Srdjan Miletic

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Why did Europe conquer the world?

I think this post presents a plausible explanation for why Europe colonised the world. I think my problem is that there are numerous other explanations with a great deal of supporting literature and argumentation and I don't see much if any engagement with the alternative explanations in this post. In other words, I feel this post is trying to convince me of a certain answer without acknowledging the existence of other answers.

A few more specific thoughts:

Your model of why Europe wins:

  • Europe could choose when to fight by virtue of having long range ships = fights China.India at the most opportune times
  • Industrialisation => geographically separated empire => more industrialisation due to labour shortages and cheap raw resources
  • Christopher columbus = discovery of the new world = colonisation begins

I think there are a few problems with this model. First, long range ships and being able to devote enough resources to fight and win wars half way around the world are stupendous technological feats other civilizations were not capable of. I think you need an explanation for why Europe was first able to do these things while China/Arab states were not.

Secondly, the idea that a colonial empire speeds up industrialisation may or may not be true but a few things don't line up:

  • European states without empires also industrialised rapidly
  • Britain started industrialising well before it had a substantial empire. in 1740, the "empire" was basically some parts of the US and Canada with negligible economic output compared to the mainland.

Finally, the idea that Columbus was necessary for colonisation to happen is something I'm skeptical of. Yes no discovery of America = no colonization of America but I don't quite see why European colonization of other parts of the world was contingent on columbus.

Also, a few other popular explanations of why Europe pulled ahead:

  • Many competing states with a natural geography full of barriers stopping any single empire from forming and dominating = more competition/experimentation = more progress
  • Property rights and a strong trader/merchant class with a large degree of influence on government vs religious+millitary rule in the arab world. (Note this doesn't apply to all of europe, more to the UK and netherlands. Doesn't explain the success of other European nations)
  • Unique geographic features such as minimal natural disasters, large amounts of arable land, good climate, lots of large animals and good crops => higher pop density => more innovation and growth
  • European christianity being in a better state, somewhat de to the reformation, and that having ripple effects throughout society in terms of norms etc...
On Stateless Societies

I don't think the conclusion "stateless societies are not in a Hobbesian state of constant war" is warranted here. With stateless societies or those in a weak state, the war isn't between members of the group/family/clan/tribe. It's between different groups. Within a group people are still subject to rules, sanctions for bad behaviour etc...

Parenting: "Try harder next time" is bad advice for kids too

I'm not sure I agree.

Some class of errors/problems are due to taking the wrong approach. Trying harder here is indeed not effective and is bad advice.

Another class of errors are due to giving up too early, not putting in enough effort or not really caring about doing something well/properly. For this class of errors, "try harder" is legitimate feedback because the problem is indeed the amount of effort being put in.

An example from my time at secondary school. Some people would try to study but take the wrong approach and as a consequence not do that well. Telling them to study harder or longer would not have been good advice. Other people didn't really care, didn't study or pay attention in class and when they did it was only the bare minimum to avoid punishment. For the second group, telling them to try harder is good advice.

There's another question here over whether telling someone to try harder is often effective. The implicit assumption of the post is that no, its not. My experience in the real world is that in many situations you can motivate people to exert substantially more effort in an activity with "try harder" advice framed in the right way and with the right relationship with the person you're talking to.

Should I delay having children to take advantage of polygenic screening?

Are you already committed to a specific person to have children with?

The reason I ask is that who you have children with will have a drastically larger impact on the quality of children you get vs even 100% accurate polygenic screening. If waiting 10 years gets you better polygenic screening but makes finding a good partner (genetics + character/culture etc...) somewhat less likely, then the tradeoff may not be worth it.

(It's still smart to freeze eggs/sperm anyway)

Frame Control

Agreed but it seems to me that agreeableness/conflict-avoidance makes you far more susceptible to frame-control. Not that it's the only factor which matters or that a disagreeable person is immune.

Frame Control

This article gives me a strange feeling of looking through a mirror into a very different kind of world. I'm highly disagreeable. Vulnerability to frame control seems to stem from being agreeable/conflict-avoidant/unassertive. I personally find many of the situations where person A tries to frame control person person B and person B just silently takes it and doesn't say anything (at least in the initial stages) really weird and hard to imagine myself doing. Further, while rationally I know people behave like this, I really can't put myself in their shoes and see why. The reactions to situations just seem so different from what mine would be.

E.g:

  • The burning man example. If I made a point and another person suggested people just listen to me because I'm tall/eloquent/have other trait X, I'd immediately confront them. I can't imagine letting a shitty argumentative tactic like that slide, much less the insult it implies.
  • The student who asks the master a question, the master then responds by asking the student what motivates them to seek problems. Again, my response would be to pointedly confront the master and point out that they haven't answered my question.
Start with a Title

Counterpoint: Sometimes you don't have a clear title because you don't have a clear understanding of what you want to say. Starting by writing and iterating can help you clarify your thoughts and eventually lead to a clear title & article once you're clearer on what you're thinking/want to say.

How can one train philosophical skill?

Hard agree with the potential negative effects. Debating is essentially learning to be good at motivated reasoning. That can be very good if you choose to apply said motivated reasoning skill to deeply understand all positions on a topic, even those you disagree with. It's usually bad because most people just use their superior motivated reasoning skills to engage in confirmation bias more effectivley.

How can one train philosophical skill?

I think there are two parts to being good at philosophy: argumentative skill and cached knowldge.

Cached knowledge is knowing a given topic, the arguments around it and so on. Without cached knowledge you can't engage in a real discussion because you have to reinvent the wheel while other people are discussion the best design for a car. Getting cached knowledge is largely a matter of reading existing work and discussion with people who know the field

Argumentation is being able to argue well. This means spotting flaws in arguments, being able to distinguish between an argument being true and being important, finding the cruxe(s) of a discussion and so on. This is hard to learn and is more a skill. The best way to learn it in my experience is lots and lots of practice with short feedback cycles and direct, clear feedback. Competitive debating can help. So can the standard route of writing lots of papers and having someone who is good mark them and rip them apart when/where they're unpersuasive/unclear/imprecise.

Insights from Modern Principles of Economics

It's not necessarily clear that disaster relief is better handled by the government. A few things to keep in mind:

  • It's not a choice between markets or government. You can have both. (e.g: The army and rescue services organizing huge logistics efforts to resupply effected regions/clear roads. At the same time supermarkets are allowed to sell goods at inflated prices, incentivizing them to store a surplus in future cases where disasters may happen as they can make a profit large enough to offset the cost of keeping excess stock in inventory.)
  • The same incentive problems that apply to gov's generally also apply here. A shop owner, assuming price gouging is allowed, is incentivized to keep a small surplus of disaster items in stock even though they won't sell in normal times because of the small chance of an extraordinary profit if a disaster strikes. The government, even thought it should ideally keep track of and prepare for disasters, often won't due to it being in no individual's interests to do so. e.g: Lack of food stockpiling in New Orleans prior to Katrina.
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