"I Had A Chance To Construct Something Beautiful" Edition
I turned 30 last week.
I tried to think of some bold changes in life that I could make - but I doubted they would stick. Then again, looking back at who I was when I was 20, and then looking at who I am today, I can see the value of lots of little changes all aimed in the right direction. I hope that will be more true in ten years time.
For IM-1776, I wrote about the anniversary of Roger Scruton's death, the great man's legacy, and my trip to the Scruton Café.
Superforecasting. Michael Story writes a very interesting piece about the work of superforecasters, along with some surprisingly optimistic predictions for the end of the pandemic:
In a system where forecasters are punished for getting it wrong and rewarded for getting it right, the most accurate people float to the top, and when they work together on a team, they become even more accurate.
Michael compares forecasters to commentators, who have less riding on accurate predictions. In fairness, commentators also consider - or should consider - matters of ethics, culture and style as well as prediction, but it is always worth emphasising that if you can turn a phrase that does not mean you are especially insightful.
The always interesting left-wing blogger and economist Chris Dillow has some doubts about the value of superforecasting:
My reaction to this piece, then, is the same as that to very many forecasts, such as those for November’s US presidential election: there’s no point to them, as we’ll find out soon enough anyway.
I think Dillow uses examples favouring his thesis. For example, predicting the death toll from COVID-19 might not be so useful now but it would have been useful last March. Still, it is good to have a sceptical perspective.
GoT history. Titus Techera eloquently resists the school of history which seeks, as a matter of habit, to reduce the stature of historical figures:
One may therefore say that the moral purpose of this style of writing which mixes sensationalism with boredom is to edify us through mediocrity—to teach us that the only truly foolish thing a human being does is admire another human being. Perhaps middle-aged readers of a certain class need the reassurance that they’re not inadequate and, indeed, no worse than the great personages of old-fashioned history books.
Their thing, our thing. Tobias Jones reports on the internationalisation of organised crime:
Gratteri’s constant lament is that the UK and other European countries are now the favoured investment destinations for Italian organised crime, and that this threat simply isn’t being acknowledged, despite many of those accused in today’s trial having been arrested in Germany, Bulgaria and Switzerland.
Filthy Rich. I watched The Night Stalker, about Richard Ramirez, over the weekend. One thing people have criticized the series for is its failure to analyse the psyche of the serial killer, choosing instead to focus on the investigation. I didn't mind this. Ramirez, like all serial killers, struck me as nothing than a depraved fetishist fused with a pretentious asshole. I'm not trying to mask moralism with cynicism. Dictators can be interesting. Gangsters can be interesting. Cult leaders can be interesting. Serial killers, as I have written before, seem to be people who very much want to be interesting.
The hardest fight. Steven Marrocco profiles UFC veteran Spencer “The King” Fisher and his struggles with brain damage:
“I guess that’s why I’m doing that [brain] study, to find out how severe. ... Like, I can remember my very first phone number I ever had. But yesterday is kind of vague for me.”
“When is my birthday?” Emily interjects, hugging him from behind.
“And then she’ll pull sh*t like that on me,” he says. “September.”
She squeezes him and smiles. “Good job.”
Debunking, debunked. Jonathan Gleadell pours cold water on celebratory left-wing reactions to a report which was claimed to have exposed myths of grooming gangs. I wrote about the phenomenon for Quillette last year.
You think, therefore I am. Nathan Cofnas addresses philosophical conformism:
To be a philosopher you generally need to get a job at a university. And every step from middle-school student to tenured professor selects for timidity and conformity. You don’t rack up As by arguing with your teacher or “show[ing] that he is not wise.” You do it by following orders.
Have a lovely week,