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Even before the thefts started, the city’s 65,000 delivery workers had tolerated so much: the fluctuating pay, the lengthening routes, the relentless time pressure enforced by mercurial software, the deadly carelessness of drivers, the pouring rain and brutal heat, and the indignity of pissing behind a dumpster because the restaurant that depends on you refuses to let you use its restroom. And every day there were the trivially small items people ordered and the paltry tips they gave — all while calling you a hero and avoiding eye contact. Cesar recently biked from 77th on the Upper East Side 18 blocks south and over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, then up through Long Island City and over another bridge to Roosevelt Island, all to deliver a single slice of cake for no tip at all. And now he had to worry about losing his bike, purchased with savings on his birthday.
For Cesar and many other delivery workers, the thefts broke something loose. Some started protesting and lobbying, partnering with nonprofits and city officials to propose legislation. Cesar and the Deliveryboys took another tack, forming a civil guard reminiscent of the one that patrolled San Juan Puerto Montaña, the small, mostly Indigenous Me’phaa village where they are from.
Don’t Look Up is primarily a movie about existential risk, and many great people have already reviewed it as such. I’m going to be less virtuous and use it as a springboard to talk about politics. […]
Unfortunately, Don’t Look Up can’t stop contradicting itself.
It depicts a monstrous world where the establishment is conspiring to keep the truth from you in every possible way. But it reserves its harshest barbs for anti-establishment wackos, who are constantly played for laughs. “THE COMET IS A MARXIST LIE!” says the guy on the Facebook stand-in. Maybe not literally, but at least he’s genre-savvy.
It depicts elites as simultaneously incompetent and omnicompetent. There’s a great scene where Female Scientist is talking to some rioters. The rioters bombard her with conspiracy theories - the elites have built bunkers! They’re lying low, totally safe, laughing at the idea of the comet wiping out the hoi polloi. “No,” Female Scientist answers, “they’re not that competent”. It’s a great line, played completely seriously. But later we learn that Tech CEO literally built a 2,000 person starship in less than six months so he and the other elites could escape.
But the worst part is…well, basically every scientific institution ends up lying. Asian Scientist, the head of NASA, officially announces there’s nothing to worry about. Tech CEO parades a bunch of Nobel Prize winners who endorse his idiotic plan and say it’ll go great. Male Scientist, during his work-within-the-system phase, makes commercials reassuring people that the comet won’t hurt them. The media is complicit in all of this, systematically preventing the populace from hearing the truth. The only scientist telling it like it is, Female Scientist, has (by the end of the movie) been kicked out of grad school and ended up bagging groceries.
Take this seriously, and the obvious moral of the story is: all conspiracy theories are true. If some rando bagging groceries at the supermarket tells you that every scientist in the world is lying, you should trust her 1000 percent.
But for some reason, everyone else thinks the moral of this story is Believe Experts.
This piece kicks off a short series inspired by this question:
Say that Beethoven was the greatest musician of all time (at least in some particular significant sense - see below for some caveats). Why has there been no one better in the last ~200 years - despite a vastly larger world population, highly democratized technology for writing and producing music, and a higher share of the population with education, basic nutrition, and other preconditions for becoming a great musician? In brief, where's today's Beethoven? […]
I'll be giving more systematic, data-based versions of these sorts of points below. The broad theme is that across a variety of areas in both art and science, we see a form of "innovation stagnation": the best-regarded figures are disproportionately from long ago, and our era seems to "punch below its weight" when considering the rise in population, education, etc. Since the patterns look fairly similar for art and science, and both are forms of innovation, I think it's worth thinking about potential common factors.
Do you want to know what you’ll get for Christmas? A movie spoiler? When you’ll die? The study of deliberate ignorance reveals the topics people want to remain in the dark about.
Covid has brought other tensions in American medicine to the fore. Early in the pandemic, the coastal hospital where Croc works set up tents in the car park to examine those with suspected covid. Physician assistants, who have less training than doctors, were expected to staff the tents. Physician assistants often complain that they’re given the twisted ankles and sniffles while doctors keep the more “interesting”, complicated cases to themselves. (“That’s understandable”, Croc says, “because the docs should be reserved to take care of the sicker patients.”)
In this instance, however, assistants were incensed about the opposite: though doctors insisted that treating the tent patients was simple because they just needed to be tested for covid, the assistants “were like, ‘Oh, sure now you’re happy to give us the most high-risk patients, the people with this unknown, super scary infection.’ ”
Dissent intensified, Croc says, when some doctors refused to enter what came to be called the “dirty tent”. “Out of ten docs, you’d have three actively avoiding covid patients. A few others would try to be more subtle, like they’d suddenly get all interested in something going on away from the covid patients.” The hospital’s official stance was that medics couldn’t be forced to attend to any particular patient. (American hospitals often have contracts with external organisations to staff ers, which can muddy the lines of authority.)
One week ago, E. O. Wilson—the legendary naturalist and conservationist, and man who was universally acknowledged to know more about ants than anyone else in human history—passed away at age 92. A mere three days later, Scientific American—or more precisely, the zombie clickbait rag that now flaunts that name—published a shameful hit-piece, smearing Wilson for his “racist ideas” without, incredibly, so much as a single quote from Wilson, or any other attempt to substantiate its libel (see also this response by Jerry Coyne). SciAm‘s Pravda-like attack included the following extraordinary sentence, which I thought worthy of Alan Sokal’s Social Text hoax:
The so-called normal distribution of statistics assumes that there are default humans who serve as the standard that the rest of us can be accurately measured against.
There are intellectually honest people who don’t know what the normal distribution is. There are no intellectually honest people who, not knowing what it is, figure that it must be something racist.
On Twitter, Laura Helmuth, the editor-in-chief now running SciAm into the ground, described her magazine’s calumny against Wilson as “insightful” (the replies, including from Richard Dawkins, are fun to read). I suppose it was as “insightful” as SciAm‘s disgraceful attack last year on Eric Lander, President Biden’s ultra-competent science advisor and a leader in the war on COVID, for … being a white male, which appears to have been E. O. Wilson’s crime as well. (Think I must be misrepresenting the “critique” of Lander? Read it!)
There’s a phrase going around that you should “buy experiences, not things.” People, it’s claimed, think that having a lot of stuff is what’s going to make them happy. But they’re mistaken. A Lamborghini may be fun to drive for the first days or weeks, but pretty soon it fades into the background of your life. The drive to accumulate stuff is an evolutionary relic that no longer fits our modern situation. Better to embrace minimalism and focus on immaterial things like experiences, whose memories you can treasure forever.
While I appreciate the Stoic-style appraisal of what really brings happiness, economically, this analysis seems precisely backward. It amounts to saying that in an age of industrialization and globalism, when material goods are cheaper than ever, we should avoid partaking of this abundance. Instead, we should consume services afflicted by Baumol’s cost disease, taking long vacations and getting expensive haircuts which are just as hard to produce as ever. […]
Indeed, much of what is wrong with our modern lifestyles is, in a sense, a matter of overconsuming experiences. […]
So I would, if anything, reverse the maxim: “Buy things, not experiences!” Sure, the Lambo might still be a waste of money, but thoughtfully chosen material goods can enable new activities can enrich your life, extend your capabilities, and deepen your understanding of the world. And if ever more affordable material goods can build up a measure of independence from the ever more expensive services that actually consume people’s income, that would be a trade to be proud of.
In this clever simulation, bouncing balls obeying the laws of physics somehow arrange themselves, mid-chaos, into neat patterns. This is immensely satisfying.
This person speaks gibberish that sounds like a bunch of different languages. I’m explaining it badly. It’s impressive.
For the last few years, I’ve been a fan of Tom Whitwell’s annual list of 52 things he learned during the past year — here’s his list for 2021. This year, I kept track of my own list, presented here in no particular order:
“In Fargo, Carl says ‘30 minutes, Jerry, we wrap this thing up’ when there are exactly 30 minutes of the movie remaining.”
There’s a Boeing 727 cargo plane that’s used exclusively for horse transportation nicknamed Air Horse One.
In March 2020, the Covid-19 testing capacity for all of NYC was 120 tests per day.
An explaination of what part of the Spinning Rainbow Circles illusion makes the rings appear to move and change size.
Not surprising but not good and not good for support for foreign aid. Still we report it all at MR.
Do elites capture foreign aid? This paper documents that aid disbursements to highly aid-dependent countries coincide with sharp increases in bank deposits in offshore financial centers known for bank secrecy and private wealth management but not in other financial centers. The estimates are not confounded by contemporaneous shocks—such as civil conflicts, natural disasters, and financial crises—and are robust to instrumenting using predetermined aid commitments. The implied leakage rate is around 7.5% at the sample mean and tends to increase with the ratio of aid to GDP. The findings are consistent with aid capture in the most aid-dependent countries.