Some of my Favorite Blogs

 

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from fauux

 

 

Hi all, I’m currently getting settled into Palo Alto for roughly two months of study at Stanford. Since a lot of typically structured writing time is being eaten up a bit, I decided this week to focus on a nice lax showcase of three of my other favorite blogs from around the ‘net. With that being said, let’s begin!

 

Fauux

I love the aesthetic of Serial Experiments Lain, and nobody nails this experience quite like Fauux. A mad rabbit hole of beautiful, creepy, and mysterious web art, this blog serves as an expansive tribute to the anime as well as an extensive “online museum” experience.

 

KB

Easily the funniest man on the internet today. I like how Barstool in general is sort of repping this mix of a new world Cracked.com with a specifically social-media focused Onion. KB specifically knocks on the pretentious, the assholes, and the weirdos of the social media world. The only blog I’ve read in a very long time that makes me laugh out loud with every article I read.

 

Benedict Evans

For serious news and comment, Benedict Evans is probably your best bet. While best known for his newsletter, Evans also releases regular blog posts that summarize key trends and events in the technology world and adds his own unique commentary/spin to them. Typically I don’t read the news, but these blog posts are great because a) they’re often unique takes, and b) they always have a bullet-pointed executive summary at the beginning so you can know whether or not the article is worth reading.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do higher quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Why it’s Impossible for the Illuminati to Exist

 

 

Since conspiracies tend to be fairly popular lately, I decided to give my own take on one of the most popular conspiracies of all. Pretty much every group has some variation of the “centralized power” conspiracy, where one large group owns the majority of the world in secret. Some popular examples include the Illuminati, Freemasons, Bilderberg Group… though typically nowadays these are either straight up unnamed or just referred to as “them” when used in a serious context. Of course, all of this is pretty unsubstantiated poppycock, and I wanted to go at least a bit in depth as to why this could truly never work.

The first reason is that people always tend to have ulterior motives when allying themselves economically with others. For examples of this, we can look at early price-fixing cartels; while cartels are now illegal in most capitalist countries, the cartels tended to naturally dissipate over time. There tend to be some pretty logical game theory reasons for this; if everyone is charging the same amount, that means that if you charge even a bit less you’re going to steal all the market share. And, as it turns out, that notion is quite tempting.

The second reason this conspiracy tends to fall flat on its face is that, when it does happen, it tends to become apparent very quickly. When we look at the Eastern Bloc during the height of Communism, it came as no surprise that a large number of political officials were colluding against the general populace. While the majority of people preferred not to speak on the matter, it came as a certainty to almost everyone that it was going on. Compare that with conspiracies like the Illuminati or the Freemasons, where the evidence is minimal and the believers are a vocal minority, and we can see a clear red flag.

And, in the case of real organizations shrouded in secrecy (such as Bilderberg), it is heavily unlikely that a group of people that diverse in terms of position will agree to collude fully with one another. This somewhat relates to the second point in that people will always have their own motives; often these motives will in at least some way conflict with another person, especially if that other person happens to also be rich or run a massive corporation. Look at GAFA; while at some level Google and Apple might be competing just to avoid monopoly law, they also just plain want to take in market share and profits in fields related to their expertise. While we might like to think greed is the reason these organizations exist, the reality is that it’s actually this same greed that prevents them from existing. Remember; everyone in the game is a human just like you. Well, unless you think they’re a reptilian. Then I really can’t help you there.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high-quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Why IQ is BS

 

 

As I hinted at a while ago in my “How to develop intellectual success” post, I think that IQ is a pretty horrid way to describe intelligence in general. Plenty of people have already discussed the invalidity of the current IQ test and scale before (here’s probably the best one), so what I instead wanted to do was describe why I think that an IQ test/scale could never work in the first place.

I’ll start with the obvious but true argument that there are many different types of intelligence. The original idea behind general intelligence was that it was supposed to be a good measure of how fast you could learn things in general. There’s, of course, a big problem with that; we don’t learn everything by a given set of speed. Say, if we had really high acuity for maths and social skills, then we learn maths and social skills faster. But, if by chance we also have a low acuity for creative tasks like reading and writing, then we would learn these lower. The combination of all these elements is sort of a hodge-podge that could quite possibly go one way or the other on the scale but is typically going to land straight in the average. And, unlike examining the skills separately, this average really doesn’t teach us much.

In addition to this, I don’t think that there is a good way to measure these as opposed to, say, just general skills. Of course, if you are bad at reading and writing, or maths, or social skills, you can just go out to improve them. And, sure, you might not be able to improve it as much as someone with a natural disposition for the skill, you can still definitely get it to a point where it’s greater than you started. This conflicts with IQ’s main theory that the IQ that you’re born with stays the same. You can certainly improve your speed of learning by finding the right combination of methods for you, and you can certainly improve any of the different intelligences by just well-developed practice. Hell, I didn’t even catch some of the patterns in a standard IQ test the first time I took it; after I had found them, my score increased significantly.

IQ, however, is still good for some things. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the ability to diagnose mental defects like Down Syndrome and the like. That being said, there are likely better ways to turn this into a test specifically for detecting syndromes and other such things rather than just taking an IQ test.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

How One Joke Can Ruin Your Life

 

 

I had originally put the topic of this blog post down as “In defense of all jokes”. This was actually a topic I had kept on the doc since the older days of Astuka’s Blog (and so, in a way, this serves as a throwback to last week’s article). Of course, as we’ve already addressed, my opinions have changed a lot since that time… and so, do I still believe it’s reasonable to defend all jokes?

I’ll start off with my original thesis for the article. It is true that there are offensive jokes, and it is true that there are jokes that can sometimes be mistimed (i.e. “too soon”) or otherwise poorly conceived. However, my idea was that we should be judging exclusively the quality of that joke rather than extrapolating it to judge the character of the person telling it or their intentions. If a joke is bad, leave it as a joke is bad, rather than trying to dig up more out of it. Take in mind this thesis came out at a time where the “big comedy scare” was occuring; comedians seemed to be getting banned from college campuses en-masse, and many prominent comedians (most famously Ricky Gervais) were speaking out against this.

A few weeks from now I intend to write an article in full about what I call “The Shame Economy”, and I think this whole comedy scare plays a lot into that. When someone makes a bad joke, it’s very easy to change the narrative and harvest shame off of them, exiling them back to some dark corner of the internet. This was the main idea of the TED Talk by Jon Ronson, where all of our key elements seem to be in place: we have an individual who makes and offensive + poorly conceived joke, who is then set on by a group of irrational actors who extrapolate the joke to the character, and then harvest shame, and then cause a groupthink incident to occur where the woman gets much more punishment than any of us really think she ought to deserve, including a full dox as well as a constant bombardment of realistic death threats.

To me there’s two key aspects that play a role here: the audience of the joke and the actions of the individual pre- and post-joke. Starting with the first, it’s much harder to send out an offensive joke of social media, where a variety of irrational actors are scouring the feeds looking to gain a share of the Shame Economy. So, if one really did want to take a joke like this, it makes more sense to due it in a deep friend circle or otherwise with people you could trust would take the joke well. This is similar to what I do personally, telling different “tiers” of jokes based on my knowledge and relationship with the person. Secondly, I think the way the person is perceived by others before the joke makes a big difference. I think Ricky Gervais is in a much more advantaged position to make an offensively bad joke than Justine Sacco, as Gervais’ whole schtick is making jokes like these whereas Sacco was a relative no-name who hadn’t particularly done anything like this before. Similarly, I think content in post means a lot as well. Silence is probably the worst scenario in such a case, as prevailing silence from the person allows one to continue to develop false assumptions. Apologizing does work, but has a fairly low success record (that is, specifically on social media; it does have a fairly high success rate in normal conversation), and another option I like to call “Calling it out” where you make it very clear that the irrational actors are acting irrationally and that “it’s just a joke” (this is similar to something Ricky Gervais would use) actually does work fairly well in social media environments but still doesn’t have a perfect success rate (Of course, Sacco specifically wasn’t given too much of an option since the groupthink incident regarding her literally happened overnight as she slept).

So, going back to the main point of the article, I do think in the wide majority of cases jokes can still be defended, although I think individuals making these jokes should still keep in mind those two key aspects. There are certainly fringe cases where offensive jokes are the tells of more malicious behavior (e.g. a joke about jews told by a white supremacist) but not only are these cases much rarer but I also think it’s much easier to tell malicious intent in an open scenario (one could also take in mind here previous actions before the joke was told).

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Confronting My Old “Alt-Right” Posts

Around 2014 there was a big kerfuffle in the gaming industry. As was revealed, a cabal of journalists were getting together to promote certain games while ignoring or outright blaming others. This lead to a massive outcry within the gaming community that the media within their sector was actively working against them. Not only that, but they were working towards a sinister agenda; a “politically correct” culture where things deemed too risque were outright ostracized and banned. As this problem began to expand outside of gaming, a few well known, pro-free speech figures at the time allied itself with this fledgling game community in order to expand their own voice. This movement became known as the “Alt-Right”.

Of course, the alt-right ended up taking on quite a few more political positions rather than simply “free speech”; however, when I wrote about it back in 2014, it seemed like the so-called “SJW Agenda” was a real, genuine threat. And so, to my high-school sophomore 2smart4you mind, this all seemed to make a lot of sense.

Now that both the world and I have changed a lot, I wanted to go back to some of the points I made in these old pieces to see if I do still believe in what I said.

 

The first article I made on this was on August 20th, 2014; right around where this movement all began… ironically, coming out of a simple piece of internet drama. Before it was the Alt-Right, it was Gamergate; and before it was Gamergate, it was the “Quinnspiracy”, centering around a very specific case of a game developer by the name of Zoe Quinn who released a (truthfully) awful game by the name of Depression Quest, only to have an ex-boyfriend reveal on launch day that she had been cheating on him with several men, some of whom were in the games journalism industry (quite the launch day, I’d say).

I’d actually say the writing on this article is quite rational and objective. At this point in the story I didn’t really have any bias either way, and so I pretty much just dumped a shit-load of evidence (which unfortunately most of is now deadlinked) that seemed to point out that Quinn was in fact having multiple relationships and was in fact using her contacts to censor any discussion on the topic. To this day I don’t believe anyone involved in this catalyst event really disagrees with the fact that Zoe Quinn was in fact utilizing her power to discredit people who were speaking negatively of her.

And then we get to Part II written about a month later on September 19th. By this point the Quinnspiracy has graduated formally into GamerGate, and things have gotten a bit… involved. Firstly, in the article I praise Milo Yiannopoulos and Breitbart for “brilliant journalism”, which I wouldn’t be caught dead doing today. From there, we get more (mostly deadlinked) evidence… though this time around things feel a lot more fickle. While to this day I find the images from GameJournoPros to be pretty fishy, most of the bad apples here were people no one really liked in the first place, and the majority of the content appeared to just be general discussion of the game journalism industry. The 4chan infographic I post in the article also isn’t quite the most stellar proof of anything suspicious going on.

When it comes down to the argument that Gamergate was inherently misogynistic, I really don’t believe that to be true; especially in the early days. Perhaps after the movement got co-opted by Breitbart and Co. things could have spiraled downhill, but I know that I personally (as well as many others who were involved in the movement around this time) didn’t have any hate against women or other minorities within gaming and simply believed that a wider censorship was going on (which had already been proven with the Quinnspiracy).

 

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I also wrote this call to action, which I might have gotten a little *too* into

 

This point comes to a head in my Part III, where I end up recognizing that the movement has spiraled out of control, and thus I excuse myself from talking about it further. In the article I describe how the movement became a catfight (it really was), which was probably how it was able to be co-opted into the wider Alt-Right movement. Of course, while this was my last article for Gamergate, it was not my last article that delved upon Gamergate’s critical touchpoints. Five months after I wrote the final Gamergate article, I wrote “On Equality” Part 1 and Part 2, which stray away from censorship this time to instead face the wider issue of social justice.

In “On Equality”, I’m mostly complaining about the shoving of diversity into entertainment as well as a little bit of affirmative action put in for good measure. This is a bit of a tricky subject, cause there’s nothing really wrong with what the article says; in fact, it really doesn’t say that much at all. It’s very diplomatically written, but at the same time I don’t think there’s been any sophisticated evidence that affirmative action or diversity in entertainment have a negative effect or is otherwise creating more social conflict.

 

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Yeah I… don’t know what I meant by this.

 

I also mention the term “Radical Feminism” for the first time (a word I use to diplomatically address SJWs), which I bring back in my next social-justice-related piece called Opposing Fronts. This is probably the worst piece of the bunch. First of all, it’s written in a very condescending tone, yet the point it’s getting across is very basic: “there are communication issues among what counts as feminism”. To be honest, I don’t even think I knew what feminism was at this point. Second of all, the article is very clearly an “attack on the SJWs” and rather just throws in the Men’s Rights section at the very end to keep things balanced. The simple fact is that this article is disingenuous and really didn’t need to be made. Yes, there are crazies out there in the world, but as I write in the article, they’re a very small minority. Did this even need to be written?

At this point, I don’t write about these subjects for another year, until the Hollywood Reporter Ghostbusters remake article comes out. To be fair, this HWR article was real fuckin’ dumb, and I don’t think anyone really disagreed with me on this point. This article by myself was much of an improvement from Opposing Fronts; here, I called out the argument directly, and didn’t shy away from my opinion with some other diplomatic garbage (although some of the article lacked evidence to the points it was trying to make). It’s also worth noting that by this point in time, the Gamergate movement was fully absorbed into the Alt-Right; so I do take some time in this article to address this and bash their new anti-minority slants (which were now truly defined and obvious).

My last article taking the side of the “intellectual dark web” was actually written only two years ago, back when I was still doing Monday Chats. The article was in response to Google’s Ideological Echo, the big pastebin that caused all this to become quite a stir yet again (ironic that I called the example of the diversity problem in my On Equality series “The Google Dilemma”). I’m not really sure why I felt the need to make a response to all these things, but I suppose I did it anyway. I’m surprised this is the most recent one of the bunch, since this is actually the one I least agree with. While my writing here is god, I go way easier on Damore than I would have now. While there are obviously biological differences between the sexes, all the ones that Damore brings up a pure pseudo-science. And while certainly there is issues with subverting honest debate (as we’ve mentioned before), the overall pastebin seems to be more orientated towards purposely starting drama and giving some fire for the Alt-Right.

So, in conclusion, I can still back up most of what I said about censorship and debate but not much about the post-gamergate alt-right ideologies. A lot of these posts were very much wishy-washy as well, which is another thing I would rather avoid in newer posts.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Why Neighborhoods Turn Bad — and Stay That Way

 

 

What we think of when we see a bad neighborhood usually sticks in the present. We just see the gangs, the dilapidated housing, the food stamps, and be done with it — saying “This needs to change” without putting too much thought in how it started in the first place.

 

But in order to truly stop something, you have to prevent it. And preventing something involves looking at it from the very beginning. When we look at neighborhoods that become dilapidated, they usually become this way due to poor economic conditions — either companies begin to leave, or the economy gets bad, or some sort of major event occurs that causes a particular region or people to go under.

 

From here, people begin to develop certain habits. They begin to save less and spend more. They begin to commit crime to survive — small at first, but gradually increasing over time. These acts cause them to further fall into the pit. While in some instances, the growth of these actions on a community scale is small, other times they increase exponentially, and it is with these exponential increases that you get to the creation of long-term ghettos. What causes this exponential increase is something that needs further investigation, but is outside the scope of this article.

 

Once this behavior spreads far enough, it becomes commonplace. Once it becomes commonplace, it is taught — either formally or informally — to future generations. This is what causes these areas to linger for such a long time — not because of current conditions, but rather because past conditions have shaped the future.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high-quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

English vs. Mandarin: Which Will Dominate the World?

 

 

While I don’t believe we’ll have a universal language any time soon, it seems like the two obvious answers for one would be either English or Mandarin. This seems like a bit of a fight between east vs west, and I’ve heard good arguments from both sides, but I wanted to see if I could throw my own thoughts about this into the ring.

First, I find it ironic that the two most likely candidates for lingua franca are the two languages that are possibly the most complicated. English, with its various nuances and outdated rules, can certainly be hard to understand. However, I believe that the sheer size of the Mandarin language causes it to be much harder to grasp fully than english. While having a large alphabet combined with a large vocabulary may help in describing details, most international communication would be fine in just getting the general point across; and so I think more would be willing to describe less in order to spend less time learning a new language for business.

There’s also the fact that, due to eurocentricity, English has already had a grasp on global communications for quite some years now. With China not opening up broadly until roughly the 1960s, combined with the fact of the relatively isolationist nature of Asian cultures in general, Mandarin has had much less time to fester internationally. And while China’s population may have exploded in the meantime, this doesn’t necessarily translate to exponential cultural exporting. As English has expanded, more English-speaking generations have passed, and more people globally are prone to picking up English as their preferred second language.

Finally, to summarize this, I do think it’s certainly possible to have a lingua franca. In an age where the majority of people on Earth have endless knowledge at their fingertips, it becomes quite a bit more easy to learn a new language. And, with globalization becoming a key force due to such technology, more and more people need a common tongue to speak in.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.