Links: Values, nuclear fusion, hospital prices, psychology, and more!

* After years of doubts, hopes grow that nuclear fusion is finally for real.

* [Scott Aaronson’s] values, howled into the wind: an essay I identify with.

* “Three Miles and $400 Apart: Hospital Prices Vary Wildly Even in the Same City.” Frustrating, given how hard it still is to extract honest pricing from hospitals, even though pricing is, or should be, as easy as an SQL lookup.

* “Burn the Universities and Salt the Earth.” An overstated rant, but not wholly inaccurate, either. This is overstated: “Liberal arts programs in major universities issued hobby degrees to women who would be taken care of economically by their newly found husbands, or hobby degrees to men who would inherit the family business. Outside of doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants, nothing of economic value was taught, but university attendance was still mandatory to stay rich, because the university was not merely a place of knowledge, it was the 20th century equivalent of a networking and dating site for rich people,” but then many polemics can be directionally right while getting some specifics wrong, or overly simplified.

* “Covid Panic is a Site of Inter-Elite Competition.” The back end, especially, is not about Covid, but about people. Freddie is missing any statements about hospitals or hospital capacity, however. None of us exist in isolation, and it seems to me that most Americans still expect to be able to go to a hospital, be evaluated relatively quickly, and be seen relatively quickly, even though those conditions have become substantially worse in the last two weeks. We’re getting some press coverage of this, but not, in my view, what we should be getting.

* “This is what peak culture looks like:” a reading of culture progressing more like technology than some critics might want to admit. I remember occasionally pitching ideas like this in grad school, where “old” is somehow automatically considered better than “recent.”

* “Review | In ‘Old Poets,’ Donald Hall dished on Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot and more.”

* “Innovation Liability Nightmare.” Important, though you may not immediately think so.

* Why the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) matters. Better than the usual and yet still needs to slip in a bit of woke garbage, about 80% into the article.

Links: On college teaching, the audio revolution, Mel Brooks, and more!

* “The Quiet Scandal of College Teaching.” This one, at least, has the good sense to situate itself historically: people have been complaining about teaching quality for just about as long as there’ve been things like schools (Martin Amis and Philip Larkin have some funny bits, I think in letters, complaining about JRR Tolkien, who was a soft-spoken mumbler as in instructor). Amusingly: “In a study in 2010 at the Air Force Academy, where a mandatory curriculum allows for convenient natural experiments, professors who gave higher grades received higher student evaluations — but their students did worse in subsequent classes. Professors who graded more strictly got lower evaluations, but their students performed better later on. In short, student evaluations do not protect against poor teaching [. . . .] If anything, they make it even worse.” I wrote “What incentivizes professors to grade honestly? Nothing” a few years ago. How much has changed?

* “The Audio Revolution,” which may be part of the reason selling print books doesn’t work any more, among many other things.

* “Mel Brooks on losing the loves of his life: ‘People know how good Carl Reiner was, but not how great.'” Among other topics.

* “18 steps to a democratic breakdown.” Which we may be heading towards. Which is bad. The article is also written by someone who studies coups, as opposed to someone who’s taken their views from Twitter and TV.

* “The Second Great Age of Political Correctness: The P.C. culture of the ’80s and ’90s didn’t decline and fall. It just went underground. Now it’s back.” I’ve speculated that journalists and academics may have become modern-day clerics, a thought echoed in Andrey Mir’s book Postjournalism.

* “What’s So Great About Great-Books Courses?” The essay cites historical precedent, which is good, but also neglects cost of school today, versus historically, which is less good. And the attacks against the Great Books have taken on a different tenor in the last decade. A different writer argues that “The Left Should Defend Classical Education,” an unusual point today; that it is unusual may be sad.

* The Arc Institute is “for curiosity-driven biomedical science and technology” and it’s got “open positions for Technology Center group leaders, research scientists, and operational staff” right now. It’s designed to be on people more than particular projects.

* “Digg’s v4 launch: an optimism born of necessity.” A beautiful and hideous story containing my favorite line: “but the optimism it entailed was tinged with madness.”

* “U.S. foreign policy is a big, dumb machine?”

Links: The feeling of feelings, the nature of modern institutions, the individual versus the group

* “A drama professor told students they got their feelings hurt too easily. They decided to fight back.” Another of these stories on “What’s amiss in higher education. ”

* “How to build stronger institutions in an age of wokeness” is a better title than the one given. It’s congruent with my “Dissent, insiders, and outsiders: Institutions in the age of Twitter.”

* “New mothers, not married: Technology shock, the demise of shotgun marriage, and the increase in out-of-wedlock births.” Not the usual, but possible and maybe even persuasive.

* “The global pandemic has deepened an epidemic of loneliness in America.” See also Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression by Johann Hari, which still seems like a great book to me.

* The cost of Ohio State’s diversity bureaucrats.

* “Perhaps You Should Not Spend All Day Ridiculing Others From Afar.” Seems highly reasonable.

* “Facing Hostile Chinese Authorities, Apple CEO Signed $275 Billion Deal With Them.” The article is stashed behind a paywall, but it’s useful and revealing to note Apple’s attitude towards U.S. operations and government, versus its attitude to China operations and government.

* “How the University of Austin Can Change the History Profession.” That would, it would seem, be good.

* “ Why Washington Won’t Fix Student Debt Plans That Overload Families: Lawmakers know federal Plus loans burden millions of parents and graduate-degree earners with balances they can’t afford, yet Congress repeatedly punts on changing the programs. Here are five reasons.” There are the usual insane examples, like “Rhiannon and Michael Funke, both 43, owe a combined $778,000 in federal student loans for multiple graduate and undergraduate programs. Dr. Funke is in law school. Ms. Funke says she earns less than $100,000 annually as an attorney and that ‘We feel like we are shackled.’” How many colleges and universities, deeply concerned about the poor and underrepresented minorities, have foregone student-loan funding models?

* “Democrats Are Losing the Culture Wars: Echoing the New Democrats of the Clinton era, some liberal critics are begging Democrats to change course.” Obvious.

Links: On Bitcoin, medical fears, order and disorder, and more!

* “Bitcoin and Electricity.”

* “Doctors Warn New Medical School Guidance Would Lead to Unqualified Physicians and Unscientific Medicine.”

* “The Culture of the Single Millennial.” The sort of thing that reminds us of why Substack is useful.

* Attempts to create a universal flu vaccine.

* “San Diego Hasn’t Surrendered to Disorder:” one reading of events.

* “The Overwhelming Underwhelmingness of Academia: Three Reasons to Leave:” on the epistemological crisis in the social “sciences.”

* Is academia becoming less masculine? And further comment. Matches my anecdotal impressions.

* “A Multigenerational Home in Amsterdam Can Be Reconfigured for Changing Demands.” This is the sort of thing that overly restrictive mandatory single-family zoning in the United States prevents. Much of the U.S. tech and entrepreneurial sectors are creative, fast-paced, and adaptive, while anything related to land use and housing is slow, sclerotic, and ossified. We can and should do better.

* Why Michael Bloomberg is backing charter schools.

* “Alumni Withhold Donations, Demand Colleges Enforce Free Speech.” Possibly a bogus trend story.

* “When the Crime Wave Hits Your Family: Our nanny’s living room in Oakland was sprayed with bullets. It didn’t even make the local news.” It’s hard not to foresee a political backlash in California and elsewhere.

Links: The University of Austin, subcultures, H.G. Wells, complication over simplification, and more!

* “I’m Helping to Start a New College Because Higher Ed Is Broken” by Niall Ferguson. More on the University of Austin.

* Apply for an ACX grant.

* “Inflation Is Up, But the Inflation Truthers Are Still Wrong.” Maybe.

* “The Melancholy of Subculture Society.” Gwern, and thus detailed.

* H.G. Wells, the prophet of the future, among other things. Unfortunately, this: “First, after two World Wars, his belief in perpetual progress came to seem fatuous, and then, in the age of Woolf and Joyce, his Victorian style looked baggy and gassy” matches my reading experience: I’ve at least skimmed The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and a few other of his novels, and wished for a better editor. I don’t think it’s his belief that seems fatuous; I think that, if he had a tighter prose style, he’d still be read.

* “Individuals matter,” by Dan Luu: seems obvious, and yet simultaneously something I never hear.

* “Marriott refused to host Uyghur conference, citing ‘political neutrality.’” Supporting genocide is an interesting definition of “political neutrality.”

* “The importance of complicated sex.”

* “How I got wealthy without working too hard: Specialize, Don’t live in big cities, Go full-remote.” Work in tech, too.

* “College professors have a right to provoke and upset you. It’s a part of learning. Whether from the right or from the left, calls to silence faculty voices on America’s campuses are inconsistent with the values of a university.” Seems obvious to me, though I still think it important to encourage students to think, without telling them what to think. I worry about the propensity towards telling students what to think, especially politically. See also “A drama professor told students they got their feelings hurt too easily. They decided to fight back.” One has to wonder about the student-loan burden and repayment experience of students in that department.

* Guy works impressively hard to upgrade the soldered RAM on his Dell laptop. A great tale but also note the conclusion: “I’ve now got an XPS13 with 16GB of memory. But next time I think I’ll just buy the 16GB variant upfront.”

* Emergent Ventures’ life-changing actions.

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