Man I got a whole other blog post to write but here's a couple quick links

Occasionally I’ll save an article and then feel like “I gotta blog about this or otherwise post it or something, otherwise it’ll be Lost Forever, and also I’ll be Lost Forever because I don’t know how to connect and process the million stimuli flying in from all corners constantly.

This is a little frustrating. It takes a lot of time. Maybe I should focus on doing this less. At any rate, here are some things that have resonated with me:

Chinese jaywalking cameras “catch” a bus ad.

The scariest part of this is not the fact that the cameras made a mistake - of course they did - but that there are jaywalking cameras! I’m sympathetic to Evgeny Morozov’s point that, the more automatic and efficient the enforcement of rules is, the harder it is to ever change them, even if they are unjust or harmful (like jaywalking bans). See the point about Rosa Parks here. (though Alexis Madrigal rightly skewers this particular example; sigh being as grumpy as Morozov is likely to lead you into a ton of little fights like this that kinda distract from the overall message.)

Payless markets themselves as a fancy store, sells $20 shoes for $500 to Instagram Influencers, everyone pats themselves on the back for being clever.

Kind of along the same axis as “lol the fancy-wine world is fake.” Ehh. A few things going on here:
- some of the value of fancy stuff is social signaling; that doesn’t mean it’s fake! Everyone is signaling constantly. You can’t really opt out.
- fancy stuff often is higher quality. Tati has introduced me to the fact that Coach purses actually just last a lot longer than knockoff-Coach purses. Payless shoes fall apart quick.
- fancy stuff often is interesting along other axes; see also: fancy coffee. (a quote I love: “as you pay more for coffee, it doesn’t necessarily get better, but it does get weirder.) I like clothes that have weird buttons and collars, unusual fabrics and cuts, and I’ve been frustrated that I can’t find them. Well, I am learning they definitely exist; just at $200, not $50.
- though maybe Instagram Influencers aren’t the best arbiters of quality anything? … oh no, is this just me losing touch with The Youngs?

Why don’t we treat intelligence as kinda-innate?

My take: because we conflate “IQ-type intelligence” with “the ability to do anything useful and also to have self worth in this world.” Like, “why can’t they get a job and lift themselves out of poverty?” We don’t want to confront the fact that they might be in a world (like San Francisco) where all the jobs that pay well enough to afford cost of living require a lot of education and a lot of IQ-type intelligence. Kind of like “why can’t that guy find a partner?” Well, because he’s very short and lots of women just will not date a short guy. We don’t tell him “work harder.” Also, why do I feel uneasy writing this, as someone who’s got a lot of IQ-type intelligence, but I don’t feel uneasy saying I’ve got relatively a lot of height and therefore some advantages in the dating world?

AI thinks like a corporation, and that’s worrying

Of course it does, and of course it is. Alternately: corporations think like AIs. AIs maximize paperclips; corporations maximize dollars. Probably the only reason the entire world hasn’t been destroyed yet is that no corporation has been good enough or smart enough; being run by thousands of people means you can’t really move that fast to do anything.

I love categorizations of The World like this

This model by Robert Kegan:

- says humans develop through something like 5 stages

- suggests the most important to adults are Communal (3), Systematic (4), and Fluid (5)

- maps on to my experience of how the world works

- probably mostly exists to flatter the egos of people who think themselves to be at stage 5


Comments:

Dave W - Dec 1, 2018

I don’t have anything useful to add, I just have to always post Universal Paperclips whenever I see anything about maximizing paperclips, in case anyone hasn’t seen it.
http://www.decisionproblem.com/paperclips/

Dan - Dec 1, 2018

oh man I love Universal Paperclips
best version of “game that has number that goes up” (also great are Candy Box and A Dark Room)

Adam Jaffe - Dec 2, 2018

As far as Fancy Things go, I do think there’s a distinct difference between paying for higher quality and paying to show off money or status. I like clothes that are well-made and stylish, but I’m not sure plastering them in Louis Vuitton logos makes them nicer; likewise, while my Honda Civic is much better than a Dodge Neon, driving a Lamborghini is nothing more than signaling.

I’m reminded of a quote I saw on a knife forum: “Past $200, you’re not paying for the knife anymore.”

Dan - Dec 2, 2018

Well… I don’t think it’s only signaling. I bet a Lamborghini is better made than a Civic; or maybe specialized in a different way (going fast). Sure, it’s not worth $1 million to you, but it’s not nothing. Similarly, a Louis Vuitton bag will last longer than a cheapo bag. Maybe not $1000 worth, but not zero.

Basically, the logo is some of what you’re paying for, but not all of it.


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