Phew, this was hard! 50 is pretty hard, there’s a lot of value in pushing yourself to do even 30. Another option for next time is to time limit instead: “you have 15 minutes, how many ways can you think of?”
Here are my 50:
Dig a hole and bury it
Disassemble it and give each piece to a trusted family
Place it into a lockbox at a reputable bank
Store it in a drawer and include detailed instructions in my will
Find Einstein’s parents and give them the pen
Place it in a drawer with a sealed letter describing what should be done if found
Put it in a tree’s branches
Carve a hole in a tree trunk and place it in the hole
Seal it in a chest and drop it in a lake with an anchor
Glue it to one of those tortoises that lives a long time
Photograph or draw it, make a replica in 50 years
Keep it in an important document like my passport, moving it each time I renew
Convince the Pope the pen is holy and must be preserved
Convince a museum the pen is fine art and should be displayed
Carry it everywhere I go
Give it to a stranger with a promise to pay them if they return it in a year. Repeat 50 times
Become a head of state and pass a law to protect the pen
Start a pen manufacturing company and produce millions of copies of the pen
Start a pen-worshipping cult
Negotiate with the evil forces to return the pen to me later
Convince the evil forces to give the pen to Einstein
Place it in a sewer
Start a family and teach my kids to protect the pen
Join the evil forces, work my way to power, and change the organization’s objective
Infiltrate the evil forces and assassinate their leadership
Give the evil forces a counterfeit pen
Change my name so the evil forces can’t find me
Become a hermit living in a cave
Learn self-defense to protect the pen if attacked by evil forces
Hand the evil forces the pen and then take it back, as they “obtained” it
Give the evil forces the part of the pen they want and replace it
Invent time travel and send the pen to the future
Invent space travel and send the pen to space
Place the pen in a body to be buried
Place the pen in the foundation of a new building
Shoot the pen high into the atmosphere so that it circles the earth for 50 years before landing
Place at the bottom of a jar of pennies
Place at the bottom of a chewing tobacco spittoon
Disguise as a record player’s needle
Just keep it on my desk amongst my regular pens
Hide it in a residential attic
Hide it in a mattress
Hire a private security team to guard the pen
Protect the pen in a secure facility with booby traps
Convince the evil forces they don’t really want the pen
Hide the pen in the handle of a sword
Ass pen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w12RKy966OU)
Start a foundation and place the pen in trust
Tag someone else “it”, now they have to hide the pen
Forget about the pen, Einstein will probably write his papers anyway
That’s a great catch, thanks! With that correction as a final step, I feel much better about my initial estimate!
How many miles of train tracks exist in the world?
Radius of Earth = ~3,000 miles
Surface area of earth = 4 x pi x r^2 = 1.13 × 10^8 = ~10^8
25% of the earth is land
10% of the land “needs” tracks
.1% of that land actually is tracks
10^8 x .25 x .1 x .001 = 2,500 miles
This feels obviously wrong, so let’s buff the numbers:
Radius = 5,000 miles, 30% of the surface is land, 25% “needs” track, .5% of the land is tracks
3.14 x 10^8 x .35 x .2 x .005 = ~110,000 miles
Let’s round that off to 100,000 miles.
Edit: Thanks to the comment from @philh, I see that I calculated square miles rather than linear miles. Assuming the width of a track is 1/1000 of a mile:
2500 x 1000 = ~2.5 million miles
This feels reasonable, so if I had performed that step, I would not have done a second round of estimation.
How many metric tons of air freight cargo shipped globally in 2009, and in 2019 (either by commercial airlines or specialized freight companies)?
How much stuff did I order? Everything I use was shipped from somewhere.
Amount of stuff I ordered last year: 200 pounds
That feels low when I think about heavy food and drink containers, so let’s bump to 1,000 pounds
My share of infrastructure “stuff” feels smaller than that, so no modifier.
Most of the world uses less stuff than I do (age, affluence), so nudge it down to 700 pounds.
A ton is 2,000 pounds
Population of the world: 7 billion
7 billion * 700 / 2,000 = ~2.5 billion
Let’s assume 2% growth per year
1.02^10 = 1.22
2.5 billion / 1.22 = ~2 billion
2019: 2.5 billion tons
2009: 2 billion tons
After reading the answers from others, I’ve realized that I assumed all freight was by air. If I had considered that, I would apply a discount factor, revising significantly downward. Keeping my original answer in the spirit of the exercise.
Thanks for posting these updates regularly! One quick formatting note: region ordering in the Positive Tests section is different from the earlier sections.
Have you seen https://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/best-in-show-whats-the-top-data-dog/ ?
I purchased zinc lozenges, high dose Vitamin C, and HCQ many months ago. I am trying to decide for action now, or as a pre-commit for later, on what is most appropriate to take.
For shopping, the internet exists!
I’ve loved Wirecutter’s reviews for many years, but have occasionally been disappointed by their recommendations. It’s hard to say whether their quality has actually gone down or if the success/miss ratio is constant.
External hard drive (pre-2016): no mention whatsoever of RPM, which is widely regarded as critical information when choosing a non-SSD hard drive. They didn’t even include a blurb saying that RPM doesn’t matter.
Bath towels (2019): Pasting my own comment: “I ordered a set of Frontgate towels based on this recommendation. After fewer than five washes (cold normal cycle with standard detergent, line dry), the towels aren’t plush at all. The towels arrived feeling luxurious and spa-like, but after only a few uses they feel drab and normal.” They updated their towel recommendations a week ago and Frontgate remains their top choice. I feel like I wasted several hundred dollars on an extensive set of pretty average towels. If I’m washing them wrong, it would have been nice for them to reply and update their care instructions.
Broom (2020): It’s...fine. Maybe my expectations were set too high, but I thought it would be the Best Broom, not just a broom.
I think pointing at anything you want better conveys the nature of L4. You could describe L0 as “I don’t point”.
Thank you, Zvi, I’ve really enjoyed your simulacra posts and found them to be very insightful. As I read this post, I came up with my own formulation of the levels that feels useful:
L1: I point at something.
L2: I point at you.
L3: I point at myself.
L4: I point wherever I want.
“Overall, Chesterton’s Fence needs context.”
This is literally the point of Chesterton’s Fence.
My real answer to what went wrong is that our civilization is profoundly inadequate. We have lost our ability to do things.
Civilization is made of people, and people aren’t wired for scale. We haven’t lost our ability to do things, we never had it. We have only ever done things at scale by accident, or for short periods of time (mostly wars and the Space Race).
When you live in a village of ~100 people, either you figure out norms for drought/famine/disease/etc quickly, or >90% of your community dies and the rest scatter.
In major cities, it’s fundamentally an issue of everyone-for-themselves. You walk down the street and see a bunch of strangers. You may wish they were wearing masks, but there’s no social norm. The norms are enforced at shops, waiting in line, entering with reduced capacity, wearing a mask (or not) in both cases.
If not enough people care on average, your friendly neighborhood megalopolis is doomed.
If the market regularly reacts to public statements of inefficiency (“stocks systematically rise on the third Thursday of each month but only under a waxing moon”) by eliminating it, then this is *refutation* of the efficient market hypothesis.
Inefficiencies are priced in when they are: obvious, easy, and safe,. A non-obvious inefficiency is a true hidden edge. A non-easy inefficiency has a high barrier (capital, technical, physical, etc) to entry. A non-safe inefficiency has a high social barrier to entry.
Because names have power, I dub this the Passive Market Hypothesis.
Great review! Have you taken a look at Gwent? It’s currently scratching the Hearthstone itch for me.
For syncing dotfiles and config generally: https://github.com/lra/mackup
For managing programming languages: https://github.com/asdf-vm/asdf
You may be undervaluing, or at least under-emphasizing, the idea of strategically ejecting from a maze. If your LinkedIn profile is accurate, you currently make a living as a trader. Your ability to execute on that is likely heavily influenced by your time in (firm’s) maze, both in terms of knowledge capital and financial capital you extracted from the maze.
It is plausible that spending a few years in a maze is +EV for a relevant fraction of people, and that “know what you’re signing up for and plan your exit strategy from day 0” is better advice than “avoid at all costs”.
The text immediately and irrevocably rewired my brain, to the degree that I stopped reading and thought to myself, “I don’t know the full consequences yet, but whatever just happened in my head is staggeringly important to my personal development.” I was right.
I’ve been trying to succinctly describe my insight for about three years. The best I have so far is this: people are the person who arrived at a moment, not the person in the moment. For the more mathematically inclined, individuals are the integral of their experiences, not the sum.
In practice, it was like suddenly developing empathy and a theory of mind in the span of 60 seconds. While reading fan fiction of fan faction.