Daily Bafflements

Technology bytes.

The BafflerSeptember 16, 2016
Tech tycoons, tech politics,  and tech sales tactics. What's a cat to do? / Anna Magal

Tech tycoons, tech politics, and tech sales tactics. What’s a cat to do? / Anna Magal

• Our friends at MuckRock will fund your pet research project on Palantir with their Thiel Fellowship, although we’re a bit skeptical that the program only lasts one year—we suspect the Paypal founder’s misdeeds and covert operations from intelligence contracting to publisher-killing, could keep you busy for a while. But seriously, journalists, check it out.

• Today on the blog, David V. Johnson forecasts the future of our first tech president, a man who “realize[s] that the preamble of our Constitution demands a more perfect user-interface (UI) experience, which requires add-ons like civic-engagement platforms, product management, and coding-as-public-service.”

Meanwhile, the specter of Obama spending his post-presidency in the Valley functions as a handy sort of Rorschach test on one’s views of Obama as the president of hope and change—to say nothing of Silicon Valley’s assiduously tended image as the premier industry of hope and change. Let the cheerleaders for both make their cases. As for me, I see the ink blot as exactly the sort of uncontroversial low-hanging fruit and non-partisan technocratic fix—accompanied, of course, by soaring speeches, buzzy slogans, and captivating visuals of revolutionary foment—that characterizes his presidency.

Over at the Daily Beast, though, Dave Maney remains a true believer in “disruption” as the political mode du jour. From what we can gather, Maney thinks we can harness “swarm dynamics” to “disrupt” the two-party system and “self-organize in a way that is vastly more powerful and transparent and user-friendly” than the “Democrats’ socialism-fueled platform [or] the Republicans’ nativist one.” “Imagine if you were Jeff Bezos, circa 1994,” he asks (though we’d rather not), “and every member of every state legislature and Congress was named “Barnes” or “Noble.” Think you’d have a clear runway to building your category-killing company?” Can’t win ’em all, we suppose.

• A popular product called Adblock Plus now sells ads. As The Verge says, “Uh, okay . . .”