What is Pricing?—Somethings

Also, tight storytelling, tuberculosis, standards hindering innovation, artifice in academia, pareidolia, and much more.

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📺Somethings to Watch

  • A short rambling video on the myths of ‘Creative Personalities’, and the devastation of caused by tuberculosis.

  • A great rundown of great, efficient story-telling. Patrick Willems uses Simpsons to illuminate the how to tell a tight three-act story using a Simpsons episode.

📕Somethings to read

  • Summary of “The Use of Knowledge in Society”: Current Free-Market economic theory is heavily reliant on Pricing Theory. Pricing is not just a signal of demand and supply, but also of information, social good & harm, and the culture itself. The source of this influential, albeit myopic, idea is Friedrich Hayek’s paper ‘The Use of Knowledge in Society’. Eli Douardo writes a fantastic summary here.
  • The Standards Innovation Paradox: This post by the founder of Anchor, one of the leading podcast publishing platforms. Here he lays out how technology standards can create a open market for any medium, but also hinders innovation.

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🗣Some Quotes and Notes

Academic Artifice

Walter Kirn writes an essay on his life as a student at a prestigious university. He reveals a culture of fakery and artifice that would be shocking to any outsider. Critics of Kirn point out that his time in college coincided with a especially nihilistic time in literary academia. However, one can see similar ideas still persist today.

I came to suspect that certain professors were on to us, and I wondered if they, too, were actors. In classroom discussions, and even when grading essays, they seemed to favor us over the hard workers, whose patient, sedimentary study habits were ill adapted, I concluded, to the new world of antic postmodernism that I had mastered almost without effort. To thinkers of this school, great literature was a con, and I—a born con man who hadn’t read any great literature and was looking for any excuse not to—was eager to agree with them.

— Walter Kirn, Lost in the Meritocracy

Quantifying Ideas

Not everything is quantifiable. Not by humans at least. Which is why we need machine learning. Or that is what Noah Smith posits in this piece. Machine Learning can create models for esoteric concepts like language and art. I am skeptical of the magical future non-engineers keep selling us. However it is a good read.

Anyway, the basic idea here is that many complex phenomena like language have underlying regularities that are difficult to summarize but which are still possible to generalize. If you have enough data, you can create a model (or, if you prefer, an “AI”) that can encode many (all?) of the fantastically complex rules of human language, and apply them to conversations that have never existed before.

— Noah Smith, The third magic

Juvenile Screaming

While this is a piece on an inconsequential topic, it is a great introduction to Pareidolia in conspiracy theories. For example, listening hidden messages in reversed and slowed music recordings. Or in this case, reading a terrible cartoon as a viral-marketing ploy.

But that same driving force — that all attention is good — is also true for the people who think Velma can’t just be a weird bad show written by out-of-touch Twitter addicts, and, instead, must be a conspiracy theory. Because unraveling a right-wing psyop to make a bad edgy Scooby Doo reboot on purpose to generate edgelord YouTube traffic is more compelling for your own content dunking on it than if you just admitted that you’re a weird adult yelling about cartoons on the internet.

— Ryan Broderick, The “Scooby Doo” psyop

Thank you for joining me this week. If you know some who might enjoy this, please forward this email to them. See you next week.

Mudassir Chapra

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