Or download the MP3
- Two quotes being used by Pinker in the chapter are in the “wet streets cause rain”
category (my words) in that, their original meaning is not what Pinker claims and ma
in fact be “outright contradictory”.
- The chapter spends most of its time attacking straw men.
- Pinker’s citations are poorly vetted, and largely non-scholarly, but presented as scholarly.
- And from those sources, Pinker ignores content which undercuts his arguments. Meaning
the sources themselves are far more equivocal than Pinker represents.
- There’s a big difference between, for example, the warnings about AI provided by Elon
Musk and Stephen Hawking and whatever it was Bush was doing.
- This overlooks all the times when people warned of catastrophe, and it turns out we should
have listened. Exhibit 1 for this is always Hitler, but I’m sure I could come up with half a
- This also overlooks times when warnings were acted upon, and the problem was fixed,
sometimes so well that people now dismiss the idea that there was ever a problem in the
first place. Pinker offers the Y2K bug as an example of techno-panic, and Torres goes to
show it really wasn’t, I don’t have to time to get into that, but Pinker seems to assume that
warnings of catastrophe are never appropriate and always bad, which is almost certainly
not the case.
- The Iraq War was bad, and in hindsight, almost certainly a mistake. But it wasn’t a
catastrophe, certainly not compared with other potential catastrophes throughout history.
Perhaps when considered only from the perspective of the Iraqis themselves, it might be,
but I’m not sure even then.
- If the nuclear arms race had lead to World War III, then Pinker would certainly have a
point, but it didn’t. However mistaken you think the arms race was, we avoided actual war.
This despite the fact that many people were pushing for it. (I think the number of people
who thought it might be okay went down as the numbers of nukes went up.) How sure are
we really, that a world where the arms race never happened would be better than the
world we currently have?