Weekly Roundup 5/29 - 6/4
American Dynamism, Defense Industry Deep Dives, & Live Players
In this issue, we have a solid set of content on personal agency, the defense industry, and American Dynamism.
Is the world one giant amalgamation of systems which are outside of your control? Or is history shaped by the direct actions of individuals? We seem to be underweighting the power of human agency on the course of history. If you don’t like American politics, or that we seem to have lost some of our ability to build in the physical world, you can play a role in shaping the world you want. You can exert your will on the world.
Isabelle Boemeke is a great example of how you can exert your will on the world around you. This clip on how she personally worked to delay the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is a good one:
Steve Jobs, Live Player
Tactics: How Optimism Can Shape Reality
I also found this article to be a great practical example of how high performing startups approach getting shit done. Alexandr Wang argues that high performing teams should seek to be far more optimistic on their timelines for getting work done. Humans are 11th hour creatures who will forever seek to hit deadlines at the last minute. You can use this impulse to your advantage!
American Dynamism matters. We’ve become a cynical society. We need to move from cynical to serious - and it starts with builders.
“The greatest cultural shift we can push for is a culture that doesn’t celebrate the cynic but celebrates those who dare to build great things" - Katherine Boyle
Technology & the American Defense Industry
Engineers Can Win Wars
Technological advantages are really important in wartime. Here’s Elon talking about the role of technology in war:
“A lot of books on strategy and war actually don’t address technology or they address it in a tangential manner. But, obviously if there is a side with an overwhelming technology advantage, then that side will win - even if the odds are dramatically stacked against them from a numerical standpoint or if other the side has better generalship, or is very smart. If there is a big technology discontinuity, then the side with the advanced technology will win.
And as you alluded to, for most battles in history, because technology moved very slowly, it was more about maneuvering, tactics, and strategy and whatnot. But, to use sort of an extreme example: if for example, you can shoot lasers from space to any point on the ground just by, like, pointing at it, it would not matter if you’re fighting Julius Caesar, Heinz Guderian, or Napoleon - they just got lasered from space.
When there is a technology discontinuity, that just fundamentally flips the whole situation.” - Elon Musk [4:51]
Production in WWII
I’m fascinated by World War II, but one thing I didn’t appreciate until recently was how much of the war was about building. Everyone hears about the battles and politics, but you don’t learn enough about the Kaiser shipyards or General Motors turning their plants into tank factories.
Manufacturing is absolutely critical to winning wars. It’s vital that we think through our modern industrial base at the same level.
More on the US WWII industrial effort: https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-war/war-production
From Franklin D Roosevelt:
“Powerful enemies must be out-fought and out-produced,” President Franklin Roosevelt told Congress and his countrymen less than a month after Pearl Harbor. “It is not enough to turn out just a few more planes, a few more tanks, a few more guns, a few more ships than can be turned out by our enemies,” he said.
“We must out-produce them overwhelmingly, so that there can be no question of our ability to provide a crushing superiority of equipment in any theatre of the world war.”
Anduril and the Future of Defense
Anduril is one of the most interesting companies out there today. This podcast with their current CEO, Brian Schimpf, provides an excellent overview on not just Anduril, but the defense industry at large. We’ve gone from building the Pentagon in 16 months and shipping the P51 Mustang in 102 days during WWII to programs like the F-35 which have gone on for decades and cost over $1T.
The defense industry used to be one of the most innovative in the country, and Anduril is bringing that culture of innovation back. The future of warfare is going to look much different, and be centered around what Schimpf calls ‘disaggregated’ fighting. Disaggregated warfare looks much more like the Vietnam War than World War II, and its future will rest heavily on drones, precision strikes, and cyber warfare.
Related - a win for freedom:
Praxis has been absolutely slaying the aesthetics game lately:
What Praxis gets is that humans are moved by myth, by narrative. I admire their ambition for building new civilizations that bring the best of the ancient world and modern world together. A world where vitality is king, and humans flourish for humans sake.
Funny enough, we got into a little back and forth with the founder of Praxis on Twitter. I’ve followed Dryden for a while now, and admire what the Praxis team is building.
But, I’m not so certain that we’re going to be able to develop new cities that reach real maturity in the next 5 years. I hope I’m wrong of course.
The future is decided by the actions of individuals, and if the Praxis team has the will and skill to build new societies, then this is a great thing. My point in this tweet though is to highlight that we’ve collectively allowed our institutions to decay for decades. If you survey the average American today about what their thoughts are on the government, you’re likely to get a cynical answer - regardless of the political leanings of the person you’re talking to. The problem with cynicism is that it doesn’t necessarily lead to you doing anything about your situation. Just as we need to extend the west and build startup cities & network states, we also need to do what we can to keep our current system alive long enough to see these new efforts through.
From Around the Internet
We need to have more kids. This really is an under-discussed topic. Young, college educated people are being sold a narrative of de-growth. Part of the de-growth narrative is that humans = bad, and more humans = more bad. I could go on forever about how horrible this is as a philosophy, but we really need to look at the negative impacts of potential population decline. We should be pro human.
The one interesting thing about population decline though is that it’s hard to fix the problem by way of technology or economics. Sure, the fact that many young people don’t believe that they’ll be able to afford a home is having an impact on how many of those people are having kids. However, this is something that is so personal and so embedded into culture that there really isn’t a single solution. We can do a lot to make having kids easier, but in the end we will need to use the memes of production to encourage people to create more people.
David Deutsch on the Lunar Society podcast:
“It’s dangerous to condition your short term goals by reference to some long term goal.
If you short term goals are subordinate to your long term goals, and your long term goal is wrong, you won’t find out until it’s too late.” - David Deutsch
If you don’t know Deutsch, you should. He is one of the greatest natural philosophers alive, and is one of the founding fathers of quantum physics (quantum computing in particular). The Beginning of Infinity is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It took me > 1 year to give it a deep read (and I’m still revisiting certain sections), but reading it has been like getting an OS upgrade.