Reading List: The Spectrum Of Tech, From Homes of Whimsical Curiosity to Dystopian Labor Hellscape
Friends, a reminder that the Missive will be officially dark next week as I will be out of the office staffing a conference, though I may try to get one out if I’ve got a few moments. No promises, however, and please send zen thoughts and mental foot rubs, as I’ll likely be wearing through a few pairs of Everlane day gloves over the next week.
And not to leave you on a 😳note, but you got the puppies and piggies yesterday, so today you get the soul-crushing content that I require said critters as a salve for. Except for the piece on Dynamicland, which is freaking lovely and must be celebrated.
Olivia Kan-Sperling, Dynamicland And The Whimsical Digital Object (Cabinet) - A year or so ago, Friend of the Missive Michael brought me to the magic tech utopia in Oakland, to accompany his darling daughter as she explored the various stations that took programming IRL and provided tactile ways for children to learn about coding. I loved it, and I may have had more fun than she did (look, children are at perfect elbow-out-of-the-way-height, which is why I should probably not be allowed in the Cal Academy of Sciences on a weekend). This article does a delightful job of describing this wonderful place and the idealistic humans that built it.
Emma Grey Ellis, The Influencer Scientists Debunking Online Misinformation (WIRED) - No, bleach water should not be given to infants. No, humans cannot survive on air alone. No, you shouldn’t drink essential oils. In an age of rapidly metastasizing health information, let’s thank whichever personal deity you believe in for the scientists and healthcare professionals who are attempting to save us all from ourselves.
Khari Johnson, AI ethics is all about power (VentureBeat) - I’m so glad we’re having these conversations around AI in a not strictly-technical sense, and kudos to VentureBeat for doing it so prominently. From the piece: “The fourth industrial revolution is happening alongside historic income inequality and the new Gilded Age. Like the railroad barons who took advantage of farmers anxious to get their crop to market in the 1800s, tech companies with proprietary data sets use AI to further entrench their market position and monopolies.”
Lindsay Schnell and Sam Ruland, The Priest Next Door (USA Today) - Content warning: this exhaustively researched and absolutely devastating piece centers on child sexual abuse and its systemic cover-up. Let’s also thank that personal deity for journalists who are continuing the hard and awful work of the Spotlight tradition.
Nathaniel Popper, Vindu Goel and Arjun Harindranath, The SoftBank Effect: How $100 Billion Left Workers in a Hole (The New York Times) - This is a micro look at what must remain a macro scandal: how start-ups artificially inflated by venture capital are upending labor markets by promising massive financial incentives to contractors, and then leaving those workers in the lurch when the gravy train stops. If you’ve ever seen how many ride hailing app drivers sleep in their cars in the Safeway parking lot on Market, you know that the system is horribly broken.
I like you all. Take care of yourselves over the next week, and I’ll see ya the week of American Thanksgiving.