Terrific New Yorker essay about the ‘incel’ phenomenon.
These days, in this country, sex has become a hyper-efficient and deregulated marketplace, and, like any hyper-efficient and deregulated marketplace, it often makes people feel very bad. Our newest sex technologies, such as Tinder and Grindr, are built to carefully match people by looks above all else. Sexual value continues to accrue to abled over disabled, cis over trans, thin over fat, tall over short, white over nonwhite, rich over poor. There is an absurd mismatch in the way that straight men and women are taught to respond to these circumstances. Women are socialized from childhood to blame themselves if they feel undesirable, to believe that they will be unacceptable unless they spend time and money and mental effort being pretty and amenable and appealing to men. Conventional femininity teaches women to be good partners to men as a basic moral requirement: a woman should provide her man a support system, and be an ideal accessory for him, and it is her job to convince him, and the world, that she is good.
Men, like women, blame women if they feel undesirable. And, as women gain the economic and cultural power that allows them to be choosy about their partners, men have generated ideas about self-improvement that are sometimes inextricable from violent rage.
This morning’s Observer column:
Last Monday, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company’s head of software engineering, Craig Federighi, announced that it was terminating iTunes. In one way, the only surprising thing was that Apple had taken so long to reach that decision. It’s been obvious for years that iTunes had become baroquely bloated, a striking anomaly for a company that prides itself on elegant and functional design. So the decision to split the software into three functional units – dealing with music, podcasts and TV apps – seemed both logical and long overdue. But for internet users d’un certain âge (including this columnist) the announcement triggered reflections on personal and tech history.
There’s been music on the internet for a long time. The advent of the compact disc in the early 1980s meant that recorded music went from being analogue to digital. But CD music files were vast – a single CD came in at about 700MB – and for most people, the network was slow. So transferring music from one location to another was not a practical proposition. But then, in 1993, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany came up with a way of shrinking audio files by a factor of 10 or more, so that a three-minute music track could be reduced to 3MB without much perceptible loss in quality…
This morning’s Observer column:
Until recently, the only thing the average citizen could have told you about Huawei, the Chinese tech giant, was that s/he hadn’t the faintest idea of how to pronounce it (it’s “hwa-wei” btw, according to Wikipedia). And then, suddenly, this unpronounceable company seemed to be all over the news. Now it’s at the centre of a burgeoning geopolitical row. How did that happen?
I blame the Australians, who have a government only marginally less dysfunctional than our own…
This lovely illustration (by Luca D’Urbino) tops a terrific Leader in this week’s Economist:
BRITONS PRIDE themselves on their “unwritten” constitution. America, France and Germany need rules to be set down in black and white. In the Mother of Parliaments democracy has blossomed for over 300 years without coups, revolution or civil war, Irish independence aside. Its politics are governed by an evolving set of traditions, conventions and laws under a sovereign Parliament. Thanks to its stability, Britain convinced the world that its style of government was built on solid foundations laid down over centuries of commonsense adaptation.
That view is out of date. The remorseless logic of Brexit has shoved a stick of constitutional dynamite beneath the United Kingdom—and, given the difficulty of constitutional reform in a country at loggerheads, there is little that can be done to defuse it. The chances are high that Britons will soon discover that the constitution they counted on to be adaptable and robust can in fact amplify chaos, division and the threat to the union…
It’s a great editorial, worth reading in full.
The statue of the poet John Betjeman on the Grand Concourse of St Pancras station, surveying the building that his campaign saved from demolition.
“”The pleasures of ignorance are as great as the pleasures of knowledge”
(Even greater, perhaps. Just think of climate change denial.)
Nice quote from an essay by Benedict Evans:
There’s an old joke that the career of an analyst progresses from Word to Excel to Powerpoint. That’s pretty much what’s happened here over the last 20 years: first we discussed what might happen (“imagine if everyone had a phone!”), then we tracked the numbers of what was happening, and finally we draw diagrams and bullet points of what that means. That’s where we are now – we try to work out what it means that almost everyone has a phone or a smartphone.
But this also means that now we go back to the beginning: I’m not updating my smartphone model anymore. The next fundamental trends in tech, today, are probably machine learning, crypto and regulation. I can write about those, but it’s too early to make charts.
”A better system will not automatically ensure a better life. In fact, the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed.”
Václev Havel in “The Power of the Powerless”