Darwin, Meaning, Free Speech, Prison, Bitcoin, Cajun Navy


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The Origin Of The Thesis

Clare Pettitt | TLS | 12th December 2017

Recent books about Charles Darwin demonstrate that we have trouble even now agreeing on what he actually proved. “Darwin’s life and work are extremely difficult to categorize from the viewpoint of the 21st century. Isolating the life from the work, isolating the work from the work of others, then isolating the work from the theories, and the theories from their various subsequent applications, is a very complicated undertaking indeed. With Darwin, one thing is always connected to another” (3,200 words)

Meaning Wars

Elo | Less Wrong | 14th December 2017

Notes on attention, engagement, and alienation. “I don’t watch TED talks any more and I have to ask myself why and how that fits in the world of my wanting insights and epiphany. Are these videos interesting but not actionable? That’s relevant but it’s off the mark. We start out wanting meaning, we start out getting meaning, and after a while we don’t really get the same thing any more. We are not designed to notice meaning wearing off – we expect it to keep being there” (2,300 words)

John McWhorter On Politics and Protest

Chris Martin | Heterodox Academy | 14th December 2017

Interview. Interesting throughout. Topics include free speech on campus, religion, white supremacy, Ta-Nehisi Coates, black professors. “It’s not believable that a psychologically healthy person, intelligent and ambitious enough to have gotten into a selective school, is constitutionally unable to bear hearing views they don’t agree with. It’s one thing to find views repugnant. It’s another thing to claim that they constitute a kind of injury. That’s theatrical because it’s not true” (5,500 words)

Language Immersion, Prison-Style

Morgan Godvin | Marshall Project | 14th December 2017

Make good use of a prison term: Learn a language. “Before arriving, I’d had a deep fear that prison would make me stupid, with its lack of intellectual stimulation. Now I looked at all the non-English speakers and saw an opportunity to learn. Since it was a financial impossibility to finish my bachelor’s degree while incarcerated, I decided becoming fluent in Spanish was in fact the most beneficial thing I could do with my time. I’m now living a richer and more humane existence” (1,018 words)

The Value Of Crypto-Assets

Tyler Cowen | Marginal Revolution | 14th December 2017

How to think about Bitcoin and its siblings. They are bedding down as stores of value rather than means of exchange, and as insurance against the destruction of other asset classes. “At first few people realized they wanted assets with that risk profile, or even that such assets existed. As more people saw the potential here, the price rose rapidly. In the longer run, insurance-useful crypto-assets should yield sub-par returns, precisely because of their insurance and storage values” (890 words)

We’ll Deal With The Consequences Later

Miriam Markowitz | GQ | 7th December 2017

At work with the Cajun Navy, an informal group of Louisiana volunteers who used their own small boats to rescue victims of flooding in Baton Rouge last year, and reassembled this year to help victims of flooding in Port Arthur, Texas. The example is inspiring; the people are great, and rightly celebrated here for their courage and common sense. But why do they need to step up? Why is government, with all its resources, incapable of managing disaster relief? (5,030 words)

Video of the day Meet Piper

What to expect:

Documentary about Piper, an Aviation Bird Dog trained to chase large birds away from airport runways (2’44”)

Thought for the day

Do what you like to do. It’ll probably turn out to be what you do best
Wallace Stegner

Podcast of the day Stalin’s Economics | FT Alphachat

Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin talks about how Stalin ran the Soviet economy
(1h 18m 12s)

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