Alan Jacobs


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These are wonderful.

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I wrote about anarchy in The Man Who Was Thursday.

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We’re dealing with endless displays of Potemkin AI. As Molly White says, we “need to start keeping a list of all the times some big supposed display of bleeding edge technology turns out to just be A Guy.”

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Ted Gioia’s “Nine Ugly Truths about Copywright” is brilliant.

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Cory Doctorow: “AI companies are implicitly betting that their customers will buy AI for highly consequential automation, fire workers, and cause physical, mental and economic harm to their own customers as a result, somehow escaping liability for these harms. Early indicators are that this bet won’t pay off. Cruise, the ‘self-driving car’ startup that was just forced to pull its cars off the streets of San Francisco, pays 1.5 staffers to supervise every car on the road. In other words, their AI replaces a single low-waged driver with 1.5 more expensive remote supervisors – and their cars still kill people.”

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Adi Robertson: “As I’ve watched the Vision Pro go from announcement to release, it’s also seemed held back by something that has little to do with hardware. Apple is trying to create the computer of the future, but it’s doing so under the tech company mindset of the present: one obsessed with consolidation, closed ecosystems, and treating platforms as a zero-sum game.” Too true.

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I’m going in.

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On reading Horace: “In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man James Joyce talks of the “human pages” of Stephen Dedalus’s ‘timeworn Horace’ that ‘never felt cold to the touch even when his own fingers were cold’. Many other readers have discovered in Horace’s poetry an intimate friend in the shape of a book. David Hume couldn’t look this friend in the eye when he was failing so abjectly to follow his advice.” I keep commending Horace, e.g. here. One of these days I’m gonna make him BIG!

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Damon Krukowski: “If not Pitchfork, with more daily visitors than Vogue or Vanity Fair or the New Yorker - or GQ – then who in music journalism can possibly thrive in this economic environment. And if no one can… then all we’ll have left are streaming platforms, their algorithms, and the atomized consumer behavior they push on us.”

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I deleted my micro.blog post on whether art makes us better people and replaced it with a somewhat longer one.

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Maggie Tulliver and her books.

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A scholar named Isaac Waisberg has put together a vast collection of translations of Horace into English. This is quite interesting to me because Horace does not go easily into English: he can be both casual and concise, and English finds it hard to be both at once.

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I’m really pleased that the new AppleTV series Masters of the Air features a portrayal of Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, who ought to be, but is not, one of the most famous American military heroes. A bomber pilot of unmatched skill and unmatched courage, he received every imaginable medal from the United States, Great Britain, and France. After the war he resumed his career as a lawyer — as a member of the legal staff for the Nuremberg Trials, in which capacity he interrogated Hermann Göring. Later in life, responding to the rumor that he had fought so fiercely because he had relatives in Nazi concentration camps, he said, “That was a lot of hooey. I have no personal reasons. Everything I’ve done or hope to do is because I hate persecution. A human being has to look out for other human beings or there’s no civilization.”

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I wrote a parable about academics and practical men.

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Tyler Austin Harper: “The first step is refusing to indulge in certainty, the fiction that the future is foretold. There is a perverse comfort to dystopian thinking. The conviction that catastrophe is baked in relieves us of the moral obligation to act. But as the extinction panic of the 1920s shows us, action is possible, and these panics can recede.”

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With the Mac turning 40, a question going around is: What was your first Mac? Mine was … the first Mac, in all its 128k glory. Bought (with a bank loan arranged by my mom, who worked in a bank) in early 1985. I wrote my dissertation on it; everything I have ever published was written on a Mac.

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Spatial knowledge impairment after GPS guided navigation.

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In which I endorse Ted Gioia’s theses on progress.

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Why don’t Arsenal win every game 5-0? It seems such an obvious solution to their problems. ⚽️

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Noteworthy, I think, that neither this Becca Rothfield review of The Geography of the Imagination nor John Jeremiah Sullivan’s introduction to the new edition give you any real sense of what it’s like to read Guy Davenport. Nothing does that except … reading Guy Davenport.

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In which I explain what I did on the first day of a new class – and then go on a wild-eyed rant against Spotify.