What makes a political office non-partisan?


The state of Georgia has certain offices that are designated as non-partisan. How does this get decided? Where is the line drawn and why? Are there any restrictions placed on the candidates when running for a non partisan office, or does it just mean that the party isn’t listed on the ballot?

If you feel like you understand how this works, let me know: jdilla.xyz @ gmail dot com.

Things I wish I knew


For a couple of years now, I’ve been posting things I learned as a way of cultivating curiosity.[0]

But this year I’ve stumbled upon a different sort of thing I want to train myself to notice: things I wish I knew.

I find myself somewhat embarrassed to post these. But why? Probably because I feel like if I were truly motivated, I would be able to figure them out.

I think this is the wrong instinct. Someone out there almost definitely knows the answer to them and there’s a chance they just swing along and tell me. In that case, I’m better off. And some of the most impactful projects I’ve seen first hand have begun with someone wondering, “why is this the way that it is?”

Since sifting my thoughts for these, I’ve found them to be way harder to capture. I’ve had 2-3 hit me and then disappear, only for me to be unable to locate them again. This almost never happens to me with “things I learned.” I wonder why that is?

Now, for my first one:

I wish I understood how individual trust is converted into group/institutional trust and how group/institutional trust converts into societal trust. I feel like I have a good idea on how an individual creates or destroys trust, but don’t think I understand how it converts for a team the size of a small company (say ~25-40 people), let alone a large company (thousands of people) or a society. Say you’re the mayor of a small city and you think a high trust society is important. Is it possible to do anything to foster this? How does it work?

My hypothesis: I assume it’s some combination of credibility, reliability, and lack of self interest. So when people see society work (e.g., civic institutions function well, utilizing judgment, being able to be counted on) and that individuals aren’t profiting at the expense of the group, civic trust goes up. But… I could be wrong. If you feel like you definitively understand this, reach out: jdilla.xyz at gmail dot com.

[0]: I’ll probably keep doing that, because why not? It’s super fun.

Friday threads


  • How school rankings work. I have so much suspicion of school rankings. First, I am skeptical that they actually measure the effectiveness of schools. Second, I suspect that they direct billions if not trillions of dollars of spending every year when parents go to shop for a home and check school ratings 8 and above.
  • Snowball earth! Everytime I run into an article or youtube video like this I falll for it. Just go through wikipedia and then dramatize it a little bit for me.
  • “Surely nothing could “survive,” whatever that means exactly, for 100 million years. But when brought back to the lab and offered nutrients, the microbes began to grow and multiply.” How deep does life go?
  • The Founder Effect. The closer you are to the original source, the more variation you’ll find.
  • Albert Hirschman on decision making as the scarce factor in economic development. One of my main observations from working at YouTube was the company was decision constrained, not resource constrained.
  • Are LLMs reaching diminishing returns? On some level, I find this comforting — I feel confident that I’ll be able to work in a way that compliments the LLM and there will still be room for humans in the loop.
  • “Alex died suddenly, when he was still relatively young. The evening before he died, Alex said to Pepperberg, “You be good. I love you.The Great Silence by Ted Chiang.

Friday threads


  • Ezra Klein on parenting. Three things I took from this podcast:
    • “I don’t know of any policy intervention that reliably increases fertility” <- a strong argument that culture more than policy is what is leading people to have less children
    • The dueling tension between being the ideal worker — giving 100% to your job, being available, etc. — and the ideal parent as someone who is actively spending time giving their child attention
    • A reminder that opting in to these cultural values is at least to some degree a choice.
  • War on the Rocks: “As I have seen in Ukraine and have observed in other theaters, the introduction of robotic and autonomous systems into the force is liable to increase both the number of people and the diversity of skills necessary within the force.”