Showing posts from March, 2020

The Bernie Sanders Moment

You often hear people saying "I agree with Bernie Sanders in terms of his policies, but I just don't think he has a broad enough coalition to win - and besides, I can't stand a lot of his supporters."  In my long tradition of maximum contrarianism, burning all bridges and pissing everyone off, I'm going to stake out the exact opposite position. I actually disagree with a lot of Bernie Sanders's policies.  But his greatest strength is, well, very little to do with him at all: it is, precisely, his coalition. What's so great about this coalition? First of all, it's so big. Of all the candidates in 2020, Bernie has, by far, the biggest, most solid base.  No one else really had much of a base.  The rest of the 27(!) candidates were splitting up constituencies that would flit from one flavor of the month to another, according to whatever media currents were blowing on that day, but Bernie's 30% or so has remained - and remains - calm, determi

The Algorithms Have Already Taken Control

What would the world look like if artificial intelligence took over? AI is neither benevolent nor malevolent.  It simply functions.  "The AIs just want to make you happy."  Well, that's almost true.  But is it precise to say that the algorithms "want" anything?  They simply function, and your pleasure and happiness are important variables in their functioning.  As they function, they adapt to the pleasure-responses of their hosts. If we like cruelty, then the algorithms will deliver cruelty.  If we like something heartwarming, tender, and intimate, they will package that up and sell it to us as well.   Morphine doesn't want to make you happy either.  Nor does it want you to suffer.  Now imagine a form of morphine that alters its own chemical structure to adapt to the person that is addicted to it.  Everyone has their own, personalized morphine, attuned perfectly to their individual tastes and proclivities.  Rather than the crude geometric shapes and patter

What is a Ritual?

In the impeachment and the subsequent removal trial that concluded last month (I know, it feels like a hundred years ago, but it was only last month), we had the lucky opportunity to witness the birth of a ritual.  From before the beginning, everyone knew that it could not "succeed" (if we are defining the purpose of this process as the removal of the president, which may be a foolish way of understanding things) because there was never any plausible way to achieve a 2/3rds supermajority of votes, and yet the proceedings had to be initiated, and once they were initiated, they had to be played out, over many weeks, to the bitter end.  This process was, quite cleverly, initiated by the president: as Pelosi put it, he " impeached himself ." To be precise, this was an apotropaic ritual: that is, a ritual used to ward off shame, guilt, embarrassment, envy, ressentiment , and a feeling of responsibility - in short, the malocchio , the evil eye.  The celebrants st