Wolf is a former mechanical engineer and the editor-in-chief at Palladium mag.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Will Jarvis 0:04
Hey folks, I’m William Jarvis, along with my dad, Dr. David Jarvis. I host the podcast narratives. narratives is a project exploring the ways in which the world is better than it has been the ways it is worse in the past or making a better, more definite future. I hope you enjoy it.
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. You can get on our mailing list, find show notes, transcripts, as well as videos at Nerdist podcast.com. Thanks. Well, hey, Wolf, how are you doing today?
Wolf Tivy 0:45
I’m great. How about you?
Will Jarvis 0:46
Doing great. Thanks so much for coming on. I’ve been enjoying palladium for quite a while. And it’s a pleasure to get to chat with you today. Wolf, could you just give a brief bio, and maybe some of the big things you’re interested in?
Wolf Tivy 1:00
Yeah, okay. Um, let’s see, I was trained as an engineer in Canada, mechanical engineering. And I worked in that for a little while on fuel cells, and some other sort of green technology stuff. And then I got bored, I guess, and realized there were other problems, or that maybe engineering wasn’t what we needed, that the biggest problems that we were faced with weren’t actually engineering problems, we know how to solve those problems. And it was other kinds of barriers that were sort of holding back progress. And so, you know, I went and tried to find my own thing, tried to find my own path for a while and ended up building an intellectual network around looking at the problem of governance. And then recently, I recently my story, it’s not so recent now. But three years ago, 2018, we started palladium magazine, which was basically, to serve as the flagship magazine of this network that I, these ideas that I’ve been putting together with my friends. Around governance, we wanted to basically have a magazine where we could represent a point of view outside of what’s sort of currently the mainstream view, but not not getting into sort of the fringe edge, whatever, you know, that sort of dominates the kind of alternative conversations, we wanted something that was really, really putting forth kind of a real alternative way of thinking and to develop that it was an open ended project, right? We identified these problems, we hadn’t identified fully solutions. So we wanted to kind of have this open ended intellectual problem, intellectual project, project of how do we how are we to understand the historical moment? And how do we how are we to understand what’s holding us back and where we have to go? So and we kind of centered that around this conversation about governance. Anyway, so that’s, that’s my story and the story of palladium. Happy to answer more questions, if there’s more detail you want anywhere in there?
Will Jarvis 3:04
That’s great. Well, what was it? Was there a single moment where you realized, you know, okay, governance, that’s the big challenge I need to work on? Or was it kind of a slow slide? Like, you
Wolf Tivy 3:13
know, it just kind of accumulated? Oh, man, yeah. So, um, since sort of, I don’t know, I kind of have this saying that I sort of like became sentient at 15, you know? I don’t know. It’s weird. There was this click where I started thinking about issues larger than myself. And I think it was around that it was sometime kind of high school, right? And since then, I’ve always been thinking about sort of the Grand fate of things, where are we going? What should we be doing at the highest level. And now obviously, that was quite a bit before what I’m talking about with with zeroing in on governance, but that’s kind of the spirit that’s in the background. So I had always been studying things and trying to figure things out and formulate my ideas and put forth my ideas and all this. And then, I think sometime around 2011 2012 2013, I really got into a bunch of new ideas, and sort of very deeply changed my view of the world. And I wouldn’t say it was like a singular moment, but there was sort of a definite transformation there. And then from that, that still wasn’t quite the governance thing. That was where I started to see new problems. And I started to really see things in a different way. I think I had had a more like naive viewpoint before that, and I really kind of opened my eyes to a lot of things. And, and I looked at these problems that we could see and I realized they were basically governance problems that something had gone wrong in government and Yeah, and and that that took a long time, a lot of reasoning to figure out like, what is actually the right way to push on this, like even something that sort of you think, Oh, yeah, it’s obviously a governance problem. There’s all these, like different approaches, right? And you start a company, do you start a political movement? Do you start, you know, just talk about it intellectually, you know, raise raise awareness. Like, there’s all kinds of things you could do there. And but I realized that actually the big bottleneck, after, you know, obviously talking about this with with my friends and collaborators for quite a while we realized that the big bottleneck was, we actually don’t know what we’re doing with running a civilization. We don’t have a clear paradigm for that. The paradigms we do have are, in my opinion, not very good. I could say more strong things in Apple. And, and, yeah, so so we were like, thinking this problem through and we realize, okay, what we need here is to really think this problem through and really come up with better solutions. And once you have better solutions, once you have convinced the powers that be, or whatever powers will be on the fact that we should govern civilization well, and how to do that. And then built the institutional structures necessary to do so then suddenly, all these other problems become obviously problems that just get solved as a consequence of approaching the core problem correctly. So that was, that was my reasoning. I’m not going into detail on what the particular problems were, because I don’t think that they matter. It was it was just, you know, things that had piqued my interest. But I realized that there was this sort of problem of governance that was much bigger than that.
Will Jarvis 6:52
Gotcha, that that makes a lot of sense. Do you think there’s anything about your perspective that’s informed or you’re from British Columbia? Is that correct? Or at least what Yeah, that’s
Wolf Tivy 7:01
right. That’s right. I’m actually in British Columbia right now. I’ve escaped from California for COVID. It was not as useful to be paying Bay Area, you know, so I came back to British Columbia to be with my family and, and spend the summer of appear on the beaches.
Will Jarvis 7:19
It’s a It’s a beautiful place, I spent a day there on a layover while going to China a couple years ago, and it was as beautiful. But yeah, do you think there’s, there’s something about being like, kind of like on the board, like, you can almost peek over and look at America and see all the problems we have from almost a third party perspective? Do you think there’s something to that, that maybe helped formulate some of these ideas?
Wolf Tivy 7:41
Yeah, there’s a few things. There’s a few things. Um, so I mean, I think the first and most obvious result of my living in British Columbia is as I’m something of an environmentalist. So this this, you know, I grew up in it, we grew up going out into the woods, you know, being very engaged with his conservation efforts and so on. Because in British Columbia, it’s very obvious, right? You go out in the woods, and you see these beautiful old growth forests is incredibly majestic, dignified, beings, trees, right. And the whole ecosystem is built around that. And then you see these black hole clearcuts, right. It’s like, oh, man, all right, we’ve got to be doing something better than that. Yeah, so that’s, that’s one of the like, the deepest things. And that comes through in palladium occasionally. It’s not central to us, but it’s something that I, I think it’s important. So I put it in there, I don’t think it causes a problem. A second thing is, I think, as a Canadian, or growing up as a Canadian, at least, I am actually an American citizen, but I didn’t really receive a American political education. So I don’t have some of the same commitments and prejudices, and, in my opinion, false models that I see among my American friends. And we could go into detail there if you want. But basically, there’s a lot of really subtle cultural stuff that is very different. Coming down just to things like, you know, we would have, we would have friends, you know, outside the city, who are, you know, we’re like, kind of urban, secular, whatever. I was raised Unitarian. And, you know, we have these friends outside the city, they’re, you know, traditional Christian, kind of conservative types. Yeah. Small business owners out and out, sort of almost in the wilderness. And, you know, we’d be friends with family friends. No, no problem. It’s like, you know, you vote for different parties. Occasionally, there’s an argument about it on some family trip or whatever, but like, it’s, it’s, it was very tame politically, in terms of like political divides. That’s one of these big things. Where I like to say the psyop doesn’t cross the border. But it is really interesting. There, there are no bumper stickers in British Columbia, there are bumper stickers in, in Washington. And and it’s it’s just somehow a lot of it emotional investment in the political process is not there in Canada, specifically the American political process, which is the one that has sort of the most international importance. Anyway, so I think that actually did affect my worldview and affects my way of approaching things, I have fewer of the sort of deep emotional commitments to certain things that other people do have. The third thing is that Vancouver is this interesting little time capsule, where, you know, Kenyan government isn’t very ambitious. The Vancouver government isn’t very ambitious, I think they should be in both cases they aren’t. Canada is not part of the United States. So it’s a little bit neglected. From that perspective, Vancouver obviously falls under that label. So Vancouver is this little kind of forgotten place. And the the interesting demographic result of that is you get a lot of people who escape from East Coast institutional kind of upper middle class official life. They come to Vancouver in the last generation, or they come from other places in the world, where, where they’re just kind of like, fleeing the process of history or whatever, right. And they end up in Vancouver, and their kids are still from these ambitious backgrounds, but now in this very unambitious place. And so you get an interesting, Vancouver has this interesting underground, a very interesting young people, they tend to leave. But occasionally things happen. And one of the things that happened was my network, we, a bunch of us randomly found each other through various means, including internet and just a bunch of sort of ambitious young people who are really interested in some of these larger issues, but had no existing structure around us that that was engaging us with them. Anyway, so that’s, that’s this. I don’t know if, if that argument is coming through clearly, but I think there’s something there that that there is this like weird kind of underground. Not even a single underground, but just a phenomenon that has happened in Vancouver in the last like, let’s say, 30 years.
Will Jarvis 12:41
That’s really cool. But it’s really interesting. And it kind of paints like, the catalyst for palladium and the network. I really liked that.
Wolf Tivy 12:48
I mean, like, like the editors of palladium. So Jonah, and I founded it, Jonah, and I, both from Vancouver ash, his work has been working with us pretty much the whole time. And he’s now the editorial team is now me and ash. We’re all from Vancouver, and a lot of a lot of our a lot of our best writers as well. So it’s Yeah, so there is this little Vancouver circle that kind of kicked the thing off. That’s awesome. The Vancouver mob.
Unknown Speaker 13:15
Will Jarvis 13:15
what are some of those narratives, you know, that, you know, we get indoctrinated with here in America, that you see. And as an outsider, you’re like, wow, you know, when I when I can definitely say just internalize like, American exceptionalism, you know, we’re exceptionally fat, we’re exceptionally, you know, perhaps arrogant, you know, and there’s all these things, and, you know, but then we are exceptionally wealthy as well. So, you know, just like trade offs, but what are some of the big narratives that you see is probably problematic and, and bad for American growth and development? That makes sense at some spiritual? Yeah,
Wolf Tivy 13:48
yeah. No, I think that’s a great question. So one of them, these are very subtle, like I mentioned. So it’s hard to really articulate at least the ones that really get in me. I mean, there’s, there’s some of the obvious ones, right, just in terms of like, party divide, whatever, blah, blah, blah, but one of them is a certain orientation towards career and relationships, which is more shallow. I’m not gonna like, I’m not comparing to Canada here. I, you know, I, Canadians may well be just as bad whatever it was, though. My way of thinking ended up a little bit different than this. And so the I’m critiquing American way of thinking from my perspective, not necessarily a Canadian perspective. Again, I’m also American. So anyways, yeah, there’s this this particular sort of career ism is individualism around career and relationships and and material commitments that I think is really harmful. People have this ideal of kind of this middle class. As life they have this ideal of kind of progress in their career, you know, everyone wants to be a leader, everyone wants to be a founder, the very, very sort of instrumentalized relationships in that sense, but but in a, in my opinion in a shallow way. And, and yeah, and so it really does come down to this individualism and in a negative connotation, there is a negative aspect to individualism, which is that you are unable to coordinate with other people in a deeper manner. And, like, in almost a spiritual manner, you you have a hard time actually connecting with other people in in ways other than I mean, I mean, in any way, but in the particular ways of politically, which is I think, you know, man is a political animal, right, you need to connect with other people politically, in the sense of actually forming a lasting, coordinated relationship, where you are, where your loyalty is to each other. And, and not other things. And that kind of thing I see is extremely important and extremely valuable. And I’ve been frustrated with a lack of that, occasionally. Another one. Another one is the emotional commitment to the fate of the country. And this seems obvious, like, obviously, you should be invested in your own nation, yes, it should be invested in systems of government that it has you should be invested in in that way of life. On the other hand, I think the current moment of history is the process of that thing dying, and something new, maybe we’ll come to replace it. And I think the productive mindset right now is not one of emotional commitment to the thing. And I, you know, I say this with some pain, because obviously, it’s a tragedy when something great is dying. But I see people dragged down psychologically, by that in a way that is not actually warranted. And I don’t want to let the people who like don’t care about the thing off the hook, because there’s a lot of people who don’t care about the thing, and they are even more wrong, perhaps they, they sort of fragrantly undermine it or or work against its interests or, or just sort of disregard the ways they are, in fact, still existentially tied to the thing. And so that’s, that’s sort of this other area error. But yeah, I think I think in particular, I actually count that as the same kind of error, it comes out of somehow.
I’m not sure I can articulate this, but I think it’s the same kind of error. It it’s, it’s something about, like commitment to somehow the tribal narrative about what America is. And, and, you know, one side is going to be over committed to its current forms and current existence, and the other side is gonna be over committed to like, ignoring and disregarding the commitment they actually have. Anyway, so so I’m going to pause there and leave it at that those are things that I think are unproductive about America kind of relationship to itself.
Will Jarvis 18:37
I think that’s both of those are incredibly important. And in perhaps quite underrated, you know, I grew up in red state America, and now I live in a big Metro pool. It’s kind of the opposite. And I go back, and every time I go back, you know, once every two quarters or so I’m just blown away at the divide, and how much it’s grown in the last three months. And how far I mean, it feels like two different countries. I mean, it’s an,
Wolf Tivy 19:00
which is something like, it seems like you don’t experience in Canada, which is quite, it’s just it’s mind blowing to me. We didn’t, unfortunately, with the internet, but silence does cross the border.
Will Jarvis 19:14
It’s quite, it’s quite entertaining. So I did have a question. It’s, it’s based off some of the things you said about, you know, repeated games and individualism being a bit of a problem. You know, I look at it and I see, governance in the US seems to have been getting worse and worse, especially since the 70s. Sometime in the
Wolf Tivy 19:35
Will Jarvis 19:37
Is this something you feel to it?
Wolf Tivy 19:39
Yeah, no, no, it’s this is visible in the graph. So you look at any graph. I mean, there’s a website. I think, what, what the heck happened in 1971 or something? I yeah, I disagree. I think it’s 1973. But whatever you write, I can never figure out what exactly the catalyst event was. But it’s somehow the old order broke down and the new order came in the New Order was not committed to it. Microsoft, in the same way, and are not committed to the same kind of progress, it had a new vision of progress. And some of that was good. And some of that was bad. But it’s very obvious that that the core central institutions of our society and the industrial complex have been neglected since the early 70s.
Will Jarvis 20:20
I definitely feel as you know, I was from a mill town. And if you know, the mill, it’s gone. There’s opportunities, deaths of despair are all over the place. Right? It really, it makes you wonder, do you have any idea it? Was it just the New Deal? I mean, and why is like overdetermined. In this case, I know what like was the new dealers just retired, you know, they went in at 25. They retired at 65. And 40 years later, they’re just they’re done, that they’re out. And the next generation that replaced them was just not as competent. It’s more bureaucratic. The large agencies just don’t work. I think there was some
Wolf Tivy 20:53
of that. I think there was some of that. I think World War Two brought about a large social change. And then all the people who were trained before World War Two, retired in the early 70s, gotcha. There was the sort of Boomer uprising with whatever happened there, you know, large scale social change, basically, with boomers were very, you know, in some cases, rightly disillusioned with the society that they had inherited, and they didn’t want to follow that path. I think there were economic problems that we don’t entirely understand, at least in this sort of default consciousness. I don’t understand that stuff very well, myself. I’ve been trying to but I still don’t feel like I have my handle on it. But you know, there was a reason that they had to go off the gold standard. They felt that they did. Yeah, there’s there’s reasons that a bunch of the ouch outsourcing and offshoring and so on that got to kind of the the rust belt, there’s a reason that that stuff happened. And I think another one actually is, is just globalization, like, what you had after the war was America had conquered the world, conquered the world, more or less, and America and the Soviet Union together, but had conquered the world. And suddenly there was this new order in the new order, there was a lot of opportunity to make use of labor that had previously not been available. And basically, the the American society, or whatever the deal was in the American American society, no longer had negotiating leverage against I don’t know, we’ll call it capital, no longer have crazy competition, because you Yeah, yeah. Yeah, a bunch of negotiating leverage, by by sort of the normal healthy fabric of society and normal people had been lost in in that globalization process. And, yeah, so it broke the kind of crap the class relationship in the United States, I think, like there had been a collaboration. And, you know, not not necessarily a good one, in all cases, but but, you know, from the New Deal, basically, to late 60s, early 70s, there have been something like a deal worked out. And then that deal had been broken by a bunch of these historical factors that we’ve been mentioning, plus this globalization issue. And so you see afterwards, very much the, the, the profits of of, I mean, not to use, like Occupy Wall Street language, but like the rich kept getting richer, right, and other people stopped getting richer, and things otherwise sort of stagnated in a lot of ways. So, you know, again, from the environmentalist perspective, a lot of mess got cleaned up as well. At least in North America. But yeah, I mean, I don’t know, I don’t have a handle on the whole thing. I have a bunch of these little contributing factors. I don’t have a mono causal explanation for sure. And I don’t think necessarily that there is.
Will Jarvis 24:18
Gotcha, no, I like that. I’m curious, you know, you mentioned this breakdown of, you know, perhaps class relationships. And, and it’s unclear whether to me whether it was just like they had the opportunity to globalize, and, you know, move the factory out, and you can make more money, you know, management can make a lot more money if we just bought the factory and move. In fact, I know someone whose entire profession was taking these factories, boxing them up and sending them to China. And you know, how, you know, I mean, it’s really like it was terribly drive around North Carolina and do this. Do you think it is did what happened to elite responsibility, you know, was it just you know, they’re always selfish and it just they finally had the opportunity Whereas there’s some sociology of elite responsibility where Yeah, you know, I think this degrades.
Wolf Tivy 25:05
I mean, yeah, it degrades. So, this is a little bit complex, I guess. But so the New Deal, you mentioned the New Deal. The new deal, obviously, was a something of a circulation of elites, and a new class of people kind of came in with with new ideas and pushed out the old people who maybe hadn’t been performing very well at that point, because they had degenerated. And I mean, you see this with with after that kind of the, the idea of the wasp being very much like a derogatory term, whereas before that there had been this kind of sense of nobility attached to, not that term, but to in particular, because it hadn’t been used before that, but but that class of people, and yeah, so there was an elite that had something like, sort of aristocratic sense of responsibility towards the rest of society. And, you know, that they’d done the things that they had done, and it wasn’t all perfect, but there had been something like that. But I think the paradigm that it had been operating under necessarily undermined itself, for various reasons. And then, sort of when there was that New Deal, a new new guard came in, you know, a lot of communists in the government at that time. And, and other things, but I don’t think it was just that but but just generally, like, different people, different ideas very much not believing in the old order. And but I don’t think they had any sort of real replacement order or a real sense of responsibility, there was the immediate issue of I mean, I think, under FDR sort of a new deal, there was this vision of kind of like building up society, then there was World War Two, there was very much an existential need to mobilize in this shared way. And But yeah, I mean, all thing kind of got exhausted, like we were saying, and broke down eventually in the 70s. But it had already kind of burned out. But I think one additional issue that is is important here is just that the way people think about what they’re trying to get out of public life. I don’t know if it’s changed or whatever, but it’s the way it is that I think is the problem is that you have people kind of chasing their own individual material interests. And, and like this is, you know, the commies will tell you this is the, the interests of capital as a class, right, it’s capital is sort of like inherently interested in just its own perpetuation, from from sort of, like a aggregate individual perspective, and not from a solid, like, the key fact is that capital doesn’t actually have solidarity, yet, when, you know, true strategic sense, it is not capable of acting on shared plans that don’t that go beyond financial interest, because of just the way the thing is set up. So I think, I think that doesn’t help. And it goes way beyond just that sort of very materialistic analysis. I think there’s a whole bunch of stuff like that, where the ideology and aspirations of the elite have, unfortunately, become too narrow, and not, doesn’t don’t have enough of that sort of coordination spirit, the the the spirit of actually kind of having solidarity with each other to run a government to accomplish whatever ambitious goal that goes beyond position within that society. It’s more like, we have this society, what are we going to use it for, rather than we are in the society? How are we going to boost ourselves up within it? Do you see the difference there? Yeah. And, and, you know, obviously, the former only is possible in certain material contexts. But I think that’s sort of the one of the core issues that I think is is most important. It’s just like, we need to build up a consciousness sort of a new, maybe it’s the old way of thinking about government, but but for from our perspective, it’s a new way of thinking about government, which is that that there is in fact, there are elite people in charge of the government, and they are we depending on who they are have to
Have to see society as something that is useful to them, but they are building up for some further and rather than, you know, trying to just gain, gain or preserve position within society. And I think this this is this key problem of social engineering of like, building the right social technologies of how do you actually supply an elite with that kind of ambition and that kind of coordination. Like, it’s not just like, Oh, yeah, everyone has to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and develop a different like ideology, it’s, if you have to actually build something there. To accomplish that, you need to build a new paradigm of how we govern society, you need to build its institutions, you need to build it supply lines, like, you know, supply lines are important in ideas as well as material goods, right? Like, we don’t operate on ideas that we cook up in our own heads, most of the time, most of the time, we’re getting our ideas from our sources. And so any idea that you expect to exist in society must also therefore have some institution that is perpetuating that idea. So you have to think, okay, if you want society to have this kind of responsibility, where the elite is leading society for some purpose, then you have to have institutions that are producing that, what does that look like? Etc, etc. So this is like, the first big problem that I sort of focus on with palladium is like, how do we build that kind of consciousness? And not just not just like, you know, whining about it and saying, Oh, yeah, wouldn’t it be great if you leave thought like this, but but thinking about what? What are the particular kinds of institutions we need to build for that? We don’t necessarily, like make palladium about this, except somewhat obliquely, but we sort of see palladium as this kind of thing. We’re trying to produce that kind of institution.
Will Jarvis 31:58
Gotcha. I really like that. And it’s part of that just, you know, trying to paint a picture of a definite future that we can get everybody to buy into. Because it seems like one of the big problems with this liberal order, it’s like, well just go figure it out. But you know, it’s pretty tough to figure it out. Right. But it’s like, Oh, God, like how, how do you actually reach some better point if there’s not like a definite roadmap?
Wolf Tivy 32:21
Right, right. Yeah. I mean, this is sort of Peter TEALS dichotomy between the indefinite the definite optimist. And, yeah, I think definiteness is important. I mean, the key fact of definiteness is that you’re making definite plans. It’s not just that you have particular beliefs about the future, it’s that you’re making particular plans, and you’re acting on them in a coordinated manner. And yeah, I think, I think the like big definite thing that we need to be working on right now is, again, this transformation to excuse me, and this transformation to a new form of institutional consciousness about how we govern society, and a new paradigm of how you actually build social technology in society, what that’s for, etc, etc. I think there’s a, and that I guess that itself is actually a definite view of human institutions. It’s a view where these things are technology, we can plan them, we can build them, you know, there’s all these caveats that we have to add to that in terms of where’s the information coming from who is actually making those actions, you can’t do the central planning naive, like, cut everything up into rectangles and like, say, that’s how it’s going to be and send out the plan. That doesn’t work. It’s it was tried in the 20th century, I was, you know, paradigm. Again, Brasilia, sort of the best case, outcome. Worst case, of course, is stuff like what happens in the USSR? Right? But yeah, you can’t necessarily do that, that totally top down thing, but you still have to have a theory of where you’re going, how you’re doing it, what your plan is. And that plan can be distributed throughout society, but there is a plan. And, and yeah, so that’s a more definite view of things. And I think we need to be going towards a more definite view. And I think part of that actually, is the plan to get there the plan, from here to there, we need to be working on that. And that is this, this definite dream that, you know, I put out this article on palladium, called a new golden age of governance, where we were sort of championing this idea of sort of this definite reengineering of society towards towards particular ends. And that’s me, trying to rally people around that kind of thinking, trying to take the what we have with palladium and say, Okay, we’re actually trying to lead people in this direction. We want to think more in this direction. We want to approach life more in this direction and we want to imagine a definite transformation. in this direction. And then I supplemented that with two other major kind of definite directions vectors that we have to be pursuing. The first is reindustrialization, or, as you might say, completing the Industrial Revolution. So, our current analysis is basically that post industrial is fake, there is no post industrial, there is an industrial, the next paradigm has not actually been cooked up. So what we need to be doing is mastering the industrial and in North America and the West, that means we need to get industry back, because we’ve we’ve dropped the ball. And, and people have this idea like, Well, yeah, we’re a developed country or something, I think that’s fake, too, there is no such thing as being a developed country we are, you’re either developing or not developing. And there’s, I think, a sort of more concrete way to say that it’s just tons of room left. Even with current technology, entirely current technology, even technology that was available in the 60s, there is tons of room left for what we could do in terms of just material development, build more capital, build more stuff, build more, build more trains, build better planes, build better computers, build builds, you know, more factories, build bigger, bigger and better stuff, build more efficiently improve the efficiencies and get everything smaller and lighter impact, right, like, you govern the whole thing better. There’s, you know, obviously, there’s a lot of small innovations involved in that, but, but people often lean on these kind of like, sort of whiz bang big technologies like, Oh, yeah, you know, fusion will save us, right. But But no, actually, we’re not even using the nuclear technology we have, why do you think new nuclear technology would make any difference? You have to be, I think, I think like, this is sort of, before we should even be talking about technology, we should be talking about maxing out the technology that we have the re industrial revolution that we have, we have not completed it, we are maybe 10%. On like, you know, I’m just gonna put that on a geometric mirror, not even not even, not even linearly, right. If we’re linearly 10%. Great. We’re almost done. Right? I know, I think it’s like 10% in terms of total amount of time, right? Yeah, so that’s, that’s, that’s one this big industrial transformation, right, we have to make.
Will Jarvis 37:29
And I want to jump in there. What’s that? You know, I was gonna mention nuclear power. It was that kind of your frustration as an engineer, you know, you’re looking at all these technologies like, wow, you know, we can keep keep designing more technology, but we have to have some method to actually get this into the real world. And if we can’t, you know, we can’t build more nuclear power plants, it doesn’t matter. Right. Like, it’s just disallowed for governance reasons.
Wolf Tivy 37:52
Like that. Yeah. I mean, that was that was one. One of the background issues. I mean, not it wasn’t really central. But, you know, it’s obviously a great example, right? Like we have, we have this thing that works, it works. It works, which is working nuclear technology. And there are problems with it. But you know, what else there’s problems with is like, gain of function research on? on lots of problems. Right, like, so, you know, there’s a lot of research that we’re doing that’s, let’s say that the death toll is a lot higher than then nuclear. So, yeah, I don’t think that’s the real barrier, I think, I think, whatever, I don’t want to get into the nuclear thing. But yeah, I think we should be doing nuclear. Yeah. But yeah, that’s, that’s one of them. Yeah, and so so on this on this problem of sort of completing the Industrial Revolution. I think this is this is a major direction, we need to be pursuing, as a society. And and I think to do that, we actually need some new social technologies, because so we had an article recently by Sam abria, called the end of industrial society. And he made I think, a very important point, which is that industrial society had depended for bootstrapping on a bunch of social technology that pre existed, industrial society, in terms of human capital, especially and how we produce human capital and, and all those networks and institutions that were around that. And it it had, in the course of industrializing society, we actually destroyed those institutions. And now we are left having undermined our own foundation. There are a bunch of things that we can’t even do anymore. For that for for reason of having undermined our foundations and so part of the project of Completing the industrial revolution is literally just figuring out how to keep it sustainable, not not even environmentally sustainable with socially sustainable, how do you even keep that thing going and have it not decay into this post industrial malaise. And again, the post industrial thing is not some new glorious frontier, it’s actually just exhaustion.
Will Jarvis 40:22
Right? It’s California fires and you can’t get you don’t have lights on anymore.
Wolf Tivy 40:27
Right? It’s like, snow. Yeah. So that’s, that’s a key part of that is like, we actually have to re engineer on the social foundations of industry. And again, this is why I proceeded with, we need a new golden age of social engineering, right, we need to be able to build social institutions, we need to be able to figure like, conceive of how we’re governing society and actually get that skill of building those things. I think that is never the skill has not been produced at wide scale. In recent history, and maybe it has never been maybe it’s only ever done by kind of these, these heroic founder figures, the people who figure out how to do it, or are these little these little networks that are able to build something new socially, but whatever, whatever our theories of how that happens, we have to figure out how to how to make it happen. Anyway, so that that’s the first two of my big directions that I think we want to pursue, and that we, we sort of try to put forward with palladium. The third one is, is where we sort of integrate these environmental issues. So obviously, we live on a finite planet. And, and we’re growing rapidly. There’s a bunch of negative impacts that we have, as a result of that, you know, and and things coming down the pipeline, global warming. And we have to figure out how to manage those impacts. A lot of people approach these issues as sort of, they oppose the industrial path and the environmental path, as if these are different things. Right. And I think they’re not different things. I think, I think deindustrialization is not the correct answer to environmental challenges. And the way I see it is more like, Can we take responsibility for the good things that are going on in Earth’s ecosystems? And the good things that are going on in earth climate systems and other natural systems? Can we take responsibility for that and accelerate those using management and technology? Can we make them better? can we can we actively restore ecosystems using our our best ability? Can we actively build ecosystems where we want them? Can we actively maintain the climate to be what we want it to be? Can we actively maintain carbon levels to be you know, as low as is consistent with all the other factors that we have to balance our cognitive function and agricultural productivity and etc. Like, I bring up cognitive function just because at about 1000 BPM, you start to see effects. Yeah, you start to see cognitive effects of co2 pollution. And that’s not too far off. So, you know, we can’t just let that run out and block out the sun or whatever, like, that’s not a solution. Anyway, so there’s, there’s the we have to actually take, take responsibility to manage the planet as a planet. And we haven’t done that yet. But this is one of these big transformations where you have to make a big definite transformation over the next century, let’s say.
So, those and I think these all actually feed into each other, right? The the problem of managing human society is very much this gardening problem, right. Whereas, the problem of, of taking responsibility for the feedback systems, the cybernetic systems of nature, in, in, in our, in our environment, in our environment, that is a governance problem. It’s something we have to learn to govern the planet, we have to learn to govern ecosystems. These are both industrial problems, they both happen within the industrial paradigm, we have to deploy industrial solutions. The Industrial Revolution is in some sense, most centrally characterized by taking an instrumental view of human relationships and, and human organizations. So you know, before the Industrial Revolution, I think people have heard this anecdote a few times, but there was resistance to ideas like these labor saving innovations like the you know, the flying, the flying, shuttling the loom, that that makes it automatic instead of manual to pass the thread back and forth when you’re weaving when you’re moving fast. Those that that sort of this obvious idea could have been done at any time. But as the labor saving innovation as something that would change the relationship to the work, it was morally resisted. And so there’s actually a moral transformation in how you’re seeing production and how you’re seeing human organization, and especially economic organization, in at the core of the Industrial Revolution. So this is a point I would make occasionally is that the industrial revolution is actually, first and foremost, a moral transformation. Not not because, you know, it has moral effects, like, you know, lifting people out of poverty. But because it has moral inputs, like changing how we view human relationships, and production, and our life, so and so I, you know, basically, that’s, that’s a relationship between that governance problem, that moral problem of, of improving our governance relations, and the industrial problem. Also, of course, common relationships with the planets. So these so these three things that I’m laying out, they’re kind of very related, I think, and, and they together form, form this definite vision, at least as far as what I’m pursuing. This is the vision I think we need to be chasing after especially the the core necessary component of that, which is a transformation in how we govern society. So that’s, that’s my big vision, the thing that I’m doing with palladium, or at least one part of it, one expression of it, but that’s the actual visionary part.
Will Jarvis 46:33
I love that. I think that’s, that’s so important. And I do get the sense, you know, you’ve got this sense of trying to actually go in and engineer, you know, society in a way like we’re both social scientists seem to be more like, I guess, hayekian or something where, and that, you know, the
Wolf Tivy 46:52
specific details like,
Will Jarvis 46:54
yeah, I’m just talking like, generally, right. But do you think that gave you a unique perspective? Like, just like, thinking through like, you practically, how do we go and design this in versus just like letting it happen? It’s just going to evolve, how it evolves.
Wolf Tivy 47:10
I think what you’re asking is where that came from. Yeah. I’m not sure where it came from. Let me think about that for a couple seconds here. But it might just, I mean, it might be related to kind of my, my sort of engineering background, I actually don’t think it directly does, I think
I just did a lot of thinking about philosophy, a lot of engagement with the established ideas, like utilitarianism, and, you know, these more sort of indirect views on things. And I did a lot of engagement with that stuff. And I’ve just chewed through a lot of ideas of yours, and, and settled towards this very active paradigm of how you have to deal with these things. And I think, yeah, you know, so, so, various places we can blame. If we need to blame somebody hard credit, credit, as it were. But you mentioned the definite indefinite division, or division. Yeah. And that’s, that’s from Peter teal, zero to one. His book, I found that persuasive. When I read that Samuel Berea has this idea of great founder theory, that social technologies come as a result of concerted action by by especially talented individuals and small groups who who undertake a social engineering problem program to build new social technologies they implement on society, I found that persuasive ideas, just as I studied kind of government, and the problems of government problems of politics and so on, one of the core ideas that I came to was that almost everything in society happens if not by design, at least by implicit intention on the part of the ruling class. And including things like revolutions, which are very often actually just fights within the ruling class or interessierten kind of struggles yet things things sort of cooked up by the ruling class to sort of create some some new it’s not fully like you know, gnostic, total separation between between the elite and the spectacle elite also live in the spectacle, but, but there’s a definite sense in which there are people With very outsized power, and what’s going on, is largely the result of what they are trying to do, and what the, if not explicitly what they implicitly intend to do. And so and once you sort of, it’s easy to hide power. But it’s also really easy to project power, and in hidden ways. And so power generally has a much larger impact than you think. And the result of that is, is that you really have to grapple hard with the problem of what do you do with power? And so this is another kind of source on this way of thinking, grappling with that problem. Okay. Power is actually more important than we thought, even. And what do we do with that? How do we actually use that power that immediately gets you into this problem of governance? Yeah, and anyway, so yeah, we’ve we’ve, we’ve produced palladium to attempt to answer these questions.
Will Jarvis 51:02
I love that. I love that. So I’ve got a couple overrated underrated.
Unknown Speaker 51:07
We get through quickly in the last couple of years. That’s a Sure.
Will Jarvis 51:10
So the my first one is Colin Chapman, overrated underrated.
Wolf Tivy 51:15
Colin Chapman, underrated. Colin Chapman is the founder of Lotus. He single handedly dominated Formula One for like two decades. And yeah, a total total genius. That’s all
Will Jarvis 51:29
Yeah, I just got out of my friends black Evora, a couple a couple of minutes ago. It’s quite, I gotta say, he did a good job. NATO lism, overrated, underrated.
Wolf Tivy 51:39
As you’re just getting this off my Twitter feed or something? Yeah, Natal ism. Of course, underrated. I think people don’t have enough kids. More specifically, I think I think people have these weird ideas that like, you know, material factors are holding them back or whatever. Yeah. And I don’t believe that. People have all these weird ideas about, you know, not bringing people into the world. They sort of have this implicitly misanthropic viewpoint that that their existence is net negative. I find it hard to find as with that, you know,
Will Jarvis 52:14
it’s very common with environmentalist. I feel like that’s a very common thread I
Wolf Tivy 52:18
hear. Yeah. I mean, I think people definitely have an environmental impact. But, you know, the reason we care about the environment is because where people live in their love life. But, yeah, so yeah, I think people are have a lot of really weird ideas around having kids, I love kids, I love having kids, I have to have my own, hopefully more on the way. And I think creating good people, and talented people is something that is within our power as parents, especially among the sort of privileged demographics that actually think explicitly about this and act on their ideology. And I think that, that is one of the most important things that we can do for the future. You know, this is something that’s very obvious to me as, even as an ambitious person that’s like, you know, I’ve actually built some of the stuff that I’ve intended to build. palladium, for example. Yeah. It’s, it’s obvious to me that, that a huge chunk of my impact on the future is going to be not my work, but my kids. And, and that’s something I feel like people oppose those things very inappropriately. They think, Oh, yeah, I’m not going to have kids so that I can have this, this very outsized impact on the future, and like, you know, someone else will have kids, and I won’t have to worry about it, you know, and it’s like, What are you thinking? The biggest impact you can have is on having good kids. That and that’s my opinion, as I think I’ve achieved some success in the things that I’ve been trying to do. And I think I will achieve more. And I think that my kids will be a large fraction of my impact.
Will Jarvis 54:07
I love that. Yeah, I think it’s I think it’s very important and somewhat overlooked. Chinese state capacity, overrated, underrated. Oof.
Wolf Tivy 54:23
I think everyone sort of realizes the state capacity that they have. And so I think it might be slightly overrated right now. Gotcha. I think people still probably don’t realize they haven’t viscerally been hit by the the ideological shock of grappling with the fact of Chinese state capacity. Like how much that should challenge your worldview and how much you should demand in response to that. I can they do things we can’t do things right, like so much that that is an existential critique to our current paradigm. It And people don’t follow that chain of reasoning enough, they should. But that is slightly separate from exactly how much steak capacity they have. Basically, I think people are underrating the importance of Chinese state capacity, but slightly overrating how much they actually have got. And, and yeah, I there’s people, there’s sort of this idea going around, you know, China’s super competent, like, totally has the future under control and like, etc, they’re perfect government, blah, blah, blah, you know, we can’t stand a chance. But actually, I think I think they’re on very similar path to us. They’re just a little bit earlier in the process, and they’re going to run into a lot of problems. I mean, I wish them luck. But that’s also, I just think that there’s a lot of problems there. I see. I see the ways that, that they are grappling with many of the same fundamental issues and have no way of solving them. In particular. I mean, you mentioned the middle of something having kids, I think, I think demographic, China has problems there. People say China’s demographic problems gonna like save America or something like that. That’s total Koch demographic problems. I’m happy to litigate that. But But yeah, and then the other one is like, ideology among the elite in China is, you know, there’s a reason that she has to be putting a lot of effort into getting them on the on the true and straight path of socialism, because they’re not exactly on that straight path. And then succession.
Will Jarvis 56:37
That’s a seems like a big I’m not,
Wolf Tivy 56:39
I’m not super well versed in Chinese internal politics. But my understanding from people who are is that there’s no obvious kind of next generation being groomed.
Will Jarvis 56:52
That’s it. That’s a real, that sounds like a real problem. Well, Wolf, come up to the top of the hour, I really wanted to thank you for coming on. Give me parting thoughts. And where can people find palladium?
Wolf Tivy 57:04
Yes. Okay. So parting thoughts. One of the one of our favorite ways to present all these ideas, is through our print magazine. And our print magazine sort of came about with the idea of what we call luxury political theory, the idea is, you know, we’re going to take, it’s a luxury to be able to develop these ideas, right. But But, and, and I think the ideas are very important. And, and I think they deserve a luxurious packaging. So we put them, we put our best ideas in our print magazine, which is coming out quarterly, we’ve already done palladium one, which is the first one this summer, we have palladium two coming out. So basically, we take these ideas, on particular topics, the first issue was our overall program governance features, and we tried to put in sort of the most directly governance problem articulating articles that we had. And we accompany them with my essay, the Golden Age, a new golden age of governance, which which laid out the argument that I was going through earlier. And, yeah, I think that I think that it’s very important to be producing physical artifacts of the thoughts that we really take seriously. And I think it’s a great way to consume the material. And I think that I think that, you know, as a luxury item, it’s sort of something that’s beautiful on your coffee table on your bookshelf, so you can show to other people. I mean, this is something that big feedback that we’ve been getting right as people love kind of showing other people their their copy of palladium wine, right. It’s beautiful, everything really beautiful. It’s got all these great ideas, and it says something about you, it says something important. Yeah, so I’m just gonna plug, subscribing to do palladium one, palladium one, or subscribing rather to palladium print edition, which is quarterly, it’s it’s not for sale, you can’t get individual individual copies, you have to be one of our donors. And so please do become a subscriber on Patreon and support the project. I think we’re doing really important work. I think we’re doing some of the most important work in the space of fights around politics and governance. And we really need support to be able to do that. And we get that support from the community. And we reward that with things like our print edition. So yeah, please do subscribe. I think it’s very much worth it. And we’d love to see you in the internal conversations that we
Will Jarvis 59:38
have. Excellent. Is it palladium? Calm?
Wolf Tivy 59:41
Is that right? Lady a mag comm slash? Subscribe. Okay, I’ll
Will Jarvis 59:44
put the link down in the description.
Wolf Tivy 59:46
Great. Awesome. Yeah. I mean, this has been a fun conversation. Otherwise, I think I think we laid out some very interesting models here. It’s awesome. Well, thank
Will Jarvis 59:54
you so much, wolf.
Wolf Tivy 59:56
Yeah, thanks so much.
Will Jarvis 1:00:03
Well, that’s our show for today. I’m Bill Jarvis and I’m will join us next week for more narratives.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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