1. Black American Culture and the Racial Wealth Gap

Coleman Hughes | Quillette

Hughes pens an excellent essay evaluating various explanations for the reasons behind the racial wealth gap in America. His essay takes aim at the progressive narrative (as he calls it) that the racial wealth gap between black and white Americans is a result of oppression, particularly slavery and racist New Deal policies, and finds it to be untenable.

“Just like no person is born knowing how to brew beer or play basketball, no person is born knowing how to build wealth. These skills must be taught. And just like some cultures teach beer-brewing or basketball-playing better than others, some cultures teach wealth-building better. Children from one culture may routinely hear phrases like “asset diversification,” “mutual fund,” and “inflation rate” on the lips of their parents, whereas children from another culture may not hear such phrases until adulthood, if they ever hear them at all. More importantly, those who believe they are helping black Americans—or any demographic group—succeed by encouraging them to blame society are mistaken. Talking honestly about harmful behavioral patterns is the only way to reliably correct them.” 

2. What is the problem with social media?

Jordan Greenhall | Deep Code on Medium

Greenhall articulates lucidly a number of foundation problems that social media presents to us. However, one of his points (point 3) on the difference between complex and complicated was particularly insightful especially because I have been thinking about society and complexity. Greenhall presents some ideas on why models that treat society as a complicated system in need of social engineering experts will fail.

In the case of complication, the optimal choice is to become an “expert”. That is, to grasp the whole of the system such that one can make precise predictions about how it will respond to inputs. In the case of complexity, the optimal choice goes in a very different direction: to become responsive. Because complex systems change, and by definition change unexpectedly, the only “best” approach is to seek to maximize your agentic capacity in general. In complication, one specializes. In complexity, one becomes more generally capable.

3. Rationalization: Why your intelligence, vigilance and expertise probably don’t protect you

Jonathan Ellis | Imperfect Cognitions

A sobering assessment of how we are all prone to rationalisation – justifying preferred conclusions after the fact; after deciding for non-epistemic or self-interest reasons what conclusion we want – we then rationalise and try to justify it with good reasons even through the good reasons have nothing to do with how we came to the conclusion. What is more worrying from the study is that expertise in reasoning does nothing to diminish this bias. This is why I suppose philosopher Karl Popper in developing his theory of knowledge Critical Rationalism, thought that objectivity lies not in the individual who somehow manages to overcome their bias, but rather the social structure and institutions which allow individuals the freedom to criticize ideas openly. But what does this mean for the individual – are we not capable of being objective or bias free? Is the paper itself bias free? If not why then should we take its bias seriously? It raises a number of questions – but one thing for sure we should be humble in our opinions.

Vigilance, academic intelligence, and disciplinary expertise are not overall protective against rationalization. In some cases, they might even enhance one’s tendency to rationalize, or make rationalizations more severe when they occur.

4. The Spiritual Disciplines: Study and Self-Examination

Brett and Kate Mckay | The Art of Manliness

Brett and Kate McKay offer some insight into one of the most fundamental spiritual disciplines – the discipline that affects our beliefs and thoughts which in turn determine what we value and how we act. Paul admonished followers of Christ to be transformed by the renewing of the minds in order to test and approve what is the perfect will of God. Our knowledge determines how well we live and therefore we must know how do we go about transforming our thought life – and that is where the spiritual discipline of study and self-examination comes in.

“The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person. They aim at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits. Nowhere is this purpose more clearly seen than in the Discipline of study. . . . The mind is renewed by applying it to those things that will transform it.” –Donald S. Whitney

5. Why You Should Stop Reading News

Shane Parish | Farnam Street

In the age of information one of the most valuable assets we have is our attention – and one of the most crucial skill we can develop is discerning what is worthy of our attentions and what is not – what we are exposed to compounds over time. If we are continuously exposed to the mundane, superficial and sensationalist headlines – then our thought life becomes precisely that. Shane parish offers a practical habit we can develop to protect our attention – not reading the news.

The point is, most of what you read online today is pointless. It’s not important to your life. It’s not going to help you make better decisions. It’s not going to help you understand the world. It’s not going to help you develop deep and meaningful connections with the people around you. The only thing it’s really doing is altering your mood and perhaps your behavior.