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Culture War Roundup for the week of October 9, 2023

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Some anon on 4chan /tv/, talking about the decline in movie quality, wrote "name ONE thing that has not gotten worse in recent years". From the context of movie discussions and the average age of 4channers, one can infer that the anon probably means roughly the last 10, maybe 20 years.

What say you, Motte?

My thoughts, off the top of my head, are:

  1. AI. This one is self evident. Massive breakthroughs. Yes, there is a danger of Skynet, but that doesn't seem very serious to me at the moment at least and I do not share people like Yudkowsky's despair.

  2. Spaceflight. Look at SpaceX.

  3. Challenges to the establishment: This one is a maybe, and contentious. Much depends on whether you like or dislike the establishment. The first 15 years of the millenium were dominated by bog-standard Democrats and neocons. People like GWB, Obama, and Romney. The last 8 years have seen a partial breakdown of that order, for better or worse. There has also been the rise of wokeism, but despite many apocalyptic prophecies it has not managed to end free speech or liberalism. In terms of sheer numbers, I think that many more people are exposed to heterodox political opinions today than they were 20 years ago.

  4. Social media diversity: The Internet of the 90s collapsed into walled gardens and in some places into stultifying echo chambers, but I see reasons to be optimistic about the way things are going last 3-4 years. Spurred partly by censorship on major platforms, people actually have started to spread out and build their own forums again. This site is one example but there are many others.

This is more a "take stock of one's blessings" post than anything else, but other than what everyone else has already covered:

  • Cars have become significantly more powerful and reliable (and Tesla sprang into existence). Yes, they're more expensive (thanks to environmental and safety laws making it illegal to make the cheap ones + market forces arising from interest rates being negative), but even said cheap ones last in a way they really didn't before. Mazda3s don't rust to pieces any more.
  • Single family homes (should you choose to afford one) are quite literally mansions compared to construction 20 years ago, and construction materials used in them are significantly higher-quality (high-density vinyl tiles and engineered wood planks are excellent compared to what came before). These homes have significantly more natural light, as well.
  • Air pollution and environmental destruction in pursuit of energy resources (in the West) is at an all-time low due primarily due to the phase-out of coal mining for natural gas fracking.
  • Pistols, rifles, and optics are way higher quality and far cheaper than they used to be, and are available in much greater variety. Pistols are lighter, smaller, and better; rifle accuracy that cost 5000 dollars in 2003 is taken for granted at the 500 dollar bracket now; and we have reliable red dots on pistols for 200 dollars (and excellent scopes on rifles for 500).
  • Improved plastic body armor is both lighter than ever before and can protects its wearers from being penetrated by nearly all known forms of small-arms fire, up to and including rounds intended to destroy light vehicles, for under 1000 dollars.
  • The popularization and increasing availability of UHMWPE for consumer and industrial products in general as an improvement on other high-strength, low-friction, bio-compatible plastics.
  • Large media companies utterly failed to stamp out piracy and most people have an awareness of how to avoid those ruinous fines that cast a long shadow over the file-sharing environment in the early '00s (not even BitTorrent is needed now; pirate streaming sites operate openly). Independent TV enjoyed a meteoric rise thanks to YouTube, and that TV is better than it ever was over cable.
  • Music is far more available for both exposure and purchase thanks to Spotify, Pandora, etc.
  • All but the absolute cheapest laptops now come standard with 1920 x 1080 screens; touchpads have become much larger and their drivers are better.
  • 3D printers were popularized and hit the 200 dollar price point.
  • IRCv3 (on the free Discord network) gained overwhelming levels of adoption.
  • Gaming for younger demographics (starting with about the '05 model years) improved in quality significantly thanks to the invention of utterly massive voxel-based games with good modding support. Games also came down in price over the last 10 years (not necessarily without problems, mind you, but for people without a lot of money to spend it's the difference between playing with friends and relative isolation).
  • Crowdfunding schemes reached maturity, meaning that certain things (generally games and small physical objects) that wouldn't normally see the light of day now do. Thanks to Etsy, it's far easier for smaller creators to sell things to wider audiences than the classified sites of the early '00s lent themselves to.
  • Board games are better-designed and available in far more variety than ever before (partially but not completely due to the above).
  • Airline hijackings are a non-thing (passengers have been trained to act appropriately) and the time between loss-of-life incidents in aircraft has done nothing but increase.
  • Virtually all restaurants now offer takeaway service that can arrive on a schedule.

I can't speak to other sports, but my impression is that Hockey is more fun to watch. High skilled players like Connor McDavid use speed and slick moves to score highlight reel goals, more players are attempting fancy lacrosse style goals (aka "the michigan"), it feels less grindy, the neutral zone trap/dead puck style is able to be countered, goaltending is either worse or players are better which is resulting in higher score games with greater opportunities for comebacks. The refereeing also feels better? Low bar though.

Sports is kind of a weird one.

I feel like athletic levels are higher, but also that there's more of a metagame in play in most high level sports which makes the teams a bit samey even if the players are, in absolute terms, way better than their predecessors.