Image for post
Image for post
Edward Hopper, Two Comedians (1966). Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

It is ironic that the United States looks to the awards made possible by the endowment of Joseph Pulitzer for their standard of excellence in journalism (and, indeed, beyond journalism), given that at the height of the war between Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal in 1895–98, the two papers could be found competing over which of the two of them could most quickly drive context, research standard, accuracy of portrayal, balance and reason — all of the things that make reporting worthy and vital — out of the news cycle to make room for the purest concentration of sensationalism as a single issue of a newspaper, in America or elsewhere, could reasonably expect to contain. …


Wonk Bridge’s Letter to Our Readers for 2020

Image for post
Image for post
Image source

2020 was not an easy year to be anyone — the scale and nature of the tests to which we’ve all been subject to hardly bear recap.

The hay Wonk Bridge managed to make out of testing times astonished us all — and while we do not wish to risk insensitivity by over-emphasising the way in which we were able to mine the ore of development out of this year’s dreadful seam, 2020 was the year that made this publication. Bolstered by an ever greater tide of technologists and undifferentiated talents set to the wabes by the uncertainty of employment many experienced in the early stages of the year, our team trebled in size and our broader network attracted dozens of new members. …


A selection of the finest books, essays and blog-ellany our contributors enjoyed in 2020

Image for post
Image for post

Of all the things — processes corporate and lean; the bureaucracies of venerable nations; music — that proved susceptible to the vicissitudes of this abjectified year 2020, one thing proved robust: human willingness to know and communicate. As Wonk Bridge’s contributor Sebastian Vogelpoel recently noted, “Knowledge is never finished.”

With that additional time spent indoors, it is no wonder that 2020’s installment of Wonk Bridge’s traditional Holiday Reading Review should be a particularly rich one. …


Dominic Cummings reached near the apex of British politics with ambitions of building a ‘meritocratic technopolis’. Why did these dreams implode so spectacularly? Could they ever have been fulfilled?

A few weeks ago, the most high-profile special adviser in British government left office, carrying ARPA, the superforecaster, Napoleon’s retreat from Russia, Mistah Kurtz, Otto von Bismarck, the battlements of Barnard Castle, and a coterie of visionary technologists in his cardboard box.

Image for post
Image for post

While Dominic Cummings’ unprecedented reign in the shadow of Britain’s highest office may have ended in a notional failure — though Cummings previously described firings such as his, and the ostensible disgrace(s) that surrounded it, as part of the traditional ceremony of a figure in government, and one which is generally received without so much as a murmur — it was not without its share of, shall we say, considerable results either. In his coordination of Vote Leave’s prosecution of Britain’s EU referendum, he shaped a generation against the odds. …


Or “Two Spirits of Non-Conformity in the Machine”

Image for post
Image for post
‘Ivor and Oliver’, photo by Lucy Cox, editing by Wonk Bridge

There is no guarantee that exceptional deeds, even a lifetime of them, will necessarily command acclaim. That innumerable, unknowable feats of exception are attained daily throughout the world, under modest circumstances, awaiting our discovery and otherwise doomed to obscurity, is a truth that may both harness us to the most implacable anxiety, and present to us a store of ever-self-renewing hope as to the essential value of our actions.

It is for this reason that the biography of the ordinary person, as yet unacclaimed, is the most neglected of all the literary genres — for the slightest pursuit of it reveals that ordinary is not ordinary at all, but merely ‘ordinary’. This goes double when the ‘ordinary’ person in question lived in interesting times, in those subduction zones of historical event where diverse circumstances collide and new arts, disciplines, and practices are born. It goes treble when the person in question had some personal or professional involvement in those emerging forms. Whether the form in question is the concerto, the algorithm, or the digit ‘0’, first practitioners often risk obscurity among a context that history has not yet awarded to the newness of their discipline, with glory instead reserved for those groundbreakers’ first- and second-generation issue, who often devise the first applied ends, and reap the benefits in publicity, of their forebears’ original discoveries. …


Image for post
Image for post

It must be the soft prejudice that goes most without saying in the worlds of technology and start-up entrepreneurialism — that it’s a young person’s business. From the nested mythologies of our most pre-eminent social network and its founders, to the whole practice’s gruelling and often family-unfriendly pursuit of the gains of unsociable working hours, — if there’s one thing you’re less likely to find front-and-centre in the diorama of startup idealism than a defaced California Republic flag or a tablet of consequentialist ethics, it’s people over 50 (or much over 40, for that matter).

There is a generational factor behind Big Tech’s worship of youth that at least partly explains the absence of elder statespeople at the proverbial table — the fact that the industrial changes brought about by the startup movement have been both swift and comparatively recent. That has engendered a competency lag. As one anonymous young founder complained to Forbes, in their midst of the pursuit of experienced, older professionals for their company, “Our industry is brand new…Older candidates don’t bring any relevant experience, but come with a higher paycheck.” …


Or ‘A Census of a Better World’

Image for post
Image for post
Image from AutCraft on Twitter

There will be those of you who have begun your journey through this article — a journey predestined for a violent end, I’m afraid — with a certain feeling of demiverachtung; “little contempt”, the sentiment many feel when they have begun reading an online article in spite of, or indeed because of, the fact that they are fairly sure that its subject, or one aspect of its subject, is to some degree beneath them. “What a choice of topic focus”, perhaps you scoffed…

…Minecraft. And relative to such a serious topic as autism”

For those of you to whom this description applies, and to whom demiverachtung currently attaches itself, your conception of what Minecraft is will be roughly demonstrated by the first video posted beneath this introductory paragraph, in which a user navigates a crude pyramid. …


Wonk Bridge Reviews the Year’s Funniest Warning

You cannot accuse the Western populace of the Early Digital period of not having a sense of humour about the rather extensive list of predicaments facing down their collective bid for a peaceful and productive digital life — to mark an age which, in the totality of its mental state if not its material circumstances, feels thoroughly dystopian, they have also inaugurated a “golden age of dystopian fiction.”

Whether or not The Social Dilemma is fiction is hard to say — both with respect to the melodrama it self-consciously makes out of its perils-of-social-media thesis, and in terms of the questionable cuts of soap opera it splices between its earnest gallery of talking-and-postulating heads. It is, however, certainly dystopian in feel. In fact, it could be suggested that for a documentary about the questionable sociopolitical impact of big technology and social media, it rather seems to enjoy exalting in its dystopian premise too much, preferring the warmth of gradually boiling water to formulating and prescribing robust solutions to the problems it surfaces. …


Or ‘When Big Companies Steal Concepts from Small Companies, and How They Get Away with It’

A 5-minuter from Wonk Bridge

Image for post
Image for post

It was with the Sherman antitrust act of 1890 that the United States first sought to impose its anti-regal approach to governance upon big business. As its namesake Senator John Sherman said, “If we will not endure a king as a political power we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.”

It did not represent the country’s first attempts at legal restraint over monopoly formation or monopolistic practice. Milder regulations and restrictions had existed in international common law since at least Darcy vs. Allin, but this was the first time a more direct approach to breaking up trusts was extended by a single state. …


Or ‘The Problem with Government-By-Numbers’

A 5-Minuter from Wonk Bridge

Image for post
Image for post
A* Algorithm gif, from Imgur

Conventional wisdom about the COVID period holds that it’s a good time to be an ecommerce monopolist, a communications facilitator, or the proprietor of an online gaming platform. It also holds that it’s a very bad time to be a tourism-dependent economy, a high-street retail chain, or a traditional educationalist. It is, more broadly, a very bad time to be precariously employed, or old. It is also a very bad time to be young.

As much as to the beleaguered rest, one’s heart goes out to the class of 2019–20, with portion preserved in the instance that it might also need to go out to that of 2020–21. With the reopening of university campuses adjudged high-risk, many prospective first-year students may have to live with the fact of an often superb and always formative rite of passage (oh! To be a fresher) being indefinitely suspended. More troubling than the situation of those who might have to pursue their studies from afar is the case of those who might not get to study at all. …

Max Gorynski

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store