Links: The case for seriousness, historical comparisons, and much more!

* The case for American seriousness, one of the best essays I’ve read recently and one that describes many phenomena in media, culture, and technology. Unfortunately most of us neither live nor vote for seriousness or earnestness.

* “‘That’s it? It’s over? I was 30. What a brutal business’: pop stars on life after the spotlight moves on.” I’ve read about a quarter of the source book so far, and it’s interesting, but less psychologically focused than I might have imagined, and very UK focused.

* Arnold Kling on the “Intellectual Dark Web,” with the most interesting bit appearing at the end, comparing today to 1964.

* The epistemic minor leagues, which you are perhaps experiencing right now.

* “The humanities are facing a credibility crisis.” And have been for at least, what, a decade? Maybe longer? Notice: “[T]he conflation of our scholarship and our political advocacy doesn’t improve our credibility; it undermines it. Indeed, people often assume that humanities scholars start with political commitments and backfill the evidence rather than starting with questions to answer through some relatively transparent process of inquiry. The idea that humanities scholars are activists first and only then scholars leaves much of the public skeptical of the work we do.”

* “Books Become Games: Simulation, Gamification, and the Rise of Algorithmic Capitalism:”

Most of the podcasters I’ve encountered, if I may be honest, remind me of nothing so much as the classic Onion “advice column”, from back before that newspaper was generated by AI (as far as I can tell), that consisted in a book-report on Animal Farm by a kid who hasn’t read it. It’s “well worth the $5.99 purchase price,” he wrote. “It’s so good, in fact, that if I was in Canada, I would be happy to pay the higher price of $7.99.” Similarly, questions I’ve been getting on my book, I can’t help but notice, are often drawn entirely from the sheet of promotional copy that is included with it.

Another favorite moment: “The gamification of our social life, which was honed and perfected on social media before it jumped the fence to affectivity, labor, and who knows what’s next, forces us to sacrifice free play to strategic play, and the leisurely flight of the imagination to narrow problem-solving.”

* The books that made Michel Houellebecq.

* Balaji: “Decentralizing Education with Synthesis.” Substantial education reform hasn’t worked yet, but that doesn’t mean it never will.

* “Inside the New Right, Where Peter Thiel Is Placing His Biggest Bets.” I note this, which I think is mostly wrong: “But they share a the basic worldview: that individualist liberal ideology, increasingly bureaucratic governments, and big tech are all combining into a world that is at once tyrannical, chaotic, and devoid of the systems of value and morality that give human life richness and meaning—as Blake Masters recently put it, a ‘dystopian hell-world.'”People choose big tech. People like the individualist liberal ideology. People vote for big government, on the left and the right; it’s humorous for anyone with the vaguest knowledge of what was actually done in terms of policy and budget from 2017 – 2021 to see Trump-affiliated or Trump-liking people oppose “increasingly bureaucratic governments.”

* Attempting to lower construction costs by moving to pre-fabricated pieces. Bespoke is expensive, and bespoke is the opposite of abundance. Mass manufacturing is good.

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