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Here's what I read in January


Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A visceral, stunningly-written insight into the brutal reality of a lived experience we’re all complicit in.

The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism, by David Golumbia. I don't agree with all of his arguments, but he makes some good points about the pseudoeconomics and quietly right-wing assumptions that are very prevalent in blockchain communities.

The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains, by Robert Lustig. A dive into the brain science of addiction and depression, and how they are harnessed by corporations who want to make a buck. Fascinating to me; I've already changed my behavior as a result. Although it's not really discussed directly, I could draw a direct line between platforms optimizing for "engagement" and its effects on the brains of their users. But the most important thing this book taught me is the brain science differences between pleasure and happiness. The latter is the thing to aim for.

Talking to my Daughter About the Economy (Or, How Capitalism Works - And How it Fails), by Yanis Varoufakis. A profoundly humanist, kind introduction to economics and capitalism. It turned out to be a good chaser to the previous book - whereas that was about the brain science differences, this dove into the economic framework that encourages short-term reward.

(I had hoped to finish Octavia E Butler's Kindred inside the month, but .. not quite. One thing it's important to note: I'm aware that each of these books is non-fiction and written by a man, and I'm fixing my reading list for next month.)

Notable Articles

The ABCs of Jacobin. An interesting exploration of how a socialist print magazine has managed to thrive in a time of general doom for the media.

The Biggest Secret: My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror. Fascinating and disturbing. Newspapers should never be complicit with the intelligence apparatus.

I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. This went semi-viral over the holiday, but it's worth reading if you haven't. Come for the Cheney anecdote; stay for the well-observed notes about American life. It's a full meal.

I Gave a Bounty Hunter $300. Then He Located Our Phone. Your phone is a tracking device, and the networks are making money from it being so.

What It Felt Like When “Cat Person” Went Viral. "Many horror stories revolve around this theme: if we could eavesdrop on all the quick, dismissive thoughts that other people were having about us, we would go insane. We are simply not meant to see ourselves as others see us."

No Matter How Thin I Get, I’ll Always Be the Fat Guy. An honest, painful look at how weight shame affects you long after the weight itself is gone.

How ‘traditional masculinity’ hurts the men who believe in it most. It hurts all of us, but: '“Everybody has beliefs about how men should behave,” says Ronald Levant, who was the APA president when the guidelines were initially conceived, and who has worked on them ever since. “We found incredible evidence that the extent to which men strongly endorse those beliefs, it’s strongly associated with negative outcomes.” The more men cling to rigid views of masculinity, the more likely they are to be depressed, or disdainful, or lonely.' I've certainly seen this duplicated among people I know.

2 founders are not always better than 1. Solo founders are twice as likely to succeed as co-founders.

After 25 years studying innovation, here is what I have learned. Clay Christensen wrote the Innovator's Dilemma and its sequel. Even he has realized that it's not about what you accomplish: it's about who you help. I could have done without the part about God, but it's his truth.

Martin Luther King was no prophet of unity. He was a radical. Dr King was a Marxist, and - particularly in these times - we should do better to remember his whole legacy.

“The Linux of social media”—How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging. LiveJournal was a pioneer. I was a heavy user for a very long time, and it was a wonderful way to make friends, share fears, and see the inner narratives of people I cared about in a very intimate way. No social media platform has come close since.

It’s the End of News as We Know It (and Facebook Is Feeling Fine). "So right-wing sites and clickbait dominate the platform that dominates American news consumption. And that same platform, despite its stated commitment to supporting “quality news,” keeps making it harder for people to find serious journalism."

Social media is rotting democracy from within. "At the inauguration of Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, in early January, a crowd of his supporters began a surprising chant. They weren’t cheering for Bolsonaro or his running mate or their party; instead, they were reciting the names of social media platforms." Fascists were chanting "Facebook! Facebook! Facebook!" because they credited it for their win.

This Is What Happens When You Try to Sue Your Boss. Arbitration agreements should be illegal.

The Personal Toll of Whistle-Blowing. Sheer tragedy in the course of doing the right thing.

The World-Record Instagram Egg Is Going to Make Someone Very Rich. This story is completely insane to me. It's 2019's Million Dollar Homepage. "In a slide deck, Jerry Media proposed that the egg crack to reveal the words Impeach Trump as Trump popped out and did the chicken dance. The agency even created a short animated video demonstrating the stunt."

At Least You Can Leave. 'There’s a conversation I’ve had with several British friends. We’ll all be moaning about Brexit affecting us and how the UK’s dysfunctional politics means there is no way to express this electorally, and then they’ll say; “But you’re lucky. At least you can leave.”'