“Today is a great triumph. There is a king of Spain. He has been found at last. That king is me.” ~ Nikolai Gogol What makes a “social object” “really real”? What is a “social object”, and what would it mean for anything to be “really real”, as opposed to just plain real? The common-sense (ala naive) understanding, is to suggest that things like chairs and tennis balls and bullets are “really real”, while things like “money” and “borders” and “kings” are only just “socially” real (if real at all).
The Internet Is Forever The attached audio, just below, was recorded in 1894 with an ingenious piece of technology invented in 1878, by Thomas Edison. It was conducted by John Philip Sousa himself, who died in 1932. The recording was digitally transcribed and remastered for distribution on CD, in 2005. I have “ripped” the file from CD, converted it to an internet friendly format, and uploaded it to my server. Now, we are all free to listen to it whenever and wherever we like, with the push of a button.
The Problem of Progress The question I’m addressing today, is on Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It was posed to me recently, in this form: “Is Kuhn right that we cannot speak of progress across scientific paradigms?” This paper will briefly summarize Kuhn’s own definition of progress both within and across paradigms, explore the implications of these definitions, and assess the conclusion Kuhn comes to at the end of Chapter XIII of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Recently, Jordan Peterson did an extended interview with Bob Murphy. Peterson begins the interview by pitching it as a “two hour lesson in Austrian Economics”, but mainly, it was an overview comparison of the principles of Austrian economics against Marxism. It was difficult to dispute much of it. I’m already a proponent of free market capitalism, and I’m also fairly partial to Friedrich Hayek’s work (at least, as it is represented in The Constitution of Liberty, and Law, Legislation, and Liberty).
In 1973, Ursula Le Guin wrote a short story about a utopian city called 'Omelas'. The story is, at its core, a philosophical thought experiment. To summarize: Let’s just accept for the sake of argument, a city that is so self-sufficient, and so devoid of want or suffering or strife that the people of the city were able to live in an unceasing state of joyous bliss. Every season involved weeks-long festivals of celebration, and nobody was deprived of any need, material, moral, or psychological.
Once again, I am inspired to respond to Bryan Lunduke. This time, he posted the following commentary on the inevitability of change in tech, and it inspired the subsequent short editorial response. Not All Change Is Good When I was young, I naively and enthusiastically embraced all technological changes. The more ubiquitous the tech, the better. The more connected, the better. The more distributed, the better. The more integrated, the better!
This video is absolutely stunning in its brazenness. If this fellow is what the academy is producing, then it would seem that the whole job of the bioethicist is to invent new excuses that politicians and bureaucrats can use to expand the harm they do, without pricking their own consciences. Note the magician’s sleight-of-hand trick he’s playing, here. His opening gambit is “making risks tolerable”. So, of course, everyone goes chasing off after “tolerable”.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the last black leader to point Americans to the divine inspiration in the Declaration of Independence, and to make us face our own hypocrisy honestly. We shot him dead for it. In his place, we substituted Lyndon Johnson, who sold us a false absolution from white guilt through condescending paternalism that maintained the status quo by making it look like charity and radical liberation. In this sense, the complaints about ongoing systemic racism are true.
Shelby Steele, Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country [The modern left] and I come from two very different Americas. The shorthand for these two Americas might be “liberal” and “conservative,” but this would indeed be a shorthand. These labels once signified something much less incendiary than they do today; they were opposing political orientations, but they shared a common national identity. One was conservative or liberal but within a fairly non-contentious cultural understanding of what it meant to be American.
In the early 90’s, I attended a performance of the Mikado put on by the college troupe my younger brother was involved in. There was one member of the cast who’d taken it upon himself to refuse to act when on stage. He would appear, shuffle to the places he was supposed to stand, and then shuffle off, when the scene required it. I asked my brother what that guy’s deal was, and he said they couldn’t remove him because of the threat of a complaint against the school, and that he was “protesting” the caricature portrayal of asians in the musical, by refusing to act.
I think something is deeply wrong with social media. Mainly, I think this about Twitter, but that may just be because Twitter is the most glaring symptom of whatever this problem is. The following is a short snippet from a podcast discussion between Joe Rogan and Jack Dorsey (dated Feb. 2, 2019). It’s at the point where they’re discussing the nature of the medium, and the various forms that content on Facebook and Twitter can take:
During the collective neurosis that is this coronavirus quarantine, it has become customary in the Anglo-American west, to stand outside at 8PM once per week and bang pots in gratitude for the work of the various healthcare institutions of our countries. This, I think, has implications that extend far beyond the annoyance of watching everyone marching mindlessly in unison for reasons they barely understand. When I was a boy growing up in Chicago in the 70’s and 80’s, attending church on Sunday was a near-ubiquitous phenomenon.
It’s been just over a month since my employer sent me home with my laptop and a headset, and just about three weeks since Boris told us all (in the UK) that we had no choice but to stay home. In that time, thousands have flocked online to start video channels, podcasts, and other collaborative projects. Many existing independent media producers have shifted their content, and now talk almost entirely on topics related to the quarantine and the virus.
I have been thinking about this word a lot lately. In popular discussions, there are two approaches to the definition of ‘community’. First, the naive answer, which is that a community is roughly synonymous with a professional affiliation or a social association. Like being a member of a legal bar, or an alumnus of some university. Second, there are the sociological definitions, which distill “community” into a set of shared abstract properties, like “interests” or demographic characteristics, or tribal membership, such as the “community of python developers”, or “Cubs Fans”, or the “LGBT community”, or “the black community”.
The rational self-aware consciousness has equipped the human ape with a profoundly effective shield against the vagaries of natural insults against mammalian biology such as exposure to the elements, biological parasites, disease, and hunger. We are able to conceive of and build shelters and beds; imagine and create clothing, armor, and tools. And, now, we are able to engineer the effects of biology itself, to defend against bacteria and viruses.
When I was a boy in middle and high school, there were lots of other kids who, during one year were stoners, and the next, were computer nerds; one year were jocks, and the next, were stoners; one year were D&D geeks, and the next, were into cars. This is as it should be. Your tween/teen years should be fluid. They should be a point in time in your life, when you experiment and play with different ways of being.