Newspapers Still Keep Shrinking

The recent massive layoffs at the New York Daily News prompted me to revisit the ongoing massacre at American newspapers and other news media. First, here are a couple of articles to quantify the damage. Bureau of Labor Statistics (1990–2016): newspaper employment shrank from 455,000 to 183,200 and books plus periodicals from 232,200 to 155,100, … Continue reading “Newspapers Still Keep Shrinking”

Artificial and Human Intelligence

Google Alpha Go’s victories over the world’s top-ranked human Go masters made headlines recently, just like IBM Deep Blue’s victories over world chess champion Garry Kasparov twenty years ago. The two programs were based on quite different paradigms: Deep Blue used the brute-force tree search that’s still common in computer games, whereas Alpha Go combined … Continue reading “Artificial and Human Intelligence”

Gehlen’s Moral & Hypermoral

Moral und Hypermoral (1969) is the final work of German philosopher Arnold Gehlen (1904–1976), today somewhat forgotten except among German philosophy students and niche conservatives. I confess that I started reading him myself only recently, obviously far too late. He’s well worth a recommendation, and in this spirit I append a translation of the beginning … Continue reading “Gehlen’s Moral & Hypermoral”

Religion & Life Strategy

The nature and dynamics of world religions by Nicolas Baumard & Coralie Chevallier (2015, also as PDF) examines archaic religions, current world religions, and the ongoing decline of religiosity in rich countries by the light of life history theory, here applied to the varying circumstances of human societies rather than the evolution of different species. … Continue reading “Religion & Life Strategy”

Digital Longevity

Digital storage is extremely compact and offers exact, rapid, and nearly cost-free replication through infinite iterations, whether to another digital storage medium or a playback device for human readers (watchers, listeners). This is obviously quite fantastic and caused a great deal of existing and new content to move to digital storage and onto the Internet. … Continue reading “Digital Longevity”

Robert Ardrey’s Hunting Hypothesis

Robert Ardrey (1908–1980) was not only a noted playwright but also the author of four influential books on evolutionary anthropology. If you’ve never heard of him that’s because he was an outsider of the academic establishment, both as an amateur and as an early critic of the ludicrous Marxist propaganda known as the “blank slate” … Continue reading “Robert Ardrey’s Hunting Hypothesis”

Sarah Perry’s Cooperative Ignorance

Sarah Perry’s monumental essay on Cooperative Ignorance makes a compelling point that when interacting with other human beings (as opposed to indifferent nature), it is often beneficial to be deliberately ignorant or otherwise constrained in one’s options. In this overview I’ve compiled a few highlights; read the whole thing when you can make the time. … Continue reading “Sarah Perry’s Cooperative Ignorance”

Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies

The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press 1988; paperback 1990, 250 pages, ISBN 978-0-521-38673-9) is Joseph A. Tainter’s magnum opus and deservedly considered a classic. Tainter packs an overview of explanations of collapse, analyses of historical cases, and his own overarching theory into one slim book, soberly argued from quantifiable data yet quite readable. … Continue reading “Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies”

Stack Overflow: Quality by Quantity

Programmer Q&A site Stack Overflow has attracted legions of volunteer moderators (including privileged users possessing various editing capacities) with a “gamified” reputation system, but the quality of this moderation is increasingly coming under attack. A thread on Stack Overflow itself asked in April 2014, Why is Stack Overflow so negative of late? I’ve been using … Continue reading “Stack Overflow: Quality by Quantity”

Published Opinion Fractures

Le journalisme est un enfer, un abîme d’iniquités, de mensonges, de trahisons, que l’on ne peut traverser et d’où l’on ne peut sortir pur, que protégé comme Dante par le divin laurier de Virgile.– Honoré de Balzac, Illusions perdues (1843) Not only is journalism hell, it hardly pays anymore either. NiemanLab’s Ken Doctor recently published … Continue reading “Published Opinion Fractures”