I fell a bit behind on my link posts and my Chrome install is groaning from the weight of all the tabs of content that I've been waiting to share with all of you Constant Readers. (Or maybe just Constant Reader - thanks Bill!)

Let's kick this off with some good news!

It’s official: Amazon has saved The Expanse (The Verge)

I thought that this might be happening because Bezos was a big sci-fi nerd and the show just got to the point where it gets really interesting, but concluded that he's probably just invented his own Epstein Drive and subtly wants to change the show to talk about the Bezos Booster as a form of subtle PR for Blue Origin.

The Racism Treadmill (Quillette)

Tired of Winning: D.C. think tanks, NYC magazines & the search for public intellect (The Point)

"I just watched @rustyrockets interview @jordanbpeterson, and want to say that—among my many objections to Peterson—I resent his framing retrograde cultural philosophies as post-postmodern. This thread details how Peterson's schtick is destructive." (Seth Abramson)

What Is Metamodernism? (Seth Abramson)

Over the past few weeks, I've been pulling at a thread (sometimes with Constant Reader Bill) that I wanted to share. For folks familiar with me and my views, I'm mildly hostile to progressive activists not so much for the causes for which they are fighting (I'm often a Fellow Traveller on that front), but for the (what I view as) uncreative thinking that leads to a lot of "tear it down" without a decent idea of what a replacement looks like, or when a replacement is proposed ("we need more socialism"), a lack of critical thinking and evaluation of whether they have thought through the repercussions of their replacements and whether they will actually be functionally superior to the traditional edifices that they replace.

The first link, "Tired of Winning" is a great example of the things that keep me from joining the progressive camp. I'm not prepared to endorse (yet) the author's general stance on Black culture, but I think he brings up great points regarding progressive prescriptions that don't work (e.g. implicit bias training) and the overall problem of a concrete definition of what ultimate success looks like for activist using metrics that we can measure that allows them to believe that they accomplished what they set out to do.

The second link, "Tired of Winning" explains how the intellectual side of the progressive camp has ceased to actually seriously engage with progressive policy proposals and ideas and instead has become a mouthpiece of the progressive activists. I noticed this recently when I visited The Washington Monthly's "Political Animal" blog and saw firsthand to what extent that publication's tone shifted towards being a mouthpiece of the #Resistance. Until I quit reading it about five years ago, I could count on the Monthly being a fairly even-keeled publication while it was under the primary authorship of Kevin Drum and later Steve Benen. I don't know if the change is a function of the blog moving to a multi-author model (and the inevitable group dynamics that involves - see Cass Sunstein's take on the phenomenon) or funding pressures (witness most right-wing outlets kneeling before Trump), but I basically received the same experience I would get from an explicitly activist site like the Daily Kos. While I could write more on the tribalization of the blogosphere, my main point is to illustrate to what extent the activists are controlling the progressive idea formation and evaluation instead of the intellectuals providing the activists vetted policies and ideas to promote. (And to be fair to the activists, what do they have to show for intellectuals-leading-activists in the Age of Trump?)

So, there's been this tension in my thinking of trying to reconcile my support for many of progressives' goals with the repulsive force emanating from the movement in terms of what I see as a lack of critical attention paid to the structures that they want to erect in place of those that they are tearing down. That's pushed me towards folks like Jordan Peterson and Stephen Pinker who take traditionalist stances towards society and dissent whether the status quo is as poorly constructed as the replacements progressives want to enact. I don't consider myself a traditionalist in the sense that I believe there's this great period to go back to (often cited are the 1950s, but the 1980s are presenting themselves as a strong contender as well), but I can't also dismiss that the societies progressives rail against are the same ones that defeated the bad ideologies of Nazism and Communism, put a human on the moon, and has largely been responsible for a tremendous amount of progress and human evolution (in an overwhelmingly positive direction) in a timespan as short as a century.

The third link, a lengthy Twitter thread dissecting the Jordan Peterson phenomenon cut the Gordian Knot for me. In the thread, the author does a great job dissecting the tension that I'm feeling as a reaction to the bleak Sisyphean outlook of progressives motivated by Marxist and Postmodernist thinking. The author credits Peterson's rise in popularity with folks like myself as presenting an alternative to postmodernism (a "post-postmodernism") that's not a new thing, but instead a simple repackaging of the Modernist attitudes that prevailed from the 1890s through the 1960s. He argues that embracing Peterson isn't moving forward, but simply taking a step back, and an uncritical opposition to the useful insights that Postmodernism generated (e.g. the Modernist era wasn't uniformly great for everyone) will lead us to repeating the 1960s all over again. He instead advocates for something he calls "Metamodernism", which can be thought of as a Hegelian Synthesis of Modernism's Thesis and Postmodernism's Antithesis. As I interpret the idea, it provides an optimistic path forward ("informed naivete") that doesn't require the uncritical attitude that the path forward will solve everyone's problems (the Modernist naivete) nor the paralysis of analysis that keeps Postmodern folks from actually enacting replacements for what they've deconstructed.

The fourth link is same author elaborating on Metamodernim in a more traditionalist (Modernist) form, the essay.

I'm still not entirely sold on the Metamodernism approach (still doing lots of reading on it), but it was extremely refreshing to see a way out of the Modernism-Postmodernism Ouroboros.

In-Groups, Out-Groups, and the IDW (Quillette)

Taking a step back from the various -Isms, I found this article to be an extremely interesting read on the conflicts between the -Ists, and how two different modes of thinking, contextual and decoupled, lead to very different valid truth claims that can exist independently of each other, but never be truly reconciled. The author applies Scott Alexander's model on ingroup-outgroup hostility to explain why we're seeing so much conflicts on the "ideas" side of things between various groups. The explanation seems pretty compelling with an Occam's Razor sensibility, so I'll be very interested to hear the criticism of it.

The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy (The Atlantic)

A long form essay questions whether the folks who view themselves as enlightened members of society are working against their stated public beliefs and political advocacy in the small actions that they take towards "smaller goods" such as making sure that their children have the best opportunities possible, and otherwise engage in "middle class" activities given that they don't consider themselves wealthy.

Steve Jobs (John Carmack)

Easily one of the most influential programmers of the modern era recounts his experiences with Steve Jobs. The Hacker News comments are pretty good too.

Congress Approves First Big Dodd-Frank Rollback (New York Times)

I guess we've already forgotten how much the last recession sucked and Dodd-Frank was put into place to prevent the next one.

On a more serious note, I think we're due at least two decades before we decide we know enough about preventing recessions caused by broken financial engineering to roll these protections back.

Have a safe Memorial Day weekend!

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