Links: Empowerment and projects, the need for close reading, digital and real worlds, and more!

* The empowering of the American mind.

* A project of one’s own, by Paul Graham, which articulates something I’ve felt and yet not expressed.

* “A backlash against gender ideology is starting in universities?” The question mark is mine.

* Close reading for grant writers.

* “China’s Uyghurs living in a ‘dystopian hellscape’, says Amnesty report .”

* “Decadence and Andreessen’s Dilemma.” On the distinction between digital and real world.

* “Truth, Reading, Decadence,” which isn’t a great title for an essay about how the passing of Harold Bloom reflects declining interest in studying English literature. You’ll see much in common with my comments here.

* “Amy Chua and the age of infantilization.” Plausible, and very congruent with Jonathan Haidt’s work.

* “Built-to-Rent Suburbs Are Poised to Spread Across the U.S.: Economic forces and generational preferences are leading to a new kind of housing: subdivisions designed for renters and managed like apartment buildings. What does it mean for suburbia?” This is close to my position and thinking: I’ve watched a lot of people go bankrupt or nearly bankrupt over housing decisions. For most people, buying property is an extremely leveraged (and thus dangerous) bet that can easily go wrong, and the bet relies on the cost of housing going up over time—which it has, since the 1970s, in many “superstar cities”—but it hasn’t everywhere (owners in Los Angeles have made a ton of money—people in Baltimore, less so). When a person is “buying a housing unit,” it’s more accurate to say a bank is buying a housing unit, and then someone is paying the bank for the next thirty years.

Buying a housing unit typically incurs closing costs in the range of 5 – 10% of the housing unit, so a putatively $400,000 house, to make any real gains at all, needs something like $40,000 in gains due to sale costs. Buying a housing unit also implies that work and commuting will remain relatively constant: long commutes are among the worst things a person can do for quality of life, and they effectively lower a person’s hourly rate. Maybe buying a house made a lot of sense when the typical household had one working man in it, and that man worked one or two jobs in his entire life. It makes a lot less sense for couples, both of whom work and change jobs frequently. The “buy a house, live in it for 30 years” model works pretty poorly today. Perhaps, with the passing of the Baby Boomers, we’ll see smarter and more varied housing options open up. Our current system was designed for the lives of the 1950s, not the lives of the 2020s. Housing, healthcare, transit, and education are the highest parts of a typical person’s budget, usually but not always in that order, and three of those fields are the focus of The Great Stagnation, and for good reason. People who study those areas mostly know what the problems are and what solutions might look like, but stakeholders in the status quo in each area fight change. That fight is defining life and demographics today, even when the notional issue is something else.

Right now, renting is cheaper than buying in all 50 major metros in the U.S., though this is unlikely to persist forever.

* Ezra Klein interviews Sam Altman on general artificial intelligence (AGI) and many other topics.

* How does Asia work?

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