Anna Gát: What to Read This Weekend #44

Anna Gát: What to Read This Weekend #44

Space, birth, campus, divorce, Herzog, Pacino, gender, AI, old friends, free speech, CEOs, malaria, Grimes, Drake, LSD, Paglia, Elvis, Homer, Girard – and cocktails, grants, nude art, and more...

Hello my friends, my fellow travellers, my teachers,

This is my last day in Berlin! Lots happening, loads of work, but I managed to sneak out and see the Mary Ellen Mark retrospective at C/O Berlin, very moving, very enlightening about an earlier, important era of photojournalism and its ethics and aesthetics.

Excellent salon last week with Tyler Cowen on Interintellect, hosted by Alaka Halder - on Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Elinor Ostrom, talent, AI, writing, and much more:

You’ll want to watch our recent salons with, e.g., Yishan Wong or Tara Isabella Burton too, just uploaded to our Youtube: we discussed technology, magic, environmental engineering, reforestation…

AND: our grand Winter Fest in New York City - January 25!!! - is now open for bookings: Realistic Love: An Interintellect Valentine’s Day Special of Philosophy and Emotion in New York City - With Esther Perel, Merve Emre, Agnes Callard, and Skye Cleary!

Realistic Love: An Interintellect Valentine’s Day Special of Philosophy and Emotion in New York City

MIT’s Amy Finklestein is also joining us, online, with Rohit Krishnan, to talk US vs EU healthcare. Morgan Housel will talk to me about finance and psychology. And we’re prepping for a major online panel about grants and the future of research funding with Emergent Ventures India’s Shruti Rajagopalan, Polaris’s Arnaud Schenk, O’Shaughnessy Fellowship’s Atman Pandya, and Ben Yeoh.

Hope to see you there! Below are tons of good things for you to read this weekend, let’s dive in! x Anna

The Plight of the Eldest Daughter

Across social-media platforms, they’ve described the stress of feeling accountable for their family’s happiness, the pressure to succeed, and the impression that they aren’t being cared for in the way they care for others.

  • Feeling this, as an eldest daughter, so hard. Sarah Sloat; The Atlantic

Substack shouldn’t decide what we read

One thing mainstream media outlets misunderstand: Substack is not one platform, it is thousands of platforms, and you get to pick which ones to be part of. And Substack has come up with a powerful way to moderate those platforms: Rather than rely on the company to hire a team of moderators, Substack democratized the process, giving full moderation control to writers.

  • Many friends signed. Elle Griffin

The Bodily Indignities of the Space Life

Major surgery could result in the patient’s insides floating out. Even giving injections in space requires comprehensive planning. Rogozov could at least give himself Novocain. Chough was the flight surgeon for NASA astronauts on the I.S.S. when the coronavirus vaccine became available, and she had to decide whether to send it up on a routine resupply flight … an ethical conundrum in the days when there was not enough to go around on Earth.

  • But can people make babies up there? I keep wondering. Kim Tingley; The New York Times

To Lead a Meaningful Life, Become Your Own Hero

In a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we show that people who frame their own life as a hero's journey find more significance in it. This insight led us to develop a “restorying” intervention to enrich individuals' sense of meaning and well-being. When people start to see their own lives as heroic quests, we discovered, they report less depression and can cope better with challenges.

  • Beb Rogers, Kurt Gray, Mike Christian; Scientific American

The Treason of the Intellectuals

As the great German sociologist Max Weber rightly argued in his 1917 essay on “Science as a Vocation,” political activism should not be permissible in a lecture hall “because the prophet and the demagogue do not belong on the academic platform.” This was also the argument of the University of Chicago’s 1967 Kalven Report that universities must “maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures.”

  • Niall Ferguson; The Free Press

Make More Friends of Different Ages

Intergenerational relationships tend to be mutually enriching. In programs that run preschools out of senior centers, letting the young and the old spend time together during the day, all parties see improved health and well-being.

  • Annie Midori Atherton; once more from The Atlantic

Freedom of speech for university staff?

While it is hard to give staff absolute free speech rights, it is also hard to give them differential free speech rights.  A cultural tone is set within the organization.  If everyone else has free speech rights, how exactly do you enforce restrictions on staff?  Should a university set up a “thought police” but for staff only?  Can you really circumscribe the powers of such a thought police over time?  Besides, what if a staff member signs up for a single night course?  Do they all of a sudden have the free speech rights of students?  How might you know when they are “speaking as a student” or “speaking as a staff member”?  Or what if staff are overseeing the free speech rights of faculty and students, as is pretty much always the case?  The enforcers of student free speech rights don’t have those same free speech rights themselves?  What kind of culture are they then being led to respect and maintain?

  • Tyler Cowen

French Teachers Strike After Complaints Over Nude Renaissance Painting

Cesari’s work, which depicts the hunter Actaeon interfering with the goddess Diana and the surrounding bathing nymphs, was shown on December 7 during a “vie de classe,” a period for general classroom activities in French schools, to 11- and 12-year-old students… In solidarity with the teacher who showed the Cesari painting, staff members at the school refused to work earlier this week.

  • Francesca Aton; ARTnews

Scarface at 40: why is Al Pacino’s murderous kingpin still so idolized?

In Scarface’s initial theatrical run, many critics savaged it for the giddy violence that earned an X rating from the MPAA in its first four cuts, a buffet of carnage splayed from a dismemberment by chainsaw to the grand finale’s orgy of bullets. It’s worth considering that gaudy excess may be part of the point in a film that sets its protagonist’s darkest hour in a hot tub of Caligulan proportions, though there’s no archness or detachment to reassure us with satire. The register falls much closer to self-parody…

  • Charles Bramesco; The Guardian

You probably shouldn't give your money to an elite university

Once you realize how important donations are to elite private universities, a lot of things about how these schools are run begin to make sense. Elite school admissions heavily favor rich kids, through legacy admissions and athletic programs focused on sports that only rich people play. This is because the kids of the rich are highly likely to be rich themselves — and thus to be big donors.

  • Noah Smith

The visions of Werner Herzog

[Herzog] quotes the French novelist André Gide: “I alter facts in such a way that they resemble truth more than reality.” A purely factual account of things confines us to what we think we can see. An imagined world, on the other hand, may point to what lies outside our heads.

  • John Gray; New Statesman

The Supply of Gender Stereotypes and Discriminatory Beliefs (2014)

Undersupply of female education will encourage daughters' fertility, directly by reducing the opportunity cost of their time and indirectly by leading daughters to believe that they are less capable. Children will be particularly susceptible to persuasion if they overestimate their parents' altruism toward themselves. The supply of persuasion will diminish if women work before childbearing, which may explain why gender-related beliefs changed radically among generations born in the 1940s.

  • “if they overestimate their parents' altruism toward themselves” 💔 Edward L. Glaeser, Yueran Ma

“The Universe Wants Us to Take Her Clothes Off” — Interview with Grimes

‘I told one of the best AI engineers I know “You’re the architects of the future.” And he was like “No, no, I’m just uncovering the future.” Like just shining the light in the dark spots. As if life is a grand strategy video game and the map starts out all black but exploring reveals new zones.’

  • Samo Burja; Palladium

Flights of fantasy

On Christmas Day 1542, in a convent near Córdoba, a woman gave birth to a baby. It was no ordinary delivery: the mother was a middle-aged nun named Magdalena de la Cruz, and her child (conceived, she claimed, through the agency of the Holy Spirit) was Jesus. After she had fed him, the infant vanished, leaving the defiant nun offering to show doubters her nipples, which she claimed were as sore as those of any new mother… Her intimate relationship with God began in childhood; at five she had attempted to imitate the crucifixion by nailing herself to a wall.

  • Katherine Harvey; Engelsberg Ideas

The Provocations of Camille Paglia (2019)

Students at her university … tried to de-platform Paglia, a lesbian who identifies as transgender. When they failed to get her scheduled lecture, “Ambiguous Images: Sexual Duality and Sexual Multiplicity in Western Art,” canceled or moved off campus, they organized a protest during the talk—and someone pulled the fire alarm. Later, the protesters urged the university to replace Paglia with a “queer person of color…”

The irony was that Paglia had always been a feminist… In her first job, as a professor at Bennington College … she kicked a male student in the derriere for an offensive nightclub skit he had performed on campus. “He sprawled out on the floor, and his glasses flew!”

  • Emily Esfahani Smith; City Journal

New Lifesaving Malaria Vaccines Need to Be Available Now

In other words, over the next year, if the Serum Institute of India alone can produce and supply 120 million initial doses, the world could potentially vaccinate 40 million children, saving roughly 240,000 of them from a painful death.

  • Zacharia Kafuko; Foreign Policy

Emily Wilson’s Iliad Gets Straight to the Point

We mostly associate Homer’s cantering meter with ancient epics. But if you were listening to hip hop in the 2010s, you heard it in the Drake remix of the Migos track “Versace.” “Drownin’ in / compliments, / pool in the / backyard that / look like Me / tropolis” is a perfect line of dactylic hexameter. Drake makes it look easy — it isn’t, especially in English.

  • Zoe Guttenplan; Jacobin

"Close to half of all pregnancies and roughly one-third of births are unintended"

  • Diana Fleischman via NIH

Inside Elvis’s dollhouse

“He taught me everything,” Priscilla wrote: “how to dress, how to walk, how to apply make-up and wear my hair, how to behave, how to return love – his way. Over the years he became my father, husband, and very nearly God.”

  • Tanya Gold; New Statesman

The Villages Is America's Boomer Boomtown

What I saw on a random Thursday night beats a lot of what masquerades as usable public space in terms of sociability, safety, and fun. Sure, we millennials are obligated to scoff at the '50s pastiche, the corniness of it all, but what happens once they market it to us as a '90s town? Will some of us step into the bubble, too?

  • 😱 Good point! Zach Weissmueller; Reason

Post-psychedelic sleep issues

Marcus has tried many things to reset his life. He has tried sleeping pills - they have very little effect. He tried hypnotherapy – it helped one night, but not the next. He has tried exercise…. This week, he saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed him as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This could make sense – certainly I’ve interviewed people who suffered insomnia for weeks after a terrifying psychedelic experience…

  • Jules Evans

An Apology for Philosophy

Aristotle shows us how a good life can emerge from a complex interplay of acquired moral virtue, interpersonal skill, moral strength, and a network of good friends. Native American philosophers such as John Fire Lame Deer remind us that this is not enough, that attunement both to our natural environment and to the symbolic dimensions of our life are required if our lives are to be worth living.

  • Jay L. Garfield; Los Angeles Review of Books

F.D.A. Approves Sickle Cell Treatments, Including One That Uses CRISPR

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first gene editing therapy ever to be used in humans, for sickle cell disease, a debilitating blood disorder caused by a single mutated gene… The agency also approved a second treatment using conventional gene therapy for sickle cell that does not use gene editing.

  • Gina Kolata; The New York Times

Secrets about People: A Short and Dangerous Introduction to René Girard

Silicon Valley startups have learned [the] lesson. CEOs, who are promoted into their titles and earn their power by working their way up to it, are in many ways less effective than founders, who rule their companies as if by divine right. Founders are differentiated from their employees to an absolute degree: the title of ‘founder’ can never be earned or seized the way CEO can. In a culture where Founder (and not CEO) is the highest-status title, there’s no point in jealously coveting your founder’s title, because it’s not something that you can take. The only way you can act on that envy is to actually become a founder yourself.

  • Alex Danco

How the Movie Professor Got Cancelled

Hollywood has recently discovered a new way to keep academics on campus without putting audiences to sleep: just “cancel” them... Public disgrace has come for movie professors before: Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, in which the narrative of a professor accused of racism takes an ironic twist, and J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace…

  • Lauren Michele Jackson; The New Yorker

Do something that won’t compute

In our culture of optimization and efficiency and scale, it feels like a small act of resistance to embrace human limitations instead of attempting to overcome them, to elevate what is natural and core to our being rather than attempting to engineer the optimal outcome.

Why Two Parents Are the Ultimate Privilege

Roughly 30 percent of kids in the U.S. live outside a two-parent home. More kids in the U.S. than in any other country in the world are now living with just one parent. And it’s not about an increase in divorce. Divorce in the U.S. is down from the mid-eighties. This decline in marriage, this rise in the share of kids living with just one parent, and this rise in nonmarital childbearing, has happened predominantly outside the college-educated class. That’s why this topic is so instrumental to conversations and concerns about inequality and threats to social mobility.

  • Bari Weiss; The Free Press

The cocktail revolution

This is a far cry from the simplistic, slapdash, thoughtlessly boozy drinking culture that ruled from the 1970s through the 1990s. It’s fussy, precise, thoughtful – at times almost overeducated – and it has resulted in a rapid improvement in the quality and creativity of craft cocktails since the turn of the century.

  • Peter Suderman; Works in Progress

This new data poisoning tool lets artists fight back against generative AI:

The tool, called Nightshade, is intended as a way to fight back against AI companies that use artists’ work to train their models without the creator’s permission.

  • Melissa Heikkilä; MIT Technology Review

The Health of Identity Politics Advocates

One example is that this type of approach encourages dichotomous thinking: Individuals and groups can be categorized as either dire enemies or supportive friends. This way of thinking, and other types of dysfunctional thinking, can feed into a politics that concentrates on eliminating a common enemy rather than working together to build something greater.

  • George Yancey; Heterodox Academy

The two Chomskys: The US military’s greatest enemy worked in an institution saturated with military funding

Chomsky … refused to get security clearance and made no attempt to understand electronic devices, describing himself as a ‘technophobe’ who couldn’t handle anything more complicated than a tape recorder.

  • Chris Knight; Aeon

The Poetry of Lucille Clifton

In a video online Clifton rejects—firmly—one apparently obvious reading of this poem, in which the poet’s vision of the woman is negative, or at least ambivalent. But poems have a life apart from the poet’s own. In this reading, the violence the woman has suffered intensifies the vision the poet is granted.

  • Christian Wiman; Commonweal

Context is King

Paintings like the Primavera were of NO interest to people around 200 years ago. The patrons of the Uffizi didn't even look at the painting until the 1880s! … The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) visited the Uffizi daily in Florence and only took notes on the sculptures. Why? In his era, sculptures, not paintings, were deemed the most important art form.

  • Jim O’Shaughnessy

Genes Associated with Earlier and Higher Reproduction Linked to Accelerated Aging

The researchers discovered a strong negative correlation between reproduction and lifespan, indicating that genes promoting higher reproduction rates are associated with shorter lifespans.

  • Neuroscience News

Conservatives are too obsessed with TikTok

Not only does this guide the discourse in such a way that it misses how TikTok is a powerful and sometimes dangerous platform, but the critics chip away at their own credibility. The Right and anti-woke centre routinely make the same error the Left does: shadowboxing stereotypes of their enemies.

  • Katherine Dee; UnHerd

Generous to a fault: Seamus Heaney’s letters reveal his kindness, and the weight of public expectation

You lose more of yourself than you redeem
doing the decent thing. Keep at a tangent.
When they make the circle wide, it’s time to swim

out on your own and fill the element
with signatures on your own frequency.
  • Seamus Perry; Times Literary Supplement

Orion Carloto’s new zine captures her year of rest and relaxation

“This felt like almost this selfish endeavour where it was almost like why does anyone care about what beds I’ve slept in?”

  • Habi Diallo; DAZED

AI Discovers A World Amnesia Event

This phenomena seems to be real and it seems a significant portion of the global population reports a lack of clear memories from 2020 to 2022.

  • Brian Roemmele

The Ancient City, by Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges (review)

“According to the oldest belief of the Italians and Greeks, the soul did not go into a foreign world to pass its second existence; it remained near men, and continued to live underground.”

  • Jane and John Smith

A Two-Ball Ellsberg Paradox

Ambiguity and ambiguity aversion are relevant to policymakers since, in most realworld situations, agents cannot attach precise probabilities to the possible outcomes.

  • Brian Jabarian, Simon Lazarus

Remembering Chaucer’s European life

But then Philosophy personified as a tall beautiful woman appears before [Boethius] in his cell. She tells him that he shouldn’t mope and shouldn’t abandon her. The wheel of fortune turns – sometimes you are at the top and sometimes at the bottom. That’s just how it is. Take the hit. Don’t be dejected.

  • Nigel Warburton; The New European

Taking a little bit of magic out of AI

All of these applications have a kind of magic to them. They provoke emotional reactions. Just like magic tricks, they often give people a sense that something that shouldn’t be possible is happening… The point of this series of posts is to take a little bit of magic out of these applications. It is to add some context that makes them look a bit differently.

  • Matjaž Leonardis 

America's New Mandarins (2017)

All elites are good at rationalizing their eliteness, whether it's meritocracy or “the divine right of kings.” The problem is the mandarin elite has some good arguments. They really are very bright and hardworking. It’s just that they’re also prone to be conformist, risk averse, obedient, and good at echoing the opinions of authority, because that is what this sort of examination system selects for.

  • Megan McArdle; The Daily Beast

Grants Only Go So Far (2021)

Grants filter for people who know what the right thing to work on. However, not everybody who could potentially do good work knows the right thing to work on.

  • Ben Reinhardt

Some thoughts on where the war in Ukraine is headed

No matter how it ends, the Israel-Gaza war was a massive strategic victory for Vladimir Putin.

  • Noah Smith once again, he’s on a roll!

Extreme morning sickness? Scientists finally pinpoint a possible cause

Morning Sickness: The hormone that causes morning sickness, GDF15, has been identified by researchers. Identification could lead to possible treatment.

Choosing to Induce: How a randomized trial gave birth to a new era in obstetrics

“Instead of looking at women who are in labor versus induced, they looked at a week earlier, people who were induced versus people told to go home. And when they did it, again, retrospective observational, even in those studies, when they reexamined it in a way that makes more sense clinically, they saw no difference in the rate of C-section between the groups.”

  • Emily Oster, ParentData

BONUS: What I’ve been listening to during the past week

The Singing Places: glorious ✨

Thank you for reading!

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