Links: Crypto for what?, building the future, UFOs, and more

* “Why America can’t build.” Important, for both human flourish and climate change goals.

* “My awakening moment about how smartphones fragment our attention span.”

* “Whatever happened to the Bee Apocalypse?” It’s ongoing, but not in the news.

* “The intellectual mistake of once-and-for-allism.” An excellent point and yet simultaneously I think that shunting an issue to the side leaves more room for other issues, particularly if the issue seems un-decidable—like “whether we are living in a simulation.” Are we living in a simulation? The question is interesting but, if there is any way for us to find evidence one way or the other, I’m not aware of it.

* Book review of The Dawn of Everything. The most interesting parts concern the “gossip trap;” search for the word “gossip” and read those parts, if no others.

* “George Orwell outside the whale.” A vital essay on the freedom of imagination.

* “Embrace the Arms Race in Asia.” Maybe.

* “Stanford Professor Garry Nolan Is Analyzing Anomalous Materials From UFO Crashes.” Oddly, though, there appears to be almost no follow-up, despite this piece coming out in December 2021. The parts about peculiar magnesium isotopes stand out, though I’m not knowledgeable enough to judge the claims, but I’d like a lot more detail—about the chain of custody, for example.

* “Georgetown Varsity Blues Dad Wins by Revealing Rich Kid Perks.” “Varsity Blues” was the “scandal” in which parents were bribing their kids’ way into some colleges. I put the word “scandal” in quotes because it seems like an open secret, not a scandal, though the parents were particularly brazen. It seems that “Khoury rolled the dice [by insisting on a trial]—and won—in part by presenting evidence that wealthy parents whose children apply to elite colleges often receive breaks in admissions’ processes.”

* “Rebuilding my conception of the academic life.” From a psychologist who is joining the University of Austin.

* Skepticism around web3 and crypto, apart from currency uses.

Links: Inflation possibilities, cancel culture, Austin, and more!

* Supply, demand, and stagflation. It may be that “Reg Q” caused much of the harm in the ’70s: “Reg Q was a limit on the deposit rates which banks could offer. Before Money Market Mutual funds and other shadow banking institutions, this became a binding constraint on the interest rates people received. So as inflation got high, and the Federal funds rate rose, deposit rates could not keep up. And we see deposits fleeing the system whenever these rates get really binding.” That caused “deposit flight,” such that “bank credit dried up, generating a negative supply shock, and tough financial conditions.” Price controls don’t work, but, in the ’70s, politicians were still trying to use them.

* “The Supreme Court rulings represent the tyranny of the minority.”

* “Canceled at 17:” a story that indirectly and probably inadvertently argues for home schooling, or home-schooling hybrids. Social media’s second-, third-, and fourth-order effects are hard to predict. Another headline for it is “Teenage Justice A list of boys ‘to look out for’ appeared on a high-school bathroom wall last fall. The story of one of them.”

* What’s Up with Austin?

* “Ah, Carceral Liberalism.” On some peculiarities in the discourse.

* The best parenting advice Ryan Holiday remembers.

* “Why the web is (maybe) turning away from WordPress.” Lack of detailed data, but not impossible.

* Book Review: San Fransicko.” This is the review I’d write if I had more knowledge of the relevant data.

* “The Crypto Plan for World Domination. An Interview with Balaji Srinivasan.”

* On the writer Dominick Dunne.

* Does Elvis Presley Still Matter?

* “How universities were corrupted.” Maybe.

* What happened in Kuwait in Gulf War I.

Links: The joy of novelty, why people become censors, ability rules, and more!

* “Construction is life.” Sentiments too infrequently heard in this age of stasis and complacency.

* Legalize housing, not tent encampments: consistent with many pieces you’ve read around here, and I have a review of Homelessness is a Housing Problem coming up too.

* “Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.” An amazing, and depressing, story. It’s also consistent with me writing about institutions in 2020.

* What kind of people want to become censors? It seems that the urge to censor will never go away.

* What happens to landfills over time.

* “Sooner or Later, Ability Rules:” a rant about efforts to remove standardized testing and other forms of rigor from the education system, and the peculiar stated reasons for those attempts.

* “The complexity of knowledge and skill transfer.”

* On fusion energy.

* Vitalik’s guide to living out of a 40L backpack.

* Why America Will Lose Semiconductors. Notice:

The US national, state, and local governments have created tax and regulatory policy that makes investing in new manufacturing capacity for semiconductors incredibly difficult. It takes mountains of money and many years to even get through the process of permitting and approval to being a project in the US. Furthermore, while these policies intend to protect the environment, they actually don’t. They simply slow down the process and increase costs.

The regulatory environment, which makes building anything hard, including housing, is important. Eric Schmidt sounds similar notes in another venue.

* “Affordable housing in California now routinely tops $1 million per apartment to build.” That may have something to with its deficit, and with California’s high homelessness rate.

* “The most pressing diversity issue in publishing? Groupthink. The industry has a responsibility to platform all kinds of views—not just politically fashionable ones.” Many forms of art go through strong periods and weak periods, and, in publishing, we seem to be going through a weaker period, apart from Substack.

Links: An Agatha Christie resurgence, luxury beliefs, sleep, and more!

* Agatha Christie is hot?

* Luxury beliefs as status symbols, and the struggle for recognition and distinction.

* California will let teens sleep in later. Good.

* Less parking could mean more housing. Good, too.

* How San Francisco became a failed city.

* “Children are a Necessity, Marriage is a Luxury: The Psychology of the Poor Single Mom.” Perspectives rarely see, which doesn’t mean they’re correct. .

* “What Princeton Did to My Husband.” On the subject of mobs, and also why an academic career may not be ideal. AstralCodexTen also has “Advice For Unwoke Academic?“, which is not “more of the usual.”

* UkraineX: How Elon Musk’s space satellites changed the war on the ground.” Worldwide, always-on Internet is a big deal.

* “Chesa Boudin and the Debacle of Urban Left-wing Politics.” First, be effective.

* On running General Assembly, a coding bootcamp.

* “Installing Rooftop Solar Can Be a Breeze. Just Look at Australia.” Regulatory barriers to installing more wind, solar, and transmission lines are becoming a central problem.

* Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter by pursuing a “housing first” model. A large chunk of homelessness really is a housing problem.

* “The Moral Desolation of the GOP.” Seem obvious.

Links: The perils of literary “success,” taking a corporation to arbitration, and some other things

* On Colette, the French writer and provocateur of her day. Today, there are maybe no taboos left in that domain, and thus a figure like Colette can’t exist.

* A depressing profile showing how bad literary “success” can be—never mind literary failure; one should read it as a warning against pursuing a literary life, particularly because a sense of lifelessness pervades. The winners of the literary marketplace aren’t doing so well, examined along many metrics. The books they’re writing don’t seem to matter; statements like “Gessen described him as ‘probably the most eloquent expositor of Marxian economics currently writing in the English language’” have to be read as comedy. That, or “They worked on novels and Ph.D.’s., and, in 2004, along with Marco Roth and Allison Lorentzen, started n+1. The journal was wildly successful[…]” “Wildly successful?” If this is the literary scene, it’s dead, deader than a corpse in an emergency room. After reading a novel like Lonesome Dove, all of the book described in the article seem tiny. You can predict what the tone will be, how narrow the comfort zone will be, and that there will be no contrarian surprises or revelations: that may explain why so many readers turn to wilder online writing.

* There are too many scams in higher education. A similar topic: “How to really fix higher ed.” Solutions are towards the bottom, but note: “Make higher-ed institutions put more skin in the game.”

* Arguments that we’re not going to get commercial fusion in the next decade, or realistically the next two decades. Either the writer, or Helion Fusion, will be proven right.

* Guy takes a massive corporation to arbitration.

* “Amazon and the Dystopian Future of Book Censorship.”

* CO2 levels are the highest in human history.

* Good interview with VC Katherine Boyle about the need to build things. And another article on the need to be able to build things, quickly. The status quo isn’t optimal in many domains.

Links: The dynamist, love, effectiveness, and more!

* The case for the sexual revolution.

* “Much philanthropy is a routinized exchange between salaried bureaucrats.” The quote here is fairly accurate, although much of the rest of the article is not.

* “Why Do I Hate Pronouns More Than Genocide? Self-reflection on what drives moral outrage and why I am not an effective altruist.”

* Elon Musk is, politically, a dynamist.

* We Aren’t Raising Adults. We Are Breeding Very Excellent Sheep.

* “If Politics is Your Hobby Horse, You’re Riding to Nowhere.” On what might work, and what is almost certainly signaling.

* “Would the World Be Better Off Without Philanthropists?” Skepticism towards the nonprofit sector, which is warranted, but the particulars are here way off base. There is no use of the term “effective altruism,” which is a clown sign. Or, rather, its lack is a clown sign.

* Could we get drone deliveries?

* Doctors on guns as a public health problem.

* Academia then; compare as you will to academia now.

* “Feeling like a victim is a perfectly disastrous way to go through life.” Seems obvious, but is apparently not.

* Epic story about a professor and his students’ cheating.

* There are too many scams in higher education.

Links: The cruelty of the desalination rejection, the virtues of low expectations, and more!

* “California regulator rejects desalination plant despite historic drought.” This is the scarcity agenda.

* Low expectations and demands keep families together.

* America’s neglect of nuclear energy has weakened our global influence.

* “The Rotten Core of Our Political System: In their new account of the 2020 election, two reporters reveal just how broken American democracy has become.”

* “Let’s state this plainly: Pennsylvania Republicans just nominated a full-blown insurrectionist who intends to use the power of the office to ensure that, as long as he is governor, no Democratic presidential candidate wins his state again.” That would seem to me to be bad, and peaceful transfers of power are good.

* “The twilight of identity politics? Progressive groupthink is falling to pieces.” Maybe, but seems optimistic to me.

* “Why Do We Swallow What Big Oil and the Green Movement Tell Us?” If someone claims to be interested in “the environment” or “climate” or similar, and isn’t agitating for nuclear power, that person doesn’t know much in this domain.

* “Framework’s new laptop means the promise of modular gadgets might be coming true.” I don’t own one, but it looks really impressive (the screen aspect ratio is wonderful!).

* How did the journal Nature become so prestigious? And why are we such suckers for bullshit “prestige?”

* Details about the FDA’s folly in creating the baby formula shortage.

* Ideas that lead to life fulfillment.

Links: On heat pumps, the wolf, and robot poetry (all separate topics), and more!

* The need for heat pumps and other non-methane-gas energy technologies.

* How bad government policy fuels the infant formula shortage.

* “Casting out the wolf in our midst.” Long, poetic, concerning violence and deep history, and possibly not wholly right but of great interest anyway. Not politically correct, either. I’m subscribing to Razib’s RSS feed.

* Why people can’t stop adding “lol” to texts.

* Robots are writing poetry, and many people can’t tell the difference.

* “The ACLU has lost its way:” something so obvious I’m tempted not to link it—but I also used to be a member.

* On Bayraktar drones and the man behind them. New Yorker, seems thorough.

* “The Ghost Writer’s Mistress: New York psychoanalyst and novelist Arlene Heyman recalls her youthful relationship with Bernard Malamud.” Am surprised to see this.

* Until Feb. 2022, many of democracy’s critics seemed to be gaining traction; since then, we’ve been reminded of democracy’s virtues, among them the ability to peacefully transfer power and remove insane rulers. Autocracies don’t have these features and consequently are prone to the kinds of extreme negative outcomes that generally don’t occur in democracies. Being able to correct mistakes is important.

* The mysterious disappearance of revolutionary mathematician Alexander Grothendieck.

* How to quit intensive, or helicopter, parenting.

* Some writing advice.

Links: Tribal language, hyphens, RSS, land use, and more!

* “‘Disabled’ is not a bad word. Stop telling people with disabilities it is.”

* “College Became the Default. Let’s Rethink That.” It’s nice to see the NYT catch up to things I wrote in 2017.

* How to use a hyphen. A charming article.

* Ways to increase the surface area of blogging via RSS. I approve, naturally, while noting that most indicators have been moving in the wrong direction for years. Blogging also continues to have a key advantage over other media forms: visibility to search engines.

* “Why Chinese Culture Has Not Conquered Us All.” Although I still suspect the basic, obvious, answer may be the most correct one.

* Tim Bray on riding his ebike. The bike company Specialized is going to sell appropriately price ebikes.

* Vaclav Smil on climate and other matters.

* We only hire the trendiest, or, programmer moneyball.

* “What DALL-E 2 can and cannot do,” so far.

* “America’s homebuilding trend (that isn’t).” We need to create housing abundance, but we’re not doing so, and that failure is bad. Even basketcase San Francisco, however, may be moving towards “yes in my backyard,” or “YIMBY,” abundance politics.

* An insane story about a 15-year-old girl who may have been medically sterilized.

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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