Things didn’t end well between George Carlo and Tom Wheeler; the last time the two met face-to-face, Wheeler had security guards escort Carlo off the premises. As president of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), Wheeler was the wireless industry’s point man in Washington. Carlo was the scientist handpicked by Wheeler to defuse a public-relations crisis that threatened to strangle his infant industry in its crib. This was back in 1993, when there were only six cell-phone subscriptions for every 100 adults in the United States. But industry executives were looking forward to a booming future.
Category Archives: Reportages
Last November, Joe Morris, a 31-year-old film-maker from London, noticed a sore spot on his tongue. He figured he’d bitten himself in his sleep and thought nothing more about it until halfway through the winter holidays, when he realised the sore was still with him. He Googled “cut on tongue won’t heal” and, after sifting through pages of medical information on oral cancer, he decided to call his doctor.
The cut was nothing, Joe was sure: he was a non-smoker with no family history of cancer. But he’d make an appointment, just in case.
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I’m sure it’s nothing, the doctor said. You’re not a smoker, and you’re 31 years old. But see a specialist, just in case.
I’m sure it’s nothing, the specialist said, you don’t check any of the boxes, but we’ll do a biopsy, just in case.
When the biopsy results came back positive for cancerous cells, the specialist said that the lab must have made a mistake. The second time Joe’s biopsy results came back positive, the specialist was startled. Now Joe was transferred to Guy’s hospital, which has one of the best oral cancer teams in Britain.
The oncologists at Guy’s reassured Joe again: the cancerous spot was small, and cancer of the tongue typically starts on the surface and grows inward. This tiny sore could likely be nipped out without much damage to the rest of his tongue. They’d take an MRI to make sure there wasn’t any serious inward growth, and then schedule the surgery.
From the outside, it’s just another mobile home in a neighborhood of mobile homes on the northwest side of Fort Wayne, Indiana. There’s the same carport, the same wedge of grass out front, the same dreamy suburban soundtrack of wind chimes and air conditioners. Nothing suggests this particular home belongs to a 32-year-old woman whose encyclopedic knowledge of missing persons has earned her a cult following online. The FBI knows who she is. So do detectives and police departments across the country. Desperate families sometimes seek her out. Chances are that if you mention someone who has disappeared in America, Meaghan Good can tell you the circumstances from memory — the who, what, when, and where. The why is almost always a mystery.
A week after she turned 19, Good started the Charley Project, an ever-expanding online database that features the stories and photographs of people who’ve been missing in the United States for at least a year. She named the site after Charles Brewster Ross, a 4-year-old boy kidnapped in 1874 from the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. His body was never found, and his abduction prompted the first known ransom note in America. Like Charles Brewster Ross, the nearly 10,000 people profiled on Good’s site are cold cases. Many fit the cliché of having vanished without a trace, and if it weren’t for Meaghan Good, most of these cases would have faded into oblivion.
Er is iets vreemds aan de hand met de lichting jong volwassenen die geboren is tussen grofweg 1980 en 2000. Het is de meest intensief opgeleide generatie ooit. Niet eerder in de geschiedenis heeft een geboortecohort zoveel onderwijs genoten en zoveel diploma’s gehaald. Volgens de logica van de kenniseconomie zou zich dat moeten uitbetalen. In hogere salarissen, bijvoorbeeld, in robuuste banen en groeiende welvaart. Maar gelegd langs die meetlat zijn ze slechter af dan hun ouders en grootouders. ‘Iedere autoriteit, van moeders tot presidenten, heeft millennials op het hart gedrukt zo veel mogelijk menselijk kapitaal te verzamelen’, schrijft Malcolm Harris in zijn zojuist verschenen Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials. ‘En dat hebben we gedaan. Maar de markt heeft zich niet aan zijn kant van de afspraak gehouden. Wat is er gebeurd?’
Inderdaad, wat is er gebeurd? Hoe kan het dat, ook in Nederland, de arbeidsproductiviteit nog altijd een stijgende lijn vertoont, maar dat de gemiddelde beloning per werknemer is gestagneerd? De miljoenenvraag is, letterlijk, wie hier de extra winst opstrijkt. ‘Het aantal vaste arbeidscontracten neemt af ten gunste van andere baansoorten’, zo luidt de verklaring van het cbs bij deze
Work is the master of the modern world. For most people, it is impossible to imagine society without it. It dominates and pervades everyday life – especially in Britain and the US – more completely than at any time in recent history. An obsession with employability runs through education. Even severely disabled welfare claimants are required to be work-seekers. Corporate superstars show off their epic work schedules. “Hard-working families” are idealised by politicians. Friends pitch each other business ideas. Tech companies persuade their employees that round-the-clock work is play. Gig economy companies claim that round-the-clock work is freedom. Workers commute further, strike less, retire later. Digital technology lets work invade leisure.
In all these mutually reinforcing ways, work increasingly forms our routines and psyches, and squeezes out other influences. As Joanna Biggs put it in her quietly disturbing 2015 book All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work, “Work is … how we give our lives meaning when religion, party politics and community fall away.”
And yet work is not working, for ever more people, in ever more ways. We resist acknowledging these as more than isolated problems – such is work’s centrality to our belief systems – but the evidence of its failures is all around us.
Much of the current hysteria about the technology industry is due to its highly ambiguous relationship with its users. Driven by the logics of both compassion and indifference, this relationship has always been erratic yet functional. These two clashing rationales, for example, allowed technology companies, frequently painted as Dr Evil, to claim the mantle of Mother Theresa. However, as the unresolved contradictions of these logics pile up, we can’t fail to notice the incoherence of the industry’s overall social vision.
The compassion story has some truth to it. Tech giants have pegged their business models on our ability to consume. Thus, their interests are somewhat aligned with ours: we need a paycheque to buy what’s being advertised. A charitable comparison might be to Henry Ford paying his workers enough to buy his cars; a less charitable might be to slave owners keeping slaves fed not to lose them to exhaustion. However, unlike Ford or slave owners, our tech moguls want someone else to fund their preferred solutions (eg the universal basic income).
Human beings are born too soon. Within hours of arriving in the world, a baby antelope can clamber up to a wobbly standing position; a day-old zebra foal can run from hyenas; a sea-turtle, newly hatched in the sand, knows how to find its way to the ocean. Newborn humans, on the other hand, can’t hold up their own heads without someone to help them. They can’t even burp without assistance. Place a baby human on its stomach at one day old – or even three months old, the age at which lion cubs may be starting to learn to hunt – and it’s stranded in position until you decide to turn it over, or a sabre-toothed tiger strolls into the cave to claim it. The reason for this ineptitude is well-known: our huge brains, which make us the cleverest mammals on the planet, wouldn’t fit through the birth canal if they developed more fully in the womb. (Recently, cognitive scientists have speculated that babies may actually be getting more useless as evolution proceeds; if natural selection favours ever bigger brains, you’d expect humans to be born with more and more developing left to do.)
Almost 140 years ago, a wave of bombs exploded in London. Though they killed a relatively small number of people, they attracted a lot of attention.
The work of Irish extremists hoping to shift public opinion and political thinking about the future of their nation lasted several years. In October 1883, one of their bloodiest attacks injured 40 people on a tube train pulling out of Paddington station. Other targets included the offices of the The Times newspaper, Nelson’s Column, the Tower of London and Scotland Yard.
Throughout the decade, there were other bombings elsewhere in Europe perpetrated by various extremist groups and hitting theatres, opera houses, the French parliament and streetside cafes. In 1920, Wall Street itself was bombed. The wave of attacks prompted concern about new technologies, such as timers and dynamite, which was said to be “cheap as soap and common as sugar”, and drew debate as to how to protect cities and mass transit systems from violence.
Nearly 150 years later, a spate of recent attacks in major European cities have led to similar warnings. Experts tell us how easy it is to construct a viable explosive device with instructions from the internet, and warn of how we can, or can’t, protect our public spaces from the new tactic of using vehicles as murderous rams. After a truck was driven into a crowd at a Christmas market in Berlin last year, the police chief, Klaus Kandt, pointed out that with so many potential targets – 2,500 such markets in Germany and 60 in the city alone – it was impossible to reduce the risk to zero.
“I beg that you see how I am only human,” Otto Warmbier pleaded tearfully at his February 2016 show trial in Pyongyang. The University of Virginia honor student sat in judgment beneath gold-framed portraits of the Kim family, tugging occasionally at the fratty summer jacket he wore over his parti-colored shirt. Before him: a scrum of cameras and a horseshoe of dour goons scribbling in notebooks. The courtroom itself—its dimensions were simply wrong. Too tall, too narrow, why’s there a fern in the corner. Dreamlike, in the eeriest way.
“I have made the worst mistake of my life,” Otto admitted. Two months earlier, he’d ventured into North Korea as part of a five-day package with a China-based outfit called Young Pioneer Tours. He and some other Westerners did what was apparently common on these trips: They imbibed a few cocktails, they snapped a few outré photos in front of statues of mass murderers. As they were boarding their plane out of the country, however, Otto was quietly apprehended. He was accused of committing “a hostile act against the state.” Eventually, Otto was arraigned on charges of working secretly for the U.S. government and attempting to “[bring] down the foundation of [North Korea’s] single-minded unity.” How he supposedly went about this was by stealing a propaganda poster from a forbidden floor of the hotel where his group was staying. For evidence, the North Korean government provided ostensible surveillance footage showing … a silhouetted humanoid … lifting up a sign? And leaning it against a wall?
Cet article a été très compliqué à écrire. Pas seulement à cause des révélations retentissantes qu’il contient, mais parce que mon attention a sans cesse été détournée. Par mon chat Facebook qui clignote. Mon portable qui m’annonce un texto dont la lecture ne saurait souffrir un instant de plus. Ah tiens !, cette vidéo sur Twitter, il faut absolument que je la voie. Et que se passe-t-il sur Instagram en ce moment ? Vous-même, qui avez commencé à lire ce paragraphe, voyez déjà votre concentration se fragiliser. Accrochez-vous, nous sommes tous victimes des pirates de l’attention.
Des cœurs et des flammes
Ma quête a commencé par un rendez-vous avec Emma, 15 ans. Sur la table, posé à côté d’un Coca Light et à portée de ses mains ornées d’un vernis rose écaillé, son portable clignote comme un sapin de Noël perdu dans ce café du nord de Paris. Il n’arrête pas de nous interrompre, alors que je l’interroge justement à ce sujet. C’est surtout le petit fantôme jaune et blanc de Snapchat qui s’immisce dans notre conversation. « Tu vois, ça, ce sont des “streaks”, m’explique-t-elle, me donnant l’impression d’être une poule devant un couteau. Et si tu perds les streaks, tu perds tes amis… » Ces smileys permettent d’établir une typologie des relations comme les ados en raffolent. Cœur jaune pour meilleur ami, cœur rouge pour meilleur ami deux semaines de suite, double cœur rose pour deux mois, etc.