Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

How to spot high-agency people.  Interesting list.

The genealogy of nuclear fear. (Nuclear here referring to nuclear power, not nuclear war.)

A survey cited at LinkedIn:  Gen Z (aged 16-25) wants to work in media and entertainment when they grow up.  “This generation values things like work-life balance, flexibility and creativity over more traditional values like job security” also, half of this demographic is interested in pursuing entrepreneurship in some way.  Here’s a link to the actual survey.

How much ‘work-life balance’ does a successful actor or director really have, though?  And entrepreneurship, other than the most casual, tends to be quite intense in its time demands.

CBS News reports that roughly one in three young shoppers in the U.S. has admitted to giving themselves five-finger discounts at self-checkout counters, according to a recent survey.  A response at X:

America does not have the moral cultural norms for there not to be a massive amount of theft. We’re too self-centered, individualistic, and we celebrate envy as a desert claim in the name of “equity.”

There is certainly a big cultural problem here, but I question the idea that Individualism and Community are opposites…traditionally, there has been quite a lot of both in America, as I believe Tocqueville observed.  My thought is that both individualism and community are in danger of being replaced, and in many case have been replaced, by anomie.

Claire Lehmann suggests some books for helping children learn about history and philosophy.  Other suggestions in the replies.

NYT finally reports what many others have been writing and speaking about for some time:  the school closures for Covid are correlated with a sharp decrease in student learning.  How do we square this data, though, with what we know about the preexisting generally poor low and declining quality of US public education?

The AI world is all astir with the news that San Altman has been removed as CEO of OpenAI…and now, the board is negotiating with him for his possible return! There are many explanations floating around as to what is really going on. The organization/governance chart for this enterprise, which someone posted at X, is rather…unique.


Speaking of AI, somebody at X thought that Biden should have issued an executive order to require the rehiring of Sam Altman and his associate who also left. (Tweet  now deleted.)  There was no mention of what possible legal authority Biden might have for issuing such an order, but increasingly people seem not to worry much about such things. The other thing that struck me was that such an order would be analogous to an order by President Eisenhower to require the Traitorous Eight to return to Shockley Semiconductor in 1957.  Or, even earlier, to require Bardeen and Brattain to remain at Bell Labs and keep working with Shockley on grounds that the transistor was such a critically important technology for national security and economic well-being.

A lot of people have trouble grasping the idea that if something important is being done by a particular institution, that doesn’t mean it could not be done equally well…or much better…by other institutions, including ones that may not yet exist. We see this phenomenon, for instance, in discussions of education and the future of the Social Security system.

13 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading & Viewing”

  1. Is the career wishes of the Z’ers that different from ours at that age. Surely the idea that we could become, in no particular order, a movie or TV star, quarterback, major league pitcher, etc, occupied some of have our thoughts at least fleetingly. Maybe the person that grew up dreaming of being a plumber fits into the article on agency, especially if that person is female, but not in the main stream.

    Reality doesn’t assert itself uniformly. How many prospective actors are pursuing every acting job in places like New York and L.A.? That phenomena far predates generation Z. Some dreams die harder than others, whether or not they were ever realistic.

    At some point most of us come to terms with the idea that we’re not probably going to be able to make a living without having to do some less fun things. Later we come to understand that even “dream” jobs come with a proportion of drudgery.

    A lot is just that media jobs are what they have experience with, what they see every day on their phone. How many of us have worked at jobs we couldn’t have imagined at 20? The world is so much more complex and there are so many more jobs than we knew about then, along with some that didn’t even exist then.

    I’ve seen reports that 80% of Chinese youths have aspirations of being “influencers”. I’ve seen videos of what I can only describe as video boiler rooms, 20-30 young people lined up somewhere with their phones in front of them, going through the motions of pitching products, one after the other. A few have become famous, making crazy money from their posts. Many will probably make nothing, even in China, there are only so many eyeballs.

    Here’s a couple of Z’ers that seem to be doing both, something I didn’t imagine at their age.

  2. Re: NYTimes and student leaning loss

    It’s not clear the specific article she is referring to, it’s probably this https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/15/us/schools-pandemic-remote-learning.html?searchResultPosition=3 (paywalled) The writer references statistics from the DOE’s Civil Rights Data Collection, which she unfortunately doesn’t link to, and of course that means the article focuses on racial disparities rather than providing longitudinal data.

    A better survey is from DOE’s National Center for Educational Statistics which provides a long-term longitudinal survey using NAEP data (https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=38) The data shows the largest drop in educational progress for the past 30 years

    I hadn’t looked at the NYTimes article since you mentioned it, but I have seen a lot of commentary about it as if it was some big reveal by that “august” publication. It’s not. It’s a classic strategy of dealing with inconvenient facts regarding policies that the paper promoted, lockdowns and closing of schools. In short let the air out of the balloon slowly by acknowledging things in a passive voice and spin it as a racial/civil rights issue requiring gobs of more money. Don’t acknowledge that others had seen both this achievement problem from the beginning or that such closures were unnecessary. Student learning problems? Nobody is at fault, just like no one is at fault for a hurricane or earthquake, things just happen.

    I doubt there will be much of a sudden national reckoning with this given the time lapse involved but this was politics is all about; taking events and translating it into effective policy that can be promoted. See Democrats on George Floyd, any police shooting, etc…. However there already has been a reaction on the state and family level that will manifest itself over the years with school voucher programs and increased home schooling. Maybe not in the blue states, but thank goodness for federalism.

  3. Student learning results…how much of the drop during the lockdowns was *really* due to the inability of students to get the education being provided by the schools *versus* a broader problem w/reduced social interaction, limited outdoor activity, and a pervasive climate of fear?

  4. David – I’m with you on driving further into causes but I’m not sure if one can work come up with a workable hypothesis to differentiate between closed schools and an overall toxic social environment for kids give the lockdowns extended into the summer and a second school year

    I think the closing of schools is both a necessary and sufficient explanation for reduced learning as the same factors that drove the closing of schools and the results from that (lack of social interaction, fear, outdoor activity) can be equated with simply lockdowning children.

    The declining test scores is really just an instance of a larger problem, which is the inability of the technocracy, our supposed betters, to be able to both discern trade-offs between courses of action and to change said courses of action once more information became available.

    Locking down the population has a price and that price is incalculable when it comes to children who are still developing socially and intellectually. That factor alone should have kept the notion of lock downs for children an open question, a known unknown if you will. Our supposed social and intellectual betters said otherwise and aggressively to silence dissent

    I have said that Anthony Fauci should be cast out of polite society and demonized in history not so much for what he did but so that what he did will not happen again (see hanging of horse thieves and the stealing of horses) Unfair? Maybe, but the stakes are too high and besides Fauci has been richly compensated.

    The other issue is that this was known to be factor

  5. re the piece on Shoplifting, I had lunch today at a Peruvian fast-service place I like, and noticed that the silverware had been replaced by its plastic equivalents. Asked why…answer was that people kept stealing the silverware.

  6. Maybe I’m crazy but perhaps some of the recent press about how sh1tty the lockdowns were for schoolchildren is being forced to be talked about by the recent release of Bethany McLean and John Nocera’s new book “The Big Fail”. They talk about the subject in depth as well as many other issues during the Covidian era.

  7. To Mike K.’s point, the Loudoun County parent protests (which led not only to Youngkin winning the VA gubernatorial race but the FBI investigating parents as terrorists) were in part sparked by parents seeing what their kids were learning via Zoom and finding out there was a whole lot of CBT and other Wokeism

    The next strange thing happened when the parents asked to see the curriculum and we denied as the information was “proprietary”

  8. “The next strange thing happened when the parents asked to see the curriculum and were denied as the information was “proprietary””

    Similar to the CEO of a company telling the Board that the information they wanted was ‘proprietary’.

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