Christmas assorted links

by on December 25, 2017 at 1:27 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Google Maps moat.

2. On family estrangements (NYT).

3. Interview with Sujatha Gidla about the reception of her book in India.

4. Elad Blog on Bitcoin network effects.

5. “Among the allegations against UI physics professor Michael Flatté is that he spent more than $8,000 in UI resources on robots “to teach classes, supervise assistants, and attend meetings while he was out of the country or attending conferences.”” Link here.

6. “If only we could find a Sufi master to humble us a bit.

1 Axa December 25, 2017 at 1:58 pm

#4: Bitcoin will survive. The risk is not system failure but on not knowing how the system works before loses are unsurmountable. Same with our financial system. It’s still there after many crisis but some players are not there anymore.


2 Mulp December 25, 2017 at 2:11 pm

1. True capitalism.

Google has paid workers to build more and more capital for two decades and now owns so much capital other capitalists, even with a hundred billion in cash it can pay to workers to build capital just can’t seem to bring themselves to invest in.

Apple just refuses to pay workers with its billions of cash overseas to build decent maps, TAX FREE, to build capital, TAX FREE, because Apple just wants to restrict the supply of capital to extract high rents.

The tax cuts Trump calls beautiful promote Apple’s refusal to pay workers to build capital. Google, perhaps due to its immigrant founder influence, is true capitalist is the mold of Keynes:

“I feel sure that the demand for capital is strictly limited in the sense that it would not be difficult to increase the stock of capital up to a point where its marginal efficiency had fallen to a very low figure. This would not mean that the use of capital instruments would cost almost nothing, but only that the return from them would have to cover little more than their exhaustion by wastage and obsolescence together with some margin to cover risk and the exercise of skill and judgment. In short, the aggregate return from durable goods in the course of their life would, as in the case of short-lived goods, just cover their labour costs of production plus an allowance for risk and the costs of skill and supervision.”

Google is serving the greater good, providing the greatest public welfare:

“I see, therefore, the rentier aspect of capitalism as a transitional phase which will disappear when it has done its work. And with the disappearance of its rentier aspect much else in it besides will suffer a sea-change. It will be, moreover, a great advantage of the order of events which I am advocating, that the euthanasia of the rentier, of the functionless investor, will be nothing sudden, merely a gradual but prolonged continuance of what we have seen recently in Great Britain, and will need no revolution.

“Thus we might aim in practice (there being nothing in this which is unattainable) at an increase in the volume of capital until it ceases to be scarce, so that the functionless investor will no longer receive a bonus; and at a scheme of direct taxation which allows the intelligence and determination and executive skill of the financier, the entrepreneur et hoc genus omne (who are certainly so fond of their craft that their labour could be obtained much cheaper than at present), to be harnessed to the service of the community on reasonable terms of reward.”

I read or heard a comment on Alphabet vs Google, on its being a waste of the money put into it. It’s not generating high rents, but merely sucks profits from Google. But that has been the view of everything Google has done by the rentier capitalists. Including the “wasting” money on Sat images given away for free, paying drivers to drive every street to take pictures given away for free, etc. Competitors were charging money for maps and earth view images back then. Those favored by Wall Street are gone or in a niche with limited clients and futures.


3 Matthew Young December 25, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Elad Blog on Bitcoin network effects.

Reverse the theory and ask why Facebook does not have a coin since it has great network effects?


4 uair01 December 25, 2017 at 2:39 pm

I have a creeping feeling that this has already been posted here somewhere. If so, my apologies.

Some thoughts on the nocoiner: … Nocoiners (usually Socialists, Lawyers or MBA Economists ) are people who missed their opportunity to buy Bitcoin at a low price because they thought it was a scam, and who is now bitter at having missed out. …


5 Ricardo December 25, 2017 at 3:04 pm

I’m a little bit bitter at not having shorted bitcoin at its peak about a week ago. It has lost over 25% of its value since then. Moving 25% against the U.S. dollar in one week is not a sign of a healthy store of value.


6 stephan December 25, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Investors of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your blockchains !


7 Axa December 25, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Don’t worry, I laughed with the definition of nocoiner.

I think game can continue, this term is also needed when discussing bitcoin


8 chuck martel December 25, 2017 at 3:20 pm

5. State investigators, auditors and University of Iowa administrators are highly-skilled workers.


9 dearieme December 25, 2017 at 7:34 pm

If he’d tickled someone’s bottom he’d already be out on his ear.


10 Lanigram December 26, 2017 at 1:49 am

If he has kissed the right bottoms they will have his back, so to speak.

Amazing how these tenured professors, especially at public universities, are able to travel about to various conferences etc while avoiding reasonable teaching loads. Meanwhile, lower life forms, in the university environment, are paid the price of an airline ticket to do the actual teaching. The suckers, er, I mean students, pay to get taught by high falutin’ profs but are actually taught by slaves, er, I mean grad students or no name professors.

It’s a good gig if you can get it.

Heck, one could travel around the world tasting exotic food. What a life!

Of course, the unwashed could always read their work, if not for the paywalls and the obtuse academic speech.

Looks like this one even got to keep his patents, though no doubt he developed them while employed (coddled) by the public university. Then the corporations get in on the act somehow and profit by those same patents.

It’s a great deal all around, except for the students with huge loans and the taxpayers.

Maybe Peter Theil is right about that ‘education bubble’.


11 Mark Thorson December 25, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Only $8,000? Fire the professor and hire the robot!


12 Vox clamantis in deserto December 25, 2017 at 5:20 pm

A robot can not replace a person’s soul. Can a robot have sense of wonder? Can a robot have hope? Can a robot admire an equation or love a poem?

Hath a robot eyes? Hath a robot hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Is he fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a professor? If you prick a robot, does he bleed? If you tickle a robot, does he laugh? If you poison a robot, does he die? And if you wrong him, shall he revenge?


13 Lanigram December 26, 2017 at 1:55 am

Can a robot sexually harass a student? Otoh, could a robot be enticed to write a nice recommendation or offer a plum assignment in exchange for some extra lubrication?

No, the profs can’t be replaced by robots.


14 So Much For Subtlety December 26, 2017 at 3:53 am

Can a robot sexually harass a student?

Putting aside the robot helper who was trained to become a Nazi, software has been found to be racist – indeed unless programmed explicitly not to, it is almost certain that a piece of software will be racist. Take SketchFactor for instance. Any app that tries to tell you whether you are in a crime-ridden neighborhood is going to single out places Black people live.

So I don’t see why one cannot be sexist too. In fact given pretty much everything is sexist these days, it is bound to be. In fact doesn’t Russia’s answer to Siri respond in a fairly sexist way?


15 Rick Hull December 26, 2017 at 3:47 am

In order:

Not yet, not yet, not yet

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, no, no. No, yes, no, no, yes. Yes, no, yes, yes.

In binary: xxx1111100010011011


16 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 5:22 pm

It is interesting that Sujata Gidla talks about the “hateful comments” on your blog when you solicited questions.

While there were no doubt some snarky questions from her critics, the thread saw the most hate from the supporters of Gidla who engaged in the worst form of anti upper caste rhetoric.


17 AustinCard December 25, 2017 at 7:45 pm


Her response is not that different from your response, in that when you have a fundamental world view which includes cultural resentment, or perceived or real slights or atrocities, you respond in a particular way that is quite predictable. The difference is that your point of view is expressed across Indian-American living rooms daily and is not very interesting in itself. Not very different from the typical Trump voter who would consider you taking what they, the pure people, deserve because their forefathers created this country, and whose religion is the one true one unlike the other ones prevalent in countries from where people like you and me had to “escape” to get to this country, the true civilized land.

So, my advise to you would be to not get triggered and be a snow flake when a writer with a specific lived experience expresses her point of view, which unlike what you think is not often told and is very interesting to an audience. If you are not happy with that, the next step is to express what you think are unexplored or inadequately highlighted positive aspects of our culture and to use an appropriate medium to express that. I think, unlike your responses, people understand that India is a complex land with a complex history very much like any other land and you should see it for what it is and stop getting into this self re-enforcing loop of resentment.

Indian-American concerned about your health


18 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Thanks 🙂 Appreciate your concern.

Though I don’t understand why you think “my point of view” is not interesting in itself. I don’t particularly relish comparing my comments with typical Trumpian rhetoric. My comments for the most part, were fact based, albeit conservative. I did not engage in hate speech (like a lot of alt right folks routinely do on this blog). Nor did I ever deny Dalit oppression.

I grew up as a liberal, in India. It is the lack of nuance on the liberal side that made me veer to the right, in my twenties.


19 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 8:01 pm

“India is a complex land with a complex history very much like any other land and you should see it for what it is and stop getting into this self re-enforcing loop of resentment.”

Sure it is. But then, for a balanced discussion, you need resenters on both sides to balance each other out.

If the Left engages in a barrage of resentful commentary, while the voices on the Right merely restrain themselves and just talk about how “complex India is”, then the political center shifts to the Left. Eventually you will reach a point where someone like Gidla would be regarded as a moderate centrist voice in a few decades. Hah.

We can’t give a license for resentment on one side, but muzzle resentment on the other side.

My comments are made keeping this in mind. When I argue with say Hindu nationalists on Indian forum, my tone is very different. I take very liberal, radical stances to counter their excess! Because I feel that corrective is required in that forum.


20 AustinCard December 25, 2017 at 9:32 pm

I was primarily talking in terms of Indian Americans. I consider you and Gidla and others as having Indian experiences which are instructive and useful, but ultimately are Americans and no longer Indian. Overall, I believe you (and most Indian Americans who have been in the US for a bit) are over-indexing on elite discussions and the English press in India, both of which provide a very narrow view and are now trying to understand India through the American political language. The thing is Indian religious right is not “holding back” in any way and in fact is quite aggressive on the field pushing their project, and the Indian left is a very limited force and the fight really is center-left v/s religious right where the latter is quite organized and in control of power at all levels at the moment. Trying to see the Indian left and the right as co-equals works on twitter/facebook but not in the real world.

Anyway, this is my honest criticism of many of my Indian-American friends who have taken up citizenship here in the US, as a person who has maintained the Indian citizenship. To cut to the chase, the help India needs from you is on the expertise side and not on the culture war front.


21 blah December 25, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Your comments are full of assumptions which you expect your reader to take as facts. For instance:

“The thing is Indian religious right is not “holding back” in any way and in fact is quite aggressive on the field pushing their project, and the Indian left is a very limited force and the fight really is center-left v/s religious right where the latter is quite organized and in control of power at all levels at the moment”

Factually wrong; the Indian right – which is not fully a religious right since the BJP has introduced many more scheme for Muslims than for Hindus – is very aggressive on the *political* project, whereas in the *cultural* project the shots are called entirely by the left, very much supported by judiciary. Case after case appearing in the Supreme Court denies basic religious freedoms to the Hindus. Narratives about festivals always involve environmental damages of Hindu festivals and the finer nice points of Muslim festivals. These days many Hindus feel pressured in elite schools to celebrate Christmas/Halloween *in their homes*.

You have a skill in packing your comments with assumptions that a third party reader will believe simply because that is default human programming.

And you generously pepper it with obnoxiously condescending comments: such as saying ‘your view is “not very interesting in itself.” unlike Sujatha’s’- subjective comments made with an objective tone, proof by intimidating comparison (the “average Trump voter”), and assert “just follow our cultural lead but give us your technical expertise”, in other words “surrender all your freedom”.

I have *never* seen Shrikanthk be 1/100th as condescending as you just have been.

22 blah December 25, 2017 at 10:43 pm

One of the first prerequisites for a meaningful discussion is that when you make subjective comments, which the other person disagrees with, you assume a subjective tone. Using an objective tone to phrase subjective accusations such as “You are no different from an average Trump voter” or “Keep quiet on the cultural front and just leave it to us to dictate to your where you should stand’ – by rephrasing these comments with a tone of false-sobriety – makes you unfit for meaningful discussion.

23 AustinCard December 26, 2017 at 4:27 am

Hi Blah,

This is an internet comment, not a PhD thesis. So, you have to take the comments for what it is. I meant everything honestly without any condescension. Since my replies seem to have triggered the snow flake in you to come out of your safe space (isn’t this how typical right wingers communicate with condescension?), will say the following:-

1. If you really believe that the Indian religious right is holding back and that they are not primarily “religious” and that they have done more for muslims, I have a bridge in Howrah to sell you.

2.I should have said “Trump base voters” instead of “Trump voters”, in any case I did not mean it as in insult. I take them and their nativist views seriously and literally. In fact, I think Srikanth is a median Trump voter in my view (i.e. not the base, and disagree on style, but agree largely on policy achievements and goals of the GOP exec+legislative branch).

3. I did not say “keep quite” to any one, if you read my comments carefully. Those who naturalized as US citizens, you need to get accustomed to the fact that you are Americans now and no longer Indian. So, as a foreigner, your aspirations and goals are not aligned with Indians. Of course, we greatly appreciate the work by the Indian diaspora to assist India in various ways, including investments and expertise, and that you continue to keep India in your thoughts. If you want to help India, it would be wonderful if you direct your efforts in a productive direction. That is all I mean.

24 Vox clamantis in deserto December 26, 2017 at 4:30 am

“Case after case appearing in the Supreme Court denies basic religious freedoms to the Hindus”.
Meanwhile, India radical regime assures Satan worshippers they are free to keep persecuting Christians in India.

Will India ever become civilized?

25 Kris December 26, 2017 at 6:59 am


These days many Hindus feel pressured in elite schools to celebrate Christmas/Halloween *in their homes*.

Granted I’m not part of elite circles, but I find this highly dubious.

Overall, I find the protests about Hindus being under siege in their own country even less credible than Bill O’Reilly’s annual War on Christmas shtick. I’ve never seen or experienced anything like this personally. I don’t necessarily see increased fervor in Hinduism as a religion, but it does seem to be on the rise as a tribal identity, much of it because of the political rise of the BJP and the RSS.

The “secular left-wing elites” may have power within their own circles (into which I have zero visibility) but they have zero social and cultural influence on anyone else. On the other hand, their pathetic economic views have held sway since Independence and impoverished the country. Unfortunately, the right shows every inclination to stick to that same statist ideology.

26 shrikanthk December 26, 2017 at 8:03 am

AustinCard ; You are making the assumption that I am an American. Which I am not. I live in the US. But very very far yet from becoming a US citizen. I don’t see it happening for another 7-10 years atleast (provided I stay in US that long, which is by no means certain).

I am here to earn my bread. And I am still very much an Indian citizen.

Among your other points – As Blah pointed out, the Indian religious right is practically non existent. It is at best a reactionary right. Hardly truly religious. And its record so far doesn’t indicate strong pro-hindu tilt in policy. Its economic policy is still very much center left. The Indian political center is clearly to the left of US. This is too obvious a point to be even stated.

You may be right that I am largely not opposed to the Trump government’s policies so far. I grant you that. But that wasn’t too relevant to what we were discussing.

The fact is Gidla’s is not a reasonable center left voice. By her own admission she wants to leverage “Marxism” (or maybe even Maoism) to remake Indian society from the ground up. She said something to this effect in the Tyler interview. That’s not a reasonable center-left position by any means. That’s hyperbole. So someone like me is perfectly justified in articulating a strong conservative right wing view to counter this hyperbole. Else the center just shifts to the Left.

27 shrikanthk December 26, 2017 at 8:35 am

“I don’t necessarily see increased fervor in Hinduism as a religion, but it does seem to be on the rise as a tribal identity,”

Kris – Hinduism isnt merely a theology / belief system, but an entire way of life. You can be an atheist and yet a Hindu. So the culture war does not have to be accompanied by an increased fervor in the religious practice per se

You use “tribal identity” in a pejorative sense. But what is at stake is a debate over the conception of India. Is India merely a constitutional republic created in 1947, a country with no history to speak of. (oh…India is artificial, …it was just a bunch of warring kingdoms narrative). Or is it a civilizational entity that has been more than a couple of millennia in the making? That is the debate. And it is a valid debate. There is a genuine difference of opinion between the Left and Right on the “idea of India”.

28 Vox clamantis in deserto December 26, 2017 at 8:55 am

“You can be an atheist and yet a Hindu.”
For example, if one murders widows and spares cows instead of the other round. Why an atheist or any non-believer on Hinduism would do so is left as an exercise for the reader.

29 blah December 26, 2017 at 10:40 am

@Kris: Well, the specific sentence of mine you find dubious, is my experience in India. May be you don’t stay in India any more, or are out of touch with the mores of the elite in India (as you yourself suggest).

30 Kris December 26, 2017 at 11:01 am


I do live in India. I have been here more than 5 years now, after spending a decade in the US. But I’ve never been a part of elite circles; not when I was growing up, not now. We are small-town middle-class people (though I guess I personally qualify as a rootless cosmopolitan by now, at least in my tastes.) My folks have been nothing other than proudly and devoutly Hindu (even Hindu nationalist in a few cases.) I have not seen or experienced left-liberal culture anywhere I’ve lived in India.


In your conception of India, can one be a “Muslim Hindu” just like an “atheist Hindu”? It’s a serious question. If not, then what can such tribalism result in other than massive exclusion of the Muslim minority (and worse?) Possibly extending to Christians too. You are talking about ~15% of the population. If yes, then what exactly are you hoping that power in the hands of a Hindu right will achieve? If India is not to be a secular state on the lines of what has already been outlined in our Constitution, what should it instead be? Should Muslims disown their religion on the grounds that it is incompatible with the “ways of life” practiced by the majority? What should we do with them if they refuse?

31 shrikanthk December 26, 2017 at 11:20 am

@Kris – Sure, one can be a Muslim Hindu.

This is not a new conundrum for the Hindu nationalist movement. Someone like Savarkar, who coined the term Hindutva in his essay back in 1923, actually thought about this and said it is possible to be a Muslim Hindu.

But I don’t think the 15% Muslim population qualifies as Muslim Hindu today. Nor was the Muslim population “muslim hindu” back in 1940. if they were, we wouldn’t have had the Partition.

The Partition happened because Muslims were opposed to coexisting with Hindus, and simply couldn’t relate to the idea of living in a Hindu majority state. Sure, many stayed back. Arguably due to logistic reasons, not because of a special love for India or Hindus.

So it is not the Hindu nationalists who have to answer your question. They already have. It IS POSSIBLE to be a Muslim Hindu. But the Muslims and Christians aren’t quite confident about meeting that description. That’s the source of tensions.

32 Kris December 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm


I agree with you about the events surrounding Partition. But that was 70 years ago. Muslims resident in India today (with the exception of Kashmiris) don’t clamor for separation, unless I’m missing something. If there are ghettos (and I know there are), it has at least as much to do with Hindus wanting separation from Muslims as the other way round. I have close Muslim friends (almost atheists in practice, but with Muslim names) who get multiple rejections from landlords when they try to rent apartments; there’s a trend here, these aren’t isolated cases.

What is it about the current dispensation that the Hindu right finds so objectionable? Is it the lack of a UCC? But much of the hysteria on the ground seems to be about cows. Would they declare victory if a UCC were passed AND cow slaughter were banned nationwide? (Not sure how all those cows would be taken care of, but that’s a separate topic.) Or is there something else? I’m looking for an answer.

33 shrikanthk December 26, 2017 at 8:19 pm

@Kris –

– First of all what do I mean by a muslim Hindu or an atheist hindu – I mean that notwithstanding your personal theological beliefs, you consider yourself culturally and civilizationally Indian first and foremost. This means respecting the norms and the Indian ideas of right and wrong which are widely prevalent across the Indian geography (with some variation, I admit)

Now do the Muslims of India fit the bill? This is debatable. Now you don’t want to discuss Partition as it was 70 years ago, But since people often want to discuss 1000s of years of history when they wish to criticize Hinduism, I don’t understand why things that transpired 70 years ago are totally irrelevant. It is a fact that the grandparents of most Muslims who live today in India (especially in UP, Delhi, Bihar) were in favour of the Muslim league (which in turn favored Partition) back in the 1940s.

Sure. Let bygones be bygones. But then have we seen genuine assimilation in the past several decades? I don’t know. There is greater public consternation among Muslims when there is a bombing in Palestine than when there is a bombing in Kashmir or say killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka or Hindus in Bangladesh. So the religious brotherhood clearly takes precedence over the Indian identity.

The Ayodhya dispute is another example. Here’s a mosque built over a pre-existing temple 500 years ago. It is a place very central to Hindu pilgrims and very big in the Hindu imagination. A temple was functioning within the mosque for most of the last 300+ years and yet post 1947 there was Muslim resistance as well as secular resistance to turn the structure into a Hindu temple (albeit with Muslim architecture). It is this resistance which eventually led to the unfortunate demolition.

If the Muslims of UP were indeed “muslim hindus” then they would have welcomed turning this structure of iconoclasm into a Hindu temple as a matter of goodwill.

Regarding segregation – I don’t disapprove of well meaning, voluntary segregation as long as there is no spite. So if HIndus and muslims have a preference to live among their own folks, that’s not such a terrible thing, in my view.

Regarding cow slaughter : Now the dominant strain of the Hindu nationalist movement has not been too aggressive on a nationwide ban. What is sought is a state level policy that is influenced by the culture of the state. So in Kerala or West Bengal, cow slaughter is OK to some extent, because the culture is not totally antagonistic to it. Whereas it is not OK in say Rajasthan, Maharashtra or even Karnataka. I am fine with this state of affairs.

Nevertheless the fact is that there is a strong Hindu sentiment around this, and it is not wrong to seek respect for that sentiment. When you get to US, you don’t eat dogs or cats. You treat them right. And you don’t eat them. For the most part. Eating dogs and cats in US is rarer than eating beef in India. And that’s perfectly fine. One has to live like a Roman in Rome.

Going back to your question on what are the things that the nationalists want to change in the current dispensation. Not a whole lot. Nobody is calling for a rewriting of the constitution. Except maybe 1-2 zany voices. The BJP accepts the current order for the most part. But what is called for is a cultural tilt that acknowledges the dominant culture of the land, and where the public culture acknowledges the civilizational unity of India.

Your question is the wrong question here. Because the BJP is clearly the conservative party here in a literal sense. They are really not calling for a whole lot of change. The radicalism is for the most part stemming from the other side, who want to veer India further to the left. Be it through acts like RTE which want to worsen the bias against Hindu educational institutions, or the clamour for greater affirmative action for castes like Patidars, or the political encouragement of efforts to further cleave Hindu society like making Lingayats a separate religion. I can go on.

So the radicalism is stemming from the Left. Not the Right.

34 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 5:29 pm

I also remember commenters who were unfavorable to her being attacked as “racist brahmins” out of nowhere. Despite there being no provocation from the other side.


35 Vox clamantis in deserto December 25, 2017 at 5:52 pm

I think it is clear even in India, with its thousands of demon-worship cults, Satan is slowly but surely retreating. The West brought democracy, rule of law, the Golden Law. One by one, religious excuses ro oppress one’s brothers are falling. As the Prophet Bandarra foretold, Africa (for the effect of his prophecies, India is part of Africa) will be fully Christianized and Portuguese-speaking: “The Great Lion shall rise/And his powerful roar will be heard/And it will surprise everyone/And it will mark a great destruction/And will subject all African kingdoms”.


36 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 5:57 pm

Thanks for the highly nuanced perceptive comment!


37 Vox clamantis in deserto December 25, 2017 at 6:07 pm

You are welcome. Merry Christmas. The Prophet wants to touch you and your family with his power.


38 So Much For Subtlety December 25, 2017 at 7:23 pm

It is Christmas and so theoretically the season of good will to all men. Even philosophers. However it is hard to take seriously someone who starts off his story with a tendentious and largely irrelevant multi-culti fable. Especially from someone who seems to have never heard of the Christian tradition of the Holy Fool. But let’s put that aside.

The story of the Sufi master mirrors the state of much of contemporary philosophy. For there is at work in it a strong purist assumption: the notion that philosophy is reducible to a purely logical exercise, conducted strictly by the rules of rational argumentation and debate

There is nothing like the smell of strawmen in the morning is there? A good question to start out with is to assert the affirmative of what the author is trying to argue is wrong – is there a single philosopher in the entire world who thinks that philosophy is reducible to a purely logical exercise? Obviously not. The author is confusing the ideal, the goal, the nirvana of philosophy with an assumption about what philosophers actually believe they do. They try to be impartial and logical but I doubt there is a single one who seriously thinks they succeed. Exposure to his colleagues would rapidly cure that. However the ideal is important because if they do not argue on the grounds of logic, then what is the basis of their argument and hence the ability to eventually agree with their opponents? If you say there is no logic and you have your values and I have mine, the only possible resolution is a bullet in the back of the head.

What makes philosophy such an endurable affair, in the West as well as in the East, is that it engages not only our cognition, but also our imagination, emotions, artistic sensibility, religious impulses — in short, our being complicated, messy, impure creatures.

Oh really? What is the evidence of this precisely? As far as I can see philosophy has never been popular or engaged in a broad audience. Nor would it be better if it did. How do we know it does not survive among its cult-like members precisely because it tries to escape the messy impure nature of us as human beings? You know, as pretty much everyone involved with philosophy has said attracted them in the first place. You want impurity, take up Country and Western singing.

It always gets mixed with myth, poetry, drama, mysticism, scientific thinking, political militancy, or social activism. To complicate matters, often fiction writers (think Dostoyevsky, Huxley, or Borges) turn out to be particularly insightful philosophers, and so do filmmakers — such as Bergman, Kurosawa, and Tarkovsky — who philosophize just as insightfully on screen.

Social activism? I see. Someone who wants to give credit to his students for working for Bernie. This looks a lot like Upper Middle Class virtue signalling to me – look at me! I know who Tarkovsky is! – but is it true? By all means, let us consider Dostoyevsky as a philosopher. However this looks like someone who wants to teach his students anything but Intro to Western Philosophy. Instead of taking them through Plato, yet again, slap on a video by Kurosawa!

Take a Sufi poem by Rumi. How can we tell, as we let ourselves be absorbed by it, where poetry ends and philosophy begins, or when and how mysticism starts stealing in?

I don’t know, perhaps with the first line? This is an amazing collapse of intellectual confidence. Rumi is not writing philosophy. He is writing the sort of bullsh!t you only get from eating the wrong sort of mushrooms that people take seriously only because no one has read him and he is not White. If someone put forward the equivalent Christian nonsense – St John of the Cross for instance – everyone would know what they were dealing with.

When Lao Tzu speaks of water — “the best (man) is like water. Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them. It dwells in (lowly) places that all disdain. That is why it is so near to Tao” — does he really “make an argument”? Why should we care

Those poor First Years. Worse still, they are probably impressed by this. Remember boys and girls, keep away from mushrooms.

To cut open such a work only to extract from it its “argument” — discarding everything else, ignoring the design and vision of its author — is to kill the beating heart of that work, and to start dealing in corpses. Why should we do that?

Take up movie reviewing for a living then. Leave philosophy to the people still willing to do philosophy.

Storytelling pushes the boundaries of what it means to be human: envisions and rehearses new forms of experience, gives firm shape to something that hasn’t existed before, makes the unthought-of suddenly intelligible. Storytelling and philosophy are twins. Plato’s “allegory of the cave” makes an important philosophical point in such a poignant manner precisely because it’s such a good story.

The boundaries of what it means to be human? Bullsh!t like that shouldn’t even survive in a First Year seminar. How precisely does this trite little cliche work then? We read Dr Suess and become aliens? Firm shape? I am sorry but Green eggs and ham exists because people read it? Storytelling and philosophy are twins? As opposed to diametric opposites? Come on, what are you doing to your poor students? The allegory of the cave is not a story – and I hope no one is claiming it has solid existence – it is, and the clue is in the title, an allegory.

Since philosophy and literature are so intimately intertwined, pathos is not something philosophers just pepper their work with, but it’s already there, embedded in their work. No sooner do you start philosophizing than you begin emplotting ideas, experimenting with form, employing rhetorical tropes, toying with emotions, and making room for empathy — that is, crafting a piece of literature.

So basically philosophy is just making sh!t up by people without the social skills to be poets? As I said, an amazing collapse in confidence. Also he appears not to understand what pathos means. And empathy is precisely what philosophers need to get away from. We employ doctors to cure us. No feel our pain.

A lively conversation has been taking place lately on mainstream philosophy in the West today and the way it treats non-Western traditions of thought as insufficiently philosophical. Such bias, though serious, is only a symptom — one among many — of parochial, purist philosophy’s misunderstanding of itself. Not only are other philosophical traditions easily dismissed, but within the Western tradition itself important genres, thinkers, bodies of work are rejected just as arrogantly.

And so the antifa Red Guards continue their long march through the institutions, destroying as they go. Again this appears to be the cry of a man who does not want to teach the Intro subject again. As for non-Western traditions, oddly enough people who don’t do philosophy tend not to be taken seriously as philosophers. And it is telling that the non-Whites he cites are not actually philosophers. China has a strong philosophical tradition, of sorts, but it is not cool like Daoism which is just Hippy nonsense. The Muslim world does – in the Platonic tradition even – as well. But he cites Rumi – the non-threatening Muslim version of Hippy nonsense.

Such arrogance comes with its own blinding punishment: we can no longer tell the essential from the trifling, a genuine problem from a passing fad. We are no longer able to detect the philosophical unless it comes to us in the form of the peer-reviewed academic article, published (preferably in English) in a journal with a stellar ranking and a top-notch editorial board. No wonder philosophy has become so irrelevant today.

Still seems to be complaining that no one takes him seriously at dinner parties. I agree with his diagnosis of the problem. He cannot tell the essential from the trifling. But that is because of his rejection of his own intellectual tradition. However notice, as much as he likes to play outside the canon, apart from the cute little story at the introduction and the conclusion, he is completely indifferent to any non-Western intellectual tradition. The only non-White person he mentions is Kurosawa. The rest are Dead White Males. Odd that. It is almost as if he knows where value is found.


39 Vox clamantis in deserto December 25, 2017 at 7:49 pm

“Muslim world does – in the Platonic tradition even – as well.”
Platonism is devil worshiping desguised.
It is different from, say, Zeno and Epictetus’ phiosophical system or even Epicurus’.


40 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 7:24 pm

6. It is interesting that a piece that is purportedly a defense of non western philosophical traditions mentions just one name from India – Gandhi of all people. Who was a politician. And with no pretensions to philosophy.

No mention of Upanisads, no mention of Vedanta Sutras, no mention of Shanti Parva, no mention of Bhagavad Gita, no mention of Adhyatma Ramayana (a book that leverages the Ramayana narrative to derive philosophical insights).

No culture has thought harder about the “good life” than India. And it’s sad to see it get so little press.


41 Vox clamantis in deserto December 25, 2017 at 7:30 pm

How good can life serving Satan nd denying the Prophet can be?


42 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 7:32 pm

” I agree with his diagnosis of the problem. He cannot tell the essential from the trifling. But that is because of his rejection of his own intellectual tradition.”

For once I agree with you.

As a Hindu conservative living in US, I bemoan the degree of self hate along the two coasts. I know more about American history than most educated Americans! Fact.

I believe the Trump movement (and even mild forms of white nationalism) are a necessary corrective that is required for Western civilization to survive.


43 dearieme December 25, 2017 at 7:40 pm

“I know more about American history than most educated Americans”: if I may say so, that’s not very difficult.

Knowledge of History and Geography are not American strengths. Not so long ago their great strength was in manufacturing; more recently in software.


44 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 7:44 pm

Software? I am not very sure. If it were we wouldn’t be seeing so many Indians in US. Doing all sorts of software development.


45 Lanigram December 26, 2017 at 2:09 am

“…doing all sorts of development…” in the USA.

Why don’t they stay in India and write the code there, for Indian companies?


46 Kris December 26, 2017 at 7:02 am

Why don’t they stay in India and write the code there, for Indian companies?

Because the bulk of their clients are in the US.

47 Todd K December 26, 2017 at 12:10 am

And even more recently, blogging.


48 So Much For Subtlety December 26, 2017 at 3:42 am

I think this is an issue on which we can probably agree completely. I don’t care that much what college students are taught, but they have to be taught properly and seriously. An actual academic study of Christmas carols might well be possible and I am sure that students would get value of thinking precisely what Rudolph’s bullying means to the human condition if enough time is spent on it. But engaging in an utterly trite and superficial approach to anything is a waste of time.

So to engage in a non-Western philosophical tradition properly, let’s say India’s, I would expect the teacher to read at least one dead Indian language with ease, let’s say Sanskrit. I would expect him to have learned at least one living Indian language. I would expect him to have sat at the feet of a teacher who had sat at the feet of another teacher who had sat at the feet of another teacher – all the way back to someone who wrote the Ramayana. Some serious publications in the area would be good too. That would be a minimum.

I doubt there is a philosophy department in the world that comes close to that for even one non-Western culture. Instead we get these little Reader’s Digest versions of the classics. Translated with an eye to being on the back of a Hallmark Card. Even Rumi, I am pretty sure we have discussed in a previous thread, has been willfully mistranslated so that he sounds like Cat Stevens. It is an insult to the tradition. Whatever else you can say about Europe’s old school Orientalists at least they tried to accurately represent the cultures they studied.

It is a mark of how shallow our understanding is that Ayatollah Khomeini did actually write philosophical works. Got in trouble for them too. Yet as far as I know it is impossible to get an English translation because one has not yet been attempted. Khomeini is not a marginal figure. Nor is Maududi and he is only available in English because his followers translated him. Is there a single serious study in English? Either of his philosophy or his politics? Whatever people like this say, they are actually utterly indifferent to the philosophy of the non-Western world.


49 shrikanthk December 26, 2017 at 8:56 am

Completely agree.

This is precisely the point made by Allan Bloom in his “The Closing of the American Mind”.

Genuine multiculturalism is seldom possible, as appreciation of a different culture involves immersion in it and devotion of considerable effort sustained over many years (and possibly decades). One can seldom do that successfully for more than one culture.

The old school Indologists and Sinologists were serious about their area of research. Regardless of the prejudice in their work. Just not true today, when too many people want to understand cultures by trying out cuisines or reading a few pop books.

For eg – It is just foolish to understand Indian caste system by reading Sujatha Gidla! Or for that matter Ambedkar. Even if you want to be a critic of it, you have to do much better reading than that and couple it with a lot of traveling and field research.


50 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 7:39 pm

6. Also Buddhism is totally missing in his write-up. A very rich philosophical tradition if ever there was one.

Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Nagasena, Buddhaghosa, Aswaghosa, Xuan Tsang….

No mention of Yoga philosophy – Patanjali

Sufism pales in comparison with the best of Indian and Chinese philosophy


51 Vox clamantis in deserto December 25, 2017 at 7:57 pm

“Doing all sorts of software development.”
For the same reason Mexicans pick tomatoes. An inferior workforce is a cheaper workforce, and malefactors of great wealth pocket the difference.

Americans were never social sciences types. Brazilian writer Verissimo studied American university students in the 40’s. Many of them did not know what adjectives are or who Proust (the writer, not the car racer, whose name is spelledin a different way ayway) was.


52 shrikanthk December 25, 2017 at 8:03 pm

I don’t think Indian Americans in Silicon Valley are “cheaper” than Whites in Silicon Valley. Thanks.


53 Lanigram December 26, 2017 at 2:10 am



54 Kris December 26, 2017 at 7:09 am

Instead of snarking at each other, why don’t you present numbers to prove your case?

And you need to compare apples to apples. An Indian hired by, say, Facebook gets paid the same on average as a white American hired by Facebook. I believe that’s the kind of comparison Shrikanth was making. You can’t compare an average database administrator rented out by the likes of Infosys to a hotshot programmer hired by Facebook or Google.


55 Vox clamantis in deserto December 25, 2017 at 8:22 pm

Cheaper than the people whose jobs they steal.
It is time to governments go back to caring for the interests of the people, not the interests of malefactors of great wealth and their foreign pawns. I say about those malefactors of great wealth what Dulles said about Nasser inthe 50’s, it is necessary to devise a way to force them to disgorge all they intend to swallow. As Stalin said about how the NKVD should interrogate the Trotskite-Zinovievist-Bukhariniste suspects, “hit them, hit them, hit them”.


56 Lanigram December 26, 2017 at 2:13 am

Muito bom cara! Pretty good for a fake Brazilian! 😉

E somente brincadeira!


57 Lanigram December 26, 2017 at 2:26 am

The huffnpuff article is spot on! Indentured servants indeed! As a hiring manager, I have stories to curl your hair. Companies don’t even have to cheat – you can pilot an aircraft carrier through the loopholes. It has created lots of billable hours for Indian immigration lawyers, and you know we need more lawyers! 😉

There is no developer shortage – US universities, colleges, and even online ed sites crank ’em out like widgets. We also have a surplus of old C++ (and C, java, and yada yada) developers the brogrammer companies hate to hire, because they don’t like the old farts hanging around – they like the young, single moist meat robots they can entice with free snacks and skateboard parking…maybe even nurf guns and foosball.


58 shrikanthk December 26, 2017 at 11:43 am

Well, it is one thing to know C or C++ or Java. It is another thing to slog 60 hours a week. Do a night out to meet the production deadline. Debug codes on a Saturday evening. Log in to work on Christmas Eve. Among other things.

These are the things the Indian H1Bs bring to the table. And which aren’t quite found to the same extent locally.

If you are a nice family man who refuses to work a minute after 5PM and logs out at 5PM on Friday and logs in not before Monday 9:30AM, then you won’t be a much vaunted resource, regardless of your skills


59 Sean P. December 25, 2017 at 8:59 pm

1. Google also gets a ton of location data from Android users by asking them to confirm their exact location when they are at a business (you get information about your location and can provide a correction if they guessed wrong) and otherwise collection data about the places they visit. For a good time, click on “Your Timeline” in the Google Maps app or website.


60 Nemo December 26, 2017 at 4:18 am

Does anyone know why Tyler only annotates (in parentheses) NYT articles with their source?


61 Deek December 26, 2017 at 6:27 am

I think people complained because they only got ten free a month. Or something like that. Of course NYT isn’t the only publication he links to with such a policy.


62 Daws December 26, 2017 at 7:02 am

I don’t know what most tech hiring is like. Amazon salaries non-whites and whites well in Seattle

I wonder what Dr. Cowen thinks about renewed wage growth in some formerly lowly occupations, and whether this changes ‘average is over’

If the largest generation ever begins to find its feet in an improving job market, housing prices will rise and bolster public sector capital and operations spending, which means hi wages for tradesmen and paper pushers, no?


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