Links: Liu Cixin’s SF trilogy, cops, Trump country explanations, Nell Zink, Internet culture, and more

* Robin Hanson on Liu Cixin’s Trilogy; I couldn’t get into the first book and abandoned it at some point.

* “‘Do Not Resist’: A look at the normalization of warrior cops.”

* “Deep Stories: Arlie Russell Hochschild journeys into the heart of Trump Country.”

* “Anti-globalists: Why they’re wrong.”

* I was looking through the archives and came across the entertaining-in-retrospect post “$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline will Change Our Lives for the Better — Christopher Steiner.” Oops. Someone got that one real wrong, at least over relevant time horizons.

* From a comment, Jeff’s thoughts on Nell Zink’s thoughts on the corporatisation of universities (or lack thereof).

* “Prosecutors who withhold or tamper with evidence now face felony charges.” Good. This is a long-overdue change.

* “To end the affordable housing crisis, Washington needs to legalize Main Street.” Local NIMBYs are impeding housing growth and enabling soaring housing prices.

* Likely SFW, as it’s all text: “Has Internet Culture Ruined Love and Sex? Tinder, orgies, alt-porn, and orgasmic meditation.” Likely answer to most “Has Internet ruined x?” stories is “no.”

* “Amazon wants Prime members to read a book,” hat tip Isaac.

* What Chinese corner-cutting reveals about the modern economy, more interesting than the title suggests.

* Sodom, LLC: The Marquis de Sade and the office novel.

Links: Nell Zink, spamming spammers, Tana French, monogamy’s discontents, and more

* “Enigma Variations: Notes toward a theory of Nell Zink.” I like The Wallcreeper and have no idea what to do with it or say about it.

* Two years spamming spammers back, completely hilarious.

* “Sticker shock in Los Angeles Housing:” or, why you should’ve live in California. Granted I am writing this from NYC, which faces similar NIMBY and cost challenges.

* “Without tenure, professors become terrified sheep.” I think it more accurate to say, “Without market power, professors become terrified sheep.” Tenure distorts the academic market, making it hard for professors to get even one job, which in turn makes them terrified of losing it. See more from me on tenure’s discontents here.

* “The evolution of monogamy in response to partner scarcity,” interesting throughout.

* “Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex.” Is that incompatible with fun?

* “Tana French’s Intimate Crime Fiction: In her Dublin Murder Squad series, the search for the killer becomes entangled in a search for self.” I love the first paragraph in particular.

* “Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations.” Short answer: Good all around. Other drugs ought to be next.

* Presidential candidate Gary Johnson: “Take a Deep Breath, Voters. There Is a Third Way.”

* “Why an Exotic Dancer Is (Financially) Just Like Your Hairdresser,” or, how strippers get paid (likely SFW).

Is most narrative art just a series of status games?

In The Righteous Mind Jonathan Haidt writes:

If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our own social agendas—to justify our own actions and to defend teams we belong to—then things will make a lot more sense. Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value. They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.

And those post hoc constructions are often “crafted” subconsciously, without the speaker or listener even aware of what they’re doing. It occurs to me in light of this that most narrative art and the moral reasoning implied in it is just a set of moral status games: someone, usually the narrator, is trying to raise their own status and perhaps that of their group too. Seen in this way a lot of novels, TV shows, and movies get stripped of their explicit content and become vehicles for intuitive status games. Police shows are perhaps the worst offenders but are by no means the only ones. Most romance novels are about raising the heroine’s status through the acquisition of a high-status man.

One could apply similar logic to other genres. While realizing this may make most narrative art more boring, it may also open the possibility of writing narrative art that is explicitly not about status games, or that tries to avoid them to the extent possible. Science fiction may be the genre least prone to relentless status gaming, though “least prone” may also be faint praise.

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