The Madoff Affair and the Casino Economy

Robert Jackall

The Madoff family wielded remarkable power in the financial world and was not reluctant to use that power to reward friends and punish enemies. In such a world, silence becomes judicious prudence.

The Derivative World

Caitlin Zaloom

What do casinos have to do with Wall Street?

The Great Mortification

Philip Mirowski

Traders, like gaming designers, manipulate bodies, machines, and mental states to promote peak experience.

A Bibliographic Review

Madeline Chiavini, Colleen Kelly, and Matthew Panhans

The history of economics has been a battle of ideas, and it is unclear that the best ideas have been the winners.

On Technology and Humanity

Daniel Doneson

The unscientific foundation of science and technology is in need of wisdom, practical and theoretical, about human ends.

Moral Molecules, Modern Selves, and Our “Inner Tribe”

Lenny Moss

Like it or not, the basis of human culture has a great deal to do with the evolution of a socio-affective/social-cognitive infrastructure  that opens up an enormous arc of possibility.

Resisting Complacency, Fear, and the Philistine

Leon Botstein

We have allowed the American university to be a farm team for professional sports.

How We Lost Our Attention

Matthew B. Crawford

This is a fertile time in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science for thinking about attention.

Sacred Reading

Chad Wellmon

With the rise of humanism and modern critical scholarly practices in subsequent centuries, texts began to be treated as material objects to be fixed and plumbed for meaning.

We Have Never Been Disenchanted

Eugene McCarraher

Capitalism has been a form of enchantment, a metamorphosis of the sacred in the raiment of secularity. With money as its ontological marrow, it represents a moral and metaphysical imagination as well as a sublimation of our desire for the presence of divinity in the everyday world.

Adventures in Algy-Land

Charles Thaxton

A eulogy for book culture, a polemic against the online-content economy that has replaced it, and an international, interreligious romp.

Uneasy in Digital Zion

Chad Wellmon and Julia Ticona

Confusion about our digital technologies and their use is not limited to the masters of Silicon Valley.

When Science Went Modern

Lorraine Daston

This was the nightmare of scientific progress: The truths of today would become the falsehoods—or at least the errors—of tomorrow.

Invisible Science

Steven Shapin

The invisibility of embedded science is an apparently paradoxical, but reliable, index of the significance of science for everyday life—for government, for commerce, and, not least, for our sense of self.

Trivial Pursuits

Paul Scherz

The decline of scientific research.

Liberated as Hell

Brent Cebul

The quest for personal authenticity and autonomy in the face of unreliable communities and institutions has become a defining feature of the modern working class.

Saving the Soul of the Smart City

Joshua J. Yates

Taking a hard look at the smart city requires that we ask not only where it might fail to live up to the promises of its boosters, but also where it is successful and how it might nonetheless still fail us as citizens and as human beings.

From the Editors

Jay Tolson

Great as they are, the challenges of the digital age are not only profoundly intellectual and conceptual.

Digital Metaphysics

Leif Weatherby

At the beginning of the digital revolution, there existed a speculative energy that we could use now. It was put at the service not of innovation or disruption but of maintenance and politics, of establishing categories to put our digital world on a better course.

Tending the Digital Commons

Alan Jacobs

The complexities of social media ought to prompt deep reflection on what we all owe to the future, and how we might discharge this debt.

Seeing and Being Seen

Russell C. Bogue

Our political moment demands to see who we are—a beautiful and terrifying ordeal.

The Phantom Economy

Joseph E. Davis

The highly abstract and immaterial phantom economy is inextricable from the “real economy.”

The Shifting Experience of Self

Joseph E. Davis

Social and cultural change, from the rise of the “information economy” to changes in family life to the technological mediation of our relationships, is happening all around us.

Work and Dignity

Joseph E. Davis

Work is not just an economic matter. Beyond survival, a range of other human values and ideals are at stake.

Minding Our Minds

Joseph E. Davis

Demands on our attention come from the informational environments and shared physical spaces we inhabit. At issue are ethical questions about the conduct of civic life.

Truth and Consequences

Sophia Rosenfeld

Untruth—information that could be described as unverified, misleading, or an out-and-out lie—has been spreading with new ease and abandon, and often to undemocratic effect.

Reality Made Me Do It

Martha Bayles

Is the whole world slouching toward a Panopticon of digitally enabled surveillance and control?

Technology and Modern Friendship

Richard Hughes Gibson

The interplay of friendship and technology has been far longer-running than we think.

Does Philanthropy Subvert Democracy?

Nick Burns

Is modern-day philanthropy a disease in the democratic body politic?

Paper Revolutions

Richard Hughes Gibson

If projects like E-Estonia mark a break with paper, they also represent the continuation of an administrative order made possible by the first paper revolution.

Toward a Culinary Ethos for the Twenty-first Century

Rachel Laudan

Never has food been delivered in such abundance, so far, or so safely.

The Means of Production

Bradley Babendir

Could the great size of companies like Apple and Walmart actually be a good thing?

You’ve Been Hacked

Richard Hughes Gibson

Government ties to Big Tech run deep.

Taming the Furies

Martha Bayles

Every society in history has limited speech in some way, yet some have remained freer than others.

Scientific Authority and the Democratic Narrative

Jason Blakely

Democracy and science can be mutually reinforcing only if there is a recognition of the limited authority of each.

Technosolutionism Isn’t the Fix

Christine Rosen

We shouldn’t assume that the measures we take to combat the coronavirus today are temporary.

Demystifying Tech

Megan Marz

By suggesting that the constant resetting is all there is, disruption becomes “a theodicy of hypercapitalism,” a kind of “newness for people who are scared of genuine newness.”

Paul Valéry and the Mechanisms of Modern Tyranny

Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody

All modern forms of government presume an objectification of their citizens.

Opinion Fetishism

Alexander Stern

In any case, trying to use Twitter as a public square is like hiking the Matterhorn at Disneyland. Like the Matterhorn, Twitter is an amusement, not a place for exploration.

A New Guild System

Alan Jacobs

I envision a world in which the increased fragmentation of our media scene leads, over time, to the rise of new institutions that are built on stronger foundations.

The Problem of Perishable Progress

Stuart Whatley and Nicholas Agar

Because so many of our material and technological advances have been inherited, we take them for granted and demand more.

Stacked Deck

Jonathan Malesic

Substack prompts the question should the people we rely on to inform us be celebrities?

How to Be Yourself

Joseph E. Davis

How is an alignment of the authentic self and the college admissions process possible?

Between Utopia and Disaster

Malloy Owen

The mass migration of ordinary life into virtual space begins to look like a fantasy of perfect governance.

Climacteric!

Trevor Quirk

Now more than ever, time could be irretrievably wasted.

Planetary Goggles

Rhoda Feng

Viewing the Anthropocene as “a measure of human impact on the planet” allows us to tell only one story.

The Evangelical Question in the History of American Religion

Kirsten Sanders

It is nearly impossible to be a white, American Christian without being an evangelical.

Democracy Disrupted

Eric B. Schnurer

What, then, of democracy? I doubt it will survive—at least in the form we know.

The Dream of Electric Sheep

Ryan Kemp

The Internet as we know and use it in our daily lives significantly limits our capacity for freedom in all the various and complex senses of the term.

Market Failure

Jay Tolson

The essential component of the liberal project might be the marketplace of ideas.

Real and Fake Accounts

David Bosworth

Exploring the social and psychological costs of a life increasingly lived online.

The Right to Care

Adin Lears

Defenders of abortion might more wisely reframe their case around the central importance of care.

Corporate Maternalism

Andrew Lynn

What hath the kindergarten to do with the office?

A Happier Internet

Jonathan D. Teubner

Social media desperately requires innovation.

Stop the Term-Creation Meaning-Kidnap!

Sarah M. Brownsberger

Nouns became verbs, verbs became nouns, and both became passive and adjectival.

The Monster Discloses Himself

Phil Christman

There is a world within the world, and that world is not, as it is for the Marxist, a metaphor. It’s where the lizard people meet.

TikTok Extends the Wasteland

Jeff Hewitt

Television is a paradigm that frames all visual communication as entertainment.

Enchantments of the One and Zero Mirror

Antón Barba-Kay

What is the relationship between our conception of ultimate purpose and digital technology?

The Great Malformation

Talbot Brewer

More and more, our lives happen there, on the screens of the bleeping little tyrants in our pockets.

Friendship as Soulcraft

Matt Dinan

Because you don’t need friends, and they don’t need you, you must seek them out.

How We Obscure the Common Plight of Workers

Jonathan Malesic

Work is hard in large part because it is a site where people place serious demands on each other. Meeting those demands can be painful.

No Exit

David Bosworth

For many tech billionaires, citizenship is just one more consumer option in a competitive global marketplace.

Language Machinery

Richard Hughes Gibson

The ultimate semantic receivers, selectors, and transmitters are still us.

Technoculture and the Plausibility of Unbelief

L.M. Sacasas

The rise of unbelief is correlated to the lived experience of urban and industrial settings.

Influencers

Wilfred M. McClay

What if the logic of the social media world continues to envelop our discourse?

The Basis of Everything

Joseph E. Davis

The growing damage to truthfulness reflects something more—not just a personal discrepancy but a deep social discrepancy as well.

Beating Slow Horses

Brad East

Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb is a casualty of both the Cold War and its aftermath.

Like

Wilfred M. McClay

A, like, meditation on, like, words like “like.”

The Department of Everything

Stephen Akey

A world that has tossed out the print edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in favor of Wikipedia is not necessarily a richer one.

All Aboard for Virtual Utopia?

William Hasselberger

Augmented Reality doesn’t just add things to our perceptual experience; it redirects our attention.

Space Travel and the Cold War Fantastic

Isaac Ariail Reed

Robert Sheckley absorbed Freud and worried about modernity as the unleashing of fantasies old and new.

The Man Who Was Not There

Ohad Reiss-Sorokin

The actual exchange between Oppenheimer and Einstein was far less cordial than the film’s version.

Free at Last?

George Scialabba

Skepticism about free will is said to produce two disastrous but opposed states of mind: apathy and frenzy.

Why Cities Need More than Big Data

Noah J. Toly

Can Big Data be harnessed for the pursuit of thriving urban communities and, if so, how?

Reflecting on “Data” and “Big Data” for Cities

Patricia McCarney

Cities can benefit from Big Data through city-to-city learning, the exchange of best practices, and improving the lives of their citizens.

Why the New Flows of Capital Matter for Cities

Stephen Assink

Cities are increasingly being eyed by tech companies for their social dynamism and ability to generate innovation. This will have tremendous consequences for the future of society.

Who Is the Smart City for?

Stephen Assink

In India's rush to transform, build, and even engineer entire new cities, critics are right to raise concerns about citizenship and access.

Confronting Climate Change

Stephen Assink

Reimagining our cities provides us an important opportunity to reconsider the various structures of urban life.

Virtual Assembly and the Legal Limits of Digital Dualism

John D. Inazu

The virtual dimensions of assembly may yield insights for how we understand more traditional assemblies and the legal protections that we assign to them.

Is Nothing Truly Alive?

Paul Nedelisky

What's the real-world significance of arguing in a New York Times op-ed that life doesn't exist? More than we might initially think.

Trigger Alert

Leann Davis Alspaugh

One person’s trigger alert is another person’s censorship.

Monkey Takes Selfie, Lawsuits Ensue

Leann Davis Alspaugh

A monkey's selfie has done more than just raise awareness about an endangered species.

After Strange Gods

James K.A. Smith

Thiel unapologetically commends the pursuit of monopoly.

Art for Data’s Sake

Leann Davis Alspaugh

To reduce a museum experience to the laws of supply and demand devalues not only the art itself but also the curators’ years of education and expertise—connoisseurship on which we rely in institutions that position themselves as cultural arbiters.

Beethoven and the Beef Jerky Maker

Leann Davis Alspaugh

If technology rarely delivers on its claims, then need we waste so much as a backward glance as we dash ahead to the next digital milestone?

My Love/Hate Relationship With Streaming

James Rathjen

It's just not possible to love something that says “be unique, but only as unique as we'll allow you to be.”

The Quandary of Internet Openness

Joseph Kreiter

If we want the Internet to remain free and open for everyone, is it right to exclude bullies and jerks? Lessons from the Ellen Pao incident.

Reclaiming Connections

David Peterson

According to Sherry Turkle's latest book, my peers and I simply can’t stand sitting alone with our thoughts, and it’s hurting our capacity for intimacy.

Impossible Wonder

Paul Nedelisky

Does understanding really rule out wonder?

Speaking Truth to Power

Leann Davis Alspaugh

As we remember the Challenger disaster, let’s not forget the engineers who tried to convince NASA not to send up the Space Shuttle on a cold morning thirty years ago.

Neither Hero nor Villain

Julia Ticona

Uber’s legal troubles and the future of work.

Hacking Moneyball

Ned O’Gorman

Numbers and big data may be able to show us how to do things better, but they cannot show us how to do things.

Introducing the Fall Issue: The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Science

Jay Tolson

As the power of science grows, its dominion extends even into areas of our culture where its proclaimed authority is questionable.

Introducing Our Spring Issue

Jay Tolson

What does dominion “over every living thing that moves on the earth” mean? Brute sovereignty and ruthless exploitation? Or thoughtful stewardship and responsible cultivation?

The Machine Pauses

Stuart Whatley

It is precisely at such moments of technological dependency that one might consider interrogating one’s relationship with technology more broadly.

Our Chekhov Moment

Eric B. Schnurer

Who will emerge as the new elite from this particular moment’s cast of winners and losers?

Still Searching

Richard Hughes Gibson

The Internet is a technical system that has reshaped social roles and relationships in ways that we are at this point far from fully understanding. We are living out the terms of the new social contract.

Tortoises and Tigers: The Pleasures of a Long Read

Richard Hughes Gibson

Why read long books? Well, if you have to ask…

An Appeal for Friction Writing

Richard Hughes Gibson

Our writing process lacks sufficient resistance, hesitation, reconsideration.

Opinion Fetishism

Alexander Stern

Without the distance between self and thought, self and utterance, we are unable to entertain, probe, or debate ideas. 

The Compatibility Trap

Siobhan Lyons

As the titans of big tech see it, the reticence to upgrade is nothing less than resistance to progress. But a willingness to upgrade does not benefit customers in the long run.

A New Guild System

Alan Jacobs

What if the more successful political commentators on Substack, or music teachers on YouTube, or masters of the podcast interview, began to teach their craft to others?

Lawn Care

Alan Jacobs

If you get out in your yard with a push mower, everyone who passes wants to talk with you about it.

A Stacked Deck

Jonathan Malesic

What makes someone a likely Substack star is an ability to cultivate one-way, parasocial relationships with readers.

Critical Theory and the Newest Left

Alexander Stern

Corporations are not defanging a threatening ideology but welcoming it back home from a field trip.

Looking Under the Hood of AI’s Dubious Models

Ethan Edwards

Models are only valuable in the long run if we are free to take them apart.

Between Utopia and Disaster

Malloy Owen

The modern state is founded on a dream—the dream of perfect knowledge that secures perfect power.

Time to Quit

Richard Hughes Gibson

Facebook is free only in the most superficial sense.

Where Turing Tests Go Wrong

Alan Jacobs

Perhaps computers are so bad at conversation because it is something like prayer.

Galloway in the Shadow of Wendell Berry

John-Paul Heil

Nature knows what is best for itself better than we do.

On Attentional Norms

Alan Jacobs

Zoom is a medium that offers constant permission to be distracted.

The Making of an Everyday Object in a High-Tech World

Richard Hughes Gibson

Just as Mims worries now over the unfulfilling tedium of employment at Amazon, Smith worried over the deleterious effects of monotonous work.

To Have and Have Not

Alan Jacobs

It is true that a thin plastic device that displays pixels doesn’t make much of a mess, but then, it is also true that life is messy.

How Smart Tech Tried to Solve the Mental Health Crisis and Only Made It Worse

Emma Bedor Hiland

Big data can’t save us from mental distresses and disorders.

You Are Not a Server

Alan Jacobs

We have been trained by social media to use our brains as servers.

What Does Mark Zuckerberg Want from the Metaverse?

The Editors

For Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse is personally important, a way to achieve an absolute good through connecting people.

Mechanization and Monoculture

Alan Jacobs

Any attempt to create a monoculture is necessarily self-defeating.

Cognitive Behavioral Soulcraft

William Gonch

Cognitive wellness culture proposes to curate our attention so that we can better spend it.

A Fragile Future for Democracy

David Bosworth

It is my belief that rapid technological “progress” will always threaten a culture with social regress, and that mitigating that threat should be a priority.

Autocomplete

Richard Hughes Gibson

We all must adapt to a new textual culture made by GPT-3.

The Mechanical Imagination

John Fechtel

In the output of the AI generated image, the technique is there but the techne is not.

Consumer Confusion

Leann Davis Alspaugh

Does the Meta-Birkin seriously compromise consumers’ ability to separate the NFT from the real Hermès bag? 

David Hume’s Guide to Social Media

Alan Jacobs

The cultivation of taste, in morals as well as in art, is neither snobbish nor elitist.

After the Fall of Silicon Valley Bank

Jonathan D. Teubner

It is time for the tech world to start thinking institutionally.

The Beatles and the Glory of Creative Risk

Vincent Ercolano

It took the roiling events of 1963 to open the ears and hearts of the American public to the Beatles.

The Leaning Tower of Progress

Travers Nisbet

What might the world look like if we refined our understanding of progress?

The Dao of Using Your Smartphone

Alan Levinovitz

We can aim to harmonize with our phones through ritual.

The Human Reader

Richard Hughes Gibson

Calvino recognized the digital age as an existential condition as well as a technological one.

Encountering the High Arctic

James Conaway

Nature reveals itself when you are helpless.

A New Rule of Education for the Age of AI

Richard Hughes Gibson

The answer cannot simply come in the form of another list of dos-and-don’ts.

The Elon Effect

Alan Jacobs

Are we both perpetrators and victims of the Elon Effect?

The Way Your Mind Ends

Alan Jacobs

The good cop, bad cop routine of the digital age.

Means of Ascent

Vincent Ercolano

The president and the humble staircase: a short survey.

Paging Dr. Bot

Ronald W. Dworkin

Reconstituting the totality of a person knowing only the “parts” of his or her mind is equally nonsensical.

The Tiny, Grammar-Bound Island

Sue Curry Jansen and Jeff Pooley

Much of what we know is unspeakable, and language is but one expressive medium.

The Courage to Forget

Firmin DeBrabander

Memories are important because—and when—they are selective, and few.

Art and the Smartphone

Stephen K. White

Could we ban cell phone photography in museums and at performances?

You Can’t Fact Check Propaganda

Jonathan D. Teubner and Paul W. Gleason

Could it be otherwise? Probably not, at least at the moment.

Decline or Oscillation?

Alan Jacobs

What looks like a disastrous collapse in students’ literacy may be simply a reversion to a kind of mean.

Maybe Even Build a Boat

Doug Stowe

John Ruskin said, “Lay a brick level in its mortar, or take a straight shaving from a plank, and you’ll have learned a multitude of things that the words of man can never tell.”

How to Survive and Thrive in the AI Apocalypse

Eric B. Schnurer

The ironic result of the triumph of the machine may be the creation of an ecosystem in which supra-rational gnostic appeals flourish.

AI as Self-Erasure

Matthew B. Crawford

Liberal public culture is a culture of polite separation.

Chatbots and the Problems of Life

Alan Jacobs

I don’t like this collapse of trust; I don’t like being in a technological arms race with my students.