My Conversation with Mark Zuckerberg and Patrick Collison

Facebook tweets:.

@patrickc, CEO of Stripe, and @tylercowen, economist at George Mason University, sit down with our CEO, Mark Zuckerberg to discuss how to accelerate progress.

Video, audio, and transcript here, part of Mark’s personal challenge for the year, an excellent event all around.  This will also end up as part of CWT.

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Tyler never got to the point of asking him to open wallet for the fund.

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A better conversation if it included someone who didn't agree with the three amigos. These three are discussing the absence of progress and what needs to be done to spur progress, three people who greatly profit from the way things are. Yea, right these three want change.

I'm not criticizing the three amigos, three very smart people. But the first half of the discussion was mostly about the progress made in places like China, progress that boosted profits of American companies including Stripe and Facebook (American companies advertise on Facebook products made in China). America doesn't invest in infrastructure because America's elite don't want to invest in infrastructure. Why would they want to pay more in taxes to construct infrastructure when without the investment in infrastructure everything is great for them.

A counterpoint is that empirically arriving at the causes of progress would only serve to shame anyone standing in the way of progress accelerators. If increased infrastructure spending would marginally galvanize progress in America, and for whatever reason Mark Zuckerberg is opposed to that, then encouraging studies which conclude that we need to spend more on infrastructure would be counterproductive for him. Doubly so for more expensive social programs. Of course, this all assumes that a material amount of progress researchers aren't captured by the rich and don't respond to any malincentives which may exist. I agree that they should have invited a detractor though.

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No need to backtrack. What you said is dead on. Too much ass-kissing not enough critical thinking from our soi-disant thought leaders.

It's "Conversations with Tyler", not "Debates with Tyler".

A debate format is rarely enlightening, because talking heads talk past each other and focus on scoring debating points and staying on message.

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I get that you're not there to confront Mark Zuckerberg about anything, but it's bizarre that you're sitting there talking about the importance of productivity and maximizing economic growth, while the machine Mark built helps entrench the power of a political party that is proudly ignorant and holds horrifyingly wrongheaded ideas like "Trade Wars are easy to win".

you're not proud of your ignorance? You've got a lot to be proud of.

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I'm sure that discussion was beyond mere human comprehension...

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Beginning, paraphrased: “Progress is extraordinary yet sporadic, it is a moral imperative that gives us options and resources to fight problems, and we should study and fund it more.”
“Yes, but it’s important to note that the fruits of progress haven’t been widely shared by everyone.”
True, but this is all the more reason to study progress! Not just to increase and sustain it, but to better distribute it.

The conversation is also interesting in its group dynamics. Mark Zuckerberg is trying so hard to be inoffensive that it’s stifling; his insight per minute is way smaller than Tyler’s or Patrick’s (excluding the questions) even though he’s brilliant. So Tyler turns the interview into an actual conversation by asking him some questions and getting Patrick to as well. That both disarms Zuck and engages him.

I bet Tyler is a wonderful host. Managing conversations at dinner parties: underrated!

It's hard to hang out on this blog and not end up liking Tyler. One of those genuinely nice classical liberals and small-r rationalists. He needs to loosen up more, have a few drinks once in a while, but apart from that, he's cool.

It's a shame his love of reason will ultimately beget a thought-crime and get him excommunicated and cancelled by progressives who he is desperately trying to help.

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Agreed – I was struck how Mark responded to Tyler's questions (CWT provides enough practice); it's the first time I've seen him talk with the confident approachable intelligence he obviously has (though, I understandably haven't spent that much time watching videos of Mark talking).

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Great, the transcript is a PDF file with enormous walls of text. Thanks, Obama.

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If liberalizing big city zoning laws is so important, I’d love to see Mark donate a $milllion or so to YIMBY and other orgs. Those guys run on a shoe-string budget

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Mark Zuckerberg mentioned the explosion in health care costs, but they have been pretty flat as a percentage of GDP since 2009.

Tyler said: "...we used to spend a few percentage points of GDP on healthcare, and now it's about 18%. So we've gone up to 18%, and we're not even boosting the rate. ...There's some kind of last-mile problem. You can turn to the newspapers and read all kinds of fantastic stories--new research, new ideas, new tools--but when the rubber hits the road, people living longer, we're spending more and more and more for exactly the same returns."

We haven't been "spending more and more and more" for a decade and there haven't been "exactly the same returns." In 1970, the U.S. healthcare expenditure was 6% of GDP and life expectancy was 67.1 years for males and 70.1 years overall. Healthcare costs were 13.3% of GDP in 1998 and life expectancy increased to 76.7 years. In 2018, healthcare costs were 17.9% and life expectancy was 78.7 years.

The problem is no-one believes Healthcare expenditures are first order drivers for life expectancy.

It's all lifestyle. Eat sensibly. Exercise lightly. Minimise narcotic use. Have a non-manual job. You'll make 80, baring bad luck, and you haven't spent a dollar on "healthcare".

I'd be surprised if that 18% was buying more than 2 years of added life expectancy beyond what the first 4 lifestyle factors could account for.

Healthcare expenditures don't have to be first order drivers (not clear) to see that the claim the U.S. keeps spending more and more for no improvement is almost certainly not correct.

Since 1970, the smoking rate has decreased from 35% to 14% while the obesity rate has increased from 12% to 40%.

But how come no one connects those dots? Smoking is an appetite suppressant. Do the math.

Because it isn't nearly that simple.

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The download doesn't seem to work

Try another browser? I couldn't download it with Firefox, but Chrome was fine.

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How can people --with the intelligence these three supposedly possess-- accept the premise of manmade climate change in light of the lack of science supporting this premise?!

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Key statement by Tyler:

The incentive is to build a brick and to build a brick that can survive scrutiny by referees. The incentive is not to build a building, in most cases. Biomedicine actually is often different. But in the social sciences, so, there's so many bricks out there and so people wanna say, oh, we're already studying this. It's correct, the bricks are there in the millions. But the bricks and the buildings are a different thing.

YES! Bricks and buildings, big difference. The academic world is, for the most part, structured for the creation of bricks. Buildings, they do get built, but who knows where or how.

Here's my blog post on that: Tyler Cowen on the difference between bricks and buildings in the construction of knowledge [Or: Why the academy stands in the way of deep a understanding of human behavior, mind, and society].

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I was pleasantly surprised by the substance of the discussion. That being said, there seems to be a trend where everyone knows the solution to the problem, but no one is willing to admit it or "go there."

A few things:

1) Cowen says he is interested in long-term solutions for economic growth, even at the 40 year time-horizon. The most empirically-validated prerequisite for transitioning from a third-world to first-world nation is IQ. Why is it off limits for third world governments -- which are often autocracies -- to subsidize higher IQ adults to have more children, while disincentivizing lower IQ individuals from having many children?

In particular, for the lowest say, 5% of IQ individuals (who will have accompanying behavioral problems + criminality) in the developing world, why not fund sterilization, along with some minimal government benefit program to help them? Over 1 - 2 generations, along with increased literacy from smart phone usage, this could have a profound effect.

2) Along the lines of 1), pushing for a reduction in cousin-based marriages is also easy, low-hanging fruit, that is worthy of subsidies. Has there been a World Bank or IMF program that funded either (1) or (2)? Maybe they could learn something from the Catholic church of the 15th century.

3) The cure to global warming has always been sensible nuclear power. There are some places where renewables may work. In a vast majority of places, they will not.

4) Cowen talks about immigration as a conduit for the exchange of ideas. There is a certain irony to this, since education (secondary and post-secondary) is probably the most ideologically one-dimensional sector in all of our economy, which perhaps not surprisingly, is the most bloated and scam-like.

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That was very underwhelming. I'm surprised Zuck is that bad at being clear and concise: he just rambles and has problems following a coherent thread for more than a couple of sentences.

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Zuckerberg was more articulate and interesting than I thought. Seemed like he was testing talking points for future run though - alot less phony and awkward than Mayo Pete at least.

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Didn't look at the content, but the Zuck thinks it's good for his image to appear on a stage discussing deep stuff with public intellectual extraordinaire Tyler Cowen. If Cowen has an agent that arranges such stuff, give him a pat on the back, and if Cowen does all this himself, he should pat himself on the back. As far as the public intellectual business goes, this is playing major league ball.

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actually another great conversation.
yes Mark could use some help framing the conversations. maybe by overpreparing or getting some external assistance to manage/start the conversation. but once he was in stride he was showing his intelligence and interest.

I am ignorant. but am fascinated by economics. I like that economists are becoming the crown jewel of business.

I would expect a better measure of GDP - is there something that adjusts for cost of living?

cost of living itself is an interesting metric. I would want a cost of living = 0 to be an aspirational goal. (queue ideas about basic income. socialized business investment. eliminating minimum wages. right to work. things that will lower GDP BUT magnify the shit out of quality of life).

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I find Patrick Collison insanely hard to listen to.

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What was the software package that MZ mentioned at minute 55:21 that in the transcripts is recorded as [indistinct]? It is a software package to help quantify scientific images.

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