Trying to knock out a lot of my client backlog today while folks are taking advantage of Memorial Day, so on to the links!

I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous (The Star)

(I meant to post this yesterday, but decided to delay for a day given how well the relatively IDW-free post was coming along.)

In this article, one of Peterson's early champions at the University of Toronto describes his view of the Peterson phenomenon and worries that the breathtakingly sudden assent of Peterson has changed his friend in ways that are not good. He makes some good points about inconsistencies in Peterson's views, but the thing that stuck out the most to me was how similar this narrative mapped onto personal experiences I've had dealing with people with bipolar tendencies who go through a manic phase. Now, note that I am in no way qualified at all to make such a diagnosis, nor am I in any position to do so were I qualified - I'm just recalling experiences this article made me recall as I was reading it.

In any case, I hope that situations permit that Schiff and Peterson use this article as an opportunity to check-in with each other as it would be unfortunate to see this friendship dissolve.

In Defense Of Social Justice (Current Affairs)

Nathan J. Robinson lays out a very solid justification of the Social Justice ideology and tries to explain why critics don't seem to be listening.

A couple of notes from my perspective:

1. I'm certainly guilty of using the abbreviation SJW (social justice warrior) as a shorthand for to describe the activist progressives who seem to be putting "must do something" ahead of "this will be a good thing to do". Moving forward, I'll try to be more careful in my language and use the term "activist progressive" in place of SJW in order to distinguish between other flavors of progressives, such as the "policy progressives".

2. Robinson accuses opponents of "having beans in their ears" when it comes to listening to and crediting social justice proponents with having robust solutions to social problems. I'm not going to attempt to speak for anyone other than myself, but here's my perspective on this:

I think that there are many interesting progressive policy proposals out there, but progressives' focus on implementing those policies on a federal level (as opposed to a state or more local level) worries me because the folks who come up these proposals don't adequately explain how those policies can be safeguarded from being co-opted by adversarial actors who do not share the original policy authors' goals.

A great example of this is the federal funding of student loans. I believe that it's a laudable social goal that anyone who has the drive to go to college can do so. Socially, we solved this issue by having the federal gov't become the party guaranteeing the loans (thus socializing the risk of student default) so that funding is available to all seekers. Did that help more students go to college? As a someone who took advantage of this program, I'm pretty sure that it did. However, the college financial system is not a static construct where the costs stayed fixed. In response to the additional funds guaranteed by the federal gov't, tuitions rose and colleges reduced the aid that they were providing themselves to students. So students took on more loans as colleges became more expensive (often by spending money on stupid crap to increase their take at the federal spigot). And while we have more college graduates to show for the program, a large number of those students are graduating with enormous debt loads that impede their participation in the adult economy for years after graduation, and may serve as the seed for the next Great Recession (or worse) as reality catches up and students are unable to pay the loans (student loan debt does not go away in a bankruptcy).

Compared to bridging the wealth gap or eliminating structural elements of society that feed racism, funding students to go to college are pretty small beans, yet the unintended effects of that policy have already created major social issues. So, when a progressive says that they have a great idea that's going to fix one of society's ills, I have an automatic conservative reaction to wonder if the new policy will create more problems than it will solve. And given that policy enacted at the federal level is extremely hard to dislodge once in place (see the Congress and Trump's inability to repeal Obamacare, despite controlling the relevant branches of gov't), a lot of us critics of social justice initiatives judge the status quo to be the better bet from a risk-benefit perspective than the new proposal.

The unfortunate thing about all of this is that we're sitting on a wonderful federalist structure that gives us 50 different "laboratories of democracy" in which to implement and and vet these policies before making a national commitment to implement it on the federal level. So, until progressive activists are willing to abandon the "all or nothing" push for new federal policies and instead build up a body of evidence for success at local levels, I'm going to remain skeptical that the proposed policy will do what its authors think it will do. And when I'm skeptical about proposals to combat inequality or racism, the issue isn't that I'm unaware or consciously ignoring what people are going through, it's that you haven't shown your work that the proposal you're agitating for is going to be the one that solves the issue. (It's been fascinating to watch the evaluation of the various Universal Basic Income trials.)

Rust Cohle - Philosophy of Pessimism (True Detective)

Any time I see mentions of Thomas Ligotti's "The Conspiracy against the Human Race" I have an automatic reaction to share this video linked above. (Unfortunately YouTube is not letting me embed it.)

The Mother of All Demos (Wikipedia)

A conversation about augmentation versus automation similarly triggers my reaction to share Doug Engelbart's work in amplifying human capabilities through technological augmentation and his famous 1968 demo shows how far ahead of his time he was thinking. Fortunately, I can embed this:

As I was walking the dog, I also realized that this demo also sits at a point in history where it will soon be temporally closer to the end of World War I than it is to the present. My own personal jury is still deliberating whether we've capitalized on his insights sufficiently in the half century since this presentation.

Forget “Earth-Like”—We’ll First Find Aliens on Eyeball Planets (Nautilus)

A good example of breaking free from anthropocentric blinders to taking a look at the other more likely candidates for fostering extraterrestrial life that look nothing like Earth.

The Gig Economy (Zero HP Lovecraft)

Finally, a novella about how our modern technology economy transforms those who participate in it. The author's pseudonym is no coincidence.

Be safe out there this Memorial Day!

Image credit: Serre Road Cemetery No. 2 - Somme, France (Wikimedia Commons)

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