Interesting Stuff that Didn’t Find a Place

Interesting interview on technology and society with Jason Lanier. (HT Alan Jacobs)

Yes. If you have the biggest computer and the biggest data, you can calculate how to target people with a political message, and have almost a guaranteed deterministic level of success. Politics then becomes about who has the biggest computer instead of what the agenda is. The way Obama won the last US election was by having the best computer strategy. That method of winning an election works, but if that is to be the future of politics, it will no longer have meaning. The path we are on is not compatible with democracy.

A review of a new book from Naomi Schaefer Riley, ‘Til Faith Us Do Part‘ This is the type of thing I used to put under either “gods of the copybook headings” or “the great relearning” depending upon if I was feeling hopeful. I’d also throw out that settling on the core of what you believe was the purpose of an education. But when education is now about purely ‘pragmatic’ things and emotionalism is what we are about you get you get Ephesians 4:13-14.

Thus many Americans begin their marriages believing that love will conquer all, including religious differences. But when the honeymoon is over, love proves less than omnipotent, and religious differences may reassert themselves, especially after children arrive. “Deciding how to raise children,” Ms. Riley writes, “is probably the highest hurdle interfaith parents face.”

If you are part of a whole, and the whole is doing something you don’t like, you have two paths (actually three). Hirschman’s two paths were exit or voice. You can vote with your feet or take part in politics. (The third path not discussed is submission.) Our society explicitly rejects submission. And as much as it thinks it revolves around politics, every whole that is truly important has been sheltered from real politics. (As the article would point out, the public school gets your tax money regardless of what and how it teaches. And when those tax rates are high enough even exit becomes tough. High Tax Rates + Poor Schools = Home School Movement.) Our society, based on the market, is based on exit strategies. It is hard to build and maintain social institutions and social trust when the only strategy is exit.

Exit is forceful, but it rules out using voice later. However, the reverse isn’t true. Voice, the default tactic in social groupings, is reusable but messy and not necessarily persuasive. When it’s easy to bid adieu (say, to a brand of detergent), voice isn’t worth the trouble. Firms must rely on the third leg of Hirschman’s stool, “loyalty.” Or as he put it, “Loyalty holds exit at bay”—a truth not lost on the folks who conjured up airline frequent-flier miles.

Loyalty carries no weight, of course, in the stock market, where “exit strategy” is an honored term. And since the appearance of “Exit, Voice and Loyalty” more than four decades ago, financial markets and American culture generally have only become more fickle. Loyalty to geography, religion and firm struggles with the pace of modernity. Professional sports are less appealing because players desert their teams; pensions have fallen into disregard because corporations, which once prized their workers’ loyalty, now value their exit more. And the Internet enforces an exit bias: Habits of behavior and even “friends” are dispatched at a keystroke.

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