Oceans Rise, Empires Fall

(Attention conservation notice: passing thoughts on the present scene)

Okay, three years lat—three months, three months and one week later, let me say it was too optimistic of me to have suggested that public discourse was working with respect to pandemic response. I was pointing at something real with that post—there is some subgraph of the discourse network of the world that's interested in doing serious cognition to minimize horrible suffocation deaths, but which is definitively not interested in ...

But it's a small subgraph. It is written that every improvement is necessarily a change, but not every change is an improvement. When the center of collective narrative gravity shifts, that could be the homing device of our beautiful weapons converging on the needle of Truth in the haystack of thought, but it could just be the blind thrashing of Fashion.

The Smart Subgraph sounding the alarm might have been an input into authorities calling for a half-measured lockdown ("lockdown")—which was only enough to push R0 slightly below 1. That might have bought us time if we had any live players who could do the test–trace–quarantine scurrying we fantasized about, but it doesn't look like that's a thing.

The lockdown ("lockdown") became a distinguishing tribal value for Blue Egregore, with hick anti-lockdown protesters an object of scorn: "The whiteness of anti-lockdown protests", proclaimed one Vox headline on 25 April, "How ignorance, privilege, and anti-black racism is driving white protesters to risk their lives." The "risking their lives" characterization of that piece's subhead makes an interesting contrast to what similar voices would say about the George Floyd protests little more than a month later: "Public Health Experts Say the Pandemic Is Exactly Why Protests Must Continue" (!!) proclaimed Slate on 2 June.

Is it wrong for me to say "similar voices"? I know that Maia Niguel Hoskin (author of the Vox piece) and Shannon Palus (author of the Slate piece) are different people, and that reporters often have no control over what headline gets pasted on top their work. And yet somehow some notion of "the tendency of thought exemplified by Vox and Slate"—or, more daringly, Blue Egregore—seems ... well, you know, useful for compressing the length of the message needed to describe my observations?

(You can accuse me of beating a dead horse (family Equidae, order Perissodactyla, class Mammalia, phylum Chordata), but it's theraputic: unable to make sense of having lost the Category War in my own robot cult—because it in fact makes no sense—the rage and grief must be decomposed into obsessive and repetitive pedantry, like a tic. It's not a crime, but even if it were, you should know to never talk to cops, and it's definitely mental illness, but I can tell you to never talk to psychiatrists.)

I read a lot of things on the internet by many authors—not just officially "published" articles, but comments and Tweets, too. Every comment is unique, but no comment is maximally unique—which is to say, there's mutual information between comments. Seeing one "protests are a Bad public health threat" comment in late April makes me less surprised to see more such by authors I had already tagged as "similar"—and seeing a "protests are Good as a countermeasure to the public health threat of white supremacy" comment in early June makes me less surprised to see more such from similar authors, perhaps even some of the same authors who said protests were a public health threat in April. The stronger the correlation is, the more tempting it is to posit Blue Egregore's existence as an entity that persists over time, albeit probably less cohesively than Maia Niguel Hoskin.

I almost wish—emphasis on almost—that I had something substantive to say about racial oppression and police brutality. I don't doubt that these things are very real and very bad, but they belong to another world from which my privilege protects me, and the intra-elite power struggle in my world that purports to refer to these things mostly serves other functions. Black lives actually matter, and we should literally arrest the cops that literally killed Breonna Taylor, but I'm mostly preoccupied with the side-effects in my world—I fear the successor ideology!

There's been so much news I could write about—I could regale you with takes about origin/master or J. K. Rowling (smart and brave, but deleting the praise for Stephen King was awfully petty), Connecticut doubling down (previously), the Oakland exercise ropes, David Shor, standardized tests, Steve Hsu, the R. A. Fisher lecture, my robot cult going to war with the New York Times, political fundraising on golang.org ... but I have too many competing writing priorities at the moment. More later. Stay subscribed—and stay safe!

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