Perhaps we will welcome our new AI overlords and perhaps they will treat us kindly. But either way, my current preference is to put many fewer eggs in the “further advances in Computer Stuff will save us” basket and many more eggs in the “we need to directly address public policy problems that relate to macroscopic objects in physical space.”Matthew Yglesias, “I’m skeptical that powerful AI will solve major human problems“
If you find the smell of restaurants’ truffle dishes foul, it does not mean that you do not like truffles; it could indicate that you have good taste and do not like petroleum on your plate. Unlike that intense gas-like smell, the aroma of real truffles is mild and complex.The truffle industry is a big scam. Not just truffle oil, everything by Matt Babich
[T]here is a sensation universal to all humans. It is that feeling you get when you’re standing outside somewhere and look up to see trees blowing in the wind, or stumble across a stream running over rocks. As you listen to that gentle creaking, or that low-tone burbling, what you feel at that moment is the deep satisfaction that comes from witnessing Being, in all its irreducible and incomputable eddies and swirls. Your eyes are satiated. There’s probably a German word for it, and if not, there should be. But whatever that feeling is, modern films are as distant as can be from it. For after partaking in the empty calories of modern cinema, your eyes are still hungry.Eric Hoel, CGI Did In Fact Ruin Movies
“Humans have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible. We are vulnerable, but we don’t want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we’ll be okay.”Ed Hickling in The Washington Post
[O]minous no longer fits what we’re observing in the data, because calamity is no longer imminent; it is here. The bulk of evidence now suggests that one of the worst fears of the pandemic—that hospitals would become overwhelmed, leading to needless deaths—is happening now. Americans are dying of COVID-19 who, had they gotten sick a month earlier, would have lived. This is such a searingly ugly idea that it is worth repeating: Americans are likely dying of COVID-19 now who would have survived had they gotten September’s level of medical care.The U.S. Has Passed the Hospital Breaking Point, The Atlantic
Doubly tragic and utterly infuriating with mass vaccination mere months away.
One of the strangest things about living through a pandemic is the lag in understanding of how bad things are, an awful mirror of the lag in deaths that come like clockwork after a surge in coronavirus cases. All along, this disaster has been simultaneously wholly shared and wholly individualized, a weird dissonance in a collective tragedy that each person, each family, has to navigate with intricate specificity to their circumstances. The despair that has seemed to crest in recent days represents another kind of lag—a lag of realization—and the inevitable end of hopefulness about what life might be like in September.Adrienne LaFrance, the Atlantic
A “second wave” was never a good yardstick, because the “first wave” that struck the greater New York area this spring was a disaster beyond reckoning. Consider that New York City, population 8.4 million, saw more than 22,300 confirmed and probable deaths from COVID-19; one of Europe’s worst outbreaks, in the Lombardy region of Italy, population 10 million, saw about 16,500. In three and a half months, in other words, a new virus killed one in every 400 New Yorkers. Among the elderly, the toll was even worse: One in every eight New Jersey nursing-home residents died this spring.The Atlantic
Cases are rising exponentially in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, where mitigations were patchy and limited. But cases are also rising — albeit more slowly — in California, which had comprehensive and wide-reaching mitigation efforts. So it is hard to draw clear conclusions. One thing is certain: the ongoing lack of a national strategy is a key failure. Viruses do not obey state lines.
Coronavirus in America now looks like this: More than a month has passed since there was a day with fewer than 1,000 deaths from the virus. Almost every day, at least 25,000 new coronavirus cases are identified, meaning that the total in the United States — which has the highest number of known cases in the world with more than a million — is expanding by between 2 and 4 percent daily.Coronavirus in the U.S.: An Unrelenting Crush of Cases and Deaths
Much as the Trump administration squandered the months leading up to the pandemic, it is increasingly obvious that all of the incredibly painful and economically disastrous sacrifices made by millions of Americans to shutter businesses, curtail activities, and stay safe at home has been squandered as well.
While we have temporarily flattened the curve and avoided overwhelming hospitals in most areas, we are likely no better off at the national level than we were two months ago. We have no national testing system or contact-tracing framework, we have not secured adequate supplies of necessary protective equipment, and the various emergency economic measures were too limited, too complex, and too slow to roll out. While the story is different in each state and locality, nothing has fundamentally changed. Cases and deaths continue to rise while Trump and his enables disband tasks forces and push to “reopen” America.
I just don’t understand what their endgame is, and how our society will adapt to the new reality of unending death and suffering.
Women and people of color, of course, were originally outside the protection of [America’s] founding documents. But on Wednesday, the most diverse Congress in history declared that even the most powerful white man in the world should be bound by them. When Republicans act as if that’s a sacrilege, they show us what they worship.Michelle Goldberg, “The Tyranny of the 63 Million”
This new abnormal is a pernicious and dangerous departure from the time when the United States sought a leadership role in designing and supporting global agreements that advanced a safer and healthier planet. The new abnormal describes a moment in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time. The new abnormal risks emboldening autocrats and lulling citizens around the world into a dangerous sense of anomie and political paralysis.It is still 2 minutes to midnight, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
At two degrees, the melting of the Arctic ice sheets will pass a tipping point of collapse, flooding dozens of the world’s major cities this century — and threatening, over many centuries, to elevate sea level as much as 200 feet. At that amount of warming, it is estimated, global GDP, per capita, will be cut by 13 percent. Four hundred million more people will suffer from water scarcity, and even in the northern latitudes heat waves will kill thousands each summer. It will be worse in the planet’s equatorial band. In India, where many cities now numbering in the many millions would become unliveably hot, there would be 32 times as many extreme heat waves, each lasting five times as long and exposing, in total, 93 times more people. This is two degrees — practically speaking, our absolute best-case climate scenario.David Wallace-Wells, “UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That”
I’ve read a dozen articles about this, this one most clearly lays out what it means that the new IPCC report, so dramatic and concerning, is still presenting what is effectively a best case scenario. The reality will be even worse.
In 1787, after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman on the street outside Independence Hall, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” That response has been on my mind a lot lately. The contingency of it. How fragile our experiment in self-government is. And, when viewed against the sweep of human history, how fleeting. Democracy may be our birthright as Americans, but it’s not something we can ever take for granted. Every generation has to fight for it, has to push us closer to that more perfect union. That time has come again.Hillary Clinton
You can fact check and fact check and fact check these claims and it won’t matter that they are false. And the fact that nobody in this administration even bothers to coordinate their cover stories at this point reflects just how pointless it is to fact check them anyhow. It’s an interactive game of choose your own logic, law, facts, and victims, but every single version of this story ends with screaming children in cages, sleeping under foil blankets as strangers change their diapers.Dahlia Lithwick, “How the Trump administration is defending its indefensible child separation policy“
I am in debt, but I am not alone. Debt is a millstone that weighs down more than three-quarters of Americans. It can determine whether we are able to run for office, to launch a business, to quit a job we hate. But it should not—and cannot—be a disqualification for ambition.Stacy Abrams
Stacy Abrams is the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. She is facing controversy following the release of financial disclosures that show she holds $200,000 in unpaid taxes, student loans, and credit card debt.
There is nothing more quintessentially “American capitalism” in flavor than The Cheesecake Factory. Wealth run wild. Chaotic visual fantasies realized with no aesthetic discipline. An obsession with appearance of luxury. Gross excess that excels at feigning its quality. It feels like a relic of another era, one where such a vision was sold to the American public as a utopian concept. It, like the brief period of neoliberalistic prosperity that made it possible, is a fever dream made manifest. Enjoy it while you can.Max Krieger
[T]his week, my advice regarding time would be (in this order):
1. Try to restrict your caloric intake;Tim Carmody, summarizing the latest in longevity research
2. Consider shifting some of your qubits into spin 1/2;
3. Accept that we’re thrown into our circumstances, regardless of how shitty they may be, and greet whatever fate rises to meet you with resolute defiance.
America cannot be “first,” as Trump insists. It can be a thug and a bully only in the betrayal of itself. It must be itself, a certain idea of liberty and democracy and openness, or it is nothing, just a squalid, oversized, greedy place past the zenith of its greatness.Roger Cohen, “If this is America”
In a way, I wonder how much of this sensation was subverted by Infinite Summer. Reading this book should be a terribly lonely experience. It is so sweeping and detailed and consuming. No one outside the novel can possibly understand what you’re talking about. And if you’re reading it twice? Three times? Before the acceleration of the internet, how many similar obsessives was the average reader likely to run into? Most people don’t read this book, and most who do don’t finish. Those who did finish and find themselves trapped were in for a lot of alone time. A lot of time drawing out theories that no one else would understand on piece of paper.Ezra Klein on Infinite Jest
Once this insight is offered, it must be said, everything else begins to fall in order. The recent Super Bowl, for instance. […I]t is exactly what you expect to happen when a teen-ager and his middle-aged father exchange controllers in the EA Sports video-game version: the father stabs and pushes the buttons desperately while the kid makes one play after another, and twenty-five-point leads are erased in minutes, and in just that way — with ridiculous ease on the one side and chicken-with-its-head-cut-off panic infecting the other.Adam Gopnick, “Did the Oscars Just Prove That We Are Living in a Computer Simulation?”
Ultimately, we give up and we leave. That’s how the story ends.Justin Gillis, “Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun”