Tag Archives: reality

This is great

My friend Jack picked this article as the best New York Times article of 2011. It’s on the last decade of student testing in New York City, and here’s the last paragraph:

“Nearly a quarter of the state’s principals — 1,046 — have signed an online letter protesting the plan to evaluate teachers and principals by test scores. Among the reasons cited is New York’s long tradition of creating tests that have little to do with reality.”

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From the referrals, re: Rand Paul’s naive libertarianism

Saw an incoming link from a site called AesopsRetreat to my posts earlier about Rand Paul and racism. They excerpt this line:

“I could say alternatively that racism by businesses has serious negative externalities in practice and I’m ok with government regulation on those grounds.

A commenter on the thread notes:

Rand Paul will win on REAL ISSUES that are of concern to the voters.

Racism is not an issue in 2010. This is not 1964.

Well, perhaps racism is not an issue in 2010, if you are white and live in Kentucky. If those two stipulations don’t apply, perhaps it is more obvious that racism and the violence that accompanies overt displays of racism are pretty scary prospects.

Perhaps I should restate my argument for clarity. I point out that a transaction between an individual and a business not not just implicate the property rights of the individual and the business. The city or governmental entity that issues a business license on behalf of its citizens has a property right interest in ensuring that business is transacted in ways that do not reflect badly on the community and ensure the public safety.

Hence building codes, health codes, etc. Libertarians rarely challenge building codes or health codes from a philosophical point, but if they want to argue that businesses should be allowed to conduct racist business practices, they should maintain consistency and advocate for the abolition of all ground-level regulations that come with obtaining a business license.

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On Reality

I don’t watch much television so my knowledge of the historical background is shaky but lately I have become fascinated by a couple of television dramas, Lost and Heroes. Both have exceptionally convoluted plots in which reality itself is a main player. Lost is a show where I’m never sure precisely what the reality is and Heroes tells stories in which reality itself is constantly shifting through the actions of several main characters, one of whom can time travel and change the path of time itself.

I find in these stories a wonderful skepticism. If there is one dominant strategy or Nash equilibrium for the people in these worlds it is to never completely accept the reality in front of them: it may be imaginary (hallucination), it may be systemically unpredictable (particularly when invisibility or shapeshifting or any one of a dozen other idiosyncratic factors are at play), and it may be variable, as when the fabric of time is accidentally or willfully rewoven. In these worlds history and sensory knowledge are even poorer guides than the one I know and one must be willing to accept the constant possibility of delusion as well as a knowledge base that is terminally unstable. Survival means the ability to accept the fluidity of paradigms through which experience is optimized.

In a sense this is very minimalist. At the same time one is aware of the utter scale of possibility and learns that the worst enemy is not being aware of one’s cognitive biases and limitations. In a sentence, self-knowledge is the only meaningful currency for these realities (and by extension, our own).

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