Links – 05/01/2017

  • Vanity Fair published a very interesting story about Ross Ulbricht, the creator of Silk Road, a website on the dark web on which one could buy anything from drugs to a machine gun and even hire a hit man. As I was reading it, I found myself thinking sometimes about Nietzsche’s übermenschen and sometimes about obnoxious teenagers, but then I realized that the line between the two was probably kind of fuzzy.
  • The Guardian published a piece about a recent paper in Science which argues that some learning algorithms pick up on people’s biases. The headline is very misleading, but it’s still interesting. I have read the paper in question yet, but it seems to buy into the fashionable claims made about implicit bias, which as I have noted before are completely extravagant. Still, it looks interesting and I want to remember that I need to read something on the kind of algorithm it’s talking about, which seem to be the sort of things people who are interested in the philosophy of language should know about.
  • Mark Koyama wrote a blog post on Medium about a paper he co-wrote on the divergence between Japan and China in the second half of the 20th century. I’m not sure I buy it but it’s interesting. (There is a mistake when he talks about the victory of Japan over Russia in 1904, when in fact it wasn’t achieved until 1905, after the Battle of Tsushima.)
  • Koyama briefly mentions the Taiping Rebellion in his post, a civil war that is largely forgotten in the West, even though it was one of the deadliest conflicts in history. This review of a book about this war quickly explains what it was about. I haven’t read the book in question, so I’m not endorsing it.
  • A former undergraduate student at Cornell recounts his Kafkaesque experience with Cornell’s so-called judiciary system and encourages people to sign a petition asking for reforms. If everything really happened as he describes it, that’s pretty damning for Cornell. To be clear, while I think his account of what happened to him is pretty damning, I disagree with more things he says in that post than I care to explain. For instance, while I think it’s absolutely clear that elite universities in the US discriminate against Asian students at the stage of admission, I see no reason to believe that he was treated in this way by Cornell’s judiciary system because he is Asian.

2 thoughts

  1. There are lots of kinds of obnoxious teenagers and not all of them have anything to do with Nietzsche’s overman (or overperson).

    Adolesence is a stage where people forge a personal identity for themselves, and for many of them (not all, I concede), part of forming a personal identity involves affirming one’s imagined superiority to others. Thus, the boy who scores more goals than his classmates feels superior to the rest of humanity who do not score goals and the girl who dances better and in a sexier way than others feels superior to the rest of humanity who do not dance well or in a sexier way. So too the boy (the overperson is generally male, but maybe less so these days) with no friends and whom no one understands feels superior to the herd who are incapable of understanding him or her.

    Generally, as we get older, reality kicks the shit and illusions out of each of us and we no longer feel superior to anyone.

    Actually, since lonely teenagers are more apt to commit suicide, Nietzsche’s overperson probably has saved a lot of lives, since the overperson in Zarathustra is above all, life-affirming.

    When I was a teenager in the later 50’s and early 60’s, Nietzsche was still considered to be a proto-Nazi and anti-semite (outside of academic circles) and so instead of him, I read Schopenhauer who is a lot less life-affirming.

  2. Our educational system puts Asian Americans in a peculiar situation. Item one, their parents tend to respect those in authority, especially within the educational system. When my wife and I (we are white) dropped our daughter off at college, we drove around Druid Hills singing, “And the people in the houses/All to to the university/And they all get put in boxes/Little boxes all the same,” but I don’t think most Asian parents do that. Second, the universities absolutely discriminate against Asians. Third, Asians, although not given any special privileges, are encouraged to see themselves as victims and to rail against white privilege. The resulting contradictions are not easily resolved.

    In contrast, as I intimated, former hippies like my wife and I despise all of Them, including professors, and have no intellectual confusion when someone does us wrong.

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