The official audio version of Astral Codex Ten, with an archive of posts from Slate Star Codex. It's just me reading Scott Alexander's blog posts.
Highlights From The Comments On Elon Musk
[original post: Book Review: Elon Musk]
1: Comments From People With Personal Experience
2: ...Debating Musk's Intelligence
3: ...Debating Musk's Mental Health
4: ...About Tesla
5: ...About The Boring Company
6: ...About X/Twitter
7: ...About Musk's Mars Plan
8: ...Comparing Musk To Other Famous Figures
9: Other Comments
Book Review Contest 2023 Winners
Thanks to everyone who entered or voted in the book review contest. The winners are:
1st: The Educated Mind, reviewed by Brandon Hendrickson. Brandon is the founder of Science is WEIRD, a sprawling online science course that helps kids fall in love with the world. He’s also re-imagining what education can be at his Substack, The Lost Tools of Learning (losttools.substack.com).
2nd: On the Marble Cliffs, reviewed by Daniel Böttger. Daniel writes the Seven Secular Sermons, a huge rationalist poetry/meditation art project, and has a blog post pitching it to ACX readers in particular.
3rd: Cities And The Wealth Of Nations, reviewed by Étienne Fortier-Dubois. Étienne is a writer and programmer in Montreal. He blogs at Atlas of Wonders and Monsters and was also the author of one of last year’s finalists, Making Nature.
First place gets $2,500, second place $1,000, third place gets $500. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me how to send you money; your choices are Paypal, Bitcoin, Ethereum, check in the mail, or donation to your favorite charity. Please contact me by October 1 or you lose your prize.
Book Review: Elon Musk
Not the new one, sorry This isn’t the new Musk biography everyone’s talking about. This is the 2015 Musk biography by Ashlee Vance. I started reading it in July, before I knew there was a new one. It’s fine: Musk never changes. He’s always been exactly the same person he is now
I read the book to try to figure out who that was. Musk is a paradox. He spearheaded the creation of the world’s most advanced rockets, which suggests that he is smart. He’s the richest man on Earth, which suggests that he makes good business decisions. But we constantly see this smart, good-business-decision-making person make seemingly stupid business decisions. He picks unnecessary fights with regulators. Files junk lawsuits he can’t possibly win. Abuses indispensable employees. Renames one of the most recognizable brands ever.
Musk creates cognitive dissonance: how can someone be so smart and so dumb at the same time? To reduce the dissonance, people have spawned a whole industry of Musk-bashing, trying to explain away each of his accomplishments: Peter Thiel gets all the credit for PayPal, Martin Eberhard gets all the credit for Tesla, NASA cash keeps SpaceX afloat, something something blood emeralds. Others try to come up with reasons he’s wholly smart - a 4D chessmaster whose apparent drunken stumbles lead inexorably to victory.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, And The Quest For A Fantastic Future delights in its refusal to resolve the dissonance. Musk has always been exactly the same person he is now, and exactly what he looks like. He is without deception, without subtlety, without unexpected depths.
Highlights From The Comments On Last Week's Model Cities Post
Comments On The Solano County City Ecorche writes:
The Public's Radio article has a map in it that gives a better idea of the location. It looks like most of the land is closer to Rio Vista and does include a good stretch of riverfront. The land close to Travis is probably intended as industrial park rather than residential
Vote In The 2023 Book Review Contest
If you’ve read the finalists of this year’s book review contest, vote for your favorite here. Voting will stay open until Wednesday.
Thanks to a helpful reader who offered to do the hard work, we’re going to try ranked choice voting. You’ll choose your first-, second-, and third-favorite book reviews. If your favorite gets eliminated, we’ll switch your vote to your second favorite, and so on. If for some reason I can’t figure out how to make this work on time, I’ll switch to first-past-the-post, ie only count your #1 vote. Feel free to vote for your own review, as long as you honestly choose your second and third favorites.
Contra Kirkegaard On Evolutionary Definitions Of Mental Illness
Emil Kirkegaard proposes a semi-objective definition of “mental illness”.
He’s partly responding to me, but I think he mangles my position; he seems to think I admit mental illnesses are “just preferences” but that which preferences are valid vs. diseased can be decided by “what benefits my friends”.
I mostly don’t think mental illnesses are just preferences! I’ve been really clear on this! But Emil is right that I don’t deny that there can be a few cases where it’s hard to distinguish a mental illness from a preference - the clearest example is pedophilia vs. homosexuality. Both are “preferences” for sex with unusual categories of people. But I would - making a value judgment - call pedophilia a mental illness: it’s bad for patients, bad for their potential victims, and bad for society. Also making a value judgment, I would call homosexuality an unusual but valid preference: it’s not my thing, but seems basically okay for everyone involved.
(I wouldn’t describe this as “benefiting my friends” - I’m against children getting raped whether they’re my friends or not. I think this dig was unworthy of Emil, and ask that he correct it.)
The most interesting podcast.
The content of Scott Alexander’s blog is phenomenal, and the narration is perfect. This is the best podcast.
The best podcast I have ever listened to
I have learned more from this podcast than all others combined. It has been a joy listening to all 500 episodes.
So Happy This Exists
I never write reviews but I’m so incredibly thankful this podcast exists. It’s a joy to be able to listen to SSC on the road, and I Jeremiah (the narrator) has such a lovely way of reading them. The fact that he’s taking on this project is impressive, as is how perfectly he’s pulled it off. Thank you Jeremiah!
Update: Solenoid Entity has (I presume) taken up the task through necessity of recording new episodes. While he’s not quite on Jeremiah’s level of clean speaking, and the audio can get pretty reverby at times, I can’t thank him enough for continuing this good work. Thank you Solenoid Entity!