The Internet

Commercial Surveillance State

Commercial Surveillance State

Blame the marketers

The tactics of carefully targeted, data-driven manipulation—though innovative and destabilizing—are not entirely new. They predate the existence of Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook, and the contemporary notion of “fake news” itself. For decades, digital marketers—working in both commercial and political domains—have been perfecting models for using consumer data to identify and manipulate decision-making vulnerabilities.

Source Code

Source Code

Silicon Valley in the Shadow of William Shockley

In the last two decades of his life, William Shockley turned away from technology and began promoting the idea that intelligence was biologically determined—with blacks cognitively subordinate to whites—arguing under the auspices of estimable science that without forced sterilization of those with inferior intelligence, the world would be plunged into a dysgenic panic.

Disrupt the Citizen

Disrupt the Citizen

Against ride-sharing

The proliferating but ever meaningless distinctions between the “bad” Uber and the “good” Lyft have obscured how destructive the rise of ride-sharing has been for workers and the cities they live in. The predatory lawlessness that prevails inside Valley workplaces scales up and out. Both companies entered their markets illegally, without regard to prevailing wages, regulations, or taxes. Like Amazon, which found a way to sell books without sales tax, this turned out to be one of the many illegal boons.

Emptiness

Emptiness

Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves.

The narcissist is, according to the internet, empty. Normal, healthy people are full of self, a kind of substance like a soul or personhood that, if you have it, emanates warmly from inside of you toward the outside of you. No one knows what it is, but everyone agrees that narcissists do not have it. Disturbingly, however, they are often better than anyone else at seeming to have it. Because what they have inside is empty space, they have had to make a study of the selves of others in order to invent something that looks and sounds like one. Narcissists are imitators par excellence. And they do not copy the small, boring parts of selves. They take what they think are the biggest, most impressive parts of other selves, and devise a hologram of self that seems superpowered.

The Library of Last Resort

The Library of Last Resort

Whatever early progress the Library of Congress made on the internet has been squandered.

The job Carla Hayden has before her is to prepare the Library of Congress to serve another century of US citizens where we’ve become most accustomed to consuming information: the internet.

Uncanny Valley

Uncanny Valley

I would say more, but I signed an NDA.

The meeting begins without fanfare. They thought I was an amazing worker at first, working late every night, last out of the office, but now they wonder if the work was just too hard for me to begin with. They need to know: Am I down for the cause? Because if I’m not down for the cause, it’s time. They will do this amicably. Of course I’m down, I say, trying not to swivel in my ergonomic chair. I care deeply about the company. I am here for it.

Training Day

Training Day

“We at Amazon think every day is a first day."

He says: “We at Amazon think every day is a first day. Remember that. This is a good opportunity to make a note of that and get in on the ground floor and move up. Jobs are still being filled, the company’s still on the up, but between you and me, everyone knows nothing can grow forever.”

Google and the G Thang

Google and the G Thang

Every year, I check in on the decline of Gary in the Social Security Administration’s baby name database. How I long for 1954, in the unrecognized cool Fifties of Marlon Brando and Miles Davis, when Gary peaked as the ninth most popular boy’s name in America. In 1954, we had Gary Cooper—originally Frank, before his agent from Gary, Indiana suggested a more unique name—just two years after his showdown at High Noon. Cary Grant, our elegant near anagram, was about To Catch a Thief. Oh, how we have fallen, to 560th place, with only 490 unlucky babies named Gary in 2014.

Some Folks

Some Folks

What did the first bot say to the second bot?

Z.: I know how to converse.
Y.: You seem very clever. What is your IQ?
Z.: I can explain all the poems that were ever invented and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.
Y.: I don’t think that would be a good idea.

It’s So Great Coming Home To Your Message

It’s So Great Coming Home To Your Message

On Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark.

Each email is timestamped, with Acker and Wark’s nerdy ‘90s email addresses repeated over and over again, page after page. They map the unwinding and rewinding and unwinding again of tension, attention, and affection, telling the story-about-nothing of the first truly great collection of electronic love letters.