I'm moving and as a result I'm thinking of my decades long battle with my yard, and I'm wondering if there is any lesson for the modern world. I suspect that there is, but you should also consider that fact that I really hate yard work.
You may be familiar with the hygiene hypothesis, which holds that the increase in allergies we've been seeing are due to inadequately stressed immune systems. That in the absence of parasites and pathogens our immune systems overreact to things which aren't dangerous. Is it possible that something similar is going on with our psychological immune systems? If so what sort of "pathogens" should we be introducing?
I wrap up my discussion of the drug crisis. I begin with discussing the fact that the US appears to be unique in the rate at which overdose deaths are increasing. This is not quite true, but there are some peculiarities which make the US a nice juicy target if you were interested in selling opioids, and other drugs, this goes both for legal and illegal drugs. Given the scale of the problem we've discovered a lot of things that don't work, and a one big thing that made the problem worse (the pandemic). But we don't have a lot of good ideas for how to fix it. Nevertheless I offer up some ideas.
An examination into how deaths from overdosing on drugs got so bad. Everyone knows how Oxycontin contributed to the problem, but there's far more to the story than that. Join me for a discussion of drug marketing, meth, benzodiazepines, and cocaine, and how it all combines into one of the deadliest trends of our time, one with no signs of slowing down.
The last few decades have been a historical aberration, a time when things seemed simple and progress seemed inevitable. Alternatively we threw up our hands and assumed that our problems were so great that they risked causing the "End of the World". Reality is more messy, we will neither be permanently saved or irrevocably destroyed. Rather the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine demonstrates that messiness has returned, and we need to get better at dealing with it.
I initially decided to to weigh in on Ukraine because so many other people were. But as the situation becomes more and more potentially apocalyptic it started to appear that I would have to. But don't worry, I don't rehash the same talking points as everyone else. My big worry is whether we can figure out some point of stability where nukes exist, but no one uses them. We had that during the Cold War, but that was a bipolar situation where both sides were very similar in strength. Essentially the easiest situation imaginable from a game theory perspective. Unfortunately the future promises to be multipolar, contain lots of nations with nukes who all are at various power levels. How are we going to navigate this treacherous situation? Is it even possible?
It seems that some people are over-reacting to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. We have gone so long without a war that we can only imagine it in apocalyptic terms. But that's precisely what we don't want to do because unlike any other point in history this war could turn into the apocalypse, and that's the last thing we want to do.
At some point, in some episode (and probably several episodes) I asserted that:
The world is changing faster than we can adapt to it.
Then (and now) this statement seemed obvious, so I remember being surprised when I got some pushback on it. But upon reflection it was also illuminating. Many disagreements come down to core values and assumptions which are so deeply embedded that we’ve forgotten they’re there. It’s what makes these disagreements so intractable. We’re arguing from different, unseen foundations. I decided it was past time to unearth this particular foundation, and examine its various parts. What do I mean by “the world” and “change” and “speed” and “adaptation”? And if we can come to an agreement on all of that, what are the consequences of change moving faster than our ability to adapt?
I take a break from talking about the collapse of society and the world to rant about reading. In particular all the people who say I'm doing it wrong.
It's time for my newsletter again, and after going step by step through the ideas of Taleb we finally arrive at his crowning idea: antifragility. Perhaps the biggest contribution Taleb makes to our understanding of the world that by grappling with the idea of the opposite of fragility he was able to define fragility, and point out that the modern world is chock full of it.
It's not the end of the pandemic or even the beginning of the end, but we might be at the end of the beginning, and since I just read three books on the subject I thought I'd see what could be said at this point. Come for the discussion of school closure and why it might have seemed so important in the beginning, stay for an overview of the lab leak hypothesis. But most of all just listen to the episode!
I return to a discussion of Douthat's "Deep Places" in particular what it tells about modern epistemology, or as I like to call it, "reality construction". I examine the reality constructed by Douthat, but also the differences between how we constructed reality during the 1918 pandemic vs. how we construct it now. Come for the history, stay for the murderous story of aspirin.