No. 1 Rule: Keep Your Shit to Yourself

“A day before I sent Malcolm the email saying I wanted to break up, I came across a term online: solo polyamory. It described a person who is romantically involved with many people but is not seeking a committed relationship with anyone. What makes this different from casual dating is that they’re not looking for a partner, and the relationship isn’t expected to escalate to long-term commitments, like marriage or children. More important, the relationship isn’t seen as wasted time or lacking significance because it doesn’t lead to those things.”

-Haili Blassingame, “My Choice Isn’t Marriage or Loneliness.” The New York Times. April 2, 2021.

It starts with an email that reads like a PR piece for an event. It has talking points. She’s trying to sell it.

This piece seems to be generating a lot of discussion on Twitter, to the point I’m hearing about it, and I don’t use Twitter. And, sure, it’s sophomoric and stupid. You don’t break up with people you are in relationships with over email. She’s adopted the passive voice of the corporation to try to spare herself, and perhaps this man, some pain.

The effort is inept, but I think the heart of it is kind. They graduated from college, and they lived on opposite coasts. This man was her first boyfriend. They’ve been together for five years. While there are a few exceptions to how this plays out, the normal course is a breakup, typically within a year. This is obvious to anyone with any life experience.

Another thing that becomes obvious to everyone over time is that relationships are defined by limits. She says:

“My entire girlhood had been consumed by fantasies that were force-fed to me. Love and relationships were presented as binary, and in this binary, the woman must get married or be lonely (or, in classic novels, die). The path to freedom and happiness was narrower still for Black women. Even in our extremely loving relationship, I had felt confined.

ibid.

To be in a relationship is to be confined. But, it is through constraints that we open up other kinds of freedom. Infinite options are just another kind of confinement. At some point, you choose or time chooses for you. Even in polyamorous relationships, there are limits. In fact, I’d wager that there are more limits in polyamorous relationships simply by virtue of the fact that there are more people involved, even if those limits may not apply all the time. But, there are limits because relationships imply limits.

It’s easy to crack on the naiveté of the author of this article. But, there’s an important lesson to be learned. When you learn something new about yourself – your needs, your wants, your desires, your thoughts about who you are – keep it to yourself and the people that care about you, at least for a few years. Integrating insights is hard work, and it takes time, particularly when they are part of the process of identity formation and how we define ourselves.

In general, it’s a good idea to work with the garage door up, to share your thoughts and processes in how you think about the world and how you do whatever it is that you do. But, your feelings, your sense of identity and your issues, and we all have issues, are not where you do it.

When you close the door to go to the bathroom, everyone knows what you are doing in there. There’s no need to throw open the door and put yourself on display. It isn’t doing anyone any favors, least of all yourself.

So, close the door. Keep that shit to yourself. Work it out. Flush when you’re done, and as a courtesy, light a candle or a match on the way out, so the person behind you can focus on their business and not yours.

Life is a Series of Empty Tombs

On Easter Sunday, several years ago now, the Pastor of the Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago was giving his last homily before he moved on to a new assignment, after years spent at the cathedral. It was a beautiful sermon. I can not hope to replicate it, but I can give you the gist:

Each of us, throughout our lives, go through stages, or chapters, and when the chapter ends, our old lives end. We die, enter a tomb of transition, and a short time later, like Christ on Easter, we must roll back the stone and emerge into a new life. For life is a constant series of dying and being reborn, from the chapters of experience and development, and even from one moment to the next. The old us is dead and we are being called to a new, different life. And, like a string of pearls, the tombs leave a record of who we were and our transformation.

I never did cotton to the idea of Jesus as a scapegoat for all of our sins and “saving us”. I always thought that the living Jesus and his message of peace was the core Christian message. But, this framing of the resurrection story made a kooky fairy tale into profound wisdom, something to be considered on every Easter and other days too.

Am I open to new life? Am I stuck in a tomb? Should I die, hopeful, to once again be reborn? Perhaps the message of Easter isn’t about Jesus and the Romans and events that happened thousands of years ago. Perhaps the message of Easter is about facing our own suffering and hopefully be resurrected, right here in this life.

Zuihitsu: 2021-03

Collecting these little ideas has become a major focus. Here’s this month’s installment.

  1. You can’t be what you can’t imagine, and imagination is often limited by our sight, or vision.
  2. He who cannot howl will not find his pack.—Charles Simic
  3. Most deliberate misinformation from authorities—especially in places that are mid-range in terms of institutional trust and strict licensing—comes from omission, not saying the truth, rather than outright lying.
  4. You take people as far as they will go, not as far as you would like them to go.”—Jeannette Rankin
  5. People are broken, technologies are broken, cosmologies are broken, gods are broken — everything is broken.
  6. The internet, like bureaucracies, homogenizes.
  7. A weak heart breaks more easily.
  8. Reality is a very subjective affair.—Vladimir Nabokov
  9. Asking for help is a great way of getting help. If you are unsure about how to help, start with little things.
  10. Thinking is not experiencing.
  11. Meditation is not about turning a human being into a stone. It is about turning a stone into a human being.
  12. Our emotions are not a problem. Our denial and misperception of them is what makes them look like problems.
  13. Secrets are things you (or others) don’t know. Mysteries are things nobody knows.
  14. We haven’t come anywhere close to scraping the bottom of the barrel yet.
  15. It is easier to meditate than be good.
  16. The better you know someone, in other words, the higher the stakes of your relationship, the harder it is to reveal the deepest and strangest things about yourself.
  17. It’s a large world, we’re never as solitary as we think, as unique or unprecedented, what we feel has always already been felt, again and again, without beginning or end.—Garth Greenwell
  18. I don’t know where we are going, but I know exactly how to get there.
  19. Science is being; philosophy is meaning.
  20. The difference between magical realism and science fiction might be whether you went to college and what you majored in.
  21. Life is a near-death experience.—George Carlin
  22. The heart of discrimination (against people) is dehumanization. The heart of discrimination (against ideas) is reality testing.
  23. Privilege is synonymous with apathy.
  24. Never make important decisions when you’re tired, emotional, distracted, or in a rush.
  25. Never let anyone define the problem for you.
  26. Seek out information from someone as close to the source as possible, because they’ve earned their knowledge and have an understanding that you don’t.
  27. Be less busy. Keep a learning journal. Reflect every day.
  28. Act as you would want an employee to act if you owned the company.
  29. Intimacy at scale is an oxymoron.
  30. Be faithfully present. Don’t ask for a lot; don’t demand attention; but be comfortingly, reassuringly there.
  31. Bureaucracies by their nature seek to standardize which fosters homogeneity.
  32. People are magicians and can self-hypnotize themselves into any delusion.
  33. “What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?”―Ursula K. LeGuin
  34. Find ways to say yes to people that matter to you and no to those that don’t.
  35. Most systems get worse as they scale.
  36. How do you avoid emergent sclerosis in the mental models we build?
  37. We often forget that what we know of the world is entirely dependent on our view, our vision of the world, which is possible to evolve and transform into inspiring aliveness, or to stagnate and atrophy into sinkholes of cynicism.—Alex Grey
  38. autonomy, when you can decide both rules and exceptions.
  39. Price isn’t everything.
  40. To speak truth is to create falsehood.
  41. Our present era of decimated attention demands contraction and diminishment.
  42. Underneath your tattoos you’re still a mainstream cunt.
  43. This person was a deluge of words and a drizzle of thought.
  44. Be confident enough in your vision to commit to it.
  45. Pretending to be above and beyond politics is by itself a political position; in adopting it, one has aligned with the state and sided with the powerful.
  46. What is invisible might as well be dark.
  47. One can journey to the end of Earth and the edge of time, but never leave the narrow corridors of prejudice.
  48. When in doubt, nuke the whole thing and start over.
  49. America is a terrible place to be stupid.
  50. “Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others.”—Pablo Picasso
  51. Make more and better with less.
  52. Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform, and reuse.
  53. Trivialise what you do, or lower the stakes.
  54. Two out of three: 1) KNOWLEDGE: Will I learn something? 2) FUN: Is it fun? 3) MONEY: Is it financially worthwhile?
  55. Conflict provides information.
  56. When you have power, you don’t have to talk about what you can do. You do it.
  57. Who, or what, is laying eggs in your brain?
  58. Suffering less? Then, you’ll focus more on what remains.
  59. Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an email.
  60. Most people overestimate what they can do in one year, and underestimate what they can do in ten years.
  61. Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them.
  62. We all underestimate our ability to massively change our life when it’s gone off track. Do things differently. Do what scares you.
  63. There’s a benefit to being naïve to the norms of the world — deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do.
  64. To say something means it’ll be misheard, misunderstood or misrepresented to others.
  65. Don’t drink poison in the hope the other guy gets sick.
  66. Few great performances happen without great audiences.
  67. Know how to win or know how to stop.

Our Cults Become Our Culture

“A false theory of culture is worse than a false theory of the heavens. The planets stick to their orbits no matter what we think, but culture becomes what we believe it is. Conditioned by the prophets of data and nostalgia to imagine no further than the evidence of the past, we forget that people are self-aware and their actions shaped by a self-aware culture. Our explanations are not independent of our behavior but constitutive of it. As such, our cults of thinking become our culture.”

—Greg Jackson, “Sources of Life.” The Point. March 24, 2021.

This essay is so good, and this quote is probably not the best excerpt. Worth reading in its entirety.

Destruction & Creation

“There are two ways in which we can develop and manipulate mental concepts to represent observed reality: we can start from a comprehensive whole and break it down to its particulars or we can start with the particulars and build towards a comprehensive whole.[28,24] Saying it another way, but in a related sense, we can go from the general-to-specific or from the specific-to-general. A little reflection here reveals that deduction is related to proceeding from the general-to-specific while induction is related to proceeding from the specific-to-general. In following this line of thought, can we think of other activities that are related to these two opposing ideas? Is not analysis related to proceeding from the general-to-specific? Is not synthesis, the opposite of analysis, related to proceeding from the specific-to-general? Putting all this together: Can we not say that general-to-specific is related to both deduction and analysis, while specific-to-general is related to induction and synthesis?

John Richard Boyd, “Destruction and Creation.” US Army Command and General Staff College. September 3, 1976.
.

See also: OODA Loop.

How the Dalai Lama Spends His Day

  • 0300: Wake
  • 0300-0330: Shower & Hygiene
  • 0330-0500: Prayers, meditations and prostrations
  • 0500-0530: Walk
  • 0530-0600: Breakfast of hot porridge, barley powder, bread with preserves and tea and listens to BBC World News
  • 0600-0900: Meditation and prayers
  • 0930-1130: Reading Buddhist texts
  • 1130-1230: Lunch, vegetarian at home and whatever is served while away
  • 1230-1530: Work, audiences and interviews
  • 1530-1700: Talk with audience
  • 1700-1730: Tea
  • 1730-1900: Prayers and meditation
  • 1900: Sleep

“When His Holiness is at home in Dharamsala, he wakes up at 3 am. After his morning shower, His Holiness begins the day with prayers, meditations and prostrations until 5 am. From 5 am His Holiness takes a short morning walk around the residential premises. If it is raining outside, His Holiness has a treadmill to use for his walk. Breakfast is served at 5.30 am. For breakfast, His Holiness typically has hot porridge, tsampa (barley powder), bread with preserves, and tea. Regularly during breakfast, His Holiness tunes his radio to the BBC World News in English. From 6 am to 9 am His Holiness continues his morning meditation and prayers.

From around 9 am he usually spends time studying various Buddhist texts and commentaries written by great Buddhist masters. Lunch is served from 11.30 am. His Holiness’s kitchen in Dharamsala is vegetarian. However, during visits outside of Dharamsala, His Holiness is not necessarily vegetarian. Following strict vinaya rules, His Holiness does not have dinner. Should there be a need to discuss some work with his staff or hold some audiences and interviews, His Holiness will visit his office from 12.30 pm until around 3.30 pm. Typically, during an afternoon at the office one interview is scheduled along with several audiences, both Tibetan and non-Tibetan. Upon his return to his residence, His Holiness has his evening tea at around 5 pm. This is followed by his evening prayers and meditation. His Holiness retires in the evening by around 7 pm.

Routine Day.” DalaiLama.com.

If we assume prayers and prostrations are an hour, looks like the Dalai Lama is meditating about five hours a day and he sleeps for eight.

Zuihitsu: 2021-02

Collecting these little ideas has become a major focus. Here’s this month’s installment.

  1. Art allows us to see through the eyes of others.
  2. If you can’t be X all day, try being X for the next second, minute or hour.
  3. Understanding and believing are not the same thing.—Gertrude Stein
  4. Failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.”—Hank Aaron
  5. Figure out a way to take care of yourself, legal. Find somebody you can stand that can stand you. Pay your taxes. Take care of your teeth.—Duke Bootee
  6. What you think is boring now may become interesting in the future.
  7. Commit to something for life. It doesn’t matter what it is.
  8. Better felt than told.
  9. “If you absolutely can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new or interesting.”—Jeff Bezos
  10. Think about the structure of choice, the Overton window of action.
  11. Carefully discern the cost and the calling.
  12. Average speed wins races.
  13. A good relationship means fighting fairly, strengthening yourself, then strengthening your relationship. Rinse, repeat. 
  14. A focus on the human, the person in front of you this moment — and if alone that person is you — is always what is needed.
  15. Listen to the stories of others at the edges.
  16. We need to pick the futures we want and advocate for them loudly and repeatedly, cf. Madeline Ashby.
  17. Reject the predetermined future.
  18. Can it be beautiful? Is it already but our eye isn’t trained to see it?
  19. Too many experts in the comment section? Or not any?
  20. True originality is rare.
  21. Every great truth has an opposite truth.
  22. Life is a beautiful dare.
  23. As soon as you start to go for ‘volume’ of chips in your mouth, instead of taste. Put away the bag.
  24. Talk, loudly and frequently and in detail, about the future you want. You can’t manifest what you don’t share.—Madeline Ashby
  25. Remember to imagine and craft the worlds you cannot live without, just as you dismantle the ones you cannot live within.—Ruha Benjamin
  26. Progress isn’t complete until it is experienced by everyone.
  27. Be careful of words repurposed by their adversaries.
  28. Don’t build what you cannot maintain.
  29. Design for repair.
  30. Hope for the future is a reasonable and necessary prerequisite for action.—Emma Marris
  31. Look for a track record of improvement.
  32. Without community, there is no liberation.—Audre Lorde
  33. Do not do anything you do not fucking want to do.
  34. Let go of the desire to be right.
  35. The place in which you’ll fit will not exist until you make it.
  36. The problem with algos is they censor the tedious and routine.
  37. Every generation revolts against it fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.—Lewis Mumford
  38. Individuality in the United States is often toxic, creating barriers to deep connection and intimacy.
  39. Family can be built from shared experience and values.
  40. Accountability is a practice of the self, not of community.
  41. Reach for grace and weave it through your life and those around you; a person is a person through others.
  42. A dream is an imagined reality.
  43. Not queer like gay, queerlike escaping definition. Queer like some kind of fluidity and limitlessness all at once. Queer like freedom too strange to be conquered. Queer like the fearlessness to imagine what love could look like, and to pursue it.—Brandon Wint
  44. We cannot fully know ourselves without other people.
  45. The power of the Government to spin, delay, hide and smudge is almost limitless.
  46. Synthesize charted territory.
  47. “Don’t forget to tell your favorite people that you love them.”—Shirley Temple
  48. Grace favors the well-trained mind.
  49. Doing hallucinations is like trying to fix a Swiss watch with a sledgehammer.
  50. Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.’—Erich Fromm
  51. Fret not after knowledge for I have none.
  52. Do you have any allegiances greater than knowledge and intelligence?
  53. Truth guarantees bad things will happen.
  54. Power plays a role in determining who gets to be an absolutist and who doesn’t. 
  55. True persuasion is difficult, rare, and incremental.
  56. Not everything needs to be permanently documented.
  57. Working capital murders excuses.
  58. At what scale do you want to operate?
  59. Better not to begin. Once begun, better to finish.
  60. Blame is a way to discharge anger.
  61. Do no harm.
  62. Keep your shit together.
  63. If all options are bad, look for more options.
  64. Follow instructions, and play well with others.
  65. You can’t let one bad moment spoil a bunch of good ones.”-Dale Earnhardt
  66. Don’t lead with the facts. Establish rapport. Ask questions. Listen to the answers.
  67. Instead of trying to enlighten someone else, start with your own blind spots.
  68. “I don’t expect you to understand anything I’m telling you. But I know you will remember this — that nothing good ever ends.”—William Saroyan
  69. Do it. Then, do it again. Then, do it again, ad infinitum.
  70. A teacher is never impressed by what we don’t know and is rarely impressed by what they don’t know.
  71. People care about how you treat them, how well you listen to them, the regard you give to their point of view, and if you are a good friend.
  72. Concentration and analysis aren’t the same thing.
  73. People are very open to suggestion, aka scripting.
  74. Wait 5 minutes. If hard, wait 500 days. Some things are so hard they require a lifetime, a generation, or an eon.
  75. Much can be learned by falling down and getting back up.
  76. The best way to predict your future is to create it.—Peter Drucker
  77. After every key decision or action, we should write down what we expect will happen. And some months later, compare the actual results with our expectations. 
  78. Find where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it.
  79. If you have the emotional fortitude to last three years, you’ll succeed.
  80. For many, imitation is just as good as real.
  81. “Nothing we do is better than the work of handmind. When mind uses itself without the hands it runs the circle and may go too fast; even speech using the voice only may go too fast. The hand that shapes the mind into clay or written word slows thought to the gait of things and lets it be subject to accident and time.”—Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home
  82. “Do as little as needed, not as much as possible.”—Henk Kraaijenhof
  83. People that are happy over a long time scale have optimism, perseverance, a focus on relationships, and an appetite for risk. The last is key, it’s hard to develop deep held confidence that you’ll be okay in all circumstances if your appetite for risk isn’t high enough.—Ruth Grace Wong
  84. Noise might be signal we haven’t learned to process.
  85. There are different kinds of random.
  86. Interpretation is what matters.
  87. Grab your little joys and squeeze until you’ve throttled them between white-knuckled fingers.
  88. Ideas and the work are the easy problem. People are always the hard problem.
  89. Being right usually means someone else is wrong. People that are wrong usually either still think they are right. When they can acknowledge being wrong, they will generally dislike those that were right and think they suck, are arrogant, etc. Yin/Yang.
  90. Story’s are defined by therefore and but, not and then.
  91. Any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.
  92. The task is not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.―Erwin Schrödinger
  93. To be publicly and widely mocked suggests that you may be doing something right.At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.—Somerset Maugham

Judgmental About Your Drink Order

“The secret truth of the martini is that ordering it up is for dorks. Order that shit on the rocks and have your goddamn drink without having to balance it on a pancake. I’m sure there are people who think they look more sophisticated drinking martini glass drinks, but they’re wrong. Almost spilling your drink at all times isn’t sophisticated by any metric I’ve ever been hipped to. You are vastly more sophisticated knowing what you don’t have to do and doing what works for you. this is the lesson of the day, apparently.”

-Brendan Kelly, “Sir, a drink please….Bad Sandwich Chronicles. February 19, 2021

Enjoyed this judgmental rant. I haven’t had half the drinks on the list, but I kind of want to collect the whole set. As an up martini drinker, the only response I can make is that if it has ice (or worse, vodka), it isn’t a martini. If that means you either need a little balance or have a little spillage, such is life.

Also, daiquiris are fine. You can drink four daiquiris. If you are in Chicago, space them out with a little Malört, and shift the whole thing into weird territory.

Meritocracy, Intelligence & Education

“…we need to dismantle meritocracy.

DeBoer is skeptical of “equality of opportunity”. Even if you solve racism, sexism, poverty, and many other things that DeBoer repeatedly reminds us have not been solved, you’ll just get people succeeding or failing based on natural talent…

…One one level, the titular Cult Of Smart is just the belief that enough education can solve any problem. But more fundamentally it’s also the troubling belief that after we jettison unfair theories of superiority based on skin color, sex, and whatever else, we’re finally left with what really determines your value as a human being – how smart you are. DeBoer recalls hearing an immigrant mother proudly describe her older kid’s achievements in math, science, etc, “and then her younger son ran by, and she said, offhand, ‘This one, he is maybe not so smart.'” DeBoer was originally shocked to hear someone describe her own son that way, then realized that he wouldn’t have thought twice if she’d dismissed him as unathletic, or bad at music. Intelligence is considered such a basic measure of human worth that to dismiss someone as unintelligent seems like consigning them into the outer darkness. So DeBoer describes how early readers of his book were scandalized by the insistence on genetic differences in intelligence – isn’t this denying the equality of Man, declaring some people inherently superior to others? Only if you conflate intelligence with worth, which DeBoer argues our society does constantly. 

-Scott Alexander, “Book Review: The Cult Of Smart
Summary and commentary on The Cult Of Smart by Fredrik DeBoer
.” Astral Codex Ten. February 17, 2021.

There’s a lot going on in this review. I’d highlight that Fredrik’s DeBoer’s blog has an RSS feed, which you can add to your RSS reader. I’m looking forward to reading more of his commentary.

Open Question: Is education an unqualified good?

I recently had an online discussion with someone who, in broad strokes, seems to agree with the above position, i.e., if we only had enough education, we would solve much of society’s problems. I think this is a standard U.S. liberal stance, which positions educational attainment as the means for advancement into the middle class.

Education is the great lie of U.S. liberal politics. Lest you think I’m a conservative trying to own the libs, let me first talk about the great lie of U.S. conservative politics in order to draw parallels.

The great lie of U.S. conservative politics is that you can have a global war-fighting capability and small government. The U.S. conservative lie is easy to grasp. There’s obviously a tension between government size and the ability to fight any war, much less a capability that involves nearly a thousand foreign military bases and nearly a trillion dollars of military spending every year, more if we include the debt servicing for past wars.

But, how is education like war? Isn’t education an unqualified good? The similarity is that just as small government caps one’s ability to fight wars, there is a demand limit on education. Most education is vocational instruction. People go to school in order to get a credential that gives them a better chance of getting a job. The education is, in large part, a secondary effect to the real demand for better employment opportunities.

It’s also possible to juice this demand. For example, I know of one university, and I imagine it is a feature of most universities, where jobs that used to employ people straight out of high school now require a university degree. The university, by implementing this requirement, increases demand for its product. But, does being an administrative assistant in the university organization really require this level of training? Does one need a Bachelor’s degree in communication, business, English, etc. in order to answer the telephone, write a Word document or navigate an Excel spreadsheet? Aren’t these skills acquired in the high school curriculum these days (and if not, shouldn’t they be)?

And you can see this happening at a broader scale as university administration has become professionalized. Instead of professors running university business in addition to their teaching, professors teach and the university business has been outsourced to administrators.

And, it’s not just universities. The same phenomena is happening across industries. It’s true of every level of government. It’s true of most industries, but particularly those that are tied closely to government. Look through the top industries by GDP in the United States: healthcare, durable goods manufacturing, food & travel, retail, etc. Almost everywhere you look, advancement implies management.

So, people go to school to learn a vocation. You get in the door, and then, in order to advance, no matter what industry you are in, you need to get into management. Leaving us to wonder, what exactly is vocational education for? Further, how large is the real need for managers, as opposed to front-line workers?

If you think it through, it is obviously a con, no different in its contradictions than talking about small government and global war. Management, by definition, has to be small. So, no amount of education is going to improve the lot of people getting educated to qualify for those relatively few positions. The only way that education works is if there are paths of advancement that actually require an education and aren’t management.

For example, if Dragon Naturally Speaking has taken over all the transcriptionist jobs, if Level 5 artificial intelligence has taken over from the teamsters, if 3D printing technologies have reduced the number of people working at construction sites, if fast food can become a largely automated process, etc., what will become of those people doing those jobs?

The most likely outcome is that there will be a compression of people into low skill jobs, driving down wages for everyone. There will be some people that will move into positions of managing machines. Someone will have to check on the artificial intelligence drivers, to make sure the results are as intended and to intervene when it starts to become very Sorcerer’s apprentice. But, the net is less jobs for people and more jobs for machines.

And, this is where the education argument starts to look plausible. People can be trained and are needed to supervise and inspecting the work of machines. In some ways, we are already preparing for that world, where people in low skill jobs are treated as if they are machines. For example, see some of the discussion about the conditions in Amazon warehouses and how that is breathing new life into the labor movement.

But, in the end, there is limited demand for education. Most people go through the process of getting an education credential for the vocational dividends that pays. But, it is clear that the university model and the push for education doesn’t deliver on its promise. And, when people are sitting on a mountain of debt and cannot find work, are they going to sell the educational dream to their children?

Another detail worth consideration, did the COVID-19 pandemic finally show that the promise of MOOCs are not something that can be delivered using the university model and university price points? At the very least, the focus on education and how it is delivered needs to be completely rethought. And, as DeBoer points to a deeper problem, our society’s focus on intelligence and expanding it through education is a fundamentally flawed project, as bad as small government and global war-fighting.

The Burrito Test

“The anti-psychiatric-abuse community has invented the ‘Burrito Test’ – if a place won’t let you microwave a burrito without asking permission, it’s an institution. Doesn’t matter if the name is “Center For Flourishing” or whatever and the aides are social workers in street clothes instead of nurses in scrubs – if it doesn’t pass the Burrito Test, it’s an institution.”

–Scott Alexander, “Book Review: The Cult Of Smart
Summary and commentary on The Cult Of Smart by Fredrik DeBoer
.” Astral Codex Ten. February 17, 2021.