March 8, 2021
Every day, your life leaves a trail of digital breadcrumbs that tech giants use to track you. You send an email, order some food, stream a show. They get back valuable packets of data to build up their understanding of your preferences.
March 7, 2021
Maybe more people are writing about the real and potential problems of technology today than ever before. That is mostly a good thing. The list of books and articles from the last few years that have nuanced and illuminating perspectives on the contemporary technological situation is rich and long.
February 24, 2021
It felt like stepping on the wrong end of a rake. My relative had asked for my opinion, but when I gave it, he launched into what sounded like a well-rehearsed argument, taking issue with each thing I had said and critiquing my character. I felt like I’d walked into a trap.
February 22, 2021
I am considered a pessimist—the ‘Daria’ of design—whose standards are too high and too critical. Designers, I would argue, are afraid to embrace dissent because it disrupts the positivity bubble. I would describe designers as the very embodiment of the motivational posters in bad typefaces that we constantly critique. We are performing optimism. And I am anti optimism. So why am I against optimism?
February 21, 2021
The future is not a destination. We build it every day in the present. This is, perhaps, a wild paraphrasing of the acclaimed author and futurist William Gibson who, when asked what a distant future might hold, replied that the future was already here, it was just unevenly distributed. I often ponder this Gibson provocation, wondering where around me the future might be lurking. Catching glimpses of the future in the present would be helpful.
February 18, 2021
Consider a day in the life of a fairly ordinary person in a large city in a stable, democratically governed country. She is not in prison or institutionalized, nor is she a dissident or an enemy of the state, yet she lives in a condition of permanent and total surveillance unprecedented in its precision and intimacy.
February 16, 2021
There is something about social media that human beings are not psychologically prepared for. It is a perverse and unnatural abstraction of human social community to which our brain does not react well. As a facsimile of genuine humanity, it plunges into something resembling The Uncanny Valley for social interactions.
February 15, 2021
Anglerfish are famous for the glowing lure they dangle from their heads that they use to catch small fish. But this is not the most interesting thing about them. Their most fascinating trait is how they mate. Males of the species, who are much smaller, lack a functioning digestive system. To survive they must combine, or fuse-mate, with the females.
February 14, 2021
The discourse about a more enlightened future of work that hinges on the enlightenment of business owners and managers is basically a surrender, like handing over your wallet to a thief and asking him to please, at least, give back your driver’s license.
February 7, 2021
A glimpse of an alternative economic and industrial history and future, in which the Luddites were successful in their battle against alienating technology. The Luddites did not hate technology; they only channeled their anger toward machine-breaking because it had nowhere else to go.
February 5, 2021
For fans of anime, there’s nothing quite like the works of Studio Ghibli. The small team of animators spends years lovingly crafting each amazing story, bringing to life tales of adventure, love, and friendship through countless hand-drawn frames. From My Neighbor Totoro to Howl's Moving Castle, each captivating film allows viewers to immerse themselves in magical fantasy worlds.
February 2, 2021
Although we know Van Gogh so well from his 36 painted self-portraits, depictions of him by other artists are rare. We can now add another—from no less a hand than his friend Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the lover of Montmartre nightlife.
February 2, 2021
To me, it’s simple. If you, like me, are not medically compromised and have been working from home over the past year while drawing your full salary, you have two options. You can sit patiently until some institution calls you to get vaccinated. Or, you can proactively organize with other people to make sure your government is distributing vaccines equitably to people who need them the most.
February 1, 2021
Best practices are, despite the name, not universally good. Many best practices in programming don’t meet the definition. They spread not based on merit or evidence but thanks to authority bias and social utility. As they spread, they lose nuance. As they lose nuance, they become easier to evangelise. Combined with lack of experience, they can lead to cult-like behaviour.
January 31, 2021
The “thought leaders” in Silicon Valley don’t talk much about techno-utopianism anymore. Once, ideologues like Ray Kurzweil would hold court by discoursing on the inevitable “singularity” that would bring forth an immortal race of posthumans who ascend to godhood through biotech, nanotech, and robotics. An entrepreneur like Byron Reese could extol the virtues of “infinite progress” and comfortably predict that “the internet and technology” would finally solve such intractable problems as “ignorance, disease, poverty, hunger, and war.”
January 28, 2021
In late October 1959, a Mexican spy named Eduardo Diaz Silveti slipped into the US Embassy in Mexico City. Tall and well-spoken with slicked-back hair, Silveti, 30, descended from a family of bullfighters. He had learned spycraft at the Federal Security Directorate, or DFS, Mexico’s secret police. During the Cold War, the capital had become so overrun by Communist spies that the CIA had enlisted the help of the Mexican secret services in their fight against the Soviet Union.
January 25, 2021
Newsletters give me permission to fall in love with someone I'll never meet. Someone very far away. And over the past few years I’ve fallen in love with so many writers through newsletters! On all sorts of subjects! There are dazzling newsletters; those of grand adventures and epic mysteries and newsletters about complex systems, showing us how the world is put together. Not to forget smaller newsletters, too. Break-ups! Coffee beans! Clocks! Northumberland flower gardens!
January 25, 2021
It was the day before Christmas, and I was in a large electronics store looking to buy a video card for a computer I was assembling. The card was two generations old, the salesman warned me, not exactly cutting-edge. There was a note of parental concern in his voice, as if in addition to his commission my entire digital future depended on my choice.
January 17, 2021
In 2020, as pandemic lockdowns forced billions of people around the world to become intimately familiar with their neighborhoods, one of the hottest ideas in urban planning was the “15-minute city.” A vision for a decentralized urban area that allows residents to meet their daily needs within a quarter-hour walk or bike from their homes, the concept has been pursued as a means of cutting greenhouse emissions and boosting livability in a host of global cities — especially Paris, where Mayor Anne Hidalgo has embraced the model as a blueprint for the French capital’s post-Covid recovery.
January 17, 2021
It’s 2020 and our systems are failing us. We are increasingly reliant on technology that automates bias. We are celebrating “essential workers” while they are underpaid and their work is precarious. We are protesting in the streets because of policing systems that put black and brown people at risk every day. We use apps for travel, shopping, and transportation that productize exploitative labor practices. The list goes on and on.