All dictators get their start by discovering some loophole in the democratic process. Xi realized that control of corruption investigations let him imprison anyone he wanted. Erdogan realized that EU accession talks provided the perfect cover to retool Turkish institutions in his own image.
Hugo Chavez realized that there’s no technical limit on how often you can invoke the emergency broadcast system. You can do it every day! The “emergency” can be that you had a cool new thought about the true meaning of socialism. Or that you’re opening a new hospital and it makes a good photo op. Or that opposition media is saying something mean about you, and you’d like to prevent anyone from watching that particular channel (which is conveniently bound by law to air emergency broadcasts whenever they occur).
This might not be the only reason or even the main reason Hugo Chavez ended up as dictator. But it’s a very representative reason. If Putin is basically a spook and Modi is basically an ascetic, Hugo Chavez was basically a showman. He could keep everyone’s attention on him all the time (the emergency broadcast system didn’t hurt). And once their attention was on him, he could delight them, enrage them, or at least keep them engaged. And he never stopped. Hugo Chavez was the marathon runner of dictators.
In short, this Executive Order is a lot like Gates’ approach to mobile: rooted in the past, yet arrogant about an unknowable future; proscriptive instead of adaptive; and, worst of all, trivially influenced by motivated reasoning best understood as some of the most cynical attempts at regulatory capture the tech industry has ever seen.
But then I read it, and well… I didn’t agree with the critical backlash. I don’t think Lewis got the story wrong. He may not have told the story people wanted him to tell. But that’s not at all the same thing as getting it wrong. Lewis is very clear about the book’s mission at the beginning, and in my reading he achieves it. I don’t think he missed the bigger story. I don’t think he went easy on SBF. To claim otherwise seems like a pretty serious misreading of the book. Because this deviates from what so many others thought, I want to try to explain why.
There’s a myth about glass you might have read about in high school: If you go to a church that’s hundreds of years old and look at the glass windows, you’ll find that the panes are thicker at the bottom of the frame than at the top. That’s because, according to lore, glass is actually a liquid, just one that flows very slowly. […]
It’s true that glass does have some liquid-like properties. But remarkably, rather than flow, glass doesn’t move very much at all. In 2017, scientists analyzed the church glass myth in a paper, determining that, over a billion years, church windowpanes would flow a single nanometer. […]
In practical terms, it matters that scientists don’t have a complete theory of glass. For one, it means they simply don’t understand glass as well as they do crystalline solids.
“What Harvard students think” is a topic that invariably receives too much attention. But I don’t think that’s true for evaluating opinion among young people or college students in general — who, after all, will make up the next generation of journalists, business leaders, politicians and pretty much every other white-collar profession. And after seeing the latest polling on what college students think about free speech, I don’t concern over “cancel culture” or the erosion of free speech norms is just some moral panic. In fact, I think people are neglecting how quick and broad the shifts have been, especially on the left.
Imagine you are a member of a preliterate tribe on the way to invade an enemy camp. Then someone says, “Oh, man. I have a thorn in my foot. I have to turn back. Sorry guys; I can’t join the fight.” You might be skeptical. But if you both know that when he turns back, a doctor is likely to amputate his foot, you’ll have more reason to believe him.
A fascinating paper in Evolutionary Human Sciences led by Mícheál de Barra uses evolutionary game theory and mathematical modeling to describe why aversive and harmful medical treatments have been so pervasive throughout history.
The idea is that unpleasant or aversive treatments (e.g., drilling holes into skulls, amputating limbs, ingesting noxious substances, bloodletting, leeches) have been ways of making sure people are actually sick or injured. They are social technologies to make faking it more costly.
And then Sandra (not her real name) called me.
We’re always on guard for situation-specific dangers—to be careful of riptides when we’re swimming in the ocean, but not when we’re cleaning the lint trap. To keep an eye out for pickpockets when we’re on the tube, but not when we’re getting a mammogram, life’s most pocketless experience. Similarly, we cast a cold eye on the timeshare hustlers who approach us on beaches or ski resorts or on the Las Vegas Strip. Get behind me, Satan. But in our own bathrooms, where we’re putting on lipstick 10 minutes before friends are due for dinner, our soft throat is exposed.
The number on my phone had an unfamiliar area code and lacked multiple zeros, and I was intrigued; had some real person from this unknown (by me) American place misdialed? Or was it a call to adventure? Neither. It was Sandra, telling me that because of my Hilton Honors membership, I’d qualified for a special offer. I could spend five nights at any Hilton Grand Vacations resort for $120 a night.
A question: I’m a Hilton Honors member?
A thought: That’s a really good price.
Here’s what a rube I was. I spent much of the call worrying that I might not be a Hilton Honors member after all and that at any moment Sandra would realize it. How humiliating it would be if she performed the Telemarketers’ Revenge and hung up on me.
Earlier this year, I kept writing draft versions of an article denouncing something I wanted to call “the Techno-Optimist’s Fallacy.”
What is the fallacy? It starts with the accurate observation that technological progress has, on net, been an incredible source of human betterment, almost certainly the major force of human betterment over the history of our species, and then tries to infer that therefore all individual instances of technological progress are good. This is not true. Indeed, it seems so obviously untrue that I couldn’t quite convince myself that anyone could believe it, which is why I kept abandoning drafts of the article. Because while I had a sense that this was an influential cognitive error, I kept thinking that I was maybe torching a straw man. Was anyone really saying this?
Then along came Marc Andreesen, the influential venture capitalist, with an essay that is not only dedicated to advancing this fallacy, it is even literally titled “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto.”
So now I can say for sure that, yes, this is a real fallacy that people are actually engaged with.
Who produced this film? Was it some anti-fascist citizens, concerned about stemming the tide of nativism at home and fighting back against the Axis powers abroad? Was it some nonprofit or citizens’ group? Nope. Don’t Be a Sucker, the film that progressive youth were sharing so widely in 2017, was made and promoted by the United States Department of War. […]
Meanwhile, under this onslaught of Russian and Chinese messaging, the U.S. government stands serenely aloof from the fray. Administration officials will give speeches and pen the occasional op-ed in Foreign Affairs, government officials make anodyne tweets, and the Voice of America is still putting out articles that no one reads, but the kind of coordinated forceful official advocacy of liberal values that we saw under FDR is considered propaganda to be avoided at all cost.
It should be obvious that this is a recipe for liberalism’s utter defeat. Imagine if a country being invaded by a conquering army declared that government shouldn’t get involved in violence, and outsourced the defense of the nation to private citizens with homemade guns? That is effectively what the U.S. government is doing by ceding the information sphere to foreign governments and private citizens. We are so afraid of being propagandists that we are refusing to counter the efforts of powers who have no such fear.
I have travelled through many of Mainland China’s provinces, and recently landed in Taiwan for the first time. In this post, I’ll argue that Taiwan is China’s best province. But first I need to consider whether Taiwan is actually Chinese.
Moquette is the durable, woollen seating material that is used in upholstery on public transport all over the world.
Coming from the French word for carpet, moquette has been seen and sat upon by millions of commuters on buses, trains, trams and trolleybuses for over 100 years
It is produced on looms using the Jacquard weaving technique, with a pile usually made up of 85% wool mixed with 15% nylon.
Moquette was chosen for public transport for two reasons. First, because it is hard wearing and durable. Second, because its colour and patterns disguise signs of dirt, wear and tear. On top of this moquette had the advantage of being easy and cheap to mass-produce.
There are only a couple of things I like about Halloween: 1. Heidi Klum’s costumes (last year she dressed up as a worm), and 2. the relatively recent Japanese tradition of mundane Halloween costumes. From Spoon & Tamago and Nick Kapur (here too), here are a few of my favorite mundane costumes:
“Factory worker who wore a helmet all day”
I find that even with identical goods, child vendors are 97% more likely to make a sale and earn more than twice that of adult vendors. Despite no differences in valuation for the goods, couples, and female customers are 90% and 27% more likely to buy than male customers. Females and couples are 50% more likely to be targeted by vendors than males and are charged higher prices on average (1.15-2 times) than males.