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In the News 05.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 05.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 05.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 05.07.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

MTV News: The Good, the Bad, and the Contradictions of an Ill-Fated Experiment

When MTV News was rebooted at the beginning of 2016, it was heralded as nothing short of an uprising. “What we are about to do here is about the most revolutionary and forward-thinking thing that we can try to do for music journalism,” new editorial director of music Jessica Hopper told the Huffington Post that February. MTV was excited enough about the project to feature Hopper at its upfront a month later—an annual event put on by TV networks to pitch advertisers on their current and upcoming programming. Hopper delivered a eulogy for the recently deceased Princeand explained how MTV News was going to usher in a new era at the wayward network. She would later be followed by Kendrick Lamar, who capped off the night with a five-song performance.

“As someone who came up in a time where music criticism was basically the dominion of 38-year-old white men, who all agreed on the same canon of what was good and who was allowed to say what about what artists,” Hopper further told the Huffington Post, “the fact that we could have such a young staff, such a diverse staff, and that that be considered fundamental to our success here, is [my] editorial dream and my dream of the world.” In the same interview, she said it was her goal to “take pop music seriously,” noting that the staff “have the full institutional weight, history, and support of MTV from the top down.”

The site’s editorial director Dan Fierman, who previously helmed ESPN’s literary pop-culture site Grantland before it was shut down in October 2015, echoed this sentiment. The goal of the new era of MTV, he told the Huffington Post, would be to deliver “really smart criticism of the culture through a music lens.” That MTV News had formally and publicly announced a desire to break the conventional music canon as established by white men at institutions like their own, and instead rebuild it in the image of a more diverse demographic and workforce, was seen as an exciting prospect from the outside.

Read the rest of this article at: Spin

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Why My Guitar Gently Weeps

WASHINGTON DC - JUNE 01:
Death of the Electric Guitar photographed inside the DuCille studio in Washington, D.C. on June 01, 2017.
 (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

The convention couldn’t sound less rock-and-roll — the National Association of Music Merchants Show. But when the doors open at the Anaheim Convention Center, people stream in to scour rows of Fenders, Les Pauls and the oddball, custom-built creations such as the 5-foot-4-inch mermaid guitar crafted of 15 kinds of wood.

Standing in the center of the biggest, six-string candy store in the United States, you can almost believe all is well within the guitar world.

Except if, like George Gruhn, you know better. The 71-year-old Nashville dealer has sold guitars to Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift. Walking through NAMM with Gruhn is like shadowing Bill Belichick at the NFL Scouting Combine. There is great love for the product and great skepticism. What others might see as a boom — the seemingly endless line of manufacturers showcasing instruments — Gruhn sees as two trains on a collision course.

“There are more makers now than ever before in the history of the instrument, but the market is not growing,” Gruhn says in a voice that flutters between a groan and a grumble. “I’m not all doomsday, but this — this is not sustainable.”

The numbers back him up. In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at Sweetwater.com, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.

What worries Gruhn is not simply that profits are down. That happens in business. He’s concerned by the “why” behind the sales decline. When he opened his store 46 years ago, everyone wanted to be a guitar god, inspired by the men who roamed the concert stage, including Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page. Now those boomers are retiring, downsizing and adjusting to fixed incomes. They’re looking to shed, not add to, their collections, and the younger generation isn’t stepping in to replace them.

Read the rest of this article at: The Washington Post

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I Went From Sedentary Academic to 100-mile Marathon Runner—Thanks to the Science of Self-Control

Most people have days they’ll never forget. For me, that day is April 26, 2011.

It was my first time appearing on National Public Radio. As part of the program All Things Considered, host Michele Norris interviewed me about my research that suggested increasing narcissism in pop music lyrics. Michele was curious, insightful, and put me at ease. When I left my office and walked to my car, I felt light as a feather floating across campus, free of care and worry. I had no idea that what would happen over the next 24 hours would upend everything in my life. That day would take me down a different path—one that included regularly running 100-mile footraces.

This is the story of how I use the science of self-control to run ultramarathons. I believe that self-control is our greatest human strength, and the easiest thing that we can improve upon. By mastering the three components of self-control, you too could run 100 miles—or conquer other, seemingly unreachable professional and personal goals.

But before I marinate you in data, let’s return to that Tuesday night in April.

Why run 100 miles?

I never planned on running 100-mile races. I didn’t even know people did that sort of thing. But I can trace my path from sedentary academic to ultramarathon runner back to a phone call I made to my mother on that Tuesday night in 2011. She was my biggest fan and supporter. Whenever something big happened, Mom was my first call. This night was no exception.

She told me that she was proud of me. I told her that my college roommate had heard the interview on the radio: “He said he nearly choked on his piece of salmon.” We laughed a lot. Before we hung up, Mom told me she loved me. I can’t remember if I said I loved her back. But she knew I did.

Read the rest of this article at: Quartz

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Watching and Lamenting the Death of the New York Diner

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There’s a story that a few of the wistful regulars from my old diner, Joe Jr.’s, which used to occupy a narrow little space in the Village on the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 12th Street, still like to tell about the time Louie the waiter died of a heart attack. Like many vanished coffee shops, diners, and luncheonettes around the city, Joe’s was a loose, convivial club for the people who frequented the place. I would see the movie director John Waters at the counter, dressed in his neatly pressed suits, sipping coffee in a fastidious, mannered way. Isaac Mizrahi was a regular during his pre-TV days, and if my addled memory is correct, so was that great chronicler of big-city eccentrics, the New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell, who used to drop by now and then, wearing his gray fedora.

Louie was the indispensable front-of-the-house man at Joe Jr.’s, a formidable maître d’ figure who, like Sirio Maccioni during the heyday of Le Cirque, knew the quirks of all the regulars and assigned everyone to his or her proper place. He knew that I preferred to sit at either end of the counter for my solitary afternoon BLTs (with extra mayo) and that my youngest daughter, Penelope, liked her usual chicken soup (in a bowl, extra crackers) any time of the day or night. He kept order when drunks would stagger in off the street, and he had a knack for calming down the more unconventional Village regulars, like “the Tattoo Lady,” whose face was covered in a pattern of intricate tattoos, and another regular who had a habit, when she was overwhelmed by the cares of the world, of screaming out her normal order — “Eight coffees, light and sweet!” — at the top of her lungs.

Read the rest of this article at: Grub Street

Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?

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“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another.”

—Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” (1784)

The digital revolution is in full swing. How will it change our world? The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words: in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015. Every minute we produce hundreds of thousands of Google searches and Facebook posts. These contain information that reveals how we think and feel. Soon, the things around us, possibly even our clothing, also will be connected with the Internet. It is estimated that in 10 years’ time there will be 150 billion networked measuring sensors, 20 times more than people on Earth. Then, the amount of data will double every 12 hours. Many companies are already trying to turn this Big Data into Big Money.

Everything will become intelligent; soon we will not only have smart phones, but also smart homes, smart factories and smart cities. Should we also expect these developments to result in smart nations and a smarter planet?

The field of artificial intelligence is, indeed, making breathtaking advances. In particular, it is contributing to the automation of data analysis. Artificial intelligence is no longer programmed line by line, but is now capable of learning, thereby continuously developing itself. Recently, Google’s DeepMind algorithm taught itself how to win 49 Atari games. Algorithms can now recognize handwritten language and patterns almost as well as humans and even complete some tasks better than them. They are able to describe the contents of photos and videos. Today 70% of all financial transactions are performed by algorithms. News content is, in part, automatically generated. This all has radical economic consequences: in the coming 10 to 20 years around half of today’s jobs will be threatened by algorithms. 40% of today’s top 500 companies will have vanished in a decade.

It can be expected that supercomputers will soon surpass human capabilities in almost all areas—somewhere between 2020 and 2060. Experts are starting to ring alarm bells. Technology visionaries, such as Elon Musk from Tesla Motors, Bill Gates from Microsoft and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, are warning that super-intelligence is a serious danger for humanity, possibly even more dangerous than nuclear weapons.

Is This Alarmism?

One thing is clear: the way in which we organize the economy and society will change fundamentally. We are experiencing the largest transformation since the end of the Second World War; after the automation of production and the creation of self-driving cars the automation of society is next. With this, society is at a crossroads, which promises great opportunities, but also considerable risks. If we take the wrong decisions it could threaten our greatest historical achievements.

In the 1940s, the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894–1964) invented cybernetics. According to him, the behavior of systems could be controlled by the means of suitable feedbacks. Very soon, some researchers imagined controlling the economy and society according to this basic principle, but the necessary technology was not available at that time.

Today, Singapore is seen as a perfect example of a data-controlled society. What started as a program to protect its citizens from terrorism has ended up influencing economic and immigration policy, the property market and school curricula. China is taking a similar route. Recently, Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, invited the military to take part in the China Brain Project. It involves running so-called deep learning algorithms over the search engine data collected about its users. Beyond this, a kind of social control is also planned. According to recent reports, every Chinese citizen will receive a so-called ”Citizen Score”, which will determine under what conditions they may get loans, jobs, or travel visa to other countries. This kind of individual monitoring would include people’s Internet surfing and the behavior of their social contacts (see ”Spotlight on China”).

Read the rest of this article at: Scientific American

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @jasminedowling; @wendyslookbook; @wendyslookbook