NeoAcademia is a biweekly exploration of the shifting walls of the ivory tower.
I’ve been really excited about this episode since I first heard about Michael’s book, The Paper Belt on Fire, like the day it came out. Shout out to(~@ 50:00). from episode 4 who tweeted about another organization that looked interesting, and I scrolled for a second and saw an interview with Michael. I immediately downloaded the book and was captured by his storytelling.
The projects that Michael funds are clear examples of how changing the way we view innovation, credentialling, and academia might push things towards solutions. We mention one of the companies he’s supported, Luminar, and the story of their founder is a great one Michael tells in the book. Austin is a non-traditional physicist who invented a technology that moves the needle forward in driverless cars and other arenas. Basically, the kid was a surf bro who liked to play with lasers. Now, he’s got a tech company with a billion+ valuation.
The book is great, and our conversation was great. I Love Michael’s work through and through - don’t hold it against him that he’s a Thiel baby.
Don’t forget, now is the time to sign up to be full GangGang. Offer ends soon!
2:30 Getting the burning paper belt published
5:23 Michael, the writer
8:18 The Paper Belt is on Fire, but it’s an underground fire
10:53 The Paper Belt is more than just Academia, why it’s on fire, and why decentralization is the best bet for replacing it
14:15 How creative funding can rise all ships
15:39 The alternative college signals for everyone except Vitalik Buterin
18:50 What if we inverted undergrad and grad school with a focus on problem-based education?
20:09 Cultivating intellectual arenas of ambition
23:31 How our low-trust society leads to intellectual burnout and incrementalism
25:40 The Invisible College
27:05 Experiments > theory
28:47 How 1517 fund supports action from unorthodox scientists
30:12 How the perverse system of incentives in academia perpetuates conformity
32:53 Academic identity crises
34:31 What’s worth saving from academia?
35:57 Apprenticeships and the clumping of creative thinkers
37:15 The candle problem and other lame creativity experiments
40:02 Creative parturition from The Beatles, Diddy and TSwift
44:39 Capturing moments of inspiration in academia
45:33 The balance of physical proximity, isolation, and intellectual bonding
50:24 A lack of incentives toward action: a million knives at a gunfight
52:28 The unity of doers/dreamers and insider/outsiders
56:36 How VC is under and overrated
58:21 How universities can slow the commercialization of research
1:02:05 Breaking out of the cult
1:04:15 Conflict of the over-produced elites
1:05:07 The biggest hurdle for early startups
1:08:09 The rare combo of Big 5 traits for creative success
1:10:23 Software Tech Bros vs entrepreneurial scientists
1:13:01 Women in tech as the lonely coder and the importance of early identity
1:16:33 The pregnancy wage gap and solving problems post infant terrorism
For more resources from this episode, check out the collection Michael and I created for you. Use the password “neoacademia” for access.
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