Summer links and reading

Abroad

Bruno Macaes on the game theory of government and covid travel in Tanzania. How true is this in other developing countries?

Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region: This region of Tajikistan makes up 45% of the country’s territory, but only 3% of its population. There are many languages and ethnic tensions unfamiliar to the likes of me. Explore it on street view for some spectacular vistas.

Matt Lakeman on Peru.

Havana syndrome appears to be back, but in Vienna.

China has decided its tutoring industry… shouldn’t be profitable anymore (FT).

The country of Niue has a population of 1600, and almost 300 of them are registered rugby players (h/t Saunderson).

Science/tech

Zuckerberg on the Metaverse: Benedict Evans dunked on this story, but that seems a bit premature to me. Having two social graphs, ecommerce experience, a VR company, and a really smart CEO counts for nothing?

Trend lines that didn’t continue: nuclear power plants and Nixon’s Project Independence.

Henry Oliver on Edison’s work ethic, and Byrne Hobart on how the cloud is like the grid.

California seems to be leading the way on grid-scale batteries.

In 1991, eight people were sealed into a biosphere and had to survive in a closed environment for 2 years, eating food grown on half an acre: Practical experiments in systems, or the Martian but on Earth and for fun. Also on YouTube. Although apparently they cheated a bit, so not very closed after all (NYT, seems like a more balanced take). There’s a certain ambition to this project that (sadly) feels out-of-place by today’s standards, let alone by those of the 1990s. Also, it’s pretty frustrating that the data seem to have been lost.

Society/politics

Leopold on Burkean longtermism. I’m very sympathetic to his view, although I’d stick a strong dose of Christianity in there too…

Why do language textbooks make the country in question seem so boring?

Important China graphic. Which other visualisations like this are fundamental to understanding the modern world?

On estrangement in America: The Economist and David Brooks (NYT).

Applied Divinity Studies on the transhuman Olympics.

Dominic Cummings Twitter conversation whether the Brexiteer MPs were actually posh (you might have to click on the tweet again and scroll up to see the preceding conversation). Found myself thinking a lot about this in the days afterwards, and how in my native Northern Ireland a home counties accent automatically – and wrongly – means ‘posh’…

Book review of both The WEIRDest People in the World by Joseph Henrich and Fertility and Faith by Philip Jenkins. ‘Does Christianity thrive, generally speaking, where there are large families and traditional social mores (Jenkins)? Or does it dissolve these things in the end, in spite of itself, through its sexual ethics (Henrich) and perhaps even through its very gospel…?’

Culture

Douthat on the Last Jedi: put it better than I can…

Tyler on podcasts. Sam Enright on his favourite Conversations with Tyler episodes.

Football TV Commentary & the Creation of History.

Dan Wang interview.

Books I’ve been reading: fiction

Mantel, The Mirror and the Light: part-way through this, very good so far. But hard not to judge it in context of the previous two books in the trilogy, both Booker prize winners, while this one didn’t even make the shortlist.

Chiang, Exhalation: one story to go in this collection but it’s hit and miss, not sure why it gets such positive reviews on Amazon… I preferred Chinese sci-fi anthology Broken Stars.

Books I’ve been reading: non-fiction

Silver, The Signal and the Noise: a pretty comprehensive look at the challenges and joys of data. Covers some of the same ground as Superforecasting and those kind of behavioural economics books. I think I’ve hit diminishing returns on these kind of books (see reviews here and here) but there’s lots of history to get my teeth into that will cover similar things, even if implicitly.

Strogatz, The Joy of X: fun overview of some maths topics, very accessible. Planning to read and learn more in this area.

Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment: I’m pick my way slowly through this excellent book. The penetrating insights on the human condition are worth reflecting on regardless of your views on Christianity:

[M]any… think, If I were in such circumstance, then I should have contentment; and perhaps they get into such circumstances, and they are as far from contentment as before. But then they think that if they were in other circumstances, they would be contented, but when they have got into those circumstances, they are still as far from contentment as before.


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