Weekly Newsletter

Journalism #

The Future of News is not an Article
A NY Times Labs writer argues that the future of news lies in smaller, contextually-aware primitives called particles. If you’ve never explored the NYT Labs website before, I highly recommend it. I particularly enjoy this infographic.

Biography #

Genghis John
Paints a portrait of John Boyd, military theorist and legendary aircraft designer. Boyd’s devotion to his ideals and unconventional thinking resonates with me and I definitely intend to read his papers and books. I expect the more I learn about Boyd’s ideas the more I will be able to use his framework for thinking for my own purposes.

Business #

Semco–Insanity that Works
Profiles Semco, an unconventional Brazilian business. Semco eschews all hierarchy and corporate bureacracy. Semco provides an unprecedented level of autonomy to its employees and manages to make a consistent profit while doing so. The author of this article wears his bias towards the company on his shoulder, but the company itself sounds interesting enough that I’m willing to overlook this issue.

Cryonics #

The Scientific Basis of Cryonics A spiritual successor to the article I included a few weeks back about the girl who was cryonically frozen. This piece focuses on the scientific feasibility of cryonics. The authors argue that cryonics presents a viable option for preserving brain information, even though we don’t know the mechanism by which that information is encoded.

Government #

Design of a Digital Republic Discusses the components of a well-functioning network from a political perspective. This is the first in a series of articles written by the creators of Urbit. Urbit’s fallen under controversy due to one of its founders previous heavy involvement in the Neoreactionary movement. While I’m unsympathetic to Neoreactionism, I’m very excited about Urbit and share their views about the characteristics of the ideal future network.

Other Contributions #

David Wylie #

The Transformation of David Brooks
Bringing together social science, politics, and morality is something David Brooks has traditionally done and still does. However, this piece gives an interesting account of his shift in focus. Brooks evolved from a political pundit, to a voice for what I think could be labeled as 21st century social conservatism - this piece does a good job of providing insight into his development as a controversial countercurrent to the “relativistic strain” of the world. (That being said, I do highly recommend Brooks’ The Social Animal, which is much heavier on synthesizing social science research, though the moral undertones are there).

“In general, Brooks contends, journalists balk at sharing moral viewpoints, and readers bristle upon receiving them. His critics find him an insufferable scold, a pompous sermonizer. ‘I think there is some allergy our culture has toward moral judgment of any kind,’ he reflects. ‘There is a big relativistic strain through our society that if it feels good for you, then who am I to judge? I think that is fundamentally wrong, and I’d rather take the hits for being a moralizer than to have a public square where there’s no moral thought going on.’ There is at least marginal evidence that this is changing. His book, published in April, spent 22 weeks on the Times best-seller list.”

Our first-ever college rankings College rankings, in general, suck. I’m not sure The Economist’s first ever college rankings tell us much more, but they at least attempt to put a thorough methodology behind value-added thinking. I can’t help but think that college rankings will be continually plagued by the problem of defining value - is it monetary? social? intellectual? And even if we take a broader view of value, how do we assess it? What are the proxies? Or are we overcomplicating this - is income a close enough of a proxy for the dynamic effect of the many criteria? I’m inclined to believe no, but as the cost of college becomes something Americans are increasingly paying attention to, the focus on monetary benefits will be intensified. Ultimately, I don’t think that’s a bad thing - rankings just need to be clearer about their objectives. Credit to The Economist for doing so and recognizing the limitations of their rankings:

“Finally, maximising alumni earnings is not the only goal of a college, and probably not even the primary one. In fact, you could easily argue that “underperforming” universities like Yale and Swarthmore are actually making a far greater contribution to American society than overperformers like Washington & Lee, if they tend to channel their supremely talented graduates towards public service rather than Wall Street. For students who want to know which colleges are likely to boost their future salaries by the greatest amount, given their qualifications and preferences regarding career and location, we hope these rankings prove helpful. They should not be used for any other purpose.”

Will Baird #

Red Meat Is Not the Enemy Given the WHO’s recent announcement about red meat, this article from March is relevant.