Miscellanea: July 2018


Normcore – Jedediah Purdy at Dissent

Europe needs to start planning for a future with no U.S. – Anne Applebaum at The Washington Post

Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web – Bari Weiss at The New York Times. I’m a bit late to the party—the article was written in May—but I’m fascinated by the both the existence of and reaction to the group. I’ve paid attention to various figures in the group for years, primarily Harris, Rogan, Sommers, and Shermer, and have seen them coalesce into what could at one point have generally been described as a center-left reaction against identity politics. I’m a fan of this in principle, but puzzled by some of the strange bedfellows the IDW has created. Ben Shapiro, for instance, strikes me as intelligent and well-spoken, but not quite enough so to warrant his apparent rock-star intellectual status, and his rarely-discussed but open bigotry would in a sane universe be enough to disqualify him from a group desperately trying to establish a third way between the insanities of racism and political correctness.

Napoleon was the Best General Ever, and the math proves it – Ethan Arsht at Towards Data Science. Many asterisks on that statement, but still an entertaining and enlightening approach to the oft-debated topic of who the greatest general in history really was.

All it takes to win McDonald’s Monopoly is a massive, country-wide criminal conspiracy – Randall Colburn at The AV Club

Basic Income, Not Basic Jobs: Against Hijacking Utopia – Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex

Why Many Young Russians See a Hero in Putin – Julia Ioffe at National Geographic

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You) – Tim Urban at Wait But Why

Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party – The Weekly Sift

Why Being a Foster Child Made Me More Conservative – Rob Henderson at The New York Times

What Happens to the Plastic We Throw Out – National Geographic

Fork Science – Bayesian Investor Blog

The Coming Age of Special Warfare – The XX Committee

Epistemic Spillovers: Learning Others’ Political Views Reduces the Ability to Assess and Use Their Expertise in Nonpolitical Domains – Marks et al. in Harvard Law School, Public Law & Legal Theory, Research Paper Series. “We find that participants falsely concluded that politically like-minded others were better at categorizing shapes and thus chose to hear from them. Participants were also more influenced by politically like-minded others, even when they had good reason not to be. The results demonstrate that knowing about others’ political views interferes with the ability to learn about their competency in unrelated tasks, leading to suboptimal information-seeking decisions and errors in judgement.”

Artificial Neural Nets Grow Brainlike Navigation Cells – John Rennie in Quanta. “’I think with this work, we were able to give a proof of principle that grid cells are used for taking shortcuts,’ Banino said. The results therefore supported theories that grid cells in the brain are capable of both path integration and vector-based navigation. Comparable experimental proof with studies on living animals, he added, would be much more difficult to obtain.”

How to change emotions with a word – The Economist



World Models Explained – Siraj Raval at YouTube

Code vs. Data – Computerphile at YouTube



Endurance, by Alfred Lansing (5/5): Rarely has a book humbled and thrilled me as much as Endurance. Even having read it before, I felt my stomach drop with every failure and my heart soar with every success just as I did the first time I experienced this wonderful work of historical adventure. Lansing did an incredible job of painting such a rich picture of the expedition with such a short volume, always turning just the right phrase to evoke a complete Antarctic landscape and the twenty-eight men who occupied it for hundreds of days before making their escape.

Bold, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler (4/5): Bold was a refreshing dose of techno-optimism, if a slightly dated-feeling one (believing tech is good is sooooo 2015). Diamandis and Kotler demonstrate a variety of ways that an enterprising individual or team can take advantage of hidden nonlinearities in the world even without the resources of big governments or corporations. It did seem as though the authors were a bit too quick to try and draw examples from Diamandis’ own life even when many of Diamandis’ entrepreneurial successes seem to only loosely connect to the specific exponential lessons of the book. This is hardly a slight against Diamandis, however, and reading Bold inspired me to read Julian Guthrie’s biography of him titled How to Make a Spaceship.



Audrey Fall – Wolmar

Delain – April Rain

Foo Fighters – The Line

Nine Inch Nails – 12 Ghosts II

Ramin Djawadi – Codex



Derren Brown: The Push (Netflix) (7/10): A month has passed and I’m still not sure what to think of The Push. Everything it says about human nature, I basically agree with—we’re easily scared, easily manipulated, easily fooled; walking murder machines when coaxed just so. That said, I still found it hard to swallow a lot of this movie. First, remember that all those characteristics apply to us, the viewers, not just the unwitting actors on screen, and realize that even given everything shown to us, the setup of The Push was a highly abnormal scenario, with participants pre-screened for high compliance and then put into a carefully crafted pressure cooker. Second, remember that we probably didn’t even see everything that truly went into the production, and that what was left out could be more telling than what was left in.


TV Shows

Westworld Season 2 (9/10): Ignore the skeptics: Westworld is still one of the best shows on TV. The second season had a few mid-season hiccups preventing it from reaching quite as high as the first, but it recovered well with several strong episodes leading into a dark, poignant finale. If season 3 happens (and it certainly looks that way), the show will be a very different animal going forward; there’s still plenty of room for more storytelling, but the end of season 2 clearly marked the end of a phase.

One thought on “Miscellanea: July 2018

  1. Pingback: Miscellanea: Threefer Madness – The Next Five Minutes

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