Required Reading

  • Writing for Aeon, anthropologist Manvir Singh dispels Karl Marx’s popular theory that societies were communal and egalitarian before the emergence of farming and land ownership:

The popularity of the idea of primitive communism, especially in the face of contradictory evidence, tells us something important about why narratives succeed. Primitive communism may misrepresent forager societies. But it is simple, and it accords with widespread beliefs about the arc of human history. If we assume that societies went from small to big, or from egalitarian to despotic, then it makes sense that they transitioned from property-less harmony to selfish competition, too. Even if the facts of primitive communism are off, the story feels right.

More important than its simplicity and narrative resonance, however, is primitive communism’s political expediency. For anyone hoping to critique existing institutions, primitive communism conveniently casts modern society as a perversion of a more prosocial human nature. Yet this storytelling is counterproductive. By drawing a contrast between an angelic past and our greedy present, primitive communism blinds us to the true determinants of trust, freedom and equity. If we want to build better societies, the way forward is neither to live as hunter-gatherers nor to bang the drum of a make-believe state of nature. Rather, it is to work with humans as they are, warts and all.

  • Marília Matoso explains in an article for Tabulla why the Metaverse has the potential to act as an equalizer among architects and designers. Here’s a short excerpt, translated from Portuguese by Arch Daily:

In the real world, architects and designers need clients to get their offices started. It seems logical for architects to spend most of their time designing buildings, but in practice, most of an architect’s efforts are directed towards finding more clients and projects.

The creative economy in the metaverse can guarantee equal and abundant opportunities for emerging and/or underrepresented designers regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation. You can even earn commissions if you want to develop virtual experiences for brands and landowners. Users become owners, and so reduce customer acquisition costs to almost zero.

  • Associated Press journalist Sheikh Saaliq reports on India’s revolting trend of anti-Muslim pop songs:

They are part of what is known as “saffron pop,” a reference to the color associated with the Hindu religion and favored by Hindu nationalists. Many such songs openly call for the killing of Muslims and those who do not endorse “Hindutva,” a Hindu nationalist movement that seeks to turn officially secular India into an avowedly Hindu nation.

For some of the millions of Indian Muslims, who make up 14% of the country’s 1.4 billion people, these songs are the clearest example of rising anti-Muslim sentiment across the country. They fear that hate music is yet another tool in the hands of Hindu nationalists to target them.

  • Are Zoomers abandoning TikTok? The New York Post interviewed some Gen Zers who have had enough.

“When you delete it you realize you don’t need it,” 20-year-old Gabriella Steinerman told The Post. The economics major dumped both Instagram and TikTok back in 2019, and said the relief she felt after unplugging was almost immediate.

  • Still on the topic of social media, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who supported fellow billionaire Elon Musk’s hostile takeover of his company, thinks that the problematic platform is “the closest thing we have to a global consciousness.” What a terrible thing to say about consciousness.
  • Exciting news: Time travel is not impossible! But there’s a catch: You can’t change the past. Barak Shoshany, a professor of physics at Brock University, explains the notion of “multiple histories”:

The idea is very simple. When I exit the time machine, I exit into a different timeline. In that timeline, I can do whatever I want, including destroying the time machine, without changing anything in the original timeline I came from. Since I cannot destroy the time machine in the original timeline, which is the one I actually used to travel back in time, there is no paradox.

After working on time travel paradoxes for the last three years, I have become increasingly convinced that time travel could be possible, but only if our universe can allow multiple histories to coexist. So, can it?

Quantum mechanics certainly seems to imply so, at least if you subscribe to Everett’s “many-worlds” interpretation, where one history can “split” into multiple histories, one for each possible measurement outcome—for example, whether Schrödinger’s cat is alive or dead, or whether or not I arrived in the past.

  • At the ripe age of 21, a chihuahua from Florida named TobyKeith (yeah) set a new World Guinness Record for the world’s oldest living dog. Here he is with his proud mother:
  • As if catching COVID-19 is not terrifying enough:
  • And finally, let’s remember this ever-relevant quote from Vladimir Nabokov’s lecture series on literature in the 1950s:

The isms go; the ist dies; art remains.

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.


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