Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2017-11-10T22:40:10Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com November 10. http://ranprieur.com/#70fcfb7a43edc30e530b6996dc08afb7e32e8ebf 2017-11-10T22:40:10Z November 10. On yesterday's subject, there's a subreddit thread with some good thoughts, including a link to this scientific article, Running Amok: A Modern Perspective on a Culture-Bound Syndrome.

A more poetic article on the Amok phenomenon, which I've linked to before: Every Five Seconds an Inkjet Printer Dies Somewhere. And an article on how anti-terror urban design can also make cities more livable, by physically blocking vehicles from pedestrian spaces.

November 9. http://ranprieur.com/#37bcf82e96c6d19a4b9d05e05e937328aa04508b 2017-11-09T21:30:56Z November 9. Just a quick thought on the latest mass shooting. Despite the gunman's long history of violence, he was not in any FBI database. Meanwhile, I'm sure their database is full of harmless Muslims. The mistake they're making is to see the world as an ideological battlefield, in which the danger comes from beliefs. Really the danger comes from mental illness, and ideologies are just tacked-on rationalizations for crimes that people are going to do anyway when they get deep enough into pain and anger.

It's an easy mistake to make, because ideology is easier to track, to pin down, to wrap your head around. Mental illness is getting more common and more severe, and I'm not sure why. But it wouldn't surprise me if mass shootings become so normal that the deaths are almost invisible, like car crashes, and we only hear about the really big ones.

November 7. http://ranprieur.com/#ec7fa867d26e737b9fe91ca10f06e9cf4c9ea216 2017-11-07T19:10:30Z November 7. I just spent four days in Florida for Leigh Ann's brother's wedding. Her family is fun, we had a good time, and I did not bring my computer. Catching up, I see there was a lot of action on the subreddit, including this thoughtful article about Ted Kaczynski, Waiting for the End of the World.

I read two books on the trip, Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America by Cabeza de Vaca, and Earth Abides, the classic 1949 postapocalypse novel by George R. Stewart. It was ahead of its time in many ways, but Stewart makes a choice that seems strange to me: the protagonist is the only character in the entire novel who wants to rebuild civilization. Everyone else is content to live off abundant canned food and wild game, and human culture shifts toward the people you find in anthropology books, hunter-gatherers and horticulturists who have never encountered civilization.

To be fair, I believed this myself until around 2008: that our paleolithic ancestors were an evolutionary attractor, as stable as sharks. Now I think they were a stage in a steady and accelerating movement toward greater social and technological complexity, which has brought changes in human nature. So even after a global hard crash, given all the surviving materials and books, we would rebuild a high-tech society much faster than we did last time.

But just lately, now that I'm thinking in terms of a collective subconscious, I'm wondering if that's what it wants. Maybe part of our motivation to build this world was its novelty. Now if it crashes, we'll be like "been there, done that," and instead of doing the same kind of thing again, we'll turn our big brains to something so different, that when space aliens do it, we see no evidence of their existence.

There's another thing in Earth Abides that never occurred to me: even the survivors of a deep crash might die out from shock, because they just can't wrap their heads around a post-crash world. But in this way, we're much better off than our grandparents, because we've all seen postapocalypse fiction. We'll be like, "This isn't what I expected from playing Fallout or watching The Walking Dead, but it's close enough that I can figure out what to do."

November 1. http://ranprieur.com/#a14458d86a132acddb669a9855d62ce6136300ed 2017-11-01T13:10:33Z November 1. I will probably not be posting again until the middle of next week. Today, a bunch of stray links.

Critical Shower Thoughts is a subreddit for ambitious questions and answers on various political and philosophical subjects.

And a few more from reddit. This comment tells the story of how Keith Jarrett recorded a classic solo piano album when he was forced to adapt to a crappy piano. It reminds me of another musical story, from the PBS Rock and Roll documentary, where some other band found the exact mixing board that New Order used for their landmark hit "Blue Monday", and they expected it to be intuitive and easy to use, but it turned out to be painful and difficult. There's a saying, "Genius emerges from constraint."

An inspiring thread about secret employee nests.

And a more inspiring thread, What's the story about the person you once met in a day and you never saw again, but marked you for the rest of your life?

On the subject of how much room there is for the world to get better, The scientists persuading terrorists to spill their secrets, showing how winning trust works much better than torture. I think the reason there's still so much torture, is that the torturers enjoy it. Also, in a dictatorship, the dictator enjoys the thought that his enemies are suffering -- and in a democracy, sometimes the public enjoys it.

Another example of how much room there is for the world to get better, The Grain That Tastes Like Wheat, but Grows Like a Prairie Grass.

And a great trippy gif, The view from under the tap.