Projects I wish I had time for

  1. Everyone Is Lying Again: A blog dissecting how, in response to the majority of even slightly controversial or partisanship-evoking news stories, all “sides” (right, left, etc.) grossly misrepresent the facts and/or their scientific, historical, or cultural context. Probably one dissection per week, allowing time for substantial research for each post.
  2. The Story of Rock Music: This podcast would guide the listener through the history of rock music, playing extended clips of >10 tracks per episode and helping the listener hear exactly how different styles developed, split off from their roots, and recombined later. For example in one episode I might explain what a raga is and play an example clip, then explain what modal vs. chordal improvisation is and play contrasting clips, then explain what blues rock is and play an example clip, then explain what post-bop jazz is and play an example clip, and finally talk through (with example clips) how these forms were fused together in the classic Mike Bloomfield track “East-West,” one of the earliest examples of “raga rock.” Episodes would proceed in roughly chronological order, so that the listener could “hear” the evolution of music over time, as later episodes build on the stylistic evolutions described in past episodes.
  3. Evolving Sounds: Relatedly, I’ve long wanted to research, compose, and record a many-hour continuous piece of music that recapitulates the entire history of “Western music” (which is better documented than other traditions). The piece would begin with sections composed in accordance with scholarly guesses about how prehistoric music might have sounded, eventually transition into the earliest styles from recorded history, then evolve into styles covered in e.g. Burkholder’s History of Western Music, up to the present day. This is a pretty obvious idea and I’m upset that nobody has attempted it yet.
  4. Everything is Awesome and We’re All Going to Die: This book would start off like a more thorough and epistemically scrupulous version of the empirical sections from Enlightenment Now, and would then proceed to explain in detail why global catastrophic risk is nevertheless increasing over time via Moore’s Law of Mad Science, inescapable asymmetry in the difficulty of creation vs. destructioninadequate equilibria, and related phenomena.
  5. Better Moral Judgments: Moral philosophy makes little attempt to estimate what our moral intuitions would be if we were smarter, better informed, etc. Works like The Righteous Mind and Moral Tribes1 are baby steps in the right direction, but still far less ambitious than what I sketch here, which could easily be expanded into quite a large research program. But I’d start with a book sketching out that research program and working through some initial examples.

  1. I’d also list the methodology sections of Beckstead (2013) and these notes from a conversation with Carl Shulman. {}


  1. David Condon says

    #3 is such a brilliant idea that I might have to steal it. If I ever do it I’d have to cheat and use mostly pianoteq rather than finding and recording the actual instrumemts.

  2. Elvis says

    Luke, if you do the Story of Rock Music I promise to be forever loyal to you. Some sort of hybrid child of Scaruffi and Robert Greenberg. Talk about something amazing!

  3. says

    “Everything is Awesome and We’re All Going to Die” LOL. First, it’s awesome that this is how you’re thinking about these issues. I’ve literally been advocating for this dual “the world is getting way better but it’s also more dangerous than ever before” thesis for years. Second, this is pretty much the very book that I wrote! :-)

    (Additional thought: Pinker’s trends could constitute one reason for caring about GCRs in the first place. I wish he would recommend the danger and then propose this argument. Also, I’m increasingly dubious of many of Pinker’s “empirical” trends. EN is pretty disastrous in terms of scholarly or intellectual integrity — but I do agree with Chomsky that Pinker is right about the reality of moral progress.)

    • says

      Gah, sorry — wrote this in a car with spell-check on. The sentence “I wish he would recommend the danger and then propose this argument” should read, “I wish he would *recognize* the danger and then propose this argument [that “things getting better” could offer some extra motivation for ensuring that an existential catastrophe never happens].”

  4. Nick Reymann says

    I’d thought about #3 before, but it sounds like a nigh-impossible task for it to be accurate, cohesive, and actually good at the same time. Might as well just make a playlist of music progressing throughout history.

    • Nick Reymann says

      On a similar topic, there have been a few musical works that attempted to represent the evolution of humans/culture (though not musical styles in particular). Six Things to a Cycle by The Residents is one, and Charles Ives attempted to capture this on a cosmic scale with his (very much so) unfinished Universe Symphony.

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