074: The Know-Nothing Bees


Verbatim

For Popular Science, Andrew Zaleski profiles Bill Faloon, founder of the Church of Perpetual Life and somebody who has been throwing his body and his (and his followers’) money at increasingly elaborate “anti-aging” experiments since the current crop of billionaires funding this stuff were in short pants. There’s been plenty of coverage of Faloon over the years, but what we like about this piece, perhaps because it’s Pop Sci, is that it is actually a really good overview of our current understanding of the science of aging, not just another curious profile of a well-covered kook. For the Silicon Valley companies and barons of Big Tech assisting this effort, there’s clearly a business imperative. “Anything that extends life and maintains health is the biggest potential business in the history of mankind,” Celularity’s Hariri says. Another researcher, Kris Verburgh, a professor at Silicon Valley-based think tank Singularity University, aptly points out in his book The Longevity Code, “If there is one thing multimillionaires dislike, it is having to die.”But aging research can’t promise them—or Bill Faloon—anything. “Gerontology is science, and immortalism is religion,” says rapamycin researcher Kaeberlein. “It’s based on the faith that human technology will get to the point where you can actually live forever. But there’s no scientific basis for that at all.”In science, time outs the truth. For Faloon, time will always be the enemy. Undaunted, he keeps cryonics as an insurance policy for himself, his wife, and his two sons. Don’t wait for the mainstream, he tells his followers. Come to church. Celebrate. Rejoice. And live.


ThingsTrade policy debates rarely lead to fun interactive reporting tools, but this Quartz “whataboutism” generator is about the most interesting data-driven thing we’ve seen come out of this interminable US–Canada stoush so far. Need one of these for every dull, endless online argument. “Scientists discover bees understand the concept of zero.”  Reeves Wiedeman’s blockbuster New York takedown of the elaborate megabucks grift that we call Vice—so thorough that it reads like an autopsy of a still-living body—took ours minds back to Alexandra Molotkow’s great 2014 Hazlitt piece, “Vice: We’ve Been Had, and We Let It Happen” which called the whole thing by its name a long time ago. There are fascinating details hidden in the Wiedeman piece about the struggles of building an actual “360, Multi-Platform, Vertically Integrated, Global Media Brand” on the back of branded content (something no media org has actually ever figured out at scale, regardless of what the sales decks tell you). If Vice could survive its current chaos to drop the Dorian Gray act and figure out—as the market is beginning to—that it’s no longer a youth brand but one that’s aging as we all must inevitably do, with an enviable staff of smart people it accidentally hired along the way, we’re curious to see what a realistic, middle-aged, maybe-we’ll-just-stay-home-tonight-we-went-out-last-weekend Vice might be capable of. Who knows, maybe it’d actually even pay its invoices on time. Social benefit can't be measured in real time, so public media has had a difficult time asserting its place in an industry ever more flashy, clicky, and partisan. But now that the resulting fracturing is being felt in our daily lives, Sue Gardner believes that public media can mount a resurgence. What gets measured gets done, but necessity is the mother of invention. You could read her piece for the Knight Foundation, but in the spirit of supporting our public institutions (and feeling her unlikely conviction), we recommend listening to her talk for CBC radio developed from the same paper. Before serving as executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Sue got her start at the CBC. So did Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which ran for close to 40 years, offering warmth and respect to generations of preschool children. Maxwell King writes that “Rogers’s placidity belied the intense care he took in shaping each episode of his program.” Through personal consultantion and on-air panels, Fred Rogers drew upon leading research and applied it directly in the public realm, gradually developing his nine steps for translating scripts to child-friendly Freddish. Also this week in “yay for taxes”, Linda Besner salutes the Toronto Public Library (and, fine, the other Canadian libraries too) in The Guardian.  In another story of deliberative patience in the public interest, a veteran of civil service is speaking out after being “turkey-farmed” by the Trump Administration. He had been asked to forward FOIA requests to leaders whose work was subject to the inquiries, to seek their approval prior to processing and public release. Which would kind of be against the point… like the president using their power of pardon in the case of their own impeachment. “What I've devoted my career to is communicating to the American people what actions the government is taking on their behalf… there are still ways I can help communicate.” When our public institutions fail to deliver necessary public services, Dominoes just might. There is plenty to be said for corporate citizenship, but band-aid stunts like this tend to exacerbate the issues they claim to address. The abandonment of public services leaves them vulnerable to being shaped by private interests, which tend to be more fickle (ie discriminatory). Two more beautiful pieces of writing on Anthony Bourdain, because we’re not done being sad yet. First, David Simon’s remembrance of a deep friendship and collaboration, built largely on a mutual disdain for bullshit, and a mutual love for actual people. And secondly, Elmo Keep, always one of our favourite writers, who captures it more as we feel it, not as insiders but simply as fans who looked at a good man and saw one of the best examples of how to be.  Via our readers, off the back of last week’s Talking Heads-heavy edition of BS, an intravenous dose of optimism from David Byrne: Reasons to Be Cheerful.


As likely will be the case with everything we’re working on over the next month, this one was late because of football. Basically we were just looking at the Nigeria kit for far too long and passed out with joy.  Here’s the link to the website for our email, if you want to do anything with it.