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“I’ve been inside elite institutions of many different sorts, and discovered the horrible truth that most of the people in them are just ordinary people making it up as they go along, but one place I hadn’t quite made it yet was the top of our disease control agencies.2 So in a bit of naïveté analogous to Gell-Mann amnesia, I just assumed that there was some secret wing of the Centers for Disease Control which housed men-in-black who would rappel out of helicopters and summarily execute everybody in Wuhan who had ever touched a bat. And I was genuinely a little bit surprised and disappointed when instead they were caught with their pants down, and a bunch of weirdos on the internet turned out to be the real experts (the silver lining to this is that now we all get to be amateur scientists).”

It’s difficult to square this circle but on the one hand I’m someone who has Tom Nichols’ Death of Expertise on my bookshelf and on the other I spend a fair amount of time wondering how we have made it this far as a civilization when incompetence is rife. The issue is that this doesn’t mean we have to wholesale dismiss the entire system, but we must rather figure out how to return to decentralization, and also, trust in even the ordinary people we want to run our affairs, but avoid any semblance of worship. This is another reason I despise both Obama- and Trump-worship: They’re not special, they may be smarter in some ways than you (probably/definitely not Trump) but they make up for that with commensurate flaws. In the words of AWOLNATION: kill your heroes.

“The average American—branded, for the first time, as “The Consumer”—was now confronted with easy money from lots of institutions, some new and some old. State-of-the-art personal finance companies and old neighborhood banks, the newly developed stock market and the long-trusted retailer all offered new ways to purchase, even without substantial wages or savings. Middle-class buying and borrowing habits changed drastically. American households’ consumer debt more than doubled over the course of the decade, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of household income. It went from $3.3 billion in 1920 to $7.6 billion in 1929, and, after hovering between 4–6% in the first two decades of the 20th century, it jumped to 10% in the third. After declining from 1900 to 1916, real debt per household nearly doubled in the 1920s. Urban mortgage loans to homeowners and businesses also doubled over the course of the decade.”

The converse to these points about consumerism, the morality of thrift versus debt, etc. is that such decentralized ownership is the mechanism whereby massive projects can actually be accomplished, e.g., skyscrapers, interstate highways, significant research, dams, etc. Now, are all those worthwhile? You could argue maybe not, but some you have to concede are incredible contributions. The answer lies, as always, in the balance. Could we be stockholders without succumbing to consumerism? Of course – the wealthy among us use credit primarily as a tool.

“But it was only in 2020 that the risks became truly evident. Jack Ma—the founder of Alibaba, China’s richest man, and a role model to younger entrepreneurs—criticized the Party’s handling of financial reform, and then disappeared for months. Regulators postponed the I.P.O. for Ant Group, another of Ma’s companies, and fined Alibaba a record $2.8 billion for antitrust violations. Similar disappearances and penalties swept through one industry after another: education, real estate, health care. The Party explained that it was targeting inequality, monopoly, and excessive financial risks, but some of the arrests seemed personal. Ren Zhiqiang, a real-estate tycoon, received an unusually harsh sentence of eighteen years on corruption charges, after someone leaked an essay in which he mocked Xi as a “clown stripped naked who still insisted on being emperor.”

The big question of the 2020s geopolitically probably is what will become of China, and the signs aren’t looking great. Developed nations are too intertwined for a violent break to work, while its tottering economy requires loyalism and exports.

“Belloc advocated various methods to combat economic centralization, such as different tax structures to disincentivize what we’d now call chain stores. The larger one’s operation becomes, the higher tax one pays. There is effectively a penalty on bigness. Belloc wishes to turn our attention from thinking in terms of consumption (“what can I buy?”), which is the attitude of the “wage slave,” to liberty (“am I economically independent?”). Economic liberty is only achieved by ownership of productive property. Belloc would likely look at modern economies and conclude, despite our vast wealth and access to truly stupendous consumer goods, that we are not really free since most of us are wage earners, not entrepreneurs or proprietors. Belloc is constantly attentive to the problems of centralization. Note in our day, as in Belloc’s, the ability of wealth to use its power to curry favor with government, secure regulatory capture, and set up barriers to entry that discourage competition.”

As the world encounters massive demographic crises in a few short decades, it’s not unreasonable to think employee-owned enterprises will become much more popular as a way to outcompete for immigrants or really any labor.

“When we relate to the world through an LLM, we treat reality as a standing reserve from which we expect to frictionlessly receive answers to any question that comes to mind. We don’t have to study. We don’t have to endure frustration. We don’t have to weigh opposing perspectives. We don’t have to imagine alternative ways of seeking answers. We don’t even have to “torture” nature in a Baconian sense. We just type in a query and hit enter. Questions that cannot be answered in this fashion become less interesting and imaginable.”

Chatbots may not end the world, but LLMs will probably make us dumber. That’s my crude contribution here, but really, you should read the beautiful piece above by my long-ago acquaintance Jeff Bilbro.

“Recent studies have highlighted the connection between our diet, use of antibiotics and our gut bacteria in the development of allergies. A 2019 study led by Nagler showed that the gut of healthy infants harbored a specific class of allergy-protective bacteria not found in infants with cow’s milk allergy. This was followed by a study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital that found that five or six specific strains of gut bacteria in infants seem to be protective of developing food allergies. A lead researcher on that study, Dr. Lynn Bry, surmised that our lifestyles are, for better or for worse, capable of “resetting the immune system.”

An interesting little thought re modern life I’ve had, especially in the context of “safe spaces” due to “triggering” is that as much as we try, we simply can’t protect ourselves from everything. Moreover, it’s bad for us.

“He fixed things often and silently. Grandpa just cared about things working. He had an instinct for not just broken things but soon to be broken things. He would point out risky work, bad decision making in the form of shoddy materials or shifting angles. He was offended by the trace measures left in the world that signified short-term planning. So I learned that this too had something to do with craft. He had a visual vocabulary that amazed me. I think about how he could see these details. He saw choices and constraints and tensions and frictions where I just saw chairs. He saw effort where most people just saw end products.”

The unintended consequence of consumerism, diminishing populations and inexorable growth in pursuit of the next quarter’s earnings all have produced a world of junk we don’t know how to fix. Yet, geopolitical trends may start taking matters into their own hands and forcing us to respect craft and repairs again.


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“We think of the past like it’s a physical fact – like it’s real. But the past is what we call our memory and stories about it. Imperfect memories, and stories built on one interpretation of incomplete information. That’s “the past”.”

Eyewitnesses aren’t always reliable. Much of our life narrative that we’ve unconsciously or consciously constructed for ourselves can be transformed. I think the ubiquity of therapy can be a mixed bag in outcomes but one great nuance it can introduce is recognition of the underlying stories that have held power over you for some time.

“Thick travel has made me realise how much chaos we have here in the US, at a spiritual level, compared with the rest of the world. We are becoming a thin culture, obsessed with the surface, more and more in denial about the importance of what is beneath. We have forgotten that we need webs of meaning, eroding so many of them.”

This may well be true but I’ve rarely seen more craving – both spoken and unspoken – for deeper connections in my entire life, ranging from people actually engaging in witchcraft after astrology doesn’t suffice to rejecting materialism and deliberately choosing less lucrative but more meaningful careers.

“In 2017, along with Pierre Delplace and Venaille, both physicists at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, Marston observed that the Coriolis force swirls fluids on Earth the way the magnetic field spins von Klitzing’s electrons. In the planetary version of a topological insulator, equatorial Kelvin waves are like the current flowing at a quantum material’s edge. These immense waves propagate around the equator because it is the boundary between two insulators, the hemispheres. And they flow east because in the northern hemisphere, Earth’s rotation swirls fluids clockwise, and in the southern hemisphere, the ocean swirls in the other direction.”

A growing theory I have is that the entire universe is fractal. The topological swirls in quantum electronics are copied by the weather waves spanning the globe; maybe the universe’s black holes more closely mirror cellular decay than we think?

“In no way do I pine nostalgically for the seventeenth century and its coal fires, outdoor latrines, rats, lice, fleas, biannual baths, and so-called dentistry. But gross jobs are still part of life. We’ve just divvied up roles such that we can mostly hire someone else to do the dirty work.”

The physicality of our existence means it’s essential, in my view, to learn how and why things work. I’m still trying to get better at this. Oh, and it’s critical for especially teenagers to get exposed to ‘dirty jobs’.

“And, like a good localist, Swift saw what needed doing: taking care of the soil, avoiding abstraction, especially in ownership but also in leadership, providing for ourselves, and solving problems with solutions suited to individual places—that is, seeking local wisdom.”

If WFH truly becomes the prevailing mode, it is possible that a localist revival could occur, but that seems pretty far off/hard to imagine, given the sheer mass of cultural change that’ll need to occur.

“Yet, opines Deneen, it is custom and authoritative cultural institutions that protect the average person against the rapaciousness of the elite. In Deneen’s view, the emphasis on the autonomous self to the detriment of custom and communal authority has left people adrift. Without these authoritative cultural transmitters of meaning and custom, the common person becomes a pawn to a “power elite” that promises to manage people’s lives for them.”

It’s important to note these are usually local, not national institutions, e.g., your neighbors that look out for your car as thieves try to make off with it (happened just this weekend to an acquaintance of mine).

“Wood’s team showed that a computer powered by a GPU and running Unity, a software package for producing video games, could generate the necessary pictures — including detailed reflections of digital images wrapped around the curved, wet human eyeball. It took the GPU system just 23 milliseconds to generate each photo. (In fact, each image actually took only 3.6 milliseconds to produce; the rest of the time was spent storing the image.)”

How much data will AI systems really need? Data poisoning is likely to become a much bigger problem sooner rather than later, while the rarity and quality of datasets are going to become a distinct pipeline of IP.

“And so, what do we find when we read Zuckerberg’s letter against the background of Yeats’s poem? We find that Zuckerberg’s imaginative vocabulary is suffocatingly limited. In fact, the metaphors we hear, almost exclusively (perhaps, not surprisingly), are drawn from the practical application of mathematical functions, sketched out into order to find vertex coordinates; that is, those graphable points that represent maxima and minima for market opportunities.”

Many tech CEOs are far smarter than I am – still, maybe they could have spared some time to read some literature. The glorification of the quantifiable and the coder in the 2010s is dying, thankfully.


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“Well, indeed, and if so we might have bigger problems than middle-class employment, but is that close? You can spend weeks of your life watching three hour YouTube videos of computer scientists arguing about this, and conclude only that they don’t really know either. You might also suggest that the idea this one magic piece of software will change everything, and override all the complexity of real people, real companies and the real economy, and can now be deployed in weeks instead of years, sounds like classic tech solutionism, but turned from utopia to dystopia.”

AI is like any other tool, not so much good or bad itself as opposed to what it’s used for. But I do think that we are underselling how many BS jobs are going to be automated away, and there surely will be some adjustment pain, but it will be for the best.

“Stanisława spoke little about her experience in the camp, only sharing her report on the conditions years after the war because she felt she owed it to the women to tell the world what they had endured. But she kept her own memories to herself. Her family could only see glimpses, as when her grandson once began playing “Silent Night” on the piano. Stanisława froze in place before asking him to play something else; this song, it seems, had been sung by the soldiers at the camp and Stanisława could not bear the memories it dredged up.”

A staggeringly beautiful story of human perseverance.

“By tweaking which connections they cut, the researchers could move the deformations. They made two pairs of non-abelian defects, and by sliding them around a five-by-five-qubit chessboard, they just barely eked out a braid. The researchers declined to comment on their experiment, which is being prepared for publication, but other experts praised the achievement.”

I don’t pretend to truly grasp all of the implications in this article, but it basically seems to be that as we improve our manipulation of exotic forms of matter, we are getting closer to supercharging our computational possibilities. If we can compute anything, we can likely solve energy.

“Fundamentalism, Kundera knew, was incompatible with humour—the latter an alternative reality with rules of its own, which trivialised the earnestness of ideologues and laughed them away to nothing. Humour wasn’t just a series of jokes, it was a philosophical system that “shone its light over everything,” and for this very reason, its practitioners had to be taken down. Offenders routinely got 10-year sentences under Stalin and in the process an entire redemptive area of life was denied existence. Yet this, Kundera felt, was just when the trait shone most brilliantly—a “wager,” a genuine risk, and a sign of character. In a 1980 interview with Philip Roth, Kundera said that he could always recognise a “non-Stalinist, a person I needn’t fear, by the way he smiled. A sense of humour was a trustworthy sign of recognition. Ever since, I have been terrified by a world that is losing its sense of humour.”

It didn’t take long for comedians to rebel against cancel culture because nothing is funny in cancel culture, wherein one could conceivably be canceled for anything, because every single thing could be deemed offensive given a certain point of view. As long as human nature exists, we will have evils and flaws, and one of the most powerful things we can do is laugh at them. I forget who originated this, but the line that all you need to do to see who is in power in a society is figure out who or what you cannot joke about, and then that is the true power. Remarkably accurate.


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“There have been hard conversations and tears along the way. Early on, trying to make sense of her family’s relationship with the people they enslaved, Marshall shared her family’s narrative about Hester: that she was so close with the Marshall family that she opted to stay with them after the Civil War. But the Mosleys reframed the story for Marshall: As a penniless Black woman, where else could she have gone?”

A powerful, painful article. The wounds caused by the immense sin of slavery and attempts to cast people as subhuman take generations to heal – and we are still within living memory of outright segregation (not the much subtler kind that occurs still today). But, there is always hope.

“Such a result, even if only in monkeys, might lead regulators to decide that human embryo models deserve to be treated like embryos, with all the attendant restrictions. Some researchers feel that we urgently need a new definition of an embryo to offer clarity and keep pace with the scientific advances. If there is good reason to suppose an embryo model has the potential to generate viable offspring, we will need to either accept the regulatory implications or find ways to nullify that potential.”

More than ever, we are grappling with the slippery concept of a soul, and are losing our way steadily without any clear definition of a person. However, to do so, will require brutal recalculation of what we’ve allowed to occur for decades, e.g., turning the other way when it’s clear our profitable trading partners are casually committing genocide, modern slavery in the Middle East, abortion.

“I can’t think of many scenes that are flourishing right now, which may account for the shortage of geniuses. Scenes are the soil in which geniuses sprout and flourish. Of course, some geniuses really are solitary; Isaac Newton did not go down to the alehouse to quaff beers and talk celestial mechanics. But more often, genius is a social phenomenon. Brian Eno coined the term “scenius” to describe an ecology of artists, entrepreneurs and thinkers from which brilliant individuals are spawned.

I’m interested in what makes a particular place and moment susceptible to scenius. It might be a random efflorescence; an accident of time, people, and place. It might have deep-rooted economic causes. Athens became more intellectually advanced than Sparta or anywhere else partly because trade made it richer and busier; Florentine artists benefited from the surplus of the banking industry. It might be a rebellion of the artists against the culture’s gatekeepers: Parisian Impressionism emerged when young painters, dissatisfied with the strictures of the Academy, hooked up with a network of gallery-owners, dealers, and critics outside of the official system.”

Turns out that any innovation in fields is often best based on or informed by a firm foundation in classical principles, much like any physical structure.

“Who is really affected by “Affirmative Action”? From how it’s discussed, you would think “Affirmative Action” affects a wide swathe of the black and Hispanic public. But you’d be wrong. 

By Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade’s estimate, in any given year, only 1 percent of black and Hispanic 18-year olds get into a college as a result of racial preferences. The other 99 percent either don’t go to college at all or don’t go to colleges selective enough to “need” racial preferences. Schools with acceptance rates over 50% generally don’t use affirmative action.”

Never honestly had much of an axe to grind with affirmative action beyond its potential inefficiency. MLK’s plan for a “GI Bill” for the poor cited in this article (h/t to my pal Teddy Kim for this one, btw) made far more sense. However, now it is on its way out, a good reflection on its pros and cons.

“Before plants arrived, some researchers think, crusts of microbes could have helped prepare the land by transforming bare rock into fertilized soil. A biocrust well adapted to extreme conditions could take hold of a suitable substrate that held nutrients and was regularly moistened with fog. By gradually weathering the rocks and stabilizing the sediment as soil, it could alter the environment in a way that promoted the development of higher organisms.”

The more we learn about the intricacies of nature, it is clear that life is astoundingly resilient, it is everywhere and supremely capable of adaptation… but that doesn’t mean there aren’t losses along the way.


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“Deneen argues that this version of conservatism will eventually come to replace liberalism as America’s governing philosophy through a process that he calls “regime change.” But as is often the case with Deneen, he is frustratingly coy about what “regime change” actually entails or how it will unfold. In his latest book, he argues that regime change will require “the peaceful but vigorous overthrow of a corrupt and corrupting liberal ruling class,” making way for a new, postliberal order in which “existing political forms remain the same” but are informed by “a fundamentally different ethos.” This new regime will be “superficially the same” as the current political order, but it will be led by a new class of conservative elites who share the values of non-elites and govern in their interests.”

One of the many frustrations of the American political system is the way it is literally designed for gridlock, for slow, grinding change, if any change at all. But there is a wisdom in that. Part of the frustration I have with much of the postliberalism discourse is the tacit wink toward “our side” wielding the exact same level of power that we decry only when our opponents wield it. I’m all for decreasing federal power, as it definitely has ballooned to scary levels – but the solution isn’t to blow everything up or embrace near-total control of government by one political party, as in Hungary. The solution is to strike the balance. The often-seeming lunatic fringes are currently being exploited by cynical players such as Trump on the right or Democratic players for the left. Most of us are in the middle, bewildered.

“You can always try to create an oasis of freedom in the middle of civilization. You might succeed. But I would bet on it being short-lived. In 1970, Nigerian musician Fela Kuti declared that his commune in Lagos, named Kalakuta, was an independent nation. The commune housed not only Fela, his friends and family, and his recording studio, but a free clinic. A thousand armed soldiers of the military junta of Nigeria stormed it and burned it to the ground some years later. Fela’s mother was thrown from a window and killed.”

The type of exurban “fringe” lifestyle described in the article is likely to grow only more popular as culture wars intensify until either outright conflict happens, or a bigger war unites many, such as is semi-happening with the CCP and concerns around big tech’s power. The author makes a good point however that such a life frankly is hard, with any type of living close to the land always requiring more effort than many would like to exert. Where can we find the balance?

“The mining industry has always provided an economic justification for the displacement and exploitation of people all over the world: the colonization of the Americas for gold, silver, iron, and copper; blood diamonds in West and Central Africa; child labor in cobalt mines in the DRC; and thousands of deaths linked to paramilitaries financed by multinational mining companies in Colombia. The move to renewable energy will likely expose the poorest people on the planet to more of the same from these fierce extractive forces.”

The true environmental costs of lithium and other minerals mining truly is not being calculated well at all. This “gold” rush is going to barely offset emissions that much, when the cost of mining, extraction, refining, transport, processing and so on occurs. Furthermore, consumer transportation isn’t even that large a chunk of overall emissions.

“Those who maintain a celibate witness in the Church, especially diocesan priests, cultivate the art of Eucharistic and spousal accompaniment by cultivating the dimension of depth in the Church, creating in their hearts by their oblation a space of love for me and for everyone in the Church. John Paul II says in Vita Consecrata §59 that this “space in the heart” is a Eucharistic space, and so the mark of a “spousal” existence, which, in its single-hearted devotion to Christ, is a devotion to all whom Christ loves. This is the “sacramental ‘mysticism’” to which Benedict XVI refers in Deus Caritas Est (§14).[7]–JXiPyPdT0iWZVU794w1sLIHcv4Ik83XGfoK5xRFvi202cnOifDf4hFarPY6pkihIF6tR3miDIhGmdcLYLmMAICHaKzmHwHkRM2_9rUgYYFbMekcc&utm_content=261316716&utm_source=hs_email

A beautiful essay about something that seems absurd to our sex-obsessed modern age, which somehow is both Puritan and also pornographic. Celibacy is simultaneously, paradoxically, complicated and simple, yet the simple part often seems left out: What better way to wholeheartedly focus on a particular calling while witnessing it as a cherished lifestyle, paying homage to the value of marriage by doing so, than in remaining celibate?

“Might it not be the case that our collective hostility to totalitarianism (whether we define that as “fascism,” per the Left, or as “communism,” per the Right) is itself an attempt to divert attention from the possibility that we ourselves, as a liberal democracy, are and always have been a totalitarian state in the making?”

One of the most unpopular things to do in the right kind of gathering is to slowly (or bluntly, if you’re rude like I often am) establish to people how similar we all are. To my extreme lib friends (and rest assured I’ve fallen into the same signaling trap, having done the whole black screen Instagram post back in June 2020), I like to note how Black Lives Matter and anti-racist movements oftentimes advocate for segregated safe spaces, similar to how Jim Crow legal systems also advocated – of course, the response is that it’s for entirely different reasons… but is it still not ironic that that is the end case? To my extreme conservative friends, on the other hand, it is very fun to note how their embrace of certain politicians really does smack of the “ends justify the means” and especially as of late, it’s fascinating how some have swung all the way from Reaganesque support of embattled Eastern Europeans to decrying any aid sent to Ukraine even though demagogue and dictator Putin is hellbent on essentially imposing a Communist-lite (at best) system on free people struggling to break free of the decadeslong hell of Russian dominance. There is no political line – it is a perfect circle. If you go far enough one way, you end up at the other. Nazis are Communists and Communists are Nazis.

“But as the crisis Cobbett chronicled continues and acquires global proportions, with industrial agribusiness waging an unceasing war against nature, we stand in desperate need of new ways of relating to the earth. Those new ways will no doubt include the dignity, thrift, and productivity of the cottage economy that Cobbett celebrated in Rural Rides and which he himself practiced. In the end, Cobbett gestures toward the possibility that we might inhabit the earth without abusing it or each other; he contemplates how to take what we need for survival and possibly, if improbably, contribute to the flourishing of all the creatures with whom we share the natural world. In the kind of paradox Cobbett delighted in, the key to our future might very well lie in the wisdom of the past.”

This piece is lovely, tracing a mostly forgotten forefather of what would be called conservationism nowadays: William Cobbett. But the piece does more than just trace his contributions – it reminds and is related to the prior article as it notes how commons used to exist and serve a great purpose for the working classes/rural poor. Note, however, that the commons were not the Commune. Communism revolted against capitalism and took everything to an impractical, illogical extreme: no private ownership (unless of course you were wealthy and in the eventual oligarchy that defines every Communist system). Current capitalistic structures in the US go too far in the other direction, allowing unprecedented concentration of land ownership in a few hands. Owning your own piece of land is not a guarantee of good stewardship or even involved civic action, but it is better than nothing, especially if there are incentives to garden, till, etc. on it.


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“Harassment of marine observers aboard fishing vessels is one of the industry’s worst-kept secrets. In a survey of observers in the United States alone, about half said that they had been harassed on the job. Anecdotally, Liz Mitchell, president of the Association for Professional Observers (APO) and herself a former observer, says the APO routinely logs stories of such incidents. The APO’s website describes them in detail: observers locked in their rooms, threatened at knifepoint, chased around docks, forced to accept bribes, raped, starved, pressured to sign off on sustainability criteria. Conditions in the South Pacific are among the worst.

This is the true price of a can of tuna, that lucrative shelf-stable fare that whips from the Pacific Ocean onto grocery shelves like millions of widgets flung from a slingshot. Amid rising numbers of marine observers allegedly murdered and disappeared at sea, Cagilaba’s story underscores how little words like “sustainably caught” and “certified” may mean when it comes to protecting the humans in the supply chain. And how much grocery and retail brands profit anyway.”

Candidly had never really thought about this, but it makes sense – how do rules get enforced, apart from observation or all-powerful satellites? Ethics are hard to enforce uniformly if at all in super complex supply chains.

“Trible and Kronauer’s new findings turn the previous assumptions on their head. Their alternative scenario focused on the pair of mismatched supergenes in the clonal raider ants. Sometime in history, one of those ants had experienced a mutation that replaced the supergene on one chromosome with a copy of the supergene from the other chromosome. The resulting mutant ant with two copies of the “parasitic” version of the supergene could have suddenly developed into a miniature queen that looked a lot like an inquiline.

The work showed that a single mutation in a supergene was sufficient to produce the full suite of changes observed in the obligate parasites, even before the ants were split by speciation.”

The more we learn about evolution, the more it is clear that mutations and Lamarckian leaps can happen much faster than may be suspected, it seems.

“But this paradigm ignores the fact that not all identity categories are interchangeable or operate with the same currency, and some identities are much more powerful, and dangerous than others. Race and ethnicity in particular have the potential to ignite conflicts within societies in a manner without parallel. Any conflict rooted around fixed identities can only end in zero-sum games. Someone wins. Someone loses. Always.”

A carefully couched essay but one with an undeniably powerful point – most wars are spawned by greed, but the absolute worst are those forged by identity, e.g., Thirty Years’ War, Balkan internecine conflicts, Reconquista, Civil War, etc.

“Late in the podcast, producer Dana Chivvis reflects that if Adnan really is innocent, he must be among the unluckiest people alive given the convergence of incriminating evidence. “To make [Adnan] completely innocent of this,” she concludes dubiously, “you just have to think ‘God … you had so many terrible coincidences that day … you had such bad luck that day, Adnan.’” Consciously or not, Chivvis is reverse-engineering how circumstantial evidence can be used to prove guilt.”

Pretty sobering that in the Internet era someone who is so obviously guilty can be freed even briefly – then again thanks to dying legacy media TV’s desperation, Twitter and other social media even a nincompoop like Donald Trump can get elected, so perhaps we deserve the world we are creating.

“Confronting a possible 90% increase in electricity usage would require a large build-out of additional generating capacity, especially if we don’t want to overload the grid. Many will be surprised to learn, however, that there are already over two terawatts of proposed new power generation waiting to come online in interconnection queues. This delay is the result of proposed power generators needing to hear back from regulators and other stakeholders about how and when their generators could be connected to the grid, how much it would cost, and who would be able to pay.

So the only thing standing in the way of the United States producing three times as much power in the next couple of years is not the scarcity of renewable power generation, but rather the regulatory and logistical bottleneck of connecting this new power to the grid.”

It seems increasingly likely that we won’t really enter a phase shift of seriously committing to upgrading our grid unless the first big calamity really happens, or perhaps, we do end up having a grindingly slow period of upgrading. But rolling blackouts in California for years now don’t seem to be doing much as of yet.

He continued: “This is a realm where we have no experience and no understanding of the possibilities, but they’re going to be very good at manipulation. And if they’ve got any sense, they won’t let us know that they’re much smarter than us. I’m not confident about any of these conclusions. But I’m confident that there’s not nothing to worry about.”  

I suggested to Hinton that he was imputing to AI models motives we do not know they have. He anthropomorphised large language models throughout our conversation. He agreed that the motives of existing AIs are unknown, in so far as they have motives at all, but he thinks they will look to acquire more control so as to achieve the goals we set them. This is an open-ended risk. Hinton is trusting his intuition, having learned to do so over the decades in which his ideas were long ignored. His rise to pre-eminence as the first “god-father of AI” is recent. “My intuition is: we’re toast. This is the actual end of history.”

There are plenty of valid concerns around AI but I think we haven’t yet really defined terms, even. Everyone who believes AI will get more intelligent overall seems to vaguely speak of intelligence in various different ways, but mostly how an idiot-savant is technically more intelligent than I… at a couple distinct things, normally. I think the bigger concern is that AI borrows agency from existing, documented maladies online in medical literature, based on faulty instructions, but ultimately, it won’t ever gain its own agency. That’s because we can’t create agency, at all – we are human, not divine. Our procreation accidentally creates agency, after all.


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“Research from linguistics demonstrates that the metaphors humans use to speak about time are profoundly embodied. Human bodies are directional, meaning our physiology has a direction: it faces forwards. Consider the positioning of our eyes or limbs, which are all oriented toward one direction. This embodied reality means that we are more capable of moving and acting on objects in front of us than behind. We also think about time in a similar way. Consider expressions like ‘we are going into the weekend’ or ‘we’ve left the past behind’. In both sayings, we move forward into the future and away from the past. These are examples of what is known as the ‘ego-moving’ metaphor, in which time is construed as unidirectional, with the future in front of us and the past behind us.”

The concept of time is fascinating – to misquote: “The past isn’t gone – it isn’t even past.” If we live rooted in the past, can we truly move forward? If we all live as forward-looking, are we truly living in our present, in any meaningful sense? We have to look out for our future selves to some degree, but we can’t avoid living well for ourselves (sometimes it’s okay to eat a donut, ya know?).

“From the front porch, you could say hello to passers-by, exchange a few words with your next-door neighbors as they came home from work (no big garages to drive into in those old neighborhoods!), wave at the school kids on their way to the middle school across the street, greet the postman. And if someone stopped to ask about the irises in the front beds, or to pet the dog, or to ask directions, the porch was a place you could invite them into; a place visible enough to mitigate major risk, but homelike enough to offer comfort and care.”

Practical tips are always at the root of tradition. In this fun brief piece, the author notes how porches are simply practical for hospitality, and, thinking back, I do recall being more at ease just in people’s clearly more open spaces, especially porches, than say anything private like a bedroom. There is a distinct sense of ease that evades in any alternate-functional places.

“It’s hardly surprising, then, that many homesteaders also advocate localism, whose goal is to build resilient and sustainable communities by prioritising local resources and production, and instilling a kind of civic pride of place and belonging. According to Lasch, what he calls “particularism” was an antidote to the progressive idea that we could or should love every citizen of the world in the same way we love the members of our families or communities. He pointed to people such as Willa Cather, who spoke to the particularities of place, attributing ‘Nebraska’s vigour and prosperity to the presence of Bohemian, Scandinavian, and German immigrants’.”

Increasingly I am of the opinion that the US needs a blatant Homestead Act 2.0. As progressives and conservatives alike bemoan the hollowing out of small towns, we have to acknowledge the typical American won’t want to live there or farm or do the hard work necessary to keep them alive. But you know who would? The millions of impoverished desperate people in the Global South, that would jump at free property on at least decently healthy soil, in a peaceful country.


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“In the mid-2000s, researchers sifted through 15,000 studies on self-esteem. They found just 200 matching their rigorous standards. Of those 200 studies, few if any backed up the claims of the self-esteem movement.”

Although there are fortunately much more productive therapeutic sessions out there for many I know, one oddity I’ve noticed also about so much of the narrative of “self-love” and “working on myself” and such is that a lot of it doesn’t seem to ever be about a concrete, external achievement or trait. I do think it is very important for people to confront their own fears, neuroses, wishes and flaws head on, which is what I gather “working on myself” and also tracing back why exactly we may consistently stumble in some areas. However, how do we then move to the positive, post-processing stage and counter with action? I’m at much as fault as anyone else in this, as it’s far easier to just read endlessly as a form of entertainment and knowledge absorption than to put it into practice and risk failure, but eventually DOING something does seem to often be a missing piece.

“Scythes are a great example of a simple human tool that we replaced with more complex ones to dubious benefit. They can work as fast as a lawnmower, according to David Tressemer in The Scythe Book, and without any fuel or electricity. In a fuel or economic crisis they could easily be adopted again, if people knew what they were and how to wield them.”

The romanticism of agrarian/pastoral life is likely to persist given the ills of modernity and urbanism, but I don’t quite see it coming back in any full swing. It’s simply too dang hard. That said, perhaps some happy medium between semi-urban, suburban existences and plenty of gardens and orchards could happen? Another key point in this piece is that tradeoffs always exist, but also, there may be unintended consequences from abandoning older technology before we realize full ramifications of its loss.

” ‘If China moves one-tenth of its manufacturing value added to India, it doubles the size of the Indian manufacturing sector,’ Cormie told Institutional Investor in an interview.”

I don’t really expect the CCP to go gently into that good night, but a weaker China is better news for all – for at least a time. We should be wary and recall the lessons learned from the 1990s in Russia, as oligarchs ran amok.


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“The negative spaces that exist in baseball—the time that exists between pitches or between moments of action on the field—are features, not bugs, of baseball. The silences are, in fact, part of the beauty of the game, part of what gives space for viewers to enter into the leisure necessary for contemplation. But over the past forty years, these negative spaces took over.”

This piece waxes a bit mystical about baseball, but there is something undeniably fascinating about its power in terms of luck, individual talent, team dynamics, etc. It is a truism that the hardest thing to do in professional sports is hit a major league fastball, while also team dynamics can sink pretty much any contender despite individual talent (looking at you, redundantly named SoCal baseball team).

“If you don’t need to know the syntax for Pandas to move your data analysis from Excel to something better, and if you don’t need to remember the name of some obscure feature you use every few months, do you need to remember… anything?


True – we can’t neglect the physiology of the brain and its peculiar power of associative context and common sense filters. As noted later in the piece, memorization is key no matter what, as knowing which pathway and tools to take is the only way to actually capitalize on the power of our tools.

“The team found that within the structure of the interlocked molecules, the OR51E2 had trapped propionate within a small pocket. When they enlarged the pocket, the receptor lost much of its sensitivity to propionate and to another small molecule that normally activates it. The tweaked receptor preferred larger odor molecules, which confirmed that the size and chemistry of the binding pocket tunes the receptor to detect only a narrow set of molecules.”

It’s fascinating how much physical structure and motion play into sense perception; it’s an oft-neglected aspect of biological systems that everything is in motion and constantly contorting, which lends orders of magnitudes of complexity.


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Trying out a new thing to better my recall and find connections between all the various things I have read as of late. So, some thoughts:

““Large language models work better than any system we have ever had before,” said Pascale Fung, an AI researcher at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “Why do they struggle with something that’s seemingly simple while it’s demonstrating amazing power in other things that we don’t expect it to?” Recent studies have finally started to explain the difficulties, and what programmers can do to get around them. But researchers still don’t understand whether machines will ever truly know the word “no.”

Thought: It’s hard to program negation perhaps because it is difficult to infer mistakes? Most of the time most of what we do is make mistakes – we just have built up a society of safety nets that can tolerate a lot of that, plus social structures. And as most of that is common sense and unwritten, it is very hard for LLMs or other models to learn how to handle that – also potentially worth noting it’s extremely hard to mathematically weight all possible avenues/reasons why something is “no”?

“…hell is founded on God’s love. It is not a place where God exacts endless retributive punishment from those whose sins do not merit what they receive there. It is the condition of those who reject the love that God bathes them in—to the extent to which they will allow it.”hell is founded on God’s love. It is not a place where God exacts endless retributive punishment from those whose sins do not merit what they receive there. It is the condition of those who reject the love that God bathes them in—to the extent to which they will allow it.”

Thought: A very useful clarification of something I’ve struggled with in the past. We create our own hells, in short.

“…The new creed does not take animals to be natural automata, but it does find a gulf between the brutes and us: no non-human animal has a sexed soul. And as to sex, maybe non-human animals unproblematically come in female and male varieties, but as far as humans are concerned—as my old sparring partner Robin Dembroff puts it—the notion that female and male are “universal, stable and discrete categories … is false.” To think otherwise is to be “ignorant of the history and sociology of sex categorization.”

Thought: Much like critical race theory, what perplexes me is that if gender is a construct, then we can’t even hope to organize beyond a “human person” category, as there could be endless varieties of genders. But then, how does one even know one is correct? Nothing matters, all is relative to either feelings and/or appearance.

“Many waypoint names are gibberish, but others are more colourful – DRAKE in the English Channel (for Sir Francis); BARBQ near Kansas City; WHALE in the Mediterranean, off Benghazi. When descending to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, fans of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons will enjoy this sequence: ITAWT ITAWA PUDYE TTATT (followed by IDEED). The authorities in the US, more than most countries, have made a habit of writing five-letter distillations of history and culture onto the sky; as passengers never encounter them, this is for no reason other than that it might be fun for pilots to fly to and from them. And so it is.”

Thought: Had no idea on this and human creativity at its best is always a joy.

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