Alien Algorithms


Algorithms form a constructed digital bureaucracy, where nobody in particular is to blame and everyone passively accepts their fate as directed from algorithmic gods on high. Seen that way, big data is a potent tool, and I expect insiders will make use of it whenever then can. Never mind that it can create systems that undermine their original goals: Instead of getting rid of bad teachers, for example, the value-added model created an atmosphere that has seen teachers flee. We are now confronting a nationwide teacher shortage.

‘Back to the Future’ Writer: Biff Tannen Is Based on Donald Trump


So, Bob Gale—writer of Back to the Future Part II and man who helped predict the IMAX theater and the self-checkout line—in these past few months, were you thinking what we’re all thinking?

“We thought about it when we made the movie! Are you kidding?” he says. “You watch Part II again and there’s a scene where Marty confronts Biff in his office and there’s a huge portrait of Biff on the wall behind Biff, and there’s one moment where Biff kind of stands up and he takes exactly the same pose as the portrait? Yeah.”

Of course, in the movie, Biff uses the profits from his 27-story casino (the Trump Plaza Hotel, completed in 1984, is 37 floors, by the way) to help shake up the Republican Party, before eventually assuming political power himself, helping transform Hill Valley, California, into a lawless, dystopian wasteland, where hooliganism reigns, dissent is quashed, and wherein Biff encourages every citizen to call him “America’s greatest living folk hero.”

“Yeah,” says Gale. “That’s what we were thinking about.”

The Daily Beast

Divine Indigestion


Today, if a novel is accepted into the American canon, it is as a masterpiece of individualism that subsumes material and social being into the spirit of a lone genius. If a social world is present in a novel of repute, our critics gobble it up and excrete it as imagination. In the early twenty-first century, realism has come to be synonymous, in the blinkered American critical consensus, with a curiously antisocial novel. It never occurs to critics that realism could only seem real because of the dilapidation of collective dreams. Nor do critics worry that the “social issues” presented in our novels rarely attain the complexity of cable television. Or that a novel genuinely concerned with social life (or even the social role of a single person) could itself, against this backdrop, be idiosyncratic. It’s sad, in other words, that the novels of Jonathan Franzen register to most as sociopolitical literature. Freedom isn’t a social novel on the level of Wharton. It’s a decelerated twenty-four-hour news channel.

Jonathon Sturgeon

I’ve Met “Donald Trump” and I’m Sick of You Defending Him


It’s not hard to say Donald Trump was wrong. It’s not hard to say Bill Cosby is a sexual predator. It’s not hard to say Josh Duggar molested his sisters. And then stop. Don’t say anything else. For every victim of sexual assault, just stop there.  You don’t need to add a clarifying statement. You don’t need to say “But…”  Stop.  Defend the victims.  Stand by all of us who’ve had to deal with our own “Donald Trumps.” For a quick moment of your life, for all that is good and decent and holy, empathize.

Sparking Conversation

Consent is necessary. This is not complicated.


Their confusion and incomprehension seems genuine. They seriously seem to believe that Trump’s comments were upsetting to others solely because he uttered the word “pussy” — completely overlooking what the rest of the world found deplorable, that he was boasting of sexual assault, of grabbing women “by the pussy” without their consent. Such staggering incomprehension is only possible due to these “conservative” folks’ utter inability to grasp the necessity of consent.

We see this same incomprehension manifested in many other ways, such as the constant appalling refrain from religious right types that not criminalizing same-sex couples will inevitably result in legalizing pedophilia and bestiality. Apart from the deliberate cruelty of that claim, it’s simply dumb — appealing only to those unable and unwilling to understand the meaning and primacy of consent.


Life Before Smartphones


Life before smartphones was boring because you didn’t feel crazy all the time. It was boring because you could still believe that what happened next might be okay. It was boring because you could look beyond what was in your hand and what you saw there was ambiguous enough that you needed to determine its shape on your own, rather than passively accepting whatever was presented to you. Life before smartphones was boring to the extent that your brain had to do actual work back then, and there is nothing your

Letter to a Dying Church: Either Die or Live Like You Mean It


Then, you could start doing some really radical stuff, expecting nothing in return. Instead of worrying about the cost/benefit analysis and the ROI on everything, you could just do things that make the world look like God actually loves it. The clock is ticking, so you could do amazingly generous and slightly crazy things without being concerned whether people would like it or whether it would finally attract the kind of admirers you’ve always been certain you deserved. Feed a hungry person or buy a pair of shoes for that guy who hangs out at the bus stop. Advocate for civil rights, for equality for women, for fairness for LGBT people, for hospitality for immigrants. Make friends with a Muslim. Put a hand on the shoulder of a kid who’s being bullied. Throw open your doors to everyone and invite them to come in. Or sell everything you have and give it to the poor. In other words, you could do the right thing … because it’s the right thing to do—you know the kind of stuff Jesus called you to do if you want to follow him.


Understanding Trump’s Name


The name Trump is his brand, his product; he sells his name. When he seeks financial backing for a project, he insists that he be paid very well for the use of his name, even if his name is used just to get investors or bank loans. The condition is that he gets paid for the use of his name, even if the project fails and goes into bankruptcy. Time and again, his companies have gone bankrupt; but though others — builders, employees, investors —  lose money, Trump is always paid for the use of his name.

What it is about the name “Trump” that sells, and would it sell if it were changed a bit?

George Lakoff

The High-end VR Room of the Future Looks Like This


Today’s VR systems are both fantastic and restrictive: they blow you away, but it’s clear how far they have to go. The HTC Vive is arguably the best out there, but having to buy a souped-up laptop just to run it, paying full price for brief games that feel more like demos, and trailing a huge cable off your head and fumbling to mount trackers on your ceiling…it’s not ideal. But it’s still incredible enough to give a taste of where it’s headed.

Here’s my best guess of what the future high-end VR setup looks like. I’m an early-stage VC focused on virtual and augmented reality, so I pieced this together based on the forward-thinking pitches and demos I’ve been lucky enough to see through my work, plus a lifetime of burning through sci-fi and video games. Check out the bottom of this post for a list of VR inspiration.

Side note that AR will be much bigger than VR, in both the diversity of use cases and market size (analysts predict $30B for VR versus $90B for AR by 2020), but I still believe that most homes will have a dedicated VR space for total immersion.


Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously means listening to what they’re actually saying


There is absolutely no evidence that Trump’s supporters, either in the primary or the general election, are disproportionately poor or working class. Exit polling from the primaries found that Trump voters made about as much as Ted Cruz voters, and significantly more than supporters of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Trump voters, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver found, had a median household income of $72,000, a fair bit higher than the $62,000 median household income for non-Hispanic whites in America.