October 2021 BenGoldhaber(.com) Newsletter
Happy October. I hope your group Halloween costume prep is well under way.
The past month has been a lot of travel for me - a combination of weddings to attend and an interesting ‘co-living experiment’ I participated in. A friend rented a large AirBnB in the desert and invited people to come live, work, and hang out there for two weeks. It had a bit of a Burning Man vibe, except it worked so well in large part because the organizer laid out explicit rules. Work hours from 8am to 6pm, rotating shifts of dinner prep and event organizing that everyone was expected to attend, quiet hours starting strictly at 11pm, etc. It was a lot of fun, a great chance to meet new people and enjoy a default 'opt in' culture for events. It makes me think we should all be doing more timeshares with friends!
Twilight Imperium 4 Twitch: I'll be playing in the SCPT Twilight Imperium 4 Invitational Tournament, streamed on Twitch this Sunday 10/17 at 18:00 UTC, username goldie. I'll be going up against some truly fierce competitors, many of them finalists or winners of previous tournaments. The hosts have called my match the one "full of nasty talkers that we know will take the longest" to finish, so if you like hearing me cajole, lie, and beg my way to victory over sixteen hours, well then tune in.
Titans of Nuclear: I've just started listening to this series of interviews of nuclear power experts and it's excellent. I've been on a nuclear kick the past few months, and I'm getting radicalized into believing that uh carbon emissions and climate change are actually a solved problem? If not for a regulatory environment that explicitly prohibits nuclear power from becoming cheaper than comparable modes of power, we could have safe, inexpensive, carbon free electricity.
Excessive concern about low levels of radiation led to a regulatory standard known as ALARA: As Low As Reasonably Achievable. What defines “reasonable”? It is an ever-tightening standard. As long as the costs of nuclear plant construction and operation are in the ballpark of other modes of power, then they are reasonable.
This might seem like a sensible approach, until you realize that it eliminates, by definition, any chance for nuclear power to be cheaper than its competition. Nuclear can‘t even innovate its way out of this predicament: under ALARA, any technology, any operational improvement, anything that reduces costs, simply gives the regulator more room and more excuse to push for more stringent safety requirements, until the cost once again rises to make nuclear just a bit more expensive than everything else. Actually, it‘s worse than that: it essentially says that if nuclear becomes cheap, then the regulators have not done their job.
In related nuclear news the UK government has announced a plan to build dozens of nuclear reactors by 2035.
What are the implications of an untrustworthy media?: A lot of what we read, in particular in the mainstream media, is wrong or misleading, either because reporters don’t have the relevant expertise or because they're incentivized to get you to believe untrue things. In light of this, my strategy is to weight simple theoretical models more strongly and to be more skeptical in general. Except of course when reading best in class reporting, like that from bengoldhaber.com media properties.
Your life is (almost) a call option. Applying financial metaphors to your career and to other parts of your life can highlight good if-high-variance strategies.
Ted Lasso: I love this show. It has that Parks and Rec kind of feel where you're rooting for everyone. As much as I enjoy antihero protagonists, it's nice to watch a show that leaves you optimistic about humanity.
Leading: I found this book from Alex Ferguson, the former manager of Manchester United, quite good. Most autobiographical business books are terrible - they offer little in the way of real insight. In contrast I appreciated how very specific the author was, detailing his underlying mental models and beliefs. Despite covering very different fields, it reminded me in certain ways of Ray Dalio's Principles.
The Wisdom of Crowds: Joe Abercrombie's third book in his Age of Madness series. He's my favorite fantasy writer. The First Law series is truly great, and while the first two books in Age of Madness were a bit of a let down, I think it recovered here in a story that's a cross between Game of Thrones and the French Revolution.
A Feast of Crows: Speaking of Game of Thrones, I never finished reading the books, and I have enough psychological distance from the finale that I'm able to re-encounter Westeros with almost fresh eyes.
This is How You Lose the Time War: A fun, elegant sci-fi book, detailing... well, I won't give away too much, but it's a quick read and worth it. Very creative storytelling.
The Last Policeman: The world is ending but a detective has a murder to solve. Really good world building.