Multitasking as Epistemic Injustice

Multitasking is considered a premium job skill, a sign of productivity in both job candidates and job holders. But the psychological evidence is clear: In extreme cases, multitasking is impossible, essentially leading the mind to a kind of paralysis. In less extreme cases, multitasking is a drag on productivity that imposes significant psychological costs. In general, multitasking is a thoroughly bad idea.

I don’t dispute that there are some jobs where multitasking is sometimes necessary. If so, one can’t coherently object to it. But both common sense and psychological evidence suggest that the need for multitasking is exaggerated, as is multitaskers’ capacity to do it well. Multitasking is neither as necessary as is often contended, nor as effectively done as is often claimed. There’s more bluffing than truth involved on both counts. Continue reading

Thus to Tyrants

Here’s one small step toward justice, democracy, and the rule of law for Pakistan, and a fitting follow-up to this post from a few years back. Pakistan has something to be proud of for a change, and possibly something to teach the democrats, aspiring democrats, and erstwhile democrats of the world: it is possible to fight tyranny through a tenacious commitment to activism and the rule of law. Here’s to a new beginning, not just for Pakistan, but for every country afflicted with a leader like Imran Khan.

Rand and I contra Kant

I have completed a ten-part essay titled “Rand and I contra Kant”. It addresses almost all of Ayn Rand’s representations and criticisms of Kant’s philosophy, all of my criticisms of Rand in those writings, and some of my criticisms of Kant. This serial essay is posted here:

I’ll post here the tenth part (~J~) as the first Reply under this post.

A Slap in the Face

The United States has just spent the last two decades fighting a series of ruinous wars, has created a million-person refugee crisis in Afghanistan, and is now fixated on the prospect of supporting a proxy war in Eastern Europe that might well go nuclear. So what, in the midst of all this, has genuinely engaged the country’s moral attention? The sight of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during the Academy Awards. The idea of endless warfare, even the elevated risk of nuclear warfare, is righteously taken for granted. Meanwhile, Will Smith has become the poster boy for deranged, untethered violence. That moral inversion, it seems to me, is a more consequential slap in the face than the one Smith planted on Chris Rock’s cheek. But try to get anyone to notice.

Mearsheimer on Ukraine

Though I realize that this lecture is currently in vogue among people on the extreme Right of American politics, I highly recommend it anyway. I’ve previously cited Mearsheimer and Walt’s work on Israel, and Mearsheimer’s now-famous lecture on Ukraine has the same clear-eyed quality about it. It is not a defense of Putin, and not to be construed as apologetics for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But it puts things in context far, far better than anyone is doing in the mainstream media. The title is a little misleading, and probably best interpreted as asking, “What is the explanation for the part of the Ukraine crisis that is not Russia’s fault?” The lecture was given in 2015, hence doesn’t directly address the 2022 invasion. But if you listen carefully, you’ll hear Mearsheimer predict and explain the invasion in the same breath. (Here is the print version of Mearsheimer’s lecture in PDF.)  

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The Psychopath Disarmed: Trump, 2021-2022

Now that Ukraine is under Russian attack, it’s worth mulling over the immortal reaction of our former President to an act of naked military aggression:

BUCK: Mr. President, in the last 24 hours we know Russia has said that they are recognizing two breakaway regions of Ukraine, and now this White House is stating that this is an “invasion.” That’s a strong word. What went wrong here? What has the current occupant of the Oval Office done that he could have done differently?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, what went wrong was a rigged election and what went wrong is a candidate that shouldn’t be there and a man that has no concept of what he’s doing. I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, “This is genius.” Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.

So, Putin is now saying, “It’s independent,” a large section of Ukraine. I said, “How smart is that?” And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy… I know him very well. Very, very well.

By the way, this never would have happened with us. Had I been in office, not even thinkable. This would never have happened. But here’s a guy that says, you know, “I’m gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent,” he used the word “independent,” “and we’re gonna go out and we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna help keep peace.” You gotta say that’s pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad. Very sad.

BUCK: Do you think the southern border is just gonna continue to deteriorate?


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The End of History (for Physics)?

In a trio of blog posts from 2010 (see here, here, and here), Sean Carroll defends the striking claim that, as far as concerns the basic physical principles that underlie the phenomena of everyday life, physics has been completed.

[T]here’s no question that the human goal of figuring out the basic rules by which the easily observable world works was one that was achieved once and for all in the twentieth century.

That’s right: “once and for all.” If asked for the basic, underlying story about why a table is solid or why the sun shines or what happens when a person flexes a muscle, modern science gives its answers in terms of “the particles of the Standard Model, interacting through electromagnetism, gravity, and the nuclear forces, according to the principles of quantum mechanics and general relativity.” One hundred years ago, explanations by this story (i.e., body of theory) could not be given, because this story did not exist. “But—here’s the important part—one thousand years from now, you will hear precisely that same story.”

I think Carroll is right, and I think the philosophy of structural realism can help to illuminate why. The purpose of what follows is to explain these points.

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Policy of Truth on Facebook

In a belated attempt to join the twenty-first century, I’ve created a Policy of Truth Facebook page. This will allow me to promote PoT on Facebook, presumably winning it a wider audience, and potentially sparing my Facebook friends my constant harping on philosophical and political topics that alienate and bore them, when what they’re really interested in is gossip, chit-chat, and the latest photos of me being attacked by my housemate’s rooster. The resulting division of labor will doubtless intensify the alienation and boredom of PoT readers, while carving out a dedicated, private space for consumers of rooster-attack porn.

Here’s the link:

User name: @PolTrue.