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My Fantasy Intellectual Draft Picks

Sorry for yet another low-effort post. I’ve been working on 30 pages on Very Serious Writing in the background, which I hope is ready to share soon. If you’re especially eager for more content, email me and I’ll be happy to share a draft.

In the meantime, I’m shocked and excited to have been selected as part of the Fantasy Intellectual Draft.

Here is the announcement post, and here is a site where you can view the current scores. This runs from now through June 30th.

As a participant, I’m not supposed to complete, but I’m going to anyway. The rules are:

  • You must pick thinkers in different “positions” as described here
  • Points are awarded based on Bets, Steelmanning and Memes as described here

Since I did not get to participate in the actual draft, my self-imposed rules are:

  • You can only pick one intellectual from each section of 10-ranks (i.e. one from ranks 1-10, one from ranks 11-20, etc)
  • You can substitute any pick for any other pick at a lower rank
  • I’ll accept the scores listed on this site
  • As I understand it, Utility means it can be filled by anyone
  • You cannot pick yourself or your friends
  • You can’t self-sabotage to gain points over the team that drafted you

If you would like to participate in this informal draft, I suggest doing so quickly before scores start coming out and you can gain advantage.

Because the picks were already conducted by the actual teams, this is already a bit unfair. I also did not have to “reserve” intellectuals and knew the rankings ahead of time. To balance things out, 5 of my picks will be conducted at random.

Okay, here are my non-random picks:

  1. Scott Alexander (4, blogger)
  2. Donald Trump (27, business)
  3. Julia Galef (29, podcaster)
  4. Ezra Klein (36, columnist)
  5. Nate Silver (55, utility)
  6. Vitalik Buterin (81, utility)
  7. Agnes Callard (105, academic non-economist)
  8. Zvi Mowshowitz (106, utility)
  9. Zeynep Tufekci (109, academic non-economist)
  10. Tanner Greer (118, utility)

I am picking many rationalists and rationalist-adjacent people. Tyler Cowen might accuse me of mood afiliation, but I am merely playing the meta-game. Rationalists are much more excited about steelmanning and bets than pretty much any other group of people.

That leaves 4 academic economists, 2 academic non-economists, one think tank person and another utility. The slots to fill are the 40s, 110s, 120s, 130s and 140s. I could have gotten a 60th-rank and 70th-rank intellectual, but I used up those spots on Zvi and Zeynep.

My “random” picks will be the first person from the appropriate tier who fulfils an open position. They are:

  1. Scott Sumner (41, academic economist)
  2. Peggy Noonan (111, utility)
  3. Michael Levine (125, academic non-economist)
  4. Christopher Balding (133, academic economist)
  5. Todd Zywicki (143, academic economist)

Additionally, as a thanks to The Definite Optimists for drafting me, here are a few free points:

  *   I predict with 20% confidence that my picks will win the FIT
  *   I predict with 50% confidence that my picks will land in the top 3
  *   I predict with 80% confidence that my picks will land in the top 5

Maybe I don’t know the other intellectuals well enough and I’m being wildly overconfident, but this seems reasonably easy to win:

  • Scott Alexander will, as Kling describes it “be a monster in the S and B categories”
  • Trump will rack up a ton of meme points
  • Other rationalists (Julia, Zvi, Tanner) will dominate the Steelman category. I also expect “Scout Mindset” to show up a lot. Don’t underestimate the boost of going on a book tour.
  • Nate makes bets as his full time job.
  • I snuck Ezra in under columnist since he regularly contributes to the NYT, but I expect his sheer throughput as a podcaster to win many points.
  • Vitalik is a master of the steelman technique. As mentioned in his podcast with Julia Galef repeatedly: “trying to see the best arguments from both sides, like steel-manning people instead of straw manning people”, “You don’t even need me here at all, you can just do both sides of the conversation!”. Depending on how broadly you construe memes, expect to see Concave/Convex, Quadratic Funding and “Legitimacy” everywhere. The only downside is his relatively low output.
  • Agnes is a philosopher by trade and steelmans constantly.
  • I don’t know the random picks very well, but expect great things from Sumner and Balding.

Had she been available, I would have drafted Kelsey Piper. Under scoring criteria that included research summaries, I would have even more aggressively jumped on Scott Alexander, and eagerly drafted Emily Oster. I would have picked Bernie Sanders as well, his meme potential is underrated.

Some complaints about the rules:

  • Bloggers should be separate from podcasters, another spot should open for columnists and think tank people.
  • Journalists and op-ed writers should be separate positions.
  • Bets should only win points if they’re correct and lose points if they’re wrong, proportional to confidence.
  • You should have to pick at least 3 intellectuals for each point category.
  • To better balance the benefits of choosing wildly prolific intellectuals, there ought to be opportunities for negative points. I suggest strawmanning and tweeting (anything).
  • Balanced research surveys should win points, as should debunkings. Getting debunked by another author on the list should lose you a point. Admitting to a mistake wins you a point.
  • I don’t see the purpose of having 4 positions dedicated to academic economists.

May whoever programmatically generates a gigantic post of trivial bets win!

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Endnote

In one of the FIT-related posts, Kling mentions “three well-intentioned changes in higher education” that he believes have caused problems. These include GI-Bill driven expansion of college access, opening opportunities to women, and attempting to give Black Americans fair representation. He also notes:

In principle, all of these could have been handled without harm to intellectual culture. But I believe that indirectly and unintentionally they produced intellectual status inversion. I will have to spell out my argument in future posts. I predict that no matter how carefully I make the argument, these posts will be cancel-bait. I expect to be accused of being anti-democratic, misogynist, and racist.

I haven’t read any future posts, and I don’t know what his argument will be. But for the record, I am personally strongly in favor of opening opportunities to women and giving Black Americans fair representation.

I am against college entirely for the reasons laid out in Caplan’s The Case Against Education, but so long as college remains a fixture in the American socio-economic ladder, it could be open to everyone.

I don’t mean to set a precedent of decrying every view of every blogger I mention, but this is a particular case where the post is directly related to the FIT, and it seems worth mentioning. And I know, I’m not winning any points for steelmanning.

As long as I’m at it: I don’t agree with all the views of the people on my draft. That is not the point of this game.