Whether You Fear or Embrace New Tech Depends on Where You’re From
Why East Asian societies tend to accept new consumer retail technologies faster than America does.

My take: This is a good context piece, and is a helpful reminder that cultural beliefs really do shape economic behavior. But it flies right over concerns about AI and concentrated control of retail activity, topics which deserve more thorough treatment.
technology  culture  economics 
9 weeks ago
How Much of the Internet Is Fake?
Content is fake, products are fake, the bots that view content are fake, our politics is fake, and we're becoming fake. The picture is bleak, folks.

My take: This article offers no answers to the problems it glancingly describes, because nobody seems to really know how to handle this dilemma. We don't really know what is real any more.
technology 
11 weeks ago
Opinion | The Robots Have Descended on Trump Country - The New York Times
Robotics, AI, the crumbling of the middle class, and the rise of addiction are intertwined in America in ways that aren't always obvious.

My take: This really highlights the need for a comprehensive re-evaluation of what American capitalism is and should be if we are to survive the transition from old economy to new.
economics  politics 
december 2018
Fuck You And Die: An Oral History of Something Awful - Motherboard
This is the story of the first and most influential web forums, told by those who were there in the beginning.

My take: This is a valuable read because it exposes the inherently antisocial biases upon which dudebro social media (and its more broadly-accepted successors like twitter and Facebook) have been built. SA's founder is quoted as saying "I've been interested in giving people what I want, basically, because I feel like I don't understand a large portion, like 99 percent of people..." and later, "I just got so sick of it that I pretty much stopped writing and I got into a depression funk that I'm still in."
technology 
november 2018
Tech C.E.O.s Are in Love With Their Principal Doomsayer - The New York Times
Yuval Noah Harari has come from Israel to Silicon Valley with a message: Your technology is destroying democracy. To his bafflement, this has made him a celebrity.

My take: In my experience, Silicon Valley tends to think of itself as floating above politics, operating on a higher plane, benefiting from an inevitability that leads inexorably toward the quantification of all things, and the use of the resulting data to shape human desires. Silicon Valley also sees intellect as the highest of all human characteristics. So it’s not surprising that its leaders would welcome Mr. Harari’s critique of what they have wrought. Here is a man who sees the big picture, a man who understands that big data and the companies that control it have the power to disrupt far more than individual markets. And that power to disrupt is the drug that now powers Silicon Valley.
politics 
november 2018
How Newt Gingrich Destroyed American Politics - The Atlantic
Before Donald Trump, there was Newt Gingrich, a man who understood that the substance of what you're saying, the truthfulness of it, or what it even means is far less importance than the visibility it generates. In his own words: “The No. 1 fact about the news media is they love fights … When you give them confrontations, you get attention; when you get attention, you can educate.”

My take: The Gingrich approach to politics, and the way our media landscape rewards that approach, has been snowballing for over two decades. We face a fundamental problem: we elevate intellectual lightweights like Gingrich merely because they can garner attention. And the business models that drive our media continue to reinforce this. Until we can move beyond the Attention Economy, this plague will only get worse.
politics 
october 2018
Large Majorities Dislike Political Correctness - The Atlantic
Summary: Political party is the biggest indicator of whether you're OK with political correctness or not. And Americans have a more nuanced view of it than we realize.

My take: We need to find the right way to talk about our differences, especially when our differences aren't as great as we may think.

"As one 57- year-old woman in Mississippi fretted: 'The way you have to term everything just right. And if you don’t term it right you discriminate them. It’s like everybody is going to be in the know of what people call themselves now and some of us just don’t know. But if you don’t know then there is something seriously wrong with you.'"
politics 
october 2018
Opinion | Russian Meddling Is a Symptom, Not the Disease - The New York Times
The gist of this piece is that the advertising-driven platforms that dominate social media are inherently prone to manipulation that hurts democracy.

My take: If anything this piece doesn't go far enough. There's a tough question that should be stated at the end: When most of the public gets most of its information from inherently untrustworthy sources, how can a democracy survive? And if we realize we need to change the situation, how do we do so?

This is telling:
she asked Ms. Sandberg how Facebook can “reconcile an incentive to create and increase your user engagement when the content that generates a lot of engagement is often inflammatory and hateful.” That astute question Ms. Sandberg completely sidestepped, which was no surprise: No statistic can paper over the fact that this is a real problem.
politics  technology 
october 2018
America’s Version of Capitalism Is Incompatible With Democracy
There are two strands of liberal thinking the Trump Era: One focuses on preservation of democratic norms, and one on seeking to redress fundamental flaws in American capitalism. This piece points to the challenges of reconciling the two.

My take: Whether you agree with the proposition that sometimes norms have to be violated in order to address underlying inequality or not, this is a well-constructed and useful read.
politics 
october 2018
Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and the war over change - Vox
"Obama’s presidency didn’t force race to the forefront of American politics through rhetoric or action but through symbolism: Obama himself was a symbol of a changing America, of white America’s loss of power, of the fact that the country was changing and new groups were gaining power."

My take: For some time I've felt that the fundamental conflict in American politics today is whether white people (white men in particular) get to determine who is "American" and who isn't. This analysis paints a picture of what that means, and it's sobering. Are we capable of managing this transition away from white dominance?
politics 
july 2018
What Are Trump's Elite Supporters Thinking? - The Atlantic
There are obvious Trump supporters, then there are the quiet supporters who judge him on a few issues and turn their noses away at his behavior, thinking the ends justify the means.

My take: "The example of the Trumpverstehers suggests that Peter Wehner was correct in saying that we are seeing American conservatism evolve into the American Right, a very different and more disturbing thing."
politics 
july 2018
The Next Plague is Coming. Is America Ready?
Bill Gates, whose foundation has studied pandemic risks closely, is not a man given to alarmism. But when I spoke with him upon my return from Kikwit, he described simulations showing that a severe flu pandemic, for instance, could kill more than 33 million people worldwide in just 250 days. That possibility, and the world’s continued inability to adequately prepare for it, is one of the few things that shake Gates’s trademark optimism and challenge his narrative of global progress. “This is a rare case of me being the bearer of bad news,” he told me. “Boy, do we not have our act together.”
science 
july 2018
What Synder's The Road to Unfreedom Teaches About Russia - The Atlantic
Timothy Snyder’s new book makes the case that Putin has been waging a new kind of warfare against the United States, and is succeeding in turning us into a country like Russia.
politics 
july 2018
Opinion | Don’t Feed the Troll in the Oval Office - The New York Times
This article gets at two really important issues:

1) The fundamental divide in America at this moment is really whether white Americans should be able to define the racial composition of the country or not, and

2) We don’t have the right language for discussing the differences between _white people being uncomfortable about being one of many minorities_ and _white people believing in racial superiority_.
politics 
june 2018
Trump Is Fumbling the China Relationship - The Atlantic
James Fallows spent years living in and reporting from China. His assessment of US-Shins relations offers no simple answers. but vilifying China will only make the challenges worse.

My take: We are not living in the Cold War. We are living at a time when the world is becoming more complex and more fraught than it has been at any time since the end of the Soviet Union. Strongmen rule China and Russia. Europe is in danger of unraveling. America needs skilled practitioners of the art of international affairs if we are to maintain a position of influence.
politics  china 
may 2018
The Tired Trope of Blaming Trump on ‘Liberal Smugness’ | FAIR
We've all seen and read the opinion pieces declaring that liberals are responsible in some way for the behavior of Trump and his followers. In other words, but for liberal behavior, Trump might not even be president, and his followers might not be so resolute in their support. This analysis picks this canard apart quite thoroughly.

My take: There is no single cause for the rise of Trump and his supporters. But blaming the excesses of Trumpian populism on its opponents is extremely dangerous. It aids in the normalization of the worst aspects of our current political moment. Looking to find common ground with political opponents is one thing, setting aside your own beliefs in order to mollify those who support abhorrent beliefs is quite another.
politics 
may 2018
Opinion | As Population Growth Slows, Populism Surges - The New York Times
Urban liberals v rural conservatives is a conflict brewing across the globe (with the exception of Africa), because of declining birth rates.

My take: Is it any wonder Putin and Trump see eye to eye on so many issues? Both exploit these divisions to further amass power. Urbanites need to make sure the less populated areas don’t sink further into stagnation and blame.
politics 
may 2018
The Holocaust Museum's Lesson for America Today - The Atlantic
A comparison of the America that averted its gaze from the horrors of the Holocaust with the America that wants to build walls. A call to embrace the world rather than retreat from it.

My take: The decision to go to war is not one that should be taken lightly, and the reasons for going to war matter. We launched into a war with Iraq rather than focusing all our efforts on Afghanistan, and in so doing opened a Pandora's Box that continues to spew forth demons. Seventeen years later, Americans are cynical and confused. It's no wonder so many Americans want to retreat and disengage. But we do need to figure out how to reform our politics and rebuild our institutions. If we don't, we will be unable to help ourselves, much less refugees from other shores. And our place in the world will be greatly diminished.
politics  history 
may 2018
How the Enlightenment Ends - The Atlantic
Henry Kissinger lays out the dangers of AI, not as an apocalyptic vision, but as a all to pay attention and start confronting necessary questions about the relationship between humans and our technological offspring.

My take: This is the first opinion piece about the dangers of AI that made me genuinely nervous. It may be that the issues we think are most important in this moment will pale before this one.
technology 
may 2018
Opinion | The Real Villain Behind Our New Gilded Age - The New York Times
Monopoly power has radically increased over the last three decades, and it is driving down labor mobility and wages while driving up inequality.
economics 
may 2018
Jaron Lanier Interview on What Went Wrong With the Internet
Summary: In this interview Internet pioneer Jaron Lanier talks about the failed promise of the digital revolution and the economic and social environment that it created.

My take: Lanier puts into words many things I've been thinking about for quite a while. In particular, his take on the schizophrenic soul of the Valley:

"Way back in the ’80s, we wanted everything to be free because we were hippie socialists. But we also loved entrepreneurs because we loved Steve Jobs. So you wanna be both a socialist and a libertarian at the same time, and it’s absurd."

This is a must read.
culture  technology 
april 2018
Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns? - Scientific American Blog Network
Studies indicate that white men are far more likely to own guns, value them as a bulwark in uncertain times, and use them on themselves.

My take: This is a brief but telling read, because it describes white male gun ownership as stemming from fear of loss. It also highlights the difference in the minds of many of these gun owners between government and the nation ("I love my country, not my government") at a time when they feel let down by their government. As always, fear of the Other looms large in a concept of "the nation" as a white male dominated entity.
march 2018
‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower | News | The Guardian
A lengthy read about the harvesting of Facebook user data by Cambridge Analytica, and the improbable story of one of the central figures behind it all.

My take: Trusting mercenaries with the defense of our nation was always a bad idea. We're just finding out why, slowly and painfully.
politics 
march 2018
He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He's Worried About An Information Apocalypse.
Aviv Ovadya predicted in 2016 that web media platforms were ripe for a catastrophic event. His warning went unheeded, and the result was a presidential election in which innuendo and counterfactual narratives defeated the facts. Ovadya is looking at the current technology landscape and he believes that was just the beginning of what will get far worse.

My take: The rise of new technology for video in particular is rapidly making it more difficult to sort fact from fiction, and societies in which nobody can tell what is true and what isn't are easily manipulated by authoritarian governments. We can't leave the solutions to technology companies, because they've already shown their unwillingness to find a way out of the Attention Economy, which drives all of this.
technology  politics 
february 2018
Why is pop culture obsessed with battles between good and evil? | Aeon Essays
The connection between good v. evil and nationalism, by way of the stories we tell.
culture 
january 2018
This is how democracies die | Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt | Opinion | The Guardian
Not only did Americans elect a demagogue in 2016, but we did so at a time when the norms that once protected our democracy were already coming unmoored.

My take: People talk a lot about Trump, but the man didn't come to the office of the presidency from out of nowhere. Our politics are failing us, and we need to recognize that even though there's no single event, a serious erosion of our democracy is happening right now, in this moment.
politics 
january 2018
Apollo Moon Landings: Pseudoscience and 6 Reasons Why There Was No NASA Hoax
Why the Apollo moon landings were not a hoax.

My take: Handy for those times when some bonehead trots out "evidence" that humans never landed on the moon.
science  debunking 
december 2017
Explaining the Alt-Right ‘Deity’ of Their ‘Meme Magic’ | Southern Poverty Law Center
Kek explained to the uninitiated.

My take: This sums it up – "Whether they really believe any of this or not, the thrust of the entire enterprise is to mock everything “politically correct” so loudly and obtusely — and divertingly — that legitimate issues about the vicious core of white male nationalism they embrace never need to be confronted directly." This is really what the whole "ironic" approach embraced by the various streams of the alt right seems to be about. Get the rest of us to react to the absurdity that cloaks their enterprise, instead of reacting to the much more dangerous core.
politics 
december 2017
Liberals Need to Take Their Fingers Out of Their Ears - The New York Times
The current dynamic in American politics is in some ways an inevitable danger that liberal democracies will face.

My take: As this article astutely points out, it's possible to understand the reasons for Red State discontent without agreeing to the manner in which that discontent manifests. We all really do need more empathy.
politics 
december 2017
Living in cars, working for Amazon: meet America's new nomads | Jessica Bruder | Opinion | The Guardian
Amazon employs squadrons of Americans who live in cars and campers, and the ranks of these people who can’t afford rent are growing.

My take: As the article notes, we’re experiencing a wealth chasm, not a gap. And it’s getting worse.
economics 
december 2017
Gordon's Notes: What percent of white women voted for Trump - really?
A rundown on the figures for white women voters in the 2016 election, and a few notes on other demographics.

My take: being a woman doesn't make you immune to the influence of a sexist, racist candidate.
politics 
october 2017
Idle Words - Anatomy of a Moral Panic
This summary of how legitimate news outlets spread misinformation highlights the role algorithms play in modern journalism.

My take: The real problem here is once again an attention-driven economy. Eyeballs get the money, and news organizations are trapped. They can’t tell the story of how their work is driven by algorithms because they’re implicated in it.
media 
september 2017
How Russia Created the Most Popular Texas Secession Page on Facebook
The Russians aren't just out to manipulate our presidential elections. The goal is long-term destabilization of the American system of government.

My take: I thought CalExit was absurd, but didn't really think about how swiftly it came and went. This article provides some useful context.
russia  politics 
september 2017
Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart - The New York Times
Statistics can be misrepresented, but this one is pretty clear: in 1980 if you were on the low end of the income spectrum, you could reasonably expect your situation to improve. In 2104 if you're truly wealthy, you can reasonably expect to get even wealthier.

My take: The form of capitalism America has embraced over the past 35+ years is not serving us well at all.
economics 
august 2017
Will the Republican Party Survive the 2016 Election? - The Atlantic
Published in early 2016, this David Frum essay reveals much about the war within the GOP that led to Trump's election.

My take: At the end of the piece Frum provides options the GOP might take, in the assumption it wants to derail Trump. I doubt he or many others could forsee that even the supposed ideologues of the party would so quickly roll over when Trump became their candidate, or that they would so thoroughly opt for party over country.
politics 
june 2017
Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Why Blacks Are the Second Amendment's Second-Class Citizens - The Atlantic
A brief introduction to why we see white gun owners carrying openly in marches, demonstrations, and department stores, but we don't see black gun owners doing the same.

My take: The 2nd Amendment, like the death penalty, doesn't discriminate. But like the death penalty, there's a long history of discrimination that makes its application anything but equal.
culture 
june 2017
I’m Sorry, But Those Are Vanity Metrics | First Round Review
Lloyd Tabb, who knows more than a thing or two about data analysis, talks about the difference between vanity metrics and clarity metrics. My take: It's easy to get suckered into comparing your metrics to those of other companies, but as Lloyd points out, it's a trap.
business  analytics 
april 2017
Disturbing New Facts About American Capitalism - MoneyBeat - WSJ
A smaller number of winning companies are taking a bigger chunk of overall profits.

My take: Its not surprising to find the winner takes all consolidation in the corporate world that we've seenwe've seen with personal wealth.
economics 
march 2017
4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump – Medium
The causes and effects of the rise of 4chan, as explained by someone who has hung out there since its early days, reveals a great deal about disillusioned young men.

My take: The responses are as interesting and valuable as the article itself. Talking about 4chan quickly becomes a Gordian Knot, because those who understand it most are those who participate in it, and the operative mentality of 4chan is inherently obfuscatory. I have a hard time understanding the "just doing it for lulz" mentality, but after reading this I am a bit less clueless. Hopelessness breeds nihilism. And a bunch of angry testosterone-fueled nihilists who just don't give a damn is dangerous.
politics  culture 
february 2017
The Revolution Starts At Noon | This American Life
In Act Two, Meme Come True, This American Life crashes the DeploraBall and delves into how memes helped drive Trump to victory. The young, social media-savvy people who pride themselves on making it all happen lay out how distributed teams got the word out.

My take: I was astonished by this piece. There seems to be a real detachment for these people, a feeling of victory without any real reflection or understanding of the ethics of what they were doing or the real world consequences. This is the face of nihilism in the 21st century – victory detached from context, gamification gone mad.
politics  technology 
february 2017
Hacking the Attention Economy
dana boyd lays out in very broad strokes how decentralized networks of random actors are hijacking our attention, and how ill-equipped we are to deal with it.

My take: As boyd notes, this is global, and it calls into question everything we think we know about media literacy. But burying our heads in the sand will only make things worse.
culture  technology 
february 2017
The AI Threat Isn't Skynet. It's the End of the Middle Class | WIRED
Artificial Intelligence researchers are concerned about the potential for AI to run amok, but there's a more pressing near-term problem: as automation replaces labor, AI is gutting the middle class. And it's not just factory workers – it's coming for higher-skilled jobs as well.

My take: This a narrower slice than most, but the story is the same – automation is restructuring the economy with amazing speed, and our social fabric is tearing at the seams. Adjusting our politics and society to confront this head-on is the fundamental challenge of our times.
economics  technology 
february 2017
The Trump Inauguration, Brought to You by Silicon Valley Utopianism | WIRED
"The machinery and language of personal liberation have been colonized and subverted by the very forces they were intended to topple." This piece argues that Silicon Valleys' unvarnished optimism about the technology it creates has led to that technology being used to subvert the very values that allowed it to flourish.

My take: This is all true. Build an audience. Build an audience. Build an audience. Get views. Get views. Get views. Get clicks. Get clicks. Get clicks. In the Valley, these words are as reliable as the sun coming up each morning. But it's only inevitable because of the business models that power online social engagement. This is the elephant in the room that almost nobody wants to address. Advertising-driven revenue has led us to this dark place, and until we figure a way past that revenue model, it's going to be extremely difficult to get out of it.
politics  technology 
february 2017
Why America is Self-Segregating
danah boyd (she takes the e.e. cummings approach to capitalization) has been researching and writing about the intersection of technology and society for many years. This piece uses two examples to point to the larger challenge of self-segregation. It's not just happening online, it's happening in higher education, military service, and beyond.

My take: boyd's warning ("Exposure to content cannot make up for self-segregation") is well taken. There is no silver bullet to re-knitting the fabric of American political life. It takes effort. What boyd doesn't address, however, is the elephant in the room: half of us believe in the value of diversity, while (seemingly) half of us don't. How do we get past that?
culture 
february 2017
The most disruptive phase of globalization is just beginning, according to economist Richard Baldwin — Quartz
Economist Richard Baldwin talks about how the displacements driven by globalization are bound to become greater. He suggests that governments need to work toward social cohesion as well as education and lifelong learning.

My take: The advancement of technology has moved far faster than our society and economy can keep up. The fundamental question of our age is how we deal with this.
economics 
february 2017
Study: racism and sexism predict support for Trump much more than economic dissatisfaction - Vox
According to this article, several studies indicate that hostile racism and hostile sexism played an outsize role in the 2016 presidential race. The article also suggests that the best way to negate that hostile racism and sexism is by reaching out to people who hold these views and engaging with them in "frank, empathetic" dialogue.

My take: I'm not sure if frank, empathetic dialogue is going to be all that successful with the die-hards, but perhaps it could be with those who were on the fence about Trump and went with him anyway.
politics 
february 2017
It was the racism, stupid: White working-class “economic anxiety” is a zombie idea that needs to die - Salon.com
We heard the "white working-class voters are scared about the economy" analysis over and over again during the election. This article points to voting results by demographic, and poll results to debunk the claim that economics were the primary driver for white voters who opted for Trump.

My take: It's impossible to get into the minds of all Trump voters, and people vote for many reasons. But the fact that someone doesn't say they're voting to make America white again doesn't mean that the other reasons they state aren't just manifestations of that sentiment. It looks like a significant portion of Trump voters conflated economics with race, which is what Trump and the GOP wanted them to do.
politics 
february 2017
Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich - The New Yorker
Some of the wealthiest people in America are buying property in out of the way places and building bunkers, just in case the world goes up in flames.

My take: The fact that so many oligarchs are concerned about our collective future, and instead of taking direct, immediate action to make the world a less dangerous place, they are building escape hatches tells you a great deal about their values.
culture 
february 2017
Now Is the Time to Fix American Politics
According to historian Andrew Bacevich, the Age of Great Expectations is over for America, and the election of Donald Trump calls into stark relief the reality that we have no idea what 'forward' means any more. "In the present day, there is no vision to which Americans collectively adhere."

My take: Bacevich's point is well taken. We no longer have anything to press against but ourselves and the Trump presidency is intellectually bankrupt. If we are to come up with a viable path out of the mess we've got ourselves in, we need to grapple with fundamental questions about what America should be.
politics 
february 2017
Apocalypse Whatever — Real Life
This is an academic examination of what motivates the shitposters and trolls of the alt-right – why they embrace irony to the degree that it becomes nihilism.

My take: I've struggled to understand what would bring someone to expend so much energy doing something so callous and disregarding of others. This isn't the only way to explain it, and the prose requires a close read, but it's powerful and illuminating. I find those with no beliefs to be more dangerous by far than those with beliefs I disagree with, primarily because their detached irony can be so easily manipulated.
politics 
february 2017
Don’t think of a rampaging elephant: Linguist George Lakoff explains how the Democrats helped elect Trump - Salon.com
The founder of cognitive linguistics discusses how language about values caught them off guard, and how they must appeal to values in order to communicate in a way that Trump voters will fundamentally understand.

My take: I've been reading many articles recently, but this one is the first that seems to drill down deep to the roots of the challenge we face, and to offer some guidance we can actually implement. It's a must read.
politics 
january 2017
How to Destroy the Business Model of Breitbart and Fake News - The New York Times
The idea is simple: Go after advertisers. Because of how online advertising works in 2017, most advertisers don't really know where their ads are appearing. By showing those advertisers that their ads are helping fund sites like Breitbart, appearing alongside hate speech, an organization called Sleeping Giants is hitting 'em where it counts, in their wallets.

My take: I thought of this approach a while back, but didn't realize that someone was already doing this. Breitbart and its ilk came about in the free market, and there's no reason we can't use the free market to strike back. Working with Sleeping Giants (https://twitter.com/slpng_giants) is something we can all do, and it will have actual direct impact in the fight against racist websites.
economics  culture  self 
january 2017
Post-truth, propaganda, and bullshit: a glossary | Sense & Reference
This is a solid primer on the meaning of several terms that often get tossed around indiscriminately, and an analysis of how in our "post-truth" era, how we feel about information is more important than objective facts.

My take: The sad irony is that we're in an era of high technology and tremendous collective knowledge built atop rational thought and inquiry, but we are mired in a social media soup of self-indulgent appeals to our emotions. The products of our frontal lobes are causing us to react with our amygdala. It's no wonder we can't even agree on facts.
culture  politics 
january 2017
Why bullshit is no laughing matter | Aeon Ideas
Bullshit is predicated on disregard for the truth. Unfortunately, we're not as good at sussing out bullshit as we think. And this inability to call bullshit for what it is can have harmful effects (like a rise in smallpox deaths).

My take: The central message here, that we must "adopt a critical mindset" is spot on. I'd take it deeper, though. The essence of critical thinking is adapting a mode of continuous inquiry, subjecting our beliefs to scrutiny. We're in a period of profound discomfort and strain, politically, socially, and for many, economically. So adapting a critical mindset is even more difficult, because we want the thoughts that comfort us and make us feel secure.
culture  self 
january 2017
How nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many Americans to vote for Trump - The Washington Post
This examination of Andy Griffith's home town drills in on the nostalgia for an idealized version of the past, in which the Bible and white culture hold sway. This story points a finger at the discomfort so many white people have with a more level playing field. As life improves for minorities, a large segment of white America interprets that rising equality as a zero-sum game in which whites are losing.

My take: American culture is no longer completely dominated by whites, and that freaks a lot of people out. They'll talk about the economy. They'll talk about crime. They'll talk about values. But at the end of the day, they're voting on the basis of that fear.
culture  politics 
january 2017
Economics and finance: The manufacturing jobs delusion | The Economist
The Economist argues that focusing on manufacturing jobs, which are on the decline across the developed world, makes little sense. They comprise only 10% of American jobs, and the ripple effects of attempting to influence the decisions of individual corporations about how they run their manufacturing businesses will ultimately backfire for consumers as well as those corporations.

My take: We absolutely must come up with a vision for a future economy. Harkening back to the past will not work, because we can't undo automation any more than we can tell farmers to stop using combines and go back to using oxen and plows.
economics 
january 2017
Why Men Don’t Want the Jobs Done Mostly by Women - The New York Times
As the economy shifts, many men are having a difficult time shifting their thinking about what constitutes "man's work". But "retrospective wait unemployment," or "looking for the job you used to have" won't pay the bills.

My take: Our economy is shifting faster than our culture, and those least able to adapt feel left out. It's no wonder they've lashed out. It's no wonder some men want a return to the good old days when you could earn a reliable living doing traditional working class men's work. But promising an impossible return to the past isn't helping them or anyone else.
culture  economics 
january 2017
Why Did Planned Parenthood Supporters Vote Trump?
There have been a slew of pure opinion pieces about why Hillary lost the election. This research-based article instead focuses on a narrow slice of voters and how the "Trump isn't a real conservative" message may have backfired.

My take: Reducing the election results to one or two factors is a fool's errand, and focusing on the minutiae of the election isn't going to help the Democrats come up with better policies. But understanding how voters receive information and form opinions is important. This is more important than ever in an era when actual policy positions play second fiddle to the tweet of the day.
politics 
december 2016
What Those Who Studied Nazis Can Teach Us About The Strange Reaction To Donald Trump | The Huffington Post
Shawn Hamilton points out that Nazism happened because a leader said and did unconscionable things, and ordinary citizens went along with it. They allowed it become normal.

My take: This isn't the usual "Trump is a Nazi" diatribe. it's a clear-headed examination of how a society can align itself behind a dictator. As Hamilton points out, we can only stop populism from becoming authoritarianism by refusing to allow the normalization of anti-democratic behavior. The try of "Give him a chance" is a cry for capitulation. We have to remain extremely vigilant; this is not a man who accepts any of the norms we take for granted.
politics 
december 2016
Hell is Silicon Valley people who won’t grow up - Recode
Kara Swisher takes Silicon Valley to task for refusing to believe that it wields tremendous power, and that power should be exercised with some responsibility.

My take: Swisher's call for Silicon Valley to smarten up (and sober up) is welcome. Really the people who need to be reading this and taking it to heart are VCs, who pride themselves on being maverick risk-takers but have so far been unable to think outside the disruption box.
economics  culture 
december 2016
Governor Jerry Brown's Speech Defends Science Against Trump - The Atlantic
Video of Governor Brown speaking to the Brown is speaking to the American Geophysical Union, in San Francisco, with commentary by James Fallows. Brown speaks stridently about the need for California to fight climate change in the face of GOP domination of the federal government.

My take: It's inspiring to see the leader of California, an economic and political powerhouse, looking to the future with optimism and conviction. This isn't just about fighting climate change; this is about building policy atop science and facts, and not giving in to a post-factual worldview.
politics  science 
december 2016
How to Serve in a Trump Administration - Lawfare
This is a set of suggestions about how federal employees might make ethical decisions during a Trump presidency.

My take: This is a useful guide for anyone thinking about how to interact with the federal government under a Trump administration
politics  self 
december 2016
The Culture of Capitalism | Foreign Affairs
This is a review (paywall) of The Culture of Capitalism, by Joel Mokyr. Mokyr examines how Europe's "Great Divergence" of the late 19th and 20th centuries drove a radical economic transition. He concentrates on how the culture of scientific thinking allowed Europe to accomplish this.

My take: This looks like an interesting book. I'm struck by this bit from the review: "Traditional societies featured a close alliance among ideology, knowledge, and political power; that such thinking was ever superseded in the West by the radical skepticism of science is in itself something of a miracle." It appears that the Enlightenment was never truly absorbed as broadly as we'd like to think, even though all of us benefit from an economy built atop scientific thought.
economics  culture 
december 2016
Meet the precariat, the new global class fuelling the rise of populism | World Economic Forum
This article is based on earlier work, including a book called The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, which was written in 2011 by an economist named Guy Standing. The Precariat is the Standing's name for a new global class of workers who are not just suffering from low economic opportunities, but are also "out of control of time," reliant purely on money wages, living in debt (which is not adequately factored into conventional income statistics), and facing employment choices that force them to take short-term gains at the expense of long-term improvement.

My take: I'd like to read The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class to see how Standing fleshes out his analysis, and what his suggestions are for addressing the "dangerous" part, which is the Precariat's vulnerability to the blandishments of populist politicians.
politics  economics 
december 2016
Southern Poverty Law Center
These people have been tracking hate groups in America since 1971. If you want up to date information about where they are and what they're up to, go to the source.

My take: The SPLC performs an invaluable service to America. Hate groups need to be exposed and confronted wherever they arise.
politics  culture 
december 2016
An Alt-Right Makeover Shrouds the Swastikas - The New York Times
This is one of many articles about the alt-right, and it asserts that the movement is shepherded by avowed racists who are recruiting and radicalizing young white people. It also points to the role Trump has played in bringing them out of the woodwork.

My take: The pattern of radicalization here is very similar to that employed by jihadists. We should expect to see their ranks grow before they subside, and we shouldn't expect that these people will disappear when the inevitable mainstream backlash against Trump hits. They may actually become more dangerous.
politics 
december 2016
Noahpinion: Is Twitter a dystopian technology?
An examination of how difficult it is to pronounce a technology "good" or "bad", and a reflection on just how difficult it is for us to pull away from dystopian or potentially dystopian technologies.

My take: An interesting post, but it ignores the elephant in the room, which is the business model behind twitter. We have come to believe that attention-based business models are the only game in town, which is why even when social media does tremendous harm to society, we shrug and say, "Well, it's too bad we can't do anything about this."
technology  media 
december 2016
It’s Protein World, We Just Live In It – Status 451
We're more susceptible to manipulation than we might think, and the same attention economics that drives outrageous advertising also leads to outcomes like the election of Donald Trump.

My take: This piece connects the dots between troll marketing and a dysfunctional overall information economy. We are cognitively ill-equipped to fight it: "You can’t solve a problem that exists because of a cognitive bias — a heuristic that developed so that its user can expend less effort — by asking people to expend more effort." It's sad that knowledge of how our minds work is being used to destroy the commons of our discourse.
media  politics 
december 2016
We Need to #AudittheVote—and It has Nothing to Do with Who Becomes President - Lawfare
A former NSA Associate General Counsel for Intelligence Law says we should make vote auditing a standard practice, rather than hoping for the best. Her rationale is that it has nothing to do with the specific election cycle, and everything to do with preventing trouble by being on the lookout for it.

My take: Trust in public institutions and the mechanisms of democratic rule are very low. We need to stop operating on the assumption that our system works because it works. If we don't invest in these mechanisms of democratic rule, to make them robust and trustworthy, our current problems will only get worse.
politics 
december 2016
Google, democracy and the truth about internet search | Technology | The Guardian
The fake news problem is biig, and because of how Google functions, fake news is able to tie into the mainstream news in surprising ways.

My take: Google's algorithms have never been neutral, nor could they ever be. Google can give us safe search for images; they can give us safe search for news.
politics  media 
december 2016
Peak content: The collapse of the attention economy
Media companies will soon find, if this opinion piece holds true, that they are unable to generate revenue in a content-saturated world.

My take: If true, this also means that disinformation networks will continue to thrive, because they have such low costs relative to larger media companies. It also means that organizations that consider themselves purveyors of news need to radically shift their attention away from redundantly covering the same things that everyone + dog is covering, and move toward deeper analysis and investigation, areas where larger structure and better resources provide advantages.
economics  media 
december 2016
Clickbait, the Attention Economy, and the End of Journalism – Medium
What we currently call "journalism" is focused on capturing our attention, and the way to do that is by appealing to our emotions. The results, as we've all seen, are terrible.

My take: This hits many points at once, but I think the most important element is that we have been trained to respond with emotion for a long time now, and it takes active effort to avoid doing so.
media  economics  culture 
december 2016
Politics in the Animal Kingdom - YouTube
Video explanations of the limitations of first past the post voting, the evils of gerrymandering, the alternative vote, and more.

My take: These videos do a good job of explaining sometimes arcane subjects that have a profound impact on how our representative democracy functions.
politics 
december 2016
WVS Database
Plenty of information about how values (as opposed to more fickle issue-by-issue opinions) are changing around the world.

My take: This is a useful source for understanding how current events fit into the bigger picture.
culture 
december 2016
Senator Kaine on the Forever War - Lawfare
Senator Kaine calls attention to the fact that the Authorization to Use Military Force that has been in place since 2001 has given the Executive Branch a broad mandate to pursue a global war against militant Islamists without any meaningful Congressional involvement. He urges Congress to assert itself and conduct real debate about how we are conducting this war.

My take: It's about time. It doesn't matter who the President is, the Executive Branch has too much power. If Congress wants to be taken seriously as a governing body, it needs to stop its passive-aggressive approach to management of the war.
war  politics 
december 2016
Make America Great: The Answer is Us – Medium
A broad call to take action at the local level in the face of Trump's ascendancy, rather than waiting for him to set the agenda.

My take: There's a lot to chew on in this post, many links to follow and concepts to absorb. I'm going to be coming back to this one repeatedly.
politics 
december 2016
What if jobs are not the solution but the problem? | Aeon Essays
We have fixated on maximizing the employment rate, but what if that is actually a bad idea? What if work as we currently think of it is unnecessary?

My take: This essay is long on questions, short on answers, and unnecessarily vulgar. But as we struggle to figure out how to survive a transition to a truly machine-driven economy, it's worth questioning our fundamental assumptions about work. Interesting discussions in the comments, amazingly.
economics 
december 2016
The Retreat from Hyper-Globalization – What’s The Future? – Medium
The choices are: deep economic integration, democratic politics, or nation-state. Pick two. This is the "trilema" in which we are now mired.

My take: I'm going to sit on this one a bit and reread it after I've absorbed some more articles. The "trilema" formulation appears too simplistic, as if the author is seeking a clean equation where none exists. But the central point, that globalization is far less stable than we've been led to believe, doesn't seem very far-fetched at all.
economics  politics 
november 2016
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