Refugees and the Limits of Economic Logic – The Atlantic

Taking in people who have no safe home isn’t about GDP growth; it’s about basic decency.

Welcoming refugees might not be an efficient means of growing national wealth. But it is a moral way to spend the national surplus. No country in the history of the world has ever been both so big and so rich—and, despite 9/11, no similar power in history has been so safe from external threats for so long.

But what good is this extraordinary wealth and fortune if it does not free America from the prison of scarcity, in which every single policy decision must be about maximizing national income? With its vast richness, the United States has earned something that is not quantifiable—the capacity to be merciful.

Source: Refugees and the Limits of Economic Logic – The Atlantic

Eliot A. Cohen Responds to Donald Trump’s First Week – The Atlantic

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness.

Source: Eliot A. Cohen Responds to Donald Trump’s First Week – The Atlantic

Self-segregation: how a personalized world is dividing Americans | Technology | The Guardian

Most people aren’t looking to self-segregate, but they do it anyway in an age of military privatization and social media on college campuses

The US can only function as a healthy democracy if we find a way to diversify our social connections, if we find a way to weave together a strong social fabric that bridges ties across difference. Right now, we are moving in the opposite direction with serious consequences.

By and large, the American public wants to have strong connections across divisions. They see the value in it, politically and socially. But they’re not going to work for it. And given the option, they’re going to renew their license remotely, try to get out of jury duty, and use available data to seek out housing and schools that are filled with people like them.

If we want to develop a healthy democracy, we need a diverse and highly connected social fabric. This requires creating contexts in which the American public voluntarily struggles with the challenges of diversity to build bonds that will last a lifetime.

Source: Self-segregation: how a personalized world is dividing Americans | Technology | The Guardian

What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class

The reasons for Trump’s win are obvious, if you know where to look.

Manly dignity is a big deal for working-class men, and they’re not feeling that they have it. … So is breadwinner status: Many still measure masculinity by the size of a paycheck.

Class trumps gender, and it’s driving American politics.

  • Understand That Working Class Means Middle Class, Not Poor
  • Understand Working-Class Resentment of the Poor
  • Understand How Class Divisions Have Translated into Geography
  • If You Want to Connect with White Working-Class Voters, Place Economics at the Center
  • Avoid the Temptation to Write Off Blue-Collar Resentment as Racism

WWC men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree.

trade deals are far more expensive than we’ve treated them, because sustained job development and training programs need to be counted as part of their costs

If we don’t take steps to bridge the class culture gap, when Trump proves unable to bring steel back to Youngstown, Ohio, the consequences could turn dangerous.

Source: What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class – by Joan C. Williams

I’m on the Professor Watchlist—and it’s woken me up to the radical truth about America and social progress — Quartz

The Professor Watchlist is one such relic of the past, returned to the present—a readily available archive of who should be punished, who should be surveilled, and who should be erased. There may be more to come: Lists of refugees and undocumented immigrants, ready for an official invocation. Lists of enemies of the state, both foreign and domestic. Lists of radicals, lists of community organizers, lists of scientists. Lists that reminded people of dark moments in American history; of Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, and the Japanese internment camps in the US during World War II.

It is a confirmation that those who believed progress was inevitable were wrong all along.

Source: I’m on the Professor Watchlist—and it’s woken me up to the radical truth about America and social progress — Quartz

You Can’t Save The World Without Civilization

Effective altruism and existential risk reduction face a single point of failure: they depend on civilization. Risks to civilization endanger effective altruism, existential risk reduction, and all significant humanitarian causes.

When you take the long view, civilizational collapse happens all the time. In contrast, many existential risks are speculative or rare: either they have never happened before, like nanotechnology weapons, or they are extremely uncommon, like large asteroid strikes.

You invest in the things you value, but you also need to be investing in the thing that lets you pursue your values in the first place: civilization.

Source: You Can’t Save The World Without Civilization

The Manhattan Project Fallacy

When will tech solve the real problems, critics ask? … Assuming that this complaint is sincere, it nonetheless misses the point. What are “real” problems? … It’s a convoluted way of saying that the author wants to deputize Google, Facebook, Apple, and other tech companies to solve social problems.

Tech critics should be very careful what they wish for when they say that they wish that tech companies would tackle the “real” problems. What they are asking for is for tech companies to engineer solutions to social problems, and in particular they are asking for the top-down engineering of solutions to social problems by experts, bureaucrats, scientists, and engineers. This rational design process does not generally improve intractable social problems in flawed systems and if anything is the source of new problems.

a key characteristic of many social problems is a basic disagreement about what to measure and how to measure it.

it is also amusing that the call for the tech world to save us occurs at a time of popular panic over artificial intelligence. … There is a danger from a superintelligent, hyper rational, paperclip optimizing artificial intelligence. … Actually, it’s already taken control. … Yes, dear reader, I speak of the federal government.

The bureaucratic dimension of technical rationality can be considered a kind of artificial superintelligence, at least because most of people’s nonsensical fantasies of superpowerful, superintelligent, and hyper-rational beings tend to describe what already exists in large, impersonal bureaucracies. The pathologies of technical rationality are in fact the nightmare scenario that Musk and Hawking so fear.

The manner in which tech makes a difference or deals with a hard problem is important, and the mere fact that some tech company or funding agency for a technical project is tackling a hard problem that matters does not inherently make it a Good Thing (TM).

Source: The Manhattan Project Fallacy