Links: The weaponization of social media, and this blog as an effort to resist it

* New Jonathan Haidt: “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid: It’s not just a phase.” Instead, social media has supercharged a few negative human social tendencies, and we’ve not developed institutional or social antibodies to resist them. You’ll see echoes in it of “Dissent, insiders, and outsiders: Institutions in the age of Twitter.”

* “After Russians’ retreat, scarred Ukrainian village recounts month of terror.” Apart from being evil, a war crime, and so on, inflicting mass terror is likely to be counterproductive, because it means Ukrainians know they must fight to the very end—or face theft, rape, torture, and murder after. And there are more details here.

* “A 4-Year Degree Isn’t Quite the Job Requirement It Used to Be: New research finds companies are starting to rely less on the college filter in hiring.”

* “The New Campaign for a Sex-Free Internet: Sex, money, and the future of online free speech.” From A small number of passionate people can have great effects on a much larger number of less passionate people. Usually a sentence like the preceding one is meant with approval for whatever the thing is, but that need not always be the case.

* Europe is investing heavily in trains and, if we were smart, we’d be doing the same.

* “Democrats Are Facing Doom—And No One Seems To Even Have Any Suggestions.” On the contrary: people do have suggestions, like “highlight popular stances, not unpopular ones.” And “listen to voters, more than the academic/media class.” Jonathan Chait thinks “Political correctness is losing,” but is it?

* “The Punk-Prophet Philosophy of Michel Houellebecq.” The author takes a vaguely, and seemingly unwarranted, superior stance.

* “DALL-E, the Metaverse, and Zero Marginal Content.” You don’t want to be in the content business. Movies and TV seem kind of safe for now, but what happens when TikTok merges with DALL-E’s successor?

* Huge efforts to implement carbon capture and storage on a mass scale, via companies, rather than federal or state governments.

* “Exhibition of Pompeii’s sex scenes aims to decode erotica.” It’s ancient.

Links: The nature of stories and loneliness, and more!

* “You should have kids,” says Richard Hanania, in what may be a contrarian take, at least among intellectuals or “intellectuals.”

* “The Red Pill Prince: How computer programmer Curtis Yarvin became America’s most controversial political theorist.” The article isn’t a takedown, apart from the extent to which Yarvin’s ideas take themselves down. I’ve observed that social media seems to allow people to write or film their own fiction, disguised as “fact,” and he seems to be doing that; apart from the history of individuals ruling countries showing that such a structure works poorly at best over time, the present Russian invasion of Ukraine demonstrates neatly the way monarchy doesn’t work. Yarvin has a story, composed partly from facts and partly from fancy, and the story is compelling enough to spread, but “compelling enough to spread” is not the same as “correct.”

* “How Everyone Got So Lonely: The recent decline in rates of sexual activity has been attributed variously to sexism, neoliberalism, and women’s increased economic independence. How fair are those claims—and will we be saved by the advent of the sex robot?” It’s interesting and peculiar to me, the extent to which the school system and parents misallocated emphasis regarding particularly important skills, like the ability to relate to and get along with other people.

* “Hollywood Has No Idea What to Do With the Erotic Thriller: Streamers are struggling to reboot a genre that died too young.” I tried watching Deep Water, and it was incoherent; I’d try to start with basic coherence, plot, and character. It’s also hard to be both woke and transgressive. Pick one!

* “The Horror of Bucha: Russian invaders are now treating the entirety of the Ukrainian population as combatants, as dirt to be cleansed.” We’re paying the cost of failing to build out nuclear energy over the last 20 years: we’ve been funding evil petro states, from Saudi Arabia to Russia.

* “By Any Other Name: The story of my transition and detransition.” Sad, and perhaps common. The writer, “Helena,” says that she wore “Joggers, basketball shorts, and hoodies. Ugh, I cringe just thinking about it. So not my style, but I wanted people to think I was a boy. I believed once the testosterone transformed my body, I could be more creative with my outfits.” The number of men who are interested in being “more creative with [their] outfits” seems not to be large. The degree to which Reddit and Tumblr provide medical and life advice is scary; she seems to have been someone who didn’t know enough to know how little she knew, or how little those around her knew.

* In academia, supply and demand win yet again! I wrote about this dynamic back in 2016.

* “Once Again, Environmentalists Are Sabotaging Climate Progress.”

* Beans are good.

*’s DALL•E 2 art generator is amazing. Is AI really happening?

* “Scott Alexander on Dictator Book Club: Xi Jinping.”

Links: What’s happening in publishing, what’s happening in education, the housing thing, and more!

* “American education’s new dark age” is the official title, but the real question is closer to “What is college for?” If colleges aren’t specifically training reading and writing skills, those skills atrophy, or are never developed in the first place.

* On The Two-Income Trap, a book that sounds excellent on fundamentals—but has it had much impact on policy?

* “As a political biography, it’s odd, yes. But as partisan pornography, it’s undeniably fantastic.” Ignore the title, don’t read the book being reviewed here, and savor instead the review itself, which is art.

* “How American Culture Ate the World: A review of A Righteous Smokescreen” is way too long and blathery; the short answer is that Europe blew itself up not just once, in 1914 – 18, but again, during World War II, thus dooming its early lead. Everyone speaks or attempts to speak English as a consequence of those wars and their political fallout, including the foolish adoption of Communism. While Europe blew itself apart, murdering and expelling millions of its citizens, China and Russia adopted dysfunctional Communist political-economic systems. When everyone else is screwing up, it’s sufficient to not screw up too badly, and the United States was the least-crazy, most-functional country. We see Russia, right now, actively driving out whatever smart, capable, and imaginative people may be left in the country. For just about the entirety of Russia’s existence, the smartest thing most people could do was leave. It still is.

* “The Death of Authority in the American Classroom.” Pretty much. Beer & circus for all.

* Homelessness is a housing problem. The people who say otherwise usually don’t think about how a person got to be living on the street and screaming at strangers; that person’s problems are usually exacerbated by high housing costs and precarious housing.

* Granting funding is broken—something we all know—and this writer has an extremely impractical, non-scaleable way to fix it.

* Description of why “5G” is not just marketing hype, though its promise may take many years to be fulfilled.

* “Why is it so hard to buy things that work well?” Dan Luu is writing one of the most interesting blogs right now, and you should subscribe to his RSS feed.

* Russia is dying out: on the country’s demographic crisis. It’s hard to imagine the Ukraine invasion as doing anything but making this existing problem far worse.

* The many faces of literary censorship.

* Disney’s Institutional Capture.

* Brandon Sanderson on changes in the publishing industry, among other topics. He also finds that half of his sales are in audiobook format.

%d bloggers like this: