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Category: politics

A Black Mirror thought experiment – what actually scares you about “Nosedive”

A Black Mirror thought experiment – what actually scares you about “Nosedive”

Is the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” really just about social media? Other analysis suggests that is what makes “Nosedive” terrifying. Yet, I think if you look at it that way, you’re missing the real point of the episode. Warning: Full spoilers for S3E01 ! The new season of Black Mirror is out, and at least the first episode is as solid as the previous seasons. The episode is called “Nosedive” and it explores a world in which all of our various rating…

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No, you’re not moving to Canada, and you need to stop joking about it

No, you’re not moving to Canada, and you need to stop joking about it

Dear fellow privileged, progressive citizens of the US: I know you don’t like Donald Trump. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are positively on fire with your distaste. I understand it – I can’t stand the guy either, and believe him becoming president might be the worst disaster to befall America since 9/11. Some of you even draw comparisons with Hitler and think Trump would be as bad for America and its less-privileged as Hitler was for Germany. That seems like…

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Three ways to fight climate change that Bret Victor missed

Three ways to fight climate change that Bret Victor missed

Bret Victor just put out a great post about various projects one could work on as a technologist to help with the climate crisis. Many of these are great suggestions for an individual’s ~5 year project, but it might be hard to see how a normal engineer working in the industry could start working on climate change problems. I’m here to show that you can help fight climate change even if starting a clean tech company or working on a…

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Why Swarthmore Should Divest

Why Swarthmore Should Divest

Hi fellow Swattie, I’m glad you’re here. I know that you care about the world, and that you care about the well-being of Swarthmore. You’ve probably heard a bit about fossil-fuel divestment at Swarthmore, and it sounds like an issue you should know more about, but let’s be honest – it seems complicated and you’ve been super busy. Don’t worry, by the end of this post you’ll understand what’s going on and the arguments for either side. This is an…

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Proving cultural signaling – sometimes ads can be laughable and still be effective

Proving cultural signaling – sometimes ads can be laughable and still be effective

A few weeks ago I was in a bar and this ad came on: It’s a totally ridiculous ad, almost a parody of itself. How could it ever convince someone to buy the truck? Must the people who own that truck be total idiots if they fell for this advertising? How nakedly obvious is it? At first, this is what I thought, as we laughed at the ad. However, I now think I was wrong. All of those things are…

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Letter to Swarthmore’s Board Supporting Divestment

Letter to Swarthmore’s Board Supporting Divestment

Just sent this letter to Swarthmore’s board (managers@swarthmore.edu), exciting things are happening around divestment! For those interested, here is: An article arguing that divestment is fiscally prudent An article arguing that divestment is tactically useful A great article by Tim Burke arguing that divestment is not the right course of action for balance Dear Mr. Kemp and Swarthmore Board, I know you are busy people, and I will try to be brief. I understand your concerns and truly appreciate your…

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Schimmy’s Hierarchy of Jobs

Schimmy’s Hierarchy of Jobs

Imagine your ideal job. No, really – give it a shot… I’ll bet more than a few of the people reading have imagined being a scuba instructor in the caribbean, or just being paid to play Super Smash (which I still can’t believe is now real job – I love the internet!). While it might be an improvement from your current position, I believe the job you imagined wouldn’t keep you happy for long. After three full-time jobs and five years…

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The different social yardsticks of American cities

The different social yardsticks of American cities

When comparing different cities, I like to bring up this little shortcut in how people in different cities seem to compare each other: In New York City it’s: “How much do you make?” In Boston / Cambridge it’s: “What do you know?” In San Francisco it’s: “What can you make, and how many people think it’s cool?” In DC it’s: “Who / how powerful is your boss?” In LA it’s: “What powerful people / how many people know who you…

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Divest not for them, but for you

Divest not for them, but for you

The latest debate about divestment in the New York Times brings up some very familiar points. However, there is another reason divestment is powerful and useful, and it relies on our weakness as humans. We should divest not to force a corporation into action, but instead to clear our own minds on the issue. Humans are notoriously afraid of loss. When those invested in the university (via having attended and donated, or by receiving monthly paychecks) have an opportunity to…

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Are transit-first policies bad for poorer residents pushed out of the urban core?

Are transit-first policies bad for poorer residents pushed out of the urban core?

TL;DR: Like every other article who’s title is a question, the answer is no – we have a skewed view of cars and transit. When you look at the issue, increasing road capacity doesn’t help, and transit is proven to make a city more affordable. Recently I was discussing my Limits of Acceptable Terribleness post with a coworker and we disagreed about my assertions about highways. My argument there is that building more highways with the goal of decreasing travel…

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Blame, root causes, and the Isla Vista Tragedy

Blame, root causes, and the Isla Vista Tragedy

It’s hard to ignore the news from Santa Barbara. It’s also hard to emotionally deal with not ignoring the news from Santa Barbara. And while the internet probably does not need more words on the subject, I find writing this to be cathartic and hope that it adds to the conversation. I’m going to talk about blame, and root causes instead of symptoms. People are looking around for something easy that can be done, and I don’t think they will find…

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The Limit of Acceptable Terribleness (and coding)

The Limit of Acceptable Terribleness (and coding)

This article about how awful programming is has been making the rounds, amongst my non-coding friends as well. It’s a great article, using witty analogies to describe the absurd underpinnings of the technical systems we take for granted. For instance: “Not a single living person knows how everything in your five-year-old MacBook actually works. Why do we tell you to turn it off and on again? Because we don’t have the slightest clue what’s wrong with it, and it’s really…

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Climbing is the new golf, and kiteboarding is the new yachting

Climbing is the new golf, and kiteboarding is the new yachting

The other day I was at Dogpatch Boulders and a realization struck me: At least for the tech industry, climbing is the new golf. What does this mean? Well, for decades golf has been the sport of business. You could catch up with a business partner, pitch a deal, have a low-key brainstorming session, develop your plan to kick Larry off the board, etc. while hitting small balls in acres of green fields set aside from the real world. Exclusive,…

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When should you itemize your federal deduction if you live in California?

When should you itemize your federal deduction if you live in California?

It’s tax time again, which means everyone I know has to put up with my complaining about Intuit’s (makers of TurboTax) lobbying for more complicated tax laws. In any case, if you’re doing your own taxes and you make enough to live in San Francisco at least semi-comfortably*, you should probably be itemizing your federal tax deduction. So California has fairly high taxes, which includes the CA SDI 1% for disability and paid family leave. Whether you’re happy about California being…

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Thoughts About Recent Books I’ve Read

Thoughts About Recent Books I’ve Read

Average is Over, by Tyler Cowen “Tyler Cowen may very well turn out to be this decade’s Thomas Friedman” was a quote on the back of the book. This quote is accurate. In a more serious vein, while I have a ton of problems with his conclusions and writing, his heuristic for how to choose a career is very valid: In your work, are you competing directly against something a slightly smarter machine could do (aka assembly line worker)? Yes? You’re…

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Thoughts about “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital”

Thoughts about “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital”

This is a totally eye-opening view of how capitalism and technology advances interact. This is going to be on my list of must-read books for anyone, especially anyone working in or investing in tech. In “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital”, Carlota Perez argues that the technological advances and financial capital interact to create “surges”, what others generally call “long waves”. This surge encompasses the lifecycle of an entire “techno-economic paradigm”, a fancy word to describe how a society and its…

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Overcompensating racial ‘colorblindness’

Overcompensating racial ‘colorblindness’

Pretending that the world is a place where race doesn’t matter is pretty bad. You see this on the Daily Show, where some hapless (but who should know better) southern white congressman just doesn’t understand why everyone can’t agree racism is dead. You also see it in Silicon Valley, with those who proclaim it a meritocracy and claim that any racial imbalances are a problem with the education pipeline and not some issue with hiring or culture. I’m not here…

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What went wrong in climate legislation in 2009/2010

What went wrong in climate legislation in 2009/2010

This week I came across a very interesting report. Theda Skocpol (a totally badass Political Science professor at Harvard) took a look at the reasons why liberals were successful in passing Obamacare but not with Cap & Trade for carbon emissions. It’s quite a read at 133 pages, and I figured my post this week could take a look. However, in my research for this post, I ended going down the rabbit hole of debates on Grist about this article- somehow I missed…

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Bret Victor’s ‘driving principle’: necessary but not sufficient

Bret Victor’s ‘driving principle’: necessary but not sufficient

A little while ago I finally got around to watching Bret Victor’s “Inventing on Principle”. Transcript here. The main realization that Brett is trying to get across is that the most successful and most satisfied humans are those who have devoted their life to a driving principle. An example of this is would be Richard Stallman with free software, Alan Kay with a goal to ‘amplify human reach, and bring new ways of thinking to a faltering civilization that desperately needed…

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Change the narrative: privacy should be considered as a type of property to protect it

Change the narrative: privacy should be considered as a type of property to protect it

Thinking about the recent Verizon/PRISM/Muscular releases, the StopWatchingUs protest, and seeing the same “I’ve got nothing to hide” argument come up again, I’ve been thinking that perhaps the way to solve this from a public image perspective is to change the narrative in society. Instead of fighting for privacy arguing about privacy’s intrinsic value, we can discuss privacy as a form of personal property and gain some of property’s protections for privacy. That idea may have some cons, but perhaps could…

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