The housing theory of everything | Works in Progress
Try listing every problem the Western world has at the moment. Along with Covid, you might include slow growth, climate change, poor health, financial instability, economic inequality, and falling fertility. These longer-term trends contribute to a sense of malaise that many of us feel about our societies. They may seem loosely related, but there is one big thing that makes them all worse. That thing is a shortage of housing: too few homes being built where people want to live. And if we fix those shortages, we will help to solve many of the other, seemingly unrelated problems that we face as well.
Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History | New Yorker
Great estates are among the country’s treasures. But their connections to slavery and colonialism are forcing visitors to reckon with myths they may not want to abandon. […]
Last November, Conservative Members of Parliament organized a debate in Westminster about the future of the National Trust, in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was asked to intervene. Moore is also a former editor of The Spectator, a job that Johnson later held. When we met, Moore described England’s stately homes as places of refuge and relaxation for millions of people. “I think comfort does matter,” he told me. “I know, people say that ‘oh, we must be uncomfortable. . . .’ Why should I pay a hundred quid a year, or whatever, to be told what a shit I am?” […]
“We are the least woke people I can imagine,” a manager of two castles told me. Faced with a concerted attack by the conservative press, abetted by the government, the charity has not given up on telling the full histories of its properties, but it hasn’t mounted a spirited defense of the practice, either. In May, the Trust’s chair, a business-turnaround specialist named Tim Parker, who worked for Johnson when he was the mayor of London, announced that he would step down. When I asked Orna-Ornstein to explain why the charity had chosen to investigate the legacies of slavery and empire jointly, he laughed ruefully. “Did we make the right decision to combine them in that report? I don’t know,” he said. “I think I may have been naïve.”
Impostors on the Due Diligence Call | Money Stuff (Bloomberg)
Ordinarily if I were telling you this story I’d be quoting from a federal criminal complaint, or at least a Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement action, but nope everything is fine! I’m quoting from a New York Times column by Ben Smith, nobody has been charged with anything, and Watson and Rao remain at Ozy and keep raising money. […]
The guy impersonated a YouTube executive to trick someone into investing? You’re just not going to get an easier securities fraud case than that, and neither “it didn’t work” nor “he was having a tough time” nor “it only happened once” are generally defenses to fraud charges! Ozy’s board “did not formally investigate”! The company gave a potential investor a fake email address for a big customer, and then the COO digitally altered his voice to impersonate that customer on a call with the investor, and the board decided not to investigate because ... they were satisfied that this was just a one-time thing, a little oopsie, everything else that the company does is completely aboveboard, and anyway no harm no foul? […]
Here’s another thing about being a private company. What if this had worked? What if Goldman hadn’t noticed anything unusual and had coughed up the $40 million? Wouldn’t Goldman have been embarrassed when this story came out? Well, no, because this story never would have come out! Even if someone had told Goldman after the fact “hey that call with YouTube was fake,” what would they have done about it? They could call Ozy and demand their money back but presumably Ozy spent it. They could sue, but how much would they be able to recover? Once you’ve been tricked into investing in a high-flying startup, the only rational move is to hope that they succeed, clean up their act and go public at a higher valuation. You’d never go around saying “we were tricked”; that just destroys value.
Similarly, if you are an investor and board member of a hot startup, and you find out that the co-founder impersonated a customer to try to trick someone into investing, what are your incentives? If you make a big deal about it and throw around words like “fraud,” it will be hard for the startup ever to raise money again, which might make your own investment worthless. If you say, meh, unfortunate one-time event, no harm no foul, then maybe the company’s vision will end up working out and you’ll be able to sell at a profit. If you invest in a startup you are buying an option; your goal, as a board member, is not to extinguish the option value too soon. Just, you know, let it ride, see where this goes.
I am appalled, sure, but honestly I also admire it a bit. I feel like there is some threshold of absolute shamelessness that most companies cannot even aspire to, but if you reach it then either you blow up in short order or you take over the world. I’ll probably be working for Ozy in a year.
Xi Jingping’s War on Spontaneous Order | Scholar’s Stage
The essential challenge facing any observer analyzing this campaign is this: what accounts for the target list? What do K-pop fan groups, after school tutoring companies, Meituan delivery men, online algorithms, plastic surgeons, overheated housing markets, celebrity ranking lists, and tech monopolies have in common? It is not sufficient to say that China “pivot[s] to the state” or proclaim that Xi Jinping “aims to rein in Chinese capitalism.” Xi Jinping is not reigning in capitalism writ large; Beijing is not scrapping market mechanisms altogether. Semiconductor foundries, agricultural conglomerates, and Christmas light factories (to choose three examples of hundreds) have been untouched by Xi’s ‘common prosperity’ agenda. It is a very select slice of Chinese capitalism that is being “reined in.”
So what decides what industries must be reined in by state intervention while others remain unaffected? The target list seems heterogeneous, impervious to any obvious classification. I’ve personally adopted what has (thus far) been an effective rule of thumb for predicting which industries will get the axe: can one imagine a Brooklyn hipster describing said industries’ products or operations as an “artifact of late capitalism”? If the answer is “yes” then that industry is on the chopping block (Livestreamers, you are next).
But even if it is an effective heuristic, there is something vaguely unsatisfying and Justice Potter-esque in my little test. “What is the common thread that strings together Communist Party regulations?” becomes “what is the common thread that that strings together the anxieties of downwardly mobile New Yorker writers?”
I Left Poverty After Writing 'Maid.' But Poverty Never Left Me | Time
I signed my first book contract without paying much attention to what it said. I didn’t know at the time that the book would be a best seller or that it would one day inspire a Netflix series. I just needed the money. I was a single mom with a 2-year-old and a 9-year-old, living in low-income housing, and because of a late paycheck, I hadn’t eaten much for a few weeks, subsisting on pizza I paid for with a check I knew would bounce.
This wasn’t my first bout of hunger. I had been on food stamps and several other kinds of government assistance since finding out I was pregnant with my older child. My life as a mother had been one of skipping meals, always saving the “good” food, like fresh fruit, for the kids I told myself deserved it more than I did. The apartment was my saving grace. Housing security, after being homeless and forced to move more than a dozen times, was what I needed the most. Hunger I was O.K. with, but the fear of losing the home where my children slept was enough to cause a mind-buzzing anxiety attack that wouldn’t let up.
Hunger changes you. As your body begins to claw at you, your stomach churning in anger, every person who shares a photo of the fancy meal they’re about to eat is no longer your friend. Around that time, a guy who had a crush on me kept texting me what he was making for dinner, and I finally had to ask him to stop without really explaining why.
Has Life Gotten Better? | Cold Takes
An introductory post to what I expect will be an excellent series (that, for what it’s worth, I expect to largely agree with):
So I'm going to put out several posts trying to answer: what would a chart of "average quality of life for an inhabitant of Earth look like, if we started it all the way back at the dawn of humanity?"
A whole New World | Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning
Archaeology now tells us with a high degree of confidence that humans were in North America more than 20,000 years ago. And genetics now suggests those first peoples may not have been the ancestors of contemporary Native Americans. In the last few years, new data and methods have uncovered tantalizing and previously hidden strands of ancestry connecting tribes and ethnicities in the Amazon rainforest to the indigenous people of Australia and Papua New Guinea, ancestry totally lacking in modern indigenous North Americans or Siberians.
Why do people worry about deficits? | Noahpinion
As the negotiations over Biden’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill continue, Americans are once again starting to worry about budget deficits. […]
This raises the obvious question: Why? Why are so many Americans worried about government borrowing? An easy answer is “because the media told them to worry about it”, which would fit with the fact that respondents say they’re worried about pretty much every item on Pew’s list of issues, and most of the items in the other polls. But it still doesn’t explain why people are more worried about deficits than other problems they hear about. What makes this issue loom especially large in Americans’ minds? […]
If the populace understands how much debt is too much, it must be in some sort of wisdom-of-crowds sort of way, because when you see how people actually talk about federal borrowing — as in the tweets above — they definitely don’t seem to understand it. Declarations of “we’re out of money” or “we’re broke” are common. That, of course, is not how federal debt actually works
Some people are probably making simple, absurd errors, like believing that the debt ceiling — a legal rule about how much debt the federal government is allowed to have — represents some kind of physical limit on borrowing. Obviously we could repeal the debt ceiling tomorrow. But many people probably make a more natural, reasonable error — they instinctively view the federal government as similar to a household or a business, both of which can indeed run out of money.
There are actually two very deep and important reasons why this isn’t true.
The NYT's Partisan Tale about COVID and the Unvaccinated is Rife with Sloppy Data Analysis | Glenn Greenwald Outside Voices
The corporate media has worked very hard to propagate the liberal-pleasing narrative that COVID has become a partisan disease due to vaccine hesitancy on the right, often ignoring the inconvenient truth that large percentages of politically diverse groups, principally African-Americans and Latinos, remain resistant to vaccination. Recent reporting from The New York Times serves to further this distorted narrative, dubbing the positive correlation between support for Donald Trump and COVID death rates “Red COVID," and brandishing it as evidence of a partisan pandemic. But the Times’ report misleads readers through statistical manipulation and data games, as illustrated by this meticulous analysis, presented in an Outside Voices contribution by Jeremy Beckham
The Skill of Org Design | Commonplace
I don’t want to mislead you: I’m not world class at org design. I grade myself as a B- to a B+, depending on the context. If you want an example of what an A+ org designer looks like, read Working Backwards.
What I do have, however, is a journeyman’s understanding of the skill. I know when someone is better at it than I am, I know how to recognise the contours of their skill, and I know what bits of my own skill to improve. What I hope to do with this piece is give you a sense of what org design looks like in practice.
Book Review: The Scout Mindset | Astral Codex Ten
Reading between the lines, I think she learned pretty much the same thing a lot of the rest of us learned during the grim years of the last decade. Of the fifty-odd biases discovered by Kahneman, Tversky, and their successors, forty-nine are cute quirks, and one is destroying civilization. This last one is confirmation bias - our tendency to interpret evidence as confirming our pre-existing beliefs instead of changing our minds. This is the bias that explains why your political opponents continue to be your political opponents, instead of converting to your obviously superior beliefs. And so on to religion, pseudoscience, and all the other scourges of the intellectual world.
But she also learned that just telling people “Hey, avoid confirmation bias!” doesn’t work, even if you explain things very well and give lots of examples. What does work? Research is still ongoing, but the book concentrates on emotional and identity-related thought processes. Above, I made fun of everyone and their brother having a “mindset”, but this book uses the term deliberately: thinking clearly is about installing an entirely new mindset in yourself in a bunch of different ways.
Ben Simmons and the Acceptance of Failure | New Yorker
In the minutes, days, and weeks of recriminations and speculations that followed, Simmons’s decision to pass instead of shoot appeared to create a rift between him and the team that widened until it couldn’t be bridged. First, the Philadelphia superstar Joel Embiid alluded to it, immediately after the game. Then the team’s coach, Doc Rivers, when asked whether Simmons could be the point guard for a championship team, committed the cardinal sin of honesty, by saying that he didn’t know. (He’s been trying, very hard, to walk that comment back ever since.) Philly fans started referring to the moment, often in anger, simply as “the Pass.” But it was only the most eye-popping example of Simmons’s shot-avoidance—in the seven-game series against the Hawks, Simmons, a three-time All-Star, had just three official fourth-quarter field-goal attempts, and none in the final three games.
The worst James Bond gadget ever is actually real | Wired
The invisible Aston Martin from Die Another Day is held up as a prime example of James Bond’s CGI silliness. Turns out it’s real
Can an Average Passenger Actually Be Talked Through Landing a Plane in an Emergency? | Mental Floss
Some people are born great, and others have greatness thrust upon them. And there are few thrustings-upon more dramatic than the disaster-movie scenario of an airliner’s flight crew being stricken and a non-pilot having to take the wheel and land the plane. It's typically depicted as being as simple as getting some instructions from the tower and setting the plane down on the runway—but is that how it would really go down?
How to spot the psychological manipulation behind ‘dark design’ online | Fast Company
Dark design is an incredibly effective way of encouraging web users to part with their time, money, and privacy.
The robot that can make pasta and sauce — and save restaurants 60% on rent | Sifted
In the middle of the French lockdown in October 2020, a new restaurant launched on Deliveroo and UberEats in Paris: Cala.
Its pasta dishes started at €8 each, causing some customers to wonder about the high quality to price ratio — particularly compared to some other Parisian outlets.
It wasn’t until the lockdown ended and Cala customers could visit the restaurant in person that the reason became clear. Instead of a team of chefs, the food is cooked and assembled by a robot.
“We wanted to make sure that the quality of the product was what was really driving customers to come to a restaurant,” says Ylan Richard, who founded Cala in 2019, when he was 19. “No one knew there was a robot behind the restaurant on the platforms.”
Why Are Americans Still—Still!—Wearing Cloth Masks? | The Atlantic
At this point, cloth masks are so ubiquitous in the United States that it can be easy to forget that they were originally supposed to be a stopgap measure.