Why We Shouldn’t Want Manufacturing Jobs Back

The words "Rust Belt" evoke a vanished age of American greatness.Cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit, once mighty economic powerhouses, now have a reputation for dwindling and decline. Their factories have closed; their populations are aged and shrunken; their civic architecture has fallen into desolation and decay, spawning the genre of "ruin porn". And the resentment and despair of rootless former blue-collar workers is a central issue in the presidential race.This story resonates … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: Primitive Technology

My latest obsession is Primitive Technology, a video blog from remote northern Australia. The creator, who hasn't identified himself by name, has an ambitious goal: to go out into the wilderness and recreate as much human technology as possible, starting from the Stone Age and working his way up.Working with nothing but his bare hands and whatever natural materials he can find, he makes tools from scratch, which he can then use to make more complex tools: knapping stone into hand axes, using … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: Autonomous Vehicles Advance

Nailed it:This week was a huge achievement for Elon Musk's SpaceX, which delivered another payload to orbit - an inflatable habitat module for the International Space Station - and then successfully landed its Falcon 9 reusable rocket on an unmanned drone ship platform waiting for it out at sea.The company has already achieved a rocket landing on solid ground, but this is their first successful sea landing after several previous attempts crashed and exploded. The sea landing is more … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: Reusable Rockets

The news was nearly overshadowed by Christmas, but Elon Musk's SpaceX pulled off an incredible feat of technology this week:The company's Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral to carry a set of communications satellites into orbit. While the second stage of the rocket delivered its payload, the initial booster stage turned around and returned to earth, firing its engines to stabilize itself as it touched down for a soft landing. After two previous near-miss attempts that ended … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Rise of the Machines

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IIFor all its fixation on economic theory, Atlas Shrugged shows a dismal, incurious ignorance of how the economy actually works. When Ayn Rand's capitalists gather in sufficient numbers, consumer goods just spontaneously materialize around them. By all rights, the inhabitants of Galt's Gulch ought to be living like primitive pioneers - wearing furs, dwelling in shacks, subsisting on a diet of salted meat and hardtack. Instead, they inexplicably have a fully … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Fiat Motors

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IDagny and John Galt set off on their tour of the valley. They drop Quentin Daniels off at Midas Mulligan's house ("the only one built two stories high, an odd combination of fortress and pleasure resort, with stout granite walls and broad, open terraces"), then drive on:Abruptly, behind a turn of the road, she saw the green acres of pastures stretching to a distant farmhouse. There were herds of sheep, some horses, the fenced squares of pigpens under … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: April 18

The National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon is almost here again! If you've got a few dollars to spare and want to help strike down barriers to choice, please donate to my wife Elizabeth and her team, At Your Cervix.• The construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea is being blockaded by protesters who believe the mountain is sacred because of a Native Hawaiian myth stating that the world was created starting there.• Just for laughs: The Journal of Universal Rejection, … [Read more...]

Four More Solutions to Twitter Harassment

The CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, made headlines last week when he admitted in a leaked memo that his service has a serious harassment problem which they've done a terrible job of dealing with:We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years. It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day. I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've … [Read more...]

The Mabus Problem: Fighting Anonymous Harassment on Social Media

I'm not much of a video gamer (I spend my free time writing!), but I've been following the work of Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic whose non-profit group Feminist Frequency critiques sexism in popular culture, with a special focus on video games. Her series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games points out lazy, sexist clichés that game designers resort to repeatedly: damsels in distress, women in refrigerators, scenes of sexual violence just to make the game world darker and "grittier", and so … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand vs. Carl Sagan

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter IIThe decay of Colorado is accelerating. Men that Dagny knows personally, men who love their jobs and swear that they'll never leave, that they'll resist whatever blandishment or temptation is claiming their fellows, or at the very least that they won't disappear without an explanation, are vanishing one after another without a word. Since I'm nothing if not scrupulously fair to Ayn Rand, I'll cite this passage as a well-executed example of building … [Read more...]