Mega Summer's End

mega summer is over; reads on: complexity, mimetic 'tourettes', how to win the bachelor, mediums and signaling, a look into bureaucracy, dark age of community

Hi Friends,

Since I published A Little Dark Age Ahead? earlier this week, this edition of Seeking Tribe will mostly be a series of reading recommendations and notes.

A little life update as a treat:

I was told that there are five seasons in Austin: “winter”, spring, mega summer, summer, and a couple days of fall.

Mega summer has begun to transition into regular summer in Austin. There have recently been days with highs in the 80s instead of above 100 or the 90s. It has been amazing. I am looking forward to experiencing what Austin’s fall and “winter” are like. The prospect of fully avoiding Seasonal Affective Disorder this year is exciting.

Currently early in the process of looking for my next living situation. Ideally going to be renting a 3-4 bedroom house a bit further south (or west…) of our current location. It’s a bummer that my initial lease ends October 31st, I’ve been loving my current living situation.

I feel really blessed to have met so many wonderful people here. The time spent going to events and reaching out to people has been more worthwhile than I even expected. It is nice to feel comfortable in a new city. This is the first time I’ve lived farther from home than Buffalo, NY (besides my adventures abroad). Likewise, a few friends have visited over the past month or so—please do not forget to hit me up if you come into town!

Recommended Reads:

The Big Blurry Picture by Joe Norman

The shift we need is from build to grow. From command and control to nurture and select. From directly forcing the system, to indirectly enabling it.

Living complexity can exist only under the condition that no single agent is an a position to compel the details of the whole.

We must never attempt to be such an agent — we would be applying our own Procustean bed, killing the whole and its future possibilities. Applying the lessons of complexity push us necessarily towards humility.

This piece by Joe did a great job of describing my preferred framework for considering various systems, processes. He has likewise been influenced by the work of Nassim Taleb and teaches his own course on complexity science. His newsletter is a great place to start if you don’t want to commit to The Black Swan.

Stop that! It’s not Tourette’s but a new type of mass sociogenic illness by Kirsten R Müller-Vahl, et al

In Germany, current outbreak of MSMI [Mass Social Media-Induced Illness] is initiated by a “virtual” index case, who is the second most successful YouTube creator in Germany and enjoys enormous popularity among young people. Affected teenagers present with similar or identical functional “Tourette-like” behaviours, which can be clearly differentiated from tics in Tourette syndrome.

The YouTuber, Jam Zimmermann, who runs the channel Gewitter im Kopf (Thunderstorm in Head) has inadvertently influenced a bunch of teens into copying his vocal ticks. He genuinely has tourette syndrome but his viewers do not.

This is an odd example of a mimetic contagion, we previously discussed mimesis in The Romantic Lie is Dead.

What other kinds of behaviors or odd fashions are going to propagate this way through our society in the coming years? Which ones already have?

First Place, Worst Place by Sasha Chapin

The best way to win the Bachelor isn’t to win the Bachelor. The single contestant you’re competing for is unlikely to be a suitable match—they’re selected for stardom, not for your lifestyle. What you should do, instead, is make it to the final four, at which point your dating pool will expand by roughly 10,000x. Then you can just have a personal dating show composed entirely of your Instagram DMs.

This piece prompts a bigger question, what tournaments are better lost than won?

For example, in our reality TV culture, it may be better to run for office and lose than to win. If you run an exciting campaign, you may be able to turn your failed candidacy into a lucrative gig or significant social status. You might not prefer that your opponent gets to control the levers of power but overall it may be better for your life personally (particularly if you have a family).

Or an adjacent idea: it may be better to win one round of the tournament and then opt-out of later rounds.

For example, there’s these narratives about students who drop out of ivy league schools and then go on to become incredibly successful, ie. Mark Zuckerberg. The future strivers of America may want to get accepted into Stanford, publish their acceptance letter as an NFT, reject Stanford’s offer, and then go work at a tech company where they (or more likely their parents) have connections. They may get significant amount of the benefit—Stanford’s stamp of approval—without having to incur all of the costs associated with earning the degree.

Punks in the Beerlight by Drew Austin

Freed from the constraints of physical media, self-branding has become unimaginably fluid; our online identities grow more baroque and complex as Spotify nudges our actual listening behavior toward standardized patterns. The recent explosion of NFTs is surprising in how seems to subvert this arrangement by artificially reimposing the constraints of ownership: NFT collectors display their CryptoPunks and Bored Apes in wallets where they are meant to be seen, like a record shelf for digital space.

This is a beautiful piece which analyzes how the mediums by which we consume media change how we signal our tastes and preferences. Drew references his experience collecting CDs and how owning a specific album was a reflection of his identity as a youth.

It left me wondering about the people who choose to not share their Spotify Year in Review because it doesn’t send the signal they want. I just got back on Spotify after a few years hiatus. Y’all will see how often I’m truly listening to Kanye.

Do I Need a Covid Vaccine Booster? by Matt Shapiro

I’ve been carefully trying to follow the ins and outs of FDA guidance and recommendations, and the language from the White House of “needing” booster shots came out of left field without hard data to justify it. It stated that it was contingent on FDA conducting an “independent evaluation and determination of safety,” but the simple act of making this announcement puts an enormous amount of pressure on the FDA to come to a specific conclusion on an arbitrary timeline. This isn’t just pundit-speak for something I don’t like; the two senior FDA officials in charge of approving this plan resigned days after the announcement.

This newsletter has been my favorite way to stay somewhat informed about the pandemic and associated policy decisions. Matt always shares his data and has remained reasonable throughout all of the volatility. He has been volunteering alongside other data scientists to help state health agencies to improve their reporting and quantitative analysis.

The story continued after he published this piece: an FDA advisory committee voted against approving unanimous use of boosters at this time. That may have been partially an attempt to preserve the agency’s credibility and perceived independence, following this aforementioned misstep by the White House.

I’m left wondering how many bureaucratic decisions are made as a result of this kind of inter-departmental conflicts (CDC v. FDA)…

Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs

While people possess a community, they usually understand that they can’t afford to lose it; but after it is lost, gradually even the memory of what was lost is lost. In miniature, this is the malady of Dark Ages.

I am grateful that I got to experience the real, face-to-face community of my home town. While growing up, it didn’t make any sense to me why we lived there. The world was elsewhere. Now I get it.

Still working through this one but it has been a great read so far. I’m going to end my night by reading a bit more.

Thank you for reading! I hope all of you have a wonderful start to your week. Please let me know if you enjoyed reading this or any of the recommended reads. As always, I appreciate every reply, especially any constructive criticism ;)

Your Friend,
Grant

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I forgot to upload a meme… so here’s me watching the sun set on mega summer last Saturday. Photo Credit: Thomas Grice. Everyone loves the friend who takes candid photos like this!