Saturday, April 14, 2018

some links for the weekend

some more eulogies for the recently passed Isao Takahata

Chris Spannos argues that the internet cannot really be saved and that the nature of the internet is so steeped in what some are now calling "surveillance capitalism" that alternatives to it should be sought out.

Grey power and surveillance capitalism nudge regulators to come down too often on the side of commercial and state interests against the public good. But it is the Internet’s own design features which ultimately give rise to new and unprecedented global monopolies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and the rest. It enables the NSA and GCHQ to surveille the personal lives of people around the world. The Internet has become the largest global platform to amplify power and privilege since the end of the cold war; and it cannot be saved.

Of course some context for this sort of rumination has something to do with questions Zuckerberg has and has not answered about the nature of Facebook.

over at Slate, an observation about the "tech bro" idiom used to describe men like Zuckerberg downplays the significance of what men like him have done.


Peter Pan mythology is rampant in the male-dominated world of Silicon Valley, where adult men get free laundry, food, and access to “toys” bearing the ability to change the very fabric of our democracy. These ostensibly eternal children are encouraged to move fast and break things, never looking back at the things that they broke. Even the term “tech bro” evokes youthful collegial stupidity, the anti-frat star armed with hoodies and flash drives rather than Solo cups and Vineyard Vines. And a fair amount of the older journalists covering these “boy kings” play right into this mythos, covering Silicon Valley with a kind of bemused avuncular air, attributing missteps to guilelessness and the apparently inherent childishness of social media and tech toys.
When Uber CEO Travis Kalanick berated an Uber driver for “blaming everything in [his] life on somebody else” rather than taking responsibility, the apology he issued said he had some growing up to do. Kalanick was 40 at the time. And yet eternal youth isn’t available to everyone in Silicon Valley: Despite the fact that Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes is only a few months older than Zuckerberg, her well-deserved fall from grace wasn’t covered with the soft language of immaturity. She was treated like the adult that she and Zuckerberg both are because—surprise!—she’s a woman. As soon as girls hit puberty, they’re subjected to the old adage that women mature faster than men; we face up to the consequences of our actions while simultaneously being treated as ignorant children in any other context. Black girls in particular are never allowed the innocence of childhood: From the age of 5 we’re perceived as needing less protection and nurturing. And lives that are multiple decades long, let alone extended growing up periods, aren’t afforded to actual children like Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, who were perceived as adults before puberty even ended.
Yet with Zuckerberg, we’re supposed to believe that at 33, with children of his own, this “boy-billionaire” is just now coming to terms with his own age. Maybe he’s actually bought into this narrative—it would explain why he’s been issuing the same mea culpa for 10 years. Children are selfish, and they rarely learn from their own mistakes if they aren’t held to any consequences. And that’s one of the many lessons here: If we don’t treat people like an adult the minute they become one, and not a moment earlier or later, they’ll never learn how to act like one
The likelihood that Mark Zuckerberg will get to do a "I was an immature young buck but I'm better now" not altogether unlike some other Mark we've discussed here at considerably more length. 

Over at First Things Paul Griffiths has a letter to an aspiring intellectual.

It's about as long on the long side as to be expected.  One of the observations made along the way is that there are people who would fancy themselves aiming to be intellectuals who are dilletantes (though these categories can and do overlap), people for whom the aura of mystique of being intellectual is the real objective and not the actual life of the mind. 

Which gets me thinking about some blogs at which the question of why there aren't more Christian intellectuals or where they are if they exist.  It has seemed that what those sorts of for-the-public-record musings end up being is the desire for the posture or the pose, for the aura of intellectual this or that rather than actual thought. 

There's stuff about interlocutors and how you might not have them as living contemporaries or you might have them but they might not be in universities.  The distinction between an intellectual and an academic can seem like hairsplitting but I'm going to just run with the distinction as given since it seems that many an academic is not an intellectual at all.  Academia as a credentialing mill is not the same as cultivating a life of the mind. 


Cal of Chelcice said...

At least in much of the US university scene, in numerous departments, there's a kind of hive-mind quality. The key to success is finding some 'school' or clique around a professor, and reapplying his method, insight, paradigm to other situations, trying to get street cred. At least where I am, when it comes to politics, it's no less ignorant then when I worked in food-service, and a lot more social pressure to be on the "right" side of a given, and obvious, position. I was at one guest lecture where the speaker said, more or less, "we now all know there are more than two genders." It wasn't the main topic of the presentation, but I wondered how such a concept was treated as a given. It seems rather obvious to me that the opposite is true. But it creates jobs for degrees that are for issues that may or may not be there, for fields that may or may not offer any actual insight.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

in his book on David, Caleb and Judahite Memory Jacob L. Wright wrote that the theory that Samuel-Kings was a long exercise in whitewashing David's life and exonerating him of any wrongdoing is so completely stupid on its face that anyone who has simply read the biblical narrative can see this isn't the case. But thanks to the dominance of 19th century German scholarship the idiotic idea retained traction and appeal for the better part of two centuries and STILL has people who endorse it despite the fact that this theory about the biblical narrative can't explain why, if the whole aim of the Samuel-Kings editing/writing process was to exonerate David's reign, the Amnon raping Tamar incident was so prominent and why it was so explicitly connected to insurrection moving forward and Nathan's prophetic challenge of David's misuse of royal power and privilege looking backward. Instructing Solomon as to how to work around a promise David made to a man so the man could be assassinated hardly seems like a tale to make David seem exonerated. Nevertheless, there are academics who insist that Samuel-Kings bends over backwards to exonerate David.

If an academic presents a theory powerful and appealing enough, what's actually in the primary source materials doesn't seem to matter.