I'm just about to go to the airport to fly to Sydney for tonight's event, What should we do about Democracy?
It's part of the Australia/New Zealand tour for Walkaway, and from Sydney, I'm moving on to the Adelaide Festival and then to Wellington for Writers and Readers Week and the NetHui one-day event on copyright.
It feels like democracy is under siege, even in rich, peaceful countries like Australia that have escaped financial shocks and civil strife. Populist impulses have been unleashed in the UK and USA. There is a record lack of trust in the institutions of politics and government, exacerbated by the ways in which social media and digital technology can spread ‘fake news’ and are being harnessed by foreign powers to meddle in politics. Important issues that citizens care about, like climate change, are sidelined by professional politicians, enhancing the appeal of outsider figures. Do these problems add up to the failure of democracy? Are Brexit and Trump outliers, or the new normal? Join a lively panel of experts and commentators explore some big questions about the future of democracy, and think more clearly about what we ought to do.
Speakers Cory Doctorow, A.C. Grayling, Rebecca Huntley and Lenore Taylor
Chair Jeremy Moss
A team at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have created a set of foldable, 3D printed robots that are doped with magnetic particles that are precisely aligned during printing; when triggered by a control-magnet they engage in precise movements: grabbing, jumping, rolling, squeezing, etc.
John Perry Barlow lived many lives: small-time Wyoming Republican operative (and regional campaign director for Dick Cheney!), junior lyricist for the Grateful Dead, father-figure to John Kennedy Jr, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, inspirational culture hero for the likes of Aaron Swartz and Ed Snowden (and, not incidentally, me), semi-successful biofuels entrepreneur... He died this year, shortly after completing his memoir Mother American Night, and many commenters have noted that Barlow comes across as a kind of counterculture cyberculture Zelig, present at so many pivotal moments in our culture, and that's true, but that's not what I got from my read of the book -- instead, I came to know someone I counted as a friend much better, and realized that every flaw and very virtue he exhibited in his interpersonal dealings stemmed from the flaws and virtues of his relationship with himself.
David Graeber defined a "bullshit job" in his viral 2013 essay as jobs that no one -- not even the people doing them -- valued, and he clearly struck a chord: in the years since, Graeber, an anthropologist, has collected stories from people whose bullshit jobs inspired them to get in touch with him, and now he has synthesized all that data into a beautifully written, outrageous and thought-provoking book called, simply, Bullshit Jobs.
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