Blog posts

  • The lightbulb and Edison in one

    Johan Cruijff is art:

    [Via Ben McLannahan, commenting on this Simon Kuper article prompted by Cruyff's death 1. Kuper's article, from which I borrowed the title of this post, is also worth a look.]

    1. Financial Times article: registration may be required to view.

  • The only industry safe from disruption

    Evgeny Morozov's withering review of The Industries of the Future by one-time US State Department advisor-turned-wannabe Thought Leader Alec Ross is a terrific read:

    Ross's brief moment of national fame had more to do with his penchant for self-promotion than innovation. In summer 2010, Ross and Cohen took a delegation of American technology executives from the likes of Cisco and Microsoft to Damascus to meet with Bashar al-Assad - strange are the twists of twenty-first-century statecraft. Never missing an opportunity to show off, the pair tweeted all the fun they were having in Syria. (Cohen: "I'm not kidding when I say I just had the greatest frappuccino ever at Kalamoun University north of Damascus"; Ross: "Creative Diplomacy: @jaredcohen challenged Minister of Telecom to cake-eating contest.") […]

    There are occasional wild predictions, which are either irrelevant or impossible to substantiate. What good is it to say that in the future you will be able to host a dinner party with eight people at the table, all speaking different languages, while the voice in your ear will be whispering the language of your choice? Moreover, do you know anybody with a burning need to organize such a dinner party?

    This book by the State Department's former innovation adviser merely attests to the intellectual bankruptcy of the term "innovation," which in the hands of people like Ross has ceased to have any substantive meaning. For Ross, "innovation" is an activity that will prepare you for the future—which can, of course, be foreseen if you surround yourself with enough "innovators." But what exactly makes Ross an innovator? Tweeting about Cohen's cake-eating contest in Syria? That may very well be: mastery of social media is what passes for savvy technology strategy these days.

    [Via The Overspill]

  • Tarot Cards

    Tarot cards for Principles of Complex Systems and Complex Networks:

    Robust yet fragile Generating functions Spherical cows

    Very nice work.

    [Via FlowingData]

  • London Deconstruction

    Carsten Witte's London Deconstruction does a fine job of making London's tall buildings look otherworldly and distinctly menacing.

    From Mordor?

  • If Trump turns out to be the answer, I'm incredibly proud that Jeb Bush did not want to be any part of the vile question.

    I appreciate that most of the English-speaking world feels like we've all heard far too much about US presidential politics this year, but this profile of Mike Murphy, the political consultant who ran the campaign that raised US$118 million trying to get Jeb Bush the Republican nomination is at least a good read:

    Murphy's clients have won around two dozen Senate and gubernatorial races (everyone from John Engler to Mitt Romney to Christie Todd Whitman to Arnold Schwarzenegger). If you notice a theme, it's that he often helps Republicans win in Democratic states. Likewise, he's played a major role in assisting three losing presidential candidates (McCain, Lamar! Alexander, and Jeb!). If you again notice a theme, it's that his presidential candidates sometimes seem more excited about their first names than the electorate does.

    Like all hired guns in his trade, he's taken his share of mercenary money just for the check. But Murphy says when it comes to presidentials, he thinks it matters more and is a sucker for long shots. "I have friends I believe in who want to run. I'm a romantic, so I keep falling for that pitch." Jeb wasn't exactly a long shot, I remind him. Like hell he wasn't, says Murphy. It's a hard slog, not being a Grievance Candidate this year. "He was the guy who was handing out policy papers when Trump was handing out broken bottles."

    Since a candidate is not permitted by law to discuss campaign specifics with his super-PAC once he declares, a law Murphy vows was strictly observed ("I'm too pretty to go to jail"), I ask him what he would've told Jeb during the campaign had he been allowed to. Over the years, Murphy has forged a reputation of telling his candidates the truth, no matter how bitter the medicine. (He once had to tell a congressional client that his toupee was unconvincing.) Though Murphy's tongue is usually on a hair-trigger, he stops and ponders this question for a beat. He then says he would've told Jeb, "What the f - were we thinking?" […]

    I can totally imagine a lightly fictionalised version of this guy showing up on an alternate version of The West Wing, one where we ended up following Ainsley Hayes over to the Republican side of the game for a season or two. Whether that's an accurate reflection of his merits 1 or just a sign of how badly I miss The West Wing, I leave it to you to decide.

    While I'm on the subject of the Current Situation in US politics, over at Slacktivist there's a plea for guidance:

    I need help working through this. I’m starting to suspect that the 2016 election might disprove the possibility of the future invention of time travel.

    We’ve watched Donald Trump rack up a steady stream of GOP primary victories. As he moves closer to securing the Republican nomination, we move closer to the disastrous possibility of Donald Trump actually being elected president.

    But note what we haven’t yet seen — the sudden appearance of dozens of time-traveling visitors from the future desperately scrambling to prevent that from happening. That’s surprising. […]


    [Via Longform.org]

    1. Or the abilities of Matt Labash, the journalist who wrote the profile?

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