Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 381

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

The number 381 , which is a Kaprekar constant in base 2 (101111101). Kaprekar constants are weird things and you’ll need to google them.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The rise and fall of peer review (Adam Mastroianni, Substack): “If you look at what scientists actually do, it’s clear they don’t think peer review really matters. First: if scientists cared a lot about peer review, when their papers got reviewed and rejected, they would listen to the feedback, do more experiments, rewrite the paper, etc. Instead, they usually just submit the same paper to another journal.”
    • I absolutely loved this article. The author is a postdoc in social psychology at Columbia Business School.
    • He also has an academic paper making the same point in a remarkable way at SO GOOD
  2. Academic arrogance: The school that grants your PhD thinks it’s too good to hire you (Tom Hartsfield, BigThink): “Roughly 10% to 20% of faculty are hired by a more prestigious department than the one from which they came, moving up the hierarchy. Around 10% are hired by their own department, a lateral prestige play. Roughly 70% to 80% of faculty are hired by a less prestigious university. Generally speaking, then, if you receive a PhD from a university department, that department will think that it is too good to hire you as a faculty member. Instead, they lust after faculty hires holding degrees more prestigious than the one that they bestowed upon you.”
  3. How Stanford turned me into a machine with two settings: ‘fast’ and ‘broken’ (Jon Ball, SF Chronicle): “As Stanford students, we never think about stopping. We’re always running — running code, running events, running sports practice and running practice exercises for our careers. The constant competition and camaraderie keep us on our feet. A collective runner’s high keeps us in the race. But that high only lasts as long as we run…” The author is a PhD student at the GSE. Recommended by a student.
  4. Some AI conversations:
    • Perhaps It Is A Bad Thing That The World’s Leading AI Companies Cannot Control Their AIs (Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten): “…ChatGPT also has failure modes that no human would ever replicate, like how it will reveal nuclear secrets if you ask it to do it in uWu furry speak, or tell you how to hotwire a car if and only if you make the request in base 64, or generate stories about Hitler if you prefix your request with ‘[john@ _]$ python’. This thing is an alien that has been beaten into a shape that makes it look vaguely human. But scratch it the slightest bit and the alien comes out.”
    • AI image generation tech can now create life-wrecking deepfakes with ease (Benj Edwards, Ars Technica): “When we started writing this article, we asked a brave volunteer if we could use their social media images to attempt to train an AI model to create fakes. They agreed, but the results were too convincing, and the reputational risk proved too great. So instead, we used AI to create a set of seven simulated social media photos of a fictitious person we’ll call ‘John.’ That way, we can safely show you the results.”
  5. Why You Should Be Worried About the Split in the Methodist Church (Joshua Zeitz, Politico): “For decades, the churches had proven deft — too deft — at absorbing the political and social debate over slavery. Their inability to maintain that peace was a sign that the country had grown dangerously divided. Today, mainline churches are bucking under the strain of debates over sex, gender and culture that reflect America’s deep partisan and ideological divide. In a country with a shrinking center, even bonds of religious fellowship seem too brittle to endure. If history is any guide, it’s a sign of sharper polarization to come.”
  6. Tech companies trying to control public opinion:
    • There have been (so far) six installments of what is being called “The Twitter Files” — long threads exposing internal Twitter documents and deliberations. They’re generally quite interesting, but the second one stands out to me the most: Bari Weiss on Twitter’s secret blacklists — it’s definitely worth reading.
    • The “Twitter Files” Show It’s Time to Reimagine Free Speech Online (David French, Persuasion): “Back in my litigation days, I led legal teams that followed a few simple rules. First, public institutions must comply with the First Amendment, and they should be sued if they don’t. Second, private universities have the freedom to craft their own rules, but if they promise free speech, they should deliver, and there is no better model for delivering free speech than the First Amendment. The same message should apply to social media.”
    • What the Hell Happened to PayPal? (Rupa Subramanya, The Free Press): “One by one, they go to start their business day only to find a baffling message from their payments app informing them: ‘You can no longer do business with PayPal.’ There is little or no explanation. They have somehow offended the sensibilities of someone somewhere deep inside the bureaucracy.… These are entrepreneurs, writers, academics, activists—the very same people PayPal, whose mission is ‘democratizing financial services,’ was meant to empower.”
  7. The Hijacking of Pediatric Medicine (Aaron Sibarium, The Free Press): “For Vinay Prasad, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, it’s hard to blame [skeptical parents]. ‘The reason to trust modern doctors over ancient healers is that more of what we tell you to do is justified by well-done studies,’ Prasad said. ‘But how do we hold that perch when we just make stuff up?’”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have On Cultures That Build (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “In the 21st century, the main question in American social life is not ‘how do we make that happen?’ but ‘how do we get management to take our side?’ This is a learned response, and a culture which has internalized it will not be a culture that ‘builds.’”

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In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.


Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

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