I hope you had a great Valentine's Day. Remember, if your gifts for your better half somehow failed to make their eyes sparkle, you can still earn back their heart with the most romantic and alluring gift of all - that's right, a subscription to THE ZONE.
Obligatory shilling. I wrote for my paying subscribers about the abstraction of labour and the concept of honest work.
I have not been writing as much as usual but if you are at a loose end and want something to read you could check out my old articles on subjects like Bruce Chatwin, and pro wrestling, and Polish poetry, and neoconservatism, and Jackass, and immigration, and Michel Houellebecq, and Joseph Conrad, and talk radio. Who on Earth is at a loose end these days? But one does like to unfold one's old chip wrappers.
The home front. This winter has been by far the coldest I have had since moving to Poland in 2013. When I arrived at Katowice International Airport at 3am last Monday I walked out into a snowstorm to find that there were no taxis and due to the pandemic once you left the terminal you could not enter again. Still, I love the snow, the crisp cool air, and the austere sunlight. The problem is when the weather warms. The snow melts into a thick, dark, pervasive sludge; like school canteen stew without the nostalgic charm. Sheets of ice lurk underneath it, ready to surprise their prey. Let it be cold. Cold! And then on the first of March let us awake to warmth and the sound of water gurgling in the drains.
Slated Star Codex. Scott Siskind, author of the late rationalist blog Slate Star Codex, defends himself against an astonishingly weak and disingenuous New York Times hatchet job. Aside from their now notorious insistence on using Scott's real name, the reporter is not as malicious as petty and boring. There are so many interesting, disturbing questions to be asked about the moral and epistemological implications of AI, transhumanism, automation et cetera and progressive journalists tend to focus on whether someone has said something rude about feminism. (I wrote about hacks versus nerds here.)
Killer robots. Speaking of AI, according to a Forbes article the Pentagon is seeking to relax regulations over artificial intelligence having concluded that drones can be more effective without human management.
Behind this, there is the military argument. If AI-controlled weapons can defeat those operated by humans, then whoever has the AIs will win and failing to deploy them means accepting defeat.
One can appreciate this logic, of course, but one must see where it leads: towards increasingly devastating weaponry under increasingly limited human control.
The last spies. Samuel Goldman writes a glorious essay about the writer John Le Carre and the traitor George Blake for First Things:
True, these locales might be spread across thousands of miles of land or sea. But they shared a seedy ambiance that made it hard to distinguish among London, Berlin, and Bucharest. Even “the Circus”—the name by which le Carré designated the fictional headquarters of British intelligence at London’s Cambridge Circus—evokes the wearisome repetition of uninspiring routines.
The other cancellations. Long-winded left-wing commentator Nathan J. Robinson has been forced out by the Guardian for joking about the strength of the US relationship with Israel. “Jewish community leaders”, meanwhile, have called for an invitation to the filmmaker Ken Loach to speak at Oxford University to be rescinded because of comments casting doubt on the significance of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and defending people's right to debate the existence of the Holocaust. I would prefer eating tripe to reading Mr Robinson, and eating my own guts to hearing Loach talk about politics, but it would be impossible, in my opinion, to argue that these are not manifestations of “cancel culture”. That people who generally support edgy jokes and questionable associations making people personae non gratae in the public sphere throw up their hands in this case does not make that less true.
A human-shaped economy. Joe Barnas reflects on the market and the family:
In a nutshell, opponents of child allowances mistake the purpose of the policy and lose sight of the innate good of the family—a mistake ultimately rooted in a faulty anthropology.
Tangled threads. Lyz Lenz writes for the Columbia Journalism Review about the dubious poet cum dubious pundit Seth Abramson and his bumbling between the pitfalls of conspiracy theory:
And that’s the trouble with Abramson’s interpretive threads. Pull on any one of them, and the whole tapestry unravels.
Such large portions. Gavin Haynes writes entertainingly but pessimistically about the new social media phenomenon Clubhouse:
In fact, diving into Clubhouse mainly recalls how the makework aspects of social media can often be its most addictive property. There is a kind of fake productivity to be had in constantly engaging, when in fact most of our content is meaningless noise, and we’re effectively playing a video game called ‘social media’.
Have a lovely week,