Categories
Research Program

Limits to Building

Marc Andreessen’s essay It’s Time to Build has struck a chord with engineers and the digital innovation community. I’ll comment briefly on Andreessen’s description of left versus right politics. The Marxist left has a group of interesting thinkers including Nick Srnicek, Alex Williams, and Aaron Bastani who have speculative visions but not the mobilisational counter-power yet to bring them fully into being. The centrists are captured in the public service by the New Public Management. The right face regulatory capture by hedge fund, private equity, and venture capitalist interests. The Ayn Rand-influenced libertarians are a niche political subculture on their own. Finally, a decade of austerity budgets, low wage growth, fears of deflation, and growing debt acts as a macro-level dampener on stimulus-driven innovation. To realise Andreessen’s vision we need political will, financing, and market demand.

Categories
Research Program

Computational Social Science

I’ve added computational social science to my Google Scholar profile for several reasons. My recently completed Monash University PhD develops a causal process tracing logic for strategic subcultures in terrorist organisations. I want to expand this logic beyond Aum Shinrikyo to other case studies. I also want to look at relevant software including Baysialab and NetLogo. I want to build and test more formal models. Finally, computational social science offers a way to advance methodological insights that will inform my evolving research agenda.

Categories
Research Program

What I’m Reading

Computational Thinking by Peter J. Denning and Matti Tedre (Boston, MA: The MIT Press, 2019). In 2004-07, I was a research assistant in the Smart Internet Technology Cooperative Research Centre. One of my biggest discoveries was the computer science literature on computational thinking. I am revisiting this for post PhD research using computational social science methods: creating larger data sets from my PhD framework. This is a useful guide and part of an excellent MIT Press series on foundational concepts for contemporary digital practices.

Understanding Criminal Networks: A Research Guide by Gisela Bichler (Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2019). In my PhD, I looked at the meso-level of strategic subcultures in terrorist organisations. I scoped some future possible research using Bayesian methods. I could also have considered the meso-level insights of Social Network Analysis: Bichler’s guide has some excellent sections on data collection, networked criminology theory, and presenting research to policymakers.

J. Philippe Rushton: A Life History Perspective by Edward Dutton (Oulu, Finland: Thomas Edward Press, 2018). Rushton was a controversial Canadian professor whose life history analysis of human behaviour has influenced the Alt-Right’s ‘race realism’. Independent researcher Dutton provides an analysis of Rushton’s research and his life in terms of r/K selection theory and Differential-K sociobiology, and finds both genius and major ethical lapses. I note in particular that Rushton cherry-picked his data and engaged in serious research misconduct with the Pioneer Fund due to a lack of internal controls.

Nemesis: The Jouvenelian vs. the Liberal Model of Human Orders by C.A. Bond (Perth, Australia: Imperium Press, 2019). There’s now already a collection of books on the Alt-Right neoreactionary political subculture. It’s rarer to find books by Alt-Right theoreticians themselves. C.A. Bond uses Bertrand de Jouvenal’s work – who I first came across in Swinburne University’s former Masters program on strategic foresight in 2002 – to critique the international liberal order and its institutions. This is a useful book for macrohistory thinkers who want to understand contemporary neoreactionist perspectives, and the mobilisation of protesters in the United States against COVID-19 lockdowns.