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There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

the choices we face
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:55 pm EDT, Oct 18, 2014

Thomas Wells:

There is an advantage to a government being so obnoxiously direct about its paternalism: one can politicize and challenge the government's limitation of our choices. This may not be possible if the state instead tries to change how we behave by exploiting our cognitive weaknesses about how we understand the choices we face.

Dan Geer:

You have the biggest financial firms saying that their dependencies are no longer manageable, and that the State's monopoly on the use of force must be brought to bear.

Mikey Dickerson:

These problems are fixable; these problems are important, but they require you to choose to work on them.

James Comey:

It is time to have open and honest debates about liberty and security.

Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Steven Rich:

Prince George's police spent $382,000 on license-plate readers ... and an undisclosed amount on a "cell site simulator" that can surreptitiously track cellphones. The Prince George's police spokeswoman said the cellphone-tracking system is only used under court order and that the department "follows best practice policies" when spending forfeiture funds.


Last year America's courts and law-enforcement agencies served 37,839 subpoenas, court orders, and search warrants for location data just to one phone company, AT&T. This year's figure had already climbed to 30,886 by the end of June, the company says.

Paraphrasing David Pritchard:

... every detail of students' interactions -- how long they spend watching lectures, how often they pause or repeat sections, how much of the textbook they read and when, and so on -- is recorded ...

Steve Lohr:

Sociometric Solutions advises companies using sensor-rich ID badges worn by employees. These sociometric badges, equipped with two microphones, a location sensor and an accelerometer, monitor the communications behavior of individuals -- tone of voice, posture and body language, as well as who spoke to whom for how long.

Evgeny Morozov:

We no longer need to visit the proverbial bazaar: the market will find us in the comfort of our homes, making us an offer we cannot refuse.

an epidemic to freak out about
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:55 pm EDT, Oct 18, 2014

James Comey:

I believe people should be skeptical of government power. I am.

Morgan Marquis-Boire:

The big take-away is that cleartext is just dead.

Michael Daniel:

I would really like to kill the password dead.

Martin McKeay:

This may be the event that kills FOSS.

James Comey:

We confront serious threats -- threats that are changing every day.

Frank Bruni:

More than 30,000 Americans die from gunshots every year. Anyone looking for an epidemic to freak out about can find one right there.

somewhat incoherent, but deeply felt
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:27 pm EDT, Oct 16, 2014

Paul Graham:

If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige.

Sam Nunn:

The president's vision was a significant change in direction. But the process has preserved the status quo.

Jim Jarmusch:

I am suspicious of all politicians, especially those who get elected.

Counterfactual Obama:

Pretty much everything my best people have come up with only makes things worse.

Dr. Seuss:

I said, "I do not fear those pants
With nobody inside them."
I said, and said, and said those words.
I said them. But I lied them.

Thomas Wells:

We choose a government on the basis of our understanding of our interests and values, but then the government shapes our understanding in turn.

James R. Gaines:

The sense of aggrievement is comprehensive, bipartisan, somewhat incoherent, but deeply felt. This should be more than disconcerting; it's a situation that could get dangerous. As the Princeton political scientist Mark Beissinger has shown, separatist movements can take hold around contempt for incumbents and the status quo even when protesters have no ideology in common.

Anthony Painter:

We are living in intensely political times. And it is a moment in which mainstream politics will be under intense scrutiny and even threat. Embedded elites do not like that as a notion; dismissal is the simplest response.

The modern state is designed around competing elites who are insiders in the system. The electoral system maintains this duopoly. Around this elite contest, a media is constructed and organised, party organisations exist to manufacture majorities to serve it. This system is replicated over time. The state, the party system, the media are all tied together in an enduring status quo.

The stark reality of modern democratic life in western societies is that we are going to see some surprising extinctions. We are in existential territory.

like a forecasting service for a coin-flipping contest
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:37 pm EDT, Oct 15, 2014

Michael Lewis:

Much of what Wall Street sells is less like engineering than like a forecasting service for a coin-flipping contest -- except that no one mistakes a coin-flipping contest for a game of skill.

Douglasville Deputy Chief Gary E. Sparks:

It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

David Samuels:

To be a music executive means linking your dream to someone else's dream, and being open to the entirely real possibility that the person whose dream you share may be a 15-year-old girl from Barbados or a guy who walks into your office with pancake makeup and a cowbell around his neck. Having faith in such people is a stretch; betting one's financial future on what you imagine other people will hear in their music is a further stretch, especially at the fag-end of the music business where a multitalented ex-Mouseketeer like Justin Timberlake is the closest thing that anyone can find to Jimi Hendrix.

Adam Piore:

When the odds are so small that they are difficult to conceptualize, the risk we perceive has less to do with outcomes than with how much fear or hope we are feeling when we make a decision, how we "frame" and organize sets of logical facts, and even how we perceive ourselves in relation to others. Once you know the alternate set of rules, plumb the literature, and speak to the experts, the popularity of the lottery suddenly makes a lot more sense. It's a game where reason and logic are rendered obsolete, and hope and dreams are on sale.

Nathan Jurgenson:

The data is big enough to entertain any story.

Carina Chocano:

Stories help us make sense of a world that would otherwise seem chaotic and unpredictable, and derive meaning from lives that might otherwise seem pointless and random. And stories, as Marshall McLuhan famously observed, adapt to the mediums that convey them.

Julie Snyder and Sarah Larson:

"We don't know exactly how much we have figured out." They've figured out plenty, but what is the whole truth? And how do you know when you've found it? Can it even be found?

Evgeny Morozov:

As citizens in an era of Datafeed, we still haven't figured out how to manage our way to happiness. But there's a lot of money to be made in selling us the dials.

the future of this industry depends on darkness
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:37 pm EDT, Oct 15, 2014

Nathan Jurgenson on Christian Rudder:

Big Data always stands in the shadow of the bigger data to come. The assumption is that there is more data today and there will necessarily be even more tomorrow, an expansion that will bring us ever closer to the inevitable "pure" data totality: the entirety of our everyday actions captured in data form, lending themselves to the project of a total causal explanation for everything. Over and over again, Rudder points out the size, power, and limitless potential of his data only to impress upon readers how it could be even bigger. This long-held positivist fantasy -- the complete account of the universe that is always just around the corner -- thereby establishes a moral mandate for ever more intrusive data collection.

Michiru Hoshino:

Oh! I feel it. I feel the cosmos!

Edward Kleinbard:

The nature of life is that we do not control it. Both our native talents and our good fortune are distributed through processes that we cannot fathom and do not 'earn.' Our loud proclamations that what we take from the market is our just desserts is just noise made against the darkness, trying to still the voice inside that asks, why me and not them?

Dannie Abse:

Ask the moon.
The mystery named
is not the mystery caged.

Adam Piore:

As one trademarked lottery slogan goes, "Hey, you never know."

Megan Finnerty:

The future of this industry depends on darkness.

Silvia Killingsworth:

What if aliens turn out to be delicious?

the great task remaining before us
Topic: Miscellaneous 3:01 pm EDT, Oct 12, 2014

David Runciman:

The institutions Americans really hate -- such as Congress -- are the ones they control themselves.


It's important to understand that it isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.

Errol Morris:

Does the world really have to be this way? Why can't it be just a little bit better?

Melinda Gates:

Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism.

Lawrence Lessig:

We still have the power to fix our democracy.

We will, if you help.

Ira Glass:

Don't wait till you're older, or in some better job than you have now. Don't wait for anything.

Ronald Reagan:

The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.

how self-reinforcing the country's political malaise is
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:49 pm EDT, Oct 12, 2014

Evan Osnos:

In 2012, super PACs spent a billion dollars; seventy-three per cent of the money came from a hundred people.

David Bromwich:

Between the 1970s and the early 2000s, when stock options and other compensation packages became common, the average chief executive went from being paid 20 times as much as the median employee to being paid 400 times as much.

David Leonhardt:

The typical American family makes less than the typical family did 15 years ago, a statement that hadn't previously been true since the Great Depression. The political turmoil isn't likely to end until the economic reality changes.

Evan Osnos:

When I lived in Beijing, the Chinese often complained that their government was riddled with corruption, and they asked me if America had similar problems. I usually replied that though our government has its crooks, the naked exchange of favors for money is minimized by the rule of law and a free press. Now I'm not so sure.

Francis Fukuyama:

The depressing bottom line is that given how self-reinforcing the country's political malaise is, and how unlikely the prospects for constructive incremental reform are, the decay of American politics will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition and galvanize it into action.

he thought the attack would change everything
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:48 pm EDT, Oct 12, 2014

Vikram Kumar:

Since 2013, 650 million new physical objects have come online.

Adam Caudill:

People look at these things and see them as nothing more than storage devices. They don't realize there's a reprogrammable computer in their hands.

Rick Robinson:

Vulnerabilities are inevitable. The best way to identify and correct them is to start by actively looking for them.

James Comey:

There are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who've been hacked by the Chinese and those who don't know they've been hacked by the Chinese.

Michael Riley:

While the hack was successfully disrupted, it revealed how vulnerable financial exchanges -- as well as banks, chemical refineries, water plants, and electric utilities -- are to digital assault.

One official who experienced the event firsthand says he thought the attack would change everything, that it would force the U.S. to get serious about preparing for a new era of conflict by computer.

He was wrong.

conceptually untenable
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:48 pm EDT, Oct 12, 2014

A.O. Scott:

Adulthood as we have known it has become conceptually untenable.

Pete Warden:

I'm a grown man who still plays Dungeons and Dragons!

Andy Yelton, on Jamie Smith:

He wanted to be a ninja. But nobody wants to be a ninja as an adult. I guess Jamie just never stopped.

a kind of existential lepidoptery
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:48 pm EDT, Oct 12, 2014

Carina Chocano:

It's a beautiful dream, the idea that virtual reality could evolve into a kind of existential lepidoptery, dedicated to the melancholic and somewhat perverse pursuit of capturing and preserving the evanescent moment, the bygone place, the traditional way of life before it is transformed by technology.

Chris Coyne:

Time was, all these things we said in passing were ephemeral. We could conveniently pretend to forget. Or actually forget. Thanks to the way our lives have changed, we no longer have that option.

Rebecca Brock:

You can't even remember what I'm trying to forget.

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