Note — Apr 26, 2020

I Read the Essay

Seen in → No.123

Source → 99d.substack.com/p/i-read-the-essay

I wasn’t sure if I was going to talk about that Mark Andreessen piece, but its obliviousness to broader systemic issues and social and political challenges was well addressed in the other three pieces, so I decided to include all of them. Plus, the four pair well with the maintenance piece above (yes, Andreessen did have some good ideas nonetheless). I read the essay looks at the difference between “basic” (usually publicly funded) and “applied” scientific research (measurable ROI, focus on commercial applications). In other words, Mariana Mazzucato territory. It’s Time To Learn focuses on the parts missing from Andreessen’s piece, and on learning before acting. Finally Why we can’t build lays out the partisan political issues in the US preventing the kind of building advocated in the original piece.

Like so much by tech luminaries, the essay reads like something written by someone who’s never taken a social studies class or paid attention to politics or history except insofar as it relates to Great Men of Business. […]

Without basic research, scientific progress runs into natural limits and technological progress faces diminishing returns eeking out percentage points of efficiency rather than making great leaps or paradigm shifts. To unlock the next phase of technological and social progress, we need the desire and ambition but we also need the funding. […]

We have refined and enhanced but we have not replaced. Until or unless we fund research at a huge new scale, we will be stuck on our present loops and limited by the boundaries of our basic knowledge. We will feel like we are making progress but we will be living in basically the same world with basically the same rules.