In the time since our last email, there’s been plenty of content about that U of Toronto professor, and you’ve probably read most of it, so we’ll spare you. Instead, a reminder that not all the suited gentlemen of the academy are bloviating blithering fools – Jürgen Habermas, as he describes himself in this El País Q&A on the occasion of his 89th birthday, carefully referring to nobody in particular, is “not one of those intellectuals who shoot without aim.” It’s refreshing to read his thoughts on Facebook, privacy, Trump and intellectual decadence, and be reminded that the role of the philosopher in society hasn’t been completely debased. Yet.
From the time the printed page was invented, turning everyone into a potential reader, it took centuries until the entire population could read. Internet is turning us all into potential authors and it’s only a couple of decades old. Perhaps with time we will learn to manage the social networks in a civilized manner. Internet has already opened up millions of useful niches of subcultures where trustworthy information and sound opinions are being exchanged. – not just the scientific blogs whose academic work is amplified by this means, but also, for example, [forums] for patients who suffer a rare disease and can now get in touch with others in the same situation on another continent to share advice and experience. There are undoubtedly great communication benefits and not just for increasing the speed of stock trading and speculation. I am too old to judge the cultural impulse that the new media is giving birth to. But it annoys me that it’s the first media revolution in the history of mankind to first and foremost serve economic as opposed to cultural ends.
Driving a car puts our mortal bodies in visceral contact with global industry. So when international conglomerates acquire and operate automakers as if they were collectible badges that can coast on brand identity alone, drivers instinctively recoil. But Geely—a Chinese holding company—has breathed new life into once-lost Volvo, respecting the brand’s history while being bold enough for an up-market repositioning. Geely knows they have a hit, and are planning to do the impossible: break into America as a consumer-facing brand all its own. Western markets have taken decades to warm to Korean brands Hyundai and Kia, but drivers have an affinity for Geely’s strengths: speed, power, and feedback.
We've moaned about Uber’s and Airbnb’s civic subversions and hollow invocations of sharing, but we wish “free floating” car sharing service car2go wasn't forced to leave Toronto next month. No, it's not public transportation, but the service has been trying to work with city hall for years to integrate with public transit and public parking, to serve as a viable alternative to car ownership. Plus its business model doesn't depend on gig economy exploitation or rent-seeking. Perhaps that's because it's not a startup but an effort by automaker Daimler to get with the times. The fatal flaw? Torontonian landowners unwilling to share “their” curb space with car-less vagrants.
Meanwhile, Motherboard checks in on the more chaotic side of transit sharing, looking at the mess of dockless scooter and bike sharing companies in San Francisco and rather incisively understanding the most important element they are missing of the definition of sharing – cooperation: The bike and scooter companies distributed their bicycles and scooters all over San Francisco without permits, warnings, or permission. They took agency. Their customers rode the bikes and scooters and parked them wherever they wanted (again, taking agency). Then, the government for the City of San Francisco started to get complaints that the bikes and scooters were “all over” the public sidewalks and streets. Simultaneously, the citizens of San Francisco got fed up with the bikes and scooters in their way, and took agency by vandalizing them.
And, turning our gaze further forwards in our accidental transit issue, Geoff Manaugh contemplates the future of Los Angeles as a spaceport.
A nice, practical overview by War on the Rocks of one of the most mysterious, persistent, archaic and out-there-in-the-open elements of global spycraft - the numbers station.
Researchers at Caltech are finding out fascinating things about the neurochemistry of social isolation, and the possibly evolutionary reasons behind why locking ourselves away for weeks on end makes us bug out (and post links about numbers stations).
The GDPR Hall of Shame.