To navigate the web is to beat a path through a labyrinth of links left by others, and to thereby create associative links yourself, unspooling them like a guiding thread onto a floor already carpeted with such connections. Each thread of connection is unique, individualized: everyone draws their own map of the network as they navigate it.
But real problems are messy. Tech culture prefers to solve harder, more abstract problems that haven’t been sullied by contact with reality. So they worry about how to give Mars an earth-like climate, rather than how to give Earth an earth-like climate. They debate how to make a morally benevolent God-like AI, rather than figuring out how to put ethical guard rails around the more pedestrian AI they are introducing into every area of people’s lives.
So what happens when these tools for maximizing clicks and engagement creep into the political sphere?
This is a delicate question! If you concede that they work just as well for politics as for commerce, you’re inviting government oversight. If you claim they don’t work well at all, you’re telling advertisers they’re wasting their money.
Facebook and Google have tied themselves into pretzels over this.
Cancelling the future.
The future lives and dies by the state of the archives. To look hard at this world and honestly, diligently articulate what happened and what it was like in the present is a sort of promise to the future, a new layer to the palimpsest of history that can become someone else’s foundation.
That library was a Pandorica of fabulous, interwoven randomness, as rich as plum cake. Push a seed of curiosity in between any two books and it would grow, overnight, into a rainforest hot with monkeys and jaguars and blowpipes and clouds. The room was full, and my head was full. What a magical system to place around a penniless girl.
World of Concrete: Inside the Industry That’s Building Trump’s America Brick by Brick - The Atlantic
Fear and concrete in Las Vegas: a great piece of infrastructure reportage by Georgina.
Much of our courage and support comes from the people we read and talk to and love online, often on the very networks that expose us—and our friends—to genuine enemies of freedom and peace. We have to keep connected, but we don’t have to play on their terms.
I like Mike’s “long zoom” view here where the glass is half full and half empty:
Several years from now, I want to be able to look back on this time the same way people look at other natural disasters. Without that terrible earthquake, we would have never improved our building codes. Without that terrible flood, we would have never built those levees. Without that terrible hurricane, we would have never rebuilt this amazing city. Without that terrible disease, we would have never developed antibodies against it.
It doesn’t require giving any credit to the disaster. The disaster will always be a complete fucking disaster. But it does involve using the disaster as an opportunity to take a hard look at what got us here and rededicate our energy towards things that will get us out.
A weekly list of short, concrete actions to defend the weak, rebuild civic institutions, and fight right-wing extremism. For UK people.
A service for US citizens that suggest five phone calls they can make at any time—based on their location—to influence their representatives.
Calling is the most effective way to influence your representative. 5 Calls gives you contacts and scripts so calling is quick and easy. We use your location to give you your local representatives so your calls are more impactful.
An excellent location-based resource for US citizens looking to make a difference in the 2018 midterm elections.
You, the software engineers and leaders of technology companies, face an enormous responsibility. You know better than anyone how best to protect the millions who have entrusted you with their data, and your knowledge gives you real power as civic actors. If you want to transform the world for the better, here is your moment. Inquire about how a platform will be used. Encrypt as much as you can. Oppose the type of data analysis that predicts people’s orientation, religion, and political preferences if they did not willingly offer that information.
When a solid 67% of your soul is engaged with battles elsewhere, how do you continue on with our ongoing, non-revolutionary work?
A resource for American citizens put together by former congressional staffers. If you’re a US citizen wondering how you can resist Trump’s agenda, this should provide solid advice on what action you can take.
Ten years on from Afonso Cuarón’s masterpiece.
This article examines what I thought was the most interesting aspect of Rogue One—the ethical implications for technologists.
Don’t dismiss this essay just because it’s about a Hollywood blockbuster. Given the current political situation, this is deeply relevant.
Software is politics, because software is power.
The transcript of a tremendous talk by Richard Pope.
A very smart way of matching up the amount of money you spend on entertainment to contributions to causes you care about.
Over 40 million Americans subscribe to Netflix, which means that ~$400 million dollars are taken out of our accounts monthly. Many Americans don’t even notice this. Imagine what could happen if we set up as many automatic contributions to help nonprofits do what they need to do.
The view that more information uncritically produces better decisions is visibly at odds with our contemporary situation.
A superb piece of research and writing by James, skewering the technological determinism that underlies the current faith in “big data.” At best, this misplaced trust is inaccurate; at worst, it is deadly.
To the algorithmic imagination, the practice of journalism and the practice of terrorism appear to be functionally identical.