The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech | Palladium

Source: The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech | Palladium, by Natalia Dashan

This is a story about an institution and an elite that have lost themselves.

Pretending to be poor is a lot easier than pretending to be rich—just because there are so many different ways to be poor. … But lying about anything is tricky—you risk being found out—so what were these people trying to accomplish by acting broke? And this raises the broader question: why pretend to be of a social class you are not?

Poor people pretend to be rich to look cool. … Rich people pretend to be poor to fit in.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with haphazard and sometimes warped class signaling. But if you put on a façade for long enough, you end up forgetting that it is a façade. The rich and powerful actually start believing that they are neither of those things. … They forget that they have certain privileges and duties that others do not.

conferences where everybody lifts their champagne glasses to speeches about how we all need to “tear down the Man!” How we need to usurp conventional power structures. … But when you look around at the men and women in their suits and dresses, … you notice that these are the exact same people with the power—they are the Man supposedly causing all those problems that they are giving feel-good speeches about. … They are the people with power who fail to comprehend the meaning of that power. They are abdicating responsibility, and they don’t even know it.

The elite are expected—by everyone else, and by each other—to use their power to make sure society works properly. That is, they are expected to rule benevolently. The reason they are expected to do this is that if they don’t, nobody else can or will. The middle class and the poor do not have the powers and privileges that the rich and elite do, and cannot afford the necessary personal risks. But without active correction towards health and order, society fails. … When they misunderstand both the nature of power and their own power, how can they be expected to coordinate to use that power to rule well? How can they be expected not to abuse it?

Yale students, if they weren’t powerful when they came in (and most of them were), they gain power by being bestowed a Yale degree. What would you do with this power? You don’t want to abuse it; you’re not outright evil. No, you want something different. You want to be absolved of your power. You are ashamed of your power. Why should you have it, and not somebody else—maybe somebody more deserving? You never really signed up for this. You would rather be somebody normal. But not, “normal,” normal. More like normal with options and vacations and money “normal.” Normal but still powerful.

The Costs of Reliability | LessWrong 2.0

Source: The Costs of Reliability | LessWrong 2.0, by sarahconstantin

“Why can people be so much better at doing a thing for fun, or to help their friends and family, than they are at doing the exact same thing as a job?” … I think it has a very mundane explanation; it’s always more expensive to have to meet a specific commitment than merely to do something valuable.

The costs of reliability are often invisible, but they can be very important. The cost (in time and in office supplies and software tools) of tracking and documenting your work so that you can deliver it on time. The cost (in labor and equipment) of quality assurance testing. The opportunity cost of creating simpler and less ambitious things so that you can deliver them on time and free of defects.

Speed matters: Why working quickly is more important than it seems | JSomers

Source: Speed matters: Why working quickly is more important than it seems, by James Somers

The obvious benefit to working quickly is that you’ll finish more stuff per unit time. But there’s more to it than that. If you work quickly, the cost of doing something new will seem lower in your mind. So you’ll be inclined to do more.

The general rule seems to be: systems which eat items quickly are fed more items. Slow systems starve.

Don’t Give White Nationalists the Post-9/11 Treatment | The Atlantic

Source: Don’t Give White Nationalists the Post-9/11 Treatment | The Atlantic, by Max Abrahms

What is the optimal response to terrorism? Regardless of the type of terrorist threat, domestic or international, counterterrorism must always strive to achieve two crosscutting goals. The first is to neutralize existing terrorists. And the second is to do it in way that doesn’t generate new ones in the process. Whereas underreaction fails at the former, overreaction tends to fail at the latter. The key to achieving this tricky balance is to aggressively go after only legitimate terrorists, lest we inadvertently spawn future ones.

To this end, law enforcement must develop a subtle understanding of what constitutes extremism, and a thick skin. As a term, extremism is used sloppily to denote both a person’s political goals and the methods used to achieve them. There’s an important difference, though, between rooting for extreme ends and using extreme means to realize them. Chat rooms are full of people expressing sundry offensive—even reprehensible—political visions. The smart counterterrorist swallows hard and leaves them alone. But it’s interdiction time the moment the prospect of violence is even mentioned as a way forward.

On Inequality and Risk Capacity | The Information

Source: On Inequality and Risk Capacity | The Information, by Sam Lessin

The biggest factor causing inequality is the ability of people to take risk. Those who have already scored a big success have more capacity to take further risks than those who haven’t. … coupled with a changing landscape of the types of risk available to people and their capacity and willingness to take risk.

While I am sure [technology and unequal access to “opportunity”] play a role, I am convinced that they are not the major source of growing inequality in the U.S. The real cause is the compounding advantage that some people have in their ability to take certain types of financial risk in a world where access to capital is commoditized. Real returns come from high-variance, low-probability outcomes.

A smarter, stronger and harder-working person might do better than their neighbor, but at most by a few multiples, not orders of magnitude. Differences in knowledge might at first blush seem like they can provide compounding advantage … But the reality is that knowledge tends to diffuse quite rapidly. It is hard to keep an idea or invention private forever to your own advantage… So, a great idea or a unique piece of information you figure out might provide some advantage for a while, but it is generally not sustainable or compounding.

For most, the risk-taking doesn’t pay off, and these people end up worse off than their non-risk-taking neighbors. … For a minority, however, imagine that their risk taking pays off, and they get dramatically richer than their neighbors… Unlike the first-round risk-taking losers, the winners can now afford to take more and more risks. … over time, we end up in a society where some people can afford to take rational risks with time and capital, but most cannot.

Consumer protections have their place. But there is no question that regulations, which disincentivized companies from going public quickly—and bar unaccredited investors from taking financial risks or investing in funds which do—drive inequality. In the name of protecting people we have set up a world where—quite literally—in order to have access to the best performing investments you need to already be rich.

There will still be inventors, and there will still be hard workers in our future. But as we come to grips with the fact that in modern times economic outcome compounds less on innovation and work, and more on risk taking, either our national identity is going to have to dramatically shift, or we are going to have to think about how we evolve our social structures.