Sunday, March 25, 2007

Does email make us stupid?

Remember all those articles claiming that the distractions of email -- or for that matter checking blogs -- make us the operational equivalent of mentally retarded? I was skeptical. The implicit theory is that uninterrupted time in front of the terminal counts as active and valuable thought. But what is the alternative to email? Creating interruptions by making phone calls, or perhaps pacing the room? Scratching somewhere? I would think that the continual ability to indulge in short, self-managed interruptions makes us more willing to be at the terminal in the first place. In other words, we were mentally retarded to begin with. We are just active, and mentally retarded, more than before. And that looks like more mental retardation. The key to understanding email is the greater appearance of mental retardation, not the resulting decline in effective IQ.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How does IM differ from email conversations?

Small differences in cost can lead to big differences in outcomes. I believe the average IM message is several times shorter than the average "back and forth" email, but this is well-known. The attention given to the other person is also more focal and more immediate. There is less ambiguity whether, and when, a message was received.

Oddly I wonder whether IM is less prone to saying something really stupid. It will encourage more minor blunders in the rapid crossfire, like jokes which are not funny. But the very rapid back and forth discourages truly major idiocies, which require a bit more contemplation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jane Galt as anti-Modernist

The aesthetic, that is. (She loves economic progress.) Think about it. Baking. Dickens. Orwell. W.H. Auden. A River Runs Through It. It is hard to get more anti-Modernist than that.

*Neil Young*.

Her very love of blogging is an attempt to reestablish the connection between author and reader, contra literary modernism.

If you put her in the Mondrian room at MOMA, probably her head would explode.

Must she so firmly reject the creation of a new world through the constructive yet distorting powers of art? Must she so strongly reaffirm the powers of transparent language to see through to reality?

Yes, yes, and more yes.

As recompense she opts for plain English, strong plain English. And baking.

Her anti-Modernism is the key to understanding her libertarianism, which is neither strictly rights-based nor strictly utilitarian. She holds a metaphysical commitment to the idea that Strong Language, as a formal and indeed didactic concept, can straighten out moral discourse better than any abstract philosophy. She promotes the writer as self-reflective moralizer, and morality as embedded in the writing itself. The writing creates a new space for the intermediation of complex principles, just as with Jonathan Swift. As if she is baking -- slowly -- some new social concoction.

I call it Betty Crocker Libertarianism.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How much is advertising worth?

Let's say you took a baby and insulated the kid from all knowledge of advertised products for the first twenty years of life. Somehow the person still walks through daily life on an otherwise normal basis, it is just that the kid cannot see, hear, or feel the ads. The kid also can't ask his friends what the ads have to say, or which products they promote. So the kid will notice that Coca-Cola is in every convenience store, but he has to figure out for himself that the product is famous.

Now our insulated 20-year-old is about to enter the so-called real world. How much worse off is he?

I'm not asking about the net value of ads, but rather their gross value for a single individual. What benefits is the kid missing? Will he be a simple moron, unable to understand whether a Starbucks coffee is to be slurped or poured down the carbureutor? Or will he figure out the right cues in some other way?

I think the individual benefits from watching ads are pretty small. Is this just because the kid is still free-riding upon others' knowledge of advertisements? For the ads to provide their social benefits, how many people have to view the ads? Five hundred? Five hundred in each community?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What happens when hot women (or men) get ugly?

Yes, it happens. Where does the hotness go? Is it simply *gone*? Or is it just hiding? Would a mere mental trick, an imagining, on behalf of the partner suffice to bring it back? Cannot men benefit from always imagining their wives or girlfriends as the age at which they first met?

Was the hotness in any case just anticipation, or perhaps just memory?

Is there an arbitrage opportunity to be had by tracking down the formerly-hot-now-ugly?

Or, does self-confidence vanish with the looks, and the hotness is gone forever.

I believe that most people, at least men, are overvaluing the anticipation. Tracking should start.

Are the truly hot people actually about fifty years old?

Let me know.

Marie Antoinette, the movie

Steve Sailer writes:
"Marie Antoinette" -- This has to be the girliest movie ever. The French didn't think it was an accurate biopic of the young wife of the King Louis XVI, but that's missing the point. The film is more about what it was like to be Sofia Coppola growing up in a Hollywood royal family. surrounded by such regal characters as her father Francis Ford Coppola and her cousin Nicholas Cage, in the 1980s, complete with KROQ classics like "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow and "Hong Kong Garden" by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

My sons each watched thirty seconds of it independently, then both announced Marie Antoinette deserved to have her head chopped off. Personally I liked it exactly because you don't get to see such a purely feminine film often: "Clueless" at Versailles. In contrast, try imagining a typically macho director's version: e.g., "Oliver Stone's Marie Antoinette."

Black Sabbath

They bore me, but from their music you can see just how much heavy metal music springs out of jazz. But was it really an advantage to banish the polyrhythms?