Hi-Phi Nation: a Philosophy Podcast

The February 2019 dead tree edition of Chronogram, a local magazine here in the Hudson Valley of New York, had a brief interview with Barry Lam of Vassar College about his philosophy podcast, Hi-Phi Nation. I listened as a result, and found Hi-Phi Nation to be entertaining and interesting, even punny. But I may be an outlier: check it out yourself.

Economists enjoy great media cachet. I don’t see philosophers being revered in the same way as go-to problem framers.

Philosophy has the reputation of being a little old-fashioned or weirdly inaccessible. We haven’t done a good job in philosophy of putting ourselves as one of the branches of people who have been thinking about these kinds of things and have a stake in it and can offer a way of approaching these problems that an ordinary person concerned with social issues and what’s happening with the world can access. The public has to feel that philosophers are offering an insight versus just arguing endlessly amongst themselves about things that nobody else cares about.

Yes. People don’t like jargon, for good reason. But what they really hate is uncertainty.

They also ask tough questions like, “Philosophy? What kind of job can you get with that? Stand-up philosopher?” As if nothing is worth doing for itself.

And as if philosophy is not something that everybody can do.


One of my favorite things about the Internet is discovering kindred minds, often in unexpected places.

Cate Huston writes in Why you can’t manage humans like they’re software:

There’s a comfort for the mathematically inclined in returning to the certainty and understanding of mathematics, to think in systems and optimize for efficiency of communication between them. These things work, up to a point, but they are too static for the messiness of humans and the chaos of growth. If we leave out trust, and we leave out developing each other, we will never scale.

Some days I have great hope that the world of work will move beyond treating people as things.


I’ve been browsing around the Internet while sitting in this meeting that doesn’t require my attention, and became curious about whether RE/Search is still around. Looks like it is. There’s even a Twitter account.

Even more astonishing is that the copy I had on J. G. Ballard was last selling for $70. I didn’t much care for it, and discarded it while emptying the Too Big House for sale in 2014. I wonder if I still have my copy of #11: Pranks! around here….

RE/Search #8/9: J. G. Ballard

Revisions Needed

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.


I came across, by way of a footnote on Jason Kottke’s piece on clam gardens, an interesting review of Sam Arbesman‘s work on the half-life of facts, which apparently can be described mathematically. How long will it be before the conventional wisdom is neither conventional nor wisdom?

Mr. Kottke notes,

I’m guessing most people reading this learned in school that the Americas were sparsely populated and almost pristine before Columbus showed up, but subsequent research over the past 20 years has shown that this is very much not the case.

I should ask my kids what the kids are learning these days. I’m sure Pearson has had little incentive to update the standard texts, even though William Cronon’s Changes in the Land was published 36 years ago, in 1983. Though evidence certainly abounded before then, it was news to me when I read Changes in the Land in 1990 or so.

Update: JSTOR Daily, in “Yes, Americans Owned Land Before Columbus,” notes that our understanding of the indigenous understanding of property has changed over time, and points out Allen Greer’s “Commons and Enclosure in the Colonization of North America.” The American Historical Review, vol. 117, no. 2, 2012, pp. 365–386.

The Consumer Wins?

BBC Business Daily discusses 21st Century Monopolies with the Jonathan Tepper, author of The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition, and some others. Tepper talks about the need to deal with regulatory capture and the perks of revolving doors. Sounds familiar.

Alex Moazed, one of the other guests, says that the Internet monopolies are different, non-traditional monopolies, because the consumer wins–because pricing power is not exerted over the consumer, but the producer.

Which makes me wonder, when did we start thinking of the consumer and the producer as two separate and distinct people, and not aspects of a person? Or, how can I buy if I don’t sell?