Tuesday, March 17th, 2015


Optimize This

George Lucas got the future all wrong (and not just because Star Wars was set in the past). There's no way Obi-Wan Kenobi would have advised Luke Skywalker to close his eyes and feel the force. He would have told Luke to collect copious amounts of data, analyze it, and optimize accordingly. That future, it seems, is already here as Virginia Heffernan suggests in her NYT Mag piece, A Sucker is Optimized Every Minute: "The gut is dead. Long live the data, turned out day and night by our myriad computers and smart devices. Not that we trust the data, as we once trusted our guts. Instead, we 'optimize' it. We optimize for it. We optimize with it." We're creating a future where Yoda is more likely to be a Jedi data warehouse manager.


Fall (of) Television

According to the WSJ, Apple plans to launch a television service this Fall that will include several major networks (but might exclude NBC because of a dispute with Comcast). At this point, it might really make sense for Apple to acquire Netflix and let them run the online TV business so the mothership can stay focused on hardware and software.

+ The more aggressive move into TV could make the already massive Apple even bigger. The company is already set to join the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Business Insider looks back at the original 12 members of the 1896 Dow and asks, where are they now?


It’s Complicated

"Israeli elections are, in a word, complicated." As Israelis head to the polls, The Atlantic's Edward Delman provides a brief guide to the unexpected. And Vox provides an overview of the very basics.

+ Netanyahu already announced that a vote for him is a vote against the two state solution. And as the the polls opened, he offered this in a Facebook post: "The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out."


Toughing It, Out

There have already been several earlier than expected, health-related NFL retirements that seemed like reactions (at least in part) to concussion risks. Yesterday, San Francisco 49er Chris Borland announced that he was quitting the game, and he left no doubt about the reason: "I think I'd have to take on some risks that, as a person, I don't want to take on." And Borland has only played one year (and that year was a major success). Grantland's Bill Barnwell calls the move the definition of tough: "What makes it so different is that it's a proactive retirement." (Borland is leaving a lot of money on the table so he'll be more likely to remember there is a table.)

+ WaPo: Is Chris Borland's retirement the beginning of the end for the NFL?


Parents Make No Sense

If you look over the crime statistics from the past couple decades, you'll notice a trend. Abuse of children is down, abductions of children are down, motor vehicle deaths involving children are down. And the list goes on. Yet, parents seem to be more protective of their kids than ever. Over the past forty years, the number of kids who walk or bike to school has dropped from 48% to 13%. In NY Mag, Jennifer Senior tries to explain why we live in an era of irrational parenting. "We've deferred having children for so long ... and we have so many fewer children than we once did ... that we assign them a far higher value and therefore fret far more about their physical well-being." I'm not sure I buy that conclusion. My parents generously assigned me the value of $80 three times a week for my shrink, and $45 twice a week for Hebrew School.


Judging the Jury

In The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead points out that Robert Durst is not the only one associated with the Jinx media spectacle who should feel guilty. The show's finale represented "a grotesque concatenation in which vigilante investigation was queasily merged with commercial sensationalism ... every viewer who is not too stupid or too full of himself to know what was going on knows that what we did was morally indefensible."

+ NYT: Irresistible TV, but Durst Film Tests Ethics, Too.

+ Reality TV has historically been anything but real. However, that trend seems to be changing. Consider the Cambodian TV show that reunites families scattered by the Khmer Rouge.


Thirteen Steps Back

"Nowhere in the field of medicine is treatment less grounded in modern science." The twelve-step program is the dominant treatment in the U.S. when it comes to alcoholism. But researchers have found that many forms of treatment are more effective. Gabrielle Glaser on the The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous.

+ Mosaic: One man's quixotic quest to cure addiction by taking the high out of drugs.


Ruining Tulum

"Nothing would bring us the business that used to be brought from TripAdvisor when we were number one in Tulum." Outside on the outsized influence of a single travel site: Inside the Mad, Mad World of TripAdvisor.


In Ted We Trust

Megan Hustad reflects on the Church of Ted: "I grew up among Christian evangelicals and I recognize the cadences of missionary zeal when I hear them. TED, with its airy promises, sounds a lot like a secular religion." That must be why I always picture Jesus wearing a headset mic.


The Bottom of the News

In one of the more confusing corporate moves in recent memory, Starbucks is encouraging baristas to discuss race relations with customers. From now on, I'm taking my coffee gray.

+ A supercut of 89 of the most iconic dance scenes in film.

+ Nintendo is finally moving towards making its branded games available on smartphones. (They also plan to allow their employees to try out email.) And Microsoft is finally killing the Internet Explorer brand.

+ NPR on what cockroaches with backpacks can do.