May 13, 2020
The new literature of minimalism is full of stressful advice. Pack up all your possessions, unpack things only as needed, give away everything that’s still packed after a month. Or wake up early, pick up every item you own, and consider whether or not it sparks joy.
May 11, 2020
In the earliest years of the HIV epidemic, confusion and fear reigned. AIDS was still known as the “gay plague.” To the extent that gay men received any health advice at all, it was to avoid sex. In 1983, the activists Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen, with guidance from the virologist Joseph Sonnabend, published a foundational document for their community, called “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic.”
May 11, 2020
If you’re reading this, it might be because it’s a last resort. For two months, your mind has been all over the place, unable to focus on anything other than moving to different rooms in your house to carry out required human functions.
May 8, 2020
One day in December 2016 a 37-year-old British artist named Sam Winston equipped himself with a step-ladder, a pair of scissors, several rolls of black-out cloth and a huge supply of duct tape, and set about a project he had been considering for some time.
May 7, 2020
Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934–December 20, 1996) was many things — a cosmic sage, voracious reader, hopeless romantic, and brilliant philosopher. But above all, he endures as our era’s greatest patron saint of reason and critical thinking, a master of the vital balance between skepticism and openness.
May 7, 2020
Early this week, with little warning, the Internet was graced with a Windows executable containing a fully playable PC port of Super Mario 64. Far from being just a usual emulated ROM, this self-contained program enables features like automatic scaling to any screen resolution, and players are already experimenting with adding simple graphics-card-level reshaders, including ray-tracing, as well.
May 4, 2020
Hanlon's razor is a classic aphorism I'm sure you have heard before: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. I've found that neither malice nor stupidity is the most common reason when you don't understand why something is in a certain way.
May 3, 2020
Majora’s Mask was never supposed to exist. Shigeru Miyamoto had a modest plan to squeeze a little more juice out of Ocarina of Time. He did not want to develop a new Zelda game, but instead a “Second Quest” remixed version of Ocarina much like the Second Quest in the original Zelda. The overworld would be a mirror image of the original, enemies would do double damage, and, most significantly, the dungeons would be completely rearranged.
May 1, 2020
Every conversation I have these days with someone who doesn’t live in my home—every FaceTime with a friend or family member, every reporting phone call—kicks off with a brief, awkward, accidental meditation on mortality. “Hi!” I say. “Hi!” the other person says back.
April 30, 2020
Late last month I did an interview with GQ about technology and the coronavirus pandemic. “This is a little bit flippant,” I told the reporter, “but in terms of closing things down for public health, one of the big boosts they could make would probably be shutting down Twitter.”
April 30, 2020
It’s my birthday. I’m 68. I feel like pulling up a rocking chair and dispensing advice to the young ‘uns. Here are 68 pithy bits of unsolicited advice which I offer as my birthday present to all of you.
April 28, 2020
Jodi Eichler-Levine finished teaching a class over Zoom on April 15, and she immediately fell asleep in the guest bedroom doubling as her office. The religion studies professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania says that while teaching is always exhausting, she has never “conked out” like that before.
April 27, 2020
Yesterday my feed had many references to a new Marc Andressen essay titled It’s Time to Build. I understand it’s popularity as it has an enthusiasm that’s in short supply in the tech world today.
April 27, 2020
In a viral essay, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen makes a simple exhortation: It’s time to build. Behind the coronavirus crisis, he writes, lies “our widespread inability to build.” America has been unable to create enough coronavirus tests, or even enough cotton swabs to fully utilize the tests we do have. We don’t have enough ventilators, ICU beds, personal protection equipment.
April 23, 2020
During the pandemic, video and phone calls have become a crucial source of social connection, but like in-person interactions, they can become tiring if they go on too long. The world used to be rich with excuses for cutting a conversation short: I should probably get home to feed my dog; this was fun, but I have to go to another party; and so on. But this new, locked-down era calls for more creativity in coming up with a good reason to say bye.
April 22, 2020
For the first time in its long history, New York City is silent. Fear is palpable in the air. You see it in the eyes of the workers in the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the corner deli. These are almost all people of color. They tell you they are thankful for the work but also know they are risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones by working. It’s a terrible calculus.
April 22, 2020
In 1998, as the Asian financial crisis was ravaging what had been some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the New Yorker ran an article describing the international rescue efforts. It profiled the super-diplomat of the day, a big-idea man the Economist had recently likened to Henry Kissinger.
April 20, 2020
Some questions are infinitely more interesting than their answers. One such question started to echo around the internet in the early days of the Covid-19 lockdowns and has become increasingly frantic in the febrile weeks that have followed.
April 18, 2020
Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings. This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade, but it’s not too early to ask why, and what we need to do about it.
April 17, 2020
From the moment I became involved in the creation of new technologies, their ethical dimensions have concerned me, but it was only in the autumn of 1998 that I became anxiously aware of how great are the dangers facing us in the 21st century. I can date the onset of my unease to the day I met Ray Kurzweil, the deservedly famous inventor of the first reading machine for the blind and many other amazing things.