2021 predictions (🧵)
Student loans will (finally) be understood as a bubble on a par with the housing market in 2008.
Some of the fallout will be temporarily explained away by COVID, but many universities below the billion-dollar endowment mark (and some above) will find themselves short.
The left will finally separate from Keynesian economics. This (like the student loan bubble) was delayed by the Obama presidency, but widespread skepticism about the legitimacy of capitalism will be decisive.
Instead of deficit and inflationary spending—Obama “stimulus” packages—the left will focus on dismantling institutions, in a slow motion, comedic version of the French Revolution.
The US will continue its drift towards a multiparty culture trapped in a two-party political system. Already happened with GOP/Trump; Dems version will declare soon.
The mismatch of culture and political structure will generate instability and violence in a now-familiar pattern.
Individual-level metrics will continue to improve; social metrics (murder rates, “deaths of despair”, etc) will continue to worsen.
The most hopeful things on the horizon are intellectual. I see far more interesting minds in academia and beyond than I did ten years ago. Legitimacy crises are bad for public health, great for ideas.
Early-career academics are far more “disobedient” because the job market is just so bad that hey, why *not* actually think? Social networking has been a huge positive for these people...
...and it reminds me a little bit of 2005 Wikipedia; online networking among young thinkers is something that “works in practice, not in theory”. It’s absurd, but it works.
More generally, we will end up with a more uncertain world. Surveillance capitalism was meant to homogenize and discipline, but the actual effect is to make every communication esoteric.
The great novelist of 2021 is Henry James, not Neal Stephenson. Everything a matter of indirection, and what matters is not (say) whether quantum computing is real, but the illocutionary act that accompanies a claim about it.
We had a preview of this with self-driving cars. Everything is three years away, for ten years and counting, tokamak fusion on a faster timescale.
I got glimpses of this in San Francisco starting in 2012. Today, working in (say) DeFi cryptocurrency is a lot more Wings of the Dove than ET Jaynes.
SF is a bellwether for this for many reasons. Not just because the concentrations of liquid capital are so high, but because a culture of performative-not-getting-it makes things explicit and thus accelerates their development.
Scott Alexander / Slate Star Codex is the best example of this. Once you teach a certain kind of person that communication happens on multiple levels, their instinct is to gammify and accelerate it. I’m not saying SSC is a causal agent, but rather an epiphenomenon of the drive.
The longer-range question is whether a @Peter_Turchin-like cycle is unavoidable. IMO it is *not* inevitable, because institutions and power no longer look like their Enlightenment models. People might kill to gain a Senate seat, but only if the Senate matters.
The thing I don’t know, but am really curious about, is how people will solve the problem of being with others. The contractual-libertarian story is over. Mailing list culture was sustained by legacy IRL effects (university admissions, scorned subcultures) that are now gone.
A note RE: above. Politically, the left will abandon Keynesianism because it will abandon capitalism. But our societies will still organize themselves according to price signals. There will just be a battle to distort them (e.g., cheap student loans).
This means that Bitcoin (in particular) will be an interesting signal to watch going forward—in its role as a prediction market for the effects of inflationary spending in the US and beyond.
(BTC interesting in part because the constituency is interesting—much more diverse and weirder than the decision-makers who effectively set the price of Gold.)

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More from @SimonDeDeo

29 Dec 20
You guys told me julia was cool, but it turns out that it indexes arrays beginning with one? I'm sort of not joking—what possible justification is there to violate the near-universal standard?
This is very Bluebeard's Castle. What else is in the cupboard, "Julia"?
One-indexing considered harmful. cs.utexas.edu/users/EWD/ewd0…
Read 10 tweets
19 Dec 20
Let’s check in, as @PaulSkallas says, with the DMs. Five books after @nntaleb 🧵
I’ll take the Taleb-namecheck seriously. Black Swan is an amazing book, which merges life history, fiction, philosophy, and (by the by) plenty of complex mathematics. So this list will be a little weird.
First: the Dialogues. They should be read as dramatic pieces. “What kind of mind do I see?” Every kind of foolishness and grace is on display. Socrates himself grows and develops over time. Translation mostly irrelevant. amzn.to/3mBXXAx
Read 23 tweets
15 Dec 20
The truth appears to be the exact opposite. What Paul calls “low-level” employees seem to understand the lines very well, while middle (and sometimes top) management blurs them to protect revenue sources. newyorker.com/magazine/2020/…
Quite striking to see everyone jumping on to (1) agree with Paul, and (2) talk about how dumb the content moderators are, when the New Yorker article basically shows all of this to be total fantasy. For example...
It’s not that content moderators can’t understand context—rather, they are explicitly instructed by management to ignore it. Image
Read 13 tweets
2 Dec 20
One way to find failing institutions is to look for the ones that use, and endlessly debate, metrics.

Healthy systems have notions of success that evolve on the same timescales as the tasks themselves. (🧵)
The graduate admissions that I’ve seen is pretty healthy. The endless debates on whether or not to use GRE seem beside the point: discussions on who to admit, in my experience, end up as really interesting conversations about science itself.
Faculty hiring is more complicated, and it’s easier for people to look at metrics. Usually, how many papers in “top” journals; sometimes divided by the number of years the person’s been out.
Read 17 tweets
1 Dec 20
The whole thing, completely collapsed. A major scientific installation in Puerto Rico.
Much of Arecibo’s greatest science (including a Nobel for gravitational waves, the discovery of Mercury’s 3:2 spin-orbit resonance, etc) was a long time ago. But there was still great science going (pulsar astronomy, e.g.), and it was transitioning to a teaching tool.
In my opinion, the collapse of the dish—the total destruction of one of Puerto Rico’s jewels—is a massive scandal and should be covered by science journalists.
Read 16 tweets
16 Nov 20
Have been waiting for the @PaulSkallas video game essay, and now it’s out on the substack. A few thoughts... paulskallas.substack.com/p/what-happene…
First, obviously, he’s completely right. It’s a devastating take on something that’s right in front of your eyes. I stopped playing games at 13 (except for a bleak time in grad school) so it doesn’t hit me in the gut, but perhaps it does for slightly younger people.
He’s right, unfortunately, about “indie” games. I’ve played a few out of curiosity, and there’s not much there. Occasionally something high concept, but nothing that grabs you.
Read 41 tweets

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