21 Comments

Thanks again for doing this--I'm excited to look through the offerings. The collection of both technology and religious studies pieces especially appeals to me since that's my area of academic study.

I appreciate my essay on Wolfe/Dark Souls being included. Good timing, too, since Elden Ring's DLC is about to release!

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My friends are excited about it. I played the original Dark Souls and unfortunately became snobbishly unable to get into Elden Ring. I'll never forgot one experience in Dark Souls where I had to fight through this entire castle, dying and respawning endlessly, following the path, hours and hours of mastering every movement and attack and parry, all the way to a final ladder... which led me back to where I started. I just started laughing hysterically.

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That kind of geographical absurdity is partly what makes DS1 so unique (even the others don't have it). Are you referring to the Undead Parish that you have to spend forever getting through before it takes you right back to Firelink Shrine? (it's been a while since I played the first one).

Bloodborne is my favorite, but I liked Elden Ring a lot. Its shocking popularity (with celebrities and musicians playing it too) I think helps bolster the argument that audiences actually crave being challenged more than being condescended to. It also helped that Elden Ring had a story that was less opaque too.

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Undead parish, that's the one

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Thank you so much for including me a second time!!! These are all so thought-provoking.

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Thanks for this, and for including my essay 🙏 Looking forward to sampling these

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There’s so many titles and excerpts here that are quite striking and intriguing, thank you and great work everyone!

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“jungle-like pullulating” sounds like Time for a Tiger

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Just that little blurb about depression put a chunk of my childhood into perspective. Thanks

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Jun 18Liked by Erik Hoel

Great list. On that piece by Adam Krellenstein discussing Feynman's comments about "chair" being an approximate concept, I don't think I agree with the idea on p. 8 that "Feynman is using the word [approximation] in a manner incompatible with every other usage of it". It seems to me we might interpret Feynman as talking about something like the difference between macrostates and microstates in statistical mechanics, where a macrostate could be said to be an "approximate" description of the physical state because the same macrostate is compatible with many possible microstates. Of course we don't have any precise definition of "chair" that specifies the range of microstates that qualify, so there is a further layer of vagueness there, but we could come up with a macrostate definition in principle and Feynman's comments would still apply.

Krellenstein has another piece at https://krellenstein.com/adam/get/natphil_2024-03-28.pdf which talks on p. 3 about how the world-picture of modern science assumes there is an underlying reality that is in principle totally describable with physics, and where a scientific model we use in practice which falls short of this description is understood as "a convenient approximation of the underlying reality, in that some more or less important details are left out of it". Krellenstein does not agree with this sort of reductionist picture, but it seems to me that if it were true (as most physicists assume, I think--see for example Einstein's comment at https://www.site.uottawa.ca/~yymao/misc/Einstein_PlanckBirthday.html especially the paragraph starting 'In my belief the name is justified'), this use of "approximation" would be perfectly coherent, kind of if I gave an approximate description of a state of a cellular automata like The Game of Life at https://conwaylife.com/wiki/Conway%27s_Game_of_Life which told you some details ('a glider is approaching a blinker from the lower left') but which didn't give enough detail to tell you the exact pattern of 'live' and 'dead' cells in the state I was looking at.

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Thanks so much for this list Erik, you've uncovered real gems.

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Erik, I’m honored to be included and can’t wait to jump into the other essays!

Real quickly - in the intro to my piece the last two references to Linda in the sentence you wrote below should say “Amy” to reference Linda’s daughter, not Linda herself.

…James Bailey is about Peter and Linda Biehl, who were tragically made famous in the 1990s due to the murder of their daughter, Linda. Linda herself was set to marry….

Again, thank you for doing this and I look forward to being enlightened by the pieces you selected. 🙏

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Jun 18·edited Jun 18Author

I should have definitely caught that in my edits and checks, I'm sorry James. Thanks so much

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Erik, you hardly need to apologize. It’s a heavy lift this thoughtful and big contribution of yours.

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Thanks for this initiative, what a way to "give back to the community", so much interesting reading to do! Nice mix of topics as well.

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Great line-up! Really liked the one about Wittgenstein and natural science, reminded me in many ways of Mark Wilson's writings.

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As to Mark Twain: I haven't read the essays mentioned. I consider the man sufficiently reasonable and honest. I have heard someone I also consider sufficiently reasonable and honest report an experience that can not be explained without supposing "mental telegraphy". Guess it's something about dimensions. Nothing to worry about.

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Piece 3. “Alienation: Technology & the Soul” by Connor O'Leary:

Maybe things have to get worse before they can get better. Since the start of 2023 I mostly gave up on social media, cinema, TV, etc. For a number of reasons, but generative AI was the most important. I use it, but with extreme caution and parsimony. Perhaps this is due to “learning”, or “personal progress”. I find it wonderful, and want to dig deeply into figuring out what makes something like GPT or Midjourney work, and using those tools, tinkering with them is essential, but here’s the thing that surprised me the most about it: It convinced me that I have to change, urgently. To survive, and not lose my sense of agency, and humanity, I have to become a mathematician. This was not what I was planning to do! So now I’m learning how to use a slide rule, and a pantograph! And I can’t think of a better teacher than… a Large Language Model.

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Thanks so much for doing this, Erik! Such a treasury of interesting work which I’m only just beginning to delve into. Many thanks for sharing my essay and helping it reach new readers!

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Piece 13. “Imprecise Truths About The American Caste System” by David Roberts

The candor of this piece is symptomatic of the state of the world in 2024, and pertains to many other similar, very recent books. Let me mention 2 for immediate purposes, but there are others.

Now candor is a very good thing, and all the more if it is about complacency. And there is plenty of that for everyone to see. Now for the question that kills: If cyanobacteria had been complacent about the possibility of a future “great oxydation event”, would it have made any difference at all? (This by the way was a joke.)

Matthew Stewart, “The 9.9%: The New Aristocracy That Is Entrenching Inequality and Warping Our Culture.”

Peter Turchin, “End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration.”

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Love to be here like intertwining neural networks!

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