On Lobster


Plato’s comments:

I always thought boiling a lobster alive seemed fairly cruel, I’ve never cooked a whole lobster myself, only lobster tails which, one hopes, would come from lobsters killed in a more humane fashion. I’ve heard of knifing the lobster before boiling, I’d assumed that would mean a quick death for the lobster, but the author seems to say that based on the structure of the lobster nervous system it doesn’t make any difference.
I’ve heard ‘lobsters don’t feel pain’ before, I’ve also heard ‘fish don’t feel pain,’ I think both are nonsense. While pain and the experience of pain is subjective nearly every living entity reacts to being damaged in some fashion, it’s the most basic of survival mechanisms, “I am being harmed, I must do something.’ Even plants react when injured in detectable ways https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/09/plants-communicate-distress-using-their-own-kind-nervous-system
Is the human experience of pain going to be the same as that of the plant? Surely not. The same as a lobster? More questionable, but as the author points out, the different structure of the lobster nervous system makes it impossible for us to know exactly how the lobster experiences pain. But I think it’s fair to say that lobsters experience pain of some sort and react to pain in an attempt to end the pain. In my opinion we should strive to be as merciful to our food as is feasible. Boiling a lobster causes an inordinate amount of pain, therefore we should kill them another way.
Although the author never expressly states their dietary preferences they do say a few things that would suggest to me that they are advocating a vegetarian if not vegan diet where possible. They seem to pretty quickly dismiss alternative preparation methods which would definitely kill the lobster faster, such as cutting the lobster in half entirely, and go on to state that they can find no logical basis to justify the killing of other creatures for human consumption on a moral basis. I do not agree with this presupposition.
Morality is inherently subjective. What is moral in one culture may not be moral in another. Being human, my morality is humanist. As a general rule I hold human life to be more valuable than any other kind of life. I think this would still be true even if we met intelligent alien life, though I think the difference in value would be substantially less than between a human and a lobster, maybe it would change my thinking entirely and I would consider them to be exactly equal, or even superior in some fashion, it’s hard to know not having experienced it, but I think it is reasonable to assume that my first loyalty would remain with my own tribe.
Being omnivores we are evolved to be able to eat other animals, and indeed if we do not eat other animals, it is substantially more difficult for us to obtain all the nutrients that we require for optimal health. Modern society has made this somewhat easier by providing access to different vegetables grown throughout the world, but for the majority of human history, people have had access to relatively limited flora which could provide only a portion of nutritional needs, and eating animals was necessary to obtain the lacking nutrients.
It’s now possible to live a long and healthy life without ever eating animals, but simply because that is possible I cannot agree that it is morally obligatory, or even necessarily morally praiseworthy. If I pick up a lobster, and say “Today I will not eat you” and then toss it back in the ocean where it is immediately eaten by a cod, would the lobster have cause to be grateful? Certainly I gave it a chance to live free from threat of me, but its life was not prolonged. And it’s death being torn apart by a cod would probably be substantially more brutal than the death that I would have given it, assuming that I would simply cut the lobster in half and kill it immediately. The lobster cannot understand the gesture that I made in throwing it back to the sea, depending on how it had been kept it may not even understand that it escaped a potential threat. In that case the only positive benefit of my decision to not eat the lobster exists in my own mind. ‘I didn’t kill it, I am such a good person.’ In this regard the decision becomes something of a trolley problem. ‘If I take action, a lesser harm is done, but I am directly responsible, if I don’t take action a greater harm occurs, but this would have happened even if I never existed.”
Of course I am not trying to say that by eating animals humans are actually lessening the number of deaths, chances are the lobster I threw back would not immediately die, it may even go on to live another 100 years and breed many times.
What I am saying is that, as Temple Grandin put it “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.” Humans are capable of providing a much less painful death to the creatures that we eat than just about any other animal. Boiling a lobster alive is a horrific example of how humans kill the food we eat, and I have to imagine was chosen specifically for the visceral impact of imagining dying in such a fashion. Cows, pigs, lambs, and chickens we can, and generally do, kill in such a way that they never feel a thing, or do so only for the briefest possible time. In this regard, humans are by far more kind to the creatures we kill than any natural predator, for whom the general modus operandi is to chase something down and then dismember it while it is still living. Where I think that humanity is currently really failing in terms of our food morality is the condition in which much of our livestock is kept while still living. I think if we really want to attain a higher moral ground we should make efforts to improve conditions of factory farms and provide livestock with as comfortable a life as possible.
I think the perfect solution would be the Star Trek replicator that can perfectly assemble any type of animal product that I might want to consume from base molecules without the need for any living creature to be harmed. Lesser versions would be lab grown meats that didn’t involve any animal suffering and vegetable based meat replacement options, while I can’t say we have really gotten there yet, we do seem to have taken some strides, with products like the ‘impossible burger’ (Though I did read an interesting piece on the relatively shitty nutritional value of that the other day.) I am not some sort of meat purist that believes that nothing can replace the flesh of living creatures, in fact I hope the opposite, that we are able to fully replace meat product and remove animal suffering to the greatest extent possible. But, until we have achieved that level of technology, I don’t believe that people should feel badly about having to kill animals to eat them, we should just strive to do in as kind a way as possible.

Griffin and Kate

Laurel and I are proud to announce the birth of our twins, Kate and Griffin.

They were born last week prematurely, but are healthy as is their mom. Kate is 3 pounds 7 ounces and Griffin is 4 pounds 3 ounces.

They were on CPAP machines for a short while but now are breathing on their own. They are in the NICU but just were upgraded from the small baby section to the larger baby section. Both have feeding tubes but are digesting food well.

Laurel has been an incredible mom so far and I am proud to be married to her.

I will post more details later, but for now here are some photos:

Our Twins Birth

Tuesday, June 4th, we had an 8:30 am appointment with Laurel’s ObGyn Dr. Seet. Laurels blood pressure was high which indicated a risk of preeclampsia. So the doctor sent us to the hospital to get more tests. The next test showed protein in her urine which confirmed a diagnosis of preclampsia. We were admitted to hospital. Her blood pressure and protein blood levels were not that high so the doctors and we thought we would go home the next morning. Laurel got the first of a two course steroid shot in the butt just in case the babies came early. Joel brought his camping pad and sleeping bag over so he could spend the night with Laurel.
Wednesday, June 5th at 1 am. Laurel had very little sleep, Joel had roughly two hours. Laurel woke Joel saying “I think my water broke”. Joel got up and went to get the nurse. The nurse swabbed the fluid and confirmed it was amniotic fluid and her water did break. Laurel was not feeling any contractions but in reality was having beginning ones. Laurel was put on IV fluids and magnesium in the hope to slow down her labor so that she could delay the labor enough to get a second steroids shot. Laurel kept telling the nurses and doctors she had to poop. Doctors and nurses assumed it was the baby trying to be pushed out and said don’t do it. It got worse and worse for her till she finally insisted and they brought a commode. Laurel took a big steamy smelly dump. Turned out it was poop and not the babies. Laurel’s pain and contractions got worse, so they decided to move her to a labor and delivery room around 3 am.
Laurel was very sick from the magnesium and her contractions and stomach pains got way worse. She requested an epidural. It took about an hour to come. And when it came, it didn’t work for about another hour so she was in a lot of pain and wiggling all over and sitting up. Finally the doctor checked to see how she was dilated and saw Griffin’s head. We were whisked away to the operating room for the delivery
5:30 am we were in the operating room with about 20 people. There were 4 Neonatal intensive care unit staff on standby for each of the twins. There was two obgyn’s, their nurses,  and an anesthesiologist and his assistant. They put Laurel’s legs up in the stirrups and she continued to have a lot of pain throughout the pushing and the birth of Griffin at 7:08 am under Doctor Bush, the obgyn for him. Griffin James Gross was born 4 pounds 3 ounces and 16 inches long and crying and pinkish grey.
Shortly after Griffin’s birth, Laurel’s cervix and things closed back up and Kate was not really moving along. At this point, most of the staff left except for a resident doctor, and a couple of nurses. The new doctor on hand, Dr. Spielvogel and another doctor took over. Dr. Spielvogel was dealing with another case and the other doctor decided to call for a c-section. People came pouring back in – 4 NICU people, anesthesiologist and assistant and lots of nurses. Dr. Spielvogel came back and reviewed Laurel’s status with a hand in her vagina and said he wanted to try for vaginal birth. Laurel and I were very happy about this. We wanted vaginal births all along. The doctor began giving Laurel Pitocin to get her contractions back. Her contractions came back, but not with the intensity and pain and fast birth like we had with Griffin. Instead these were 2-5 minutes apart. Laurel pushed really hard for two hours. The doctor said he would not do this with most patients but he knew Laurel was tough and strong mentally and physically for it. During contractions, Laurel had to hold her breath for 5-10 seconds and push as hard as possible then get one new breath and then hold and it push again and repeat for 3-8 times. In between contractions, we had nice conversations with the doctor about Laurel’s crew and Joel’s golf and his kite surfing and previous golf experiences. I was incredibly impressed by her championship spirit when after a huge amount of hours awake and delivering one baby in a very painful way, she gave it your all pushing for two hours with a stretched out uterus even though contractions weren’t happening. She impressed doctor Spielvogel so much he decided against c section and stuck through a very intense pushing period for hours.
At 12:50 pm Katherine (kate) Carolyn Gross was born. She was quiet and grey and listless for the first minute. The NICU people went to work and within 5 minutes she was crying and doing quite well. Dad Joel went with Kate at that point to the NICU. Dad was super tired at that point and doesn’t remember a ton other than looking over people’s shoulders and walking long ways to NICU. Dad Joel spent an hour or so with the babies while they were cleaned up and taken care of. Then Joel went back to see how mom was doing when the NICU people said it was ok.
Joel got back near the Operating Room and wasn’t allowed in. They told him they were working on Mom Laurel. He went and sat in the waiting room and started texting people the news. He had been texting his brother Jordan updates on Google Hangouts throughout the process. Dr. Nijat, the head of all the OBGYN’s at the hospital came out and gave Joel this 30 second explanation – “Your wife Laurel was having her placenta cleaned out by the doctors when they discovered her placenta had grown into her uterus and while trying to remove it she started to bleed. She has lost some blood and will be having transfusions now and we need to remove her uterus.” Then he walked away while I started to freak out and get very worried and upset. When the doctor came and told me your uterus had to be removed and you were losing blood, I just about lost it. I sent my text “I love you more than anything” while I sat in the waiting room quietly panicking.
What Laurel remembers is that after Joel left, Dr. Spielvogel could not get her placenta’s to come out by pushing on her stomach. He tried to do a manual extraction by reaching his hand inside to pull them out. After 30 minutes of trying that, he decided to try a DNC procedure in which laurel was put in a twilight sleep. He said it would take 15 minutes. 1.5 hours into the DNC, he and Dr. Nijat who he called in for a second opinion decided they had to do a hysterectomy. She was woken up for 30 seconds. She was told her placentas had grown into her uterus and was losing too much blood. It was a life or death situation and they had decided to do a hysterectomy and was put under general anesthesia.
When Laurel woke up from anesthesia, the very first thing she did was turn to me with the most heartbroken face I’ve ever seen and keep saying I can’t have any more babies and crying. I started to cry just a little but tried to stop myself so I could be encouraging and helpful. I looked up on my phone really quickly about this and saw when they a hysterectomy they may not remove ovaries and you can have surrogate babies in that case. I told Laurel that and tried to reassure her. I think it only partially worked. I asked a nurse if I could talk to the doctor without Laurel to ask this so if he said he took her ovaries he wouldn’t tell her yet. Nurse said no. I did it anyways and pulled him aside. He started to tell me everything and I just said does she have ovaries he said yes, so I grabbed him and we went in to talk to her. He told her the story. He said he did everything he could to save her uterus and brought in the most senior doctor at the hospital for a second opinion. Dr. Nijat, the most senior doctor, put his hand in her vagina and immediately said we need to do a hysterectomy. He said he was very sorry and he knows how incredibly hard she worked for those two vaginal births, but this was the only way to save her life.
Laurel was transferred back to room 274 for recovery and Joel went back to the babies. His memories are spotty after 40 hours without sleep. He remembers sitting with the babies and putting his hand on them to calm them, changing diapers, talking to them, and always being very worried that he was too tired and might squish a baby. He was very afraid of the tiny babies the first night and next day, but since Laurel was recovering from major surgery he knew had to step up and take care of them. He became much more comfortable quickly and had hours of just holding his hand on the babies. The babies were the size of his hand so it was good bonding.
Laurel was very sad she couldn’t bond with the babies right away. She cried when Joel came back about it. Joel held her and talked to her and then we went to sleep finally late that night. I still had my sleeping pad and sleeping bag in her room. The next morning she had to get IVs and catheter and lots of other stuff removed so she was not able to go see the babies till 2, so Joel went and was with them 7 am to a little before noon. Then Laurel and Joel went together for the first time to see the babies with Laurel’s dad and stepmom who had come to see us. It was very emotional and exciting for everyone. Laurel was afraid to touch them at first because they are so small and delicate but became more comfortable quickly. She was crying a lot because she was so worried about the babies.
Fortunately, she still have your ovaries and we can have surrogates and have more babies of our own. And much more importantly, we have two living beautiful and healthy twins.
Laurel has been very emotional throughout this whole incredibly intense experience. She had the wonderful new joy of being a mother to beautiful twins and the loss of her uterus and the emotional loss that she can’t carry babies in the future. She says that was the most emotional experience of her life both mentally and physically. She does think her crew experience helped. You just have to push through and get through tough situations and it’s worth it.
Our twins are strong. They are on bubble cpap to help inflate their air sacs in their lungs

Interesting Take on Capitalism

Free Markets Are Intrinsic to Humans

We’re the only animals who cooperate across genetic boundaries, because we can track credits and debits in voluntary exchanges.

Free markets are intrinsic to the human species

Naval: Overall capitalism [meaning free markets] is intrinsic to the human species. Capitalism is not something we invented. Capitalism is not even something we discovered. It is in us in every exchange that we have.

When you and I exchange information, I want some information back from you. I give you information. You give me information. If we weren’t having a good information exchange, you’d go talk to somebody else. So, the notion of exchange, and keeping track of credits and debits, this is built into us as flexible social animals.

We are the only animals in the animal kingdom that cooperate across genetic boundaries. Most animals don’t even cooperate. But when they do, they cooperate only in packs where they co-evolve together, and they share blood, so they have some shared interests.

Humans don’t have that. I can cooperate with you guys. One of you is a Serbian. The other one is a Persian by origin. And I’m Indian by origin. We have very little blood in common, basically none. But we still cooperate.

What lets us cooperate? It’s because we can keep track of debits and credits. Who put in how much work? Who contributed how much? That’s all free market capitalism is.

So, I strongly believe that it is innate to the human species, and we are going to create more and more wealth, and abundance for everybody.

Everybody can be wealthy. Everybody can be retired. Everybody can be successful. It is merely a question of education and desire. You have to want it. If you don’t want it, that’s fine. Then you opt out of the game.

But don’t try to put down the people who are playing the game. Because that’s the game that keeps you in a comfortable warm bed at night. That’s the game that keeps a roof over your head. That’s the game that keeps your supermarkets stocked. That’s the game that keeps the iPhone buzzing in your pocket.

So, it is a beautiful game that is worth playing ethically, rationally, morally, socially for the human race. It’s going to continue to make us all richer and richer, until we have massive wealth creation for anybody who wants it.

Too many takers and not enough makers will plunge a society into ruin

Nivi: It’s not just individuals secretly despising wealth, right? There are countries, groups, political parties that overtly despise wealth. Or at least seem to.

Naval: That’s right. What those countries, political parties, and groups are reduced to is playing the zero-sum game of status. In the process to destroy wealth creation, they drag everybody down to their level.

Which is why the U.S. is a very popular country for immigrants because of the American dream. Anyone can come here, be poor, and then work really hard and make money, and get wealthy. But even just make some basic money for their life.

Obviously, the definition of wealth is different for different people. A First World citizen’s definition of wealth might be, “Oh, I have to make millions of dollars, and I’m completely done.”

Whereas to a Third World poor immigrant just entering the country, and we were poor immigrants who came here when I as fairly young, to the United States, wealth may just be a much lower number. It may just be, “I don’t have to work a manual labor job for the rest of my life that I don’t want to work.”

But groups that despise it will essentially bring the entire group to that level. If you get too many takers, and not enough makers, society falls apart. You end up with a communist country.

Look at Venezuela, right? They were so busy taking, and dividing, and reallocating, that people are literally starving in the streets, and losing kilograms of body weight every year just from sheer starvation.

Another way to think about it is imagine an organism that has too many parasites. You need some small number of parasites to stay healthy.

You need a lot of symbiotes. All the mitochondria in all of our cells that help us respirate and burn oxygen. These are symbiotes that help us survive. We couldn’t survive without them.

But, to me, those are partners in the wealth creation that creates the human body. But if you just were filled with parasites, if you got infected with worms, or a virus, or bacteria that were purely parasitical, you would die. So, any organism can only withstand a small number of parasites. When the parasitic element gets too far out of control, you die.

Again I’m talking about ethical wealth creation. I’m not talking about monopolies. I’m not talking about crony capitalism. I’m not talking about mispriced externalities like the environment.

I’m talking about free minds, and free markets. Small-scale exchange between humans that’s voluntary, and doesn’t have an outsized impact on others.

I think that kind of wealth creation, if a society does not respect it, if the group does not respect it, then society will plunge into ruin, and darkness.


Private Equity is Mostly Evil

What I have seen from almost every private equity investment is that private equity attempts to harm consumers and employees and other stakeholders to get a good return.

Private equity does things like buy Toys R Us and leverage it to the hilt, then sell it and watch as it collapses.

Private equity buys up every company in an industry niche, then engages in anti-competitive behaviors like tripling prices and cutting employee pay.

Private equity bought out hospital air ambulances operated at a break even level and increased prices to $632,000 for flights on a $500,000 aircraft. Every flight bankrupts a person who can’t say no and is at their most vulnerable.

Private equity must be regulated. Leverage should be capped at no more than 50%. Private equity should only be able to buy at most 1/5th of any industry niche. The capital gains special lower tax rate should be removed and taxed as regular income.