Ending Malaria

Megan Molteni of Wired Magazine cracks open the Crispr gene-editing process relative to eliminating malaria (a fifteen year process) in mosquitoes.

I’m curious what unforeseen changes will occur in the ecology as we mold our environment at a genetic level. Everyone agrees that ending malaria is a good thing. But good things are relative in Mother Nature. Ecologically, events cascade in often unforeseen fractals — an evolving, invisible calculus catalyzed by technology.

I’m sure educated, brilliant people are connecting the dots of these events. The challenge is the dots are moving and mingling in unusual Gestalts. As Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the hyperlink, might say, “one thing leads to another.”

Facebook’s Fallacy

Facebook will partner with the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute to combat “fake” news. Previously, Facebook elected to eliminate human editors, replacing them with algorithms oriented to maximize user engagement (re: enhance revenue through outrage). Now, Facebook is enlisting the assistance of politically motivated entities to better polish the sheen on its news content.

This is like inviting the fox into the henhouse with a bib, a fork, and a ‘do not disturb’ sign hanging on the door — the fox doesn’t even need the fork or the bib. Bias will inevitably bleed into decision-making. Facebook’s insulation in Silicon Valley and its own culture seems to have completely skewed its viewpoint on reality. This sort of thinking validates my decision to leave that toxic platform for the greener fields of self-publishing through WordPress.

UPDATE: Kara Swisher, writing a prescient op-ed piece in the New York Times called “A Wise Man Leaves Facebook”, agrees that Facebook needs its nay-sayers. Diversity of perspective and thought is a key element for any organization’s growth.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

“The clearest way to see through a culture is to attend to its tools for conversation.”

Marshall McLuhan

I’ve plunged head-first into Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. While it’s far too early to glean any sort of revelation from the book, it’s easy to read the tea leaves of a great thinker, a prescient storyteller, and a prophetic educator.

The zenith of his first argument teeters from McLuhan’s quote above, intersecting with Native American smoke signals as an uncomplicated form of communication. Smoke cotton-balls ballooning into the sky could not contain sophisticated philosophies or debate; only raw, simple information.

It’s fascinating how similar network access is to that simple act, exchanging smoke for transluscent blossoms of radiation to convey our thoughts. We are, all of us, igniting the atmosphere with our collective rumination, tattooing the invisible skin of the world with fire.

UPDATE: No one wants a great book to end.

The main argument Postman makes is: communication through imagery is a poor replacement, both socially and culturally, for communicating through typography. He positions various points to defend this hypothesis throughout the book, from televangelism to photography to politics. His arguments are insightful, carefully deconstructing purpose to expose intent. 

The challenge is that it’s hard to trust words these days. The vast majority of communication legwork is handled nonverbally. There is a reason that publishing photos through Instagram or Facebook is so popular — photos tell the story quickly and efficiently. A few clicks and you’re done as opposed to constructing icon after icon composing word after word to form a sentence to craft a coherent thought or story.

Sadly, we are trading craft for convenience.

Unsub: A Novel Review

Written in a very tight, Dan Brown-esque magazine style of writing, Unsub is fairly thick on plot yet transient on character or story structure.

This book was the helpless victim of our inability to focus on paragraphs over 20–30 words long as well numerous other casualties in the war for our attention—writing techniques like synchronicity, propulsion (many scenes are linked together conjunctively using ‘and’ rather than ‘because’ or ‘therefore’), and foreshadowing.

I would like to read an earlier draft of this as I suspect the editing hacked and slashed its way through some of the juicier bits of writing that would have propelled the book from screenplay writing to a meaty novel. Sadly, there is nothing really new here as the marketing would have you believe.

I do not want to be unduly harsh on the book: Unsub reads very quickly, the action moves, and it is in many respects a good, tight read. I’ll likely return to Gardiner’s world as I’m curious to see how she chooses to develop it.