BOOK REVIEW: In the future of “Unscaled”, AI will keep the rich different from you and me

“The rich are different from you and me.”

“Yes, they have more money.”

No exchange like that between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway ever took place, but it’s a lot more fun to imagine that it did. The initially curt put-down contains within it the germ of a much more intense concurrence the more you think about it.

Unscaled by Hemant Taneja, or “How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts Are Creating the Economy of the Future” manages to embody both readings of that exchange.

The multimillionaire venture capitalist’s book often reads like a literal vanity-press product, talking of its subjects as an excuse to brag about all of the occasions Taneja’s investments thus far have paid off. That includes investments you’ve heard of like the temporary-messages app Snapchat as well as those you probably haven’t, like the “consumer digital health company“, Livongo.

In that way, the experience of reading Unscaled is very much like anyone who’s ever been cornered at a house party by someone you’ve just met, quite sure everything they do will be as interesting for you to hear as it clearly is for them to recount.

But, the rich are different from you and me, and what interests Taneja versus what does not is almost like reading an alien species talk about the implications of technology for the future.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: In the future of “Unscaled”, AI will keep the rich different from you and me”

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Things are only unprecedented once, so what rhymes with ‘Trump’?

After the physicist Richard Feynman helped to create the atom bomb, he spent a period of dazed depression wondering why anyone bothered to build anything when it was all going to be destroyed soon anyway.

That’s what most liberal Americans feel like right now, and have for the better part of a week.

It’s common for losing parties to behave like it’s the end of the world, and Democrats told conservatives to suck it up after 2008 and 2012. The republic didn’t come undone in 2004 or 2000, either. It’s good to remember that history is a long time, and sometimes you lose elections. Even acknowledging that, this time it is different.
 
Things are only unprecedented once. After that, it gets easier.

No future presidential candidate is ever going to be compelled to release their tax returns. If asked they can always say, ‘President Donald J. Trump didn’t, and look: no one cared.’ After two or three elections go by, that transparency won’t even be an expectation.

At a minimum, the next four years will be like that but with virtually every aspect of the presidency and elected office.

Continue reading “Things are only unprecedented once, so what rhymes with ‘Trump’?”

Gays in the military

The debate on the status of gays, or more really homosexuality itself, in the military seems to be starting up again, I guess because of those hearings on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy the military currently uses.

One of the funniest things about the whole situation is that I keep seeing these commercials of the Army trumpeting the 60 year anniversary of the integration of armed forces and how ahead of the curve the military was on the issue, while it remains one of the last institutions to outright ban homosexuality today.

As is plainly obvious, this policy is completely and unjustifiably unfair, but I am reactionary enough to support it and go even further. I’ll give you two practical reasons why, and then why I’m wrong on both, plus one more personal argument.

First, and this is a very old argument going back at least to the Roman general Marius, homosexuality “disrupts the military hierarchy.” Should professional soldiers be professional enough that they don’t like the little head do the thinking for them? Of course, but 18 to 25 year olds that regularly go long periods without sexual contact are not the best candidates for this, and they make up the vast majority of our recruits. They’re going to be horny and no amount of conditioning is going to prevent that, unless we want to start staffing our army with castrati.

You’re probably saying that most of this applies to women, who are already accepted in the service, and yes, I’m against that for the same reasons above. Many women are capable of military service and some have proved or are proving it, but we’ve also seem some of these problems prove themselves as well.

So it’s not that gays can’t fight or that an attraction to the same sex makes you incapable of being a good soldier. Alexander the Great conquered half the classical world loving boys half the time. But unless we legalize and institutionalize prostitution (call them “morale officers”) sex is going to get mixed with professionalism, and that almost never works. “Almost” because the Sacred Band of Thebes is reported to have done pretty well in the ancient world, but that’s an argument for open segregation more than anything.

Anyway, if you support heterosexual women being allowed in the military, gays and lesbians don’t pose any more of a threat to cohesion and performance than they do, likely much less because they are far fewer in number. And you can say, like Texas Rep. Ron Paul, that the issue is entirely about conduct, not sexual orientation. “Don’t Ask, It’s Irrelevant.”

My second argument against allowing openly homosexual people from serving in the armed forces is that the military is overwhelmingly socially conservative. A lot of very good soldiers are going to be lost because they are religiously and/or viscerally homophobic.

Now you should say, “Sixty years ago, there were probably a lot of very good soldiers who were racist. That was no reason to stop integration then.”

And you are right. However, I would think that 1948 was a much better time to begin desegregation than 1944, and since the purpose of reforming the policy is ostensibly to drive up recruitment (not just be more fair), turning away all of those ignorant redneck boys who get looked down on so much by the open-minded left but are responsible for allowing us all the luxury of being open-minded, is probably not the best idea. However, if the War on Terror is to continue indefinitely as many argue, then now is as good a time as any.

Finally, I can’t speak Spanish and Canada is too far away, even for someone without flatfeet. When I get drafted in 2012 to help invade Pakistan, I want the ability to pull a Jimmy Hendrix so I can stay a 4-F coward at home.

But mainly all that other stuff.