The story behind a photo that regularly goes viral on Reddit.
We at Basecamp love to preach the virtues of the 8-hour work day, but where did it come from? (Hint: Not from Henry Ford!) Labor historian Emily Twarog explains the origins of the 8-hour work day and why it was so short-lived in the U.S.
A man in California is haunted by the memory of a pop song from his youth. He can remember the lyrics and the melody. But the song itself has vanished, completely scrubbed from the internet. PJ takes on the Super Tech Support case.
100 years on from Isaac Asimov’s birth, Matthew Sweet looks at one of the bigger ideas contained in some of his 500 books; Psychohistory.
The idea, from Asimov’s Foundation series, was that rather like the behaviour of a gas could be reduced to statistical probabilities of the behaviour of billions of molecules, so the history of billions of human beings across the fictional galactic empire could be predicted through a few laws he called ‘Psychohistory’.
The idea inspired many to think that social sciences and economics can really be reduced to some sort of idealized set of physics principles, making future events completely predictable. It and similar ideas are still breeding enthusiasm for such things as data science, AI, machine learning, and arguably even the recent job advert by Downing Street advisor Dominic Cummings for more ‘Super-Talented Wierdos’ to work for government. But how do we see what is real and what is not, what is Sci-Fi and what is hype, what is reasonable and what is desirable, in the gaps between innovation and inspiration, restraint and responsibility?
Jack Stilgoe of University College London has a new book out ‘Who’s Driving Innovation?’. Science and Tech journalist Gemma Milne’s forthcoming book is called ‘Smoke and Mirrors: How hype obscures the future and How to see past it’. Una McCormack is an expert on science fiction writing at Anglia Ruskin University, and Alexander Boxer is a data scientist who’s new book ‘Scheme of Heaven’ makes the case that we have much to learn about human efforts to deduce the future from observable events by looking at the history of Astrology, its aims and techniques.
Performance is a high priority for any site of scale today, but it can be easier to make a site fast than to keep it that way. As a site’s features and design evolves, its performance is often threatened for a number of reasons, making it hard to ensure fast, resilient access to services. In this session, Scott will draw from real-world examples where business goals and other priorities have conflicted with page performance, and share some strategies and practices that have helped major sites overcome those challenges to defend their speed without compromises.
The moments, memes, and the music that defined a decade.
This week, Eric sits down with Watchmen writer Cord Jefferson (The Good Place, Succession) to talk about what makes the show so singular in its unflinching look at race in America.
In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced a goal of "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth" before the end of the decade, the mission seemed all but impossible.
"[The U.S.] didn’t have a spaceship that could fly to the moon," journalist Charles Fishman notes. "We didn’t have a rocket that could launch to the moon. We didn’t have a computer small enough or powerful enough to do the navigation necessary to get people to the moon. We didn’t have space food."
There was even some disagreement about whether human beings would be able to think in zero gravity.
Nevertheless, the race to the moon was on — especially after the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth, on April 12, 1961. Fishman’s new book, One Giant Leap, tells the story of the ordinary people who mobilized behind the Apollo program to pull off the most extraordinary human achievement: the July 20, 1969, moon landing.
Fishman notes that 410,000 men and women at some 20,000 different companies contributed to the effort. They designed, built and tested the spacecraft and equipment the astronauts used — often working by hand.
"It was an enormous undertaking," he says. "It’s 10 times the effort to build the Panama Canal. Three times the size of the Manhattan Project. … Apollo was the biggest nonmilitary effort in the history of human civilization."
Kenneth Cukier gets in the Babbage time machine and travels to 1989, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the famous memo that laid the foundations for the world wide web. Kenn speaks to some of the other key figures that influenced its invention, like Ted Nelson and Vint Cerf, and then asks what the WWW might look like in the future.
Function’s Anil Dash joins Matt to discuss how Big Tech broke the web and how we can get it back.
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