From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
The Goblin's Dilemma: class soildarity, selfish families, and the working class heros of Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan and Spider-Man By Bud White and Tim Kreider (Spider-Man discussion begins here)
'Silver Fork' or Fashionable Novels are the largely forgotten English popular novels of the 1820s and 30s which depicted aristocratic life and scandals as a how-to guide for rising middle-class readers while also exploring growing political and class anxieties in the post-Regency. Advice on how to romance, eat, party and raise children like a member of the upper class from Silver Fork novels via Bizarre Victoria (previously).
via NYT: "Each year, we put out a call for college application essays about money, work and social class. This year, we picked seven -- about pizza, parental sacrifice, prep school students, discrimination and deprivation."
"They don’t know — here he lowers his voice — that even if they get the money and they left, they could always come back. They don’t know that part. And it’s so scary sometimes because they could come up in the middle of construction and say, “It’s my property, I didn’t understand what I was signing, and I want to come back.” -- DW Gibson interviews a Brooklyn landlord about how they push poor black residents out in favor of affluent whites.
"In my experience, the reminder that the sexual fantasy isn’t real, that the women who perform availability aren’t ACTUALLY available, that we aren’t ACTUALLY clamouring to be sexualized by men, that we control when the fantasy starts and stops, and that our performance is just that, a performance that requires compensation… well, some men find that hard to swallow." [more inside]
"When our donors met the actual people they were helping they often didn’t like them. During our Secret Santa drive, volunteers sometimes refused to drop gifts at houses with TVs inside. They got angry when clients had cell phones or in some other way didn’t match their expectations. Other times, the donations we got were too disgusting to pass along—soup cans that bulged with botulism and diapers so dry rotted they crumbled in our hands. One Thanksgiving, a board member called from the parking lot, requesting help carrying a frozen turkey from her trunk to our office. “Can you find a deserving family?” she asked. I lugged the bird up three flights of stairs. Somewhere near the top, I noticed the expiration date. It was seventeen years old." Anya Groner talks about working for Hudson Outreach in up-state New York and the sobering, chilling effect it had on her idealism.
Introducing Sociology: Tim Kreider's influential 1999 essay (previously) on how Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut uses sex and infidelity to cover up a story of greed and murder by the elite gets a brand new afterward by the author to introduce a new site for his non-fiction writing, TimKreider.com
Ask Polly: Will Our Class Differences Tear Us Apart?
I've been with my current boyfriend for three years. We're really great together—similar interests, senses of humor, great sex. I love him so much—the only issue is that of our respective backgrounds. He grew up in a tony suburb, went to prep school, then to a very prestigious college, and finally the very prestigious graduate school where we met. I went to public school in a bad neighborhood, put myself through a not-so-prestigious college, made a name for myself in my field, then got into that same prestigious grad school. Our families could not be more different. I didn't think it would matter so much, but something happened recently that I can't shake.[more inside]
The Trickster Prince is academic and historian Matt Houlbrook's blog about the ephemera and little-known stories of the English inter-war period (and before) with a focus on class-jumping, queer narratives, "faking it", and urban society in the 20s and 30s.
The Guardian presents an animated video explaining the distribution of wealth in the UK (and how it's getting worse).
Ask A Native New Yorker: How Guilty Should I Feel About Being A Horrible Gentrifier? Passionate response from a Bushwick native.
Dorothy Gambrell of Cat And Girl fame spends an awful lot of time talking about education, class, debt, money, and the hollow promise of aspirational media to discuss how much she hates Good Will Hunting
In the wake of ever deeper budget cuts, public schools have begun charging students for basics, such as registering for honors or elective classes.
"Welcome to the simplicity movement, the ethos whose mantras are "cutting back," "focusing on the essentials," "reconnecting to the land" - and talking, talking, talking about how fulfilled it all makes you feel." Charlotte Allen of In Character about the Simplicity Movement, magazines, wild boars, virtue, and 350$ riding boots.
Indeed, all three of Hitler’s prized leather whips were presents from high society ladies. : Christopher Clark reviews High Society in the Third Reich by Fabrice d’Almeida in the London Review Of Books.
Just how rich are you? The worlds 225 richest people have a combined wealth greater than the poorest 2.5 billion people. Where do you fit into the picture? via b3ta
Bearpath is a gated community in Minnesota. It's not all that special, except for the fact that it's the only gated community in the state. With membership fees to the golf club topping $10,000, it's obvious they want to keep out people who aren't filthy rich, or knows someone who is. Places like Florida, California, or Texas have many more. What causes people to want to move out to the sticks and put up a giant fence around their property, with tightly controlled access to the neighborhood? Is fear of crime a legitimate reason for digging in behind a fence with armed security guards? Or is it just to get away from people? Why is the thought of somebody isolating themselves this much from a community so fascinating?
Banker withdraws a £100,000 pledge to his old college at Oxford University after his son was turned down for a place
Banker withdraws a £100,000 pledge to his old college at Oxford University after his son was turned down for a place - a newsworthy event in the UK not because the man's son was refused, but because he presumed that his donations would have bought his son's entrance. An interesting comparison with family privilege and US private colleges, perhaps?