36th Selected Links

2 min read

Happy weekend! Here are some links to things I've been reading that you might also enjoy:

1. In Support of the Manilian Law, a speech by Marcus Tullius Cicero. The moment is tense. The year is 66 BC. Rome has been waging a war in Asia Minor against Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus, a man responsible for butchering 80,000 Roman citizens, among other atrocities. The Assembly of the Roman People is now met to decide whether to accept Gaius Manilius’ proposal that Pompey, a man unquestionably fit for the job, should be appointed to the command against Mithridates, with broad powers. Cicero is 39 years old. He’s a praetor, one step from Consul, the highest office in thecursus honorum. He has more than a modicum of fame thanks to his verbal evisceration of the venal Verres four years earlier, and he’s known to his friends as ‘king of the courts’. But he’s not a patrician; he’s anovus homo— a new man — and, as with many self-made men before and since, has a chip planted firmly on his shoulder. What’s more, while he's unequalled as an orator in the courts, he’s never publicly addressed the citizenry of Rome — until now. He steps up to the rostrum. I encourage reading the full speech (it was the first speech of Cicero’s I ever read, and his description of war in Asia Minor stuck in my imagination). It is a masterpiece in political persuasion. The version linked above is an old translation. Here is the opening paragraph of a newer one:

"To face the crowded ranks of your Assembly has always given me a very special satisfaction. No place, it has seemed to me, lends greater dignity to the proposal of a motion, no environment is more impressive for a speech. You provide here, citizens, a road to fame which has always been wide open to every man of merit. And yet to me it has been barred — not indeed by any wish of mine, but because of a plan of life I adopted from the first days of my youth. For at an earlier stage of my life, I was too young to intrude on this imposing place; and I formed the determination never to bring you anything but the maturest and most carefully worked out contributions. Besides, I felt that my entire time ought to be made over to my friends in their hours of peril."

2. 'Managing uncertainty in creative industries: Film sequels and Hollywood’s profitability, 1988–2015', a research article by Michael Pokorny, Peter Miskell and John Sedgwick. The chart below is Figure 4 of the article, showing the percentage of major film studios' production budgets and profits accounted for by sequels.

3. 'The Popperian Podcast #1 – David Deutsch – 'Karl Popper and the Beginning of Infinity'', this is an obscure podcast I found recently and enjoyed thoroughly. The host is an Aussie living in Seoul. This episode with David Deutsch is a good introduction to Karl Popper's thinking, particularly on politics.

4. 'Foundations of Complexity Economics', a recent article by Brian Arthur. It provides a handy review of an important non-mainstream field of economics, by one of that field's pioneers.

5. Extreme optimism and extreme pessimism both converge to doing nothing. 'Two Passivists', a poem by Danish polymath and physicist Piet Hein (who appeared in a previous weekend email), pithily captures this concept.

Have a great weekend,