"Taleb has succeeded in creating a full system, from empirics to ethics - a thing which is exceedingly rare in the modern world. Whether because we are tired of grand systems or because our knowledge has been parceled due to modern academia: very few people are able to create systems of thought that cross multiple disciplines coherently. This is the uniqueness and importance of Nassim Taleb."
It's difficult to discuss Taleb without first disclaiming his sheer gracelessness online. That sucks, but he remains worth discussing.
e.g. Milanovic lays out well what's distinctive about him - and without feeling the need for the disclaimer. Good for him! Good for the brilliant asshole subject! Good for us!
I've been trying to understand what "ontology of violence" actually means, since it's Milbank's main rhetorical tool for re-establishing theology as the master-discipline, like the good old days.*
I *think* it means "can affect the world"; "successfully simplifies matters" or, charitably "imposes its categories". As if there were an alternative.
A theologian best known for his horror of the "ontology of violence" (: for saying that all fields that aren't theology are violent) seems to hint at a future theocratic revolution over the Irish referendum:
Does this event say more about Marxism or capitalism?:
New service sector job: Gadfly for hire. Person you hire to criticise your worldview and roughly debias. Somewhere between an editor, a priest and a dominatrix.
I don't know enough about Trump's present cabinet to know who's the most Seneca-like, but I'm sure there's someone good doing it through gritted teeth. Elon Musk made this compromise at one point, but didn't sacrifice much for it.
Callisthenes or Aristotle, Thrasea Paetus or Seneca, Paine or Burke, Sakharov or Kolmogorov, Xiaobo or Xiaoping?
Probably we need both but god forbid having to choose which to be.
Being compelled to help others is repugnant, and anyway it's an unstable way of supplying good, that breaks down as soon as one turns one's back. And certainly one wouldn't want state force to be the thing that made them do good.
But a billion dollars is perhaps more than 250,000 lives saved from malaria:
That is, it is a small city.
* Maybe this was mere bluster from a promoter who knew it wouldn't happen, but look at the total takings for "Mamma Mia!" and then maybe not.
An overlooked grave moral failure: around 2000, ABBA were offered a billion dollars (yes, "b") to reform and tour.* Bjorn was aware of the stakes:
"We had to think about it, because one could build hospitals with that money... [But] we don’t want to go through the stress of disappointing people evening after evening."
They didn't - Agnetha didn't feel like it. But this was such vast power to help; they incurred vast responsibility to help. Now they've reformed anyway.
"...In the end, even the stars are extinguished and entropy reduces everything to valueless nullity. We cannot win. We cannot break even. We cannot even stay out of the game. There is no hope. There is no escape. We are alone with this endless horror."
"That's okay. I like it here."
- Grant Morrison's Crazy Jane
Useful concept: "AI-completeness"
e.g. Solving ethics is equivalent to solving decision theory is equivalent to building a general AI. Definitely try, just don't fail in all the millions of obvious ways you can fail and everyone has failed.
Judea Pearl has written a plain-language version* of his primer** to his intro*** to his classic hard maths treatise on causal inference ****. <3
"Penal Colony" has long monologues by a defender of a system - but not by a designer, and we see that horrendous system as a disgusted outsider. Spectators and mystified victims are on the same side in the opposition I'm pointing at.
(Admittedly we see the colony as a relatively powerful outsider - by Kafkan standards. One who can credibly hope to reform it.)
Kafka is eerily accurate about life in large organisations, about detachment and subsumption and the banality of universal institutions. That is indeed how it feels to be inside an average system.
But his books miss the other half of things: the incentives that cause most systems to be like that; the tradeoffs (e.g. if you want to cover everyone, you will always plane over differences); the ridiculously fallible and partial process of designing them.
Is your data that's stored online safe?
"Remember! Most strings are incompressible, most reals uncomputable, most theorems unprovable, most programs undecidable."
"It was pretty far into my mathematics education that I realised: one of the reasons mathematics always seems to have all the answers was that the teachers were the ones choosing the questions."
- Ben Millwood