2016s

    Hate Speech and Fresh Air

    Academic Prose

    “Science Articles: A Guide” (to the ratio of subject matter complexity to prose complexity) by SMBC Comics

    Continue reading →

    'Kill the Historians'

    [www.instagram.com/p/BOGaR68...](https://www.instagram.com/p/BOGaR68Brhf/)

    WordPress Email

    My apologies if you tried to contact me earlier via the WordPress email form. Your message never reached my inbox.

    Preparing to Fight the Last War? Maybe Not

    Prussian War Academy ca, 1900 via Wikimedia Commons.

    I've been taking some time to think more about a slow-moving article on Wilhelm Groener I've been working on. It has received a big boost recently from the GHI's new focus on the history of knowledge.

    A truism holds that generals prepare to fight the last war, not the next one. Unable to peer into the future, they make do with the lessons of the past. Fair enough, perhaps, but this common-sense wisdom presupposes that military leaders will necessarily understand the salient features of the last war without preconceptions about war and officering affecting their discernment. In other words, the truism fails to account for the effects of prior training, experience, and acculturation in the production of knowledge about war. Instead, it implicitly assumes the existence of universal soldierdom, as if officering and soldiering—but for technology—were not culturally and historically contingent.

    Wilhelm Groener (1867–1939) offers a case in point. A general staff officer in the German army who rose to prominence quickly in the First World War, Groener became an important spokesman in the interwar period for the so-called Schlieffen school, offering an interpretation of the war seemingly at odds with what actually happened. Instead of deriving new lessons from the stalemate, as his contemporary Erich Ludendorff did in a nightmarish vision of politics serving war instead of vice versa, Groener doubled down on the knowledge he had internalized in peacetime Wilhelmine Germany. Issuing from neither a military outsider nor an original thinker and steeped in antebellum military thoughtways and culture, Groener’s interpretation of the First World War can be analyzed in relation to his prewar training and wartime experiences to show the inner logic of the professional military knowledge and culture in which he was steeped.

    ACLU’s Open Letter to Mr. Trump

    Published in the New York Times on Nov. 11, 2016:

    Continue reading →

    Grafenwöhr 1983

    A younger historian on Facebook called this picture a “Nice primary source of the late Cold War!” I don’t know what that makes me, the guy in front, but I decided to share here too.

    'American Tragedy'

    . . . A friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals---that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.

    David Remnick, “An American Tragedy,” The New Yorker, November 9, 2016.

    Values

    American national leaders gain their legitimacy by competing in compliance with not merely the outward forms but the clear values of our Constitution—equal dignity, religious freedom and tolerance, open deliberation, and the rule of law. These values don’t bind Donald Trump; norms of decency do not apply; he shrugs off the very burden of fact itself.

    Garrett Epps, “Donald Trump has broken the Constitution,” The Atlantic, November 9, 2016.

    #GHImaps

    Some participants of the conference I referenced in the previous post took it to twitter. See #GHImaps.

    Tonight’s Lecture

    My initial personal takeaway from tonight’s lecture on digital mapping: It looks useful as an analytical tool, and for presentation, but in the end we still have to write narratives. Historians have to make choices, not present facts that merely speak for themselves.

    Continue reading →

    Automation

    I was standing near the driver in my bus yesterday, waiting for the light to change so I could get off. When the light turned green, but the car in front of us didn’t move, the driver beeped his horn. I said, “People need to get off their phones,” which earned a laugh from the driver. Then he added something I hadn't recognized about the situation: “Uber drivers are the worst. I thought taxi drivers were bad . . .” I almost quipped something about how automation will soon take care of that, but then thought better of it. Will we lose our bus drivers too?

    Today there was this piece on NPR, “As Automation Eliminates Jobs, Tech Entrepreneurs Join Basic Income Movement,” which asks,

    When we talk about the economy, we spend a lot of time talking about jobs—how to create more of them and how to replace the ones being lost. But what if we're entering an automated future where there won't be enough jobs for the people who need them?

    This is an interesting, if not entirely new question, but also something of a gut punch when I think of all the ordinary human interactions I have in a day. On the other hand, it's possible that the Silicon Valley crowd is informed by more than a little hubris and so can't imagine all the areas of life that cannot—or should not—be automated.

Older Posts →