Marginalia

Precepts
Themes
Projects

The physics of nothing:

The physicist Edward Witten first discovered the “bubble of nothing” in 1982. While studying a vacuum with one extra dimension curled up into a tiny circle at each point, he found that quantum jitters inevitably jiggled the extra dimension, sometimes shrinking the circle to a point. As the dimension vanished into nothingness, Witten found, it took everything else with it. The instability would spawn a rapidly expanding bubble with no interior, its mirrorlike surface marking the end of space-time itself.


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.


The U.S. military, designed as it is for offensive expeditionary operations, is ill-prepared for its principal mission of deterrence. Indeed, against nuclear-armed adversaries, several aspects of U.S. warfighting concepts have a high risk of escalation. Further, information and precision strike technologies have progressed to the point where the defense has become ascendant.


Against McAskillian Longtermism:

Whatever is wrong with utilitarians who advocate the murder of a million for a 0.0001 percent reduction in the risk of human extinction, it isn’t a lack of computational power. Morality isn’t made by us—we can’t just decide on the moral truth—but it’s made for us: it rests on our common humanity


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?”).


the Elizabethans ... They had a passion for virtue and a genius for cruelty. They had wonderful manners and barbaric inclinations, lovely clothes and terrible diseases. They oscillated madly between the abstract and the corporeal. And among his contemporaries, nobody oscillated more madly than John Donne


There must be something outside of us that can sustain objects when we are not perceiving them, and account for the regularity of our perceptions. But this needn’t be a god in any recognizable sense. It need not be omnibenevolent, omnipotent, or omniscient. There is no reason it must contain desires, intentions, or beliefs, or even be an agent. What’s crucial for ensuring the persistence and stability of the cake closed in my fridge is simply that there be a unified experience that encompasses all aspects of it.


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.


On multiple chemical sensitivity. An interesting piece I wonder if would be as interesting pre-long-covid:

People within the online MCS community call themselves ‘canaries’, a species historically used as sentinels in coal mines to detect toxic levels of carbon monoxide ... The question for people with MCS is: will anyone listen?


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.”


Why are we in Ukraine:

Vladimir Putin and the Russia he rules cannot stop fighting. As long as the United States is involved in arming Russia’s enemies and bankrupting its citizens, they are quite right to believe themselves in a war for their country’s survival. The United States, thus far in a less bloody way, is also involved in a war it chose but cannot exit—in this case, for fear of undermining the international system from which it has drawn its power and prosperity for the past three quarters of a century.


The lost “Greek” tribe of Alexander the Great---in Pakistan


Rules for weird ideas---dismissing them out of hand will lead you down a path of stagnation because when they're right, they're often important.


God without god:

There must be something outside of us that can sustain objects when we are not perceiving them, and account for the regularity of our perceptions. But this needn’t be a god in any recognizable sense. It need not be omnibenevolent, omnipotent, or omniscient. There is no reason it must contain desires, intentions, or beliefs, or even be an agent. What’s crucial for ensuring the persistence and stability of the cake closed in my fridge is simply that there be a unified experience that encompasses all aspects of it.


A detailed, multi-part critique of utilitarianism


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.


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


The long history of association between God and unusual smells.

some scholars believe that the English language suffered from the “cultural repression and denigration of smell” during the Enlightenment, as improvements in hygiene and objections to “superstition” transformed the lived environment into one less sensorially confrontational.


The psychology of killing:

once I began to spend time with people who had killed, I learned that killing is often highly contextual and arises from a specific set factors that are present at that time; which may never occur again


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


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


Research article: People underestimate how enjoyable and engaging just waiting is


An argument for why intelligent people are less happy---because intelligence does not measure how good you are at solving the poorly defined problems of life:

Spearman ... did not, as he claimed, observe a “continued tendency to success throughout all variations of both form and subject-matter,” nor has anybody else. It merely looks as if we’ve varied all the forms and the subject-matters because we have the wrong theory about what makes them different ... I think a good name for problems like these is well-defined ... problems


An argument that behavioural economics has fallen into a trap of simply creating a taxonomy of biases rather than an applicable model for thinking about human behaviour

There is no theoretical framework to guide the selection of interventions, but rather a potpourri of empirical phenomena to pan through ... The point of decision-making is not to minimize bias. It is to minimize error, of which bias is one component. In some environments, a biased decision-making tool will deliver the lowest error.


How to speak - Patrick Winston's famous lecture.


Grasslands rank among the most imperiled and least protected biomes on Earth. They are disappearing even faster than forests, and much of what remains has suffered varying degrees of damage. Their decline threatens a huge chunk of the planet’s biodiversity, the livelihoods of roughly 1 billion people, and countless ecological services such as carbon and water storage. Yet these losses don’t register with the same force as deforestation. Perhaps because we do not notice, or perhaps because we do not care.


A Platonic take on the leadership crisis.

Leadership is most vital during a period of transition from one order to another. We are certainly in such a period now — not only from the neoliberal order to something much darker but also to a new era of smart machines — yet so far leadership is lacking. We call for leaders who are equal to the times, but nobody answers.

Kissinger offers two explanations for this troubling silence. The first lies in the evolution of meritocracy ... leaders ... born outside the pale of the aristocratic elite that had hitherto dominated politics, and particularly foreign policy ... In rubbing shoulders with members of the old elite, they absorbed some of its ethic of noblesse oblige (“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”) as well as its distaste for populism ...

The world has become much more meritocratic since Kissinger’s six made their careers, not least when it comes to women and ethnic minorities. But the dilution of the aristocratic element in the mix may also have removed some of the grit that produced the pearl of leadership: Schools have given up providing an education in human excellence — the very idea would be triggering! — and ambitious young people speak less of obligation than of self-expression or personal advancement. The bonds of character and duty that once bound leaders to their people are dissolving.


A short summary of Friston's Baysian Brain theory---the brain is a prediction engine more than it is a reality processor.

Bayesian Brain theory flips this idea around again so that cognition is a cybernetic or autopoietic loop. The brain instead attempts to predict its inputs. The output kind of comes first. The brain anticipates the likely states of its environment to allow it to react with fast, unthinking, habit. The shortcut basal ganglia level of processing. It is only when there is a significant prediction error—some kind of surprise encountered—that the brain has to stop and attend, and spend time forming a more considered response. So output leads the way. The brain maps the world not as it is, but as it is about to unfold. And more importantly, how it is going to unfold in terms of the actions and intentions we are just about to impose on it. Cognition is embodied or enactive…


The logical mystic---on Witgenstein's Tractictus:

Simply, the truly religious was outside of speech. It could only be “shown” – and, as he puts it in Tractatus, “what can be shown cannot be said.”

To call a religious belief or practice “false” is, to use a basic philosophical term, to commit a category error. Truth and falseness belong to the sorts of “facts” which make up the world, the meaningful propositions of language. Religious belief – the mystical – is not a fact of this sort, and therefore to submit it to the truth tests of propositional logic is incorrect.

My work consists of two parts; that presented here plus all I have not written. It is this second part that is important.


How and why fringe theories stack:

believing that Earth is flat essentially requires that you think that NASA’s achievements are part of an elaborate conspiracy: there is no ability to travel to the Moon, nor are the photographs of a globular Earth from space authentic.

Reminds me of the contrarian cluster.


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


An article from the 60's on LSD and the 'third eye', or more accurately, the role of serotonin in psychedelic states.

the mystery of the LSD-serotonin antagonism persisted. Serotonin is not an unusual chemical in nature; it is found in many places--some of them odd, like the salivary glands of octopuses; others ordinary: it abounds in plants; bananas, figs, plums are especially rich in it. What was it doing in the brains of humans? What was its evolutionary history? In 1958 a Yale Medical School professor of dermatology named Aaron B. Lerner published a paper on the pineal gland which placed this elusive substance in some vague kind of historical perspective and provided for it a real functional role in the brains of mammals.


Ethical astrology:

Astrological forecasting tends to describe the future more thematically or archetypically than concretely, and the vast majority of astrological prediction today falls into this category ... Horoscopes work this way

Astrological prediction, wielded gently and skillfully, can help to “spot the meaning and the movement [going forward] by looking to what is different,”

The downside to the immense meaning-making potential of astrology? It renders the practice vulnerable to misuse by uncareful types with dubious commitment to honorable behavior.


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.


An excellent article on the Antikythera machine.


On the Jesuit tradition---the creation of an "unparalleled network of knowledge which superseded religious tensions"


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.


ssume that abstract ideas must be learned, but we are all too happy to presume innate emotions, for instance

If we believe that the mind is ethereal, distinct from the body, then ideas (notions such as ‘helping others is good’ or ‘objects are cohesive’) must be disembodied as well ... [unlike] the innateness of emotions, sensations and motor plans. Each of these psychological states can be linked to a bodily organ

[this] conspiracy ... [is] why we wrongly view affective psychiatric disorders as destiny, whereas cognitive disorders such as dyslexia seem only ‘in the mind’


On the possibilities for secure digital personhood.


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


there is nothing essential or inevitable about the ways we conceive of romantic relationships

Romantic friendships take some of the elements of a traditional romantic relationship – the desire for intimacy, the commitment to build one’s life around another person, and even sex – without having to take all of them at once


Microdosing alcohol: A surprising and unpredictable way to boost creativity


We typically think of our idyllic past as one of egalitarian hunter gatherers. The truth is far more complex.


Having a concept of death, far from being a uniquely human feat, is a fairly common trait in the animal kingdom


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.


a number of studies indicating that frequent fasting cycles may ... increase side effects and even mortality ... daily fasting/TRF periods of approximately 12 hours appear to be associated with benefits without known negative effects

Excellent review of the effects of intermittent and periodic fasting. It looks like all of these are strategies (including the usual 14 or 16 hour daily fasts) best used regularly, but not ongoing, and the re-feeding period might be just as important as the fast. From the abstract:

[intermittent fasting] lasting from 12 to 48 hours and repeated every 1 to 7 days and [periodic fasting] lasting 2 to 7 days and repeated once per month

And from the conclusion:

the refeeding period that has more recently emerged as an equally important process involved in the regeneration, and possibly rejuvenation, of systems, including organs, cells and organelles.


The deterministic view of free will always seems to cause such furore, forgetting that whether free will exists or not, this world is so intractably complex that for almost all practical purposes, it doesn't matter.


democracy need not be the teleological destiny of all countries. Means of stoking it from outside are often reckless (war) or patchily effective (sanctions). And if the west could not entrench freedom as the global standard when it was ascendant, it is hardly likely to as the balance of world power tilts increasingly eastward.

On the decline of global democracy since the misleading 'boom' following the Cold War.


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


Washington’s policy community has become, if not more friendly to, then at least more cognizant of the arguments for restraint in U.S. foreign policy. But it has not yet started to grapple effectively with the America First criticism of liberal internationalism ... McMaster’s dark vision of a world where “competition” and threat are endless could well open the door for an increasingly illiberal, unilateral, and militaristic U.S. foreign policy

On McMaster's new memoir. Obscured by Trump's less coherent public positions, it looks like the conservative 'isolationist' bent is taking on an increasingly hawkish character. Possibly a concern, given Biden's position as an 'orthodox' Democrat, heir to the so-called Clinton Doctrine.


This blog, called 'Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science' has a 'Zombies' category, and it's great.


“[Mischel] also didn’t think that any simple measure of individual differences was going to be very good at predicting behavior,” Benjamin continues. “Despite the popular perception that the marshmallow test is a crystal ball,” he clearly expected only to see only weak correlations with marshmallow test results in the latest study

The 'marshmallow test' has consistently failed the replication challenge. Even the author wasn't sold on it.


Game theoretic account of the differences between pre-modern European and Imperial Chinese autocracy. On this account, rulers are more powerful when there is a better balance between the ruled and the elite. Little counter-intuitive.


I feel like I both know more than I ever knew, and less confident than ever, about surge protection.


experienced well-being rises linearly with log income, with an equally steep slope above $80,000 as below it

A rebuttal to the conventional wisdom that income over $75,000 does not increase happiness. Possibly due to continuous experience sampling vs a dichotomous (yes/no) methodology. One wonders if that means people feel differently from moment to moment about happiness than when asked to evaluate happiness overall.

Matthew A. Killingsworth

On the origins of the philosophy of cynicism, and incredible influence of the shadowy Diogenes. I suspect he would have been somewhat less influential in today's world.


A frank exploration of the ways PR failed us during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. In sum, people who thought they were smarter thought we would be dumber.


Vaccine hesitancy for COVID-19 is a portfolio of motivations:

  • dissent: not just anti-vaccine but a spectrum of dissenters from "highly educated parents who are interested in holistic, naturalistic child-rearing to conspiracy theorists who want to abolish vaccines entirely"
  • deliberation: "a time of watchful waiting ... a skepticism of a system that has consistently demonstrated that their health is not a priority."
  • distrust: "distrust regarding the entire government"
  • indifference: people who are "not concerned at all" about the virus.

Not quite sure what to make of this one. But some surprisingly convincing evidence for communicating with REM sleepers using various means, like facial twitches and eye movements.


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.

Mary Beard - SPQR

Maybe it's more convincing when an economist writes a book about it, but luck is at least in part an openness to opportunity. As Camus, "Let us not look for the door, and the way out, anywhere but in the wall against which we are living."


The capitalist mindset lures us into the trap of thinking that unless we are positive, happy and moving we must be condemned as ‘negative’. But why would ... paying attention to ... sadness ... grief ... anger ... be called ‘negative’?

Emotion is informational and the ceaseless movement towards productivity does us no favours by ignoring the information space of negativity.


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


extrinsic incentives such as money or grades to learn [make it] harder to learn new related information when that incentive is gone ... the learning outcome may be poorer due to the absence of reward

The continued failure of the economy of small pleasures.


taking steps is easy, standing still is hard

Regina Spektor

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.


The microbial content of a sourdough starter depends less on location than the way it is made and maintained. I would suggest the same is true of other fermentations, though all this is confounded by the globalisation of food production (e.g. flour).


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.


Beliefs may withstand the pressure of disconfirming events not because of the effectiveness of dissonance-reducing strategies, but because disconfirming evidence may simply go unacknowledged

A rebuttal to the classic 'cognitive dissonance' account of why believers continue to believe after the failure of a prophecy. In this case, the culture makes the failure less salient. One wonders whether this kind of surrender to a culture that protects you from dissonance is not simply another mechanism for reducing cognitive dissonance.


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.


Human beings aren’t pieces of technology, no matter how sophisticated. But by talking about ourselves as such, we acquiesce to the corporations and governments that decide to treat us this way. When the seers of predictive processing hail prediction as the brain’s defining achievement, they risk giving groundless credibility to the systems that automate that act – assigning the patina of intelligence to artificial predictors

On the slow, steady consumption of the behavioural sciences by the concept of the 'prediction machine'.


both experts and novices underestimate and overestimate their skills with the same frequency. “It’s just that experts do that over a narrower range,” he wrote

On the famous Dunning-Krueger effect. It's may not so much be ignorance that makes us overconfident as the contextual noise. An error in conclusion I've made myself


[you shouldn't] say “person with autism” ... This sends exactly the wrong signal. If autism is dimensional, we should think of it the same way we do height and wealth – and we say “tall person” and “rich person”. Saying “person with Height” or “Person with Richness” is strongly suggestive of “person with the flu” – it implies a binary class that you either fall into, or don’t. But that’s the opposite of what most research suggests, and the opposite of the thought process that will help you think about these conditions sensibly ... most mental disorders are dimensional variation rather than taxa a lot of people still want psychiatry to deliver the [binary]. It’s not going to be able to do that. If you hold out hope, you’ll either end up overmedicalizing everything, or you’ll get disillusioned and radicalized and start saying all psychiatry is fake.

Did you know Scott Alexander was back?

Unfortunately, the research we see today is of a different nature. In a section titled “Inventions originating from large corporate labs are different”, Arora & Belenzon enumerate the kinds of innovations we’ve lost in the shift towards university labs:

  • Corporate labs work on general purpose technologies
  • Corporate labs solve practical problems
  • Corporate labs are multi-disciplinary and have more resources

Interestingly, the growing unrest within and toward academia appears to have been the hallmark of the corporate world. Do we want corporations to save the ivory tower?

Via Applied Divinity Studies

The region has become an arena for power and for competition ... Climate change is melting the ice in the Arctic. Climate change is opening up a new polar transit route. Climate change is unlocking access to oil, gas, and critical minerals under the ice.


Between 1900 and 1956, women increased from a small proportion of public company stockholders in the U.S. to the majority ... before the rise of institutional investing obscured the gender politics of corporate control ... early-twentieth-century gender politics helped shape foundational ideas of corporate governance theory, especially ideas concerning the role of shareholders.


A common hypothesis posits that individuals strategically avoid information to hold particular beliefs or to take certain actions—such as behaving selfishly—with lower image costs ... We find evidence for other reasons why individuals avoid information, such as a desire to avoid interpersonal tradeoffs, a desire to avoid bad news, laziness, inattention, and confusion.


for many of those who self-identified as “evangelical,” it is not just about devotion to a local church, but to a general orientation to the world.

The article highlights the enmeshing of US conservatism and religiosity. But the trend of religiosity becoming more political than spiritual is a cycle as old as time. The Roman state, the Chinese mandate of heaven, the European wars. Why is it surprising that structured spirituality (how people should live) aligns with structured politics (how decisions are made about how people should live)?


Ethics are a means to outperform those who adhere to baser Hobsian instincts. Competition is a constraint too

Me

But for survivors of sexual abuse, the argument over repression versus forgetting is largely beside the point. Most victims are primarily concerned with what they remember, not how.

On the origin of and dissolution of the FSMF. Again though, the 'thorny' topic of repressed memories usually misses the argument voiding fact that at least some 'repression' is the same thing 'directed forgetting', the terms are interchangeable, and that bad memories, real or fake, repressed or forgotten, all cause the same kinds of damage.


"only in very recent years that some people have begun to undermine the absolute prohibition on zoosexuality. Are their arguments dangerous, perverted, or simply wrongheaded? ... Do they have a ‘paraphilia’ ... Or are they just normal people who happen to have a minority sexual orientation? Given the fraught debates about consent in human-on-human sexual encounters, it is worth asking whether nonhuman animals can ever consent to libidinal relations with humans"

Consensus opinion certainly does not endorse having sex with animals. Bourke is right though that it is strange therefore that we're happy in the main to endorse factory farming and the conditions that come with it.

Joanna Bourke - Loving Animals

The Newton hypothesis; Is science done by a small elite?


"It may be easy to get the major world powers (China, USA, Russia) to denounce the use of infectious biological weapons. But arms control treaties only work when weapons are big, visible and expensive. Infectious pathogens are tiny and invisible. Genetic engineering is getting cheaper fast."

Reminds me of the recent mysterious Chinese seeds non-event. A simple mechanism for the delivery of a bioweapon, when so many are conditioned to open anonymous deliveries by e.g. Amazon. Made, ironically, more valid by habit formation during the SARS-COV-2 outbreak. Seems problematic.


Graduates have multiplied faster than the room at the top... The result is a stock of nearly-men and women whose relationship with their own class sours from peripheral membership to vicious resentment. If this coincides with a bad time for the general standard of living, there is an alliance to be formed between these snubbed insiders and the more legitimately aggrieved masses.

Professor Turchin notes that this marginalisation of certain segments of the elite class has a heavy hand in many of our modern problems, from Brexit to far-right populism to the most problematic aspects of 'woke culture'. No paywall.


Rising inequality, lower mobility, contempt for the poor and widespread celibacy — we're returning to the past


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.


Low-cost sexual gratification (e.g. porn) might make us more likely to want to get married: it's old data, and only men, but the idea that cheap sex makes up less interested in long-term commitment might not be the only narrative worth thinking about.


Moral psychology hasn't moved much in recent decades. It is the common academic position that we should attempt to teach children some admixture of Aristotelian virtue ethics and more recent ideas about utilitarianism. Unfortunately these two things are impossible to measure, and impossibly to measure how well people are applying these ideas. So it's exciting when we think we've gotten a little better at it.


Radicalization isn't really the product of the 'radicaliser', but the culture the radicalised are opposed to.


Archive of textfiles. Twitter, but in the 1980s.


In mice and one person, scientists were able to reproduce the altered state often associated with ketamine by inducing certain brain cells to fire together in a slow, rhythmic fashion. "There was a rhythm that appeared, and it was an oscillation that appeared only when the patient was dissociating," says Dr. Karl Deisseroth


Not all sunk cost fallacies are fallacies.

Gwern

The book of the Revelation of John, a messiah figure in his own right prior to his allegiance to Jesus, maps a pattern of predicted apocalypses that both preceded and succeeded him.


Christopher Alexander and his patterns.


The current global confinement has abruptly halted our blind and aimless rush, built into our irrational, materialistic culture ... We simply forget that, in the biological world, uniformity, narrow specialization, monocultures and loss of adaptive capacities have always implied extinction. In fact, we are living in the age of the fastest extinction of life forms, human cultures, languages and traditional ways of life.

SARS-CoV-2 as an opportunity to reflect.