Category Archives: Other Opinions

Other Opinions #55 – I was wrong. You were wrong too. Admit it.

https://backreaction.blogspot.ca/2017/08/i-was-wrong-you-were-wrong-too-admit-it.html

Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse everything that I link to. I link to things that are interesting and/or thought-provoking. Caveat lector.

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Other Opinions #54 – The Problem With ‘Privilege’

http://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2017/08/28/the_problem_with_privilege_110195.html

Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse everything that I link to. I link to things that are interesting and/or thought-provoking. Caveat lector.

I agree with more of this one than I thought I might, given the title. Worth reading for liberals and conservatives alike.

Power is a very messy abstraction.

Other Opinions #53 – Disputing Definitions

http://lesswrong.com/lw/np/disputing_definitions/

http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/

Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse everything that I link to. I link to things that are interesting and/or thought-provoking. Caveat lector.

Both links are excellent exploration of a common problem, but I think they miss a case. Sometimes, when people argue over the definition of a word, it is because there is an argument over value coming along for the ride.

Consider, specifically, a debate I witnessed recently over the definition of “racism”. Is racism only “prejudice based on race” (which I grant is pretty intuitive), or is it more completely defined as “prejudice based on race, when combined with structural power” (which is more what this article argues)?

Now, as in the case of “if tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” there isn’t any underlying disagreement about how the world really is. Both parties agreed that prejudice based on race exists, and that sometimes it is combined with structural power. Both parties were also fairly rational people, unlikely to get sucked into a pointless argument over definitions.

The disagreement, I think, was over the ethical implications. “Racism” is a heavily loaded word, and in this context I think it ended up being shorthand for “something wrong”. One party was arguing that any “prejudice based on race” is ethically wrong, whereas the other party was arguing that prejudice based on race is only ethically wrong when combined with structural power. That’s a really interesting argument to have, but it can’t happen if people think it’s just about the definition of “racism” instead.

Other Opinions #52 – Can We Avoid a Surveillance State Dystopia?

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/02/can-we-avoid-a-surveillance-st.html

Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse everything that I link to. I link to things that are interesting and/or thought-provoking. Caveat lector.

Betteridge’s Law suggests no, but the article itself is oddly optimistic. One thing is certain: technology is shifting the landscape of power faster than any government bureaucracy can adapt. We live in interesting times.

Other Opinions #51 – Tolerance is not a Moral Precept

https://extranewsfeed.com/tolerance-is-not-a-moral-precept-1af7007d6376

Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse everything that I link to. I link to things that are interesting and/or thought-provoking. Caveat lector.

This one is a really interesting take on tolerating intolerance and that whole mess, and unpacks it in a way that makes a lot of sense, but also I think fails to line up with how tolerance is actually often used. I’ve seen people with both conservative and liberal viewpoints try to open up what are essentially peace talks in the current ongoing culture war around diversity, only to be shouted down in the name of not tolerating intolerance.

Liberals need to recognize that not every form of conservatism is a fundamental threat to their very existence (some are, sure, but it’s not exactly difficult to tell them apart), and conservatives need to stop whining about their viewpoints not being tolerated just because they’re unpopular right now.

Tolerance is a peace treaty, but peace requires minimal trust and good faith, both of which are sorely lacking.

Other Opinions #50 – Everyone Says I Am Running Away

Everyone Says I Am Running Away

Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse everything that I link to. I link to things that are interesting and/or thought-provoking. Caveat lector.

On the one hand, the fiftieth of these feels like it should be more substantial or important or something. On the other hand, fifty isn’t that significant a number, and I’m feeling lazy.

The author of this one is trying to explain himself to people who say he’s running away from “real life”. On the one hand, axiological relativism, and life is what you make of it, etc. On the other hand, socio-cultural conformance is a powerful force multiplier because it builds trust and lets people work towards implicit common goals. Society can afford and absorb some people who break the mold, but eventually the system decoheres. Be careful what you wish for.

Other Opinions #49 – Everything Except Country and Rap

http://www.runoutnumbers.com/blog/2015/11/16/everything-except-country-and-rap

Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse everything that I link to. I link to things that are interesting and/or thought-provoking. Caveat lector.

One has to wonder how something like Hamilton (the musical) affects the perception of this sort of thing. Does it make hip-hop “cool” among white people? Is that OK?