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Articles & Podcasts of Note (Week of 01/11/2021)


I’ve decided to retire this recurring feature of the blog. I’ve enjoyed posting a weekly roundup of links since the blog’s inception (62 in total, this one included). However, since launching the Mental Pivot Newsletter last September, this feature has become redundant with the curated listings I include in the newsletter. Starting next week, my weekly roundup of interesting links (articles, podcasts and other odds and ends) will be published exclusively in the newsletter (so be sure to subscribe if you’re still interested in this content, there's also an RSS feed). As for the blog, I’ll be using the opportunity to post short pieces about other topics I’ve wanted to write about.


Articles:

  • A Brief History of Consumer Culture (mit.edu): A look at one of the key social developments of the 20th century, the democratization (and manufacturing) of consumer desire and the massive economic push for material acquisition as the path to prosperity and happiness.
  • Arthur Schopenhauer: There Are Only Two Kinds of Writers (dariusforoux.com): Darious Foroux riffs on a passage from the 19th century philosopher: “[There are] those who write for the sake of what they have to say and those who write for the sake of writing. The former have had ideas or experiences which seem to them worth communicating; the latter need money and that is why they write—for money.”
  • Exploring my Writing: The Subjects of Sentences (marcel.is): Marcel Krčah reminds us that the conventional wisdom about the passive voice is insufficient. Consideration about the grammatical focal point should be of equal (if not greater) concern.
  • Focus on Understanding, Not on What Is Right (nickang.com): Nick Ang urges us to consider a better way to approach discussions: stop treating them as competitions and constantly injecting your opinion and start listening.
  • How to Take Notes (scotthyoung.com): Practical tips from Ultralearning author Scott Young.
  • If You Want Peace, Study War (persuasion.community): Historian Margaret McMillan (author of War: How Conflict Shaped Us) ponders the reluctance to study the history of military conflict in our universities and what is lost when we ignore the important lessons of the past.
  • Internet 3.0 and the Beginning of (Tech) History (stratechery.com): Ben Thompson posits that recent events in the United States will push technology back towards open platforms and decentralized solutions (in response to our current cycle where closed, centralized platforms have dominated).
  • The Joys of Being an Absolute Beginner—For Life (theguardian.com): An extract from Tom Vanderbilt’s forthcoming book, Beginners: The Curious Power of Lifelong Learning.
  • The Lies that Can Undermine Democracy (martinfowler.com): “While we must have free speech, we must not be free of the consequences of that speech...”
  • The Platform Is the Enemy (danielbmarkham.com): Daniel Markham’s pointed critique explores the existential threat of ceding too much human decision-making to technology platforms.
  • We Need a New Media System (substack.com): Matt Taibbi looks at the perverse incentives that have led to a bifurcated media landscape in which two alternate realities, one left-leaning and one right-leaning, simultaneously flourish.

Podcasts:

  • Mindscape: Democracy in America (preposterousuniverse.com): Sean Carrol, scientist and podcaster, offers thoughtful ideas on how democracy is supposed to work and how to improve it.
  • No Compromise (npr.org): Ostensibly a 6-episode podcast about the 2nd Amendment and gun-rights advocates, but the story quickly delves into an intricate web of interrelated phenomena: Christian fundamentalism, the abolition of public education, confrontational politics, white supremacy, citizen militias, ideological orthodoxy, social media, twisted entrepreneurship, QAnon, and much more. Released in the Fall of 2020, this series is extremely relevant to the current socio-political climate in America.


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