Analects

analects

noun, pl

a collection of ideas, extracts, or teachings;

marginalia

noun, pl

notes one makes in the margins;

In order to choose our ideologies, we must first explore them. With a background in brain science and the sciences of mind, the analects are my explorations into how ideas become ideologies become the actions we take. The marginalia are my shorter notes on content around the web.
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On Culture

stuff On the things we create, and how they create us

From rational to woo: Why a Silicon Valley culture that was once obsessed with reason is going woo. The appetite for this at the executive level of large companies is also surprisingly high. But also, motivated by reasonable critiques. See also (here) objectivity obsession.

“It turns out that, like, intuition is incredibly powerful … an incredibly powerful epistemic tool,” he said, “that it just seems like a lot of rationalists weren’t using because it falls into this domain of ‘woo stuff.’”

they’re also far more likely to embrace the seemingly irrational — religious ritual, Tarot, meditation, or the psychological-meets-spiritual self-examination called “shadow work” — in pursuit of spiritual fulfillment, and a vision of life that takes seriously the human need for beauty, meaning, and narrative.


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When everyone can sound intelligent, elite conversations will become less intelligible. On the top-down influences of social capital (luxury beliefs) and ChatGPT—a prediction that trendy language will become less sophisticated in a reaction against the accessibility of sophisticated language.

But the bottom line is that ChatGPT’s output is quite plain. It might seem excellent and correct to a non-native speaker or to an unsophisticated reader. But an actual NYT editor could easily tell this isn’t the right stuff.

Just like in the fashion industry, cheap substitutes can only fool some people. But unlike fast fashion, we can expect AI’s capabilities to improve exponentially — making it harder to spot mass-manufactured text.

And yet, I suspect that as machines become better at sounding like sophisticated humans, the most sophisticated humans will adopt even more nuanced, coded, and complex ways of speaking that are harder to imitate.

The mass production of “premium” goods resulted in a world where “money talks and wealth whispers.” The mass production of “premium” content will give rise to a world of Quiet Intelligence — everyone will think they sound smart, but those who are really smart (or “in”) will communicate at a whole different level.


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You Are Not Destined to Live in Quiet Times. An unomfortable overview.

Apocalypse used to be a religious, even a mythological concept. But in our time, it is becoming a political possibility.


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The GrubHub Of Human Affliction: a depressing satire of journalism and the gig economy.


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narrative-culture

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on-ethics

The gender well-being gap:

women score more highly than men on all negative affect measures and lower than men on all but three positive affect metrics, confirming a gender wellbeing gap

However, when one examines the three ‘global’ wellbeing metrics – happiness, life satisfaction and Cantril’s Ladder – women are either similar to or ‘happier’ than men

The concern here though is that this is inconsistent with objective data where men have lower life expectancy and are more likely to die from suicide, drug overdoses and other diseases. This is the true paradox – morbidity doesn’t match mortality by gender. Women say they are less cheerful and calm, more depressed, and lonely, but happier and more satisfied with their lives, than men.

Which makes one wonder if the problem is actually that we measure happiness in a way that favours men’s interpretations (and those appear to be worse interpretations?).


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The Bronze Age Has Never Looked Stronger


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The Largest Vocabulary In Hip-Hop (rappers ranked and deconstructed):

io9 writer Robert Gonzalez blew my mind with this point, “On The Black Album track ‘Moment of Clarity,’ Jay-Z contrasts his lyricism with that of Common and Talib Kweli (both of whom “rank” higher than him, when it comes to the diversity of their vocabulary):

I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars They criticized me for it, yet they all yell “holla” If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be Lyrically Talib Kweli Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense But I did 5 mil - I ain’t been rhyming like Common since


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Life After Language:

Imagine a world a few centuries in the future, where humans look back on the era of reaction gifs as the beginning of the world after language.


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cognitive-karstica

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The Myth Of Florence Nightingale:

The idea of Nightingale, the lady with the lamp, as the prototypical nurse—this mythic origin story—has served to strip nursing history of its truer, broader kaleidoscopic power. … [instead we can] understand nursing as the skilled modern expression of a fundamental, universal and ancient human instinct


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on-(un)happiness

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How Gender, Generation, Personality, and Politics Shape the Values of American University Students. Seems like they’re not fans of women making Universities more comfortable places to be?


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Mapping retracted academic papers—locations unsurprising.


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How zoom changes conversation:

The researchers hypothesized that something about the scant 30- to 70-millisecond delay in Zoom audio disrupts whatever neural mechanisms we meatbags use to get in sync with one another, that magic that creates true dialogue. … The machine found that women rated as better Zoom conversationalists tended to be more intense. The differences among men, strangely, were statistically insignificant. (The reverse was true for happiness. Male speakers who appeared to be happier were rated as better conversationalists, while the stats for women didn’t budge.) Then there’s nodding. Better-rated conversationalists nodded “yes” 4% more often and shook their heads “no” 3% more often. They were not “merely cheerful listeners who nod supportively,” the researchers note, but were instead making “judicious use of nonverbal negations.” Translation: An honest and well-timed no will score you more points than an insincere yes. Good conversationalists are those who appear more engaged in what their partners are saying.


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The diverse economies of neolithic peoples. See also the paper. Builds on Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel notion of agricultural ‘packages’.


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from-zero

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Most AI Fear Is Future Fear


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digital-architecture

on-(un)happiness

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psychologia

somatic-architecture

Truth decay and national security.

Truth Decay—the declining role of facts in American public life—creates national security vulnerabilities, including by making the United States more susceptible to foreign influence. What can be done to mitigate such risks?


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A history of toad magic.


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gratification

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

psychologia

spiritual-architecture

On the dissolution of states, and the solution of new ones.

The 1990s were not just a time of fracturing sovereignties in Europe. The same kind of thing was happening in the American hinterlands. The decade saw an explosion of a new kind of housing complex: the gated community, the latest innovation in spatial segregation … the multiplication of the walled communities called them “private utopias.” The phrase was well chosen. To those who said that the paleo visions were far-fetched, one might respond that their future was already here, in the segregated realities of the American city and its sprawling surroundings. The gated enclaves and walled settlements, the object of much angst and editorializing from centrists and leftist liberals concerned about the decline of public culture, were one of the more stimulating bright spots for libertarians. They asked the question: What if these hated suburban forms were good, actually? Maybe here, in miniature, the project of alternative private government could take root, the creation of liberated zones within the occupied territory. This could be “soft secession” within the state, not outside it. The crack-up could begin at home.


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Interesting piece—normal people becoming killers.


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The disadvantages of having a developed state too early. A.K.A. the argument for colonisation:

a very long duration of state experience impeded the transplantation of inclusive political institutions by European colonizers, which would eventually become central to shaping countries’ ability to establish politically stable regimes outside Europe. The core findings place emphasis on the long-term legacy of early state development for contemporary political instability.


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No-bullshit democracy.

What might be called “no-bullshit democracy” would be a new way of structuring democratic disagreement that would use human argumentativeness as a rapid-growth fertilizer. … But first we need to sluice away the bullshit that is being liberally spread around by anti-democratic thinkers. … . Experts, including Brennan and Caplan (and for that matter ourselves), can be at least as enthusiastic as ordinary citizens to grab at ideologically convenient factoids and ignore or explain away inconvenient evidence. That, unfortunately, is why Brennan and Caplan’s books do a better job displaying the faults of human reasoning than explaining them.


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On the growing importance of ‘middle powers’ in the modern age.

One of the leading trends in world politics — in the long run, just as important as intensifying great-power rivalries — is the growing desire of these countries for more control over the shape of the global order and greater influence over specific outcomes. This trend emerges in Turkey’s ambitions for a regional voice and influence, its attempt to position itself between the United States and Europe on the one hand and their main rivals on the other, and its growing military presence abroad. It is evident in Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s vision of a more multipolar world with a greater voice for the Global South. It shows up in European goals for greater strategic autonomy, South Korea’s renewed emphasis on a bigger regional role (with President Yoon Suk-yeol’s stated desire to become a “global pivotal state”), and Poland’s military ambitions. Some middle powers have a sense of exceptionalism that parallels those of great powers: Karen Elliott House has compared Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman to Chinese leader Xi Jinping — technocrats with grand ambitions for their countries who “see themselves as symbols of proud and ancient civilizations that are superior to the West.”

The rising activism of middle powers can theoretically contribute to stability by providing additional sources of balancing and diplomacy. But an equally likely outcome is that the ambitions of these countries will exacerbate other rising instabilities of the international system.


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We are in the age of average.

This article argues that from film to fashion and architecture to advertising, creative fields have become dominated and defined by convention and cliché. Distinctiveness has died. In every field we look at, we find that everything looks the same.

Welcome to the age of average.


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What happens, then, when large and powerful states, along with the transnational institutions and corporations they promote and protect, are all driving towards the same goal: the universalisation of an American-style “global economy” and its associated culture? … The expansion of this system has created problems — ecological degradation, social unrest, cultural fragmentation, economic interdependence, systemic fragility, institutional breakdown. The system has responded with more expansion and more control, growing bigger, more complex and more controlling … Modernity can best be seen as a system of enclosure, fuelled by the destruction of self-sufficient lifeways, and their replacement with a system of economic exploitation, guided by states and exercised by corporations. The disempowering of people everywhere, and the deepening of technological control

This seems a little alarmist, but the increasingly hydraulic nature of our modern way of being is superficially quite obvious. I was more impressed by the author’s idea to adopt James C. Scott’s ‘shatter zones’ to ameliorate it:

In his 2009 book The Art of Not Being Governed — subtitled, “an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia” — the historian James C. Scott … The “hill tribes” and “barbarians” living outside civilisation’s walls, he says, are neither “left behind” by “progress”, nor the “remnants” of earlier “backwards” cultures; they are in fact escapees. “Hill peoples are best understood as runaway, fugitive, maroon communities who have, over the course of two millennia, been fleeing the oppression of state-making projects in the valleys — slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labour, epidemics and warfare.”

Scott’s thesis is that throughout history, escaping from the reach of oppressive states has been a popular aim, and that in response, some cultures have developed sophisticated ways of living in hard-to-govern “shatter zones”, which allow them to avoid being assimilated. Standard-issue historical accounts of “development”, he says, are really the history of state-making, written from the state’s point of view: they pay no attention to “the history of deliberate and reactive statelessness”. Yet that history — whether of hill tribes, runaway slaves, gypsies, maroons, sea peoples or Marsh Arabs — is global and ongoing. Taking it into account, says Scott, would “reverse much received wisdom about ‘primitivism’”. Instead, we would read a history of “self-barbarisation”: a process of reactive resistance, of becoming awkward, of making a community into a shape that it is hard for the state to absorb, or even to quite comprehend … localised, potentially dispersed cultures can be tough to conquer.

Then some ideas about how to go about it, with the obvious focus on the internet as a convenient place to create ‘shatter zones’. I must be honest though—the internet corresponds to an alarming rise in loneliness, so whatever the internet is theoretically capable of in terms of connecting people, the practice leaves much to be desired. This constant recourse to it as a solution needs to become a bit more sophisticated.


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successful-prophets

Conspiracies are the price of a complex, liberal society:

Conspiracy theories are also reactions to a diffuse, fractured, conflictive society in which there are just too many competing narratives around, so that falling back on a grand narrative which makes sense of everything is profoundly appealing. For a blessed moment, the whole lot falls neatly into place, as an opaque, impossibly complex world becomes luminously simple, purposeful and transparent.

Opinion piece, but some good points. See also political polarisation is a lie for a bit on this from me.


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psychologia

Adolescence is a one-shot chance of development:

Adolescence is a unique stage of moral development. Synaptic pruning peaks during this period, with tens of thousands of neural connections lost per second, meaning that for certain neural pathways, including those involved in moral decision making, adolescence is a one-shot chance of development.

A typical child’s moral development is a process of categorising behaviours into three primary domains: moral, rule-based and personal. Empathy is an important underlying skill for recognising the first category. Usually by about 4 years old, children can empathise with others to avoid causing harm and injustice, thus allowing them to deduce the moral relevance of novel situations … Fast-forward to adulthood and humans use an entirely different moral framework based on a larger number of moral categories … the ones that have the strongest influence on the moral judgments of an adult will depend on that adult’s in-group affiliations and social identity.

And so, before status and peer-group relations become the driver of a teenager’s behaviour, it’s important to provide moral problem-solving opportunities. Before the belonging drives moral learning, and the synaptic pruning cuts away the rest.


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Smart people are better at convincing themselves they’re right, not being right. It’s a well-enough known phenomenon. One of the reasons cults are often populated by intellectuals. But in the case, it’s applied to ‘wokeism’.

A particularly prominent example is wokeism, a popularized academic worldview that combines elements of conspiracy theory and moral panic. Wokeism seeks to portray racism, sexism, and transphobia as endemic to Western society, and to scapegoat these forms of discrimination on white people generally and straight white men specifically, who are believed to be secretly trying to enforce such bigotries to maintain their place at the top of a social hierarchy. Naturally, woke intellectuals don’t consider themselves alarmists or conspiracy theorists; they believe their intelligence gives them the unique ability to glimpse a hidden world of prejudices.

It’s a curious argument, because it seems to assume the worst-case buy-in to progressive ideology is the norm across intellectual communities. I rather suspect that most woke people are not so much ‘glimpsing a hidden world of prejudices’ as upgrading their concern about some real prejudices. To conflate this rise in concern with the stranger fringes of wokeism seems like a category error.

but just don’t like obvious prejudices more than they care about whatever the anti-woke


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Wokeism is winding down. See also is performative populism over.


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The lucrative business of book-styling.

Ashley Tisdale infamously caused a stir when she admitted to purchasing 400 books to fill her empty shelves overnight before Architectural Digest filmed her house. “Obviously, my husband’s like, ‘We should be collecting books over time and putting them in the shelves.’ And I was like, ‘No, no, no, no. Not when AD comes.’”

A trend toward buying books wholesale for decoration.


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economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

on-aesthetics

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On the media as a good thing:

Hate certain parts of the media, including specific articles, false narratives, and even, if you must, individual journalists who represent the worst of their profession. But if you care about having a functional society in which forming accurate perceptions of at least some portions of reality is possible, please temper your criticism.

Seems also worth noting that media have predictable filters. Non-media entities are subject to the same filters—perhaps more so.


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The reassuring fantasy of the baby advice industry:

People have been dispensing baby-rearing guidance in written form almost since the beginning of writing, and it is a storehouse of absurd advice, testifying to the truth that babies have always been a source of bafflement.

Thus began the transformation that would culminate in the contemporary baby-advice industry. With every passing year, there was less and less to worry about: in the developed world today, by any meaningful historical yardstick, your baby will almost certainly be fine, and if it isn’t, that will almost certainly be due to factors entirely beyond your control … And so baby manuals became more and more fixated on questions that would have struck any 19th-century parent as trivial, such as for precisely how many minutes it’s acceptable to let babies cry; or how the shape of a pacifier might affect the alignment of their teeth; or whether their lifelong health might be damaged by traces of chemicals in the plastics used to make their bowls and spoons.

“The promise of [the contemporary concept of] parenting is that there is some set of techniques, some particular expertise, that parents could acquire that would help them accomplish the goal of shaping their children’s lives,” … “It is very difficult to find any reliable, empirical relation between the small variations in what parents do – the variations that are the focus of parenting [advice] – and the resulting adult traits of their children,”

Perhaps what you really learn from baby books is one important aspect of the predicament of parenthood: that while there might indeed be one right way to do things, you will never get to find out what it is.


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On the fault lines between democracy and specialisation. A bit of history, as well as the experts in a disaster movie as a metaphor:

How else but through illusion might we expect the average viewer to grasp a perspective rooted in a lifetime of training and inquiry? Besides, the viewer’s ignorance is vital to the intended experience of these films. It’s what secures their interest in the expert character, who is essentially an oracle, and an oracle without inaccessible, suprahuman wisdom loses all allure. The oracle is elevated by knowledge—to the mountaintop temples or the heights of abstraction—forming a triangular relationship with the layman and viewer … The viewer is left with a murky and reductive metaphor, but they have also witnessed the processes of reduction and the social realities that necessitate it … the truth of any technical matter undergoes a similar filtration when it is disseminated to the actual public, government officials or within private institutions. The raw facts, the data, when they reach you, have been neatly ordered, interpreted and summarized for your benefit. Such is the cost and convenience of living in modernized society; to “trust the experts” and their liaisons not out of goodwill but stark necessity. But only during technical disasters, storied and real, can the full severity of this bargain be recognized: a technical elite will accept an unfathomable responsibility in exchange for the public’s unwavering trust and obedience. The citizen and his representatives are asked to forget the many instances in which experts have been grievously mistaken, and to overlook that many disasters now originate in the cloisters of technical institutions (the disasters of both Chernobyl and Margin Call are expert-made.) There is no time to consider past errors.

The public rage against specialists is rightly perceived as a rejection of their hard-won expertise. But I suspect these outbursts stem from a shared impression that our world is becoming impossible to understand in a remotely unified manner … What is the point of learning if the smallest truth is always already someone else’s life’s work? One feels relegated to the mere surface of things; necessarily stupid. This is not only infuriating but also makes it increasingly difficult to participate in the governance of our gleaming technological society.


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wealth-architecture

Incentivising hoarding:

In a landmark 1986 study, Daniel Kahneman, Jack Knetsch and Richard Thaler gathered evidence that most people find this sort of behaviour unacceptable. (For example, 82 per cent of respondents thought it was unfair for a hardware store to raise the price of snow shovels after a snowstorm.) We could argue over whether these feelings of outrage at “profiteers” are simply mistaken or tap into some deeper wisdom, but the practical point is that firms know that they will be criticised if they build up stores and try to sell them at a profit in a crisis. As a result, they will spend less on storage than they should. A second problem is that supply interruptions have a large social cost. The cost of a blackout falls partly on the electricity supplier but mostly on customers, and so the supplier is likely to skimp on storage, backups and other ways to improve reliability. Then there is the third problem, which is that some kinds of storage are extremely expensive. Could the storage problem be solved? Governments could subsidise some forms of storage and stockpiling … They could do more to encourage trade and collaboration … they could invest more in early warnings of trouble. They will need to stand ready to resist the inevitable grumbles that the stockpiles constitute a waste of taxpayers’ money.


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A millenial trend away from aged-in conservatism. See also the author on twitter since this ‘free’ FT article is actually very difficult to access.


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Psychological capabilites for resilience. Studies from the Ukraine war:

Many of the psychological capabilities to improve societal resilience can be integrated into three broad focus areas: education, information, and inclusion. Education should not only raise awareness about trends that may affect national safety or potential threats to sovereignty, but it should emphasize a country’s unique strengths, national history, culture, and values … A psychologically resilient population must also be informed about the modern information environment and how it plays a role in shaping thinking and behavior … A whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach is inherently inclusive. Inclusion efforts often focus on bolstering national identity to give people a sense of pride and belongingness, but it can simultaneously train critical skills.


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Human intelligence is converging:

most recent studies report mainly positive Flynn effects in economically less developed countries, but trivial and frequently negative Flynn effects in the economically most advanced countries … these trends, observed in adolescents today, will reduce cognitive gaps between the working-age populations of countries and world regions during coming decades.


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A typology of the ‘new right’. See also this article, for something less US-centric.


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A response to MacAskill’s What We Owe the Future. Right at the very end:

While MacAskill is highly interested in great power war (pp. 114-116), he is curiously uninterested in how to theorize explicitly about great power politics in the context of international institutions despite these being the causal source of the main factor in the probabilities he bandies about throughout the book. Throughout his argument, he tacitly black-boxes what he calls “the international system,” “international cooperation,” “international coordination” and “international norms.” (Obviously, he could claim that great power politics is independent from international institutions and shaped by the interactions of small number of elite actors—something he hints at in his historical examples; but it is not developed in his future oriented chapters.) And so, somewhat curiously, a book devoted to building a social movement and changing values, leaves under-theorized the main social factor that will determine (by its own lights) the possibility of that movement having a future at all


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The “je ne sais quoi” of TikTok:

It’s an unambiguously positive change in social media, on pretty much every front. To try to get it down to a bulleted list:

  • Organic audience acquisition without need for self promotion.
  • Types of content that can flourish is much broader.
  • Incredible collaboration tools, leading to mixing and remixing art on the platform. The only other example of this I can think of this on other social platforms is textual. Quoting someone’s tweet and commenting on it and the like.
  • Manages to maintain a platform-level “zeitgeist” of sorts, similar to Twitter, while also giving users highly customized experiences. It does this without the need for trending topics or curated hashtags, it’s all in the algorithm.
  • Fosters empathy instead of sowing division. Much less emphasis on “culture war” and politics.

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Is performative populism is over?

Performative populism has begun to ebb. Twitter doesn’t have the hold on the media class it had two years ago. Peak wokeness has passed. There seem to be fewer cancellations recently, and less intellectual intimidation … Americans are still deeply unhappy with the state of the country, but their theory of change seems to have begun to shift. Less histrionic media soap opera. Less existential politics of menace. Let’s find people who can get stuff done.


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Chompsky & Hermann’s five filters in the modern era. A better version of my chompsky manufacturing consent today, and in video form.


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A nice overview of audience capture:

This is the ultimate trapdoor in the hall of fame; to become a prisoner of one’s own persona. The desire for recognition in an increasingly atomized world lures us to be who strangers wish us to be. And with personal development so arduous and lonely, there is ease and comfort in crowdsourcing your identity.


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thought-architecture

How the Jesuits charted the world:

Jesuits in the early modern world acted as brokers of knowledge and information – creating new networks that connected Asia and the Americas to Europe, and Europe to distant worlds beyond the Atlantic and the Pacific. Their letters, reports and books often traversed not only stormy seas but those even more treacherous confessional and civilisational divides that marked the world they inhabited.


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

betterment

collective-architecture

narrative-culture

on-culture

on-politics-and-power

Weeks don’t make sense:

A duration of seven days doesn’t align with any natural cycles or fit cleanly into months or years. And though the week has been deeply significant to Jews, Christians, and Muslims for centuries, people in many parts of the world happily made do without it, or any other cycles of a similar length, until roughly 150 years ago …

[my] hypothesis, which I’m a little more drawn to because I’m a historian: that our sense of what is an appropriate amount of time to wait between activities has been conditioned by the week.


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

betterment

cognitive-karstica

narrative-culture

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

thought-architecture

wealth-architecture

How to function in an increasingly polarized society. It feels like perhaps a more efficient method of functioning would be to just step back a little from the froth, but failing that, you might like these suggestions.


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betterment

cognitive-karstica

collective-architecture

connection

economy-of-small-pleasures

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-emotion

somatic-architecture

Were ancients the intellectual equals of us? Graeber reckoned, probably.


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

betterment

on-culture

on-thinking-and-reasoning

wealth-architecture

What if Marx and Freud never existed?

the proposition that as the ego is navigating the external world (the Reality Principle) it also has to fight a two-front war against the impulses coming from the id (Pleasure Principle) and the punitively severe impulse control exercised by the superego (Conscience). This idea is original, profound and true.


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accidental-civilisation

betterment

narrative-culture

on-culture

thought-architecture

An intro to Confucius.


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

betterment

narrative-culture

on-culture

on-thinking-and-reasoning

thought-architecture

The Tyranny of the Female-Orgasm Industrial Complex:

I surprised myself with the ire that bubbled up over the course of writing this essay; I hadn’t realized how much lingering resentment I had toward those men—and later, toward the female-orgasm industrial complex in which I saw the self-interest of such men reflected—who made me feel deficient and ashamed for a situation out of my control, and one that I had long ago made peace with. As grateful as I am to Dr. M and Justin for their support, moreover, for offering a safe space in which to further explore the frontier of my own body, I find myself wondering, when I think too hard about it, whether their professed “calling” is actually just more male selfishness in disguise.


filed under:

cognitive-karstica

connection

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-therapy

somatic-architecture

Human exceptionalism is dead: for the sake of our own happiness and the planet we should embrace our true animal nature.


filed under:

animal-sentience

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-emotion

on-thinking-and-reasoning

somatic-architecture

On the philosopher John Gray’s critique of liberal humanism.

For Gray, ‘liberal humanism’ – the belief system that led us to Iraq – is a quasi-religious faith in progress, the subjective power of reason, free markets, and the unbounded potential of technology. He identifies the Enlightenment as the point at which the Christian doctrine of salvation was taken over by a secular idealism that has developed into modern-day liberal humanism. (Gray argues that global capitalism has its origins in positivism, the secular cult influenced by the late-18th-century French philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon, who believed that science would end all human ills.) Interestingly, Gray identifies the Enlightenment as the point where our utopias became located in the future, rather than in the past or in some fantasy realm, where it was clear they were exactly that: fantasies. With the failures of Iraq, Afghanistan, the 2008 financial crisis, the climate crisis and now the COVID-19 pandemic, faith in the future utopia that liberal humanism once promised is waning. It’s being replaced by beliefs that again look backwards in history, through the distorting lens of nostalgia, to imagined better times to which we hope to return.

Reminds me of slouching toward utopia.


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

betterment

cognitive-karstica

collective-architecture

narrative-culture

on-culture

on-politics-and-power

How popperian falsification enabled the rise of neoliberalism.


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accidental-civilisation

betterment

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

on-politics-and-power

wealth-architecture

Vitalik’s post on political preferences:

what if there are other incredibly un-nuanced gross oversimplifications worth exploring?

The merits of a bulldozer vs vetocracy continuum:

Let us consider a political axis defined by these two opposing poles:

  • Bulldozer: single actors can do important and meaningful, but potentially risky and disruptive, things without asking for permission
  • Vetocracy: doing anything potentially disruptive and controversial requires getting a sign-off from a large number of different and diverse actors, any of whom could stop it

Note that this is not the same as either authoritarian vs libertarian or left vs right. You can have vetocratic authoritarianism, the bulldozer left, or any other combination.


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accidental-civilisation

betterment

cognitive-karstica

collective-architecture

connection

on-culture

on-leadership

on-politics-and-power

Malcolm X on racism, capitalism and Islam.


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betterment

on-(un)happiness

on-aesthetics

on-culture

on-ethics

on-leadership

thought-architecture

The sad decline of heresy:

today’s heretics, who betray remarkably little interest in metaphysics. Indeed, the closest most of them ever come to anything resembling genuine theological speculation is in their naive, and largely tacit, belief in universal salvation (not to be confused with the theological virtue of hope, which it in fact mocks). Few if any of them would run afoul of the proscriptions of the ancient councils or of the terrifying sentences of the Quicunque Vult, if for no other reason than that they are unacquainted with them.

It’s a cute article.


filed under:

cognitive-karstica

gratification

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

somatic-architecture

A paean to pigweed, a modern saint.

As we seek to survive in an age of ecological collapse and cultural chaos, perhaps it is to the weeds we should look for advice. I think of Pigweed, invading Europe as Europe colonized America. As Europeans took over America, Pigweed flowed back on the ships, into the countries that were invading its original ecosystem. It performed a reverse colonization. Pigweed originally only from the Americas is now dispersed across Europe and Asia. Pigweed says plant me in disturbed landscapes, dirty soil, chemical sludge. Plant me where the pain lives and I will learn how to survive. I will learn how to turn this poison into greenery, into stalk and seed and a tap root so long and sturdy it is almost a sword, capable of sucking up water not available the shallow rooted soy and cotton plants. My body needs to learn how to adapt to an increasingly chaotic environment. It needs a saint that teaches me how to get I touch with the wily, cunning knowledge of place. My saint is a seed on the wind. A vegetal plague. Pigweed.


filed under:

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-aesthetics

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

Social media and teenage mental health.

Estimates indicate high-speed wireless internet significantly increased teen girls’ severe mental health diagnoses – by 90% – relative to teen boys over the period when visual social media became dominant in teenage internet use. I find similar effects across all subgroups. When applying the same strategy, I find null impacts for placebo health conditions – ones through which there is no clear channel for social media to operate. The evidence points to adverse effects of visual social media, in light of large gender gaps in visual social media use and documented risks. In turn, the analysis calls attention to policy interventions that could mitigate the harm to young people due to their online activities.

Elaine Guo

filed under:

cognitive-karstica

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

on-(un)happiness

on-aesthetics

on-attraction-and-love

on-culture

on-therapy

somatic-architecture

Britain’s ‘New Right’.

This generational divide that Baker senses and Farage seems unaware of, becomes ever more apparent. The speakers are less furious than the spoken to … Do not expect them to sculpt a future of fair dealing, pragmatism, patience, moderation or high intelligence. Expect the restless opposite of these virtues.


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

betterment

economy-of-small-pleasures

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-politics-and-power

wealth-architecture

Why dictators are afraid of girls: rethinking gender and national security.

After all, war is an inherently human activity, and gender is a core expression of what it means to be human; to ignore gender is to ignore core dimensions of war itself.


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collective-architecture

connection

on-culture

on-leadership

on-politics-and-power

psychologia

Not all early human societies were small scale egalitarian bands. (See also The Dawn of Everything).


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accidental-civilisation

collective-architecture

connection

on-culture

on-politics-and-power

Machine in the ghost.

the central cultural conflict for religion in this century … [will not be] the old touchstones that configure ideological divisions between the orthodox and heterodox, the mainline and the fringe, conservatives and liberals, with arguments about abortion, birth control, gay rights and so on dominating our understanding of cultural rift … By the end of the century, there could very well be debates and denunciations, exegeses and excommunications about whether or not an AI is allowed to join a Church, allowed to serve as clergy, allowed to marry a biological human … ‘AI may be the greatest threat to Christian theology since Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species.’ … it could equally be argued that, just as evolutionary thought reinvigorated non-fundamentalist Christian faith … so too could artificial intelligence provide for a coming spiritual fecundity

Particularly poignent given the recent obsession with ChatGPT.


filed under:

animal-sentience

gratification

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

On the expansionist nature of big concepts:

It is the all-conquering idea of human rights, however, that’s the starkest illustration of conceptual overreach. Human rights, even more than the rule of law, have come to play the role of ‘universal secular religion’, purporting to offer a comprehensive ethical framework … this error plays out in the common belief that the challenges posed by all manner of developments – from artificial intelligence to the climate crisis – can be adequately addressed by a framework that appeals exclusively to human rights. What gets pushed out, or distorted, by this overreach is a range of other values. These include non-rights-based values, such as kindness, loyalty and mercy … solidarity and the common good.


filed under:

betterment

cognitive-karstica

on-culture

on-ethics

on-politics-and-power

wealth-architecture

Postgenomics as the new evolutionary theory. Using the old ‘gay gene’ notion to emphasise that post-genetic accounts, speaking to the range of genetic, social, and environmental factors we now use to explain human behaviour, are just another version of ‘whatever I want to explain it explains it’:

Postgenomics today is thus playing out the rationalising functions that scientific inquiries into rather historically contingent identities and behavioural patterns always perform. Accordingly, the paradigm can generate some relatively valid postulates – it’s likely that our sexualities and genders are textured by a mix of social experience, the firings off of neurons, hormonal swirls and the transcription of DNA. But such science also allows defenders of the status quo – in all its libidinally liberated, economically devastated glory – to cast the world as it appears as the way that the world was meant to be. For all the high-powered machinery, impressive statistical methods and massive datasets that go into this knowledge production, we have inherited once again a collection of ‘just-so stories’ – that is, accounts of human nature depicted through a diverse confluence of causes rather than strictly genetic factors – now updated for our postgenomic age.


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betterment

cognitive-karstica

connection

narrative-culture

on-culture

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

somatic-architecture

thought-architecture

I often paraphrase myself, something like:

The Rarámuri believe that each moving body part has a unique soul, from the joints of the fingers to the ‘heart’ and the ‘head’. These souls, or ariwi, must be cared for lest they become sick and the body begins to fail. Similar ideas pervade many health traditions. Today we would call these things organs, or cast our net wider perhaps and include other systems like the microflora of our bodies.

But, it’s actually quite difficult to reference this, because the book that taught me this is old and obscure.

Then I realised I have a way of doing that—just do a marginalia. So here is the marginalium.

I’ve included a link to the archive.org book. It’s fascinating. The part about ariwi is not long, but it stuck with me.

William L. Merrill, Rarámuri Souls

filed under:

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-the-nature-of-things

on-therapy

somatic-architecture

spiritual-architecture

The Rising Tide of Global Sadness. The gist in the conclusion is enough:

We live in a world of widening emotional inequality. The top 20 percent of the world is experiencing the highest level of happiness and well-being since Gallup began measuring these things. The bottom 20 percent is experiencing the worst. It’s a fundamentally unjust and unstable situation. The emotional health of the world is shattering.


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cognitive-karstica

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-emotion

somatic-architecture

Selling Violent Extremism:

unlike other far-right organizations, such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers do not organize as a club. Rather, its behavior is better explained as a firm that adjusts the price of membership over time to maximize profit … These results imply that political violence can be motivated by nonideological entrepreneurs maximizing profits under current legal institutions


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absit-omnia

betterment

cognitive-karstica

collective-architecture

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

on-leadership

An insight into the New Right. Vox profile of Curtis Yarvin. There’s a lot here behind the noise and clutter. It’s worth listening to Peter Thiel for this reason. He says the same things over and over again, but occasionally lets slip something that hints at the kind of depth that characterised his early essays. Worth paying attention to.


filed under:

absit-omnia

accidental-civilisation

economy-of-small-pleasures

narrative-culture

on-culture

on-politics-and-power

thought-architecture

The gossip trap: How civilization came to be and how social media is ending it. Interesting enough exploration of our ‘silent years’—the huge gap between modern physiology and modern civilisation. The thesis: when society is small enough for each of us to know each other, society is organised through social pressure. When we exceed that, natural social hierarchy breaks down and we are forced to use other tools (i.e. civilisation). ‘Gossip’ is posed as a constraint on innovation. The outro suggests that social media has brought back the ‘gossip trap’.

It is not clear precisely to me how this is entirely a bad thing, although the author things so:

The gossip trap is our first Eldritch Mother, the Garrulous Gorgon With a Thousand Heads, The Beast Made Only of Sound.

I’d be more likely to agree that this modern form of the gossip trap is a bad thing, and point to the loneliness epidemic, the hydraulic trap and the amusement trap as examples. But I’m inclined to suspect the gossip trap facilitated not by social media but by actual connections to people brings many benefits we are quick to dismiss or ignore.


filed under:

collective-architecture

connection

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-attraction-and-love

on-culture

on-friendship

somatic-architecture

successful-prophets

Pop-ideas to think about when considering improving science.


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

betterment

economy-of-small-pleasures

on-culture

thought-architecture

On the inability to comprehend the mass-shooting phenomenon. No answers, but that’s the point.

In a country where the random slaughter of children is so common that it’s been integrated into the structure of ordinary life, literary culture simply has nothing to say on the subject. It will talk about awkward interactions and sexual confusion and learning to love yourself in the face of trauma, but it’s afraid to touch this thing that seems to sum up the entire experience of modernity … What we have instead of the mass-shooting novel is the mass-shooting essay. Mass-shooting essays, classically, are full of solutions. They work in a fairly simple way: you pluck out a single, overriding factor that causes these events, and then you suggest how it might be sensibly eliminated …

The shortcomings of these essays aren’t the fault of the essayists. Srinivasan and Yang have perfectly reasonable ideas about why these things happen—the problem is that these things are not reasonable. They are outside the remit of the essay, a form in which things are supposed to be broken down into comprehensible pieces and coherently analyzed. This might be why the tone of these essays is shifting. Hopelessness is seeping in. The political system is inadequate to respond to these murders, but so, it seems, is our ordinary sensemaking apparatus, the power of reason, language itself. The best recent mass-shooting essays have been Elizabeth Bruenig’s in the Atlantic, but they’re less essay than threnody: a wail of helpless grief, crying the last whole truth left: “It’s going to go on indefinitely. It’s not an end, exactly, but life inside a permanent postscript to one’s own history. Here is America after there was no more hope.”


filed under:

absit-omnia

betterment

narrative-culture

on-culture

on-emotion

somatic-architecture

“Men are high variance. A subset succeed, the median is falling behind, those without high school degrees are in absolute decline.” Interesting implications for the general musings on the ‘decline of men’ (e.g. here, here).


filed under:

betterment

collective-architecture

narrative-culture

on-culture

on-the-nature-of-things

psychologia

Most missing persons don’t wish to be found. An interesting tension. What’s the right trade-off? Twitter account deleted not long after I found this, so I suppose the most vocal people think the trade-off in favour of the missing who do.


filed under:

collective-architecture

connection

economy-of-small-pleasures

on-culture

psychologia

“Fears that globalisation would lead to a worldwide monoculture have proven utterly wrong.”


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accidental-civilisation

collective-architecture

connection

economy-of-small-pleasures

narrative-culture

on-aesthetics

on-culture

US-centric, but interesting post asking why so many interventions help women but not men.

The problem is not that men have fewer opportunities; it’s that they are not seizing them. The challenge seems to be a general decline in agency, ambition, and motivation.


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betterment

on-culture

psychologia

somatic-architecture

An argument for Fukiyama’s continued relevance from Hanania. That said, it really does seem like the Chinese model, more or less the same for 1000s of years, is unnervingly resilient.


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accidental-civilisation

betterment

collective-architecture

on-culture

on-politics-and-power

On applying Quakerism to the Effective Altruism movement (?) for betterment. More broadly a case for religion as a framework for doing good.


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connection

on-culture

on-ethics

on-leadership

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

Not new, but the crisis of masculinity.

Ambition doesn’t just happen; it has to be fired. The culture is still searching for a modern masculine ideal. It is not instilling in many boys the nurturing and emotional skills that are so desperately important today. A system that labels more than a fifth of all boys as developmentally disabled is not instilling in them a sense of confidence and competence.

Probably not a central issue, but an interesting one. More interestingly and concisely explored by Sebastian Junger. Perhaps my time in the military biases me, but Junger’s point that the military is one of the last places one can go to ‘become a man’ experientially checks out (and implies many issues).


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betterment

collective-architecture

connection

on-(un)happiness

on-attraction-and-love

on-culture

on-emotion

psychologia

somatic-architecture

Not new, but detailed, “This document is my attempt to keep a thematic list of all the problems that affect academic research”


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betterment

cognitive-karstica

economy-of-small-pleasures

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

wealth-architecture

On Oligopoly And Social Norms.

At least after they reach a certain point, distributional coalitions have an incentive to be exclusive … whatever quantity an entrant would sell must either drive down the price received by those already in … [or] there will be more to distribute to each member of the coalition if it is a minimum winning coalition

With implications for aristocratic intermarriage:

if the sons and daughters of the ruling group are induced to marry one another, the growth of the ruling group can be constrained in ways that preserve a legacy for all the families in it

Mançur Lloyd Olson Jr, The Rise and Decline of Nations

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accidental-civilisation

betterment

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on-politics-and-power

thought-architecture

wealth-architecture

A fun enough comparison of the new LoTR series and Western (US) culture. The really interesting part is a series of quotes though:

As Durkheim and other sociologists have argued, we can never really remove the sacred from life. We can only change what we hold sacred. As historian Eugene McCarrher explores in ‘The Enchantments of Mammon’, in much of the world capitalism has come to replace religion.

As summarised by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins in The Nation, McCarrher argues that ’the mysteries and sacraments of religion were transferred to the way we perceive market forces and economic development… a “migration of the holy” to the realm of production and consumption, profit and price, trade and economic tribulation. Capitalism, in other words, is the new religion, a system full of enchanted superstitions and unfounded beliefs and beholden to its own clerisy of economists and managers, its own iconography of advertising and public relations, and its own political theology.“


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accidental-civilisation

cognitive-karstica

connection

economy-of-small-pleasures

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

thought-architecture

On predicting Russian appetite for nuclear escalation.

Whether Russia has a lowered nuclear threshold is a matter of perspective. Moscow sees nuclear weapons as essential for deterrence and useful for nuclear warfighting in regional or large-scale war. That is hardly a recent development, though it may be new to decision-makers in the United States. There is an erroneous perception in American policy circles that at some point Washington and Moscow were on the same page and shared a similar threshold for nuclear use in conflict. It is not clear that this imagined time period ever existed, but perhaps both countries viewed nuclear escalation as uncontrollable, or at least publicly described it as such during the late-Cold War period. In principle, Russian leadership does view nuclear use as defensive, forced by exigent circumstances, and in the context of regional or large-scale conflicts.


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absit-omnia

betterment

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on-politics-and-power

wealth-architecture

Kind of disorganised, but interesting comparison between chicken and human intelligence.


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gratification

neurotypica

on-culture

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

somatic-architecture

Mostly good for the overview of fasting (see also this). But also a very btrmt-like look at health ideology, with interesting and less common examples. Always fun to see how close one can skate to the fringes without getting too woo-woo.


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betterment

cognitive-karstica

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

narrative-culture

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

somatic-architecture

The incredible resources required to build a Greek Temple. Another reminder how complex civilisations have always been. Makes me think of that extract from World War Z, the complexity implied by a root beer recipe:

Ingredients:

molasses from the United States

anise from Spain

licorice from France

vanilla (bourbon) from Madagascar

cinnamon from Sri Lanka

cloves from Indonesia

wintergreen from China

pimento berry oil from Jamaica

balsam oil from Peru


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accidental-civilisation

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wealth-architecture

Seeing like a state. The start is most thought provoking—the difference between the local legibility needs (this road is Durham Road, because it goes to Durham) and state legibility needs (this road is Route 77 because lots of roads go to Durham). Where once we just went by given names, because everyone knew everyone, we now have at least two so the state can keep track of all the Sarahs and Peters. And so on. These legibility needs have most interesting consequences:

The quest for legibility, when joined to state power, is not merely an “observation.” … it has the capacity the change the world it observes. The window and door tax established in France … Peasant dwellings were subsequently designed … so as to have as few apertures as possible … the effects on the long term health of the rural population lasted for than a century … The window and door tax illustrates something else about “state optics”; they achieve their formidable power of resolution by a kind of tunnel vision that brings into sharp focus a single aspect of an otherwise far more complex and unwieldy reality … making possible a high degree of schematic knowledge, control and manipulation

Finishes with an off-beat example—the development and consequences of monocropped ‘production’ forests.


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cognitive-karstica

collective-architecture

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on-leadership

on-politics-and-power

Not just IQ or EQ, but CQ: cultural intelligence determines your success. This is not such a surprise of course. Bourdieu told us long before Henderson. But a good reminder.


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accidental-civilisation

betterment

collective-architecture

connection

on-attraction-and-love

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

psychologia

somatic-architecture

wealth-architecture

Why bother reading the bible?

Ari Lamm

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betterment

cognitive-karstica

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

narrative-culture

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

wealth-architecture

On the North Pond Hermit:

For nearly thirty years, a phantom haunted the woods of Central Maine. Unseen and unknown, he lived in secret, creeping into homes in the dead of night and surviving on what he could steal. To the spooked locals, he became a legend—or maybe a myth. They wondered how he could possibly be real. Until one day last year, the hermit came out of the forest.


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connection

from-zero

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

wealth-architecture

Is Politics Filling the Void of Religion?

this type of politics involves ideas of morality, of the saved and unsaved—and also that, in a positive way, it offers moments of transcendence and “unselfing.”


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cognitive-karstica

connection

on-culture

on-thinking-and-reasoning

spiritual-architecture

Givers think that conversations unfold as a series of invitations; takers think conversations unfold as a series of declarations. When giver meets giver or taker meets taker, all is well. When giver meets taker, however, giver gives, taker takes, and giver gets resentful (“Why won’t he ask me a single question?”) while taker has a lovely time (“She must really think I’m interesting!”) or gets annoyed (“My job is so boring, why does she keep asking me about it?”).


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accidental-civilisation

connection

on-culture

on-friendship

on-leadership

A typology of research questions about society:

interdisciplinary teaching and research is also often quite hard. One of the challanges I’ve encountered in practice, is that students as well as professors/researchers are not always able to recognise the many different kind of questions that we can ask about society, its rules, policies, social norms and structures, and other forms of institutions (broadly defined). This then leads to misunderstandings, frustrations, and much time that is lost trying to solve these.


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betterment

collective-architecture

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

on-thinking-and-reasoning

Detailed article on the ‘origin’ of the two-spirit concept in Native American culture. Interestingly, it claims that the concept is largely a product of the white LGBT movement, attempting to lend historical credence to their own way of being. Not particularly surprising, given Native Americans are an incredibly diverse group—assuredly not sharing the same concepts of sexuality. Similarly assuredly some groups had much more fluid sexual dynamics than the rigid masculine/feminine dichotomy, so we probably shouldn’t lose sight of that either. I am left to wonder about how legitimate complaints of ‘cultural appropriation’ apply to the adoption by a group of a modern concept.


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betterment

collective-architecture

narrative-culture

on-attraction-and-love

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

Hammacher Schlemmer: the World’s Most Peculiar Company. A mail catalogue company with surprising success still today.


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economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

on-aesthetics

on-culture

Love, in the ancient Greek world, is not about sacrifice but eudaemonia:

Diotima shows Socrates that love is a kind of joint ascension towards something greater. Love leads us towards good and beautiful things, the highest of which is knowledge. Loving then, according to Diotima, is helping each other to become better people


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betterment

connection

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

on-friendship

on-love

Research article:

because smartphones are considerably more personal and private than PCs, using them activates intimate self-knowledge and increases private self-focus, shifting attention toward individuating personal preferences, feelings, and inner states


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cognitive-karstica

digital-architecture

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

on-(un)happiness

on-aesthetics

on-culture

psychologia

somatic-architecture

How to speak - Patrick Winston’s famous lecture.


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collective-architecture

narrative-culture

on-culture

on-leadership

Solarpunk, not steampunk


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betterment

on-aesthetics

on-culture

wealth-architecture

1977 study shows that science has always leaned into its rituals:

Experimental results showed that–contrary to a popular assumption–the reasoning skills o f the scientists were not significantly different from those o f nonscientists

he scientists in this study appeared to be strongly inclined toward early speculation with relatively little experimentation … Both of these phenomena–the apparent pen- chant for quick speculation and tenacious fidelity to a hypothesismhave been observed as relatively common phenomena in the scientific culture


filed under:

betterment

cognitive-karstica

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

on-ethics

on-thinking-and-reasoning

psychologia

An excellent article on the Antikythera machine.


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

gratification

on-culture

On Ernst Junger and his war-time diaries and a descent into magic.

Ultimately, he was far too Right-wing to accept Nazism

Jünger comes uncannily close to Jung throughout the book: he records strange omens and premonitions, claims that certain generals of his acquaintance are imbued with the power of prophecy, records strange synchronicities and deploys obscure alchemical metaphors. As the diaries go on and Germany’s fortunes worsen, the magical element begins to predominate.


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on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-ethics

spiritual-architecture

On the view that there is no fate worse than death:

There is simply nothing worse than permanent death - because it cannot be repaired. And everything else can be repaired, including the damage from any amount of suffering.

permanent death is the only brain state that can’t be reversed, given sufficient tech and time … The non-reversibility is the key.

An interesting perspective, but appears to assume human immortality. One does wonder if suffering that can’t be reversed in a human lifetime, or suffering that takes generations to dilute away would still be preferable to a life lost for this writer.


filed under:

animal-sentience

betterment

cognitive-karstica

gratification

on-culture

psychologia

somatic-architecture

On the Jesuit tradition—the creation of an “unparalleled network of knowledge which superseded religious tensions”


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

betterment

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

thought-architecture

wealth-architecture

Land Acknowledgement as moral exhibitionism:

It is difficult to exaggerate the superficiality of these statements

“if [one is] going to acknowledge a debt, [one] should also pay it


filed under:

betterment

connection

on-culture

on-ethics

on-politics-and-power

thought-architecture

High culture now functions like a counterculture, entailing a conscious act of dissent from the mainstream … it carries more social risk than reward. Preferring things that are old, distant, and difficult to those that are immediate and ubiquitous means alienating oneself from one’s community, in some cases from one’s own family. It is at best an inexplicable quirk, at worst a form of antisocial arrogance.


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connection

economy-of-small-pleasures

gratification

narrative-culture

on-aesthetics

on-culture

at once an ethical retreat and an opportunity to recalibrate the economy … ethics and exchange were logically linked, though the governing principle was reciprocity, not accumulation

Anthropological case study for the lockdown as a ‘spiritual and economic reset’ from an Indonesian community who would voluntarily retreat every couple of years. Similar ideas to this more modern-focused take


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betterment

gratification

on-(un)happiness

on-being-fruitful

on-culture

spiritual-architecture

wealth-architecture

it is hard to resist the conclusion that, whatever kernel of truth they might have, the stories told about him are an inextricable mixture of fact, exaggeration, willful misinterpretation and outright invention — largely constructed after his death, and largely for the benefit of the new emperor, Claudius.

Was Caligula depraved as Suetonius would have him? Or was he an example of what Hermann and Chompsky would call an anti-ideology. New archaeological evidence points us a little more to the latter than the former.


filed under:

cognitive-karstica

on-culture

on-politics-and-power

thought-architecture

Sedentary and hierarchical hunter-gatherers are not unusual. If anything, it’s the profusion of mobile, egalitarian bands that might be the historical outlier.

On the convenient origin myth of the egalitarian hunter-gathering past of humans. Atavism isn’t the answer


filed under:

accidental-civilisation

connection

on-culture

wealth-architecture

Adding to the point of Genetics is Nurture, this article suggests the same thing but the other way around. An environment is specified often by the preferences of the organism (in this case that of the child by the parent). Thus, the environment is an extension of the genetic predisposition. Either way you argue it, the distinction between nature and nurture really doesn’t exist in a meaningful way.


filed under:

on-culture

on-the-nature-of-things

psychologia

somatic-architecture

Having more or less resources available in a community group can create natural selection pressures that work over the course of as little as two generations.


filed under:

connection

on-(un)happiness

on-culture

on-ethics

on-politics-and-power

psychologia

wealth-architecture

cults involve the social recognition of a leader’s charisma [which though it] can be sincere, it can also be hypocritical or deceptive … cult artifacts make recognition of the leader’s charisma normative, and thus transform it into authority … Insofar as people follow the social norm to worship or venerate the leader then the leader will have some charismatic authority, regardless of whether this recognition is sincere or not.

Successful prophets are successful when the people transform flattery into ritual. This is the basis of the cult leader’s charismatic authority, not the actual charisma of the leader.


filed under:

connection

on-culture

on-leadership

on-politics-and-power

spiritual-architecture

successful-prophets

Remains of an ancient female big game hunter found: there’s not a great deal of fidelity to our imagination about the paleolithic era, but that men hunted and women gathered berries often sits at the top level. As usual, this boring gendered notion appears to be, at least in part, a modern invention.


filed under:

on-culture