Keeping up with the FITs, 2-11
Gurri on Biden; Scott A. hearts prediction markets; Kling hearts Randall Collins; Loury and McWhorter on recent kerfluffles; Matt Shapiro and Razib Khan; N.S. Lyons and Katherine Dee
In my opinion, this is a case of an internal monologue that keeps leaking out into the public square. The audience is Joe Biden. “We reached out 19 times,” “our patience is wearing thin,” “I have probably outperformed”—like many persons of a certain age whose grasp on reality is slipping, the president manifests a peevishness, even anger and certainly denial, against the facts that give evidence of an inexorable decline. That includes stranded Americans, the unvaccinated, his political opponents and the terrifying maelstrom, whose roar he can surely hear, that is the form of reality itself.
A grim prophecy follows. But I can’t extract a proposition to bet on.
On the topic of betting on predictions, Scott Alexander writes,
The US is becoming the North Korea of forecasting. Every other civilized country allows prediction markets. In a perfect world, they could ignore our constant own goals and move on without us. But because America has a disproportionate share of money, users, coders, and entrepreneurs, a US-less prediction market ecosystem won’t be living up to its potential. That means decreased ability to gather and process information and worse decision-making worldwide.
In an essay on sociologist Randall Collins, I write,
If people are deprived of embodied interactions, we can expect they will be more depressed, less energetic, feel less solidarity with other people, become more anxious, distrustful, and sometimes hostile.
This seems to have occurred. Even prior to the pandemic, researchers were claiming to have found these sorts of effects of social media on people, especially teenagers.
A montage of the comic and podcast host using “the n-word” several times over the years went viral last week. John [McWhorter] raises the point that he [Joe Rogan] wasn’t directing the word at anybody, he was citing it. There’s a difference between hurling a racial slur at someone and uttering a racial slur in order to discuss it. The word itself should not be off limits for the purposes of discussion, and we both think that anyone who simply can’t bear to hear it in any context needs to grow up.
Their positions on the controversies involving Ilya Shapiro, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rogan align with mine.
Matt Shapiro talks with Razib Khan. About Khan—and yet another kerfluffle—Shapiro writes,
I’ve never seen Razib exhibit any prejudice, show any antipathy to anyone (except for those monsters who murdered the Bangladeshi atheists), and yet people were denouncing others for associating with him because they say he associated with other bad people. This two degree cancellation is new and novel and, if that is the direction we are headed, we are in for a very bad time in the next decade.
In an interview with N.S. Lyons, Katherine Dee says,
the Internet elevates some people as “doers” and most of us as “passive experiencers.” The “doers” are the “fan objects”; the rest of us are the fans, remixing or challenging their content in some way. This binary, I think, also explains the rise of people who have affinity-based identities as opposed to experience-based identities.
That last quote rings false, to my ears. If anything, the internet blurs these distinctions. Think of how the line between journalist and reader became blurred by blogging and Tweeting over the last 15 years or so. This is true in other areas, as well. To take one example: I started doing a bit of mountain biking during the pandemic. If you look at biking-themed channels on Youtube, there are the professionals like Phil Kmetz who travel to downhill parks all over the US and go bombin' down the gnarliest trails you've ever seen. Those guys have hundreds of thousands of views and subscribers, and they get recognized pretty regularly when they're out and about. But, at the same time, I can also search for trails in my area that I'm interested in potentially riding this summer, and I can find dozens and dozens of videos by regular people who've ridden that trail with a GoPro on, and I get a nice sneak peak of it and I can figure out if it looks like the kind of riding I like to do. These videos often have tens or even ones of views.
These are merely two opposite poles of a spectrum. Back in the day, there was a clear separation between, say, the people who made movies or television shows and the people who consumed them. That distinction doesn't exist anymore. In fact, maybe that has what's made affinity-based identities all the more salient. Before, if you were a Star Wars fan, you might collect Star Wars stuff, you might go to some convention or whatever, you might hang out with other big Star Wars geeks, but it was all a bit consumerist. Now with the internet, it's actually more interactive. You can post your thoughts on the movies or shows or whatever like you're Roger Ebert, you can make videos about this or that aspect of the Star Wars universe, you can write and publish Star Wars fan fiction, etc. Way more engaging than just collecting Star Wars action figures.
On Collins: Another downstream effect of CDC/FDA foreclosing the use of massive screening testing of the asymptomatic to reduce the costs of reducing spread in anticipation of vaccinations/improved therapies.