Monday assorted links


Swartz profile is from 2013.

Hence the "(to me)".

Okay but he also calls the 2015 Thiel essay new.

Is that the kid that Loretta Lynch, our current AG, tried to imprison for several decades because he shared the jstor library?

sure is.

more specifically the prosecutors dealing directly with his case were Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann. according to Swartz' family those prosecutors hounded him relentlessly to the point of despair resulting directly in Aaron taking his own life.

He knew full well what he was doing was illegal. If you're going to fight for a cause, then you should be prepared for consequences that will end your pampered existence.

The rack & the instruments of torture?

He was offered a plea deal of 4-6 months in prison, and faced a few years if convicted at trial. Hardly the rack.

5. The future will be determined by the pessimism or optimism of the present as measured and defined by whom?

Probably by a path of least resistance. Apple is doing a car because Tesla did.

I don't quite get Thiel's framing, but maybe he isn't trying to talk to me (a glass 0.6 full tech optimist). The world is getting better, in part because the world is doing a lot of R&D. We might be funding apps more than agriculture, but we are improving agriculture just the same.

Perhaps Thiel is a glass 0.4 full would-be optimist, who thinks minds must be changed before we make actual progress?

I read it is trying to present a religious imperative for technology... Kind of strange.

Quantum optimism?

Me, but I grade on a curve.

In a country of millions in a world of billions there are going to be some optimists and some pessimists. Does the attitudes of either have any real effect on the future? If a significant number of people are pessimistic about central banking will world currency become valueless and what would that mean? If people have high hopes for the Chicago Cubs, does that mean they'll win the World Series?

4. Angry guitar is where it's at. Helmet, Prong, early Soundgarden...there isn't better rock music than that kind of stuff. When you're a teenager, it's supposed to be that your dad's music is corny and sissy and your music is the real hardcore stuff, so how is that gonna work now??

Now it's probably that Dad's music is retrograde. I find the older I get the older the music I listen to is. When I was in high school I listened to alt rock. When I was in college I listed to Dylan. Now I listen to Ella Fitzgerald. I guess when I'm in my 60s I will have symphony tickets - how cliche.

For me it's been far less linear--since I entered high school in the late 90s, I've listened to a mix of rock, jazz, classical, world music, gospel, and basically everything else except sissy-pop and electronic music. My toddler loves listening to my early 90s alt rock whenever we're in the car (she routinely requests that and gamelan music), but we'll see how long that lasts for her.

5: Isn't it a tad bit ironic / weird / improbable that Christianity is Thiel's chosen vehicle for techno-futurism given that the Paul and the NT authors believed the end times were nye and thus made no mention of obligations to future generations? It's no accident that Sidgwick developed the first explicit theory of temporal neutrality in part by deliberately distancing himself from orthodox Christian ethics.

Maybe that's it, and maybe Thiel has been hanging around more End Times folk in recent weeks.

There was a 2013 poll, "4 in 10 American adults: We’re living in the end times"

I put that down to Great Recession pessimism. It would be interesting to see a newer result.

A lot of people say we are in the End Times, but very few of them live their lives as if they believe it.

"A lot of people say we are in the End Times, but very few of them live their lives as if they believe it."

You mean like having all their credit cards maxed?

For the most part, music journalism is a process of inventing historical narratives that serve the writer's preferred tastes, and link #4 is no exception. "Angry" and "not-angry" guitar have always both existed. To classify 80s rock as all-angry-guitar not only ignores the work of people like Tommy Marr and Brian Setzer, but also inexplicably ascribes "anger" to players like oh, say, Warren DiMartini. And to then turn around a present hipster alt-bands as the here-and-now of guitar when players like Tosin Abasi are using what the author would likely call "angry guitar" to create fresh new sounds that are probably more popular than anything on his list is self-serving and disingenuous.

Lord, I hate music journalists. It's Packard Goose all over again.

They get away with this stuff because most guitar-heads don't care about intellectual(?) ramblings, and people who enjoy intellectual ramblings generally don't know anything about guitar. It's a perfect article for white people who like to dissect their jazz tastes at cocktail parties, or NPR listeners who feel very smart every time an oil story mentions supply and demand. Same dynamic at play in my Thiel comment below.

Definitely. I read the first few lines of the article, skimmed a few paragraphs, and then decided it had zero relevance. As a lifelong musician who has written many songs on many instruments and performed them and many other songs on many different kinds of stages and many types of bands, including on guitar ... this just doesn't seem like something that any musician I've interacted with in recent decades would really care much about all.

Musical journalists loves to discuss everything except how the album sounds.

I like Ted Goia, and I think Dr. Cowen does too because he links to his articles sometimes, but I have to admit that article kinda sucked.

Goia's main expertise is in jazz, so I think that explains the suckiness.

5. "In the absence of technological progress, we end up with a zero-sum world, in which there must be a loser for every winner."

False and badly so; consider simple labor and trade. It seems to me that Tyler praises as eminent intellectuals people who are reasonably intelligent but mostly vocal and opinionated. Kareem and Paglia interviews come to mind.

Can't see why he'd praise quiet and unopinionated intellectuals. Can't really see how one can be an intellectual without an opinion.

Well sure, opinion is necessary but not sufficient. If you watch the two interviews mentioned and agree those are leading intellectuals, we're all doomed.

I don't think of either of those 2 as 'leading intellectuals' (leading what? who's keeping score?), I think Tyler is all about people and things that are interesting to him, and we come here because that's interesting to us. I am interested in what both Paglia and KAJ have to say because they are interesting and intelligent people, even if I don't always agree with them. And the cost is very low to read something Tyler shows us for free.

I mostly didn't have an opinion on Thiel until the Trump endorsement; now I'm inclined to pay attention. If a mathematician errs in a math paper, I assume he fixes it or is ridiculed/ignored. If Thiel says "In the absence of technological progress, we end up with a zero-sum world," nobody seems to notice, even though it's wrong. If his philosophical dabbling is anything like his economic dabbling, we can safely disregard the article altogether.

Also my girlfriend is in a mood so I'm perhaps too cynical today. Pardon me.

Sorry, but one further comment. As to who's keeping score, maybe that's what bothers me. You have to go precisely one line into the Kareem transcript to find Tyler calling him "one of America’s leading public intellectuals."

It's like a comic saying "here's a funny joke." They don't do that, and there's a good reason for it.

not true, to earn Tyler's praise you must also be iconoclastic, disliked by the socialist factions of the left-wing, and broadly speaking a real prick that lacks empathy.

In fairness to Thiel, I think what he means to say is that without economic growth brought about by innovations and new technology, the overall size of the economic pie will not expand.

Also false, but as a generality or political/aspirational statement it might pass.

Re "New Peter Thiel essay, Against Edenism". That Thiel essay is from June 2015. So is pre-Gawker (at least publicly) and pre-Trump support.

Thiel argues tech optimism is good, was lost somewhere in late last century (somewhere between WWII and later Apollo), and must be returned to. So he's Against Edenism, the longing for pre-tech paradise. Ironically, he's lamenting a lost paradise of tech optimism from the 1960s which just predates his birth. Likely he's aware, but the parallel is amusing.

Proposed title/subtitle for a post arguing against Thiels position is Against Boomerism: 1960s Tech was Never Eden and Apollo Was a Dumb Cold War Stunt that Tech-Utopians Are Still Suckered By.

Perhaps "Ageing Boomerism." That feeling when no matter 65 years of tech progress, you are still 65 years old.

"Thiel argues tech optimism is good, was lost somewhere in late last century (somewhere between WWII and later Apollo), and must be returned to. So he’s Against Edenism, the longing for pre-tech paradise. Ironically, he’s lamenting a lost paradise of tech optimism from the 1960s which just predates his birth."

Thanks. I wondered what he was babbling about. I couldn't even figure out what "Edenism" was.

Don't spoof; some people won't realize that you aren't TC. Why must you misrepresent the blog author?

> Apollo Was a Dumb Cold War Stunt

Gil Scott-Heron represented that school of thought -

5. I understand that Peter Thiel is seeking the (biological) key to eternal life. Thiel (from the link): "Science and technology are natural allies to this Judeo-Western optimism, especially if we remain open to an eschatological frame in which God works through us in building the kingdom of heaven today, here on Earth—in which the kingdom of heaven is both a future reality and something partially achievable in the present." Eschatology is the study of the end of things, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, or the end of the world. As I understand Thiel's quest, it is his kingdom of heaven on earth that interests him.

The irony is that Thiel is a homosexual vampire:

And yet he fails to recognize why the postmodern West has come to distrust technology.

What is the meaning and point of technological "progress" when it's reduced to perpetuating the bloodlust and lust for other bodily fluids of an aging billionaire's meaningless life?

He should take a long hard look in the mirror.

Best JAMRC comment in a long time.


his sexual preference seems irrelevant.

there's more than enough things to criticize about Peter Thiel (amoral, vampire, totalitarian) without needing to invoke any kind of guilt-by-association with other people who share his sexual orientation.

#5 He wrote "Large numbers of people cannot afford healthy food and are nutritionally starved, though this hidden Malthusianism perversely manifests as an obesity epidemic."

You are going to have to show me a huge amount of data that supports that claim to convince me. Obesity is from eating too much. I lived in Honduras poor people there are never obese.

Per acre yields are growing faster than world population. A Georgia farmer set a record of world record corn yield with his 532.0271 bushels per acre and the reason most growers are way below that is because the prices are not high enough to make that economical.

I live in the USA and the days I shop healthy at the grocery store buying fresh/frozen/canned fruit and vegetables and looking at sale prices are the days I have a lower bill

Its when I buy the less healthy chips and dips and prepared foods that I have a larger bill.

So in my experience its the less healthy foods which cost more, especially when I buy too much.

I don't know why, but I was surprised that when I decided to eat less, the amount of food I eat (and therefore my food bill) dropped noticeably.

It's not common but I have seen obese homeless people in the US. I think their diet is mainly old pastries left out by the donut and coffee shops so they would have an excess of calories and at the same time a lack of most micronutrients. I have also seen a study linking increase of obesity in Mexico with a decline in consumption of fresh produce and increase in sugary drinks although there wasn't case made with the dietary change being driven by income factors.

From Here

Wheat can produce 3-4 million calories per acre and potatoes can produce 6-8 million calories per acre. But what about apples? I've harvested one Gravenstein tree and will do the next one today. I got 288 pounds of fruit off the first tree and my orchard is on a grid of 200 trees per acre. That means this tree produced the equivalent of 57,600 pounds per acre. At 236 calories per pound for raw apples (Source:, this equals 13,593,600 calories per acre for an apple tree producing less than 300 pounds per tree. This is 3.4 times the calorie production for wheat and 1.7 times the value of potatoes (using 4 million calories per acre for wheat and 8 million for potatoes - the upper end of the spread).

I have heard some people in poor countries do not plant

Interesting, I'd read about potatoes' high productivity (also utilized by the Mark Watney character in _The Martian_), but I hadn't seen statistics on say apples.

Here's the thing about apples though: how many years does it take for an apple tree to reach that 288 pounds per harvest productivity? In contrast, wheat and potatoes will be at full production in one season.

The other thing about potatoes is they grow in soil and climates that are not very productive for other crops. Apple trees AFAICT are pickier about where they'll grow well.

And if you're a tenant farmer who can be booted off the land any year and thus lose that apple tree that you nursed to maturity for years ... there's no reason to bother planting one.

Thiel's second book is going to be Heideggerian meditation on life, death, markets, and his hedge fund career, One to Zero.

#3. Someday someone is going to be smart enough to take over the entire payday loan market by beating the competition on price.

#3 "Anti-Usury"

Charging interest on loaned money is grossly immoral and against God's Will.

Luckily, we have the Federal "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau" to do God's work in punishing and controlling sinful usurers across the nation. Amen.

Payday lending is difficult to regulate because demand for it is such a hardy perennial.

Consider (for example) some of the methods used to work around usury laws:
1. Rent-to-Own. It's not a loan, so it's not covered by usury laws.
2. Slum store: Very overpriced merchandise, but offered with credit to those who are poor credit risks. This works because the nominal rate is compliant with usury law and what's government going to do, establish ceiling prices on a broad range of merchandise?

Perhaps some mitigation of social costs is possible, but small loans to those with poor credit are going to have high interest rates and high fees, to cover the cost of defaults and the high transaction costs inherent in making small, short-duration loans.

And so long as many potential borrowers have a very high discount rate when calculating the present value of such loans, there will continue to be a robust market for them (or something similar).

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