1. The Humanity We Can’t Relinquish
“More and more of us these days seem to be living at post-human speeds determined by machines, to the point where we barely have time for kids or friends. But if we’re feeling less than human — or pretending we can engineer mortality away — for most of us it’s a choice we’re making, and can unmake tomorrow.”
2. The Flourishing Business of Fake YouTube Views
“At one point in 2013, YouTube had as much traffic from bots masquerading as people as it did from real human visitors.”
3. War Hero Turned Bank Robber Writes the New Great American Novel
“The strange story of how Mr. Walker — a war hero with no criminal history — became a serial bank robber who evaded police for months sounds like the plot of a heist movie or thriller. Instead, Mr. Walker wrote an unsettling literary novel.”
4. Go Ahead, Speak for Yourself
“Having an identity doesn’t, by itself, authorize you to speak on behalf of everyone of that identity.”
5. Science Alone Won’t Save the Earth. People Have to Do That.
“A better future won’t be realized through unquestioning faith in the safety of scientifically defined environmental limits or in unlimited technological capacities to avoid environmental consequences. When there is no single optimal solution, no amount of rational debate, or even computational intelligence, can find one. Science does not, cannot and should not have all the answers — not for earth’s limits, nor for human futures. A future governed solely by rationality and scientific evidence offers no safe space in these times.”
6. Why the Songs of Summer Sound the Same
“Through the mid-’90s, each summer’s hits were a relatively diverse set. But since about 2000, the songs each year have been more similar. So what happened?”
“The notion of nerds being kinder than other men fades faster every day.”
8. Don’t Let TripAdvisor Kill Adventure
“Greater access to information means fewer impromptu decisions and fewer surprises.”
9. How the Soulquarians Birthed D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ and Transformed Jazz
“Voodoo stood out at once for its principled stand against the prevailing aesthetic of pop-R&B, which had been steadily marching toward digital clarity and precision. This album trafficked instead in murk and sweat, warp and grit. There were throwback energies in the music: not just vintage Prince but also Hendrix, James Brown, and Sly and the Family Stone. The critic Jayson Greene has called it ‘a murmured album, music made from the implications of other music.’ On more than one level, that meant jazz.”
10. The End Is Near, and It’s Cool to Watch
“As is the case with many apocalyptic or dystopian cinematic visions today, though, How It Ends is just too damn pretty. Every awful day ends with a scenic sunset over the purple plain, and even the doom clouds have high pictorial value. For a stark contrast to How It Ends, and this trend in general, check out the 1970 movie No Blade of Grass, directed by Cornel Wilde, a matinee idol turned interesting filmmaker.”
11. How Civil Must America Be?
“Like it or not — and many do like it — gun money does a lot for Grinnell.”
12. Looking Back at the Economic Crash of 2008
“As is often the case with financial crashes, markets and experts alike turned out to have been focused on the wrong things, blind to the true problem that was metastasizing.”
13. William T. Vollmann Would Like a Word or Two About Climate Change. Or 1,200 Pages.
“The first volume, No Immediate Danger, deals mostly with the nuclear disaster at Fukushima; the second, No Good Alternative, takes on coal, oil and natural gas. He has stacked his reporting high, giving us interview after interview with local people in places ravaged by our need for power and by our wastefulness: those living near the nuclear plant, occupants of West Virginia hollers whose communities have suffered environmental wreckage from coal mining, unhappy neighbors of fracking pads, coal workers in Bangladesh and oil workers in Abu Dhabi.”
14. Against Progress
“How to hold together an intellectual bouquet that combines the simple blooms of village life and the hothouse hybrids of unfettered economic development?”
15. In Order to Write, It Must Be Right
“A room of one’s own? Grant Snider thinks a writer needs a lot more than that.”
16. Some Online ‘Mobs’ Are Vicious. Others Are Perfectly Rational.
“There are those who lack institutional power because of discrimination, and then there are those who are kept out of polite society because they are amoral ghouls. The true nature of a mob becomes a lot clearer once you differentiate between the two.”
17. War Without End
“The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. Astonishingly expensive, strategically incoherent, sold by a shifting slate of senior officers and politicians and editorial-page hawks, the wars have continued in varied forms and under different rationales each and every year since passenger jets struck the World Trade Center in 2001. They continue today without an end in sight, reauthorized in Pentagon budgets almost as if distant war is a presumed government action.”