Monterrey, Mexico bleg
What do you all recommend I do here?
I thank you in advance for the kind assistance.
Claims about the art world (and other things)
Unsurprisingly, [Marc] Spiegler rejects the notion that an increased digital presence could undermine the necessity for the art world to fly to [Basel] Switzerland. “Having content available ahead of time builds momentum and increases, rather than diminishes, people’s desire to come.”
Comparing the fair to a music concert, Spiegler says: “The more live sets a DJ has online, the better attended their shows are. It hypes people up. The fairs are fun, people like seeing each other, they’re not going to stop wanting that.” Indeed for many, Art Basel 2021 will mark the welcome return to a once packed social calendar on the art world circuit, filled with invaluable in-person exchanges. Here’s hoping for a rager.
That is from Kabir Jhala at The Art Newspaper. It does seem the Basel Art Fair will be held in person this September.
Your advice is most welcome! I thank you in advance for your wisdom and counsel. My first trip there is now about twenty-five years old, so time to go again.
The separating equilibrium (a ban by any other name?)
Governor Ron DeSantis would not let cruise ships sailing from Florida mandate vaccination? Well, this is what you end up with:
Now we know the true cost of not getting vaccinated for COVID-19: You won’t be able to order sushi when cruising on Royal Caribbean‘s Freedom of the Seas.
Here is a list of all the other restrictions for the unvaccinated cruise passengers. Via Stephen Jones.
Sentences to ponder solve for the cycling equilibrium
Austin Cyclists Split On Sharing Bike Lanes With Pizza Delivery Robots
Some Austin cyclists are not happy about the robots using bike lanes, while others are optimistic that sharing their path will lead to good things down the road…
“My personal view is that I don’t believe these belong in the bike lane,” said Jake Boone, who serves as vice-chair of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Council.
“I almost feel like we’re the test subject for this new technology, and that does bother me,” he said. “What if in two years we have several hundred of these on the road?”
Here is the full story, via Mike Doherty.
The UAPs [UFOs] report
You can read it here. I don’t think it clarifies much, other than to stress the multiple sources of sensor data for the observations and the inexplicability of some number of the sightings, well into triple digits. So you can put aside Mick West, PewdiePie, and the like. It is “real stuff” being measured, no matter how you might account for the observations, not just shaky camera movements and flocks of birds.
The report also makes clear how poorly funded and chaotic the investigation has been to date. That is hardly a surprise, but isn’t it about time we did something properly right off the bat?
I’ll fall back on my “sincerity is the most underrated political motive” view. I think our own government is genuinely puzzled, as I am, and as you should be. I would stress my earlier points that we don’t have many reliable intuitions to fall back upon for thinking through this problem.
I believe the governmental message will be: “We are not sure, so for reasons of national security we have to move forward assuming some of these devices are from foreign powers.” That will rather rapidly meld into “foreign powers.” In any case that will keep the issue alive. Furthermore, if it is our earthbound adversaries, at some point we will know this for sure, for reasons of intelligence or eventual public use of the devices, or our ability to construct the same. By the way, if you are convinced by the “adversaries” take, you should update lots of your views on foreign policy! (Will you? Will anyone?) America would have a lot more to be afraid of.
It is important to resist jumping to conclusions here, if only because doing so will dull your critical faculties on this issue. In any case I will continue to follow developments in this area.
It’s Time to Open the Canada-US Border
When infection rates in two areas are similar the argument for closing borders is weak. Canadian and US infection rates are now similar and both countries are highly vaccinated by world standards. The arguments for not opening are mostly psychological, a fear of foreigners. As a result, we have both Canadians fearful of opening to Americans and Americans fearful of opening to Canadians which doesn’t make sense. At least one must be wrong! Moreover, if we require even a weak proof of vaccination to cross borders then the average Canadian coming to America will be safer than the average American and the average American traveling to Canada will be safer than the average Canadian.
It’s time to open the border.
Where should I eat in Denver? Doesn’t have to be fancy, of course. I thank you all in advance for the suggestions.
How would actual alien spacecraft influence asset prices?
Primarily as an exercise, I thought about that question for a while, and here is part of my answer in a Bloomberg column:
If you know you are being watched, what exactly do you wish to buy more of? I would bet on defense stocks to rise, whether or not there is much we can do to defend ourselves against this alien presence.
Of course investors could not be sure that these alien drone probes will merely observe us forever. They might be observing with the purpose of rendering judgment. If they are offended by our militaristic tendencies, the quality of our TV shows and our inability to adopt the cosmopolitan values of “Star Trek” over the next 30 years, maybe they will zap us into oblivion. But that kind of systematic risk is hard to insure against. After such an act of obliteration, neither gold nor Bitcoin will do you any good.
My main prediction is that alien UFOs will be bullish for the dollar. The U.S. government seems most closely connected to the UFO phenomenon, for whatever reason. (Maybe its pilots fly more sallies and record better data?) In any case, if alien UFOs become more likely, an informational advantage would accrue to the federal government. And the dollar already has a tradition as a safe haven currency…
Most of us would get used to the idea of alien presence without quite believing in it. As The New Yorker makes clear, many Americans believed in alien-origin UFOs after World War II, as did many American policymakers. It might have spurred greater interest in the space program and science fiction, but it didn’t affect most aspects of American life, nor did it seem to drive markets.
Never underestimate the capacity of markets, like humans, to adapt. Just as many of the strangest parts of our lives can come to seem normal, so Wall Street can find a way to do business with just about anybody — aliens included.
I do full, literally mean everything stated in the column. But the piece also has (at least) two esoteric meanings — can you guess what they are?
The culinary space culture that is French
A French astronaut who leaves Earth these days does not leave French food behind.
Here are some of the foods that Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut who launched on a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station on Friday, will enjoy during his six-month stay in orbit: lobster, beef bourguignon, cod with black rice, potato cakes with wild mushrooms and almond tarts with caramelized pears.
“There’s a lot of expectations when you send a Frenchman into space,” Mr. Pesquet said during a European Space Agency news conference last month.
Alas, alcohol is prohibited, much of the food is freeze-dried, and croissants do not work in orbit. They do have kale and ice cream. Here is the full story (NYT).
Are Covid travel bans counterproductive for emerging economies?
…two opposing forces constitute the first-order determinants of total infections at any point in time. On one hand, the longer a travel ban lasts, the less time community transmission exists in the rural sink. Ceteris paribus, this will decrease rural infections. On the other hand, the longer the restrictions remain, the longer migrants are contained within a hotspot where infection rates are rapidly increasing. Consequently, the probability that migrants are infected with Covid-19 rises over time until the city achieves herd immunity, in turn increasing the rate at which they seed the rural sink with infections once the ban is lifted. This drives up cumulative cases at any future date.
In some cases, for travel bans to work they have to be very long. That is from a new paper by Fiona Burlig, Anant Sudarshan, Garrison Schlauch, who also provide evidence from India, and also from cross-country evidence, to support their analysis.
My excellent Conversation with Shadi Bartsch
She is a Professor of Classics at the University of Chicago, and recently published a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. Here is the audio, visual, and transcript. Here is part of the summary:
Shadi joined Tyler to discuss reading the classics as someone who is half-Persian, the difference between Homer and Virgil’s underworlds, the reasons so many women are redefining Virgil’s Aeneid, the best way to learn Latin, why you must be in a room with a native speaker to learn Mandarin, the question of Seneca’s hypocrisy, what it means to “wave the wand of Hermes”, why Lucan begins his epic The Civil War with “fake news”, the line from Henry Purcell’s aria that moves her to tears, her biggest takeaway from being the daughter of an accomplished UN economist, the ancient text she’s most hopeful that new technology will help us discover, the appeal of Strauss to some contemporary Chinese intellectuals, the reasons some consider the history of Athens a better allegory for America than that of Rome, the Thucydides Trap, the magical “presentness” of ancient history she’s found in Italy and Jerusalem, her forthcoming book Plato Goes to China, and more.
Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: You may not agree with this, but many readers I speak with tend to think that Homer is somehow deeper, more mystical, or just more fun to read than Virgil. What accounts for that perception and how might you challenge it?
BARTSCH: I think they think that because both of Homer’s epics are not, per se, about politics or governments. They don’t offer etiologies of a state. They don’t talk about history. They are stories in the true sense. They are about heroes in the true sense, not about some guy who’s pushed around the world by the gods, constantly getting into trouble, crying, wishing he didn’t have to go found Rome, etcetera.
Achilles — figure larger than life. His pride is everything to him. He stops fighting in the Trojan War because he’s been insulted. The drama is, what compels him to go back into battle after that insult?
Odysseus — a fairy tale of a man wandering from island to island, meeting ever stranger creatures, but eventually making it back home. It’s a great yarn. You don’t have to learn history to read these. You get involved in the psychology of the characters, their tragedies and their triumphs.
Nobody is really interested in getting involved in the psychology of the state and its triumphs. On the one hand, you’ve got a poem that’s an etiology for a particular government. On the other hand, you have two amazing stories. I can see how reading The Aeneid would be considered duller for some.
Excellent throughout, and again here is Shadi’s excellent translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.
My Conversation with Lex Fridman
2 hours 9 minutes long, Lex is one of the very best interviewers/discussants in the sector. Here is the video, here is the audio. Plenty of new topics and avenues, including the political economy of Russia (note this was recorded before the massing of Russian forces on the Ukraine border). Lex’s tweet described it as follows:
Here’s my conversation with @tylercowen about economic growth, resisting conformity, the value of being weird, competition and capitalism, UFO sightings, contemporary art, best food in the world, and of course, love, death, and meaning.
My Conversation with the excellent Dana Gioia
Here is the audio, transcript, and video. As I mention in the beginning, Dana is the (only?) CWT guest who can answer all of my questions. Here is part of the summary:
Dana and Tyler discuss his latest book and more, including how he transformed several businesses as a corporate executive, why going to business school made him a better poet, the only two obscene topics left in American poetry, why narrative is necessary for coping with life’s hardships, how Virgil influenced Catholic traditions, what Augustus understood about the cultural power of art, the reasons most libretti are so bad, the optimism of the Beach Boys, the best art museum you’ve never heard of, the Jungianism of Star Trek, his favorite Tolstoy work, depictions of Catholicism in American pop culture, what he finds fascinating about Houellebecq, why we stopped building cathedrals, how he was able to effectively lead the National Endowment for the Arts, the aesthetic differences between him and his brother Ted, his advice for young people who want to cultivate their minds, and what he wants to learn next.
And here is one excerpt:
COWEN: Why is Olaf Stapledon an important writer?
GIOIA: It’s not a question I expected.
COWEN: How could you not expect that?
GIOIA: Well, first of all, I hope people know who Olaf Stapleton was. Tremendously influential, rather clumsy, visionary, early science fiction writer who wrote novels like Odd John and the First and Last Man. What Olaf Stapleton did was I think he was the first really great science fiction writer to think in absolutely cosmic terms, beyond human conceptions of time and space. That, essentially, created the mature science fiction sensibility. If you go even watch a show like Expanse now, it’s about Stapledonian concerns.
COWEN: He was also a Hegelian philosopher, as you know. My friend Dan Wang thinks Last and First Men is better than Star Maker. Though virtually all critics prefer Star Maker.
GIOIA: Michael Lind, the political writer, and historian, Stapledon is one of his formative writers. Star Maker is kind of an evolution of the Last and First Men. Odd John is kind of the odd, the first great mutant novel.
Definitely recommended. And I am very happy to recommend Dana’s latest book (and indeed all of his books) Studying with Miss Bishop: Memoirs from a Young Writer’s Life.
If UFOs are alien beings, are they just doing mood affiliation in visiting us?
Robin Hanson has a long and very interesting blog post on that question. The point is not to argue that the UFOS are alien beings of some kind, but rather if they were which kinds of theories might help us understand them? Here is just part of Robin’s much longer take:
If the main block to believing in UFOs as aliens is a lack of a plausible enough social theory of aliens, then it seems a shame that almost no one who studies UFOs is a social science theorist. So as such a person, why don’t I step in and try to help? If we can find a more plausible social theory, we could become more willing to believe that UFOs are aliens…
Stylized fact #2: Aliens are rare and self-limited, and yet are here now.
Indirection – We can think of a number of plausible motives for rare limited aliens to make an exception to visit us. First, they may fear us as rivals, and so want to track us and stand ready to defend against us. Second, if their limitation policies are intentional, then they’d anticipate our possibly violating them, and so want to stand ready nearby to enforce their limitation policies on us.
In either of these two cases, aliens might want to show us their power, and even make explicit threats, to deter us from causing problems. And there’s the question of why they don’t just destroy us, instead of waiting around. Third, independent alien origins could be a rare valuable datapoint about far-more-capable aliens who they may fear eventually meeting. In this case they’d probably want to stay hidden longer.
My best bet is this. The vehicles would be “unmanned” drone probes, if only because the stresses of long trips through space would keep the actual alien beings close to home. So the relevant social science question is what kind of highly generalized software instructions you would give such drones. “Seek out major power sources, including nuclear, and seek out rapid flying objects, and then send information back home” would be one such set of instructions roughly compatible with the stylized facts on the ground (or in the air). Of course the information sent back to alien worlds will not be arriving for a very, very long time, so long that the concrete motives of the aliens may not be the major consideration. Collecting the information about other planets across some very long time frame might simply seem worthwhile, relative to the cheap cost of the drone probes. It reminds me a bit of that “put the DNA of all the species on the moon” project we have started, or those seed banks up in the Arctic. Why exactly did we do it? Why not I say!? And yet most humans do not even know those projects are going on.
A further generalized software instruction would be “if approached or confronted, run away fast.” Indeed that is what those flying vehicles seem to do.
The drone probes do not destroy us, because of Star Trek-like reasons: highly destructive species already have blown themselves up, leaving the relatively peaceful ones to send drones around. The drones probably are everywhere, in the galactic sense that is. Yet given the constraints imposed by the speed of light, it is difficult to do much with them that is very useful to the decision-makers that send (sent?) them out. So the relevant theory is one of how advanced civilizations allocate their surplus when there is a lot of discretion and not much in the way of within-lifetime costs and benefits to determine a very particular set of plans and goals. Not even for the grandkids.
In this hypothesis, of course, you have to be short immortality. And short usable wormholes.
By the way, don’t those photos of the drone probes make them look a bit like cheap crap? No tail fins, no “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” music signature, no 3-D holograms, just a superfast vehicle. Like something a second-rate alien non-profit picked up at the local Walmart and sent off into space en masse with solar-powered self-replication. Which is consistent with the view of them being a discretionary resource allocation stemming from projects with fairly fuzzy goals.
A problematic question for any theory is whether competing drone navies have come to visit us, and if so are they fighting over the spoils? Colluding? Hiding from each other? Or what? If aliens are afoot, why should it be only one group of them? That would seem strange, as in most things there are multitudes, at least speaking in Bayesian terms. Aren’t there at least both Klingon probes and Romulan probes, maybe Federation probes too.
Robin’s hypothesis, that they are elatively local panspermiacs, who feel some stake in us, appeals to me. Bayesian logic suggests in any case that the chance of us having resulted from panspermia is pretty high; there are lots of baby civilizations for each parent, so why deny you are probably a baby?
Perhaps our visitors are exercising some “mood affiliation” in wishing to visit and record us! They could be the parents, or perhaps another baby civilization.
Of course since the photos are of such poor quality, and since there is no corroborating evidence of any kind, these UFO sightings probably are not of alien creations, so all of this is pure fantasy anyway.