Highlights From Yet Another Week Of Afflictor

This week, with Robert Mugabe deposed and Vladimir Putin reportedly eyeing retirement, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un were left to have a pissing match for the title of world’s worst leader.

A pissing match, huh? I better load up on fluids.

My bladder’s ready to burst. Bring it on, Little Rocket Man.

I don’t have time to explain, guys, but I need you to use North Korea’s finest technology to fill these two bottles with water ASAP.


• The implied religiosity which often attends Artificial Intelligence, a dynamic identified by Jaron Lanier among other technological critics, is made explicit in the Way of the Future, roboticist Anthony Levandowski’s new Silicon Valley spiritual-belief system in which the Four Horsemen, should they arrive, will do so in driverless cars.

•  Digital Leninism is not the only possible future in our increasingly algorithmic world, but determinism is probably embedded to some degree in technology. Yuval Noah Harari dissents from that view in a recent Guardian review of Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0, asserting that technology is what we make it. Even if that is true, take one good look at us and worry.

• In John Gray’s mixed New Statesman review of Peter J. Bowler’s forthcoming book about the hopes and fears provoked by what passes for progress, the critic examines the technological utopias and dystopias that have sprung from laboratories and the humanities to fill our dreams and haunt our nightmares.

Pre-Internet gossip powerhouse Liz Smith passed away. Can’t say that her focus on celebrity made our society better, and in some ways she helped enable a corrupt system that needed to be torn down rather than propped up, but the water she swam in was always more shallow than dirty.

• Gilbert Rogin, the gifted fiction writer and legendary Time Inc. magazine reporter and editor, just died. In 1968, Rogin turned out a sharp Sports Illustrated profile of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, a Houdini whose trick was getting hurt, when he was dreaming of blowing up his career by flying a rocket over the Grand Canyon.

• In Cathy O’Neil’s concerned Bloomberg View opinion piece, the editorialist worries about the wisdom of uploading book contents directly to our brains, should that technology become possible.

• A note from 1938 about U.S. Nazi youth camps, an export of European fascism which began to dot the American landscape in the run-up to World War II.