Poorly edited, rehashed blog posts written in a trying-too-hard-to-be-colloquial-and-"with-it" style, containing only modest and superficial insights,...morePoorly edited, rehashed blog posts written in a trying-too-hard-to-be-colloquial-and-"with-it" style, containing only modest and superficial insights, a strong tendency to simplify and categorize people and situations in a gross, reductionist, nearly dehumanizing manner, and backed by a philosophy reliant upon cynical gamesmanship and distrust. In short: all the worst aspects of capitalism in a quick read! I'm more interested in transcending the workaday, growth-worshipping business life than becoming an expert player within it.
Tom Coates recently struck upon a big part of my queasiness with Rands's priors and approach:
"@rands I picture you working in a sort of Game of Thrones-like castle full of manipulators and spies who want to chop your bits off."
Heartening to read how my monthly Kiva deposit and subsequent loans might be having effects in parts of the world I am likely never to see, populated...moreHeartening to read how my monthly Kiva deposit and subsequent loans might be having effects in parts of the world I am likely never to see, populated by people I will never meet, but who nonetheless deserve as much opportunity as I've lucked into. Here, Harris's repeated use of the "birth lottery" device and eventually Gandhi's Talisman alludes to one of my own favorite political philosophy thought experiments: Rawls's veil of ignorance. It was invigorating to see such a practical, wide-ranging application of theory which in its original form is thought-provoking but decidedly impractical. You combine overwhelming statistics with a strong sense of justice, personal connection, and contemporary financial and communications technology, and there are definitely reasons to be optimistic about the future. (While you continue to help out, of course!)
Gave up on this midway through the second chapter, which is actually more than a third through the whole thing. I almost never quit books. (Perhaps be...moreGave up on this midway through the second chapter, which is actually more than a third through the whole thing. I almost never quit books. (Perhaps because I am too selective up front?) This one, however, I gladly spurn.
First 100 pages were okay but rambling, disjointed, speculative, grabbag, etc.
Eventually though I couldn't stomach how much attention was being paid to pseudoscientific blather. And all of it sort of glossed over with an air of respectability. I lost the trust I had in the author. With it went any remnants of goodwill.
Here's a brief test instead of me dissecting a handful of pages: go to somaspace.org, read through some of the materials if you want (make sure to note that the friendly doctor—read chiropractor, a detail Rushkoff brazenly skips over—will, "if you really want," share his resume if you contact him), then think about how you would describe the website's owner, author, and subject: In what light? With respect to what authorities? As evidence/support of what broader argument/theory that you're making? (Btw you're a "media theorist" in this scenario.) How might you position him in the landscape of evidence-based medicine if not science writ large?
Now think about how you would want someone to describe him to you if they were given the privilege to opine freely, without interruption, and with only scattershot attempts at a thesis for the two-plus hours you've so far given them. When the subject is already pretty far afield from what you expected and its treatment less than rigorous. Remember, this is the first firsthand pseudo-expert you've brought in to make a point.
Done? Rushkoff introduces Filippi with nary a trace of irony as the "founder" of that site. (I founded my personal homepage, too!) He describes him as "putting... together... a comprehensive approach to the brain over time." As "building on his predecessors' work" by "analyzing the biochemical impact of seasonal and lunar rhythms." Etc.
Of course, given just a minute of sleuthing, you find that this man isn't a biochemist, nor a researcher, nor a scientist, nor even a doctor as we might commonly refer to one. He's certainly not a doctor in the fashion you're led to believe. Probably never took an introductory course in biochemistry. Probably couldn't pass one. When you turn to the endnote and see that the next few pages concerning the man and his study are all based on personal conversations over a couple of months last year, you begin to doubt either the sincerity of the author or his ability to discern between legitimate endeavorers and cranks, between what matters and what doesn't.
Then you return the book to the library.
(To partially change the subject: In order to gird myself for quitting, I tried to find what I'd previously heard about Tyler Cowen's prodigious and ruthless reading habits, particularly how bluntly he dismisses books he doesn't like. See:
"Cowen's first rule of reading is as follows: You need not finish. He takes up books with great hope and no mercy, and when he is done—sometimes after five minutes—he abandons them in public, an act he calls ‘liberation.’"
Stylistically, tonally refined. Wonderful depth and breadth of archival, primary source research. Replete with well-chosen quotes from the writings an...moreStylistically, tonally refined. Wonderful depth and breadth of archival, primary source research. Replete with well-chosen quotes from the writings and reflections of those philosophers, soon-to-be "scientists" involved. Deft construction of parallels with modern/contemporary views, and altogether splendidly organized.(less)