America and intellectual relevance

Monday, 16 September, Year 5 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Since this came out pretty good, let's give more eyes the chance to find holes :

dub Daily Kos: STUNNING: Comparing U.S. & World Covers for TIME Magazinei
mircea_popescu Haha. PRAISE THE SOVIETS!
Namworld "This is not an isolated incident, for perusing TIME's covers reveals countless examples of the publication tempting the world with critical events, ideas or figures, while dangling before Americans the chance to indulge in trite self-absorption."
pankkake Pay college athletes lol.
Namworld "The chance to indulge in trite self-absorption."
ThickAsThieves Wow. Sad.
Namworld Love the wording.
dub 'swat muricans do best.

mircea_popescu Kinda sad to have the Americans completely surrender any attempt at intellectual relevance tho. I mean they never had it, but at least back when they were trying it was funnier.
Kleeck__ Define "intellectual relevance".

mircea_popescu Relevance is the property of a construct of holding interest in a particular context. Intellectual specifies what that context is.
Kleeck__ I could've assumed that was the intended meaning, but I wanted to make sure. What do you have to say about world-leading operations like Microsoft, Apple, Google, to name a few. Would the preeminence of American technology on a global scale not not indicate an "intellectual relevence"?

mircea_popescu If you think Microsoft is somehow intellectually relevant we have a problem. What did they do again ?
Kleeck__ Not in and of itself.

mircea_popescu Then ?
Kleeck__ Read my question, don't pull one aspect out. Would the preemenance of American technology on a global scale not not indicate an "intellectual relevence"?

mircea_popescu And no, technology is not the premier thing one has in mind when they discuss the intellectual. After all, the objection wasn't that the paint on the cover of Times is flaking or anything of the sort. It's a beautifully printed bit of maculature.
dub Also, Indians do the work for all those companies. Please to be trying again over there.
Kleeck__ Lol.
dub Microsoft - makes something easy enough that even Americans can use it.
mod6 Haha.
dub Apple - no wait, we need somethign even simpler, Windows was too hard.

mircea_popescu Yeah, Apple is basically the idea that wires are too hard.
Kleeck__ While technology, and the fields of study necessary to do what the American technology companies do is not the end-all of intellectual pursuits, it certainly does make up a good portion. After all, the sciences are intellectual pursuits. And many fields of science are necessary to make these companies as successful as they are.
dub Google - lets help Americans look smart by putting all the knowledge we want teh world to have at their finger tips.
Kleeck__ But, dub may have a good point, in that these American companies are good at recruiting foreigners. :) (Or outsourcing).

mircea_popescu You'll be hard pressed arguing technology is an intellectual pursuit of such central relevance as to excuse the problems tho. Far as anyone can tell, America's contribution to human understanding is some sort of variation of "special-subgroup-studies".
Kleeck__ I think your critique was pointed at the American media machine. Which is, and continues to breed, the anti-intellectual.

mircea_popescu No, my critique was levelled at the sad pretense of Universities the American colleges are. Anyway : the work of the intellect is to make the world intelligible, not necessarily to make it something else. To some degree it could be argued that making it something else is proof of not having understood in the first place, which is why technology alone is a hard argument to bring.

The discussion died there, but to make it actually fair I have to add the bit I was reserving for rebuffing the retort, which is to say the observation that all this may have been relevant in 1980 at the latest. Today any pretense no matter how vague at technological relevance is untenable, and has been untenable for decades. To bring the comfortable example of ASIC Bitcoin miners, the Americans provided the blather and the Asians provided the execution :

When it comes to the hard facts however things are anything but rosy. A year ago an English speaking, US based company announced its intention to develop and market an ASIC mining device. This company was showered with attention and significant investment capital. This company has also failed to deliver anything to date (if you don’t count the copious humour of showcasing an empty box of fans at CES 2013).

The two companies which are in fact delivering ASIC miners are both located in Asia, staffed by Asians, speaking Chinese. They’re making a lot of money, both for their founders and for their investors. Which investors aren’t - at the risk of repeating myself - neither Andreessen Horowitz nor Sequoia nor Greylock nor etc.

Meanwhile a third one joined the fray. It is Russian Ukrainian.

And so it is, and so it goes all around the clock, medical technology is developed by Koreans, Jews and Swedes rather than Americans, electronics are a wholly owned Asian concern,ii the French are building a larger laser for inertial containment fusion experiments than what the Americans (still) have, the CERN cyclotron is of course somewhere under Switzerland, the tallest building in the world in in Dubai, or Tokyo and so on and so forth.iii

For about a century we held back from this discussion on the grounds that technological relevance might perhaps in time morph into intellectual relevance, with which it is perhaps related or who knows, even cosubstantial. Our colonies have managed to lose any semblance of technical relevance in the meanwhile. All that's left now is this hollow "we're not cultural Sudan because well, forty years ago we made damn good washing machines". It doth not wash, not really.

Why are you not even trying anymore, by the way ? I am aware you suck, yes, and that it's really really hard, yes, but what sort of reasons are those ?

  1. Not a bad read, actually. Besides, it's fulla pictures anyway. Here's an excerpt : 6402664409_e51d14746b_z []
  2. And the dubious success of American companies such as Apple at recycling the vast sums spent by that government on welfare into their own (foreign) bank accounts is wholly dependent on Asian companies continuing to supply them. Should either a cartel or a local government make it illegal or even merely difficult for American companies to acquire electronic parts in Asia, that would be the instantaneous and indomitable end of the entire myth of the American "tech" company. []
  3. And as far as the sciences are concerned, I seem to recall the person to finally resolve the Fermat conundrum was neither American, nor inclined to accept recognition from the American "experts" in the field. Quite on the grounds that "who the fuck are you and who told you we have anything in common". []
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14 Responses

  1. But, but... we all can has shiny aiee-phones! It make us look geeky and intellemellectual! Hurr-durr.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Monday, 16 September 2013

    Intellemellectual sounds like a great icecream flavour, actually.

  3. Well we did manage once upon a time the declaration of independence and there was Mark Twain, But yeah the time seems of have passed without much relevance from US of A.

  4. Americans know chiefly how to sell things, best if made by someone else. For example(if I understand wikipedia correctly) Microsoft started with selling BASIC interpreter (just a couple kB binary) for $1,565 . Few people outside US can pull such feat with straight face, but you don't need to be an intellectual to do it, quite the opposite.

  5. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Monday, 16 September 2013

    @Chett No contesting the courage born of insanity to implement it, in an actual government, which happens to be your own. It's something akin to moving out of the well known, solid cave to live in some rickety construction of sticks and hides. Nevertheless, it's pretty much lifted straight from French.

    @jurov Jews are also very good at selling stuff. Somehow however...

  6. Yeah, Apple is basically the idea that wires are too hard.

    Hmm, didn't you had the same idea regarding plastic, plastic industry because avoiding metal electrocution is too hard?

    Maybe this is a better example why is Apple here.

  7. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Monday, 16 September 2013

    I wonder how much lsd would one need to feed the average chicken in order to replicate your mental processes exactly.

  8. ulciorul nu merge de multe ori la apa


    >75 µg average dose

    if the average weight of a human brain is 1500 grams and a chicken's 1 gram or so(size of pea), 75/1500...

    better get microscope doser.

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