An Indian-American philosopher on not quite fitting in

I found this interview with Bharath Vallabha at Free Range Philosophers rather interesting. The following section of it stuck out to me (highlights mine):

The professors as people were nice, but they were generally complicit in the deeply ingrained institutional arrogance of academia. It was as if my father as both a non-academic and an Indian philosopher had to bow to them without debate, as if debate itself – a rational dialogue – was only possible from within the Western texts I was being taught in classes.

Often in philosophy classes I would sit in the back rows, or in the corner in seminar rooms. During classes or talks I hesitated to speak out, unsure of how to participate. When I did participate, there was often a kind of frantic, desperate energy to talk about many things at once. All this my professors seemed to chalk up to my “personality”: that I could be withdrawn, combative, not fully at ease. But it was not a matter of personality, but of institutional structures. I was always trying to connect the philosophy I was doing at home with the philosophy in the classrooms, and in this the professors were no help at all. They were giving an ultimatum at every turn: our way or the highway. Most of the time in my classes I was trying to figure out how to respond to that ultimatum.

It seems to me that a lot of this parallels the rhetoric around political correctness, wherein certain activist academics insist that things can only be spoken about one certain way (with a lot of their most-vocal opponents doing the same but from the opposite side of the political spectrum).

I think that the pressures from such groups also lend themselves to the style of very verbose communication when aiming to speak out about sensitive topics - i.e. When I did participate, there was often a kind of frantic, desperate energy to talk about many things at once - as often the most sane positions require a lot of nuance. This, and my belief in inattentional blindness, are two of the key reasons why I look at denunciations of various forms of -splaining to be one of the most toxic movements in politics of the past few decades.

It feels like it's been a running refrain around here the past while but once again: not everyone thinks like you.

More random links

Wipe or Wash? Do Bidets Save Forest and Water Resources?
"those who say that bidets waste water, advocates counter that the amount is trivial compared to how much water we use to produce toilet paper in the first place. ... the amount of water used by a typical bidet is about 1/8th of a gallon, with the average toilet using about four gallons per flush. ... making a single roll of toilet paper requires 37 gallons of water"
Do Jobs Follow People or Do People Follow Jobs?
"When it comes to the entire economy, it seems, people follow jobs, not the other way around. ... But when it comes to high-paying knowledge, professional, and creative jobs—the ones that drive the economy and innovation—the opposite is true: Jobs follow people."
Uber Is Using AI to Charge People as Much as Possible for a Ride
Shouldn't be too surprising - the only question seems to be what if anything could or should be done about this.

Random links

How your selfie could affect your life insurance
"Several life insurance companies are testing Lapetus technology that uses facial analytics and other data to estimate life expectancy, he says. ... Lapetus says its product, Chronos, would enable a customer to buy life insurance online in as little as 10 minutes without taking a life insurance medical exam."
How Do You Make a Fox Your Friend? Fast-Forward Evolution
"the experiment is still ongoing, with 56 generations of foxes bred to date — a far cry from the snarling creatures that used to snap at the hands of their caretakers when the research began. The new foxes run toward people, jump on the bed and nuzzle one another as well as their human caretakers. Such a behavioral transformation was to some degree expected, since they were bred from the tamest members of their groups. Perhaps more intriguing, they also look more doglike, with floppy ears, wagging tails and piebald fur."
Scaling: The surprising mathematics of life and civilization
"with every doubling of city size, whether from 20,000 to 40,000 people or 2M to 4M people, socioeconomic quantities – the good, the bad, and the ugly – increase by approximately 15% per person with a concomitant 15% savings on all city infrastructure-related costs."

Which view of Silicon Valley seems more accurate?

Option A:

Though Silicon Valley has well-known problems with diversity in its work force, people here pride themselves on a kind of militant open-mindedness. It is the kind of place that will severely punish any deviations from accepted schools of thought — see how Brendan Eich, the former chief executive of Mozilla, was run out of his job after it became public that he had donated to a campaign opposed to gay marriage.


Option B:

In the tech industry, there's a culture of not criticizing anyone publicly. I like that culture, but I'm not part of it, so I'm free to say that Silicon Valley badboy Peter Thiel looks like a bad guy. I'm kind of neutral on the Thiel vs. Gawker war - Gawker definitely had it coming, but having rich people be able to sue newspapers out of existence due to personal feuds seems like a scary precedent. But Thiel's support of Trump, his habit of making a buck off of government surveillance, and his promotion of nasty political ideas combine to make him the closest thing America has to a comic-book evil mastermind. Thiel's sort-of-reactionary ideas are confined to a small minority of techies, but the Valley's friendly culture means that even those who disagree with him are out there publicly singing his praises. I certainly wouldn't mind if tech industry people got more vocal about disagreeing with Thiel's values.

I think that Option A is probably the more accurate one, although I suspect it might depend somewhat on the net worth of the person in question.


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