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December 2020 Updates

Hey Friends,

Hope you're doing well and found a fun and safe way to celebrate Thanksgiving!

As the year draws to a close I'm getting reflective; how have I been doing, what should I do more/less of in 2021, ya know, the classic questions. And I'm interested in your perspective - you can leave me anonymous feedback at my admonymous form, sharing your general take and opinions on ben goldhaber.

…yes, this was always going to be a navel-gazey kind of newsletter, idk what to tell you. On to the content!

#writing

Uniswap Simulation: I created a simple simulation of the Uniswap protocol, an automated liquidity provider on the Ethereum blockchain. If you're interested in a basic intro to the tool and how arbitrage and liquidity providing impact the system dynamics, check it out. I also recorded a short explainer video.

Outside View ETF: My proposal for an "index fund" of prediction market/aggregator forecasts. Just like in the real stock market, it rarely makes sense to individually pick stocks, rather, many investors buy a portfolio that reflect an underlying model of the world. We can create similar products in forecasting competitions.

#good-content

Frost/Nixon: Slow pacing and introspection made it a compelling film about a period in American history that I know little about but has clear parallels to today.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Lovely. Can't believe I didn't see it sooner, this is the type of genre-bending film that you mull over for days after watching.

Easy A: This is one of my favorite 'teen comedies'. Just a delightful, light hearted movie.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture: Really funny 'mockumentary' (in a sense) of the founder of National Lampoon.

An American Pickle: I watched it on Marg Rev's recommendation and I found it fun and incisive. The original short story is worth a read too.

Laws of Tech: Commoditize Your Complement: Classic essay from Gwern describing a strategy where tech companies become monopolies by growing the market such that complements to their product become generic commodities (ex. an OS running on generic hardware).

On Gender Roles: A thoughtful piece from Aella describing the gender roles of her extremely Christian childhood, and exploring the different responsibilities in traditional gender role systems.

The Second Decade of Synthetic Biology: It's really incredible how much our knowledge of biology, and ability to engineer synthetic biologics, has advanced over the past decade. The mRNA vaccine developed in record time to fight the pandemic is an example, building upon the transformation of biology from a natural science into an engineering discipline.

I should have loved biology: Speaking of biology, I strongly agree with the sentiment in this essay that the way we traditionally learn about biology fails to capture the awesomeness of it all."Enormous subjects are best approached in thin, deep slices."

My Mental Models: Another short but impactful collection of heuristics from Laura Demming. Part of what I want to do with my notes is create a long term archive of principles and mental models like these to remind myself and share with others, so I love to see other examples.

Vasculoid: An extremely detailed technical design for a completely artificial vascular system to replace human arteries. I didn't actually read this - it's too long and way too specific - but I find it inspirational. This is the level of ambition we need.

Open Questions about the Universe. Robin Hanson lists 40 big questions about the universe - ex. How willing are most aliens to cooperate with us, instead of competing, when will artificial machines replace biology in running & doing things. It's useful every now and again to take a step back from the Twitter argument of the day and consider the grand-scale questions.

Have a happy new year,

Ben

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