No matter what you get up to in bed, there’s an app for it. Apparently.

This morning’s Observer column about the obsession with ‘datifying’ our bodies.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are obsessed with the datafication of their bodies and those who are not. I belong to the latter category: the only thing that interests me about my heart is that it is still beating. And when it isn’t I shall be past caring. But if the current craze for wearable devices such as fitness trackers is anything to go by, I may soon find myself a member of a despised minority, rather like cigarette smokers, whisky drinkers and followers of David Icke…

Read on

The myopia of technological determinism

Farhad Manjoo is one of the most thoughtful tech commentators around. But sometimes even he loses it. For example:

Silicon Valley luminaries are easily mocked as having a precious, narrow take on the world. People in the tech industry can’t see past themselves, critics often charge; they act as if the products they build sit at the center of everything.

But this year, the techies were right: Technology did rule many issues in 2015…

First, to understand the problem, consider the year’s headlines. From terrorism to protests over police abuse, from the scandal at Volkswagen to global tensions over energy and the climate, technology was central to just about every major news story that came across the wire.

Eh? “Just about every major news story that came across the wire”. What has this guy been smoking? Or has he just spent too much time in the Valley’s solipsistic world?

Here’s a few things he seems to have missed: the global refugee crisis; the civil war in Ukraine — and Russia’s role in it; the Eurozone crisis; the French regional elections; the Trump phenomenon; the British general election (and the subsequent election of Jeremy Corbyn); the thaw in US-Cuba relations; the continued rise of ISIS; the Paris massacre…

Apart from ISIS, tech is nowhere to be found in these stories.

I like Mr Manjoo’s stuff. But really he ought to get out more.

The triumph of hope over adversity?


The New York Times has put an editorial on its front page for the first time since 1920. It’s about gun control in the wake of the Californian terrorist massacre. It will, of course, have no effect: the US is beyond rationality in this area — as Nick Kristof observes in a remarkable column on the inside pages:

LESBOS, Greece — For three weeks American politicians have been fulminating about the peril posed by Syrian refugees, even though in the last dozen years no refugee in America has killed a single person in a terror attack.

In the same three weeks as this hysteria about refugees, guns have claimed 2,000 lives in America. The terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs were the most dramatic, but there’s an unrelenting average of 92 gun deaths every day in America, including suicides, murders and accidents.

So if politicians want to tackle a threat, how about developing a serious policy to reduce gun deaths — yes, including counterterrorism measures, but not simply making scapegoats of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The caricatures of Syrian refugees as jihadis who “want to kill us,” as one reader named Josh tweeted me, are unrecognizable to anyone who spends time with these refugees…

Note the numbers in the Kristof piece: an average of 92 gun deaths a day in the US.

Our oldest enemy is now our friend. Likewise our enemy’s enemy

Cameron’s non-strategy in bombing Syria is beyond parody. Or at any rate, the only writer I can think of who would be up to lampooning it would be Evelyn Waugh. Glenn Newey, writing in the LRB, nails the surrealism of the bombing policy:

As Obama said the other day, France is the United States’ oldest ally. Meanwhile we British, too, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our oldest enemy, hailed this week by Cameron as ‘friends and allies’. In the Orwellian perma-war, memory is slavery and amnesia emancipation. Signifier-flotation rules. Yesterday’s cheese-eating surrender monkeys emerge as a bastion of civilisation against the ragheads du jour.

Notoriously, back in 2003 when Chirac was sensibly blocking Bush and Blair’s pursuit of a Security Council mandate for the idiocy in Iraq, the US Congress diner rebranded French fries and toast as ‘freedom fries’ and ‘freedom toast’, which others copied (regrettably I haven’t traced a use of ‘freedom letters’). But now a higher trump has blown, as it did a hundred years ago when Gaul and Saxon, with the tsar, united to carve up Ottoman domains including Syria and Iraq. Now these two dog-eared ex-imperia, both pawing at the top table with their nukes and permanent UN Security Council membership, are again burying their old contention.

HM Loyal Opposition goes AWOL


This is such an extraordinary picture that I am inclined to think it’s a spoof. The Prime Minister is making a statement to the House of Commons — about the strategic defence review, no less. In other words, about the future of the country’s armed forces. But the Labour Parliamentary party — and the Shadow Cabinet — have gone AWOL, leaving their Leader sitting alone on the Opposition front bench. I don’t care what these cretins think about Corbyn: this is a Parliamentary democracy and it only works if there’s a functional opposition. That’s what Labour MPs were elected to provide. Instead of which they are sulking in their tents because their party elected a guy they can’t stand.

LATER It’s not a spoof. Channel 4 News has a video showing them slinking away.

US foreign policy in a nutshell

From Bill Moyers:

“ISIS is seen in Washington as a grave terrorist threat with the potential to knock over the unpopular and unstable regimes of the Middle East (i.e., our client states) like bowling pins. Yet the Washington Consensus sees as the key to defeating ISIS the undermining of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS’s principal military enemy. If a US general in 1942 declared the only way to defeat the Wehrmacht would be for us to fight Nazi Germany and the USSR simultaneously, he would have been committed to a lunatic asylum.”