My Long Links blog fragments curate long-form pieces that I think worth an investment of time, acknowledging that most people with jobs and lives and so on can’t read all of them, in the hopes that one or two will reward, Dear Reader, an intrusion into your scarce free time. Here’s another offering. But first, why haven’t I written any since December 2022?

[Hmm, there’s a problem here; too many of these links are to the New Yorker. I will pay attention to this issue in future outings.]

One reason for the Long Links hiatus is that I’ve been Workin’ for The Man. Another is that Social Media has been consuming a whole lot of my time. I don’t regret that time, because we’re at an inflection point, what with the implosion of Twitter and the emergence of multiple aspirant successors. The future of Social Media is teetering just now and nobody knows which way it will fall. Online written communication has strongly shaped my life, and it bids fair to impinge on the lives of a monotonically increasing proportion of everybody in the world. I care a whole lot and I’m not embarrassed in the slightest.

Having said that, this Long Links is going to be a social-media-free zone. I’ve shouted enough, on each of my (many) output channels, and (sorry) fully plan to shout more. We all deserve a break.

But before I give you that break, drop by CoSocial, our member-owned co-op Fediverse instance. I think something like it is the future. Now the break starts.

In recent months I’ve on two occasions had personal contact with the member of the “TPOT” (or “postrat” or “incrowd”) faction and boy, is it ever hard to figure them out. But a good place to start is to mention that “postrat” means “post-rationalist”, and visit The Wide Angle: Understanding TESCREAL — the Weird Ideologies Behind Silicon Valley’s Rightward Turn. I’m gonna say that all you really need to know is that Peter Thiel is mixed up in it and there’s no recovering from that.

If you look away from Social Media, you’re probably looking at some aspect of the ongoing AI/ML frenzy. Can anything new be said about it? From last April, here are Ten Things about AI by Stephen O’Grady and There Is No A.I. by Jaron Disclosure: I like O’Grady but have long had negative feelings about Lanier — he was a practitioner of disdainful Internet Contrarianism, which for some years was a cheap way to get published on prestigious pages. Still, both of them offer unique angles. Some, I agree with. Are they right? I don’t know. Nobody knows anything about the future of whatever it is the AI/ML people are cooking up. Including the AI/ML people.

Let’s look at the Middle East, where Israel has been tearing itself apart for months and months, under a government that seems corrupt and racist on the face of it. Israel Turns Seventy-five as a Nation Divided is, again, from April, but I just revisited it and the exact same people are having the exact same arguments in my newsflow, so it’s effectively up-to-date. Israeli politics are closely watched by many; those of its Palestinian adversaries hardly at all. Isaac Chotiner offers a really useful look in The Future of Palestinian Politics.

Now let’s have some fun, by which I mean Weathering Software Winter, by Devine Lu Linvega, also known as, easily one of my top-5 Mastodon follows. Not going to try to summarize it; follow the link and if it’s not for you, you’ll know right away.

And now for something completely different: Why aren't women having more babies? We should ask them. This is from The Line, a conservative-leaning but sane (can’t remember the last time I combined those adjectives) Canadian newsletter. Despite my frequent despair at the state of the planet, I think that new humans coming into being is generally a good thing, and that if people want to have children they should be able to. This piece offers data showing that women are having way fewer children than they say they’d like. The piece doesn’t answer the question in the title, but rather grumbles that governments seem to think that if they’ve made contraceptives widely available and cheap (obviously good policy) they think they’ve done everything needed to address women’s reproductive health. But anyhow, the reason I’m posting the link is the first graph in the article; the data shocked me. I wonder what equivalent US data would say?

Let’s hop across the Atlantic to Britain, and turn to the reliably-excellent Laurie Penny, who offers Dancing on the picket lines in broken Britain. It opens: “Desperate times call for Gloria Gaynor”. The UK’s right-wing governments have been shredding its social services every year for quite a few years now; it’s hard to appreciate how desperate things are getting from over here in the New World, but Ms Penny paints a compelling picture.

Now in the summer of 2023, larger and larger swathes of humanity are being subjected to the leading edge of the climate catastrophe. The environmental news is horrifying, whichever direction you look. So this is a good point to offer you, from last October, Beyond Catastrophe: A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View. Summary: Yes, it’s horrible, but the very worst cases are looking less likely. Doesn’t mean we should sit on our asses; what are useful things we might do? Well, David Klein over at Truthout has an idea: Sabotaging Oil and Gas Infrastructure Is an Act of Climate Heroism. I quote: “In this context, we need to ask ourselves whether the destruction of planet-killing machinery is necessarily an act of violence.” And so on. I’m not actually recommending you go blow up a pipeline (although I totally recommend How to Blow Up a Pipeline, the movie, it’s excellent). But I sense an Overton window on the move here and we should be paying close attention.

My readership is pretty geeky, so let’s quick-visit a few software blogs: The disproportionate influence of early tech decisions, illustrated by experiences at Stripe. In The cloudy layers of modern-day programming, Vicki Boykis offers an amusing, erudite, and irritated trip through building a modern cloud-hosted application. In ‘Go get your swag!’: Five days living large at a giant Vegas tech-fest, a non-technical Kiwi journo goes to re:Invent and his mind is unsurprisingly boggled. Dear Readers, I cannot lie, I loved the intensity and all the cool people at re:Invent but words cannot express my loathing of Vegas, so I miss it but don’t.

And now for something completely different. My twenty-something son is a fairly serious Smash player; enters and volunteers at tournaments, watches the big ones on streaming, will talk your ear off about the arcana of playing Marth. The Smash community is large-ish and self-made. Nintendo apparently hates them, because they tend to spend their time competing on decades-old games, and more generally, control-freakery around their brand. The loathing between Nintendo and the Smashers is mutual: Smash World Tour canceled after TOs blindsided by Nintendo cease and desist

The title speaks for itself: Why Are So Many Guys Obsessed With Master and Commander?

From the high-end audiophile press, a beautiful little essay about not listening to music: Why Not Listen to Everything?

From the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies (no, really), Chrome and Black and Dusty: Robert Pirsig’s Motorcycle Heritage. Pirsig, of course, wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which was a damn important book in the days of my youth and don’t you forget it. I think its standing has fallen over the decades but it enriched my life and taught me useful things. The article is what it says; look past the Zen at the motorcycles. I’ve never owned a bike but I still enjoyed it.

Feel like a blast of healthy, cleansing, rage? Try The Haves and the Have-Yachts, an exploration of super-yacht culture, at a time when children in my well-off home-town show up to school hungry.

If you read what I write, you will already be used to me shouting at the world that E-bikes are wonderful things, life-changers, and you should get one. Craig Mod thinks so too: Electric Bike, Stupid Love of My Life.

Joyce Carol Oates is great. You already knew that, but also: Joyce Carol Oates Figured Out the Secret to Immortality.

That’s all, folks. Another reason I finished this up and hit “Publish” is that I already have a thriving new crop of tabs that needed to herded into the Long-Links slaughterhouse. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Hugh Fisher (Jul 29 2023, at 19:23)

I do try to read a fair number of your long links, and have to say I was very disappointed by the "Understanding TESCREAL" piece. My opinion is: this is what progressive conspiracy theory looks like.

In the 4th para we are introduced to three scientists and philosophers. The author doesn't inform you that they are all long dead, over 70 to over 100 years ago. What the author wants you to know is that they are RUSSIAN and RUSSIANS ARE EVIL.

That's apparently what links all these Silicon Valley movements together: Russia! So long France, Sweden, India, Japan: there is an "Eurasian worldview" with the agenda set by Putin. The opposition to this information warfare campaign is "Atlanticist", which I guess rules out my country of Australia since we're Indo-Pacific.

I'm old enough to remember the Cold War. Substitute "Soviet" for "Russia" in this article and I could imagine it being a Ronald Reagan speech.


From: Rob (Jul 29 2023, at 20:16)

I don't know if there is any real shortage of babies in the world today. But the worry about "our" women not having enough babies (like the worry about "kids have no respect these days") goes all the way back to the Plato and Seneca. Next step is worrying that the wrong *kind* of women (poor and/or brown) are having too many babies.

Keep on down the rabbit hole long enough, and eventually you might find yourself attending nice torch-lit rallies with your shaved-headed and heavily tattooed brothers. Not surprised the story showed up in a nice conservative magazine, even if it is a "sane" one.

And yes, the Venn diagram of the TESCREAL crowd and nazis has a non-trivial degree of overlap.


From: Ryan Baker (Jul 30 2023, at 12:45)

I was disappointed by the "Understanding TESCREAL" piece. While I'd agree there's some weird thinking in the valley, the description of these different groups are often inaccurate, and read like a lesson plan in straw-man writing.

I've been on the fringe of some of these groups, and for everyone I've experienced none of the people I've engaged with would describe the groups. Maybe there's some chance this all changes once you get to the core.. the people who run the core sites and have the most influence.. but based on the writing there I tend to trust my limited experience far more than this article.

They don't offer anything here of factual value. Nothing about engaging with real people, polling people, etc. I'll admit there's a few salient examples of high-profile individuals who've done bad things. But really, those things can be more easily attributed to their personalities than any of the thoughts associated with these groups. SBF was a con-man, but.. do you need to believe in EA to be a con-man? Elon has turned into a control freak authoritarian.. but is that really founded or enabled by any of these groups? I think it might be the 200+ billion dollars that enables that.

I think the more likely explanation here for this article is a defensiveness, best recognized by it's own wording.

"overlapping emergent belief systems that characterize the contrarian, AI-centric worldviews challenging progressivism"

To describe these groups as "challenging progressivism" as a core aspect shows that the motivation here is really, that this is an author who can't handle criticism of cherished ideologies. Progressivism is not perfect. Many silly ideas have emerged from there, and many silly people have attached themselves to the group.

To be honest, it's hard to even think of what "challenging progressivism" means because it's a term that's been stolen, redefined and associated with things inconsistent with any original meaning.

If you took an old definition of "a political movement, progressivism seeks to advance the human condition through social reform based on purported advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization", then many of these ideas would fit within that framework.

Before I go farther, I'd mention that within all of the groups I'm familiar with (I know nothing of Cosmism, and this doesn't really apply to EA), there's a second divide, of the enthusiast and the guides. The enthusiasts are simply excited by the possibilities, in a somewhat naive fashion. Maybe they hope to solve a scientific, engineering, or business obstacle and accelerate the future, or maybe they just hope to enjoy the benefits. The guides tend to more assume these things will happen, and are less concerned with influencing that timetable than they are concerned with what's going to happen, and whether we think through choices we might get along the way, where the choice might get us a different balance between benefits, disruption and risks.

All of that fits quite nicely in the historical version of progressivism. But that's not the only definition. The one that I think is more generally recognized today, is probably the Progressive Democrats (

You'll notice science, technology and economics do not appear in those basic principles. They state some set of values, "human dignity, justice and respect, and stewardship of the planet".. but other than stewardship, those are all nebulous enough in how they'd be accomplished that the statement does not describe the group at all. The group is most described by what it's against "militarism, corporatism, and economic and military imperialism". That's not the worst thing ever, but it does create the problem of what to do when those things aren't the cause of a specific trouble. Unfortunately, it's been a common occurrence that a narrative ends up being tortuously constructed where those things are present where they are not, and that all other factors are irrelevant.

The other negative effect of on being against these things is a good/evil view of things, like corporations. Corporatism is one thing, Corporations are another. Being against corporatism does not require being against corporations. But if you have founding principles that don't consider economics a key concern, than it's not surprising that some take "against corporatism" to a point where it falls off a cliff, rather than a rational midpoint. Since corporations are at the center of corporatism, and that's evil, and there's no good side to corporations acknowledged, then the corporation is evil. I disagree with that point of view, and see corporations are far closer to a neutral entity, with both positive possibilities and reasons for caution. If they are good or evil will be determined by two things.. the qualities of the people inside them, and the degree to which we've structured laws to either encourage and enable, or discourage and prevent non-social outcomes.

I consider the quality of the people are very hard (but worthy) problem to make progress on. I think in general people default to good intentions, but when confused about how to make those real, or fearful of their own state, resort back to smaller and smaller subgroup thinking (eventually ending with the self). Good/evil worldviews tend to think you can either find some group of evil people and remove them, or punish them into "goodness", or are just generally pessimistic/nihilistic. I don't think any of those takes you to a good place.

Anyhow, I think this author is being defensive of this form of progressivism, and as a result finding only the most dire of enemies. I've yet to meet a "Eurasianist" in such a group. Mostly such groups have been liberal in composition. Libertarians have generally been the common outlier group that shows up expecting allies and finding a bit of disappointment on that angle.

It seems like the article ultimately worries about the nature of AI regulation. I'd say that is very much an undecided topic within everyone I've had contact with. I'd say my opinion tends to be the majority one.. that AI has some risks, but we'll find it difficult to hold back, and rivals probably wouldn't do the same, so we might as well move forward while keeping our eyes open. Many risks get lesser and more manageable if the world ends up being a better place, so if we know how to do that, we should keep doing that and use whatever capabilities we have to do that.

But yeah, that's not the only opinion. There are doomers, and concerned idealists that that haven't thought through how hard regulation would be, and total enthusiasts.. and then the libertarians who are okay with anything, so long as the government isn't the one doing it!

Anyhow, the point is, it's a complex multifaceted space, and this is beyond "seeming dangerously reductive", it's inventing a term that no one uses to describe themselves, and then aligning it with what seems to some minority view that may or may not touch each self-identified group.

To make it worse, beyond just being reductionist, it also describes each group in ways they'd never describe themselves.


From: Doug K (Aug 03 2023, at 07:54)

As Rob notes, those stories about birth rates are evergreen perennials, mostly from the right.

WSJ in May,

The U.S. birthrate is down sharply from 15 years ago, causing economists to worry about the long-term implications of a shrinking population. Why are American women having fewer children than they say they want?

First twitter response to that story,

I love how this is women’s fault. As if men today are anything you’d want to marry and have a child with, as if education is good and there is a guarantee your kid will be safe at school, as if the workforce is forgiving to allow you to spend time with your family.

Looks like an open and shut case to me ;-)

We had fewer children than we wanted, for brute economic reasons. So it goes.


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