A lot of spacey content this month, and a lot of crypto, as I left my old job at Pactio and moved into crypto full-time:
Finally got round to reading Values by Mark Carney. Seesaws from economic theory to memoir in a not-uninteresting way. Carney writes well, but sets things up in such a manner as to make his premises seem more interesting than this conclusions. A very safe book. I imagine he’s going to run for public office in Canada some time soon.
Also enjoyed The Power Law by Sebastian Mallaby. Clean writing, thoroughly researched.
The first test image from the James Webb Telescope, of the star HD 84406 is pretty spectacular (and even more so the more you learn about it.) You can clearly see the spiralling of the galaxies in the background, each one comprising on average 100 billion stars, and many of them billions of lightyears away. The scale of space is very hard to comprehend.
Nadia Eghbal is writing again, which is always a joyous event, this first new essay a gesture toward a broader project on philanthropy and the tech industry. Her prose is both incisive and imagistic, twisting and deforming ideas in the best way possible, finding their veins, snapping them like kindling.
An essay on infinite ethics, an approach to ethics that takes the existence of infinites seriously, and how infinity fits into the logical structure of existing mainstream ethical theories.
All of physics in nine lines. I’m surprised the basic theoretical scheme of physics is so parsimonious. (Although it might not actually be that parsimonious and this is expository slight-of-hand. What, for instance, explains why there are 27 constants?)
A fun collection of weird ERC-20 contracts, mostly exploits or incompatibilities with conventions.
On top of my normal reading, I listened to three audiobooks this month. The first, Spacefarers by Christopher Wanjek, is freely available to Audible subscribers, and a smart and deeply technical look about the next thousand years of spaceflight.
The second, The Planets by Andrew Cohen and Brian Cox, is a book about the history and physics of the Solar System, a companion to the 2019 BBC television series (which is itself really excellent.) Samuel West’s narration is extremely good, and Cohen is a talented science writer.
The third, also available for free on Audible, was a collection of Scientific American articles about Exoplanets. The article format is helpful, and the narrator’s voice is just monotonal enough to fall asleep to.
Emily St. John Mandel wrote a series of notes on GoodReads, discussing various passages from her excellent novel Station Eleven.
Vitalik on the roads not taken.
The user experience problems of quadratic voting. It’s easy to evaluate an approach to some problem in terms of its technical feasibility, or how attractive it is with respect to various theoretical constraints. A lot of the time, its success hinges simply on whether people can understand it.
A very, very good blog post on NHS performance. We need more LessWrong-style analyses of British government policy.