All posts filed under: recent

Streaming Will Never Be as Bad as Cable

Apple and Disney launched new subscription video streaming services in November 2019, joining Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access and HBO, which will become HBO Max in 2020, placing HBO branding and original programming at the helm of a subscription service to stream the content of the AT&T Warnermedia conglomerate. Comcast/NBCUniversal will be launching a streaming service called Peacock in 2020 as well. Since every major media company will soon have its own streaming subscription, we can expect them to stop licensing their film catalogs and their archives of television shows to existing streaming services like Netflix. If you are a current Netflix subscriber, you will lose access to popular shows like Friends and The Office as well as Disney, Pixar and Marvel content. Hulu is losing South Park and Rick and Morty, which will stream on HBO Max, while Disney, which owns much of Hulu, will be adding shows from the FX network to that service, to try to replace some of what Hulu will be losing to HBO Max and Disney+, That …

In Space, Let Meritocracy Reign Supreme

On October 21, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he foresees NASA will land astronauts on the moon by 2035. “We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” he told lawmakers. “The moon is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies.”  The article that follows comprises the sixth instalment in “Our Martian Moment,” a multi-part Quillette series in which our authors discuss what kind of society humans should build on Mars if and when we succeed in colonizing the red planet.   For science-fiction writers, Mars always has been a blank slate on which to write our hopes and project our fears. Ray Bradbury imagined a Mars settled by farmers who cover the red planet with idyllic midwestern American towns. Robert Heinlein, swept up in 1960s counterculture, imagined a Mars where gnostic aliens teach free love, spiritual wisdom and psychic powers to a hippy messiah. More recently, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy—science fiction’s War and Peace—imagines …

How Most American Kids Are Kept Out of the Best Public Schools

Nothing about North Avenue in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago feels like a political barrier or a sociological fault line. Residents of Old Town cross busy North Avenue every day. If you live north of North, you might cross the street to meet a friend for a pint at the Old Town Ale House. If you live to the south, you might cross North Avenue to see a show at the world-famous Second City comedy club or to take your family to the 11am choir service at St. Michael’s Catholic Church. If you need medical care in Old Town, no matter which side of North Avenue you live on, you have your choice of Family Urgent Care on the north or Physicians Immediate Care on the south. Both receive excellent ratings from patients. But North Avenue is a fault line in one extremely important way. If you stand at the corner of Larrabee and North, there are two public elementary schools within a mile. Both schools are operated by Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Both …

Can We Boost Empathy Through Perspective-Taking?

Are humans hardwired for compassion? Glancing over my bookshelves, titles such as Born to Be Good, The Compassionate Instinct, and The Altruistic Brain remind me that many of my scientific colleagues answer this question with an enthusiastic “yes.” Each of these books, in its own way, teaches that the animal designated Homo sapiens has evolved to care for strangers. It’s just part of who we are. If it doesn’t come effortlessly, all it takes is some patience and some practice. Attend a workshop. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Read some fiction. Meditate. Read a book about compassion. Compassion is inside of you. You just need to nurture it. One of the ways we have been taught to nurture empathy is by deliberately trying to take the perspective of a suffering person. “Before you judge people, walk a mile in their shoes,” we exhort our compassion-challenged friends and family. And we parents regularly encourage our kids to imagine the feelings of the people who might be hurt by their self-centered behavior, hoping that our admonitions are …

How Long Before the Regime Falls in Iran?

The death of Iranian Quds Force commander General Quassem Soleimani has produced some truly bizarre media coverage. Some Western media outlets are framing Soleimani’s death as the loss of a deeply beloved hero, such in this January 7th episode of the New York Times The Daily podcast. The podcast spends more than 20 minutes describing how Soleimani was a beloved totem, a living security blanket that Iranians believe protected Iran from instability (by fostering instability in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, apparently). The closest thing in the podcast to an acknowledgement that Soleimani led a group of armed thugs that viciously suppressed dissent in Iran, including turning their guns on Iranian protestors less than two months ago, was a single sentence in the podcast: “To be clear, there are plenty of Iranians who did not love or respect Soleimani.” “Plenty” seems an inadequate way to characterize the majority of Iranians. Seventy-nine percent of Iranians would vote the Islamic Republic out of existence if given a chance, according to one poll. Yet somehow that torrent of …

Margaret Atwood Wrote a Great Novel. Unfortunately, Her Fans Turned It Into a Cult

Among the notable cultural events of the last decade, one must count the emergence of the Handmaid’s Tale franchise: the hit television series loosely based on the 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, the novel’s return to bestsellerdom as a trade paperback, and The Testaments, Atwood’s 2019 sequel, which won the Booker Prize and has topped the New York Times best-seller list, where it is currently in its 16th week and in fifth place. It is a phenomenon that has made Atwood, who turned 80 last November, not only a celebrity but a cultural icon: “Queen Margaret,” as The Atlantic recently dubbed her. She was the subject of a recent 7,000-word interview in New York magazine, as well as one of Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year” for 2019.  There is a certain irony in Atwood’s cultural queenship. The significance of The Handmaid’s Tale is not primarily artistic but political: Set in a speculative world where the United States has been taken over by an oppressive, hideously misogynistic regime, it is seen as …

Goa, Gods, Gandhi and Greed: Lessons in Colonialism from Four Boardgames

It’s an eight-and-a-half-hour drive from Toronto to Indianapolis. And the route, which takes me through Sarnia, Detroit, Toledo and Fort Wayne, is far from scenic. But Gen Con is the biggest boardgame convention in North America, and there’s no direct flight between the two cities. Which is why, during the first four days of August, I spent 17 hours in my car getting to the gaming floor at Lucas Oil Stadium, best known as the home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. Almost 70,000 gamers attended Gen Con this year, including fans of every boardgame under the sun. I tell people that boardgaming isn’t a culture. It’s really a collection of subcultures, since fans of one gaming niche often have little interest in any of the others. But balkanized as it is, the hobby has taken on some unifying characteristics in recent years, including a commitment to diversity, inclusivity and what might generally be called political “wokeness.” Gen Con itself has an anti-harassment policy that bans “any behavior that…produces an unsafe or non-inclusive environment,” including “offensive …

Why I Resigned from Tavistock: Trans-Identified Children Need Therapy, Not Just ‘Affirmation’ and Drugs

Over the past five years, there has been a 400 percent rise in referrals to the Tavistock Centre in north London, the only National Health Service (NHS) clinic in Britain that treats children with gender-identity developmental issues. During this period, there also has been an abrupt shift in the composition of the children seeking treatment. Formerly, a significant majority of patients had been young male-to-female children. Now, a significant majority are biological females who claim to have a male gender identity, often following the rapid onset of gender dysphoria in their teenage years. We do not fully understand what is going on in this complex area, and it is essential to examine the phenomenon systematically and objectively. But this has become difficult in the current environment, as debate is continually being closed down amidst accusations of transphobia. As I argued in a May, 2019 presentation before the House of Lords, this de facto censorship regime is harming children. Those who advocate an unquestioning “affirmation”-based approach to trans-identified children often will claim that any delay or …

Glassdoor Is Broken

Public reviews serve an essential purpose in holding governments and institutions, stores and restaurants, and teachers and employers accountable. I fully and enthusiastically support transparency, including for private companies like my own. The problem is that literally anyone can lob a reputational bomb online, and it can be as devastating (and career-threatening) as any other kind of exploitive or maliciously opportunistic behavior, including those of unsavory leaders who deserve exposure. Amida Technology Solutions, of which I was a co-founder and where I still serve as CEO, is a 50-person data-management software company, based in Washington D.C. that specializes in health information. I started Amida on my kitchen table in 2013 with two members of the inaugural class of Presidential Innovation Fellows, and raised money from first-tier investors three years later. We grew by 50 percent in 2018 and faster still in 2019. The coming year looks promising. Anyone who has ever started a company from scratch, or made an early-stage investment, would find our nascent success unusual, if not remarkable. Inevitably, over the years I’ve …

Studying the Links Between White Supremacist Terrorists and School Shooters

In November, authorities in Colorado arrested a suspect accused of plotting to blow up a synagogue in the city of Pueblo. On Facebook, the suspect expressed support for the Holocaust and indicated that he was “getting ready” to kill people. He also reportedly posted anti-Semitic slogans and pictures of clothing festooned with white-supremacist symbols. It’s possible that his arrest prevented a tragedy similar to the 2018 shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed and six injured. Such incidents have exacerbated Americans’ concerns about domestic terror motivated by white supremacist groups (even if, as the 2019 Dayton shooting and the emergence of Antifa have illustrated, left-wing extremism also is a rising concern). According to one count, 175 people were killed worldwide by white supremacists from 2011 through August, 2019. That is less than one percent of the worldwide terror-related death toll from 2017 alone. But the threat remains significant, especially in countries where politics have become radicalized along racial lines. This month, The Lancet published an article arguing that …