Links: Boredom, mandated boredom in the legacy book business, and more!

* “Why is everyone so boring?” A question from Robin Hanson, which implies an unusual perspective.

* This is not a good system for publishing books people want to read. Maybe it’s a good system for certain kinds of in-group signaling, but it’s a poor one for actual readers.

* If the above is not too much already about the book business, see “Anatomy of a Book Cancellation.” I appreciate both because it feels like it’s become harder and harder for me to find anything worth reading in newer books, and I’ve been trying to figure out if the fault is mostly mine. Why do I find myself reading and citing so many Substacks and so few books? These two links indicate that the problem is not primarily me but in what used to be called the intellectual world. As Nigel Bigger, the author, writes: “Why are adult senior managers in publishing houses—as in universities—so willing to indulge the illiberal clamoring of their junior colleagues?”

* Actually, vaccines remain a triumph; don’t let the media’s negativity bias convince you otherwise.

* “As a US Navy fighter pilot, I witnessed unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP).” And he says: “Objects demonstrating extreme capabilities routinely fly over our military facilities and training ranges. We don’t know what they are, and we are unable to mitigate their presence.”

* “US Cities Are Falling Out of Love With the Parking Lot: California and many local governments are scrapping requirements that once made cars the center of the urban landscape.” If self-driving cars are almost “here”—and they might be—we won’t need many parking spaces.

* Argument that the nuclear power industry is the problem, not the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Not convinced, but it is an argument. And, also, an unlikely argument that we’re at the dawn of nuclear energy abundance.

* “The Approaching Disintegration of Academia,” according to one writer, who ignores that many of the problems cited go back decades, and yet the system grinds onwards, protected and cosseted by a web of regulations and subsidies.

* Is woke-ism winding down? I prefer the question framing to the statement framing.

* On declining construction productivity.

* Some schools are banning smartphones. Smart.

Links: Wealth through housing supply, getting serious as a culture, and more!

* How Japan ensures its people are rich:

But when property tends to depreciate, it means that houses don’t cost as much to buy in the first place; that lower price frees up household cash that can be put into stocks and bonds.

Basing wealth on productive assets instead of unproductive land is good for the economy — housing scarcity might pump up prices and build individual wealth for homeowners, but at the national level it simply holds back economic growth.

The U.S. should follow suit by liberalizing zoning laws and allowing landowners to build whatever they want.

* “It’s Time to Get Serious: Prevailing wisdom insists that your twenties are for extreme exploration—collecting memories, friends, partners, identities. It’s BS.”

* “You Don’t Want A Purely Biological, Apolitical Taxonomy Of Mental Disorders.” This Astral Codex Ten essay should probably be titled “You can’t get a purely biological, apolitical taxonomy[…] because one doesn’t exist and probably can’t.”

* How we created a self-hating generation, which reads nicely with the link immediately above. I also seem to be getting old enough to find essays in which “building character” feature prominently attractive.

* Books about the U.S.-China technology wars. This is, for many people, probably better than the books.

* ChatGPT accelerates programing skill acquisition. We’re still at the very start of where this is going.

* “A Beautiful Portrait of My Enemy: A Review of the True Believer (Part 1).” I’ve been meaning to read The True Believer, and have a copy of it, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

* “The Taliban Were Afghanistan’s Real Modernizers.” Not what I expected, and yet a compelling argument.

Links: Is the media good?, reading for fun, industry frontiers, and more!

* Why the media is honest and good. A work from an interesting quarter!

* “Among many U.S. children, reading for fun has become less common, federal data shows.” Another bit of data that supports my own essay: “The death of literary culture.”

* But, maybe contra the above: “Novels as models.” Are you making the corpus more complete, or less? Why? The problem, however, remains getting paid for producing those novel / models. Maybe writing them will become an almost purely hobby business. Or maybe people will get subscriptions and release novels slowly again.

* On the benefits of writing a book on Substack, by someone doing it.

* Why The Right Is Losing The Young. In a similar vein: “The GOP Is Just Obnoxious: It’s why they keep losing elections.” There’s a kind of tyranny of the minority going on in the Republican party, with the specific minority being primary voters.

* Closing Industry Frontiers, which compares the closing of the American frontier to the filling out of the Internet software industry over the last ten years.

* “It’s Time to Get Serious:” Extended adolescence is bad. As someone who majored in English and then went to grad school in it (this is a horrible idea), I’ve been contemplating this topic even before I read this particular essay. Whenever most forms of academic grad school last worked effectively—some put it in the mid-1970s—it hasn’t now for decades.

* Why the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Deserves More Funding. Modern vaccine approaches may take out a large number of diseases in the 2020s and that’s great.

* On free speech in academia.

* One “secret” of writing is to write every day.

* In light of this, it’s interesting to recall the number of people who not long ago held up the UK healthcare system as a desirable one to emulate.

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