Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, August 12, 2022

Blog Roundup

1. Over at Thinking Directions, Jean Moroney discusses mental blankness, why it occurs, and what to do and not to do about it. The last is common enough that what she says about it should motivate the reader to find out what to do instead:

Image by Mike Tinnion, via Unsplash, license.
Sometimes people criticize themselves for not knowing the answer right away. Maybe they are embarrassed that it takes themselves a minute to collect their thoughts. Or they call themselves "dumb" for not remembering right away. Or they jump to the conclusion that they're ignorant -- and leave that first "I don't know" as their only answer. They never realize that they do know or that, given half a chance, they could figure it out.

Self-criticism is both unfair and impractical. Instead of warming up relevant information, it distracts you from the topic by triggering self-doubt.
There is a better way, and Moroney draws on Rudyard Kipling to make that way memorable.

2. Jason Crawford comments on the cautionary tale about what Wired called "the longest-running vaporware story in the history of the computer industry." His parting thoughts:
[T]he deepest lesson, I think, is to value real-world results. [Ted] Nelson and [Mark] Miller didn't fail to notice the Web, they failed to care about its success or even to recognize it as a success. Its epic, world-changing status in the history of technology is meaningless to them beside the fantasy system they had dreamed up.

In the end, despite the title of the WIRED article, Xanadu was not, in fact, cursed. It achieved exactly what its originators wanted: theoretical perfection in a Platonic realm of forms so idealized that it can never quite be brought to Earth.
I think Crawford is absolutely correct and, although the WIRED piece clocks in at about 20,000 words, it makes for an interesting and instructive read.

3. At How to be Profitable and Moral, Jaana Woiceshyn reviews and briefly debunks "Confusions About Capitalism."

I think the following is a good, succinct explanation for why such tired old tropes enjoy such wide currency:
People's own experiences are not of capitalism but of a mixed economy, where significant cronyism can and does exist, exploitation can go unpunished, and the state interventions -- such as making energy deals with authoritarian regimes (Germany) or banning fertilizers (Sri Lanka) -- lead to human suffering. This makes us prone to believe claims that physical force initiated in a mixed economy is a feature of capitalism.

Because today's dominant morality prescribes self-sacrifice for the sake of others and condemns self-interest as immoral, we believe the distortion that exploiting others is in one's self-interest and that therefore the capitalist pursuit of self-interest is immoral.
In her next paragraph, she does something many who have debunked such misconceptions fail to do: Explain to the reader why he should seek the truth.

4. At Value for Value, philosopher Harry Binswanger outlines "A New Proposal on Gun Danger after first explaining how his thinking on the issue has evolved to see the issue as one of "preventative vs. proper law."

Here's a novel suggestion. Assume that a certain object really shouldn't be sold to a certain kind of buyer. E.g., assume that the regulations you want to write would have illegalized selling the AR-15 used in Uvalde to the shooter, Ramos. Assume that the wrongness of this 18-year-old boy getting such a weapon is obvious. Okay, then the parents could sue the gun dealer who sold it to [Salvador] Ramos.

Don't illegalize the object. Don't even illegalize the sale of the gun to a kid... Just let the seller know that he will be held liable for any wrongful use of the weapon, provided it is shown in court that he was negligent to have made that sale.
Rather than making objects illegal, we should make acts illegal.

-- CAV

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