An Aquarium, a Teeny Tiny One for Your Phone, Filled with Plump Little Micro-Organisms

1 year ago

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I've been working on a thing, day and night, a radio documentary called Containers. It has become an insane and unlikely labor of love. The premise is that if you want to see how capitalism works right now, there is no better microcosm than the system that moves shipping containers around the world. And it just so happens that the Port of Oakland is a key link in the system of global trade. So, I went up in a crane, rode on tugboats, walked around Target with sailors, threw microphones into the water, digitized dozens of hours of tapes of longshoremen-poets, toured one of the last American container ships, visited a robotic warehouse, and went to the 70th birthday gumbo party of a key environmental leader in West Oakland. It'll come out in 8-parts, starting tomorrow. I will say this: It's my best work in years. So, subscribe now and let me know what you think as it rolls out. (You can always just reply to one of these emails to land in my inbox.)
Ah, and if you want to hear more about this and what else I've been thinking about, I was on Longform last week. That Aaron Lammer is a great interviewer.  
1. One scenario I hadn't really considered: that a Trump regime would actively slow automation technologies. Or at least the charismatic, well-known types like self-driving cars
She said the Trump administration wanted to ensure it 'is a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not an impediment. In particular, I want to challenge Silicon Valley, Detroit, and all other auto industry hubs to step up and help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technology.' Companies including Alphabet Inc's self-driving car Waymo unit, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co, Uber Technologies Inc, Tesla Inc and other are aggressively pursuing automated vehicle technologies. Chao said she was 'very concerned' about the potential impact of automated vehicles on employment. There are 3.5 million U.S. truck drivers alone and millions of others employed in driving-related occupations."
2. Cars generate a lot of data exhaust that they already capture and will try to monetize.
"The other set of data is generated by the people in the car; a massive amount of information flowing in and out about where they're going and what they're doing. Last year in the U.S. market alone Chevrolet collected 4,220 terabytes of data from customer's cars. McKinsey forecasts that this could grow into a $450 to 750 billion market by 2030. Retailers, advertisers, marketers, product planners, financial analysts, government agencies, and so many others will eagerly pay to get access to that information."
3. It is fashionable to trace a straight line from postmodernists to alternative-fact peddlers, but ... 
"I will admit to not having devoured the entire canon myself, but in none of what I have read did I encounter the idea that it was 'respectable to be cynical about truth and facts'; rather, I encountered numerous early investigations into what was an already-existing phenomenon regarding the normalisation of cynicism about facts, particularly (though far from exclusively) in political discourses. Postmodernism was not dogma but diagnosis; blaming Foucault for post-truth politics is akin to blaming your death on the doctor who tells you you have cancer."
4. Meet Oakland's storied black whaling captain, William Shorey.
"Under headlines that inevitably blared his nickname 'Black Ahab,' articles described him as hero who battled typhoons and saved his crew from horrific disasters. The media swooned over his brilliant, beautiful wife, Julia Ann, the daughter of one of San Francisco’s wealthiest Black families. Later in life, he was celebrated as a pillar of Oakland’s early African-American community for his philanthropic work, such as hosting a dinner party with Booker T. Washington to raise funds for the Tuskegee Institute."
5. This might be the most quixotic smartphone idea I've ever heard of: living organisms *inside* your phone.
"And then there was Google’s favorite: an aquarium, a teeny tiny one for your phone, filled with plump little micro-organisms called tardigrades, like a high-tech, living, eating, breathing Tamagotchi. Midnight Commercial had expected to launch the aquarium module this spring, but Google’s wild hardware dreams shattered last summer, sealing the fate of a project hamstrung by time, money, and worst of all, reality. Midnight Commercial engineers swear the tardigrade idea would have worked, with one caveat: it’s your responsibility to keep the creatures alive. The studio could make no guarantees for how long your micro-pets would survive."

1. | @katerinekargas 2. 3. | @jkleske 4. | @coffinlifebuoy 5. | @dtweney
5it by Alexis Madrigal
Fairview Park Oakland, CA 94618 USA
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