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PostPosted: October 4 19, 8:57 pm 
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https://waitbutwhy.com/2019/08/story-of-us.html

This is a sprawling series of long reads. Not sure how many "chapters" there will be, but there are 7 out right now. Most of the ideas here are not new. I'm withholding judgement on what I think of the whole thing until the end. So far at least, he has managed to caveat away my concerns. He says some of the more controversial things will be discussed in later "chapters".

Chapter 1 is about how humans have two minds - the primitive animal-like mind and the "higher mind" that can create its own morals and values.
Chapter 2 is about the concept of "emergence"
Chapter 3 is about how "stories" are the basis of civilization. It's what caused humans to start to go higher up the emergence scale, from tribes to cities and countries
Chapter 4 is about the founding fathers and the Constitution
Chapter 5 is about censorship
Chapter 6 talks about how ideas are distributed and debated in our culture, where we mostly have "free speech"
Chapter 7 talks about the conflict between the primitive mind and the "higher mind", and the different kinds of behaviors you can end up with depending on where you're at on that scale.

Chapters 5 and 6 were most interesting so far IMO. Both talk about what happens when the discourse and stories being put out don't match what people are actually thinking. In censorship, that mismatch is by design and enforced by force. In a country like ours with speech protections, it's just taboos and culture and things like that which can cause a mismatch between acceptable public speech and public opinion. What's interesting is there are 2 ways a mismatch between public opinion and public discourse can be resolved. One is that a savvy politician may read the tea leaves, and understand that the discourse doesn't match public opinion. So they embrace that idea and promote it and help it become "mainstream", so that our discourse shifts to match what people had been already thinking. He uses Obama coming around on gay marriage as an example of this. We view people that kind of thing as opportunistic or "only doing it for votes". The other way the discourse can shift is when someone is pushing an idea outside the mainstream, and it gets noticed and gains steam over time and shifts opinions and eventually discourse on its own. In gay rights example, the people at Stonewall and other LGBTQ activists would be the people that started pulling opinion in their direction.

I suspect this whole series is headed toward an analysis of how fascism arises in a culture. We'll see.


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PostPosted: October 9 19, 9:35 am 
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Chapter 8 is out, and he's starting to lose me. It's called "Idea Labs and Echo Chambers". He spends hundreds of words on both, but his basic definition of an "idea lab" is a place that encourages diverse ideas, but also debate and skepticism so that the best ideas rise to the top, and that these places roughly follow the ideas of liberal Democracy and the scientific method. He defines "echo chambers" as basically places where everyone already agrees on something, and they want to root out anyone who disagrees. There. I just saved you a ton of reading.

He never names what he thinks these places are, so we have to kind of guess what he's talking about. There are images he has that show a gleaming light coming from America and spreading around the world. I have to assume two places he'd consider "idea labs" would be college campuses and "Startup" centers like Silicon Valley. But are these places really shining beacons of liberal Democracy and the scientific method in action? Silicon Valley has a really bad white bro culture. College campuses might be closer, but even there, there are problems...Earlier in the series he quotes Jonathan Haidt quite a bit, a guy who has spent gobs of time and even wrote a book decrying how college kids these days are "snowflakes" who are "not open to new ideas" etc. He's one of the group of "intellectuals" that includes Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson and others saying kids are too sensitive these days. I don't know. Seems like these guys might also be pretty sensitive about losing status. So I guess they welcome a diversity of ideas, except for the idea that college classrooms and campuses should be more welcome to minorities and women? I feel like what happened there is these kids did their own "idea lab", largely on the internet, where they learned and debated these new ideas, and they came to a consensus on them that Haidt & Company just don't like. But mainly, they don't like that the kids found a way around these guys as gatekeepers of ideas. To me, the internet, at least the honest and liberal pockets of it, is probably the ultimate "idea lab".

Nowhere has he mentioned Popper's Paradox yet either, which is the idea that the only kind of intolerance we should have is toward intolerance. He's danced all around it but hasn't mentioned it. Seems like a pretty important point to address.

He says the next chapter will be about "politics". I bet that's where he totally loses me.

Also, post #20,000. Yikes.
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PostPosted: October 9 19, 10:07 am 
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Perhaps I am miscasting the series, I really can't say. I got to admit, my appetite for reading something like this, and US history in general is waning. Some of it is getting older, priorities and scope change.

Mostly, the way thing are going now, the past is depressing AF. There have always been setbacks, but generally the story of Us has been on a linear upward climb -with more understanding, despots and bad ideas in the trashbin, and mistakes learned from.

Yeah, I was sort of naive about all that, but now that progress train is off the rails.

I spent a few days this year visiting around Chattanooga area. I tend to prefer checking out the nature stuff, local vibe, views and brewpubs. But Chickamauga BF was right there. I had no desire to depress myself with Civil War stuff.

I did walk thru a confederate cemetary in town - a tomb there for an unknown civil war soldier whose body wasn't found until recent times. That was depressing enough. What did he to die early for?

Now we have a reality tv show racist loser as POTUS propped up by the plantation society mentality. What a waste.


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PostPosted: December 9 19, 7:56 am 
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Haha the guy has not updated this since October. Right when he was getting to the crucial part. I wonder if he's having an existential crisis. Maybe he finally realized Marx was right. Or maybe he realized his own role in the rise of fascism.


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