Gists X



  • US pension funds — through their share ownership — practically control the top 1,000 companies in America.
  • “You’re going to exaggerate your happiness a little, because that’s what America is about.” — Marina Mogilko
  • The internet brought information parity to the customer-salesperson dynamic. The glut of useful information (e.g. Google search results) is bringing back the disparity.
  • “The Queen’s death was a cause for sadness, but it was not a shock, nor was it a tragedy. We should all hope for such an end to a long life well lived, surrounded by loved ones, at home and at peace.”
  • Before 1800 there were more than 60 million buffalo roaming the US. By 1900, only a few hundred were left. Losing their war with the Great Sioux Nation, the US army attacked their food. In 1883, the US established the Code of Indian Offenses, which banned all Native traditions. In 1887, the General Allotment Act forced private ownership on tribal land.
  • “Marriage is a beautiful mistake which two people make together.”
  • Climate change is as bipartisan as it gets — except the 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited political contributions killed bipartisan activity. The GOP is so opposed to climate change they lobbied the oil company lobbyists for supporting some measures to combat climate change!
  • Professional golf is anxiety porn.
  • “Still, corporations are people, and people can change.”
  • “The dilemma of life; you have to find meaning, but at the same time, you have to accept reality.”


  • Supported by Oligarchs because he created them, and because he provides stable authoritarianism
  • Is doing more for climate change than anyone else (by cutting off gas/oil to Europe and driving up prices)

Food Refrigeration

  • In the developed world, refrigeration adds about 1% to the cost of a tomato; in the developing world it’s 30%.

Wealth Asymmetry

  • In theory, people can “sell shares” in themselves through debt — but debt can have a negative psychological impact
  • An idea to invest in people. To let them move their future wealth around like corporations.
  • In 1997, David Bowie issues $55 million in Bowie Bonds — ten-year securities offering shares in future royalties from the rights to his songs he was able to buy back.
  • Proposed by the Liberman family, who have sold shares in themselves.
  • OpenAI capped its investor’s returns, allowing it to retain nonprofit principles.
  • Similar to the tokenization of everything, which can make things sterile by attaching a value and market. People would need to advertise themselves to potential shareholders, then maximize returns.
  • Investment would only go to high RTO individuals (e.g. up-and-coming stars in sport, entertainment, tech), not regular people in regular jobs.
  • Once the shares are issues, would people need to produce shareholder reports? Release their tax returns? Otherwise open for deception.
  • Experimentation with different models such as not paying back under a certain income point; profit-capping (e.g. once a movie hits X profit, it becomes public domain — a shared interest that would spur the public to push for it);

Fuck Gas Cars

  • The New York auto show started as a bicycle show. When it became the bicycle and auto show in 1899, nearly all cars were electric. By 1900, a third of all cars in the US was electric.
  • In 1914, Ford and the Edison Storage Battery Company collaborated on a better electric vehicle — but ultimately failed in 1917. By 1920, the gas engine had won.
  • The Volkswagen Type 1 (aka “VM Beetle”) originated in Nazi Germany as Hitler’s “people’s car.” In 1934, the Reich commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to develop it, and it was manufactured using forced labourers. In the 1990s, Volkswagen paid reparations.
  • In 2015, Volkswagen paid almost $250 million to settle claims after tampering with software on 10 million cars to cheat clean emission tests
  • Tesla Boombox feature to play external music was restricted to when the car is stationary


“In order to be reputable, it [conspicuous consumption] must be wasteful.” — Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class

  • Since 1990, the number of US billionaires has gone from 66 to over 700. The median hourly wage has only risen 20%.
  • Before yacht clubs were jachten (Dutch for “hunt”). In the 17th century, wealth Amsterdam residents created fast boats to meet incoming cargo ships before they hit port to inspect merchandise. Soon, merchants were racing each other. Yachting then spread across Europe; after a visit to Holland in 1697, Peter the Great opened one of the first yacht clubs in St. Petersburg — Nevsky Flot.
  • If a boat has a crew it’s a yacht; if over 98ft it’s a superyacht; over 230ft is a megayacht; over 290ft a gigayacht. A gigayacht is the most expensive item money can buy.
  • The highest amount paid for real estate is $240 million (Ken Griffin Central Park South quadruplex); artwork is $195 million (Warhol Marilyn Monroe). Many yachts cost in excess of $250 million. Post-Soviets are thought to own a fifth of the world’s gigayachts.
  • Luxuries include exotic deliveries (Dom Perignon, New York bagels, a rare Hokkaido melon) by helicopter or seaplane, over 100 rooms, IMAX theatres, disco clubs, ski rooms (where passengers suit up and are helicoptered to the slopes!), indoor submarine marina, helicopter hangar, outdoor performance spaces (Mick Jagger and Bono performed for Paul Allen), Renoir paintings in the master bedroom, swimming pool with mosaic bottom that rises to become a dance floor, bar with whale teeth carved into pornographic scenes and stools upholstered in whale foreskin!!
  • Luxury experiences for “bored billionaires” include re-staged historical naval battles (!), flying 3D printed restaurants onto sand shelves that only last a few hours
  • Pleasure yachts are only permitted 12 passengers — a rule conceived after the Titanic — but there is no limit to crew. With such a high ratio of crew-to-passengers the service is unparalleled: toilets cleaned with Q-tips, crumbs lifted with tweezers, staircases cleaned with toothbrushes! “Yachties” are young, attractive (CVs have headshots), and can earn $50,000 in tips.
  • Notable yachts owned by Aristotle Onassis (Christina O), Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, Paul Allen (Octopus), and Adnan Khashoggi (arms dealer) — who later sold his yacht to Donald Trump
  • Usually costs around 10% of a boat’s construction price in upkeep each year!
  • The Vitellis family has built the most superyachts over the past 22 years. Boats are manufactured in Avigliana, Italy.

Liberal Democracy

  • The greatest service of politics isn’t to mobilise people with the same views — it’s to enable people with different views to live together; getting our ideas to brawl in place of our persons. Politics accepts the truth that some conflicts can never be cured, only contained. Politics is stress.
  • Democracy is practiced when people march and protest. Politics is practiced when the shouting turns into talking.
  • The issue with the Athenian synecdoche (i.e. random individual representation of the whole) is that there must be some sort of agreement amongst the whole. In a radically divided country such as the US, this system would be a false idol.
  • Is the idea of democratic representation guaranteed to decline into bureaucracy and elite rule? Evidence suggests that what often looks like plutocratic manipulation is actually the popular will. Democracy actually exemplifies the basic oppressive rhythm of “ruled and ruled.”
  • A proposal to reform the US Supreme Court and hold a Constitutional Convention every 30 years to rewrite the Constitution!
  • The Constitution offers no practical guide for a general faced with a rogue President.

The US War on Consumer Protection

“If companies can use the two-step to protect themselves from any and all consumer liability, even from states themselves, what’s left to hold them accountable? The Department of Justice has been investigating Johnson & Johnson since 2019, but little is known about the status or the aims of that investigation. The D.O.J. may or may not bring criminal charges. The Third Circuit may or may not toss the bankruptcy case. Congress may or may not curtail the Texas two-step or empower the F.D.A. to regulate cosmetics more effectively. Anything is possible.”

  • Starting in 1969, Johnson & Johnson funded experiments (given blisters, injected with tac and asbestos, shampoo dropped in their eyes over 24 hours) on mostly black prisoners at “five dollars per wound.”
  • Over 80 countries have stronger cosmetic regulations than the US. Weak regulatory actions coupled with lobbying has left the American people unprotected.
  • Tens of thousands of cancer cases from talc powder against J&J were stalled when the company performed a divisional merger — also known as a Texas two-step — a 1989 Texas legislature that allows a corporation to divide into two entities, and have one take all the liability!!
  • The first company bold enough to try it was Koch Industries in 2017; J&J is the fourth. The newly formed company was formed just 72 hours prior to taking billions of dollars of J&J’s liabilities.
  • J&J made $24 billion in sales last quarter. An average of one woman a day has died waiting for their case to be heard.

Effective Altruism

“Bias for action.” “Philanthropic indulgences for the original sin of privilege.”

  • Charity that believes people ought to do good in the most clear-sighted, ambitious and unsentimental way — a rationalist, consequentialism community that doesn’t conform to universal rules, but is based on results. Controls around $30 billion in resources.
  • A life in the developing world can be saved for around $4,000. There is no point giving to the developed world; the different elsewhere is orders of magnitude greater — but richer countries have more innovation and are more economically productive. Saving a life in a rich country is substantially more important than in a poor country.

“I was on board with the idea of binding my future self [giving away most income] — I had a lot of youthful energy, and I was worried I’d become more conservative over time.” — William MacAskill

  • For aspiring young people, it’s recommended to get a high-paying job (e.g. finance) and donate their income — over working for a charity. Known as “earning to give.”
  • Vegetarianism is the most basic application of ethical ideas. Giving 10% of your income was modest enough to gain a wide audience — and has a long-standing religious precedent.

“And if spatial distance is irrelevant to our regard for starvation overseas, temporal distance should be an equally poor excuse.”

  • Over time, the movement has moved from the needs of the global poor to future descendants — the best possible long-haul future for humanity, which is great but hard to quantify or measure. EA’s have effectively reinvented the mixed-portfolio philanthropic model.
  • The Effective Altruism Global summit was held at the Googleplex, and Elon Musk appeared on a panel.
  • Peter Singer’s theory: any expenditure beyond basic survival was akin to letting someone die.


Entrenched minority rule.

  • Named after Elbridge Gerry, who signed off on a district in the 1812 election. Even before then it was practiced in the colonies. There are two Dakotas to yield twice as many Republican senators.
  • In 2020, 67% of eligible voters in the US cast a ballot (48% total). This was the highest since 1900 — when women, under 21, Asian immigrants, Native Americans, and Black Americans in the South couldn’t vote. In 1900, 18% of all people voted.

Your right to vote isn’t very “equal” if someone else’s vote is worth more.

  • The government does not reflect the popular will (by design). The Electoral College has selected a President who did not win the popular vote in two of the past six elections. Democratic senators represent 42 million more people. Half the population is represented by just eighteen of the one hundred senators. The filibuster allows 41 senators representing 10% of the public to block the other 90%. America is not a single country, but rather a collection of states.
  • In 2021, nineteen states passed 34 voter restriction laws. In Florida, it is illegal to offer water to someone in line to vote; Georgia allows counties to eliminate voting on Sundays; Texas limited the number of ballot drop-off locations to one per county (Houston county has 4.7 million people!); Arizona made it illegal to collect and deliver early ballots in bulk.
  • Gerrymandering resulted in Republicans in the House getting 33 more seats — even though they got a million less votes. Computer software can carve out districts on a street-by-street level.
  • Only three states let US prisoners vote, but are counted as residents. There are more than a million prisoners, and 70% of prisons built since 1970 are in rural areas — enhancing their electoral power.
  • A trick is to move a sitting member of Congress into another district!
  • Banning assault weapons is impossible to enact due to an ambiguous sentence written in an era when the only assault weapon was a musket.
  • Supreme Court Justices have the power of judicial review, which is not mentioned in the Constitution. They are life tenured, suffer no consequences, and are not required to recuse themselves from personal involvement. No other democracy has this because it’s not very democratic.
  • Plebiscite (i.e. everyone votes on all issues) can’t govern a nation. A true representative democracy has never been tried.


“Alcoholism is a genetic disease, but what has to happen is you have to trigger it, you have to light the kindling, you’ve got to fuel the flame to get that gene activated.”

  • Delirium tremens — the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. “I have lived and died my recovery. I have suffered the vagaries of fucking hell and come out the other side.”



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