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I'd definitely read the piece if you ever get around to it.
A belated thanks! Added to my to-read list.
Thank you, added that to my TBR
Anyone have any good references on market consolidation? I'm investigating the idea that economies of scale lead to a small percentage of firms controlling large sections of the market. Any literature on this would be appreciated.
Stalled out on "Democracy in America". Its not that it lacks insight or is badly written, its just...a long winded nineteenth century book, i guess? And it seems like it may suffer from its success, being one of those books whose key points have already passed into the broader culture in some way.
Been a minute since I logged in here, but I wanted to respond that I'd be interested to read that. What technologies exemplify this trend?
Two from my endless pile. Both labor intensive so who knows when, if ever, I'll get around to them:
Globalization, Fragility, and Monoculture - Basically, an exploration of the idea that modern economic conditions facilitate economies of scale in which commodity production and distribution is highly centralized, for reasons of cost i.e. the huge percentage of the worlds semiconducturs traditionally manufactured in Taiwan. This also facilitates standardization of design in these products. The analogy in the natural world would be the ability of certain species, hyper-optimized to fill a certain ecological niche, to flourish and crowd out potential competitors. This is well and good until something happens to disrupt the status quo; the product or organism that was perfectly adapted to one set of conditions is often too specialized to adapt when those conditions change. None of these ideas are terribly new of course. Since Covid, lots of people have been thinking about the idea that globalization is pretty fragile. Both John Robb in the security sphere and Nicholas Nassim Taleb have arguably been preaching similar ideas long before they started to enter mainstream currency. The issue, I think, is that the mono-cultural model tends to be very profitable in the short-to-medium term. Hyper-specialization is what allows for explosive growth, which is what hordes of slavering venture capitalists and would-be venture capitalists are always seeking. Not sure anyone has addressed the explicit tradeoff between growth and security/systemic diversity and the compromises that we may be forced to make on that front in a generation or two.
A tale of two elites - Arguably since the end of the civil war, the United States has largely been run by people associated with political and financial centers of power in the Northeast of the country. Broadly speaking, they tend to have similar educational (Ivy League) and professional backgrounds (often lawyers, academics, or some other wordcel-esque job), and place a great deal of emphasis on technocratic credentialism. The emergence of silicon valley as a possible rival center of power, with its own culture, norms, and ideals could set conditions for a major change. Again, hardly an original idea, but not one I've seen explored in depth to my own satisfaction
For a long time I've been thinking I need to make it a rule to tell someone if I enjoyed reading something they wrote. This is another data point in favor of making that a rule.
Be very interested to read the Putin thing
Would be very interested in the Orthodox Church/Ukraine Situation
Great comment, thanks!
Wanted to reiterate what others have already said, that I appreciate you taking the time to post this review and I will likely add the book to my ever-growing TBR list. If I could ask a follow up question - does the author posit a reason emotions were running so high? I get that there was a climate of fear and paranoia which contributed to the Terror, but what was the mechanism by which this climate emerged?
Thank you, that was a very helpful explanation.
What exactly is the distinction between a paraphilia and a sexual orientation? The most thoughtful answer I can find with a quick search suggests that the latter is biological and the former psychological? But that already strikes me as a fairly fuzzy and non-absolute distinction. Most of the rest of what I found can be boiled down to "paraphilia = gross/sexual orientation = perfectly legitimate, no judgement dammit" without ever actually explaining why that would be.
I do think that thinking of these things as a cluster of associated impulses is probably the best way to describe it. I don't really think you can separate sex from emotion from social roles from (insert X addenda here). One thing Lawrence and Blanchard don't touch on but may be worth bringing up. From my personal observations, frequently the fantasy of being a woman is associated with a fantasy of the loss of agency, and by extension, responsibility. You mentioned a military academy cadet and star athlete who apparently didn't measure up to his own standards for masculinity. I suspect there may be a lot of folks in this space with similar profiles. There's an element of stress relief to the fantasy. The wall street dude who spends all day amongst ultra-competitive alpha males making split-second decisions on which millions of dollars ride. The soldier who has to make split-second decisions on which the lives of his team-members ride. Anyone who lashes themselves into the breach of war or politics or business or science, through some combination of ambition and responsibility. To someone like that, the fantasy of being a stereotypical princess - of being passive, helpless even, loved for what you are rather than anything you do, of being at the whim of people and forces more powerful than yourself - that can be a powerful intoxicant. Nothing to base this on other than my own personal experiences and too much time spent in the seedy parts of the internet, but I think its worth considering.
Off the top of my head, the highlights are:
a) The Great Gatsby - technically I read this right around Christmas of 2021, but I'll include it here. Gatsby's a total simp. Daisy, so far as we can tell from the text, probably isn't even that hot. You know who's cool and who I want to read a book about? Meyer Wolfsheim. How did he claw his way up the ranks of organized crime? Did he kill a dude and make his teeth into cufflinks? I think he did.
b) The Maltese Falcon, Dashiel Hammett. I'd tried some Hammett before - the Glass Key and Red Harvest - but I just didn't get that into them. I liked this one a lot more for some reason. I think it just seemed more tightly written than those two, though I'm not sure if that's the explanation
c) Francis Fukuyama - Political Order and Political Decay. This one was on audiobook so without an actual copy in front of me, I have a hard time remembering what I thought about it. The main impression I retained is that Fukuyama is clearly a smart guy who's read and thought a lot about his topic, but is hamstrung by his commitment to an orthodox-western-liberal view of "progress" and state formation. His analysis would probably have been more interesting if he'd been willing to consider more heterodox ideas.
d) The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster. Famously gloomy and violent Jacobean revenge drama. Probably one of the best works of fiction I read this year. The anti-heroic Bosola gets all the best lines, even though he's largely tangential to the plot until the last few scenes. Surprised I haven't seen a film adaptation of this sometime in the last ten years.
e) The Folk of the Air, Peter S. Beagle. Beagle is probably best known for The Last Unicorn. This is a sort of early urban-fantasy story about an itinerant musician who returns to a thinly-veiled Berkeley after ten years of wandering. He finds that all his old friends are now part of a thinly-veiled Society For Creative Anachronism and that some of them get way into character and sometimes their re-enactments get just a little too real. Started off slowly but hit it's strides at the two-thirds mark and wrapped up with a satisfy albeit ambiguous conclusion.
f) The Ballad of the White Horse, GK Chesterton - Sometimes hailed as the last epic narrative poem in the English language. A fictionalized depiction of King Alfred's defeat of the Danes at the Battle of Ethandune. Short, with a pretty simple and straightforward plot, but a lot of great quotable lines. A few choice morsels
A gloomy Norseman: "You sing of the young gods easily/In the days when you are young/But I go smelling yew and sods/And I know there are gods behind the gods/Gods that are best unsung."
The narrator: "The Great Gaels of Ireland/Are the men that God made Mad/For all their wars are merry/And all their songs are sad".
Alfred, rebuking the Norse kings pseudo-Nietszchean worldview: "What have the strong gods given?/Where have the glad gods led?/When Guthrun sits on a hero's throne/And asks if he is dead?"
I'm told that Tolkien didn't like it on account of how he felt the Norse were misrepresented. Nonetheless, its well worth your tim."
TL; DR - The Autobiography of Benevenuto Cellini. He was probably a pretty interesting dude to hang around but the writing didn't hook me.
TL; DR - The Divine Comedy. Tried it, couldn't get into it.
I think this scenario gets interesting with multiple rival networks attempting to mobilize people in the name of a cause. Agree that a distributed globohomo ruling class scenario, of the kind @DaseIndustriesLtd seems to be talking about is less interesting. I'm a little bit skeptical of the ability of the ability of any ruling class to impose their will as totally as he seems to envision, however. I think on the whole there's a brittleness to such systems; they tend to result in people further down the hierarchy simply hacking the feedback loop to keep upper echelons off their backs. The illusion of legibility, if you will.
I guess I'm not sure what you mean by that first sentence? Practical for what exactly? What I'm arguing is that network-actors could provide an avenue for disaffected people to erode the power of the state, even if they don't replace the state entirely. Participation in such networks can create maneuver space, wiggle room for people who for one reason or another want to do something the state doesn't want them to do. I'm not really proposing any particular solution for any particular problem for any particular group, just trying to describe and extrapolate from a trend-line.
I also think the second part still remains to be seen. Actually, I think we're visualizing a network "state" (the more I think about it, the less I like the second term) in two very different ways. I think you're thinking of, basically, a bunch of educated elites, folks already fairly well-positioned in the scheme of things, organizing to increase their own bargaining power vis-a-vis the existing state. Skull-and-bonesmen with crypto, withdrawing into their towers and walled estates, communicating with each other through their secure channels and not participating in society at large more than strictly necessary. I'm visualizing network actors as a vector for a successful mass movement. A framework for mobilizing people around a common identity and shared cause. Put another way, I don't think the most successful network-actor is the one that successfully recruits all the wealthy, talented people (though they'll probably need some). The most effective network actor is the one who nails 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door.
Was mistake theory ever strong politics? I suppose I'm cynical, but I think it's generally easier for people to believe they're opponents are evil and willfully ignorant rather than well-intentioned folks with different beliefs. Possibly I'm biased by the internet being my sample.
I haven't read enough of his writing to really know. In Network State he comes across as a guy with a technical background and mindset who perhaps doesn't have the same intuitive grasp of the rawer aspects of the human condition. Like, I think intellectually he has a model for nationalism, hunger, the thirst for vengeance and power, fanaticism, faith, prejudice, the whole glorious constellation of our savage species. He's just more comfortable dealing with the technical issues. I'll give him credit for at least acknowledging these things though. Plenty of people with similar background don't even do that much; their horizons end at Fully Automated Gay Luxury Space Communism.
Thank you for the link. I think fear of retaliation is the heart of political bargaining power in this context, but I'm not sure that retaliation needs to be overwhelming per se. To return to the Afghanistan example, the Taliban couldn't go head to head with the US Army, but they could apply pressure on local officials attempting to enforce unpopular edicts. If you're a local official, you might not die, but you would be forced to ask yourself: how badly do I want to do X? Badly enough to risk assassination? If you're local law enforcement, are you willing to pursue lawbreakers into hostile territory? Probably all such decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. Network actors could alter the balance of power even if they never grow strong enough to actually overthrow the system.
Also, I guess you guys know something about Balaji I don't, but even if Balaji's personal Network-State Utopia is people only by 160 IQ STEM-Wizard Philosopher-Kings and their hangers-on - that needn't be the only game in town! I think you're operating off of a model where all crypto remains the realm of the tech-savvy shape rotators indefinitely. I don't think that will be the case. I think that over time, the tech will disseminate and become accessible to the layman, and they will apply it in new ways. The street finds its own uses for things.
I'd be interested in an english version, if available. I do agree that the techno-capitalists may be form the kernel of a rival elite to our current one. The very fact that they attract so much vitriol these days is a testament to this.
Re: your last point. If someone does devise a true grand vision along "the full range of possible action", we'll find out about it soon enough.
I agree thats the biggest flaw in Balaji's thesis. More or less what I was alluding to when I talked about the historical consequences of challenging the status quo. I'm not sure Balaji is a libertarian, at least not in the ultra-capitalist/consumerist/individualist sense of the term. While I agree that he's an aspirational-elite in the Turchinian sense of the term and he certainly has no love lost for the current ruling class, I'm not sure he's as elitist as you're making him out to be. At least I don't get that from this book, which is the only thing by him I've read. But honestly, even if he is, so what? Major societal changes usually require some degree of elite participation. Purely popular uprisings tend not to have lasting effects. To paraphrase Snow Crash yet again, the world is full of waves; getting where you want to go is a matter of riding the right wave.
Well now I feel uncool for only being sort of aware of the Navy Seal copypasta, at least not enough to catch the reference first time round. Here, have this bit of internet humor I am familiar with
Alternating between Democracy In America and Prometheus Bound