Austin Vernon is an engineer working on a new method for carbon capture, and he has one of the most interesting blogs on the internet, where he writes about engineering, software, economics, and investing.
We discuss how energy superabundance will change the world, how Starship can be turned into a kinetic weapon, why nuclear is overrated, blockchains, batteries, flying cars, finding alpha, & much more!
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(0:00:00) - Intro
(0:01:53) - Starship as a Weapon
(0:19:24) - Software Productivity
(0:41:40) - Car Manufacturing
(0:57:39) - Carbon Capture
(1:16:53) - Energy Superabundance
(1:25:09) - Storage for Cheap Energy
(1:31:25) - Travel in Future
(1:33:27) - Future Cities
(1:39:58) - Flying Cars
(1:43:26) - Carbon Shortage
(1:48:03) - Nuclear
(2:12:44) - Solar
(2:14:44) - Alpha & Efficient Markets
(2:22:51) - Conclusion
Dwarkesh Patel (00:00:00):
Okay! Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Austin Vernon who writes about engineering, software, economics, and investing on the internet, though not that much else is known about him. So Austin, do you want to give us a bit of info about your background? I know that the only thing the internet knows about you is this one little JPEG that you had to upload with your recent paper. But what about an identity reveal or I guess a little bit of a background reveal? Just to the extent that you're comfortable sharing.
Austin Vernon (00:00:29):
My degree is in chemical engineering and I’ve had a lifelong love for engineering as well as things like the Toyota Production System. I've also worked as a chemical engineer in a large processing facility where I've done a lot of petroleum engineering. I taught myself how to write software and now I'm working on more research and the early commercialization of CO2 electrolysis.
Dwarkesh Patel (00:00:59):
Okay yeah. I'm really interested in talking about all those things. The first question I have is from Alex Berger, who's the co-CEO of Open Philanthropy. When I asked on Twitter what I should ask you, he suggested that I should ask “Why so shady?” Famously you have kind of an anonymous personality, pseudonymous thing going on the internet. What's up with that?
Austin Vernon (00:01:25):
Yeah. I think he posted a tweet that said “I don't know who this guy is or if he's credible at all, but his stuff sure is interesting”. That really made me laugh. I thought that was hilarious. Fame just doesn't seem necessary, I think I'm fine with my ideas being well known and communicating, but I have less desire to be personally famous.
Starship as a Weapon
Dwarkesh Patel (00:01:52):
Gotcha, gotcha. I wanted to start off with a sexy topic, let's talk about using Starship as a kinetic weapon. I thought that was one of the more amusing posts you wrote. Do you want to talk more about how this would be possible?
Austin Vernon (00:02:08):
Well, I think the main thing with Starship is that you're taking a technology and you're making it about 100 times cheaper for cargo and 1000 times cheaper for people. When things like that happen that drastically, you're just looking at huge changes and it’s really hard to anticipate what some of those can be when the change is that drastic. I think there's a lot of moon-based, Mars-based stuff that doesn't really catch the general public's eye. They also have trouble imagining some of the point-to-point travel that could be possible. But when you start talking about it as a weapon, then I think it lets people know they should be paying attention to this technology. And we certainly do not want to be second or third getting it. We should make sure that we're going to