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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Aug 23, 2022


An academic once asked me if I was writing a book. I said no, I was able to communicate just fine by blogging. He looked at me like I was a moron, and explained that writing a book isn’t about communicating ideas. Writing a book is an excuse to have a public relations campaign.

If you write a book, you can hire a publicist. They can pitch you to talk shows as So-And-So, Author Of An Upcoming Book. Or to journalists looking for news: “How about reporting on how this guy just published a book?” They can make your book’s title trend on Twitter. Fancy people will start talking about you at parties. Ted will ask you to give one of his talks. Senators will invite you to testify before Congress. The book itself can be lorem ipsum text for all anybody cares. It is a ritual object used to power a media blitz that burns a paragraph or so of text into the collective consciousness.

If the point of publishing a book is to have a public relations campaign, Will MacAskill is the greatest English writer since Shakespeare. He and his book What We Owe The Future have recently been featured in the New Yorker, New York Times, Vox, NPR, BBC, The Atlantic, Wired, and Boston Review. He’s been interviewed by Sam Harris, Ezra Klein, Tim Ferriss, Dwarkesh Patel, and Tyler Cowen. Tweeted about by Elon Musk, Andrew Yang, and Matt Yglesias. The publicity spike is no mystery: the effective altruist movement is well-funded and well-organized, they decided to burn “long-termism” into the collective consciousness, and they sure succeeded.