Free 29 min read

Helen Toner On Chinese Growth, AI Milkshakes And Making Bets

James: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Browser Bets. Today I'm with Helen Toner, the Director of Strategy at Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technologies. She's also on the board of OpenAI and has a wealth of knowledge and experience both about China, technology and artificial intelligence and we're so excited to have her on the show with us today. Anything I missed in your bio there?

Helen: No, I think that covered the basics.

James: Awesome. So, you have a little bit of experience during forecasting as a part of your professional experience. What do you want to forecast with us today?

Helen: Yeah, I am a huge fan of forecasting and using bets as a way to make our opinions, beliefs and ideas about the world more concrete and make it easier to engage with them. I work in Washington so there's a lot of social pressure to

Free 6 min read

Phares Kariuki

Uri Bram: I'm very glad to be here today with Phares Kariuki, technologist and entrepreneur -- I've been telling people for years that you're my favourite philosopher of technology and it's great to be able to interview you. Phares, what are you thinking about these days?

Phares Kariuki: Thank you Uri for the very kind introduction. My thoughts of late have been focused primarily on the role that trust / justice plays in growing an economy.

There's a direct correlation between trust and economic progress: society isn't trying to ensure that people do what they promise, they simply cooperate.

The secret to the human race isn't so much our intelligence, rather it's our cooperation. The best hunters cooperate; persistence hunting is how human beings evolved in the savannah. Killer whales and African wild dogs also persistence hunt and this leads to some of the highest kill rates of any predators.


Free 13 min read

Adam Ozimek On Remote Work

Uri Bram: I’m excited to be here today with Adam Ozimek, economist and writer, and now chief economist at Upwork and a leading expert on remote work. Adam you’re also one of the original econbloggers and I feel like I’ve been reading you for more than a decade, which feels wild.

I want to start with a slightly weird question for you: if we had perfect teleports for humans, so we could instantly and costlessly move from any place to any other, what would our work and living patterns look like? Would we all live in the countryside and just pop into the city for meetings and restaurants? Would we even have cities?

Adam Ozimek: That causes so many pieces to move at once that it's actually less telling than you'd think, because you end up in such a weird hypothetical. For example, cities have value that

Free 3 min read

A Year Of Living Thoughtfully

The French have a nice term for what has been lacking in journalism this year: grand reportage, which I mentally subdivide into two categories, blockbusters and yarns. Blockbusters are news stories writ large, the kind that win Pulitzers. Yarns are offbeat stories pursed to the point at which they become fascinating. The greatest yarn ever told is either Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, by Gay Talese (the making of which has since been recounted by Talese himself); or Orchid Fever (which became a book called The Orchid Thief), by Susan Orlean.

This was a thin year for grand reportage partly because it was so difficult for reporters (and everybody else) to get out and about, and partly because so much of the media was a monoculture of Covid updates. But every cloud has a silver lining: Stuck at home, we did a lot of thinking. The quantity and quality of

Free 8 min read

The Fallacy Of Success, by G. K. Chesterton (1915)

Part of our Browser Classics series, recommending outstanding essays from centuries past.

G.K. Chesterton. was an English writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic. He has been referred to as the "prince of paradox" He was the author of around 80 books including All Things Considered, from which this essay is taken.

Text courtesy of Project Gutenberg

There has appeared in our time a particular class of books and articles which I sincerely and solemnly think may be called the silliest ever known among men. They are much more wild than the wildest romances of chivalry and much more dull than the dullest religious tract. Moreover, the romances of chivalry were at least about chivalry; the religious tracts are about religion. But these things are about nothing; they are about what is called Success. On every bookstall, in every magazine, you may find works telling people how

Free 15 min read

Rohit Krishnan on bureaucracy, experimentation and problems of scale

Uri: I’m excited to be here today with Rohit Krishnan of Strange Loop Canon, who has burst out the gates this year as one of the most interesting and prolific bloggers in an indescribable corner of the internet that I vaguely describe as “tech culture writing”.

Rohit, something I’ve been interested in from reading your writing is whether there’s a few core lenses you could articulate that underlie your worldview. I don’t know if you read Matt Levine, but one thing I always enjoy about him is that I think he brings some clear and consistent lenses to bear on a lot of different situations, and every edition of his newsletter is like “here's some applications of my classic lenses to some new situations.” He’s given a bunch of his lenses names, like everything is securities fraud, and I find that very helpful too.


Free 2 min read

The art of the limerick

Do limericks still form part of the culture? They were commonplace and often rude, but it's ages since we saw a decent (or indecent) new coinage. This week's bleg was for the best limerick which draws, however slightly, on the questions and answers in this week's Browser quiz.

... and of course, our ever-delightful readers delivered in spades. Here are just a few of our favourites...

Bryan Baird kicks us off with not one, but two offerings:

The first, regarding the quote on friendship:

It's a Wonderful Life has a book
Inscribed with a memorable hook
Yet no one can find
A source for the line
Though many made effort to look

The second, on the picture book that is Shrek:

Though the first story form was quite slick
Shrek really took off as a flick
The loveable ogre
(Mike Myers made brogue-er)
Made money, and that is what sticks!


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