Personal Identity as Commodity

Todd VanDerWerff over at nails it (bolding is mine):

What links these seemingly dissimilar stories is a very basic fear — the idea that the internet as we knew it, the internet of five or 10 or 20 years ago, is going away as surely as print media, replaced by a new internet that reimagines personal identity as something easily commodified, that plays less on the desire for information or thoughtfulness than it does the desire for a quick jolt of emotion.

It’s an internet driven not by human beings, but by content, at all costs. And none of us — neither media professionals, nor readers — can stop it. Every single one of us is building it every single day.

Am I doomed to always make my living from writing?

There were those three Summers I was a camp counselor and the one I was a sailing instructor. For a few months each I also worked at a grocery store, a movie theatre, and as the guy who wrote down people’s sandwich orders at the grill in my College cafeteria.

Other than those, however, I have always made my living by writing. The first way was writing business profiles for an industry & market research company at $10/hour. After that I wrote news stories for the daily newspaper for some years. Since leaving the newspaper it’s been more writing: ads, tag lines, marketing plans, case studies, white papers, press releases, media advisories, news alerts (three different phrases for basically the same thing), editorials, blogs posts, more blog posts, tweets… the list goes on.

Bayes vs. Hume

Finally, an explanation for what in the world “Bayesian” thinking is for us regular folk, by way of a contrast with David Hume:

The argument made by Bayes… is not that the world is intrinsically probabilistic or uncertain… It is, rather, a statement – expressed both mathematically and philosophically – about how we learn about the universe: that we learn about it through approximation, getting closer and closer to the truth as we gather more evidence.

This contrasted with the more skeptical view of the Scottish philosopher David Hume, who argued that since we could not be certain that the sun would rise again, a prediction that it would was inherently no more rational than one that it wouldn’t. The Bayesian viewpoint, instead, regards rationality as a probabilistic matter. In essence, Bayes and Price are telling Hume, don’t blame nature because you are too daft to understand it: if you step out of your skeptical shell and make some predictions about its behavior, perhaps you will get a little closer to the truth.

That is from The Signal and the Noise, in a chapter about a guy who lives off of and makes millions from betting on NBA games, of all things.

The cultural and political battles I care about enough to have the time and inclination to fight (and the ones I don’t)

Perhaps it’s just the internet outrage cycle and the coddling of the American mind, but everywhere I turn it seems there is a new culture war or political battle to fight. These fights demand that I like or repost articles or in some cases that I attend protests or events, or donate, or in some way take action.

I can’t do it all of course, and some battles I actively avoid. This isn’t to say I don’t care. I do care about a great many things, many of which I don’t take action on. My inclination to act, or not, isn’t necessarily a reflection on how much I do or don’t care about an issue.

The choice of which battles to fight is more like the Obama foreign policy, which is not purely ideological (that’s part of what I like about it). The administration might care about something a great deal, or that something may align well with their ideology, but whether they act, and to what degree they act, is more influenced by a variety of nuanced factors, including the capacity of that action to make a difference, the given politics of the situation, loyalty to specific allies, whether America has a direct interest, potential negative ramifications on other priorities, and so on.

On My Watch-List Recently: The Duplass Brothers

They are fantastic models and will one day curate a whole list of interviews with them which should be must-watch, must-listen to for the just-starting-out filmmaker.

Today, watching their tiny little short that got into Sundance: This Is John

And, a recent interview with Jay Duplass at Austin Film Festival.

Also recently watched a fantastic Duplass movie I hadn’t known about until recently: Your Sister’s Sister, with two of my favorite actresses. Recommended.

Foundational Texts: The Fox and the Hedgehog

In no particular order, I’ve always wanted to list and explain the books which have formed the foundations of my thinking, including those books which provided useful framing for me as a teenager, college student, or young adult, but which I have since decided are wrong (or which I no longer agree with). Those texts still count as foundational.

And then, of course, there are those which are still with me, still informing the ways in which I think about things. One of those books is Isaiah Berlin’s The Hedgehog and the Fox. The title comes from a saying from an ancient Greek poet, Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one, big thing.”

Many of the Best Recent Movies Have All Been Distributed by One Company

What a crazy thing to learn today that one distribution company has actually been responsible for some of the best movies I’ve seen over the past two years, including Room, which – just… holy shit.

Slate profiles the upstart distribution studio in a recent story appropriately titled, The Distributor as Auteur.

In addition to Room, here’s what else they’ve distributed recently. All these movies are excellent:

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Ex Machina
  • While We’re Young
  • Laggies
  • Locke

A24 is also responsible for a few movies that, while not exactly excellent, are nonetheless sort of crazy, must-see, genre-challenging cinema. Those include:

  • Spring Breakers
  • Under the Skin
  • The Bling Ring
  • Enemy

They’re also about to distribute a few movies which I can’t wait to see:

  • The Witch
  • Mississippi Grind
  • The End of the Tour
  • Dark Places