reacting to posts by various internet nerds

“nerd” being of course entirely unjudgmental; I like some of these nerds and dislike others

seeing like a state

I keep meaning to, but I still haven’t read this book. but this SSC review is pretty fun to read. similarly, this about warrens vs plazas. when you start seeing it, you see it everywhere: top down wants plazas, bottom up wants warrens. (when you work with computers, you want plazas: your data, your code, everything. but your data comes in in warrens. this is often what we mean by “data cleaning.")

speaking of states, ok, politics:

podcast with guest david shor

- measurement is really hard

- mostly super-engaged super-lefty people work on campaigns, while more centrist (for the US) people vote

- *sigh* I hear people on twitter gripe that we should go for big important ideas (m4a, defund the police, etc) but the more I hear from people who know politics it sounds like those are less successful because of what Shor talks about, which is a bummer because we really need most of the far left’s big ideas. (again, this is “USA far left”, which would get us in line with European centrists)

- side side gripe: I agree that ACAB is a terrible slogan if you wanna convert white people - they’ll all think about the one cop they know and “that C isn’t AB!” and “abolish the police” sounds radical too, sure. but how is “defund the police” so controversial? like, … that could literally mean shrink the police by 99% or 1%. “centrists”, seriously, if that’s too radical for you, give me a slogan that means “maybe we should consider thinking about changing something please.” or do you really not wanna consider changing anything please?

about meritocracy: obviously it’s broken now. is it even worth striving for?

Callard argues that “achievement” (where we judge people) is different from “weight management” or “mental health” (where we don’t judge people) because in weight/mental health, you can only screw up. If you’re average, you’re good; if you’re off average in any direction, you’re bad. Meanwhile, with achievement, if you’re average, you’re fine; if you’re under average, that’s bad; but you can be way over average and that’d be awesome.

I disagree with this premise. In mental health, you can also be average, below average, or way above average. Some people have … just really great mental health. They’re not just getting by, they’re really flourishing and have extra love left over for everyone around them. And with weight - well, that’s one narrow slice of “physical health”, and it’s not fair to compare a narrow thing like weight with a broad thing like “achievement.” And in physical health, you have people who are average, people who are below average, and the LeBrons of the world who are just super fit.

Well… regardless, she ends up at a conclusion that I think I agree with: we should reward people for their triumphs and not blame people for their failures. This sounds great. The one question I have is: can we do that? As we celebrate wins, do we not also implicitly anti-celebrate the losses? I think she agrees that this is a big challenge.


I am unimpressed! covid is like… sorta a techno-optimist success story, because we did a vaccine in a year. but that’s because “make a vaccine” fits into a category that we’re very good at: executing on a well-defined technological problem (that we’ve been sort of preparing for). everything else covid-related, we are botching pretty miserably. Most of the rest of the techno-solutions are like… not actually solving our big problems (lab meat, self-driving cars, VR), or not actually working (fusion, “AI” whatever that is). and the necessary ideas that are not “tech lab solving tech problem” (like Yglesias’s “government guarantees to buy electric cars” or even just “immigrants are good”) are political, and therefore stalled forever by our f’ed-up federal government.


I’m not sure if doing this kind of post is serving me. I like collecting links and having a record of things I’ve thought at various times, but I don’t know if it’s worth the effort. I spend a couple hours collecting stuff I’ve read and it’s kind of tiring, not a lot of fun, and I don’t think I have any deep thoughts that are worth sharing.

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