Because Everyone Is Like You

2 years ago

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1. It was very hard to pick one graf out of this Jonathan Lethem profile of Adam Curtis.

"So we live, thanks to our advanced systems of monitoring, compensation and control, in a bubble of our own devising. And in Curtis’s critique, contemporary artists and hipsters do as much to create this bubble as the internet itself. 'On a social-media network, it’s very much like being in a heroin bubble. As a radical artist in the 1970s, you used to go and take heroin and wander through the chaos and the collapsing Lower East Side, and you felt safe. That’s very like now. You know you aren’t safe, but you feel safe because everyone is like you. But you don’t have to take heroin, so it’s brilliant. You don’t get addicted, or maybe you do. Mostly you do.'"

2. The Curtis profile led me to this strange fact about the central role of this small town in global risk management.

"East Wenatchee, in Washington state, is known for its apples, not for its financial services. But in a data centre nestled between the orchards and hills, a cluster of 6,000 computers oversees the assets of over 170 pension funds, banks, endowments, insurance companies and others. Whirring around the clock, the machines look at what interest-rate changes, or bank collapses, or natural disasters could mean for trillions of dollars of assets. Around the world, 17,000 traders have the computers’ assessments of these risks at their fingertips when they buy or sell assets."

3. The gold mine at the end of the world, a photo essay.

"Now the region of Chukotka in northeast Russia - not far from Alaska - boasts the most advanced mine in the world. Workers extract around 21 tonnes of gold a year. Photographer Elena Chernyshova spent 10 days at Kupol to document how the miners cope in such an extreme environment. Around 1,200 people spend two months at a time on site, doing alternate 12-hour shifts in the mine and in the mill where the ore is processed."

4. The lesson lurking inside Microsoft Solitaire (and Minesweeper).

"The oldest of the four, Microsoft Solitaire, was first added to Windows 3.0 in 1990. Although the game (sometimes called "Patience") has existed since the late 1700s, this digital version seemed to be demonstrating that in the future we would no longer require a physical deck to play simple card games. But that's not what it was doing at all. Its real aim was far more modest: it was teaching mouse-fluency by stealth. The intention was that Solitaire would get a generation of computer users still most familiar with a command-line input to teach themselves how to drag and drop, without realizing that's what they were doing."

+ Note to self: remember Minesweeper? Keep how many hours you wasted on that stupid game in mind before you make fun of anything kids now do.

5. The hunt for technological verisimilitude in prestige television.

"After days of searching, she encountered a young TV station employee who said he had what she wanted. They jumped in his truck and drove to a swampy transmitter site, where the building’s roof was caved in and mold had overtaken most of the space. There, in a dry corner of a room, was a cornucopia of ’70s-era broadcast equipment: old character costumes from Saturday-morning kids shows, huge pedestal cameras, soundboards, monitors, and the Holy Grail — two well-preserved Quadruplex machines. Royal was so overcome with excitement that she gave her companion an Elaine Benes–esque shove."

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Because Everyone Is Like You

5it by Alexis Madrigal
Fairview Park Oakland, CA 94618 USA
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