“I like turning on two radios at the same time and listening to them. I like hearing things incorrectly. I think that’s how I get a lot of ideas is by mishearing something.
I don’t claim originality for any content here; people who’ve been influential on this include Nick Beckstead, Phil Trammell, Toby Ord, Aron Vallinder, Allan Dafoe, Matt Wage, and, especially, Holden Karnofsky and Carl Shulman. Everything tentative; errors all my own.
Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency to insert oneself into a conversation as “conversational narcissism.” It’s the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself. It is often subtle and unconscious. Derber writes that conversational narcissism “is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America. It occurs in informal conversations among friends, family and co-workers. The profusion of popular literature about listening and the etiquette of managing those who talk constantly about themselves suggests its pervasiveness in everyday life.” Derber describes two kinds of responses in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts attention back to yourself, and the second supports the other person’s comment.Celeste Headlee “The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend”
Some morning reads.
1) File this into the “There are 1,572,864 ways to order hash browns at Waffle House” folder:
5 add texts (number 1, above), * 5 pictures (#2) * 5 image texts (#3) * 5 Buttons (#4), 5 headlines (#6) * 5 URLs (#7)(n.b. realistically, you may only have one or two options here, but let’s just go with five for argument’s sake) * and 5 calls to action (#8) (again, you have fewer options here). After all of that, you end up with 5 raised to the 8th power, which is…
390,625 Facebook ad variants, using just with five options for each of eight variables.
Unlike the consumption of hash browns, you can more or less automate this process just by uploading the variables into Facebook and letting its algorithm do its work. Your mileage may vary, but when campaigns like Kamala Harris for President boast about running 25,000 ad variants just know that it’s not really as impressive as it sounds.
The resulting expensing provisions lower their tax liabilities, in some cases down to zero or near-zero. That is in fact the kind of incentive our tax system is supposed to create, and does so only imperfectly, noting that many economists have suggested moving to full expensing.
Amazon pays plenty in terms of payroll taxes and also state and local taxes. Nor should you forget the taxes paid by Amazon’s employees on their wages. Not only is that direct revenue to various levels of government, but the incidence of those taxes falls somewhat on Amazon, which now must pay higher wages to offset the tax burden faced by their employees.
3) “Many of these Chinese workers are returning home, and they’re bringing their newfound religion with them.”
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have gone to work in Africa, where they have encountered foreign cultures that leave many of them feeling alienated. For some of these disaffected Chinese workers, a source of comfort has come from religion, most notably the Evangelical Christianity that pervades much of sub-Saharan Africa. Evangelicalism prioritises conversion of non-believers, and the Chinese, heavily discouraged from practicing religion at home, are attractive potential converts.
Many local African churches have reached out to Chinese workers, including incorporating Mandarin into services. A number of Chinese, in turn, have welcomed the sense of community and belonging that these Christian churches offer. And a small but growing number of ethnically Chinese missionaries from Taiwan and other countries are specifically targeting Chinese nationals in Africa, preaching to them with a freedom they’d never be allowed in the People’s Republic.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Blockchains are particularly attractive to thieves because fraudulent transactions can’t be reversed as they often can be in the traditional financial system. Besides that, we’ve long known that just as blockchains have unique security features, they have unique vulnerabilities. Marketing slogans and headlines that called the technology “unhackable” were dead wrong.
That’s been understood, at least in theory, since Bitcoin emerged a decade ago. But in the past year, amidst a Cambrian explosion of new cryptocurrency projects, we’ve started to see what this means in practice—and what these inherent weaknesses could mean for the future of blockchains and digital assets.
There’s a difference between being “unhackable” and “ignored” and as crypto and blockchains becomes more lucrative (not just as currency but as a platform), the eyes of hackers are going to turn to it.
6) “At first I was scoring it like an operatic. I was treating it like a Goodfellas-type thing. And Mike’s like, “No, no.” He always intended the Geto Boys.”
Willie D (Geto Boys): [“Still”] makes you want to destroy something. And to mesh that together in that particular scene, it caught a lot of people off guard. You expect to take your coworker outside. These motherf**kers took a printer outside and murdered a printer. Like, this is the coolest s**t ever. I loved it.
7) NDW Soundsystem is a new podcast from Jericho Villar. You should be listening to it on your favorite podcasting platform.
8) The NYTimes expose on Ryan Adams and his treatment of women still weighs on my mind. Tough to read about an artist I’ve enjoyed for more than two decades now. Maybe there’s a longer piece to come on this and the #MeToo movement, but for now it’s a lot of heartache for those he hurt.
Links on links on links.
Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her. So my plan is to chart a middle course, where together we negotiate the boundaries of the stories I write and the images I include. This will entail hard conversations and compromises. But I prefer the hard work of charting the middle course to giving up altogether — an impulse that comes, in part, from the cultural pressure for mothers to be endlessly self-sacrificing on behalf of their children. As a mother, I’m not supposed to do anything that upsets my children or that makes them uncomfortable, certainly not for something as culturally devalued as my own creative labor.
I’d written nearly 700 words on this before I reminded myself of one of my New Year resolutions of worrying less about stuff I can’t change and more focusing on the things I can. I also don’t think there’s anything I can add to this conversation that the internet hasn’t already.
Are generations of children now growing up without privacy? “I don’t think so,” she says. “The conditions of their privacy are changing, partly because of their own actions, partly others’. What will matter to children is to feel they have agency, respect and dignity – that’s at the heart of privacy. So anyone sharing or using their images should prioritise this.”
I try to be careful about how I share the lives of my family online. Nothing too personal or embarrassing, certainly not the warts. I hope I’m doing a good job of it.
3) “Jerry was thinking about none of this at his kitchen table. He was thinking about how he would hide his lottery playing from Marge.”
Marge would have questions, Jerry knew, and he might not have bulletproof answers. He didn’t quite believe the numbers himself. How likely was it that the hundreds of employees at the state lottery had overlooked a math loophole obvious enough that Jerry could find it within minutes? Could it be that easy? He decided to test his theory in secret, simulating the game with a pencil and yellow pad first. He picked numbers during a roll-down week, waited for the drawing, and counted his theoretical winnings. On paper, he made money.
Lists on Lists on Lists
5. You ascend spiral stairs in a clockwise direction. This design dates back to medieval times. It’s a defense against attackers. A right-handed attacker would be holding their sword in their right hand, making him less mobile and agile than the defender facing down the stairs. (Wikipedia)
15. No known machine learning system can reliably tell a bird from a bicycle when a human is trying to trick the system. [Tom B Brown]
Random links for random times.
1. “I don’t recall exactly when my phone became such a festival of stress and psychological trauma, but here we are.”
We are reaching a point of no return, when it comes to information collection, if we have not already gone beyond it. Cameras and screens, microphones and speakers. Capture your face and your voice and your friends’ faces and voices and where you are and what’s in your email and where you were when you sent it and… What did you say? Click, here’s an ad. And where did you go? Click, here’s an ad. Who were you with? Here’s an ad. What did you read here’s an ad how do you feel here’s an ad are you lonely here’s an ad are you lonely here’s an ad are you lonely?
2. Can how you use your phone determine your state of mind? There’s an app for that.
Once a patient installs Mindstrong’s app, it monitors things like the way the person types, taps, and scrolls while using other apps. This data is encrypted and analyzed remotely using machine learning, and the results are shared with the patient and the patient’s medical provider.
The seemingly mundane minutiae of how you interact with your phone offers surprisingly important clues to your mental health, according to Mindstrong’s research—revealing, for example, a relapse of depression.
3. As Sears files for bankruptcy there are a lot of reflections on the company’s impact on American life. One that’s stood out is Louis Hyman’s Twitter thread on how radical the Sears catalog was in the era of Jim Crow:
Every time a black southerner went to the local store they were confronted with forced deference to white customers who would be served first…
The stores were not self-service, so the black customers would have to wait. And then would have to ask the proprietor to give them goods (often on credit because…sharecropping). The landlord often owned the store. In every way shopping reinforced hierarchy. Until #Sears…
The catalog undid the power of the storekeeper, and by extension the landlord. Black families could buy without asking permission. Without waiting. Without being watched. With national (cheap) prices!
4. “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it” – Hannah Arendt