Links to Consider, 2/7
Michael Lind on Progressive Utopianism; Brink Lindsey on performative politics; River Page on harmful AI simulations; Michael Fritzell contra Zeihan on China; Kling on Warriors and Worriers
Three social engineering projects define progressivism in the 2020s: the Green Project, the Quota Project, and the Androgyny Project.
…Under the banner of the Green New Deal or the Green Transition, various lesser ideological projects on the left—veganism, replacing cars and trucks with mass transit, urban densification, antinatalism—have rallied, even though none of these is necessary for decarbonizing the energy supply.
As the larger culture has shifted from materialism, or the quest for tangible gains in the real world, to self-expression, political conflict likewise has moved away from a focus on the tangible actions taken by government and instead concentrates more on disputes over the relative status of clashing political identities. . .seeking substantive redress is not where the real action in politics is these days. Rather, what truly motivates and energizes are symbolic clashes that raise the status of one’s own chosen political identity — and, more importantly, lower the status of one’s opponents.
Should we re-read Murray Edelman? Are elites gorging at the trough while “symbolic clashes” distract the public?
Lindsey goes on,
The performative political style, with its unshakeable confirmation bias and heightened susceptibility to conspiracy theories and other mass delusions, is often depicted as a triumph of unreason. But Kahan argues convincingly that what’s really going on is a shift from one kind of rationality to another — from “instrumental rationality,” focused on matching means to ends for practical action in the real world, to “expressive rationality,” focused on constructing and maintaining rationalizations that confirm the righteousness and superiority of one’s chosen identity.
Lindsey wants us to see that these identity battles as distractions from looking for ways to materially improve the lives of less-educated Americans. But what if the identity battles are what really matter to them?
On Mike Solans’s substack, River Page writes,
AI is making it clear that pure, unqualified techno-optimism is, at least in part, the domain of sociopaths, incels and autistics. From what I’ve seen here, they’re the only ones who don’t seem to have any reservations about where things are headed. Everyone else is scared, angry, or despondent. They think something must be done, or that nothing can be done.
Perhaps something could be done, but nothing has been so far. There’s a federal revenge porn law that allows victims of nonconsensual porn to file lawsuits against perpetrators, but the law doesn’t address deepfakes specifically. A federal law should be in place. Will it stop deepfake porn? Not completely.
One way to think about the current AI software is as a simulator. When you tell ChatGPT to write an essay about the 2016 election in the style of Shakespeare, you are asking for a simulation.
A lot of applications for simulation intrigue me. My father died 15 years ago. If only there were enough of his writing and speaking on line, I could simulate having a conversation with him. Perhaps in the future my grandchildren will be able to simulate having a conversation with me.
Next, I imagined having a conversation with my younger self. If what I had written and spoken when I was twenty years old were available to ChatGPT, I could argue with a simulated version of myself at that age.
Next, I thought of girls I had a crush on. Could I have a simulated conversation with them, either as we are now, or as we were back in the day?
Having them perform in a porn simulation did not occur to me. I would prefer not to have that option. But if it were out there, it might be hard to resist.
Oy. It’s enough to make me scared, angry, and despondent.
the ongoing shift away from Chinese manufacturing will take time. China’s infrastructure remains top-notch. Chinese workers are generally educated and hard-working. Various industry clusters have formed around the Yangtze- and Pearl River Deltas and those will be difficult to displace. The reality is that supply chains reliant on Chinese manufacturing have become well-oiled machines. Outsourcing production to smaller countries in Southeast Asia will be difficult, if not impossible. The shift will take decades, perhaps longer.
Zeihan’s view of the world often implicitly assumes L-shaped isoquants. But in the real world, substitution happens. That means that slow-moving processes, like demographic shifts can be accommodated.
Finally, I got around to reviewing Joyce Benenson’s Warriors and Worriers.
Benenson claims that what underlies these differences is that women pay more attention to their survival as individuals, while men pay more attention to survival in group competition. In terms of evolutionary psychology, a female needs to protect her own health in order to be able to bear children and to enable them to survive to adulthood. Benenson notes that until recently in human history, 40 percent of children died before the age of two. Increasing the chances of her baby’s survival had to be a major concern for women.
This is one book that I would say is information dense. She shows her work in the sense that she describes the studies and observations that buttress her generalizations.
Substacks mentioned above:
Arnold, you left out my favorite passage from Warriors and Worriers:
"A woman could not have sex with an attractive man, go off to help conquer a kingdom or build a corporation, and return to see her child for the first time, well taken care of by her attentive mate. Her genes simply would not be passed on. No one else is available to gestate, breastfeed, and raise a woman's children. Thus, women who produced and successfully cared for children were those who were intuitively very careful about their own health and survival and maintaining proximity to their children. These basic intuitions influence a woman's thoughts and behaviors. With few exceptions, even those women who choose not to have children nonetheless have genes that prepare them to have children." (p. 133) And "If you need to stay alive to make sure that your children do, one of the consequences is staying attuned at all times to potential danger." (p. 136)
Suggesting that "feminization" leads to "safetyism". E.g., COVID lockdowns.
“Symbolic clashes” may seem like a distraction in the short term, but history suggests that it is the non-materialistic symbols, beliefs, ideas, values, and culture that determine the long-term material and spiritual fate and future of our civilization.