I've read many responses to Paul Graham's overly simple Economic Inequality essay. The best, I think, is this by Steven Johnson. Not only is he of tech culture, but he's willing to call out the things that are bad, as well as good. And he has an eye on a great truth of SF culture: it's not all money-grubbing venture capital bros. A lot of hard working, progressive people, willing to experiment with the foundations of their lives, are what makes the place tick.
When I first read “On Inequality” a few weeks ago, I found myself irritated by the hint of extortion in the way Graham phrased his argument: That’s a nice 50,000-year-curve of technological progress you got there; would be a shame if something happened to it. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself considering all the forces that Graham left out of his startup-centric account of technological progress. Yes, hailing an Uber with your smartphone relies on innovations that made a small group of startup founders extremely wealthy. But think of all the other innovations that also make that experience possible, and the different economic models behind them. The Android operating system is a fork of the open-source operating system Linux, which was collectively authored by thousands of people all over the world, with no traditional ownership model for their creation. An iPhone contains many lines of code taken from open source platforms maintained by nonprofit working groups. The Web and TCP/IP protocols that allow the device to communicate with servers at Uber were developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN and by a handful of computer scientists around the world, many of them partially funded by the United States government. The network of GPS satellites that allow you to pinpoint your location on a map were initially created by the U.S. military. The atomic clocks that make GPS work were first built by national laboratories in the United States and the United Kingdom. Cellular networks were originally invented at Bell Labs, a research lab inside a giant corporation, whose innovations were effectively socialized thanks to the anti-trust agreement Bell, and then AT&T, struck to preserve its monopoly.
Look at this great, long piece about a neat local teenager with great ambition. Go Molly — You have the support of the Seattle Review of Books.
She became more drawn to the people doing the doing. The concept of “making change” stuck with her like leftover glue between her fingers, until it became clearer to the fourth-grader: politics.
“If I like politics so much, and if I just want to talk about politics all the time, why don’t I just be a politician? And so then of course my mind went straight to, Oh, I’ll just be the president.”
Molly’s held on to the idea ever since — except for a brief moment in middle school when she thought she should have a more realistic goal and decided she wanted to be a lawyer. “But now I’m kind of like, I’m just gonna shoot for the stars.” Her election year will “most likely be in 2048,” she says, when she’s “old enough to have experience but young enough to seem fresh.”
Are you really going to let this assertion stand, American writers? Vollying creative work back and forth between the states and the UK is an old tradition. It's time for us to have an American invasion of great children's work.
That said, this is a good point….
American fantasies differ in another way: They usually end with a moral lesson learned—such as, surprisingly, in the zany works by Dr. Seuss who has Horton the elephant intoning: “A person’s a person no matter how small,” and, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.” Even The Cat in the Hat restores order from chaos just before mother gets home. In Oz, Dorothy’s Technicolor quest ends with the realization: “There’s no place like home.” And Max in Where the Wild Things Are atones for the “wild rumpus” of his temper tantrum by calming down and sailing home.
Wide ranging inteview with the always interesting Junot Diaz:
I was living in Mexico City, I had a group of dudes and young sisters who liked to get together—we liked to go dancing, we liked to go drinking. One night I was out very late, this was like five months, no, maybe like four months into my trip. It was very late, and we were over at a friend’s house; the guy’s house who I was at turned out to—in the future—turned out to be a very famous Mexican actor. But that night we were just all hanging out and it was a bunch of Mexican bohemians and me and my Guatemalan buddy. And one of these Mexican cats just pulled a book off a shelf and just cornered me and was like, “My favorite writer in the world.” He was telling me, “My favorite writer in the world is Oscar Wao, I love Oscar Wao, Oscar Wao is brilliant.” And I was dying because I knew he meant Oscar Wilde. That’s where the book began. After that party I went home and I laid in bed, and I suddenly had this idea of this fore-cursed family. This idea of this awkward fat boy and this idea that this family would be cursed in love, that they would have great trouble finding love. You know it just felt like a real good kind of novella, telenovela type plot. I just thought, “Hey, I can work with this, you know, I can really change this into something else.”