Protests in Modi's India; the meat-substitute industry; and fun reviews of bad pop science

Early on, we had two goals that were fully aligned: to be identical to a burger from a cow and to be much better than a burger from a cow. Now they’re somewhat at odds, and we talk about the chocolate-doughnut problem: What if what people really like in a burger is what makes it taste like a chocolate doughnut, so you keep increasing those qualities and suddenly you’re not making a burger at all?

13 Jan 2020 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Mechanism design and social justice; and 'Go Tell It on the Mountain' by James Baldwin

This paper investigates the peculiarities that arise when mechanism design is deployed in contexts in which social, racial and distributive justice are particularly salient. The paper draws on the distinction between ideal theory and non-ideal theory in political philosophy and the concept of performativity in economic sociology to argue that mechanism can enact elaborate ideal theories of justice. A normative gap thus emerges between the goals of the policymakers and the objectives of economic designs. As a result, mechanism design may obstruct stakeholders’ avenues for normative criticism of public policies and serve as a technology of depoliticization.

23 Jul 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Les gilets jaunes; notes on trap music; and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Trap is a form of soft power that takes the resources of the black underclass and uses them to change the attitudes, behaviors, and preferences of others, usually by making them admit they desire and admire those same things and will pay good money to share vicariously in even a collateral showering from below. This allows the trap artist to transition from an environment where raw hard power dominates to the Valhalla of excess, lucre, influence, fame, the only sincerely valued site of belonging in our culture. It doesn’t hurt that insofar as you’re interested in having a good time, there’s probably never been a sound so perfectly suited to having every kind of fun disallowed in conservative America.

16 Dec 2018 · Matthew Alampay Davis