Is engagement with current affairs key to being a good citizen? Or could an endless torrent of notifications be harming democracy as well as our wellbeing? The afternoon of Friday 13 November 2015 was a chilly one in Manhattan, but that only made the atmosphere inside the Old Town Bar, one of the city’s oldest drinking haunts, even cosier than usual. “It’s unpretentious, very warm, a nurturing environment – I regard it with a lot of fondness,” said Adam Greenfield, who was meeting a friend that day over beers and french fries in one of the bar’s wooden booths. “It’s the kind of place you lay down tracks of custom over time.” Greenfield is an expert in urban design, and liable to get more philosophical than most people on subjects such as the appeal of cosy bars. But anyone who has visited the Old Town Bar, or any friendly pub […]

We should challenge the cult of Singularity. AI won’t take over the world Last year, I participated in a discussion of The Human Use of Human Beings, Norbert Weiner’s groundbreaking book on cybernetics theory. Out of that grew what I now consider a manifesto against the growing singularity movement, which posits that artificial intelligence, or AI, will supersede and eventually displace us humans. The notion of singularity – which includes the idea that AI will supercede humans with its exponential growth, making everything we humans have done and will do insignificant – is a religion created mostly by people who have designed and successfully deployed computation to solve problems previously considered impossibly complex for machines. They have found a perfect partner in digital computation, a seemingly knowable, controllable, machine-based system of thinking and creating that is rapidly increasing in its ability to harness and process complexity and, in the process, […]

It took me 18 months to write The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. Over that time period, I wrote somewhere in the vicinity of 150,000 words for the book (about 600 pages). Most of that came in the final three months. In fact, I can confidently say I got far more done in the final three months than I did in the first 12 combined. Now, is that because I was on a deadline and worked like an insane person? Did I shove Adderall up my ass and work in 36-hour spurts or something? No, in fact, those last three months, I worked less each day than I did the first 12, yet I still accomplished far more. In this article, I’d like to make a simple argument (backed with lots of shitty images I created in MS Paint): that when it comes to productivity, things are not […]

The best under-the-radar finds in hip-hop, rock, dance, and more It’s impossible to hear all the music that comes out everyday, but with this list we hope to direct your attention to generally overlooked albums our writers and editors have been returning to over the last few months. None of these releases were named Best New Music and, in some cases, they weren’t reviewed on Pitchfork. But they’re all worth a listen. (All releases featured here are independently selected by our editors. When you buy something through our Amazon links, however, Pitchfork may earn an affiliate commission.) Clone Aleksi Perälä Sunshine 3 Sunshine 3 starts abruptly, midway through a tone—as if the Finnish electronic producer has been performing for hours, and some enterprising soul just now pressed record. Perälä’s third album for the Clone Dub label offers a peppy update to the subtle, intuitively strange terrain of classic IDM, proposing […]

Photo by Matthew Fassnacht on Unsplash There’s no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe we read a few obscure love stories from the 19th century on how not to be. But when it comes down to actually handling the nitty-gritty of relationships, we’re given no pointers… or worse, we’re given advice columns in women’s magazines. Yes, it’s trial-and-error from the get-go. And if you’re like most people, it’s been mostly error. But part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are baked into our culture. We worship romantic love — you know, that dizzying and irrational romantic love that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing — and scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities. Men and women are […]

The most important report on child poverty in years is finally out. California Democrats Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Barbara Lee in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall on January 16, 2019. Rep. Lee helped spearhead the push for the National Academy of Sciences’ study on child poverty. Finding the best ways to do good. Made possible by The Rockefeller Foundation. In late 2015, Congress agreed as part of a bipartisan funding deal to produce a landmark, $750,000 report on how to cut child poverty in America. The result of pressure from California Democratic Representatives Barbara Lee and Lucille Roybal-Allard, the provision called for the National Academy of Sciences to convene a group of experts to produce “a nonpartisan, evidence-based report that would provide its assessment of the most effective means for reducing child poverty by half in the next 10 years.” That group has now, more than three years later, produced […]

Most serious urban violence is concentrated among less than 1 percent of a city’s population. So why are we still criminalizing whole areas? In 1982, George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson told a story about a window, a story that changed the fates of entire neighborhoods for decades. Writing in the March issue of The Atlantic, Kelling and Wilson proposed that American policing needed to get back to the project of maintaining order if America wanted communities be safe from harm. “Disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence,” they argued. One broken window leads to scores of broken windows; broken windows signal the breakdown of neighborhood social control; neighborhoods become “vulnerable to criminal invasion,” communities ridden with destruction, drug dealing, prostitution, robbery, and ultimately, serious violence. In essence, Kelling and Wilson argued that latent danger loomed everywhere, and everywhere people’s disorderly impulses needed […]

Michael Cohen showed he learned some tricks from his former mentor. The key to Donald Trump’s political career has been his ability to keep control of the news conversation. Sometimes that involves positive stories; more often, it involves outrageous or negative ones. But either way, the effect is to keep Trump at the center. The president’s control of the conversation is not absolute. He has sometimes been shoved aside—by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s filings, by authors like Michael Wolff and Bob Woodward, or by natural disasters. But on Wednesday, something different happened: One of his political opponents was able to grasp control of the story. Not only was the man who grabbed the spotlight Michael Cohen, whom Trump has called a “rat.” All the more upsettingly for the president, it happened while he was out of the country, at a summit in Vietnam, and in the middle of the night […]

More than 250 rallies held across the US to decry Trump’s national emergency declaration to build the border wall. Washington, DC – Thousands of people rallied nationwide on Monday to protest against the national emergency US President Donald Trump declared last week to help fund his long-promised wall across the US-Mexico border. More than 250 rallies were organised across the United States on President’s Day, a US government holiday, with protesters carrying banners and placards that called the national emergency “fake”. “I do think we have a national emergency in this country, this is an emergency to our democratic system,” Angelina Huynh, who joined the rally in Washington, DC, outside the White House with her two preschool children, told Al Jazeera. As snow fell in Boston, Massachusetts, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley took to the stage to speak against Trump’s bid to bypass Congress and help free up $8bn in funds for his […]

When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy. A few weeks after she realized her husband was finally leaving her, Sarah Pursglove flew down to the Bahamas to figure out how much money he really had. Like many women married to very wealthy men, she didn’t know much about the family accounts. Her husband, a Finnish entrepreneur named Robert Oesterlund, had sworn to a Canadian court that his immediately calculable “net family property” totaled just a few million dollars. Pursglove was skeptical. She could come up with several family purchases worth more than that off the top of her head. There was the 165-foot yacht, Déjà Vu — that cost a few million dollars a year just to keep on the water. There was the $30 […]

When Todd’s psychiatrist suggested he start taking psychedelics, he figured it was a joke. It wasn’t. The former corporate executive from Colorado retired in 2006 after an MRI revealed his spine was riddled with a dozen tumors called hemangiomas, which later spread to his brain. Todd was told he would die before the end of 2008. Somehow, Todd has survived—he credits medical marijuana, which he now uses daily—but he is still considered terminal. “It could be tomorrow. It could be five years from now,” he says in a call. However, the 54-year-old spent the past decade plagued by a host of mental health problems, including PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. He was suicidal and tormented by violent night terrors. Nothing, not even massive doses of Xanax or Valium, could temper his panic attacks or end-of-life anxiety. “My mental condition was deteriorating rapidly, and I was on [antidepressant] medication No. 14 and […]

I have a pretty terrible memory. I constantly forget where I left my phone, and I couldn’t tell you what I ate for breakfast the day before yesterday. When friends bring up something we did together in 2017, I’ll frequently blurt with surprise, “wait, we did?” But if you asked me to recite the opening lines of E.B. White’s short story “Once More to the Lake,” I could do it without blinking. By some strange alchemy, that passage, which I read obsessively before one high school English exam, remains branded in my mind a whole decade later. But hold your applause. While this feat amazes me, it would have been normal — expected, even — for many people in almost every culture throughout human history. Even as recently as half a century ago, schoolchildren as young as 8 would be expected to memorize as many as 40 lines of poetry. […]

Last week in a company blog post, YouTube informed its approximately 2 billion users that it would begin to change how recommendations function, reducing instances of content that “comes close to—but doesn’t quite cross the line of—violating our Community Guidelines.” What defines “borderline” content, and who does the defining? That’s where things get hazy. It’s laudable to attempt transparency with a user base the size of YouTube’s. The recommendation algorithm is a black box anyhow, and theoretically, the platform could have been overhauled it without prior notice. Content that’s nearly over the line but technically kosher has been shown, on Facebook anyway, to be rewarded with more engagement—an bug in the system that plenty of users are happy to exploit. Taking action to level the playing field, it can be argued, is a step in the right direction for YouTube, which has been accused of unwittingly nudging young users down extremist rabbit holes, specifically through […]

Popular music is shrinking. From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 fell from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Six percent of hit songs were 2 minutes 30 seconds or shorter in 2018, up from just 1% five years before. Take Kendrick Lamar. One of the world’s most popular musicians right now. The average track length on Lamar’s breakout 2013 album good kid, m.A.A.d city is 5 minutes 37 seconds. All are 3 minutes 30 seconds or longer. On Lamar’s most recent album DAMN., the average song is 3 minutes and 57 seconds. DAMN. won the Pulitzer Prize for music, going to show that this trend isn’t necessarily lowering the quality of music. It’s not just Lamar. The trend can be seen in albums of music’s biggest stars, like the rapper and singer Drake, perhaps pop music’s most dominant force. Unlike Lamar, Drake’s albums […]

My relationship with the words “I’m sorry” changed drastically last year in a crowded New York restaurant. It was one of those places with dark walls and $15 cocktails, and six of us were squeezed into a table in the back. We were halfway through our bread basket when the friend who’d organized the dinner told us her old friend had decided to join last minute. The uptight side of me I work very hard to hide quietly panicked. Where will he sit? Are the servers going to get mad? Play it cool. When her friend arrived 20 minutes later, the group of us engaged in a speed round of musical chairs to find him a spot, and the music stopped on me: “Haley would you mind taking this seat? I’m so sorry.” My friend was signaling to a chair — a classic Worst Seat: little to no table access, […]