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Recommendation for Sunday, January 7th, 2018
If you read only one political essay this year, make it Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics. First published in Harper's in 1964, the essay addresses conspiracy theories and "movements of suspicious discontent" in American politics since the late 18th century. It draws a clear line from Anti-Masonry ("a standing conspiracy against republican government") to McCarthyism, populism and nativism, and explains how paranoiacs a) view their struggle as good vs. evil, b) project their own incompetencies onto others, and c) accumulate "facts" but leap to unjustified conclusions. IOW, it explains the historical precedents for Trumpism, and did so long before Trump was a national figure. "I call it the paranoid style," Hofstadter writes, "simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy." Can't recommend enough.
"Suckers try to win arguments, nonsuckers try to win." — Nassim Taleb
"We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us." —McLuhan
The abstractions and processes of thought, from how we approach play (Finite and Infinite Games) to knowledge creation (The Beginning of Infinity) to confidence (The Inner Game of Tennis).
From the origins of man (Sapiens, Homo Deus), to speculations on artificial intelligence (Superintelligence, How to Create a Mind), to how we perceive time (Why Time Flies, Felt Time).
Space operas, dystopias, gender speculations, cyber wtf-ery, temporal gymnastics, and killer fungi, ranging from accessible page-turners (Atwood, Ishiguro) to mega-laser geekery (Banks, Vinge).
"Poker is a game of making decisions under conditions of uncertainty." — Annie Duke, Decide to Play Great Poker
"Again the bell and again and you and your opponent so evenly matched it’s impossible to see your opponent is you …” — Joyce Carol Oates, On Boxing