Ted Chiang's "Op Ed From the Future": socialized transhumanism vs American oligarchy

The New York Times has inaugurated its "Op-Eds From the Future" ("science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future") with a piece from Ted Chiang (previously) that imagines a future in which genetic engineering of human embryos is commonplace, leading to a well-intentioned attempt at preventing literal speciation into the haves and have-nots by subsidizing "intelligence boosting" genetic manipulation for lower-income families. Read the rest

A former college admissions dean explains the mundane reverse affirmative action that lets the rich send their kids to the front of the line

Thanks to the college admissions scandal the issue of inequality and access to postsecondary education is now in our national conversation, but despite the glitz of the bribery scandal, the real issue is a much more mundane form of reverse affirmative action that allows wealthy Americans to dominate college admissions, muscling out better candidates from poorer backgrounds, especially Black students. Read the rest

Believing in "meritocracy" makes you act like a dick

The term "meritocracy" was popularized in the UK sociologist Michael Young's 1958 novel, "The Rise of the Meritocracy," in which aristocrats insist that they are the natural rulers of their society based on "objective" measures of worth ("merit" + "aristocracy" = "meritocracy") that are obviously tilted to favor them, a fact that they are conveniently blind to. Read the rest

America's new aristocracy: the 9.9% and their delusion of hereditary meritocracy

It's true that the 1% have accumulated a massive share of America's national wealth; but just as significant is the cohort of professionals -- "well-behaved, flannel-suited crowd of lawyers, doctors, dentists, mid-level investment bankers, M.B.A.s with opaque job titles, and assorted other professionals" -- who style themselves as the "meritocratic middle class" but who actually represent the top decile of American wealth, with net worths from $1.2m to $10m. Read the rest

Behavioral economist on why Americans freak out when you attribute their success to luck

Cornell economist Robert Frank drew the ire of the nation's business press when he published an article that said something most economists would agree with: hard work and skill aren't enough (or even necessary) to succeed; but luck is. Rather than back down from the angry reception, he's expanded the article into a book, Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy, which came out last month. Read the rest