All posts filed under: Science / Tech

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 …

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 …

Gambling in a Time of Despair

Last year in June, the New York State Senate voted to legalize mobile sports betting. For a moment, it seemed like New York was poised to join its neighbor. New Jersey had sued and successfully convinced the Supreme Court to overturn a federal ban on sports gambling outside Nevada the previous year. The state legalized mobile betting apps shortly afterwards. Now, it was collecting the gambling fees of frustrated commuters from across the Hudson River while New York’s government lost millions of dollars in potential revenue. It was New York’s chance to catch up with the Joneses. “I got racinos who could use the help. I have racetracks who are suffering. This helps everyone and it stops people from going to Jersey,” Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. asserted. As the author of the bill, he claimed that legalization also had “tremendous potential to create jobs and raise significant funding for education and other vital public programs.” Not everyone was so buoyant about the proposal. “I am not a fan, pardon the pun, of the new mobile …

An Evolutionary Explanation for Unscientific Beliefs

“Another theory is that humans were created by God,” announced my tenth-grade biology student as she clicked past PowerPoint slides of Darwin’s finches and on to images of a catastrophic flood. After her presentation, I carefully avoided inane debate and simply reiterated the unique ways in which science helps us make accurate predictions. I then prepared for pushback from parents and administrators. Sure enough, the next day the superintendent of the school district came to my classroom with some creationist literature that he was confident would change my mind on the whole theory of evolution by natural selection thing. It didn’t, but it did lead me to pursue a PhD in educational psychology in my search to explain how such beliefs could be maintained in modern times, particularly in the face of such strong counterevidence. As it turns out, the theory of evolution by natural selection provides a strong explanation for how and why some people don’t believe evolution by natural selection has ever taken place. I initially thought the problem was a matter of …

It’s Time to Pay for Social Media

Information doesn’t want to be free. It’s valuable and wants to earn. And its existence doesn’t free anyone; possessing it, however, can do the opposite. ~Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie A lot of people are angry about the current state of social media. While sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can help us stay connected, educated, and entertained, they’ve also fractured our attention spans, destabilized our mental health, and aided the spread of disinformation worldwide. As the harms of social media have come to light, a debate has emerged around how to remedy them. Some, such as Elizabeth Warren, want to use antitrust laws to break up the tech giants. Others think that we must update regulations to hold companies more accountable for content on their platforms. And still others think that we must abandon social media entirely. Google has too much power, and they're using that power to hurt small businesses, stifle innovation, and tilt the playing field against everyone else. It's time to fight back. That's why I have a plan to break …

The Growth Dilemma

More is more and more is also different ~Benjamin Friedman, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, 2005 For much of the last 70 years, economic growth has lifted the quality of life in Europe, North America, and East Asia, providing social stability after the violent disruptions of World War II. Today, however, many of the world’s most influential leaders, even in the United States, reject the very notion that societies should improve material wealth and boost incomes given what they believe are more important environmental or social equity concerns. This sharp break from the past is occurring as growth in Europe, Japan, and the United States has fallen to half or less of what it was just a generation ago, and while fertility rates are at levels not seen since the medieval era. This promises to create a tsunami of retired people whose retirements can only be addressed by economic growth. The combination of reduced real income, green-driven rises in energy and housing costs, and growing concern about pensions has sparked a new wave of …

The Ranks of Gender Detransitioners Are Growing. We Need to Understand Why

A recent NBC News report warned that media coverage of detransitioners—formerly transgender individuals seeking to return to the gender associated with their biological sex—is misleading and potentially harmful. “No one disputes that transition regret does exist,” author Liam Knox writes. “However, trans advocates say some of the recent coverage around the topic portrays detransitioning as much more common than it actually is.” The article suggests that journalists are creating a “panic” about detransition, and fuelling the “misconception” that trans individuals are “just temporarily confused or suffering from a misdiagnosed psychological disorder.” Knox quotes Dr. Jack Turban, a psychiatric resident at Massachusetts General Hospital who researches the mental health of trans youth, to the effect that “affirming” a child’s gender transition in general (and providing puberty-blocking drugs, in particular) is usually the most prudent course of action—though the article does not offer evidence to support this assertion, nor specify how the associated risks and benefits might be compared. Readers of such articles might not realize that data regarding the medical transition of children and adolescents is …

False Humility Will Not Save the Planet

At the root of our climate problem, writes Pope Francis in his ecological encyclical Laudato Si, lies our human pride and arrogance: “The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves.” Coming from a Catholic Pope, such sentiments are hardly surprising. For centuries, Christians thinkers have railed against pride as the first and worst among the seven deadly sins. But Francis is far from alone in his view. Many climate activists today, even though they don’t necessarily believe in a personal deity, share Francis’ diagnosis of our environmental worries. They too believe that our climate crisis is the result of human overreach and arrogance, of overstepping natural boundaries. Indeed, this secular environmentalist worldview comes with its own account of the fall of man from an original state of harmony with Nature. Once upon a time, humans lived as an animal alongside other animals, keenly aware of our proper place within a larger ecosystem. We enjoyed nature’s bountiful resources, but we were respectful …