Science and Technology

Not a Techno-Thriller

Not a Techno-Thriller

The Volkswagen scandal was more diffuse, technical and tedious than most journalists allow.

Scandal always captivates, and the VW news captivated Americans for months—even those Americans who usually skip past the automobile section. Reporters like Ewing published updates nearly every day. John Oliver even jumped aboard with a comedy bit mocking the German language and ended with the line, “Hitler trusted us, why won’t you?” With the market prepared, Faster, Higher, Farther has been published simultaneously in English and German, and the author has been appearing on the morning shows to talk corporate scandal. Leonardo DiCaprio bought the movie rights.

Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent

Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent

On Donna Haraway

By the end of the book, we’ve learned all manner of detail about the Acacia tree genus, made up of fifteen hundred species, living in climates ranging from desert to tropics and found in ice cream, beer, and postage stamps. We learn about the Pimoa chthulu spider, Haraway’s neighbor in the North Central California redwoods and another inspiration for the Chthulucene. We learn about the history of Premarin estrogen tablets, made out of horse urine, and their effects on both midcentury reproductive politics and Cayenne Pepper’s bladder.

Ghost in the Cloud

Ghost in the Cloud

Transhumanism’s simulation theology

A new, more pernicious thought had come to dominate my mind: transhumanist ideas were not merely similar to theological concepts but could in fact be the events described in the Bible. It was only a short time before my obsession reached its culmination. I got out my old study Bible and began to scan the prophetic literature for signs of the cybernetic revolution. I began to wonder whether I could pray to beings outside the simulation. I had initially been drawn to transhumanism because it was grounded in science. In the end, I became consumed with the kind of referential mania and blind longing that animates all religious belief.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Did big data sink the Clinton campaign?

Why did Ada fail in Michigan? The primary and the general election were different contests, but both suggest that the failure lay in Ada’s model of the electorate—or more precisely, her inability to update her model of the electorate. In the general election, Ada told Clinton that Wisconsin was a lock, that Michigan was not a problem. But it wasn’t so much that Ada’s cake arbitrarily failed to rise; the failure was in the recipe. In an election where a great realignment took place—where thousands of voters in Rust Belt states who had voted for Obama twice now turned to Trump—Ada had not been programmed to detect the possibility of that realignment. The oracle had been hamstrung from the start.

Every Body Goes Haywire

Every Body Goes Haywire

It’s inconceivable to most people that this is it—there is no other, underlying condition. The headaches are the condition itself.

A migraine attack blurs the distinction between “sickness” and “health.” Headache, dizziness, nausea, trouble concentrating, fatigue, poor verbal skills—these symptoms could just as easily result from a hangover or a bad night’s sleep. That the same symptoms can result from irresponsible decisions gives patients an air of culpability.

Is Moira Pregnant?

Is Moira Pregnant?

On signing up for health care

There’s some evidence that even with the subsidies, many people still can’t afford to go to the doctor: a recent Gallup poll found that 31 percent of Americans had delayed seeking medical treatment because of the cost, even though the number of insured people has increased since the passing of the health-care law. Ours is a now system that demands long-term planning almost exclusively from people whose work is scarce enough and precarious enough to preclude even short-term security.

H.

H.

On heroin and harm reduction

You are cured of your hepatitis after a course of Sovaldi, a new pill that clears the disease in 95 percent of cases. The price of this near-certain cure: $84,000. Each pill costs $1,000. You are fortunate to live in New York, the state where Medicaid coverage of the drug is the most generous. Many states pay for only the sickest patients. You are, relatively speaking, not that sick.

The Folly of Mars

The Folly of Mars

Space travel for a new millennialism

A half-century after the conclusion of the Apollo mission, we have entered a new age of space fantasy—one with Mars as its ruling hallucination. Once again stirring goals have been set, determined timetables have been laid down, and artist’s renderings of futuristic spacecraft have been issued.

Dispatch from Worldcon

Dispatch from Worldcon

“This one will be sexy,” the novelist whispered to me.

Since its inception in New York in 1939 (attendance 200), Worldcon has wandered. All-volunteer collectives bid for the right to host it, funding each con by enrolling members in an otherwise nonexistent World Science Fiction Society (dues start around $50 and rise as the convention nears). This year’s Worldcon—held in conjunction with Loncon 3—drew a record 10,000 advance memberships, 4,000 of them from the US.

Not a Techno-Thriller

Not a Techno-Thriller

The Volkswagen scandal was more diffuse, technical and tedious than most journalists allow.

Scandal always captivates, and the VW news captivated Americans for months—even those Americans who usually skip past the automobile section. Reporters like Ewing published updates nearly every day. John Oliver even jumped aboard with a comedy bit mocking the German language and ended with the line, “Hitler trusted us, why won’t you?” With the market prepared, Faster, Higher, Farther has been published simultaneously in English and German, and the author has been appearing on the morning shows to talk corporate scandal. Leonardo DiCaprio bought the movie rights.

Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent

Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent

On Donna Haraway

By the end of the book, we’ve learned all manner of detail about the Acacia tree genus, made up of fifteen hundred species, living in climates ranging from desert to tropics and found in ice cream, beer, and postage stamps. We learn about the Pimoa chthulu spider, Haraway’s neighbor in the North Central California redwoods and another inspiration for the Chthulucene. We learn about the history of Premarin estrogen tablets, made out of horse urine, and their effects on both midcentury reproductive politics and Cayenne Pepper’s bladder.

Ghost in the Cloud

Ghost in the Cloud

Transhumanism’s simulation theology

A new, more pernicious thought had come to dominate my mind: transhumanist ideas were not merely similar to theological concepts but could in fact be the events described in the Bible. It was only a short time before my obsession reached its culmination. I got out my old study Bible and began to scan the prophetic literature for signs of the cybernetic revolution. I began to wonder whether I could pray to beings outside the simulation. I had initially been drawn to transhumanism because it was grounded in science. In the end, I became consumed with the kind of referential mania and blind longing that animates all religious belief.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Did big data sink the Clinton campaign?

Why did Ada fail in Michigan? The primary and the general election were different contests, but both suggest that the failure lay in Ada’s model of the electorate—or more precisely, her inability to update her model of the electorate. In the general election, Ada told Clinton that Wisconsin was a lock, that Michigan was not a problem. But it wasn’t so much that Ada’s cake arbitrarily failed to rise; the failure was in the recipe. In an election where a great realignment took place—where thousands of voters in Rust Belt states who had voted for Obama twice now turned to Trump—Ada had not been programmed to detect the possibility of that realignment. The oracle had been hamstrung from the start.

Every Body Goes Haywire

Every Body Goes Haywire

It’s inconceivable to most people that this is it—there is no other, underlying condition. The headaches are the condition itself.

A migraine attack blurs the distinction between “sickness” and “health.” Headache, dizziness, nausea, trouble concentrating, fatigue, poor verbal skills—these symptoms could just as easily result from a hangover or a bad night’s sleep. That the same symptoms can result from irresponsible decisions gives patients an air of culpability.