In this issue:
Drug Norms Are Arbitrary
Everything As Dance Circles
Sophisticated lawyers typically draw out the process as much as possible (using every trick in the book) -- past the point where the conclusion is relevant. (A given anti-trust conclusion, often refers to a world/industry that no longer exists). This is increasingly true, as the rate of change in TECH is higher than other industries (even the most-resourced social media platforms have a shelf-life of ~a decade). The relevance (or timeliness) of an anti-trust conclusion reflects the sophistication of lawyers (more than fundamentals). Anti-trust conclusions are NOT correlated with the biggest and baddest offenders (point #1).
Point #2: The biggest and baddest offenders often have market-shaping power (E.g. Google can credibly argue "THIS, not THAT is what the tech industry will look like next decade). The future of a given industry is often, what the debate comes down to -- and the biggest and baddest offenders have a comparative advantage at synthesizing (insider) information to support their worldview. They also have the muscle to shape investment (as many are quasi-VC or VC-shaping by making certain acquisitions).
Point #3: The biggest and baddest offenders are often conglomerations (see: a hydra pictured below) -- meaning they can strategically shift attention to one arm of the business (and preserve the worst offense). E.g. Because Facebook (more than the government) has better information about the future of the tech industry, Facebook (more than the government) knows which arms of the business are fading away vs growing. They also have a variety of growth metrics (to misrepresent relative strength to investors/the government).
So, anti-trust conclusions are NOT correlated with fundamentals, as much as other factors, like (a) the sophistication of lawyers (#regressivetax?), (b) a company's market-shaping power, and (c) a company's diversification. I.e. The signal-to-noise ratio is sus.
Add in point #4: lax enforcement. The actual level of enforcement is more a function of national political attention/will than the letter of the law. This is increasingly true as you increase complexity -- because resource-constrained prosecutors have an incentive to pick the cases they are most likely to win, they get the best ROI (per unit of time) on less complex cases. That is, unless a national prosecutor's boss (E.g. Biden, or really, Biden's highly-paid political consultants) makes it their administration's top priority.
Prioritizing repeated anti-trust on the tech industry is unlikely, given (a) the general population's very low attention to and understanding of the tech industry, and (b) the tech industry displacing mass media and basically deciding the issues voters care about (via algorithm) more than any other institution in the history of the world (measure: FB's vote-shifting power vs the NYT in its heyday). Because FB shapes national political consciousness more than any other party today, national political consciousness is unlikely to target Facebook for repeated, rigorous evaluation.
Case selection will skew actual enforcement away from tech, and towards (a) more winnable and (b) more PR-extractable cases (probably chosen by Biden's highly-paid political consultants). I'm increasingly unconvinced the steady state is even close to the socially-optimally allocation of anti-trust attention/muscle. A future post should look at various proposed reforms to align incentives (#comparedtowhat?).
Drug Norms Are Arbitrary
And usually a function of a state/local government's chosen level of enforcement (50 years ago). Further back, a given church official's uninformed opinion on the matter. We should acknowledge the path-dependence (aka instances in which switching costs go up over time) and shape better norms based on informed (bottom-up) reasons, rather than uninformed (top-down) policies.
Exploring variation (edge cases!) can help us understand the pros and cons of different drug norms. E.g. Some societies have zero tolerance for alcohol (see: Islam). We should ask, what are the costs and benefits? Which are internalized vs externalized? What are the second-order effects (impact on other norms?). How is the possibilities frontier transformed? (are new norms now possible vs a previous steady state?).
There are also whole categories of norms currently un-thinkable (that are never even tested). E.g. Currently, in America, many young people get together with close friends (critical exclusion: family members) on weekends and consume alcohol. In possible world #142432, (see: Rick and Morty) everyone gets together on weekends with close family members (critical exclusion: friends) and consumes psychedelics. The norm itself is arbitrary (in the sense that other norms could have similar benefits and costs).
The complication is that everyone (probably?) has a very different optimal consumption (based on what mental state they enjoy being in the most, which mental states trigger anxieties, etc). A scatter plot of un-correlated dots is not a norm. Norms stick together insofar as people put a premium on consuming drugs WITH OTHERS. Most people do, but others do not weigh the "social" aspect of drug consumption as heavily. Studying edge cases (interviewing drug addicts?) is sure to shed light on the current steady state -- which has HUGE implications (literally! / chemically!) on what people think about / notice / communicate to others. E.g. A group of 100 frequent-alcohol consumers is going to think/notice/communicate, very differently, on average, than a group of 100 frequent-psychedelic consumers.
Everything As Dance Circles
Middle-school dance circles solve a collective action problem -- many people would be uncomfortable being seen dancing (they are not as confident in their dancing). Even for moderately-confident dancers, it's uncomfortable to have a whole gymnasium looking at your dancing. Dance circles provide a less stressful alternative -- standing around and watching others dance -- for 95% of people. There's a cost imposed on the ~most confident 5% who end up dancing (the benefit from applause/positive feedback outweighs the costs for a subset). Awesome -- dance circles form when a critical mass "votes with their feet" (aka democracy with a high signal-noise ratio).
Media / TV / social media can be analyzed through this lens -- all are more comfortable alternatives where we can watch others live. The immediate effect is a displacement of other (less comfortable) alternatives (E.g. stomaching the risk of embarrassment and stretching your "eh" dancing skills). The LR effect can be more knowledge (about hypothetical social cues/expectations/causation/strategy). In theory, the person who grows up watching TV probably has more social skills/knowledge than someone who doesn't (in practice, the self-selection effect dominates because socially-conscious parents provide many non-media opportunities to learn/get feedback on social expectations). Tragically for most, media-taught social expectations have limited generalizability ('what '\works' for Gossip Girl characters probably doesn't work in your life). E.g. The way TV show characters resolve conflict is usually not the most mature/optimal; rather, TV producers have an incentive to optimize for 'how fun is this to watch.' Over time, as generations watch more and more TV, their conflict-resolution skills probably suffer. Just as 'the game is getting more complex,'  people are less and less equipped to handle social friction -- increasingly, we prioritize the most entertaining social strategies over the most effective. At the same time, limited feedback/reflection slows learning (in the worst cases, people are completely numb to effectiveness -- the more ways to distract oneself from pain/frustration, the more we can 'kick the ball down the road' in socially-acceptable ways (see: smartphone use correlated with being uncomfortable with one's own thoughts).
Contrast two people -- one that primarily spends free time in concert-like venues (observing this or that awesome new movie, performance, sports game, or party) and another who has no access to concert-like venues. The later will inevitably have the spotlight on them more of the time. Attention is a double-edged sword. In one sense, too much unearned attention (E.g. an only child, or someone with a default BFF -- a twin) deteriorates one's incentive to develop funny muscles (vs my 9-person family where kids have to produce original/interesting/funny content to retain conversation share). In another sense, more attention develops better dancing skills (if the spotlight's always on you, you'll improve).
The general trend, in cities and online, is more and more recreational activities where you don't need to give or receive attention. Stuff/entertainment/media captivating attention is different than humans captivating attention (Iowa vs Bay area, anecdotally). A good test is evaluating the vibe of a friend group if you strip away the stuff / "fun things to do" that draw so many people to cities -- do people receive/give more attention to one another? Probably? The silver lining is big cities might cultivate lower baselines? (So attention-giving people frequently 'over-deliver?)
There are also implications on bigger-picture 'how should we live life?' decision-making. If we add in less social pressure from parents (as a share of one's feedback pie graph), we get life decisions guided by SR likes/captivation instead of LR wisdom. In a real sense, the crowd (dance circle) will increase distance between people. That's (hopefully) a positive claim that has pros and cons.