You would think someone like myself obsessed with technology, baseball and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle would have already heard of a 1950 experiment at Ebbets Field in which MLB tested an “electronic umpire.” I hadn’t, though, until reading Richard Sandomir’s smart New York Times account of such. Dodgers President Branch Rickey, who was progressive in myriad ways, including being a Moneyballer long before Beane was born, didn’t want to sweep umps from behind the plate but hoped to use the tool to make hitters more aware of the strike zone.

The sport should definitely now exploit advances in sensors and computers to automate ball and strike calls at some level of the minors, with an eye toward replacing the human element behind the catcher in the bigs. Even the best umpires are wrong on balls and strikes about 10% of the time, and that wiggle room damages the integrity of the game. 

Sandomir’s opening:

One day in March 1950, a batting cage at the Brooklyn Dodgers’ spring training camp in Vero Beach, Fla., became the setting for an event that looked as if it came out of the future: strikes being called not by a man in a mask, peaked cap and chest protector, but by a machine.

“This was really high-tech stuff,” said pitcher Carl Erskine, recalling the sight of the device during a telephone interview from his Indiana home.

The so-called “cross-eyed electronic umpire” introduced that day used mirrors, lenses and photoelectric cells beneath home plate that would, after detecting a strike through three slots around the plate, emit electric impulses that illuminated what The Brooklyn Eagle called a “saucy red eye” in a nearby cabinet.

Popular Science declared, “Here’s an umpire even a Dodger can’t talk back to.”

The noted British journalist Alistair Cooke, then a foreign correspondent for The Manchester Guardian, weighed in wryly with the “alarming news” that the Dodgers would “try out an electronic umpire in the hope that he will call a decision even the Yankees will not be able to challenge.”

It was the atomic age, but sports were not known for being technologically advanced. Still, the coming decades saw much more: instant replay, slow motion, the virtual first-down line, real-time score boxes in the corner of television screens, the glowing puck, tennis-ball trackers, video review and baseball’s Pitch f/x and Statcast systems.

Chris Marinak, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president for league economics and strategy, said that sharp advances in camera and computer technology had accelerated innovation.

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Speaking of Edward O. Thorp, who in 1955 co-created with Claude Shannon what’s accepted as the first wearable computer, Life magazine profiled the academic/gambler in 1964. The story’s hook was undeniable: a brilliant mathematician who utilized his beautiful mind at gaming tables to bring pit bosses to heel. He didn’t rely on the fictional “hot hand” but instead on cool computer calculations. What wasn’t known at the time–and what Thorp didn’t offer to reporter Paul O’Neil–is that the Ph.D. had a stealthy sidekick if he chose in the aforementioned wearable. Click on the page below for a larger, readable version of the article’s opening.



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When it comes to Thomas Mann, Nick Tosches is right, and Jerry Stahl and Eric Bogosian are mostly wrong. The Devil and Sonny Liston writer, whose poetry rises to the surface like a bruise, is an appreciator of the German author, who I think was every bit as dark and visceral as Henry Miller, even if his table manners were far better. Stahl isn’t a fan, and while Bogosian appreciates that Mann’s work was rich with philosophy, he labels his books “not the best examples of the literary form.” Sure, Doctor Faustus is a bit much, but most of the canon isn’t just readable but compulsively so. An exchange from a Stahl-Bogosian discussion at Los Angeles Review of Books is followed by excerpts from two newspaper articles written about Mann during his life.

From LARB:

Jerry Stahl:

You also mentioned Mann. Nick Tosches is a big Mann fan. But I have to be honest here, I think I read half of Magic Mountain on acid, decided I had TB, and had to quit reading in the ER. I’m guessing Mann wasn’t exactly “Father of the Year” either. Seems like one of those writers you imagine with a jacket and tie on, like Nixon. You don’t picture Thomas Mann paddling to his desk in the morning scratching his ass in his pajamas.

Eric Bogosian:

Mann was deeply superstitious. He began writing every morning at 7:00 a.m. and came out of his study at 7:00 p.m. for dinner. He had seven children. He was deeply superstitious. That said, Doctor Faustus was written during World War II and is Mann’s response to Hitler’s reign. Christians begged for philosophy because it makes no sense and people try to live their lives by it …

Anyway, Mann’s books are impossible and like the work of Bernard Shaw, probably not the best examples of the literary form.•


The opening of a 1955 interview Frederic Morton of the New York Times conducted with Mann just two months before the writer died:

Travemuende, Germany — Thomas Mann’s eightieth birthday–June 6–might suggest an aged Olympian gazing distantly upon the world from his Lake Zurich retreat. The picture, however, is not entirely accurate. Before meeting this writer, for example, the Nobel prize winner had just delivered speeches on Schiller in Stuttgart and Weimar, negotiated possible film sales of Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain in Goettingen and spoken on the North German radio. Soon after the interview he was to receive Honorary Citizenship of his native city (Luebeck), be the object of a number of official birthday fêtes in Zurich, launch a lecture tour in Holland and, last not least, complete his Felix Krull, which recently appeared (442 pages strong and briskly subtitled “First Volume of the Memoirs”) to a volley of German critical huzzahs.

Travemuende, the Baltic Sea resort in which this writer cornered the octogenarian, was supposed to provide a brief lull for the Herr Doktor. (In Germany, where every solvent person with spectacles is presumed to possess a Ph.D., Thomas Mann goes by the title of the Herr Doktor.) His hotel suite, though, could have been the opening-night dressing room of Mary Martin. Flowers, telephone calls, telegrams and she whom even Miss Martin could never boast of, namely Katja Mann. For to interview Herr Doktor means invariably also to interview Frau Doktor, his attractive and most vivacious wife, whose conversational impulses have a wonderful way of advancing, instead of interrupting, a causerie. On this visit she wore a smart (one is almost tempted to say snappy) turquoise velvet jacket with embroidered sleeves. During the talk she directed traffic between a messenger boy, a hotel official, the interviewer and a maid pouring tea.

In the midst of it all, the master. Clad in business gray, hands factually folded, he looked about fifteen years younger than his age and much more (there’s no help for the word) bourgeois than even his photographs. In fact, he resembled a Hanseatic grain merchant pondering, in the solitude of his office, wheat futures on the Hamburg bourse. His actual problem, just put to him by the visitor, was a little different.

“I am not sure if I consider any one book my most important,” he said in his precise but measuredly cadenced High German. “The longest and, to my mind, richest work is the Joseph tetralogy, but perhaps–” the Mann smile like the Mann phrase often has a decorous ambiguity, regretful and self-ironical at the same time “–perhaps I like ‘Joseph’ best by way of overcompensation. Because of its size it is the last read of my major works, you know.” He turned to light a cigar. “Then of course there is the Faustus which put the heaviest strain on my resources and in that sense is closest to me. And there is ‘Tonio Kroeger’; it is the most private and emotionally most autobiographical thing that I have ever done.”•

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In 1937, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published an article about Mann living in America, an exile from Nazi Germany during the run-up to World War II. He seemed confident about the fall of fascism. I never read before that he dined with FDR, though it makes sense given the writer’s Nobel stature and social nature. The piece was written by Alvah Bessie, who a decade later was to be blacklisted and imprisoned by HUAC as a member of the “Hollywood Ten,” along with Dalton Trumbo.



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It’s stunning how poor people often are at reading each other’s emotions. It seems more a lack of ability than of concern. If you can discern the meaning of facial expressions and body language, you have a distinct advantage in life–and greater responsibility, whether you accept it or not.

Smart machines are said to be dumb at this skill, suggesting that if you want a safe long-term career you should opt to work in the area of emotional intelligence. That may be true but not likely for long. AI won’t need to be anything near conscious to become adept at knowing how we feel. There really don’t need to be any great breakthroughs for AI to develop emotional IQ; time and investment will make it so. The question is, will machines be responsible with this knowledge?

In a Korea Herald article, historian Yuval Noah Harari speaks to this issue. The opening:

It is no news that machines have come to largely replace physical labor and computers surpass human beings in processing data. But in the future, the development of artificial intelligence may render humans obsolete even in the realm of emotional intelligence, according to Yuval Harari.

“It is true that in one sense, AI doesn’t even come close to human emotion since it has no consciousness or mind and doesn’t feel anything,” said Harari at Tuesday’s opening ceremony of the 2030 Eco Forum, organized by Green Fund and held at the Korea Press Center. Harari is a history professor and author of the international bestseller “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.”

Yet, AI may excel at detecting the emotional needs of human beings and reacting appropriately to them, Harari said.

“What biology tells us today is that emotions are not some spiritual experience, but the outcome of biochemical processes in the body.

“AI today is able to diagnose your personality and emotional state by looking at your face and recognizing tiny muscle movements. It can tell whether you are tired, excited, angry, joyful, in love … it can tell these things even though AI itself doesn’t feel anger or love.”

In the future, therefore, AI could “drive humans out of the job market and make many humans completely useless, from an economic perspective” in areas where human interaction was previously considered crucial, Harari said.


It was the strangest thing. In 1984, stories began to escape the San Diego Padres clubhouse about a trio of pitchers, Eric Show, Dave Dravecky and Mark Thurmond, who’d become devout members of the John Birch Society. Racist behavior that postseason directed at Claire Smith, an African-American sportswriter, brought more attention to the extreme politics of the Birchers.

It all began with Show, a sort of baseball Bobby Fischer, a troubled nonconformist and deep thinker who couldn’t fit into wider society let alone the claustrophobic confines of a bullpen or dugout. He was a self-taught jazz musician ravenous for philosophy, physics, economics and history, a seeker of truth who wandered into an Arizona bookstore and headed down the wrong aisle. The pitcher picked up a volume about John Birch and became obsessed (though he always denied any racist leanings). Excerpts follow from two stories follow about his odd life and lonely death.

From “Baseball’s Thinking Man,” by Bill Plaschke, in the 1988 Los Angeles Times:

YUMA, Ariz. — Let’s play a game. What if some real smart people with a sense of humor–people who know nothing about baseball–one day decided to invent a very good baseball pitcher.

But after giving him an elbow and shoulder and all the usual stuff, what if they decided to get tricky?

What if they gave him a love for physics? A love for studying philosophers, historians and theorists? A love for writing classical jazz?

What if on road trips, while his friends are shopping and watching movies, he is in the basement of musty libraries trying to figure out why the Earth is round?

What if at home, while many players are at the ballpark several hours ahead of the required reporting time, he is still in his home, in his second-floor office, under a bright light, studying the effect of a new foreign government or ancient civilization?

What if, before he wins 20 games, he records and produces his own record album, and co-stars in a movie? Finally, just to throw everybody off, what if they made him an open, verbal member of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society? What if . . .

Forget the what ifs. Such a pitcher exists. His name is Eric Show.

His six seasons have established him as one of the National League’s best pitchers and most unusual people.

Yet, after six seasons, another question is probably more applicable.


Why has he no close clubhouse friends? Why does everybody in there look at him so funny? Why do some think he’s selfish and arrogant? Why did some even take to calling him “Erica”? And why do things always seem to happen to him?

In 1984, his John Birch affiliation is uncovered when he is spotted passing out pamphlets at a fair, and black players think he doesn’t like them.

In 1985, he gives up Pete Rose’s record 4,192nd hit, but during the 10-minute celebration he sits on the mound, and now nobody likes him.

Last season, he hits the Chicago Cubs’ Andre Dawson in the head and must flee Wrigley Field fearing for his life. When he returns to that city this season, he has only half-jokingly claimed it will be in disguise.

Show, 31, enters the 1988 season in the final year of a $725,000 contract and at the crossroads of his baseball career.

Can he find enough peace to once again become the pitcher that won 15 games to help lead the Padres to the 1984 World Series?

Or will he continue twisting in the winds of discontent, like last season, when he went 8-16 despite a 3.84 earned-run average?

Either way, the Padres say he’s trying.

“There has been change in Eric just since the middle of last season,” Padre Manager Larry Bowa said. “In the clubhouse, away from the stadium. He’s really working at understanding and being understood.”

Show says he’s trying.

“As strange at it may seem, I have tried to be more a part of my baseball environment,” Show said carefully. “If I’m still off, it’s because I started way off.”

And whatever happens, only one thing is ever certain with Eric Show.

Something will get lost in the translation.•

From “Eric Show’s Solitary Life, and Death,” by Ira Berkow in the 1994 New York Times:

An autopsy released soon after by the coroner’s office said the cause of death was inconclusive, that is, there was no observable trauma or wounds to the body. A toxicology report would be coming in about two weeks. But in statements to the center’s staff, Show said that he was under the influence of cocaine, heroin and alcohol. He said he used four $10 bags of cocaine at about 7 that night, Tuesday night. “Didn’t like how I felt,” he said, adding that he then ingested eight $10 bags of heroin and a six-pack of beer.

The questions about Eric Show’s death are no less difficult to answer than the ones about his life. Why was he so hard on himself, such an apparently driven individual? Why was he so compulsive, or at least passionate, about almost everything he undertook?

Show (the name rhymes with cow) was known as a highly intelligent, articulate man with broad interests that ranged from physics — his major in college — to politics to economics to music. “Eric didn’t fit the mold of the typical ballplayer,” said Tim Flannery, a former Padre teammate of Show’s. “Most ballplayers were like me then; we had tunnel vision. We weren’t interested in those other things.”

Show was a born-again Christian who regularly attended Sunday chapel services as a player and sometimes signed his autograph with an added Acts 4:12, which discusses salvation as coming only from belief in Jesus Christ.

He was an accomplished jazz guitarist. Sometimes after games on the road, he would beat the team back to the hotel and play lead guitar with the band in the lounge.

He was a member of the right-wing John Birch Society, a fact the baseball world was surprised to learn in August 1984 as the Padres moved toward their first and only division title.

And he was a successful businessman with real estate holdings, a marketing company and a music store, all of which kept him in expensive clothes, with a navy-blue Mercedes and a house in an affluent San Diego neighborhood.

But other elements seemed to intrude. And ultimately, the contradictions of the best and worst in American life became a disastrous mixture that defeated him.

Beyond Statistics, Just Who Was He?

For most baseball fans, Eric Show was a decent pitcher who had once been lucky enough to make it to the World Series. But to the people who were close to him, he was, in the end, someone they did not fully know.

“He led several lives, apparently,” said Arn Tellem, his agent at the time of his death.

To Joe Elizondo, his financial consultant, and Mark Augustin, his partner in a music store, and Steve Tyler, a boyhood friend from Riverside, Calif., where both were born and raised, Show was a charming, devoted friend and a caring man. “He would give you the shirt off his back,” Elizondo said. “And he did. I once told him how much I liked a shirt he was wearing, and he said, “Here, it’s yours.” He’d stop a beggar on the street and learn he was hungry and run to a diner and bring back a hot meal for him.”

To others, though, Show could seem selfish or arrogant.

And there were the drugs. Some said Show’s drug problems began when he took injections to relieve pain in his back after surgery, and he sought more and more relief. Others wondered if he had been taking drugs before he reached the major leagues.

He may also have begun taking drugs simply because he liked the challenge of being able to handle the dreaded substance. …

His death evoked memories of two strange scenes in Show’s life, one in 1992 and the other last year.

In the spring of 1992, Show was in training camp in Arizona with the A’s. He had signed a two-year contract with them in late 1990, and managed only a 1-2 record with them in 1991. Following several mornings in which he had reported late for workouts, he showed up with both hands heavily bandaged.

He explained that he had been chased by a group of youths and had to climb a fence, and had cut himself. But what was not reported was that the police later told club officials that Show had been behaving erratically in front of an adult book store, and fled when officers approached. They finally caught him trying to climb a barbed-wire fence.

Last July, he was caught by the police when running across an intersection in San Diego and screaming that people were out to kill him, and then begged the police to kill him. He was handcuffed, and while in the back seat of the police car, he kicked out the rear window. He was taken to the county mental hospital for three days of testing. Show had admitted “doing quite a bit of crystal methamphetamine.”

It was one more startling development, one more contradiction for an athlete who, in reference to his John Birch membership, once said: “I have a fundamental philosophy of less government, more reason, and with God’s help, a better world. And that’s it.”

Always Looking For Answers

Actually, it wasn’t it. Show, as a John Birch member, also denied that he was a Nazi or a racist. In fact, he had a Hispanic financial adviser, a Jewish lawyer and agent, and black friends in baseball and his music world. People from his first agent, Steve Greenberg, to Tony Gwynn, a black teammate, agreed that he was no bigot. “He joined the Birch Society because he thought it would provide answers to how the world works,” Tellem said. “He was always looking for answers.”

Show once said, “I’ve devoted my life to learning.” Asked what he was learning, he replied, “Learning everything.”•



10 search-engine keyphrases bringing traffic to Afflictor this week:

  1. mark leibovich article about roger goodell
  2. mussolini’s film studio
  3. taffy brodesser-akner obituary roddy piper
  4. i have got a lot of friends who are trying to grow tails
  5. asteroid mining for water supply
  6. bobby fischer i don’t want anything artificial in my head
  7. silicon valley guaranteed basic income
  8. who are the remaining non-internet users?
  9. frantic workers in the gig economy
  10. are there fewer christians in america?
This week, Ted Cruz, who has no chance of being President of the United States, chose Carly Fiorina to never be the Vice President.

This week, Ted Cruz, who has no chance of being President of the United States, chose Carly Fiorina to never be Vice President.

Well, maybe we could run Syria.

Well, maybe we could run Syria instead.

No thanks, we’re good.


  • In 1955, Claude Shannon and Edward O. Thorp co-created the first wearable.
  • Juan Enriquez wants to say just one word to today’s graduates: “Lifecode.”
  • Bloomberg says “automated journalism” is a win-win proposition. Not likely.
  • Singapore is attempting to become a next-level “smart country.”
  • The Gig Economy is terrible for Labor, yet many workers prefer it. Why?
  • In 1968, Maria Rasputin said her infamous dad was a “kind man.”


As the Google Doodle attests, Claude Shannon, the Bell Labs mastermind who did his best to invent the Information Age, would have turned 100 today. Shannon’s co-workers were often years ahead of the curve, but he was working decades in the future. In addition to knowing what the world would look like generations in advance, Shannon, a wisp of a man, was deeply eccentric and fond of games and parlor tricks. He designed the first computer chess program and the initial computerized mouse that “learned” more every time it went through a maze. (Like this, but 60 years ago.)

Two excerpts about him are embedded below. The first is a passage from Joel Gertner’s The Idea Factory in which recalls how the scientist’s wife, Betty, would struggle to come up with ideas for presents for her spouse, because what do you get for the man who has everything–in his head? The second is the abstract from a paper by Edward O. Thorp, a mathematics professor who lives to bring down the house–the house being a casino. He’s focused a sizable portion of his career on probability in betting games, and in 1955 he created, in tandem with Shannon, what is considered the first wearable computer. The device, which was contained in a shoe or a cigarette pack, could markedly improve a gambler’s chance at the roulette wheel, though the bugs were never completely worked out.

From Gertner:

One year, Betty gave him a unicycle as a gift. Shannon quickly began riding; then he began building his own unicycles, challenging himself to see how small he could make one that could still be ridden. One evening after dinner at home in Morristown, Claude began to spontaneously juggle three balls, and his efforts soon won him some encouragement from the kids in the apartment complex. There was no reason, as far as Shannon could see, why he shouldn’t pursue his two new interests, unicycling and juggling, at Bell Labs, too. Nor was there any reason not to pursue them simultaneously. When he was in the office, Shannon would take a break from work to ride his unicycle up and down the long hallways, usually at night when the building wasn’t so busy. He would nod to passerby, unless he was juggling as he rode. Then he would be lost in concentration. When he got a pogo stick, he would go up and down the hall on that, too.

Here, then, was a picture of Claude Shannon, circa 1955, a man–slender, agile, handsome, abstracted–who rarely showed up on time for work, who often played chess or fiddled with amusing machines all day; who frequently went down the halls juggling or pogoing, and who didn’t seem to care, really, what anyone thought of him or his pursuits. He did what was interesting. He was categorized, still, as a scientist. But it seemed obvious that he had the temperament and sensibility of an artist.•


From Thorp:

The first wearable computer was conceived in 1955 by [Thorp] to predict roulette, culminating in a joint effort at M.I.T. with Claude Shannon in 1960-61. The final operating version was rested in Shannon’s basement home lab in June of 1961. The cigarette pack sized analog device yielded an expected gain of +44% when betting on the most favored “octant.” The Shannons and Thorps tested the computer in Las Vegas in the summer of 1961. The predictions there were consistent with the laboratory expected gain of 44% but a minor hardware problem deferred sustained serious betting. They kept the method and the existence of the computer secret until 1966.•

Thorp appeared on To Tell the Truth in 1964. He didn’t discuss wearables but his book about other methods to break the bank. Amusing that longtime NYC radio host John Gambling played one of the impostors.


From the November 27, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:



Seat belts may save us in case of an accident, airbags can inflate to cushion our impact, but it would be far more difficult to soften the blow should climate change deliver to us continent-sized superstorms. While it may seem counterintuitive to say that human extinction is more likely to kill any of us individually than car crashes are, modeling suggests that’s probably the case. From Robinson Meyer at the Atlantic:

Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions.

These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters—but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. And according to a new report from the U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation, they’re much more likely than we might think.

In its annual report on “global catastrophic risk,” the nonprofit debuted a startling statistic: Across the span of their lives, the average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.

Partly that’s because the average person will probably not die in an automobile accident. Every year, one in 9,395 people die in a crash; that translates to about a 0.01 percent chance per year. But that chance compounds over the course of a lifetime. At life-long scales, one in 120 Americans die in an accident.
The risk of human extinction due to climate change—or an accidental nuclear war—is much higher than that.•



In 2011, Foxconn promised a million robots would be installed in its factories within three years. That did not transpire. Overzealous promises by a large corporation, however, shouldn’t be mistaken for epic failure on a national scale. For China, it’s just a dream deferred and likely not by much.

The nation is not only hugely populous but also overwhelmingly graying, desperately needing autonomous machines to take up the slack. Perhaps, as Daniel Kahneman has prophesied, “Robots will show up in China just in time.” That may be so, but some of the country’s younger workers will be destabilized by the transition, and what’s necessary in China may be extremely tumultuous for other countries with markedly different demographics.

In “China’s Robot Revolution,” Ben Bland of the Financial Times looks at the future arriving in a hurry, writing that “the benefits of the robot revolution will not be shared equally across the world.” You wouldn’t want to be living in a country that’s left behind in the Second Machine Age, but progress will have its costs. The opening:

The Ying Ao sink foundry in southern China’s Guangdong province does not look like a factory of the future. The sign over the entrance is faded; inside, the floor is greasy with patches of mud, and a thick metal dust — the by-product of the stainless-steel polishing process — clogs the air. As workers haul trolleys across the factory floor, the cavernous, shed-like building reverberates with a loud clanging.

Guangdong is the growth engine of China’s manufacturing industry, generating $615bn in exports last year — more than a quarter of the country’s total. In this part of the province, the standard wage for workers is about Rmb4,000 ($600) per month. Ying Ao, which manufactures sinks destined for the kitchens of Europe and the US, has to pay double that, according to deputy manager Chen Conghan, because conditions in the factory are so unpleasant. So, four years ago, the company started buying machines to replace the ever more costly humans.

Nine robots now do the job of 140 full-time workers. Robotic arms pick up sinks from a pile, buff them until they gleam and then deposit them on a self-driving trolley that takes them to a computer-linked camera for a final quality check.

The company, which exports 1,500 sinks a day, spent more than $3m on the robots. “These machines are cheaper, more precise and more reliable than people,” says Chen. “I’ve never had a whole batch ruined by robots. I look forward to replacing more humans in the future,” he adds, with a wry smile.•


Oh good, I can fit both hands.

Julia Ioffe of GQ wrote a very reasonable and well-researched profile of Melania Trump, somehow making the former middling model interesting, no mean feat if you’ve ever heard the QVC peddler speak. The candidate’s spouse is a sun-addled Stepford Wife, her frozen face always staring off into the distance as if she were a statue of a feral cat, seemingly convinced that at any given moment a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue photographer might emerge from the sea in need of an expression that could pass for vaguely erotic.

Melania voiced her displeasure over the piece, and some Trump supporters reacted to the journalist with anti-Semitic threats. That’s no surprise because the hideous hotelier’s campaign, for the all the theorizing of Thomas Frank and his ilk, has always been about identity politics, not concerns over trade deals or technological unemployment. The identity happens to be a bigoted, white male. When it comes to Trump’s appeal, which is not mainly socioeconomic, the writing has always been on the wall, the wall he insists Mexico will pay for.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the piece reveals the Slovenian immigrant might have something of a father complex, her dad a portlier, lower-case version of her god-awful groom. An excerpt:

Jelančič remembers Melania’s father, Viktor, spending every Saturday lovingly washing his antique Mercedes, another rarity. “It was like a ritual,” Jelančič tells me. After leaving his job working for the mayor of Hrastnik, Viktor, then a member of the Slovenian Communist Party, became a salesman at a state-owned car company. Police files from the time indicate Viktor aroused suspicion for illicit trade and tax evasion in 1976. (He was charged with a tax offense, though his record was later cleared on account of Slovenia’s statute of limitations, a process the courts described to me as “legal rehabilitations.”) Melania blocked my efforts to speak to Viktor, and she denies that any such investigation took place. “He was never under any investigation, he was never in trouble,” she snaps. “We have a clean past. I don’t have nothing to hide.”

While working for the car company in Ljubljana, Viktor had an apartment there, in one of the city’s first residential high-rises. It was a prestigious address and provided the girls a place to stay in the capital so that they could attend design school—another luxury. Meanwhile, in Sevnica, a place where most people still lived in drab apartments doled out to them by their factories, Viktor managed to build a house situated in what was considered the toniest part of town.

“Trump reminds me of Viktor,” Viktor’s friend and neighbor Tomaž Jeraj tells me. “He’s a salesman. He has business in his veins.” It’s a sentiment unanimous in Sevnica, where Viktor and Amalija still own their house and visit two or three times a year.

Indeed, if you look at photos of Viktor Knavs and Donald Trump side by side, you wouldn’t be surprised at the comparison. Donald is just five years younger than his father-in-law. Both are tall, portly men with blond hair and sharp suits; they’re brash men who like the finer things in life. “He likes quality,” says Melania. “Viki”—as Viktor is known to his friends here—“likes good food,” Jeraj tells me. “He loves cars.” He was one of the many people who would tell me about Viktor’s extensive collection of Mercedes. “You’ll never see him in another car.”

Those who know the Knavses say that Viktor is boisterous and strong-willed. “Jokes come naturally to him,” Ana Jelančič, a neighbor and friend of the Knavses’, tells me. “If he goes into a bar, people pay attention.” Viktor sucks the air out of a room, she says. “He is the strong one in the relationship. Amalija supports him. She is a wonderful mother and wife.”•

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Speaking of psychodrama, the theatrical therapy is mentioned briefly in John Markoff’s Machines of Loving Grace, in a passage about the nascent career of of roboticist Rodney Brooks, who became widely known from the Errol Morris documentary Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. Even though the connection in this case is glancing, it’s a good metaphor for how low- and high-tech attempts to understand consciousness overlap historically.

The passage:

Hans Moravec, an eccentric young graduate student, was camping in the attic of SAIL, while working on the Stanford Cart, an early four-wheeled mobile robot. A sauna had been installed in the basement, and psychodrama groups shared a lab space in the evenings. Available computer terminals displayed the message “Take me, I’m yours.” “The Prancing Pony”–a fictional wayfarer’s inn in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings–was a mainframe-connected vending machine selling food suitable for discerning hackers. Visitors were greeted in a small lobby decorated with an ungainly “You Are Here” mural echoing the famous Leo Steinberg New Yorker cover depicting a relativistic view of the most important place in the United States. The SAIL map was based on a simple view of the laboratory and the Stanford campus, but lots of people had added their own perspectives to the map, ranging from placing the visitor at the center of the human brain to placing the laboratory near an obscure star somewhere out on the arm of an average-sized spiral galaxy.

It provided a captivating welcome for Rodney Brooks, another new Stanford graduate student. A math prodigy from Adelaide, Australia, raised by working-class parents, Brooks had grown up far from the can-do hacker culture in the United States. However, in 1969–along with millions of others around the world–he saw Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like Jerry Kaplan, Brooks was not inspired to train like an astronaut but was instead seduced by HAL, the paranoid (or perhaps justifiably suspicious) AI.

Brooks puzzled about how he might create his own AI, and arriving at college, he had his first opportunity. On Sundays he had solo access to the school’s mainframe for the entire day. There, he created his own AI-oriented programming language and designed an interactive interface on the mainframe display. Brooks now went to writing theorem proofs, thus unwittingly working in the formal, McCarthy-inspired artificial intelligence tradition. Building an artificial intelligence was what he wanted to do with his life.•

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Lord and Lady Tycoon.

Tycoon & Lady Tycoon.

War dividends of the technological kind snaked in many directions in mid-century America, from kitchen appliances to bowling-ball return machines to business gadgets. In the latter category, new machines reaching the market promised greater automation, the ability to listen and talk and memory augmentation. These are areas reaching a significantly more mature phase now, with Siri and such. An article in the October 24, 1950 Brooklyn Daily Eagle introduced readers to the Dormiphone, the Auto-Typist, the Robotyper and the Tycoon (and Lady Tycoon) soundscriber.

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Blue jeans and rock & roll, or something similar, may have won the Cold War, which was ultimately a cultural and economic one for all the rockets and bombs, but robots may be the key to victory in the coming 25 years. 

In Geoff Dyer’s latest insightful Financial Times piece, the Washington-based correspondent writes the Pentagon is investing heavily in robotics and AI in an effort to keep the U.S. ahead of China and Russia as a military power in the next great arms race. I would think bioengineering will also be a part of the gamesmanship, though how far it will unfold in the next quarter century is TBD. The large sums being spent and the competition among different states with varying priorities are the reasons why I believe AI and automation will move into areas that are troubling, even if we promise ourselves something else.

In Dyer’s article, he asks five questions he believes central to the topic. An excerpt:

How far along is the military robotics revolution?

The Pentagon hails its approach as its third great technological surge since the second world war. The first was the development of battlefield nuclear weapons in the 1950s to deter a possible Soviet invasion of western Europe; the second, the development of precision strike weapons, which started in the mid-1970s and came of age during the 1991 Desert Storm campaign against Saddam Hussein.

Asked how far along the current strategy is, [Pentagon second-in-command Robert] Work says: “We are in 1976 and a period of experimentation. It is not until you see it in battle that anyone really trusts it.” He adds: “Five years from now, we will have some confrontation and we will say: ‘Holy crap, something has happened here,’ and it will start to accelerate more.”•

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It’s hard to conjure a more perfect example of the dual nature on contemporary industry and technology, the boon and the bane, then Tesla’s reason for being confident about the Chinese market. The head-spinning transformation of that state has lifted millions from poverty–and delivered to them the world’s worst air pollution and highest cancer rates. Elon Musk’s EVs promise to filter air inside the vehicle so that it’s 800 times cleaner than Beijing’s oxygen. Just make sure you’re door is not ajar.

From CNBC:

If you’ve ever taken a deep breath in Beijing, you’ll understand why Tesla is so excited about “bioweapon defense mode.”

Given China’s well-documented problems with air quality, Tesla is hoping the cabin-filtering feature will be a major selling point as it expands sales of its electric cars there.

“One of the most interesting features for the Chinese market is the bioweapon defense mode,” said Jon McNeill, head of global sales and service for Tesla, in an interview with Chinese broadcaster CCTV that was posted on Twitter Wednesday.

“It creates air that’s 800 times cleaner than the outside air,” he added.•

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Wearables are the first phase of a next-level plan to monitor human biological functions, with Ingestibles being another part of the picture. I don’t doubt these pills will become widespread. Heart pacemakers were enormous originally, bigger than air conditioners, until they rapidly shrunk to fit inside the chest. Monitoring pills will likewise move the machine inside us.

The initial objections to taking a pill that can communicate your vitals to smartphones and other hardware will likely merely be taking a pill. That concern is silly, especially when you consider the amount of medication we already consume, some of it necessary and much of it not. The more pressing issue is putting technology inside ourselves. Functions we now monitor–not always really well, admittedly–will be handled automatically. We won’t have to think much at all. Additionally, info even about our pulse beat will become a commodity–bought, sold and hacked. Invasions of privacy will have an extended meaning. We will be accessed, we will be accessible.

From “The Future Will Eat Itself,” Shivvy Jervis’ Guardian article:

A significant number of people will understandably be hesitant to swallow a digital pill or stick a sensor on their foreheads. And employees are unlikely instantly to see the value in a computer chip skin tattoo that acts as an all-systems pass for work security.

So what can we expect?


These have understandably been subject to a gamut of robust approvals, and so haven’t hit the mainstream yet. That’s soon set to change.

Largely, they take the shape of a “digital pill” coated in digestible metals such as copper and magnesium embedded in a regular tablet. It dissolves in your stomach acid, releasing a signal to an adhesive patch on your body, which in turn communicates with an app on your smartphone, relaying the info via bluetooth.

Ingestibles are full of sensors that can not only track your vitals but tell you when you last took your medication, if you’re over-medicating or mixing two drugs that shouldn’t be taken together. Critically, it will aid doctors to work out how you’re responding to particular treatment. If you’re concerned about how your body “clears” the chip from your system, rest assured this happens the natural way.•


Rasputin must have been a complicated dad, huh?

The infamous Russian mystic’s elder daughter, Maria, had a wild and woolly life as you might expect, what with the political revolution and the circus-animal training and all. She died in 1977 in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, having spent the final leg of her life collecting Social Security checks and complaining bitterly about communists to Hollywood gossip columnists. Here’s a portrait of her at age 69 from the November 12, 1968 Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Virginia:

We had a pleasant encounter with history last week by taking the daughter of Rasputin, “the mad monk of Russia,” to the Gaslight for a hamburger.

She was in town over the weekend with her friend Patricia Barham, a film and theatre columnist from Los Angeles. While here, they tried and failed to get the apparent Grand Duchess Anastasia to leave her Albemarle County farm for L.A. smog.

The apparent Grand Duchess is, of course, Anna Anderson, the woman who has claimed for 50 years to be the surviving daughter of the last Russian royal family.

If you missed the social news of the summer, Anna moved here from Germany in August and may settle permanently in Albemarle.

Rasputin’s daughter, Maria, has been in the U.S. since 1937 and in Los Angeles since 1965. As was reported during her earlier visit here in August, she came to this country as a circus animal trainer with Ringling Bros.

We learned this trip she was a member of the Hagenbach Brothers animal act, a job she took after several years touring Europe as a Russian folk dancer.

Making a living was a problem for Russian emigres during the 20s and 30s and Maria grabbed at an offer to go on the stage. Girls like Maria who spent their childhood having tea with the Czar’s children every Wednesday weren’t trained to make a living, but Maria had some talent and endless spunk, it appears.

For although Maria was mauled by a bear in Peru, Indiana, she stayed with the circus until the traveling show played Miami, Florida, where she quit and went to work as a riveter in a defense shipyard, she related Saturday night.

She stayed in defense plant work until 1955 when she was laid off because of her age, 66. Since then she has been working in hospitals and baby sitting for friends.

Since credibility gap had yawned intrusively into the conversation, we asked her how she got into the animal training game, and where she got the courage to whip up on lions and tigers. She learned in London, was her unelaborated answer though she noted, ‘After you’ve been the target of a revolution, nothing scares you anymore.’

Gregori Rasputin, her father, was tied in with the Russian royal court as religious advisor.

That lasted until personal enemies decided Rasputin-style religion was going too far and they ended him in a legendary assassination said to involve poisoning, stabbing, and drowning.

Maria said she had it rough in the Bolshevik revolution the year after her father was murdered and eventually left Russia for Berlin, Bucharest, Paris, London, and Miami.

Her English vocabulary isn’t all it might be, she readily admits. She says she speaks Russian best but also German and French. When the time came to write a book – and virtually every notable Russian emigre wrote at least one in the decade 1925-1935 – she dictated her memoirs and the result was, My Father, an anecdotal book on Rasputin published in 1932.

Her friend Pat Barham is in the throws of re-write on a second Rasputin book based on Maria’s recollections. She intends to call it, The Rape of Rasputin and described it as ‘sexsational and exciting’ but not funny.

Maria claims a leaning to be psychic and Pat affirms that on election morning two weeks ago, Maria said that Mrs. Richard Nixon had come to her in a dream and smiled. Maria has ‘signs’ like that often, Pat said.

“Little Mother,” Pat calls Maria for her continual worrying about handbags within reach of strangers in restaurants, suitcases open in hotel rooms, and columnists getting a comfortable chair for interviews.

Since being interviewed is an old game for Rasputin’s only legitimate daughter, she talks willingly and seemingly without reservation. This prompted Gaslight owner John Tuck to volunteer that the father of one of his boyhood chums was one of the band of assassins that did Rasputin in.

‘Why didn’t he like my father?’ Maria asked with genuine curiosity. John didn’t know, or at least didn’t say.

“My father was a kind man,” Maria later said when we returned to her hotel. “Once he was savagely attacked by the most powerful newspaper in Russia. Friends asked why he didn’t close the paper down since he could have done it like this,” she said with a snap of fingers.

“Let them write about me,” her father reportedly said. “Let them make money.” Maria described him as “a kind man who would never have closed the paper.”

Historians may not agree Rasputin was kind but there’s no doubt Maria is thoughtful. “When you leave the hotel, stop at the desk,” she said as the interview closed.

We did and found waiting a pot of white chrysanthemums to carry home through the season’s first snow flurry.•

Footage of Maria as an animal trainer:


Had hoped that Nikkei’s purchase of the Financial Times meant the venerable British paper was on higher ground, safe from drowning in red ink like many of the best publications. But it would seem to not be so

Automation has lately been offered as a lifesaver for the sinking industry, but it’s galling when that transformation is sold as something wonderful for journalists themselves. That’s very unlikely. Jobs will disappear, and while some human intelligence will be augmented, enough will be replaced to leave a bruise. The “worst job in America” may improve for a few lucky souls, but they’ll likely feel increasingly lonely.

Bloomberg is the latest company to promote “automated journalism” as a win-win proposition, though the final score may be much more uneven. A transcript of company EIC John Micklethwait’s memo on the initiative, which was reported by Benjamin Mullin at Poynter.org:

I want to dedicate virtually all this week’s note to an incredibly important subject: automation. I think it is crucial to the future of journalism in a much broader way than many of us realize: It certainly stretches much further than just generating headlines. If we embrace it as a newsroom, apply the brains of our 2,400 journalists and analysts as well as the values of independence, transparency and rigor that Bloomberg’s journalism at its best exemplifies, then we can lead the rest of our industry — and write a lot of amazing stories in the process.

We already use automation quite a lot — to alert our readers to news, to customize news and to spot trends. It plays a big role in many of our new initiatives: In Daybreak, it will let customers tailor their morning news; our equity Movers project relies on computers to tell us when a share has jumped or sunk; Project Cyborg is helping our editors send headlines this earnings season on hundreds of U.S. companies; and computers are helping us instantly translate stories into other languages. But we have only scratched the surface.

So this week we are forming a 10-strong team to lead this initiative. Brad Skillman will head it up from the editorial side and work with our automation czarina, Monique White in News Development, to oversee the creation of smart automated content. The roles available include project coordinators, template writers and engineers. The positions will be posted on {PATH }. We will set up a dedicated wire for some of our stories; in other cases, we will just publish to BN or BFW. Brad, Monique and the group will work with rest of the newsroom to make sure we are tapping our biggest brains for the best ideas. The effort will encompass all of our editorial groups, including BN, BFW and BI. If you have an idea, please take it to them.

Why do we need you, if the basic idea is to get computers to do more of the work? One irony of automation is that it is only as good as humans make it. That applies to both the main types of automated journalism. In the first, the computer will generate the story or headline by itself. But it needs humans to tell it what to look for, where to look for it and to guarantee its independence and transparency to our readers. In the second sort, the computer spots a trend, delivers a portion of a story to you and in essence asks the question: Do you want to add or subtract something to this and then publish it? And it will only count as Bloomberg journalism if you sign off on it. For instance, the computer might be telling you that McDonald’s share price has fallen, while the price of beef has risen. It is up to you to decide whether it is worth writing about this — just as it was up to you to tell the computer to be on the lookout for moves in beef prices.

Done properly, automated journalism has the potential to make all our jobs more interesting. I have written before about journalism moving from covering what has happened to covering why it did. The time spent laboriously trying to chase down facts can be spent trying to explain them. We can impose order, transparency and rigor in a field which is something of a wild west at the moment.•

Short documentary from 1961 about the then-futuristic offices of the Miami Herald, a “self-contained city of over 1,200 inhabitants.” It was a time of typewriters, pneumatic tubes and typesetters, when the era of print seemed limitless, before technological efficiency began to destroy the economic model.

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Plastics made for a great one-word metaphor in The Graduate, Mike Nichols’ 1967 film about the end of youth in a tumultuous time when many young people wanted nothing to do with advancement in a world of wars and wares. But it wasn’t great career advice. As Juan Enriquez noted in a recent TED Talk about bioengineering, Benjamin Braddock would have received far better counsel had he been offered a different term: Silicon.

For this year’s grads, the academic suggests the best tip would be Lifecode, which he defines as the “various ways we have of programming life.” He also refers to it as a “superpower,” which is not hyperbolic. The engineering of evolution, which will increasingly be in our hands, will require great care if we are to get things right, ethically as well as scientifically. Enriquez notes rightly, however, that waiting too long to use these new tools is as risky as rushing in headlong.



A world in which Virtual Reality is in wide use would present a different way to see things, but what if reality is already not what we think it is?

It’s usually accepted that we don’t all see things exactly the same way–not just metaphorically–and that our individual interpretation of stimuli is more a rough cut than an exact science. It’s a guesstimate. But things may be even murkier than we believe.

In “The Case Against Reality,” a really interesting Atlantic article by Amanda Gefter, the journalist interviews cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman who thinks our perception isn’t even a reliable simulacra, that what we take in is nothing like what actually is. Here’s the first exchange from the Q&A after a well-written introduction:


People often use Darwinian evolution as an argument that our perceptions accurately reflect reality. They say, “Obviously we must be latching onto reality in some way because otherwise we would have been wiped out a long time ago. If I think I’m seeing a palm tree but it’s really a tiger, I’m in trouble.”

Donald D. Hoffman:

Right. The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions—mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.•

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Visited Miami Beach many times when younger and the South Beach area once, and I did not approve. The only thing that really interested me were the lessons learned from the Art Deco architecture. For one, Miami has the largest concentration of such buildings in America anywhere outside of NYC. The reason? The city fell into such disrepair in the latter half of the 20th century that nobody cared to raze the glorious old structures and make something new. Disinterest is great for architectural preservation. The other more trivial items were fun. For instance, the exterior walls of the edifices were often built significantly higher than the penthouse apartment to make it look like there was an extra floor at the top, allowing mobsters to build open-air gambling parlors on roofs that were shielded from prying eyes, even binoculars, of police on the street.

Investors certainly care about Miami now, at least until it drowns, and the city is one of the places in the U.S. that is currently urbanizing its suburbs, which sounds odd, but there’s a demand even from those who don’t embrace cities with big shoulders to reside in a place where there’s some there there.

From the Economist:

Today the fad in south Florida is not golf villages or retro towns but ready-made city centres. Half an hour’s drive south of Sunrise, another Metropica-like development, City Place Doral, is under construction. Two others with even taller towers, Miami Worldcentre and Brickell City Centre, are going up in central Miami. A huge development called SoLe Mia will rise in north Miami. All will combine “walkable” shopping streets, offices and homes—mostly two- and three-bedroom flats in towers. Like a rash, similar developments are popping up in other American states and as far away as China and Vietnam.

Builders call these developments “mixed-use”, a term that fails to capture what they are up to. The idea of combining flats, offices and shops even in a single building is not new: look at an old New York district like Chelsea. Metropica and its kin try to create urban cores in places that lack them. Whereas new urbanist settlements often promote a small-town ideal, these sell big-city life, which is why they have words like “metro”, “city” and “centre” in their names. The salesmen claim that residents will be able to live, work and be entertained in a single district.

Ersatz city centres are multiplying now partly because it takes about this long after a financial crisis to begin a big project. Another reason is the rising price of land. Jeffrey Soffer of Turnberry Associates, a big Miami developer, points out that south Florida has almost run out of room to sprawl. Pinched between the Everglades in the west and the Atlantic in the east, it must go up. And although some cities, including Miami, are probably building too many high-rise flats, demand is fairly strong. Foreigners want to own them (most of the people buying flats in Metropica are Latin Americans) and young Americans want to rent them, partly because they find it hard to get mortgages to buy family homes. The towers are growing bigger: 48% of flats constructed in America in 2014 were in buildings with at least 50 units.•

Kevin Kelly believes he’s seen the future of Virtual Reality, and it’s name is Magic Leap, a Florida-based firm which awed him when he visited the company’s campus. An excerpt from early in his Wired article:

In this prototype headset, created by the much speculated about, ultrasecretive company called Magic Leap, this alien drone certainly does seem to be transported to this office in Florida—and its reality is stronger than I thought possible.

I saw other things with these magical goggles. I saw human-sized robots walk through the actual walls of the room. I could shoot them with power blasts from a prop gun I really held in my hands. I watched miniature humans wrestle each other on a real tabletop, almost like a Star Wars holographic chess game. These tiny people were obviously not real, despite their photographic realism, but they were really present—in a way that didn’t seem to reside in my eyes alone; I almost felt their presence.•

At first, such tools tool may be toys. Starbreeze Studios announced plans to open a Los Angeles VR arcade. It would be a chance to introduce the technology to the masses that so far have only read the glowing reports. From the press release:

Starbreeze AB, an independent creator, publisher and distributor of high quality entertainment products, today at VRLA Winter Expo announced its intention to establish a VR arcade venue in Los Angeles, named Project StarCade. Aiming to make premium VR experiences accessible for the masses, Starbreeze will create a StarVR powered arcade hall, where VR enthusiasts and novices alike are welcome to experience the exciting technology in an immersive setting.

“We continue to iterate the fact that VR really needs to be experienced in person to fully be able to appreciate the phenomenon, and why not have your first experience in a real premium setting in our StarVR headset? We’ve managed to secure a prime location where people are welcome to step into our StarCade and enjoy our OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead VR experience.” said Starbreeze CTO Emmanuel Marquez. He continued, “We’re developing our own StarCade catalogue of experiences, but we’re open to any content. We will invite developers to join us and give them the opportunity to put their content in our StarCade. We as an industry continuously need to educate ourselves to make VR truly successful, and this is just the first step in our planning to do so.”

Of course, more practical applications will emerge, from education to vocational training to even therapy. Whenever I read something about VR, I immediately wonder what Jacob L. Moreno, the student of Freud who invented the psychodrama (and hypnodrama) would have done with the tool. It’s definitely necessary to be wary of how living in the virtual could impact our behavior in the actual, because no matter how much we’ve gotten into traditional films, TV shows and paintings, VR is a further immersion and will affect our brains differently. But I assume some patients (e.g., soldiers with PTSD) could be aided by such technology. 

Below are two videos of Moreno in action at psychodrama theaters (the first in 1964, the second in 1948), places where individuals could act out scenarios from their lives within a group dynamic, hopefully gaining insight into their behavior, especially the self-destructive kind.

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From the October 25, 1912 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:


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It would seem that convoys of driverless trucks would be far easier to test and perfect than other autonomous vehicles. In the early stages of adoption, you could just put two human drivers in the first truck and have them alternate sitting behind the wheel. The trailing rigs could be programmed to follow suit of the lead vehicle. The destinations are also much easier to execute, as they’re predetermined and not changing and challenging like with taxis.

It’s estimated that eight million American jobs depend on the trucking industry (not only drivers but also support staff and workers at businesses frequented by truckers, like diners and such). Those will likely be gone in a few decades, not offset by savings to consumers realized as automation increases production and reduces prices.

The opening of Ryan Petersen’s Techcrunch article “The Driverless Truck Is Coming, and It’s Going to Automate Millions of Jobs“:

A convoy of self-driving trucks recently drove across Europe and arrived at the Port of Rotterdam. No technology will automate away more jobs — or drive more economic efficiency — than the driverless truck.

Shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75 percent of that cost. But those labor savings aren’t the only gains to be had from the adoption of driverless trucks.

Where drivers are restricted by law from driving more than 11 hours per day without taking an 8-hour break, a driverless truck can drive nearly 24 hours per day. That means the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost.

And the savings become even more significant when you account for fuel efficiency gains. The optimal cruising speed from a fuel efficiency standpoint is around 45 miles per hour, whereas truckers who are paid by the mile drive much faster. Further fuel efficiencies will be had as the self-driving fleets adopt platooning technologies, like those from Peloton Technology, allowing trucks to draft behind one another in highway trains.

Trucking represents a considerable portion of the cost of all the goods we buy, so consumers everywhere will experience this change as lower prices and higher standards of living.•


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