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News 02.010.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 02.010.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.010.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.010.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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How a Shadow Army of Ghost Kitchens Took Over America’s Restaurants

Read the rest of this article at: Marker

News 02.010.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.010.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the 1950s and 1960s, a series of thinkers, beginning with Jacques Ellul and Marshall McLuhan, began to describe the anatomy of our technological society. Then, starting in the 1970s, a generation emerged who articulated a detailed critique of that society. The critique produced by these figures I refer to in the singular because it shares core features, if not a common vocabulary. What Ivan Illich, Ursula Franklin, Albert Borgmann, and a few others have said about technology is powerful, incisive, and remarkably coherent. I am going to call the argument they share the Standard Critique of Technology, or SCT. The one problem with the SCT is that it has had no success in reversing, or even slowing, the momentum of our society’s move toward what one of their number, Neil Postman, called technopoly.

The basic argument of the SCT goes like this. We live in a technopoly, a society in which powerful technologies come to dominate the people they are supposed to serve, and reshape us in their image. These technologies, therefore, might be called prescriptive (to use Franklin’s term) or manipulatory (to use Illich’s). For example, social networks promise to forge connections — but they also encourage mob rule. Facial-recognition software helps to identify suspects — and to keep tabs on whole populations. Collectively, these technologies constitute the device paradigm (Borgmann), which in turn produces a culture of compliance (Franklin).

The proper response to this situation is not to shun technology itself, for human beings are intrinsically and necessarily users of tools. Rather, it is to find and use technologies that, instead of manipulating us, serve sound human ends and the focal practices (Borgmann) that embody those ends. A table becomes a center for family life; a musical instrument skillfully played enlivens those around it. Those healthier technologies might be referred to as holistic (Franklin) or convivial (Illich), because they fit within the human lifeworld and enhance our relations with one another. Our task, then, is to discern these tendencies or affordances of our technologies and, on both social and personal levels, choose the holistic, convivial ones.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Atlantis

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Despite doubts from many scientists, a team of researchers who said they had detected an unusual gas in the planet’s atmosphere were still confident of their findings.
A team of astronomers made a blockbuster claim in the fall. They said they had discovered compelling evidence pointing to life floating in the clouds of Venus.

If true, that would be stunning. People have long gazed into the cosmos and wondered whether something is alive out there. For an affirmative answer to pop up on the planet in the orbit next to Earth’s would suggest that life is not rare in the universe, but commonplace.

The astronomers, led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in Wales, could not see any microscopic Venusians with their telescopes on Earth. Rather, in a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, they reported the detection of a molecule called phosphine and said they could come up with no plausible explanation for how it could form there except as the waste product of microbes.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 02.010.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.010.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Why has the nation become gripped with conspiracy theories — including so many revolving around the shots that could end this devastating pandemic? “It’s precisely because we’ve had 450,000 deaths, and so much uncertainty and so much fear, that there’s fertile ground for this stuff to take hold,” says Ashish Jha, a physician and dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health. The pandemic is also occurring in the context of a 20-year decline of American trust in institutions, says Ethan Zuckerman, who formerly directed the Center for Civic Media at MIT. He describes the QAnon cult as a reservoir at the bottom of that slippery slope. “Q is what happens when you take that mistrust in a really damaging direction,” he says. “It’s usually people who lost trust in one institution and then found a coherent worldview that says, ‘Don’t just mistrust this one institution — mistrust all the institutions. All of them are in it together.’ ” This full rejection of confidence in doctors and drug companies, in media and philanthropy, in politicians and government agencies, Zuckerman says, is “how the anti-vax movement underwent almost a merger with QAnon.”

For most Americans still grounded in reality, the arrival of safe, effective inoculations against Covid-19 has sparked hope. The nine-month dash to design, test, and begin to administer inoculations against the devastating pandemic was an unprecedented medical triumph. The rollout of these drugs has already delivered protection for millions of the elderly and medically vulnerable. For younger, healthier people awaiting their shots, vaccination promises a -ticket out of social isolation and back to a life of packed concerts, subway trains, restaurants, and nightclubs.

At present, America’s great challenge is ramping up supply to meet overwhelming demand. But experts caution the country will, sooner than later, confront a formidable wall of vaccine resistance that could block our return to “life as normal.” A Pew poll in December found that only 60 percent of Americans intend to vaccinate and nearly 20 percent — or roughly 50 million adults — are dead set against it.
If that many Americans abstain from vaccination, the coronavirus will continue to circulate, and to mutate, posing a grave ongoing threat to public health.

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

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In the early nineteen-forties, decades before he was Stan the Man, the impresario of the Marvel Universe, Stanley Martin Lieber fetched coffee, took notes, and sat on desks playing the piccolo—or perhaps the ocarina—in the offices of his uncle’s comic-book company. There, before and after his Army service, and into the decade that followed, Stanley became one of many typists and scribblers providing copy for word balloons and prose for the books’ filler pages. He was as efficient as his older colleagues at churning out scripts, and already distinguished himself in one way: he put his pen name, Stan Lee, on all his work. He said that he was saving his birth name for a more respectable project, like a novel. Still, if he was going to make comics, he wanted credit.

That desire served him well. It also raised big questions about—to use two of Lee’s favorite nouns—power and responsibility, since Lee never created a comic alone. Novelists have editors and publishers. Live-action films require directors and actors. And company-owned superhero comics are plotted, drawn, scripted, and lettered by different people, with creative teams that change over time. To give a full account of Stan Lee, as Abraham Riesman sets out to do in a new biography, “True Believer” (Crown), is to contend not just with his presence in popular culture (the smiling oldster in sunglasses, with a cameo in each Marvel film) but with the fluid nature of artistic collaboration, and so with endless debates over which parts of the comics are his.

Why should we care? One answer is money—lots of it. Nine of the thirty top-grossing films in history use Marvel characters. Though Lee gave up his stake in the intellectual property years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, money kept flowing his way. Another reason is honesty: audiences believe that Lee created those characters, and his lifelong habit of taking credit has stoked fans’ and journalists’ wish to get at the truth.

And then there’s the cultural dominance that superheroes, especially Marvel ones, have attained. Figures that Lee co-created, or said he created, revived a genre that had been on its last legs, helping to launch them from drugstore spinner racks to the screen. Americans who can’t identify Achilles or Botswana know Wakanda as a high-tech nation in Africa, Loki as a Norse god who’s up to no good, and Peter Parker as the original Spider-Man. Even as they dominate popular culture, superheroes—the flawed kind, the weird kind, the kind Marvel pioneered—can stand for exclusion, for queerness, for disability, for all manner of real or perceived oppression, marshalling enough power to blast their enemies into the sun. For decades, the title page of every Marvel superhero comic said “Stan Lee Presents”—no wonder we want to know who he really was.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.