[Link] Thiel on GCRs

post by Milan_Griffes · 2019-07-22T20:47:13.076Z · EA · GW · 11 comments

Peter Thiel & Eric Weinstein discuss global catastrophic risks, including biosecurity and AI alignment, starting at around the 2:33:00 mark of Thiel's interview on Weinstein's new podcast.

tl;dl – Thiel thinks GCRs are a concern, but is also very worried about political violence / violence perpetrated by strong states. He thinks catastrophic political violence is much more likely than GCRs like AI misalignment.

He has some story about political violence becoming more likely when there's no economic growth, and so is worried about present stagnation. (Not 100% sure I'm representing that correctly.)

Also there's an interesting bit about transparency & how transparency often becomes weaponized when put into practice, soon after the GCR discussion.


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comment by RomeoStevens · 2019-07-23T16:54:34.293Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Economic growth likely isn't stagnating, it just looks that way due to some catch up growth effects:


comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-07-23T20:01:30.995Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Seems like there's dispute about this, at least from Russ Roberts' perspective:



comment by RomeoStevens · 2019-07-24T03:46:15.899Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think how the 'middle class' (a relative measure) of the USA is doing is fairly uninteresting overall. I think most meaningful progress at the grand scale (decades to centuries) is how fast is the bottom getting pulled up and how high can the very top end (bleeding edge researchers) go. Shuffling in the middle results in much wailing and gnashing of teeth but doesn't move the needle much. Their main impact is just voting for dumb stuff that harms the top and bottom.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-07-24T06:18:27.810Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Great point.

I like the Russ Roberts videos as demonstrations of how complicated macro is / how malleable macroeconomic data is.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-07-24T20:30:08.453Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Thiel thinks GCRs are a concern, but is also very worried about political violence / violence perpetrated by strong states.

Robin Hanson's latest (a) is related.

Given the stakes, it's a bit surprising that "has risk of war secularly declined or are we just in a local minimum?" hasn't received more attention from EA.

Holden looked at this (a) a few years ago and concluded:

I conclude that [The Better Angels of Our Nature's] big-picture point stands overall, but my analysis complicates the picture, implying that declines in deaths from everyday violence have been significantly (though probably not fully) offset by higher risks of large-scale, extreme sources of violence such as world wars and oppressive regimes.

If I recall correctly, Pinker also spent some time noting that violence appears to be moving to more of a power-law distribution since the early 20th Century (fewer episodes, magnitude of each episode is much more severe).

"War aversion" seems like a plausible x-risk reduction focus area in its own right (it sorta bridges AI risk, biosecurity, and nuclear security).

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-07-24T20:47:38.116Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This chart really conveys the concern at a glance:


(source) (a)

... what if the curve swings upward again?

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-07-22T20:50:00.114Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hacker News comments about the interview, including several by Thiel skeptics.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-07-23T15:04:16.501Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Also Nintil has some good notes (a). (Notes at bottom of post.)

comment by Optimist · 2019-07-25T05:37:02.574Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I have been working on my billionaire VC / EA elevator pitch.

“Money me. Money now. Me a money, needing a lot now.”

What do you think?

The Fed should lower interest rates soon and that will help to create a tighter labor market which will increase wages. The natural rate of unemployment may be a lot lower than previously thought.

Personally, I think this is due to dollarization and how the US exports our inflation to other countries. Our M0 money is often used for currency substitution in countries with a poorly managed central bank. Removing the M0 money supply from the banking system reduces the expected money supply created from fractional reserve banking. The US can and has to keep printing money to satisfy the world demand for dollars.

Nonetheless higher wages will follow after lower interest rates lower unemployment rates. The natural rate of unemployment should be higher but there is a lack of inflation which I believe is from dollarization. A tighter labor market and higher wages will incentivize more research into technology to increase productivity and increase the payoffs from innovations that increase productivity. Why build steam engines if slaves are cheap?

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-07-25T06:21:05.974Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Are these predictions informing your investments? Seems like you could make a lot of money if you're able to predict upcoming macro trends.

comment by Optimist · 2019-08-08T18:15:30.253Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Even if I nailed the macro trends prediction, the Fed lowered interest rates, I cannot predict presidential tweets. Realistically, starting from the bottom you want to invest in low cost index funds.

VCs have a lot of capital to invest and only a few plays can make up for all their losses and then some. Most people cannot beat the market. I could spend all my time trying to squeeze out a few extra percent. However, I still would not know if I am a good investor with smart money or a dumb one who got lucky.

I can compound my investments historically around 10% per year. Including inflation puts the real dollar return at 8% per year. If I want more growth I really need to earn a higher salary. With a tighter job market, from lower interest rates and lower levels of natural unemployment, means switching jobs creates double digit raises. The trend in business is wage compression where people with more experience who continue to work for the same employer are only given inflation wage adjustments but never any real wage growth.


People should invest in index funds since they require no thought and do better than most managed investments. But this also frees up time to change careers and grow your income which is often easier to do, has a better return, and is under their direct control.

The excess income should go into index funds until someone can choose if they want to continue to work.

Index altruism might be a better strategy for most people too. If someone can identify a more altruistic charity that does more good then the efficient market hypothesis should quickly level the playing field. Maybe there is more smart money in investing that becomes dumb money when giving it away?