Comments on *Emergent Ventures, a new project to foment enlightenment*

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Highly intriguing. The application process would be easier if there was greater clarity about the criteria for awards, but I imagine that Tyler made that a feature not a bug. There are at least three descriptions of what the project is about, but they each use slightly different combinations of the words "social change", "liberty", "opportunity", "prosperity", and "well-being".

The general idea of what Emergent Ventures is looking for is clear enough, but when it comes to specific ideas it's hard to tell which ones will get approved and which ones will get rejected, with just those descriptions to rely on.

The very brilliant set of donors trust that approvals and rejections will follow the sort of understanding the donors share concerning words like "social change", "liberty", "opportunity", "prosperity", and "well-being."

After all, nobody else's definition matters in the slightest. Which is most definitely a feature, even if one is not able to actually look at any corresponding documentation concerning this bundling of moonshots.

1. A donor would donate if they endorsed Cowen, not because of the specific words on the fundraiser page.
2. It is already well known that you cease to control the wealth the moment you donate. Universities have shown in an abundance of examples that they never mind reallocating available resources contrary to the wishes of the original donors.

What about a merc/assassin squad hunting down oppressive third world dictators? Would that get funding?

You would have to show that the dictator wouldn't be replaced with just another dictator.

Kill that one too, getting out the message all the others to either behave, or else.

Spinning this one further, TC should definitely be on the death panel that identifies the top5 to either go or face an existential risk at any time. I'd call it the Mercatus Mercenaries.

I'm in! 'll need three ships and 50 stout men. We'll sail 'round the horn and return with spices and silk the likes of which ye have never seen.

I'm in! 'll need three ships and 50 stout men. We'll sail 'round the belt and return with minerals and ores the likes of which ye have never seen.

There, a little updating is all it needed.

I wonder what Tyler thinks of such comments. Anyway, I laughed. Thanks Internet.

Since he is a man of refined taste he will see it and fondly remember the classic Simpsons episode it came from

Very cool. In before the usual a-holes tear you a new one for no good reason.

Sounds pretty fuzzy to me, like a lot of what Tyler has written of late. I think the enterprise is a question of trusting Tyler's judgment about such things. As an economist, he's got to be a bit skeptical about $100 bills on the sidewalk, but it happens. It might fizzle or it might be very cool, but Tyler is a lucky man in world historical standards to be in a position to take a crack at something like this. My gut says fizzle though. Prove me wrong Tyler!

I didn't see any indication of Mercatus equity or other interest in the funded projects, so I assume that means Emergent Ventures is not intended to be the venture capital arm of Mercatus but rather only a provider of grants. Is that correct? If a project that receives a grant shows promise, then I assume any funding for its development would come from independent sources such as venture capitalists. I did see that Emergent Ventures is funded by a $1 million grant from the Peter Thiel Foundation; borrowing from Thiel, the project is said to promote "zero to one" ideas. Of course, Thiel has a history of providing seed money for "moonshots", so this generous gift from his foundation is consistent with his past practices. A Thiel-Cowen partnership makes perfect sense: two highly intelligent men who share an abiding interest in the future.

I would like to suggest investing to convince American authorities to recognize Formosa and Tibet and Macao as indepent nations.

And I do not need a fancy device to detect members of the 50 Cent Party.

Why do you hate Kong Kong, Okinawa and Hawaii?

That was supposed to say Hong Kong, not Kong kong or King Kong.

But wait...there's more ...

No, Prof. Cowen is bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world venture capital asshole firms.

'I will personally review each and every application, albeit with additional refereeing assistance from Mercatus, the Mercatus network, and my own personal network'

At least you left the 'GMU community' out of those you are thanking, for which the GMU community is undoubtedly grateful. Of course, the GMU press release had to include that line from the Mercatus press release, to give plausible cover to state resources being used to publicize a venture that has no official connection to the Commonwealth of Virginia. (The rules in the PR dept. were somewhat flexible in the past - a professor's private ventures were not adequate grounds to use state resources in publicizing them, but if one could find another hook involving GMU, you could generally slide by, particularly if you had the proper connections - IHS, for example, tended to be better served than a professor in the Geology Department, for example, but they did not receive automatic state funded PR work merely because they had a speaker appearing 'at' GMU in a space rented by IHS for the occasion).

'Faculty director' is new - since it seems most people have now been adequately convinced of the PR that the Mercatus Center is a part of GMU (as opposed to the wonderfully phrased 'GMU community' - that is high quality PR work), it appears that the next generation will be learning all about Mercatus faculty, under the direction of their esteemed colleague. The strange thing is, since faculty is not really a term with a precise definition, this actually represents a step forward in how the Mercatus Center presents itself.

Would a new formulation - 'Prof. Cowen is bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world venture capital firms' pass the smell test? Clearly, I would not suggest changes to the comment that prompted my response, but it isn't if a press release writer (privately or state employed) would reasonably fear any problems for such a text - a good portion of which is already in use, as no PR department has ever worried about plagiarizing itself.

Didn't read prior_approval's comment above, but hopefully he puts all that in his application.

Moon shots are for baby boomers remembering the glory days of the 1960s, and not actually much of an example of a high-reward idea.

If we had continued on to Mars, built L5 habitats and powersats, created lunar colonies, sent probes to explore the resources of the asteroid belt - well, those all seem like the sort of high reward ideas floating around in the 1970s.

But science and engineering is hard - much better to focus on ensuring that the rich get richer. And one should look at the disclaimer on the application page, as even Microsoft was a tad more careful when cherry picking ideas to exploit - 'and also to send them to outside referees, as well as to discuss them internally.'

Of course, if you wish to believe that Thiel et al are not more than happy to collect a bunch of ideas and choose which ones they will provide further funding for, in exchange for a reasonable equity position, well, this is the MR comments page.

Cut outs are not just a concept used by tawdy real estate magnates, after all.

Curious timing considiring the advent of IRS' new Opportunity Zones intiative. Redeploying capital gains into newly created areas with preferential tax treatment to spur innovation 3.0

If I didn't have two small children and a full time job (which I like a lot), I would be totally into this. Check back with me in 10 years.

Not sure if this boils down to an optimistic or pessimistic position, but I think everything in the world is being tried right now as we speak. It is just chance and then network effects which determine what will prosper. It is probably even chaotic, with butterfly wings leading to Donald Trump or Jordan Peterson.

I have nothing against this Emergent Ventures effort, but I view it as mostly harmless.

Emergence, and a chaotic system, appears and is not selected.

'mostly harmless'

In other words, don't panic?

I really wish I had done that correctly:

"Emergence, *in* a chaotic system.."

Same for me. That's a great idea and I hope it finds worthy and completely original projects to support.

Peterson is really an odd thing to drop in at this point.

Yet in a July appearance on the comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast, Jordan Peterson explained how Mikhaila’s experience had convinced him to eliminate everything but meat and leafy greens from his diet, and that in the last two months he had gone full meat and eliminated vegetables. Since he changed his diet, his laundry list of maladies has disappeared, he told Rogan. His lifelong depression, anxiety, gastric reflux (and associated snoring), inability to wake up in the mornings, psoriasis, gingivitis, floaters in his right eye, numbness on the sides of his legs, problems with mood regulation—all of it is gone, and he attributes it to the diet.

Sunk cost fallacy?

Well, one certainly hopes that Peterson will not follow his meat only diet to its inevitable conclusion. Which might not include any of the conditions he has said it has cured, but scurvy remains an unpleasant way to die, if a variety of historical sources are to be believed.

In the darkest interpretation, Tyler knows that Peterson is reduced to "scurvy to own the libs," but it is still a model of "new right" or "dark web" success.

What the donors want more of?

To be honest, it would surprise me if even a third of those very brilliant set of donors have any idea who Peterson is.

People willing to spend a few hundred thousand dollars at a throw to allow Prof. Cowen to promote social change, liberty, opportunity, prosperity, and well-being are not the sort of people watching youtube for a masculine figure to emulate. Though hopefully not the beef only diet. (In all fairness to Peterson, at least it does not make him seem like a shill - there seems extremely little chance to make money off such dietary nonsense.)

One might interpret that self-report as a progression of his symptoms, not an elimination of them.

That was pretty good.

Two weeks ago I started an all-popcorn diet and now I feel AMAZING. My gingivitis is gone and I can see in X-rays!

I have so many ideas, so if someone wants to steal any of them feel free.

#1 - the randomly assigned friends class. Pick a socially diverse group of people. Randomly assign them in pairs to be friends with each other. Mandatory hanging out and getting to know each other. make them write essays about what they have learned and report back on it to the rest of the class. Students to be graded on how well they are able to overcome race, gender, class, and other social barriers.

#2. A board game that teaches people the theory of comparative advantage. Kind of like Risk, where everyone gets a country, only instead of making war, you exchange goods. Different countries have different advantages, and they have to decide what products to produce and then trade them.

Re: #2, this board game already exists and is called Container. One of the best microeconomic tabletop games in existence: production specialization, floating valuations, discount rates, auction theory and more. It's fantastic. Unfortunately, despite a recent 10th anniversary edition it can be difficult to track down a copy.

Maybe we need a simpler version that can be played by third-graders.

That game sounds intriguing, I'll have to look for it.

Do you have any skin the game other than your "personal judgment", which can't be determined for at least five to ten years for most ventures...and who (other than you) will be able to verify the success or failure of the ventures?

'Do you have any skin the game other than your "personal judgment"'

Finally, somebody thinking like a public choice economist, asking about the person playing games with other people's money, and what the goals of those games might be.

'who (other than you) will be able to verify the success or failure of the ventures'

Not to privy to any internal Mercatus Center documentation, but what makes you think that the point of this PR exercise has, at best, more than a tangential relationship with the actual ventures? The cynical question is whether it is the second round of funding, in return for an equitable equity stake of course, that decides which projects are deemed successful.

And only the extremely cynical would point out that this resembles a way to avoid taxes while funding start-ups through a tax-deductible contribution.

Still a couple more milestones to go in the comments, however.

Engendering confusion?

"Fomenting 'enlightenment'" ("enlightenment" is a self-evident good, or have consensus views emerged courtesy of competing cost/benefit analyses that enlightenment's benefits always exceed its costs?)?

--OR "fomenting 'conspicuous philanthropy' (cf. "philanthropist: a misanthrope with disposable wealth or discretionary income")"?

You know, I was just thinking, wouldn't this be interesting if it was opened up to crowdfunding? Of course there are already crowdfunding charity sites, but one that was pre-filtered for libertarian ideas would be helpful to those of us who don't have that much time to browse kickstarter.

The next big thing is automating the banker function, especially the central banker function. The big goal is to remove humans from the currency issuing function altogether.

Create a legitimate mining company in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Better yet, create three legitimate mining companies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Pay the fees, get the business up and running according to the local laws, no matter how byzantine and arcane. Reinvest all profits, if any, into the business or local diversification.

Sort of the contrapositive hypothesis of broken windows. Create a functional industry in spite of all obstacles, and a functional economic culture and functional economy will emerge.

One thing the US needs to boost its future technological and GDP growth is a popular fictional work that promotes futurism.

Right now we are inundated with techno-pessimism and neo-Luddism from FUD-laden headlines on AI, and works like Black Mirror. People who think that "ethical and philosophical problems" will not be solved to our liking or that we can't adapt. We need thinking like Three Body Problem, where humans must embrace transformative technology to survive as a species - and the future comes in unexpected ways where people manage to adjust.

Wondering if any one has actually submitted a moonshot idea?

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