#135: Are we in a dream time?
Greetings! I’m back from a few weeks of failing to send out this letter - but I did take a nice bike ride this week:
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🔥 New On Boundless:
- The Second Chapter Of Success
- Guest post about the "Big Law Trap"
- Podcast with the CEO of the Remote Company Doist
- Podcast with Moataz Ahmed, freelance creator & writer
David Graeber reflects on the state of economics and monetary policy and how the discipline seems to have operated in a very myopic state for the last 30-40 years. A fun read for people interested in such topics as the story around money”
Is money best conceived of as a physical commodity, a precious substance used to facilitate exchange, or is it better to see money primarily as a credit, a bookkeeping method or circulating IOU—in any case, a social arrangement? This is an argument that has been going on in some form for thousands of years. What we call “money” is always a mixture of both, and, as I myself noted in Debt (2011), the center of gravity between the two tends to shift back and forth over time. In the Middle Ages everyday transactions across Eurasia were typically conducted by means of credit, and money was assumed to be an abstraction. It was the rise of global European empires in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the corresponding flood of gold and silver looted from the Americas, that really shifted perceptions.
#2 Dream Time
Robin Hanson argued in 2009 that we had entered “dream time”:
While our descendants may explore delusion-dominated virtual realities, they will well understand that such things cannot be real, and don’t much influence history. In contrast, we live in the brief but important “dreamtime” when delusions drove history. Our descendants will remember our era as the one where the human capacity to sincerely believe crazy non-adaptive things, and act on those beliefs, was dialed to the max.
It seems many more people are saying similar things, except we are more aware of out made-up realities than ever before.
It also reminded me of Bruce Chatwicks excellent book on traveling across Australia, The Songlines:
‘To wound the earth’, he answered earnestly, ‘is to wound yourself, and if others wound the earth, they are wounding you. The land should be left untouched: as it was in the Dreamtime when the Ancestors sang the world into existence.’
#3 Boris Johnson
I didn’t really know anything about Boris Johnson until I read this super deep-dive from Andrew Sullivan prior to the election last week. Sullivan is a gay British conservative who moved to the US and ended up supporting Obama. He presents an interesting perspective on how he thinks Boris is turning ugly anti-immigrant sentiments into a more benign conservatism in Britain.
Check out the profile here. Definitely worth reading after the election results.
#4 Why Do We Crave Meaning?
A short essay from Russ Roberts:
Where does this demand and desire for meaning come from? What is disturbing about a life of vast or modest physical pleasures from food and sex and great music and exotic travel that goes on for some number of decades and comes to an end? Why aren’t those pleasures enough? Sure, it would be great if it lasted even longer than the good part of a century. But if this life is finite and part of nothing larger than itself, is that really a problem? Why does it haunt us, this quest for meaning?
#5 Fourth Estate
Fascinating newsletter issue from Claire Berlinski on a disconnect between our growing attention towards technology that is undermining the news and our knowledge that the news is struggling at all
She sees this as a troubling global trend starting with the US:
Studies repeatedly find that Americans know less about international affairs than citizens of other countries, developed or undeveloped. Usually this is taken as evidence that Americans are incurious or backward.
That’s not the right interpretation. Americans are curious and forward, at least in the sense that they have been the inventors and first adopters of the new technologies that have destroyed journalism. Other modern countries will soon catch up.
Etc. Some Additional Things I enjoyed the past few weeks:
Jonny Miller’s interview of Andrew Taggart on Total Work
The same Jonny and his talk on navigating grief after the loss of his partner
Donald Hoffman on Sam Harris’ podcast talking about the nature of reality & consciousness
Fareed Zakaria’s super deep state of what we should think about China
The 85% rule for learning
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