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Self-portrait. Drawing by Brady Dale, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.


This page is just ideas that crossed my mind that I wanted to write down and share but only sort of. You really need to be committed to stop by here. I'm not sharing these. I reserve the right to delete them. And I always reserve the right to be stubbornly obviously wrong.

January 15, 2019

A topic we hear about in New York City endlessly is the failure of the city to provide affordable housing for working people. The Economist has a story about some research that suggests the reason working people don't move to cities might have less to do with expense and more to do with opportunity. The urban opportunity premium has vanished for non-college educated workers, according to MIT's David Autour. So it could be that people aren't coming, not because it's too expensive, but because it isn't worth it regardless.

So if his research is right, is there a way to make better observations percolate through the public consciousness more quickly? Or is it okay that it will take a long time to get through because it might still need further testing? (after all, he might have missed something).

Autour's idea might not be good, but let's assume it is. It seems that better observations still have a hard time making it through the public mind and finding their way into policy interventions. Is there a way to test and then propagate good observations that undermine wrong assumptions more quickly so we can make better collective decisions?

January 13, 2019

Here's a facet of surveillance society that hasn't been much discussed: how distracting it is is to know you are being watched?

I became a regular paying customer of music streaming services since about this time last year. Maybe a little bit sooner. Because I write about this stuff, I find myself thinking all the time about what kind of information I'm feeding the service about my choices. I find myself thinking about two things:

What do I care? Why does it matter? But I think about it all the time and it takes me out of the moment of just enjoying music.

January 12, 2019

I don't know if this was the example in question, but I know at some point last year I came across a challenge for writers of the world to focus more on utopian visions of the future.

Challenges like that always grab my imagination, but I have a hard time with the idea of utopia.

I know this will be very unpopular to say and I guess that's why I'm burying it here, but still saying it: as far as I'm concerned, much of the world is close enough to being a utopia today, and yet it's pretty hard to find anyone who doesn't think everything is very terrible and awful and we're all doomed.

"We're doomed": that's the fashionable take. Really, the only take.

However, most people have a good supply of safe water, people are generally fed, fewer people than ever are super poor and there's less war than ever. That's as much as I can be bothered to defend the position right now. It's all true though.

I've become more and more convinced that humans just kind of lose it when there's no collective threat. If we aren't actually threatened, we'll make up a threat.

Here's an easier way to say it: if we got to a point where there was basically no murder in the world, but one year there were two murders in one city, right? People would say that crime is out of control in that city.

Even if we did live in a Gene Rodenberry style utopia, I don't think we'd ever admit it to ourselves, and if no one allows themselves to feel like they are in a utopia, are you really in a utopia?

January 11, 2019

When you're talking about funding creative work, "fans" are people who would be excited about hearing a creator of some kind speak, for example: a film director. Regular people just want to see the movie. A lot of people describe themselves as "fans" but in terms of thinking about an ecosystem of artwork, they aren't really.

Fans are ones who want to interact or understand the creator better.

Most people don't really want to. They just want to switch on the radio and hear "Born to Run."

This is important because, in terms of building an ecosystem around a kind of artwork to support it, "fans" will respond to calls to action from creators. Regular people won't even hear the calls to action. They'll only consumer the work they like and ignore the broader interest of the creative community and individuals that made the content possible.

January 6, 2019

Man in the middle attacks are a real thing. News organizations should defend against them by building cryptographic signatures into their content management systems. It wouldn't even be hard (I can't imagine).

Eventually, nation states are going to see that it's better not to block content they find offensive, but just to change it a bit before it reaches their subjects. This is totally feasible for a sufficiently powerful adversary (such as a nation like Cuba, where the state is the internet service provider).

But if the content was cryptographically signed, readers could see that something had changed. The state (or whatever adversary) would not be able to mess with the signature. Any way they did would show.

January 5, 2019

I added this page 'Openers' to this site today. I have a bunch of old notes here. I just went through some old files and notebooks and added some quick things I have written down in the past so there would be some content on here. Not that it matters.

November 19, 2018

Philosophy is alienating because philosophers write themselves into corners that strike normal people as obviously false.

For example, in Notes From the Underground, the protagonist convinces himself that the only logical thing to do is absolutely nothing. He might have arrived at this with sound reasoning, but any regular person knows the conclusion makes no sense. It's obviously dumb.

The philosopher would point to the words and the logical structure, but the regular person will just shrug and think: it's still wrong.

So when regular people read lines of reasoning that lead to conclusions they find idiotic, it leaves them questioning the whole enterprise.

I don't think regular people would put it this way, but they have an instinct that words are the way we communicate as best we can about the world we're in, but words are not the world. Language is easily conflated with reality.

Philosophers fool themselves when logic takes them somewhere the world contradicts. When that happens, the world's not wrong. The logic is. And people know that.

Philosophy is too good and important to rub people the wrong way like this.

November 7, 2018

It would be great if On the Media did a story about what happens when the media all forms a consensus around describing a thing that is not the thing they are describing and what happens when they do.

A new truth gets created.

My case in point: Gianforte's attack on a journalist in Montana.

He did not body slam him. He executed an arm-bar takedown.

Was it physical? Was it assault? Was it completely inappropriate?

Yes, yes and yes.

But it's the difference between a slap and a punch.

But now the whole world believes that Gianforte picked a person up over his head and threw him on the ground rather than, in fact, simply using superior strength and leverage to press a person from a standing position to one on the floor.

The trouble is more people have heard "body slam" than have SEEN what he did, and in much of the world, those words have meaning.

To reporters who don't care about wrestling, they think what's the difference. But there is a very big difference!

It's like calling a Ford F-150 a big rig.

It's like calling a battleship an aircraft carrier.

It's not the same thing! But reporters have created a new truth with their words that doesn't reflect what actually happened and it has had the perverse effect of making Gianforte seem mighty and strong in a way he is not.

November 11, 2016

Presidents shouldn't care about convicting corporate criminals. They should care about strong, compelling indictments. About big press conferences and apoplectic grand juries. If they piled up facts in the case against corporate America's malfeasance, threatened them with the worst possible consequences and made corporate law firms madly, insanely wealthy, it would start to make a dent. They'd start to fear indictments, not just convictions. They could build a drumbeat.

October 13, 2016

It probably makes sense to think of identity politics more as a religion than an ideology. As an ideology it has a way of crumbling quickly under much scrutiny. Reductio ad absurdum tends to be pretty effective in one of these arguments, except it's not effective. Those argument don't convince adherents.

Religions are good at establishing social norms, powerful norms. If a person violates those norms, they get cast out. Which really does a good job of enforcing a moral orientation. And that really seems to be the goal.

September 3, 2015

I was reading Jessica Abel's book Out On The Wire and she discusses the problem of constucting a compelling piece of content in the face of many many interesting facts. Apparently the guys at Radiolab call this "the German Forest." I think my problem is that my mind kind of likes it there.

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