Saturday, December 8, 2018

"A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley"

It looks like the best and the brightest have sown dragon's teeth – again. While the experts continue to cautiously debate the effects of prolonged staring at various screens, Silicon Valley execs have apparently seen the writing on the wall. If the NYT is to be believed, many are in panic over the effects of the technology they have unleashed on their own children. So they have taken to hiring nannies whose chief obligation is to not use any digital device while on duty – and keep their charges similarly unplugged. A time of reckoning, if there is one – pointing to a future when it will take tons of money to give kids a shot at healthy physical and mental growth. Why is so hard to not say, "I told you so"?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How did Jordan B. Peterson become radicalized?

Until October 2016, Jordan B. Peterson was a little-known psychology professor. Then, a few videos in which he championed “politically incorrect” ideas went viral – and he shot up to unforeseen fame and fortune. The content of his doubt-proof pronouncements on everything has subsequently attracted much attention. There may be, however, a more revealing take on his transformation into a celebrity reactionary (for the liberal intelligentsia) and motivation speaker (among angry, mostly white young men). It’s an angle that places style on par with substance.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The gift of disinhibition

In her paean to Philip Roth in The New Yorker, Zadie Smith says his “central gift and the quality he shared with America itself” is unrestrained, “sheer energy.” In her Philp Roth Lecture two years ago, she said something slightly different – that reading Roth, she “felt something impossible loosen” inside. To her, it was an invaluable gift – “a gift of freedom.” Good for Ms. Smith, who went on to become a superbly creative writer. The gift she cherishes so much, however, might have had a larger fallout – related to the broader cultural trend Roth epitomized so powerfully. He apparently rode the crest of the “culture of narcissism” (or of “self-expression values,” if you the Zeitgeist calls for a less judgmental term). That tide has allowed, among other things, some exceptional individuals to make and keep what in the past would have been obscene amounts of money. This social group would include financial speculators, captains of the “attention economy,” and other “bad actors” (as Paul Krugman has dubbed them). They can now wallow in billions without the slightest sense of shame or embarrassment, and be a target of admiration rather than opprobrium.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Too bad the Wehrmacht did not win on the Eastern front!

I clicked through a video the other day – “The Battle of the Baltics” from “The Greatest Tank Battles” series. It is apparently produced for the History and National Geographic channels – yet could very well have been Nazi propaganda. It is all shot from a German perspective and features mostly interviews with German tank crew. Much of the footage is animation of mighty German panzer blowing up countless “Russian” T-34s. The culmination comes when 10 panzer valiantly open a corridor so 500,000 German soldiers can withdraw to fight another day for the Endsieg. I hope there is a parallel universe in which the authors of this video production can live under Nazi rule. If I were religious, I would have also added – thank God for Prof. John Erickson!