Why the Future of Virtual Reality Might Not Be “People First”


Imagine being able to sit down on your couch and go anywhere you want. You could go to Paris and walk beneath the Eiffel Tower. You could go to the bottom of the ocean and touch all the strange, wonderful creatures that live there. You could go to Mars and explore its sandy dunes alongside the Curiosity Rover. In this scenario, you can see, do, and be anything you want. All you have to do is put on a headset.

That’s the future of virtual reality, according to Ernest Cline’s cult classic science fiction book Ready Player One. It’s also the future that Mark Zuckerberg is trying to create.

Big Think

The Muddled Mystique of Karl Polanyi


The first problem is that Polanyi sides with extreme, free-market economists who argue that the market is ‘self- adjusting’ or ‘self-regulating’ and always works best when there is no state interference (see claim 2 above).

By contrast, there is a long tradition in (both mainstream and non-mainstream) economics that has shown why markets are not self-regulating and intervention is required. Consider the writings of a multitude of writers including Arthur Pigou, John Maynard Keynes, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. Their reasons include externalities, information problems, transaction costs, insufficient effective demand, and so on. Consequently, markets require some regulation or other intervention to work well.

The second problem is that Polanyi (like many mainstream economists) pays insufficient attention to the fact that markets require institutions such as property, contract law, a legal system of enforcement, regulation of standards and so on. Consequently, as I argue at length in my book Conceptualizing Capitalism, a modern market economy requires a state, to constitute as well as maintain a modern market system.

The third problem is that Polanyi is inconsistent. The fifth observation in the preceding section – making the important point that ‘laissez-faire itself was enforced by the state’ and required regulators ‘constantly on the watch’ to make it work – undermines the second claim that the market is ‘self-adjusting’ or ‘self-regulating’.

The fifth observation is valid and important in my view, but can be strengthened by an appreciation that the state and other institutions are required to constitute, and not simply to regulate, a modern market economy.

New Politics

The Culture Wars and Evangelical “Evangelism”


Christian activists on both sides are complicit in the demonization of the enemy. According to Hunter, they have “embraced a means to power that seethes with resentment, anger, and bitterness for the injury they believe they have suffered.” Hunter calls this posture “ressentiment,” and it fits the narrative of a declining Christian America. But in resorting to ressentiment, Christians undermine the message of the very gospel they desire to advance. In fact, Hunter says that many evangelical political activists are “functional Nietzscheans.” Both liberal and conservative Christians have become “instrumentalized on behalf of different party structures, jockeying for power.” They seem more animated by the deadly sins than the fruits of the spirit.

Beyond the effects on evangelicals’ souls, it has devastating effects on their Christian witness. In their study of contemporary religion, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam and Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell write that the extraordinary rise of people who affiliate with no religion is due in part to their rejection of its entanglement with politics. Today 20 percent of the population says they have no faith. Putnam and Campbell write, “A growing number of Americans, especially young people, have come to disavow religion. For many, their aversion to religion is rooted in unease with the association between religion and conservative politics. If religion equals Republican, then they have decided that religion is not for them.”

The Culture Wars and Evangelical “Evangelism”

David Sloan Wilson’s Statement: The Neo-Darwinian Revolution Is Far from Complete


Every major discipline such as ethology, ecology, paleontology, systematics, development, genetics, population genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology has a separate history that is contemporaneous with the theory of evolution. Model species such as Drosophila were chosen during the early twentieth century because they were easy to culture in the laboratory or because their chromosomes were easy to stain and observe under the microscope. The most pressing questions were often mechanistic in nature, pushing Tinbergen’s other three questions into the background. Who needs to know the nuances of the ecology of Drosophila when you’re trying to work out the basic mechanisms of recombination, the transcription of genes into proteins, and the like?

As mechanistic knowledge increases, then the need to bring in the other questions becomes increasingly important, but integration can require decades and is impeded by a variety of intellectual and sociological factors. If I were to nominate the single most important priority for the biological sciences, it would be to get everyone on the same page with respect to Tinbergen’s four questions.

The Best Schools

Thoughts on the processing of words


The advent of “word processing” — what an odd phrase — electronic writing, writing on a computer, whatever you call it, meant a sudden and complete end to these endless deliberations and tests of your fine motor skills. You could change anything! anywhere! right up to the point of printing the thing out — and if you had the financial wherewithal or institutional permissions that allowed you to ignore the cost of paper and ink, you could even print out a document, edit it, and then print it out again. A brave new world indeed. Thus, as the novelist Anne Rice once commented, when you’re using a word processor “There’s really no excuse for not writing the perfect book.”

But there’s the rub, isn’t there? For some few writers the advent of word processing was a pure blessing: Stanley Elkin, for instance, whose multiple sclerosis made it impossible for him to hold a pen properly or press a typewriter’s keys with sufficient force, said that the arrival of his first word-processing machine was “the most important day of my literary life.” But for most professional writers — and let’s remember that Track Changes is a literary history of word processing, not meant to cover the full range of its cultural significance — the blessing was mixed. As Rice says, now that endless revision is available to you, as a writer you have no excuse for failing to produce “the perfect book” — or rather, no excuse save the limitations of your own talent.

Text Patterns

Have You Played… SimCity?


Consequently, SimCity is a brilliant antfarm. I always like watching my little people drive and walk around, and SimCity lets me do that in a beautiful, 3D, tilt-shifted world, where you can also watch the water and poop flow and visualise the data of your city with umpteen other overlays. It’s a terrible shame the little people don’t walk to their own house every day, choosing instead the closest vacant property to sleep in, but it still looks amazing when you zoom out and watch everything buzzing away beneath you.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun

It Ain’t Over


Trump came to political prominence by promoting the Birther movement, the idea Obama was not born in the US, and hence his presidency was not legitimate.

What is coming is worse. It is not accepting legitimacy of our nation and its core institutions.

Trumps campaign has already transgressed so many social norms and unwritten rules — the very things that hold a country together.

Chris Arnade

Dangerous idiots: how the liberal media elite failed working-class Americans


I’m hard-pressed to think of a worse slight than the media figures who have disregarded the embattled white working class for decades now beseeching the country to have sympathy for them. We don’t need their analysis, and we sure don’t need their tears. What we need is to have our stories told, preferably by someone who can walk into a factory without his own guilt fogging his glasses.

The Guardian