August 2021 BenGoldhaber(.com) Newsletter
Hello! I hope you’re having an excellent August - here are all the Ben Goldhaber updates from the last month.
Please enjoy my long form post on the FDA and how it contributed to America’s failure on COVID-19.
The structure and culture of the FDA is shaped by the fact that they're a monopoly provider of approvals for medicine. They're a chokepoint for the entire healthcare industry; if they move slowly or make mistakes, it affects everyone.
For those disappointed that it’s only 7500 words, good news - the initial draft was about 2.5x as long, and while I spent the last month cutting it down to its current form, expect to see the additional content as one-off posts in the near future.
Alas, all good things come to an end, and my run of glorious victories in the SCPT tournament ended with a nail-biter of a defeat. Here is the stream; don’t worry, your boy didn’t go down easy. A commentator would later say about one of my moves:
among the darkest plays in tournament history.
Which filled me with pride.
Dominic Cummings’ blog is high quality. It’s worth subscribing, as most of his posts are private, but I also recommend this free post on the UK procurement system and the obstacles to high performance.
All Possible Views About Humanity's Future Are Wild: Holden Karnofsky summarizes the argument that the 21st century will be the most important for humanity.
Decline of the American Empire: Afghan Edition (written months before the fall of Kabul).
I continue to be impressed with text to image AI, and I enjoyed playing with this python notebook that generates pixel art from an arbitrary text input.
I’ve started reading Worth the Candle, a web serial recently completed by Alexander Wales. It’s very good. Like most of his stories, it’s hard to sum up in a way that does it justice - the setting is a high schooler teleported into a Dungeons and Dragons-esque world, but in a ‘hard fantasy’ tone, ala Game of Thrones. Alexander Wales also wrote one of my favorite standalone web fics, The Metropolitan Man, about Silver Age Lex Luthor doing the rational thing and trying to kill the alien menace of Superman.
I’ve also been reading the truly magnificent The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro. I can’t praise this series highly enough; it redefines excellence in non-fiction. The most well researched biography I’ve ever read about one of the most interesting figures - a complex, amoral man who came from nothing and reached the heights of power. The second book, describing Lyndon Johnson’s 1948 Senate race, is my favorite so far. May all of us have the drive of LBJ, but the honor of Coke Stevenson.