Sunday, January 7, 2024

My Predictions for the Year 2024

Everything I’ve seen suggests that the best way to make predictions about complex phenomena is to baseline using the status quo. So following that heuristic, here are my predictions for the coming year: - The American economy will continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate than the historical average (2-3% instead of 3-4%) - The labor market will continue to experience a shortage, with unemployment below the historical average (it will remain below 4%) - The inflation rate will continue to be low (1-4%) - Interest rates (federal) will continue at their current rate (5-6%) - The national debt will continue to rise quickly ($2-3 trillion) - Joe Biden will be re-elected president - The War in Ukraine will continue unresolved without U.S. direct involvement - The War in Israel will continue unresolved without U.S. direct involvement - AI will be increasingly used but won’t disrupt the job market, higher education, publishing, journalism, or any other realms it is supposed to “radically change” - We will not have widespread use of driverless cars - American Democracy will not be overthrown in a Trump or anti-Trump coup Will I be wrong about some of these predictions? Almost certainly, but I’m guessing that they will be less wrong than our notable pundits currently predicting the opposite.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Circularity in Higher Ed

One of the major problems with colleges today is that there are no exogenous sources of feedback. Businesses have customers who stop buying products with a decline in quality. Politicians can get voted out of office. NBA teams lose games to better competition. In other words, there is some external standard of quality that gives feedback to the organization such that they can make changes. This doesn’t exist in higher education because the quality of an institution is based on a circularity that goes like this: The best people attend a great institution because it is a great institution and it’s a great institution because the best people attend it. The prestige attracts great students and great students mean prestige. What if the university is not offering a good “product” (education)? It doesn’t matter because it still graduates the best students because it attracted the best students. Reform of higher ed., then, depends upon breaking this circularity and introducing some external standard of quality—it couldn’t be a test of just inputs (e.g., an “exit exam” or “bar passage rate” because better universities get better students who are more likely to score higher regardless of what they actually learned at the university). It would have to be a test of outputs—measuring change over the course of the education. Whoever is up to the task of developing an entrance/exit exam that can accurately measure what we hope colleges are giving their students will be doing the world a great service. This would discipline and reform higher education immediately. If we saw that Chico state produced a higher increase in critical thinking, creativity, and knowledge than did Harvard, then it would quickly displace Harvard as offering the better educational “product.” WE would see the processes happening in higher ed that we constantly see in business or sports, where the top firms of teams don’t stay there very long as they are disrupted by new, innovative entrants. We haven’t seen this disruption of education because there is no external standard of quality for disruptors to achieve, there is only a circular one (“great universities attract great students which makes them great universities”).

Friday, June 9, 2023

Equality without Agency

We live in an age that prides itself on being post-metaphysical without realizing that it is as metaphysical as any that came before, only selectively and without acknowledgement. During the era of Christian enlightenment (1700-2000), Americans believed in equality as well as agency. In our age of post-Christian enlightenment, we believe in equality without agency, which reduces everyone to victim status—puppets of systems rather than beings of choice. We’ll see how long the “equality” lasts in our post-Christian age since any non-religious ideology will have a hard time upholding any kind of metaphysics at all (since belief in both agency and equality are non-empirical and must be taken on faith).

Friday, January 6, 2023

The Scaling Up or Scaling Down Fallacy

A family is different than society, with different rules, workings, and incentives. What works for a family generally won’t work for society as a whole. Many of our political mistakes arise from the fallacy that society is just a family writ large—e.g., monarchy or socialism: if loving parents rule over a family, why can’t a loving “parent” (king or queen) rule over a country? If families just share the work and resources, why can’t nations? I’ve also seen the opposite error of starting from a macro, societal view of market economic assumptions (everyone is paid for their work) and then scaling down to say that “housewives” should be paid for their work. The same reason househusbands and house children aren’t paid: everyone is contributing communally in a micro, non-market situation. This is one of the reasons I’m bothered by the “it takes a village to raise a child” talk—it assumes that American society is like a village, but village workings don’t scale up to the national level.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The nature of left-right ideologies

Most people believe that political tribes are organized around a set of positions (ideologies). The reality is that a set of positions are organized around a tribe.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Looking Outward vs. Upward

If you don’t look upward, you will look outward. If you don’t look to God for validation, you will look to your fellow man with all the misery associated with status competition. Inasmuch as we Americans are looking upward less, we are looking outward more and social media magnifies this outward-looking orientation to a significant degree. This, as much as anything, probably explains the dramatic rise in depression, suicide, and other indicators of general unhappiness in recent years.

Friday, October 21, 2022

A short summary of our time

Technology is in a race with foolish and foolish seems to be winning