UT Austin Event, Book Reviews, and Michael Tracey Podcast
The first Texas Dream Series event at the University of Texas, Austin is scheduled for next week. Philippe Lemoine will be talking about The Poverty of Epidemiology on Wednesday, April 27, at 4PM central time. I plan to be in attendance for future events, but for this one I’ll only be able to make it by Zoom. See his fascinating work on the subject on his War on Science blog, particularly this post, which turned me from a somewhat neutral lockdown skeptic into someone who believes that lockdowns and other non-pharmaceutical interventions like masking have been the biggest policy failures of my life, at least if one is not counting acts of omission.
On a different note, someone has reviewed my book for the Astral Codex Ten book review contest. I think it’s quite good, and am glad to see some rationalist appreciation of my work. If you agree, make sure to vote for it. Too much foreign policy analysis is trapped by the established paradigms and intellectual habits of the field of international relations, which I don’t think are very good. My view is that the discourse would benefit from taking more seriously concepts like cost-benefit analysis, probabilistic reasoning, and the need to avoid existential risk. One of the goals of my book was to try to move the discussion in that direction, but I think even I have been too used to discussing international politics in the standard way and there is much more to be done here. For example, I was talking to someone the other day about the benefits of unipolarity versus multipolarity, and at one point we realized we needed to step back and try to clarify what these terms meant, because they’re not self-explanatory and you can imagine various kinds of systems that incorporate different aspects of each structure. We just use heuristics like these because they’re imported from the field of international relations, and I’m becoming increasingly convinced that speaking in such terms is not the best way to try and understand the world, even if I still use them out of habit.
There were two more recent reviews of my book: one in the journal Russia in Global Affairs by North Korea expert Andrei Lankov and another by Peter Ward at NK News, with a focus on its relevance for US policy towards North Korea.
Finally, I just recorded a podcast this morning with Michael Tracey on US policy towards the conflict in Ukraine, and how the media has been covering it. Near the end he asks me how to sift through the news to try and form a reasonable picture of what is going on, and I provide some suggestions.