Kuhn’s Ashtray

by Kieran Healy on March 7, 2011

Errol Morris starts to tell a story:

It was April, 1972. The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N. J. The home in the 1950s of Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel. Thomas Kuhn, the author of “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and the father of the paradigm shift, threw an ashtray at my head. It had all begun six months earlier. “Under no circumstances are you to go to those lectures. Do you hear me?” Kuhn, the head of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science at Princeton where I was a graduate student, had issued an ultimatum. It concerned the philosopher Saul Kripke’s lectures — later to be called “Naming and Necessity” — which he had originally given at Princeton in 1970 and planned to give again in the Fall, 1972. But what was Kuhn’s problem with Kripke?

Realism, Idealism and Social Media

by Clay Shirky on March 7, 2011

The debate about social media and autocratic regimes can be (roughly) divided into two camps: idealists and realists. Idealists — my camp — believe social media will, on average, improve leverage for citizens seeking representative government; realists believe it won’t.

Because the events in North Africa and the Middle East are so important, both in themselves and in what they will lead us to expect about the future, I have been reading realist arguments especially closely in this period, and it was in this spirit that I came across Kremlin’s Plan to Prevent a Facebook Revolution, by Andrei Soldatov, an intelligence analyst at Agentura.ru.

[click to continue…]

Clay Shirky guestpost

by Henry Farrell on March 7, 2011

Over the last few months, Sean Aday, Marc Lynch, John Sides and I have been talking a lot (and organizing a project with the US Institute of Peace) on the relationship between social media and civic unrest in non-democratic societies. Obviously, this has recently become a salient topic of debate. Clay Shirky, who has guestblogged with us before, and who was at a meeting that we organized in Stanford the week before last along with a number of other very smart people, has a post talking to some of these issues that I am just about to put up. I’m hoping that this can help get some interesting debate started.

Oh noes! We’re being replaced by machines!

by Chris Bertram on March 7, 2011

Paul Krugman “is worried”:http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/autor-autor/ that lots of jobs will be replaced by machines in the near future. What will all those people do!? Brad DeLong “thinks”:http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/03/the-hollowing-out-of-the-us-income-distribution-under-the-pressure-of-technology.html there’ll still be plenty of jobs, but massive income inequality. Some of Brad’s commenters “think”:http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/03/the-hollowing-out-of-the-us-income-distribution-under-the-pressure-of-technology.html#comment-6a00e551f080038834014e5fb00b99970c that the reserve army of unemployed will take up prostitution on a large scale. Oh dear.

Allow me to suggest a third possibility. Instead of mass unemployment or horrendous inequality, technological improvement could reduce the time people spend working to meet their needs and give them more free time. Free time that they could use for other purposes (such as their all-round human development) . The “Jerry Cohen video”:https://crookedtimber.org/2011/02/02/g-a-cohen-against-capitalism/ that I posted the other week centres on this very point. For more discussion see ch.11 of _Karl Marx’s Theory of History_ , which, I now see, furnished much of the script for that talk. Of course, if you take “free markets”, extensive private property and the domination of the political system by money (so that you can’t do much about the first two) as givens, then the third possibility will appear impossible or utopian. So you’d have to be an incompetent idiot to mention it, wouldn’t you?