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Elon Musk’s Government

Mars Satellite

“How do you envision humans governing a separate planet?”

Elon Musk answered the above question when speaking at Stanford recently by saying that because a Martian government would be built on a clean foundation, it would probably be something closer to a direct democracy (in which every member votes on laws and policies directly) rather than a representative democracy (like what we find in the Western world today).

In the past, such direct democracy was infeasible. There was no tool or engine by which everyone could vote on everything. Communication was only as fast as a horse and illiteracy was prevalent, so it was rational to have elected representatives voting on behalf of their constituents. The absence of technology and education made it so.

Of course, today this isn’t the case — so Elon gave three intuitive ideas that could apply to a new Martian government (or simply a terrestrial upgrade).

Legal Limits

Elon credits Google co-founder Larry Page for this first concept. The idea is that laws be limited in size via a simple mechanism like word count. Currently we have 1,000-page laws which nobody has read. “If you can’t write the law in 1,000 words then it probably shouldn’t be there.… Read More

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The True Cost of Ownership

whiteness

Minimalism has taken many forms these days. It’s even become a pop-culture trend. I suspect it is partly related to the economic downturn, a newish need to make more from less. For me, minimalism can be broken down into several parts. Maybe some of this will resonate with you. Some write off minimalism as hippy-foo-foo bullshit. Well, let me appeal to minimalism with reason.

By deciding to bring some new thing into your life, you have to calculate whether the gain will offset the cost. This mental process sounds like a pain in the ass, but most of you already do this when making a purchase. That’s how you decide whether the new pair of pants or coffee table or samurai sword is worth the advertised price.

The problem is that, usually, the only cost in this mental exercise that is weighed against the reward is a monetary one. The cost of owning a physical item does not end at the checkout. It echoes forward in time for the entire duration that it’s in your possession.

Here are some examples of forgotten costs accrued when making a purchase:

  • Time/effort required to get to the store
  • Time/effort required to transport the item to its final location
  • Assembly/Activation/Setup
  • Space cost (assuming it’s not digital, it will take up space)
  • Maintenance/Cleaning
  • Relocation/Removal/Disposal (The item is your responsibility until it’s not)

For instance, say you buy or rent a living space.… Read More

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How We Killed the Universe


One summer a few years ago I found myself on a Colorado bluff
with an elevation of about 11,000 feet. As blue skies turned to gold, my companions and I built a fire, cooked ramen noodles, and pulled the cork from a bottle of red wine. We passed the bottle around as the Earth turned its back on the Sun, pulling us into shadows.

One can face east at sunset and watch darkness rise. The darkness climbed higher and soon specks of light began popping out for us from across the oceans of time. The Milky Way hung above us and we became very, very small. Our pasts and our futures seemed to shrink before us and vanish with a wink.

It is a powerful tool to be able to zoom out so far that one’s entire life simply vanishes. If any one experience can be said to put life in perspective, it is most certainly gazing at the starscape above us. I have come to realize the unfortunate truth that many of us are not often afforded this lens. The advent of electricity brought light pollution and in the span of a few generations we have mortally wounded the night sky and with it our window to the universe.… Read More

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