Svyatoslav Usachev


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School Has It Backwards

I think we need first to understand what the purpose of schooling is. When you say "terrible at delaying gratification" and "learn or die", is it something that helps one to be an achiever, or something that helps one to live a happier life?

I think the schools have been long useful for 3 main purposes:

  • Being a (mostly unsafe) training ground for socialisation.
  • Producing "standardised" packages of knowledge, which is useful for economy, since everyone knows what to expect.
  • Encouraging people with a tendency to overachieve to excel at it.

Of these three, only the first one is strictly for the benefit of the student, and even at that it is implemented quite poorly. The thing is, the schools were never designed to maximally help somebody in living a happy life. Of course, we've never had the luxury to do that, but as we are progressing further and further from the matters of pure survival, it's something to consider. And that's what the linked article is really about.

PS I must also mention that the schools are not at the root of this problem. The culture that judges people by their achievement and success is deeply ingrained in the US (compared to, say, Europe), and the schools and parents simply train the kids to survive in it. See also a great (and lengthy) inspection of this phenomenon by The Last Psychiatrist: .

The Power to Demolish Bad Arguments

I don't quite understand, if even the contribution margin of an individual driver is negative (before fixed costs), then I don't see how this model can become viable in the future.

My understanding is that contribution margins are obviously positive (Uber gets at least a half of the trip fare on average), but there is also a cost of investment in engineering and in low fares (which buy market share), that have not yet been covered.

The viability of the business model, thus, comes from the fact that future (quite positive) income from the provided services will continue to cover investments in non-monetary gains, such as brand, market share, assets and IP.

The Power to Demolish Bad Arguments

On the meta level I agree with you, and I am happy to see the updated title, which makes the post feel less like attacking this sort of questions.

With regards to the object-level response, I surely mean "contribution margin before (huge) fixed costs". Net profits are not very relevant here, see Amazon, a booming business with close-to-zero net profits. It is also clear that while Uber doesn't have profits, it surely has other gains, such as market share, for example. I.e., if the company decides that it wants to essentially exchange money for other non-monetary gains, it should not affect our opinion on their relationship with their workers.

That said, I acknowledge that it is slightly more nuanced, and that simply looking at the contribution margin is not enough.

The Power to Demolish Bad Arguments

That's actually a very reasonable question to ask your interlocutor (and yourself), as are the previous "specificity" questions.

The answer to that question would be:

"If Uber was making $1/h out of their workers and paying them $14/h, that clearly would not have been exploitation, but if it makes $28/h, then it is, regardless of them being profitable. The question is how much every particular worker brings to the company, it doesn't matter whether it's enough for the viability of their business model."

I don't see what is that you would argue about if not about these particular questions one of which might become a double-crux at some point.

"Rationalizing" and "Sitting Bolt Upright in Alarm."

I think if we try to stop punishing for deception altogether, we are missing on a good solution for the prisoner's dilemma.

It's reasonable (though not obvious) that we don't punish for unconscious deception. And you also make a good point that we shouldn't punish for self-awareness.

But I think, an important distinction has to be made between self-awareness and self-control. I am aware of many things, but I don't necessarily have active control over all of them, mostly because it would require a different level of mental energy.

In my books, a controlled and deliberated lie is much worse than an unconscious one or even a lie you are simply aware of.

You could say that a "lie" is as bad, as little mental effort it would require of the "liar" to avoid it.

Naked mole-rats: A case study in biological weirdness

The "common weirdness generator" hypothesis seems quite off to me.

If the individual weird characteristics are independent as random variables, that would correlate with rareness of them occuring in a single species, which we do observe in this case.

If those weird characteristic were actually correlated, that would increase the likelihood of their cooccurance, and make creatures as weird as naked mole rats more common.

So, observation of uniqueness should lead us to believe that they are more likely to be uncorrelated.