a thoughtful web.
Share good ideas and conversation.   Login or Take a Tour!
nil's badges
nil  ·  132 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: October 9th 2019  ·  

I am playing volleyball tonight with some girls and boys. It is going to be a lot of fun. The other team forfeited the match because they're a bunch of flakes. After which I am coming home to drink toilet wine with my cellmates and monitor the climate catastrophe live from NASA. Tally ho!

nil  ·  138 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: "What if most rich assholes are made, not born?"  ·  

    We’re told that those with the most toys are winning, that money represents points on the scoreboard of life. But what if that tired story is just another facet of a scam in which we’re all getting ripped off?

    "If life were a game, money would be how you keep score." - My brother, 2013

    "I believe this universe was created for the purpose of love." - Me, 2013

You can sense how my household might have been a bit of a minefield growing up. My old man would come home from work screaming due to stress. Yet still, I had a rich uncle who we needed to impress. When my rich uncle came over you bet the tablecloths got changed. You bet we had to put on nice shirts. You bet we had to watch our tone and the words we were saying around him.

And why? It drove me fuckin' bonkers son, because they were assholes. They tried to give me $10k for university at one point provided I "write them a letter telling them why I was so grateful to be receiving this money." I wanted to fuck 'em in the neck.

It felt like pure insanity. It felt so endlessly trivial. Why was it that I reacted with disgust as a child about these things yet they felt like life or death issues on the social hierarchy for adults? Why did my parents have such low self-esteem they couldn't blow these people off? I was doing third grade preparation homework over the summer under the tutelage of my rich aunt when my parents disappeared to the cruise ship in 2004.

It was one of many things you experience as a child where you think "this is messed up" yet feel powerless to escape from. Because maybe, that's how adults are supposed to act. Just maybe, there was some logic behind it. Just maybe, I was going to have the same destiny. Just maybe, it's normal to get off on the power you have over teenagers. Who takes themselves this seriously?

So I noped out of that logic when I was very young. I wasn't going to degrade myself because I didn't want to live in Victorian England. I knew money couldn't buy you happiness. I knew there were higher values on this planet. I knew the environment was going to be fucked pretty soon so I mentally viewed poverty as sexy. I knew that despite growing up in intense wealth there were a Iot of dehumanizing things going on around me.

I felt like I was just being dragged along by forces that had been established decades before I was born. I resented the fact that nobody lived in the present. I resented that I was a smart kid yet the other smart kids didn't want anything out of their brief journey into matter except the 2019 Nissan Qashqai with Lane Departure Warning and Pedestrian Detection. I resented that as life got more confusing we sought simple answers. I looked for dreams elsewhere.

I found my peers, and that lateral move took me over the edge. Not the ledge beyond the edge like Keith Richards. I mean genuinely falling face-first towards the rocks before a gust of wind rushed forth from the ocean and delivered me to the world of waking up feeling okay with plenty of self-control.

    the distance created by wealth differentials

Everyone lives in the social hierarchy. Even as kids. I teased a kid in 5th grade about the fact his parents lived in a condo. In most high schools there's always a group of 10-15 people that seem to run everything. That are in the student council. That plan all the events. That nobody likes. I had infinitely more friends, because I talked to everyone. I would have been elected president if the teachers let me. Yet in spite of the fact I was the most popular, people responded as if they were on top. Nobody liked them! And it's not like four years later any of that shit held.

Then if you're me you get to college and all of a sudden everyone is better dressed than you. People have had less varied life experiences than you. It's even more homogeneous. There's a lot less diversity. And this time nobody talks and those student council assholes are still there.

    The social distance separating rich and poor, like so many of the other distances that separate us from each other, only entered human experience after the advent of agriculture and the hierarchical civilizations that followed

We need to have a serious conversation about human nature in this society because I deeply sense that nobody has any clue what it is. It isn't Steven Pinker or Chris Ryan or T. Mack that have their finger on the pulse. It's as confusing as life itself. I don't feel my neighbours' $11 million as a threat to my $10 million on an animal level as I just don't find it appealing. But I think mentally I'm attracted to a different form of glitter. And that's probably a function of some of my life experiences. I haven't even had luck trying to change who I am to be the head ape. I still felt like shit. The challenge is to somehow get other people's animal impulses to a higher level.

Watch out for Chris Ryan. He's kind of a nut. You can't have freedom without responsibility.

And when you don't want to live in the world of black and white? You must select a new society. Social isolation will kill you. You have to find the people with similar goals, dreams, and values. Who aren't playing a game where even winning isn't worth it.

There are rich people who aren't assholes. There are successful people who don't act like their shit doesn't stink. There are winners capable of speaking honestly and truthfully. Who aren't putting on a facade. You can get there without dropping out of society entirely. You don't have to dress up like Victorian England.

That was the edge. Being fake. One should never be fake in pursuit of the spectacle. Absolutely nothing is worse in this reality than fakeness. Philosophers have been talking about it for centuries. We were tripping dick at 16 watching Pulp Fiction and all of a sudden we knew. "they're definitely in a car." They weren't. It's a green screen. That scene was fake.

    If you’re perceived to be wealthier than those around you, you’ll have to say “no” a lot. You’ll be constantly approached with requests, offers, pitches, and pleas—whether you’re in a Starbucks in Silicon Valley or the back streets of Calcutta.

To me, this is the biggest challenge with wealth and empathy. I don't know how one can not isolate themselves if they're constantly approached by people asking for money. Who are doing cold math rather than loving them for who they are.

And to the extent people still desire a certain vision of wealth, people will try to conform to the illusion of that aesthetic. Aesthetic. Aesthetic.

Could it be the difference is merely aesthetic? I find the business school ugly. Gold plates and glass and weird looking bricks. A kind of fascist attitude. An inability to laugh at yourself. It's such an expensive building yet to me it looks tacky. Like the Trump Tower. In South Korea you're cooler the whiter your skin is. That ain't money, that's aesthetic. That's the look of power. That's dehumanizing yourself. That's degrading yourself. Because you haven't mentally figured out where real self-esteem comes from. You're chasing an image rather than the thing itself.

That's the Society of the Spectacle. That's where our illness resides. I don't chase the spectacle.

I chase colour. I chase weirdness. I chase complexity. I chase the world that will never make sense. And to me that's where you find real fulfillment. And once you do that you'll finally feel okay about yourself whether you're rich or poor. The opinions of the people at the grocery store won't matter. And everyone else will love you more.

edit: awkward language

nil  ·  183 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Ergodicity - Bringing altruism and collaboration into economic theory  ·  

Alright Hubski, it's go time. It's 9:04PM here in the Western province, ya boi nil is about to go off on the economic theories once again. I need a joint.

    Any threat to these ideas could also be an implicit threat to that power – and to the people who possess it. Their response might be brutal.

This is presuming you put much stock in economic theory to begin with. AFAIK only very right wing think tanks attempt to use economics primarily to make policy arguments. Occasionally left-wing ones do too, but that's more nitpicking unrelated "studies" about the effects of raising the minimum wage and happiness research, not "is this fair in a world of utility-maximizing agents," and "social hierarchy is natural" or "we need the Leviathan." Correlating a variety of economic variables to conclude, yes, mass incarceration sucks ass. That paragraph at the beginning of the article about a famous economist being murdered was a trip. A physicist or politician being murdered makes better sci-fi, I think.

    But there is one odd feature in this framework of expectations – it essentially eliminates time. Yet anyone who faces risky situations over time needs to handle those risks well, on average, over time, with one thing happening after the next.

I thought this article was going to primarily be a work of behavioural economics, i.e. how to use psychological studies to predict how people make decisions and try to explain how altruism and collaboration fits into the idea of "utility-maximization" in the present moment. Instead, it's an article about how economics presumes selfishness because it doesn't explain how people make choices over time, and with uncertainty. This should sound ridiculous to anyone who has taken an economics or finance course.

    Many see no alternatives. But that’s a mistake. This inspired LML efforts to rewrite the foundations of economic theory, avoiding the lure of averaging over possible outcomes, and instead averaging over outcomes in time, with one thing happening after another, as in the real world.

The idea of imagining possible futures over time is nothing new even in old-fashioned economic theory. Students of economics should realize by second or third year that pretty soon they're going to have to integrate the expected utility function of microeconomics into a more macro framework in an attempt to synthesize broader economy-wide outcomes. That's what Modern Macroeconomics by Chugh is about. You do utility-maximizing problems over time with a time-discounting factor. Now, you have to do a little more to integrate possible uncertainties into the mix, maybe some econometrics, but you're essentially evaluating utility over time with a basket of goods. You even consider how entire households function in this way. It blows my mind how this person thinks this is a "recent development."

    Many people – including most economists – naively believe that these two ways of thinking should give identical results, but they don’t. The upshot is that a subtle and mostly forgotten centuries-old choice in mathematical thinking has sent economics hurtling down a strange path.

I don't see how they could. If "most economists" are making this basic mathematical error, you really need to start questioning the efficacy of education in this country. These people actually ploughed through economics grad school. Even financial wonks know how to graph shit over time. Welcome to Investments, the textbook. Black-Scholes model? Time-weighted return? There's like 10 different ways to measure "return on investment." And bruh, the standard deviation is NOT a forgotten centuries-old choice in mathematical thinking. Nor is running a linear regression in Gretl or R. How is this author a physicist?

And then, there's game theory. One of the primary things you learn in game theory is that yes, the rational choice is usually to cheat but that can be avoided if either you create an external influence such as a "law" or, you set up the game to last so many rounds over time that you want to cooperate in the present to prevent more negative outcomes in the future. Here's some Yale lectures about that. (yes, I realize this specific game benefits selfishness but there's a whole section on cooperation vs. conflict).

So all you really need to do after that point is set up the game with a) imperfect information b) try to use psychology and c) time-discount future rewards and you have this concept. It's nothing brand-spanking new. It's an attempt to increase the complexity of the dismal science to make it more palatable to the average person who can clearly sense the excessive reductionism that micro 101 is in the first place. And even with all those elaborate attempts to get closer and closer to reality, it never will be reality, because the most complex thing you will EVER experience is this. exact. moment., in your animal body, and your fucking eyeballs, looking at this computer screen, or your smartphone, or your toaster running OpenBSD because you think the government is reading your thoughts and no mathematical equation or psychological study will ever be able to fully encapsulate that.

See you next Tuesday.

nil  ·  189 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Sausalito, CA school district “knowingly and intentionally” maintained racial segregation  ·  

Okay, so this is going to be a long one. And the only reason I'm still awake at this hour is because I closed the shop.

During my second year of university I had space for a few electives. My major was declared as economics for one reason: grades. The first year was political science, but as I'm sure you're all aware first year is just general anyway. And it's easier to get 90+ in classes where there's a right answer than classes where there isn't. Not saying my essays sucked, but they never handed out 90's. I was trying get into business school, which was a second entry program after two years and in order to do that I had to beef up my application as hard as possible. And they weren't making it easy. In addition to the high grades, you needed "leadership experience" in extracurricular activities. So I was scheming in-between my full-time course load, student clubs, and trying to get a promotion at my part-time job to find organizations and things I could do to make myself palatable.

And I did a lot of this shit. I was in Nicaragua too, for some reason, before the crackdown. I took a class, international politics, during which the professor told us that the school was offering an experiential learning "research" course to go to Rwanda and it would be entirely paid for by the school. Grant money. I figured, why not? It's going to be in the summer, I'll get to work on a research project, do an essay about the post-genocide reconstruction in the region, and hopefully get experience if I ever decided to transition into some type of career in global development.

Yep, you're right. I had to pay for it. $1500 out the ass.

The class was structured in such a way that we met bi-weekly before the departure date of the actual trip. We spent a lot of time analyzing the history and politics of Rwanda, past and present. Essentially the division between Hutus and Tutsis was largely created by colonization, they weren't so much tribes as they were "social classes" prior to colonization. It was more an identifier of how much stuff you had. You could move between classes if you acquired wealth or property. Post-Belgian colonization however, it was a different story.

One of the main topics we discussed was the gacaca court system that was established following the genocide. It was an ad-hoc judicial system created because it was physically impossible to train that many lawyers and try that many people after the destruction of the country. A large part of what we debated was the effectiveness of the gacaca system and whether the potential for error was worth it in that political climate.

One of the biggest challenges in post-genocide reconstruction is the fact that Rwanda is a centralized state under control of Paul Kagame and his party. There were efforts made to decentralize the government after 2001 but still, Rwanda is essentially a capitalist state under semi-totalitarian control. It's one of the fastest growing economies in the region. It's a safe country, like unreasonably so. And I think most people would say that's a miracle given what happened. There was an opposition party, not "hutu power", but a green party trying to implement a more fair democracy and their leader was murdered. On a local and council level (the topic of my research) social structures are still very totalitarian and you can get in a lot of trouble by stepping out of line. It is very difficult to study people's attitudes in Rwanda for two reasons, 1) people will typically lie or embellish the truth to foreigners and 2) society is very regimented. It doesn't have to be the threat of jail, being "that guy" in your village and local council means you're basically screwed in terms of employment, and survival. And so resistance comes passively, refusing to participate in government-ordained meetings, irreverent compliance, being mute, whatever you can do.

So segregation is illegal in Rwanda. It is not socially acceptable to identify yourself as Hutu or Tutsi. Those distinctions have been removed from all identity documents. You're not allowed to talk about it. A famous story in Rwanda happened about 15 years ago when Hutu militants stormed into Rwanda from the DR Congo and held children hostage in a classroom. When they attempted to divide the children by Hutu and Tutsi, they replied saying "We are neither. We are one Rwandans."

There were some cool people in the class, but we know what the stress of travelling can do to people, especially when you're doing it with complete strangers. I didn't realize how south this was going to go before it was too late.

First day, there was a layover in Amsterdam. Buddy is already hammered in the airport bar. His friend turns to me and says "bro, are you fucking sittin' on that?", referring to a beer. The trip had barely begun and I had to come to the realization that yes, in fact I had been sitting on it. I didn't realize it then, but this was going to be a lot harder than I had originally anticipated.

These people, there were about two or three, were basically drunk the entire trip. There was a lot of infighting. Their God was Doug Ford, and his girlfriend. I basically only talked to like 3 people who were sort of being excluded by the rest of the group. And I didn't necessarily hit it off well with them either, it's just the alternative was an uncomfortable silence. There were a lot of right-wing arguments and anti-Palestine rhetoric was flowing through the buses and hotel rooms. The one drunk dude had ambitions in law enforcement, I think.

The next two weeks were spent travelling across the entire country, following a strict itinerary, meeting with organizations, going to an epic soccer game, meeting genocide survivors (one person I recall fled into the DR Congo when he was a child and returned years later to found a successful tech company). We also painted a house for some lady. We met gacaca court judges. During this process I had to keep everything logged on my blog which I hosted on my website. I'll try to dig it up if I can to maybe expand on this post.

We also went to a lot of genocide memorials, and places Roméo Dallaire was at. The thing about genocide memorials in Rwanda is it's not like visiting Auschwitz. Human skulls, bones, fragments of clothing are all out there in the open. No, not behind a glass case. I mean you're inches away from hundreds of hundreds of dead people with no barrier. It's pretty terrifying. Or seeing open graves that you knew hundreds of people had been thrown into. Not even the Church, which was off-limits in their culture was a safe space from the genocidaires. They weren't afraid of God.

The extent of the human tragedy in Rwanda is beyond comprehension until you've been there. I've met killers, and the families of people they've killed. And they forgave them. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of individuals convicted of murder during the genocide went out to ask for forgiveness from the families of the people whose lives they cut short. And they often got that forgiveness. It was incredible. It was the human spirit.

By the end of this, basically nobody was talking to each other. The professor was pissed at the TA, the TA's friends were pissed at everyone else who was pissed at them. People were deleting each other on Facebook. Blasting "Big Hard Sun" by Eddie Vedder wasn't helping. People were crying. The whole thing was a disaster. The experience was life-changing but it taught me never to travel with strangers ever again. I wasn't allowed to find out why people were upset, I was the outsider.

But the Rwandan lawyers I met were cool. They followed me on Instagram and thanked me for avoiding alcohol and replacing it with Lacroix. I drank on top of the hill in Kigali in a fancy restaurant, in the nicest bar in the entire land overlooking the convention centre (google it) while that guy stole a beer from the restaurant and drank it on the bus ride home. We got on the plane and went back. Back to our world.

nil  ·  215 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Labor Econ Versus the World  ·  

Libertarians: The Magna Carta went TOO FAR.