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Note to Self: Books for Econ 210a: Introduction to Economic History (Spring 2019)

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Diane Coyle: The Long Arc of UK Productivity: "Nick Crafts has a compact book... about the trajectory of the British economy... Forging Aahead, Falling Behind and Fighting Back.... Nick’s somewhat idiosyncratic–but highly plausible–view that the seeds of the country’s post-world war 2 relative decline were sown in the institutions that enabled it to perform so well during the 19th century...

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Cosma Shalizi (2009): Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour and Richard Scheines, Causation, Prediction and Search: "Re-read as part of preparing for my lecture on casual discovery. I spent much of the winter of 2000 working my way through the first edition, and wound up completely imprinted on its way of thinking about what causal relationships are, how we should reason about them, and how we can find them from empirical evidence... http://www.stat.cmu.edu/~cshalizi/350/lectures/31/lecture-31.pdf...

.... On causation and prediction it now has an equal in Pearl's book (and I admit the latter looks prettier), but on search, that is, on discovering causal structure, there is still no rival. Their key observation is that even though correlation does not imply causation, correlations must have causal explanations. (This idea goes back to Herbert Simon, and Hans Reichenbach [see above] at least.)

So patterns of correlations, among more than just two variables, constrain what causal structures are possible. Sometimes they constrain the causal structure uniquely, in other cases it's only partially identified by the dependencies. And of course there is always the possibility of making a mistake with limited data. But none of this is any different for causal discovery than it is for any other form of statistical inference. The great contribution of this book is showing that causal discovery can be just another learning problem. They have transformed metaphysical misery into ordinary statistical unhappiness...


#shouldread

Larry Summers: The Five Best Books on Globalization: "The Economic Consequences of the Peace https://books.google.com/books?id=AX1EAAAAIAAJ, by John Maynard Keynes; Manias, Panics, and Crashes https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0230365353, by Charles Kindleberger; Globalization and Its Discontents https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0393071073, by Joseph E Stiglitz; Why Globalization Works https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0300102526, by Martin Wolf; and _The Great Convergence https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0674972686, by Richard Baldwin...

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If those of us on the left and center are ever going to restart a technocratic debate with those on the right, it will be because thinking on the right becomes dominated by people link Brink Lindsey and his posse, rather then the current crew who are haplessly triangulating between their funders and their political masters: Brink Lindsey: [Welcome to capturedeconomy.com(https://capturedeconomy.com/welcome-to-capturedeconomy-com/): "WA new website dedicated to the problems of 'regulatory capture' and 'rent-seeking'—economist-speak for the pursuit of profits through politics...

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Weekend Reading: Sanjoy Mahajan: Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving

Highly Recommended: Sanjoy Mahajan: Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving: "Too much mathematical rigor teaches rigor mortis:the fear of making an unjustified leap even when it lands on a correct result...

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Note to Self: "The Song of Everlasting Sorrow" and Historical Patriarchy...

Note to Self: The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and Historical Patriarchy: I was reading, as one does—I do not remember why I was reading this, however—an English translation_ of poet, landlord, scholar, bureaucrat, drunkard Bai Juyi's Song of Everlasting Sorrow. And I was struck by four short lines:

Tang Poems English Translation

The overturning of the natural order as a consequence of the love of Emperor Xuanzong for Lady Yang Guifei was so great that all cross the empire parents wished for girl- rather than boy-children...

This struck me as having obvious bearing on my ["Historical Patriarchy"][] lecture...

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Bai Juyi: Song Of Unending Sorrow: For the Weekend

Bai Juyi: Song Of Unending Sorrow: "China's Emperor, craving beauty that might shake an empire,...

...Was on the throne for many years, searching, never finding,
Till a little child of the Yang clan, hardly even grown,
Bred in an inner chamber, with no one knowing her,
But with graces granted by heaven and not to be concealed,
At last one day was chosen for the imperial household.
If she but turned her head and smiled, there were cast a hundred spells,
And the powder and paint of the Six Palaces faded into nothing.

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As we try to figure out how to create a functional rather than a dysfunctional Habermasian public sphere to support at least semi-sane policies, I find it useful to look back at how previous functional and dysfunctional public spheres emerged and maintained themselves. The general view—which may be false—is that the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment did pretty well. And it had one of its wellsprings in the development of new genres, all of which she argues were in some way created as echoes and transformations of the personal letter. Well worth reading: Rachael Scarborough King: Writing to the World: Letters and the Origins of Modern Print Genres: "Rachael Scarborough King examines the shift from manuscript to print media culture in the long eighteenth century...

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In Which I Admit That I Fell Down on the Job with Respect to Dietz Vollrath's Book Proposal...

School of Athens

@dietzvollrath Dietz Vollrath https://twitter.com/DietzVollrath/status/1030098253050781696: "Just signed a contract for a book on the growth slowdown called "Optimal Stagnation", out in 2019. Feelin' good about that. And therefore ending my social media 'diet'..."

My Review of Dietz Vollrath's Proposal Yes, Professor Vollrath’s work is original. Yes, his scholarship is sound. His overall argument is, however, I think, substantially if not largely wrong: There is insufficient good reason to believe that the last decade’s slowdown in productivity growth, as reported by standard measures, is a reflection of our success in managing the process of economic growth.

I think the slowdown is more likely better judged as a failure. However, where and why we have failed to manage economic growth is a damn doubly difficult question. Professor Vollrath’s interpretation is a very intelligent and relatively plausible one. The growth economics community and literature would strongly benefit from its publication. Yes, this is an important work.

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Question for the Universe: I dimly remember some time ago thinking that Peter F. Drucker sought the reconciliation between the advantages of capitalism—bold entrepreneurship and growth—and socialism—redistribution, common concern, and all pulling in the same direction—in the figure of the manager, whose social role was precisely to arrange things so that society could be an "association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all". But now I cannot find it. Did I just dream that I had written this down someplace?


Weekend Reading: Stephen Fritz on Robert Citino's "Death Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942"

stacks and stacks of books

Stephen Fritz (2008): On Citino, 'Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942': "Continuing his examination of the German way of war, Robert Citino has produced a cogently argued, clearly written book in which he asserts that the German defeat in World War II was as much conceptual as it was material...

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Weekend Reading: Geopolitics, World Trade and Globalization: Learning from the Wise Kevin O'Rourke and Ron Findlay

Hoisted from the Archives: Ron Findlay and Kevin O'Rourke Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium (Princeton: Princeton University Press): "A feature of the book that may strike some economists as odd or surprising, but will seem entirely commonplace to historians, is its sustained emphasis on conflict, violence, and geopolitics...

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Jane Austen and Walter Scott: Not Quite Love and Friendship: Weekend Reading

Catherine Hokin: The History Girls: Jane Austen and Walter Scott: Not Quite Love and Friendship by : “'Walter Scott has no business writing novels, especially good ones – it is not fair. He has fame and profit enough as a poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths'”...

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Hoisted from the Archives: James Scott and Friedrich Hayek

Il Quarto Stato

James Scott and Friedrich Hayek: My review of James Scott (1998), Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press: 0300070160):

 

I. Introduction

There is a lot that is excellent in James Scott's Seeing Like a State.

On one level, it is an extraordinary well-written and well-argued tour through the various forms of damage that have been done in the twentieth century by centrally-planned social-engineering projects—by what James Scott calls 'high modernism' and the attempt to use high modernist principles and practices to build utopia. As such, every economist who reads it will see it as marking the final stage in the intellectual struggle that the Austrian tradition has long waged against apostles of central planning. Heaven knows that I am no Austrian—I am a liberal Keynesian and a social democrat—but within economics even liberal Keynesian social democrats acknowledge that the Austrians won victory in their intellectual debate with the central planners long ago.

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Seems to me I can think of many reasons why his friends would have told him this would not be a good book to write: Joe Patrice: Law School Professor Has New Murder Mystery: "Law professor who quit Twitter in a temper tantrum is back with a new book.... Earlier this year, the conservative Edmund Burke Society at the University of Chicago advertised an event to discuss whether or not immigrants were 'toilet people'...

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This point is absolutely cognitive science-statistics-philosophy of probability gold!: Judea Pearl, Madelyn Glymour, and Nicholas P. Jewell (2016): Causal Inference in Statistics: A Primer (New York: John Wiley & Sons: 978119186847) : "Inquisitive students may wonder why it is that dependencies associated with conditioning on a collider are so surprising to most people—as in, for example, the Monty Hall example. The reason is that humans tend to associate dependence with causation...

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Homer's Odyssey Blogging: "Like Little Birds... They Writhed with Their Feet... But for No Long While..."

Hanging the women in the odyssey Google Search

So let me procrastinate some more this morning...

Let me riff off of something that crossed my desk last night: Emily Wilson's reflections on her translation of the Odyssey, and on the Odyssey itself. There is one passage that always has been, to me at least, horrifyingly freaky in a very bad way. As David Drake—one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors—puts it:

Odysseus caps his victory by slowly strangling–the process is described in some detail–the female servants who have been sleeping with Penelope’s suitors. This is only one example (although a pretty striking one) of normal behavior in an Iron Age culture which is unacceptable in a society that I (or anybody I want as a reader) would choose to live in... a hero with the worldview of a death camp guard...

Indeed:

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The Murder of the Slave Women in the Odyssey

Hanging the women in the odyssey Google Search

Emily R.C. Wilson: "After one of my recent 'Conversation' interviews (in Sydney), someone asked me if the hanging of the slave women in the Odyssey is 'right'...

...Summarizing my answer here on the recommendation of a friend, because it brings up a key distinction for thinking about any literary text. Literature 101: There are 3 separate questions intertwined:

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The Meiji Restoration: A Probable In-Take for "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century"

Tokaido road Google Search

The problem with this is that I do not think that I have the story of Japan's successfully pre-WWI development path nailed, the way I have the Chinese story of failure nailed. Oh well:


The opposite of China in the pre-World War I years was Japan.

In the early seventeenth century the Tokugawa clan of samurai decisively defeated its opponents at the battle of Sekigahara, and won effective control. Tokugawa Ieyasu petitioned the—secluded Priest-Emperor to grant him the title of Shogun, the Priest-Emperor's viceroy in all civil and military matters. His son Hidetaka and grandson Iemitsu consolidated the new régime. From its capital, Edo—renamed and now Tokyo—the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan for two and a half centuries.

At its very start, early in the seventeenth century, the Tokugawa Shogunate took a look to the south, at the Philippines. Only a century before, the Philippines had been independent kingdoms. Then the Europeans landed. Merchants had been followed by missionaries. Converts had proved an effective base of popular support for European influence. Missionaries had been followed by soldiers. And by 1600 Spain ruled the Philippines.

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Note to Self Deep and true thinking about how to build structural models, and what they tell us about what to control for—and what not to control for—in estimation: Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie: The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect (New York: Basic Books: 0465097618) https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0465097618:

Belated awakenings of this sort are not uncommon in science. For example, until about four hundred years ago, people were quite happy with their natural ability to manage the uncertainties in daily life, from crossing a street to risking a fistfight. Only after gamblers invented intricate games of chance, sometimes carefully designed to trick us into making bad choices, did mathematicians like Blaise Pascal (1654), Pierre de Fermat (1654), and Christiaan Huygens (1657) find it necessary to develop what we today call probability theory. Likewise, only when insurance organizations demanded accurate estimates of life annuity did mathematicians like Edmond Halley (1693) and Abraham de Moivre (1725) begin looking at mortality tables to calculate life expectancies. Similarly, astronomers’ demands for accurate predictions of celestial motion led Jacob Bernoulli, Pierre-Simon Laplace, and Carl Friedrich Gauss to develop a theory of errors to help us extract signals from noise. These methods were all predecessors of today’s statistics...

Note: This is the answer to Cosma Shalizi‘s question about why it is that the supposedly general theory of Bayesian statistics makes such reliance on the bizarre and contingent institutional facts of gambling. We express Bayesian ideas in gambling contexts because those were the first contexts complicated enough for us to need to formalize and develop what we already knew.

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Note to Self: References Relevant to the Kaiping Mines Story...

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Teasers for "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century"

Il Quarto Stato

Current Versions of Chapters 1-3:

  1. DRAFT: My Grand Narrative
  2. DRAFT: Themes
  3. DRAFT: Making a Global Economy and Society, 1870-1914

Outtakes and Deleted Scenes:


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Judea Pearl provides the first good response I have ever heard to Cosma Shalizi's priceless anti-Bayesian rant: Cosma Shalizi (2016): On the Uncertainty of the Bayesian Estimator: "I hardly know where to begin. I will leave aside the color commentary. I will leave aside the internal issues with Dutch book arguments for conditionalization. I will not pursue the fascinating, even revealing idea that something which is supposedly a universal requirement of rationality needs such very historically-specific institutions and ideas as money and making book and betting odds for its expression..."

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Daniel Davies: Lying for Money: Weekend Reading

Highly, highly recommended: Dan Davies: How to get away with financial fraud: "Perhaps it’s unfair to judge the Libor conspirators on their chat records; few of the journalists who covered the story would like to see their own Twitter direct-message history paraded in front of an angry public...

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I Never Knew That George Washington Had Saved the Life of Citizen Edmond-Charles Genêt from Robespierre....

stacks and stacks of books

Conor Cruise O'Brien's book about Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution suffers from the same flaw as the dinosaurs in the original Jurassic Park and as Ronald Syme's superb The Roman Revolution: all take DNA from some place else and use it to fill in the gaps. In the case of The Roman Revolution, Ronald Syme takes Mussolini and uses him to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the man born Gaius Octavius Thurinus who became Augustus. In the case of Jurassic Park, they use frog DNA to fill out the dinosaur double helixes. In the case of The Long Affair, Conor Cruise O'Brien uses Kerensky, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin to complete his picture of the French Revolution and of Lafayette, Danton, Hebert, and Robespierre. This method produces a great book to read (or movie to watch). But it is not really history wie es eigentlich gewesen.

My view is that Jefferson believed in the French Revolution not because he wanted the Tree of Liberty to be watered by blood or because he wanted to see the U.S. Congress tamed by the New York or Philadelphia mob, but because he knew he was losing to Adams and Hamilton in the struggle over the future of America, knew that he desperately needed reinforcements, and hence the French Revolution had to succeed in order to provide them. The Long Affair, however, remains a great book—but not quite great history as much as a meditation on "revolutionary excesses" and motivated reasoning: Conor Cruise O'Brien (1996): The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 (Chicago: University of Chicago: 0226616533) (https://books.google.com/books?id=ABKA2MDozAQC: "Genêt, although recalled at Washington's request, remained in America, under Washington's protection...

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Trade around the Indian Ocean before 1500 was a largely peaceful, stable process. Empires, kingdoms, sultanates, and emirates ruled the lands around the ocean, but they did not have the naval strength or the orientation to even think of trying to control the ocean's trade. Pirates were pirates—but only attacked weak targets, and needed bases, and for the land-based kingdoms providing bases for pirates disrupted their own trade. Then came 1500, and a new entity appeared in the Indian Ocean: the Portuguese seaborne empire: [Non-Market Actors in a Market Economy: A Historical Parable): From David Abernethy (2000), The Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires 1415-1980 (New Haven: Yale), p. 242 ff: "Malacca... located on the Malayan side of the narrow strait... the principal center for maritime trade among Indian Ocean emporia, the Spice Islands, and China...

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Since the mid-1990s we have been, once again, living in a world in which John Maynard Keynes is the most relevant economist to understanding our situation. Robert Skidelsky knows Keynes better than Keynes knew himself. Thus this is likely to be the most valuable economics book you read this year: Robert Skidelsky (2018): Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics (New Haven: Yale University Press: 0300240325) https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0300240325

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Edward Bellamy: How I Came to Write Looking Backward: Weekend Reading

Rivera: Detroit Industry

Edward Bellamy (1889): How I Came to Write _Looking Backward: "I accept more readily the invitation to tell in _The Nationalist how I came to write Looking Backward for the reason that it will afford an opportunity to clear up certain points on which inquiries have been frequently addressed to me...

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Blurb for Janeway: Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy, 2nd Edition

Neither Adam Smith’s nor Henry Ford's picture of the economy is relevant for us today. What thumbnail picture is relevant? We do not know, but Bill Janeway thinks harder and more successfully about this question than anybody else I have seen...

William H. Janeway: Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy, 2nd Edition: "Legendary economist Hyman Minsky identified author William H. Janeway as a 'theorist-practitioner' of financial economics; this book is an expression of that double life. Interweaving his unique professional perspective with political and financial history, Janeway narrates the dynamics of the innovation economy from the standpoint of a seasoned practitioner of venture capital, operating on the frontier where innovative technology transforms the market economy. In this fully revised and updated edition, Janeway explains how state investment in national goals enables the innovation process and why financial bubbles accelerate and amplify its impact. Now, the digital revolution, sponsored by the state and funded by speculation, has matured to attack the authority, and even the legitimacy, of governments. The populist response in the west, especially in the United States, opens the door for China to seize leadership of the innovation economy from America..."

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Let Me Distract Myself By Thinking About Something Less Depressing than Trump. Let Me Think About... L. Cornelius Sulla!

Battle of the colline gate Google Search

(Late) Weekend Reading: The opening of Cicero’s Pro Roscio Amerino, According to Stephen Saylors Roman Blood. I would pay serious money for a Saylor translation of the whole thing, with stage directions and audience catcalls. Just saying:

Cicero stepped forward to the podium, cleared his throat and coughed. A wave of skepticism ran through the crowd. A botched opening was a bad sign. At the accuser’s bench Gaius Erucius made a great show of smacking his lips and staring up at the sky.

Cicero cleared his throat and began again. His voice was unsteady and slightly hoarse:

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Imprisonment by Malthus and "Negative Liberty": Outtake from Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century

Il Quarto Stato

At the start of the Long 20th Century John Stuart Mill, Britain’s leading economist, leading moral philosopher, and one of its leading imperialists and rulers of the empire as a former India Office bureaucrat, was putting the finishing touches on the final edition of the book that people then looked to to learn economics: Principles of Political Economy, with Some of Their Applications to Moral Philosophy. His book and his thought gave due attention and place to the 1730-1870 era of the British Industrial Revolution. Yet in the year 1870 he looked out on what he saw as a poor and miserable world. “Hitherto”, he wrote, looking at the world and at the Great Britain and Ireland of his day:

it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes. They have increased the comforts of the middle classes...

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(Early) Monday (Self?) Smackdown: Baiae and LA as Causes of Republican Downfall? Seriously?

Roman republic orgy Google Search

The scary thing is that I do not know whether Tom Holland:

  1. did not notice that Niall Ferguson was misinterpreting his work...
  2. does not care that Niall Ferguson was misinterpreting his work on the grounds that "all publicity is good publicity", or whether...
  3. I am misinterpreting Tom Holland's work, and Holland really does agree with Ferguson—that it was the orgies of Baiae rather than, in Lucan's phrase, because "Caesar could brook no superior and Pompey could brook no rival...", and, as Plutarch put it, the right-wing decision to break the norms by which political clashes "though neither trifling nor raised for trifling objects, were settled by mutual concessions, the nobles yielding from fear of the multitude, and the people out of respect for the senate..."

A Twitter thread:

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For the Weekend: Dante Alighieri and Guido da Montefeltro

Inferno

Dante Alighieri: Inferno 27:

"And now, I pray you, tell me who you are:
do not be harder than I’ve been with you,
that in the world your name may still endure.”

After the flame, in customary fashion,
had roared awhile, it moved its pointed tip
this side and that and then set free this breath....

"While I still had the form of bones and flesh
my mother gave to me, my deeds were not
those of the lion but those of the fox.

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Well, since capitalism delivers higher real wages than any other system we know about, how can you oppose it root-and-branch except by somehow claiming it is fruit from a poisoned tree?: Matthew Yglesias: "I would like to read an intellectual history of how exactly “slavery was a boon to economic development” became the leftist position, and “actually, slavery is a retrograde anti-growth system as well as an immoral one” (Marx’s view!) became the neoliberal sellout view:"

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Note to Self: Working on Today...:


Martha Wells's "Artificial Condition" Is Strongly Recommended

Robotica 300x198 jpg 300×198 pixels

Very strongly recommended: Martha Wells: Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries.

This is one scene: perhaps the best "tell, not show" scene I have read in a long time: Martha Wells: The Last Stand of the Four ComfortUnits of Ganaka Mining Pit: "In the corridor near the living quarters, I found the other ready room, the one for the ComfortUnits...

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Notes on a Framework for Understanding Walter Benjamin: Theses on the Philosophy of History

Three approaches to history:

  1. As an image of what we should become—The study of history as a way of motivating us to recover what has been lost and return to a golden age

  2. As a linear story of human progress, leading up to us, who are either perfect as we are or are going to continue to progress into the future because the arrow of time is also the arrow of history and the arrow of progress

  3. Benjamin’s: we are the hunchback dwarf concealed out of sight inside the Mechanical Turk: we seek messianic redemption and we pull the strings of science and historical knowledge to strive for utopia. History provides us with flashes of illumination insight as we seek to carry out our messianic task.

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