‘Orientation’

What’s a word to describe the paradigm of an individual or institution? Tyler Cowen recently uses ‘orientation’ when referring to journals, so perhaps that’s best.

I’m wondering if it’s worth having a meta-level lexicon for orientations to help clarify the lens through which we input media. The NY Times – Fox News continuum is somewhat referential, but what subtle shifts have taken place at those institutions over time? Did Roger Ailes’ departure change the orientation of Fox News? Did the Times’ editorial purge? How can we convey those shifts to help educate readers?

I prefer to digest media as recommended by different individuals, like Mr. Cowen, because by reading their output over time I’ve formed an idea of their orientation and believe that to be more consistent than that of an institution that is comprised of multiple individuals. Is there a way to clearly convey the idea of an orientation to someone with no prior knowledge of the individual?

One reason for the this blog is that I might impart enough information to give myself (and I suppose, others) an idea of my orientation. As with most things, this is not a simple distinction but a slow moving target surrounded by noise:

I believe that the act of being conscious of ‘orientation’ will encourage us to question prior beliefs and challenge the echo chamber silos have become more prevalent.

Don’t fight the Fed

For me, not for thee………

As far as adages go, this one contains the most useful and actionable investment advice of the 21st century. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the ‘Bernanke Put’ was the driving force behind the subsequent stock market rally, and the Fed didn’t bother waiting until after the COVID-19 pandemic to double down on backstopping everything.

What didn’t happen in 2008, and has yet to materialize in 2020, is a similar sentiment for social safety nets. What if we had a fully functioning, highly competitive insurance marketplace where the Federal government agreed to backstop everything?

What if we removed all non compete agreements in the labor market and the Federal government always had a job available for bolt turning?

Too inflationary? Would that be a bad thing right now?

Mortality

Paddy is on his way to visit John Kahm, who is living his final hours after being diagnosed with a terminal illness last year. I’ve recently argued that part of letting go involves recognizing our own impotence. With two fierce daughters at home, I think of the times when I’m too preoccupied by the shortcomings I see I’ve sent their way instead of being grateful for their existence and the opportunity to do better.

‘La era está pariendo un corazón, no puede mas, se muere del dolor.’ – Silvio Rodriguez

Impotence in the race discussion. Impotence in the capitalist system. Impotence in the daily desire to do better.

Being able to forgive yourself seems like the best first step.

Top of mind

The desire for connection is a strong one for me. I seek a state of openness where I can be receptive to the connections that seem to appear as energy of some form or another. Part of this state of openness is taking action on random thoughts that bubble to the surface; thinking of someone? Call them and check in. Hearing a random song in your head? Pull it up on your music source and listen to the album.

Last week I put the original Weezer album on after hearing a song in my head. Its 1994 era sounds were raw and beyond familiar, its lyrics sometimes inducing a wince, but the nostalgic effect was to surface thoughts and feelings of years past.

I tend to believe that this a good thing, processing and shedding the past to make way for the future. I also believe in the practice of being open to connection, which holds a distinction from the action/reaction cycle that also often involves random thought bubbling to the surface.

current mood: internet conspiracies

Note: Written in response to an email from a friend that was a link to an psychiatrist’s website with ‘theories’ about COVID-19.

There are plenty of things wrong with the world today.  Much of it comes down to a principal-agent problem.

5G?  Let the first two towers be outside corporate HQ and the CEO’s house. 

Vaccine?  Let someone else dose all the children at the Pharma company.

COVID?  Let Kelly Brogan MD put 20% of the revenues she gets from clicks on her site toward independent research.

The problem I have with much of the content that comes around from various friends and family is that it’s all designed to fire your amygdala.  Kelly Brogan uses a form of the Gish Gallop to create a compelling mosaic, but correlation does not equal causation.  For example, do you think the institutional investors that bought pandemic bonds in 2017 for the high interest they paid were happy when they went to $0?  The world is messy, markets require that people have opposing views, and having actual skin in the game is the only way you’ll see true colors. 

Internet evangelists have little to no skin in the game; they are able to explain away failures and offer vague sentiments that are open to interpretation, or start discussions that trigger the amygdala while only offering vague prognostications that can be reinterpreted in the future or simply forgotten as the onslaught of rhetoric continues. 

Rather than continuing to ‘do our own research’ on the internet, we should be offline, outside, interacting with other people and trying to offer localized, real world solutions to the problems of health that we face. 

Central banking

Adam Tooze’s article on the myth of central bank independence sure does make it feel like every aspect of our lives is politicized. I personally enjoyed the myth of central bank independence and find the open politicization of central banks to be great if you’re of the same political ideology but horrible otherwise. I’d imagine the more overtly politicized it becomes, the more people will flock to cryptocurrencies or the like.

Educational pods

What is the optimal size for a learning cohort that offers positive returns to social interaction but allows for distancing?

Dunbar’s number is 150.

Average student/teacher ratio is 16.

A military squad is 8-12 people.

CDC’s number for gatherings in times of COVID is 10.

So, 10?

Could a system of 10 people in a learning cohort include a ‘mentor’ that was able to tap into a larger organization of cohorts and mentors with teachers/editors providing support to create an educational experience that was at least as good as the current scenario?

If these groups were placed together in relative isolation for 2 week chunks, they should be able to then come together for larger gatherings. By allowing themselves to be isolated and monitored within the smaller pod, they could trade for future benefits like attending a festival with other pods.

The experience of education

My experience of the current state of video-conferenced classrooms is quite literally at the kindergarten level with my 6 year old daughter. There’s zero doubt that in person interactions are infinitely preferable, but having some interaction is better than none.

How much of the educational experience, then, is about interaction with others?

It depends, right?

I’m hypothesizing that the level of beneficial social interaction in education starts off high and slopes down to some baseline level that varies by individual.

I’m also very skeptical about my ability to effect change at the earlier levels of education beyond homeschooling my children (which is to say, having wifey homeschool our children). Assuming that’s not entirely likely, the experience of my children in K-12 is largely going to be dictated by the local schools. Beyond those grades lies the realm of adulthood where old teenagers and young 20 somethings are encouraged to specialize and actually pay for education, and where the possibilities for education expand.

The social aspect of college is formative. That aspect of college is in peril in a pandemic. What do you do to substitute?

Education, now and later

There’s a sense these days that the future of education will look very different from the recent past. It might look a little bit like the present, with online classes and video conferencing, but that was somewhat anticipated if not outright desired by various edtech startups and tech evangelists.

The benefit of online education lies in the availability of online content, and the downside of online education appears to be the sheer quantity of online content.

The act of curating such content for a tailored student experience would appear to be one of ‘those new service sector jobs‘ a la Tyler Cowen. Whether that person is considered to be a ‘teacher’ or not is probably subject to debate, but having a person well versed in the content that they are continually revising and disseminating to ‘students’ and availing themselves to further conversation about said content would be valuable in this potential future education. Neal Stephenson, as usual, has already thought of someone like this is in Fall, where wealthy individuals and families hire editors to curate information feeds. While I’m still waiting for a Diamond Age – esque Primer for my daughters, Mr. Stephenson’s type of futurism has often seemed to be near attainable.

Next time, on the future experience of education.