of have to work together. If there are 100 of each, then they can match with each other according to style and taste. That's not 100x competition, it's just much better matching.

That is a good point. Still, the fact that individual companies, for instance, develop layers of bureaucracy is not an argument against having a large economy. It's an argument for having a lot of companies of different sizes, and in particular for making sure that market entry doesn't become too difficult and that competition is always possible. And maybe at the governance level it is an argument for many smaller nations rather than one world government.

I feel that you're only paying attention to the “more geniuses and researchers” part and ignoring the parts about market size, better matching, more niches?

Also “focus on it at the exclusion of everything else” is a strawman, I'm not advocating that of course. Certainly increasing intelligence would be good (although we don't know how to do that yet!) Better education would be great and I am a strong advocate of that. Same for better scientific institutions, etc.

I think the positive externalities of one genius are much greater than the negative externalities of one idiot or jerk. A genius can create a breakthrough discovery or invention that elevates the entire human race. Hard for an idiot or jerk to do damage of equivalent magnitude.

Maybe a better argument is “what about more Hitlers or Stalins?” But I still think that looking at the overall history of humanity, it seems that the positives of people outweigh the negatives, or we wouldn't even be here now.

Bryan Caplan addressed this recently here.

First, this seems to be arguing against strawman. No one is advocating literally infinite growth forever, which is obviously impossible.

Second, the current reality is not exponential population growth. It is a decelerating population. The UN projections show world population likely leveling off around 10 or 11 billion people in in this century, and possibly even declining:

Even if we were to get back on an exponential population growth curve, the limits seem to me to be many orders of magnitude away. I don't see why we would worry about them until we get much closer.

Investigators get fired when they aren't being productive. This does happen. The difference in the block model is that whether someone is being productive is determined by their manager, with input from their peers.

Who says they would be MBAs? The best science managers are highly technical themselves and started out as scientists. It's just that their career from there evolves more in a management direction.

I really don't think a group of, say, university professors could join in such a contract. For one, I'm not sure their universities would let them, especially if they weren't all at the same university. For another, the granting organizations (e.g., NIH) put a lot of restrictions on the grant money. You can't redistribute it to other labs.

Also, the grants are still going to be small ones to fund a single lab, not large ones that could fund hundreds of researchers. If everyone still has to seek grants you haven't really solved the problem, even if they are spreading risk/reward somehow.

Yes, but those researchers are typically grad students. To become a professor, get tenure, get your own grants, etc., you need to go run your own lab. At least that is my understanding of the system.

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