The web as we know it relies on advertising, but that model is headed for a crash. Fortunately, we can build something better from the wreckage.

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Online, ads are everywhere.

They bombard you when you try to read the news. They pop up between your friends’ Facebook updates. They’re disguised to look like regular results on Google. And one, maybe two play before every video you watch on YouTube — with more peppered throughout.

From the perspective of an internet user who is desperately trying to ignore, avoid, or block this constant deluge of ads — ads that have to get more and more intrusive in order to force us to pay attention to them — the power of the online advertising industry might appear unstoppable. …


These three essential books explain why a people-first approach to addressing climate change is the only way forward

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Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

In 2006, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth seemed to finally rouse popular culture to the threat of climate change. It was shown to community groups, in schools, and even won an Academy Award for best documentary feature. Yet the film — and the host of “green” culture products it inspired — largely presented fighting climate change as a consumer-driven, individual pursuit. We were encouraged to recycle, replace light bulbs and appliances, make expensive renovations, and switch to renewable power.

Today, as uncontrollable fires ravage Australia and scientists warn we have until the end of the decade to radically transform our way of life, it’s clear that waiting for every consumer to change their purchasing habits won’t cut it. If we’re to have a chance at avoiding the worst-case warming scenarios, we’re going to need bold ideas like those espoused in the Green New Deal (GND) — ideas that would rapidly get us off fossil fuels, create a robust social safety net, and put decision-making power in the hands of communities. …


A transportation revolution doesn’t have to include autonomous vehicles

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Credit: Donald Iain Smith/Getty Images

If you’ve listened to the musings of some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent visionaries, you might believe we’re headed toward a future with ubiquitous autonomous vehicles to shuttle us wherever we want to go.

No longer would we have to risk getting stuck in traffic, caught in the rain on our bikes, or running into serial killers on the subway — we’d all be closed off in our own pods that guide us to our destination as we sleep, watch a video, or get up to something steamy in the back.

I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but that future has always been an illusion. If self-driving cars ever become a reality — and that’s a big “if” — they won’t be the magic transport cure-all that tech billionaires pretend they’ll be. Sure, they would likely provide benefits for Silicon Valley CEOs, but a lot of people would be made worse off — and we would hardly ever hear about it. …


Tesla fans aren’t saving the planet by ordering every new model

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Last week, Elon Musk unveiled his polarizing Cybertruck. I could say a lot on the design decisions and the implications of it, but I want to focus on a different angle that isn’t getting as much attention: the preorder process.

Musk prides himself and Tesla on being concerned about the environment. It’s a questionable assertion, but let’s take him at his word for a moment. If Tesla’s mission is really to create more sustainable transportation, does treating every new vehicle model like an iPhone release really move that goal forward?

At time of writing, Musk claims there are more than 200,000 Cybertruck preorders. That’s not as impressive as it sounds when you consider that it only costs $100 to reserve a vehicle that likely won’t be delivered for two or more years and a sizeable number of people report that they accidentally ordered multiple vehicles when they only meant to reserve one. But it still deserves a more in-depth investigation. …


Grim stories of unpaid overtime and sexism have workers organizing for change

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Photo: Tom Eversley/EyeEm/Getty Images

For those of us who grew up swapping Pokémon with classmates and strategizing how to defeat bosses late into the night with friends, making video games is a dream job. But the reality of working in the industry is different. Careers in the video game industry can be very rewarding, but there’s also a dark side that’s finally getting the attention it deserves — and workers are organizing to change it.

In the past few years, journalists have reported shocking stories about the work environments at game studios around the world. Crunch is an industry term that refers to a 40-hour workweek spiraling into 60, 80, or even 100 hours without extra pay. This can happen not just in the final weeks before release, but throughout the development cycle. Kotaku’s Jason Schreier wrote that many producers, “see mandatory overtime not as a contingency plan but as a natural part of game development, to be regularly used as a way to cut costs and make the most ambitious games on the shortest schedules.” Crunch isn’t just an overtime problem; it eats into workers’ ability to enjoy their lives, spend time with their families, and can even lead to severe health issues when they’re overworked for extended periods of time. …


The streaming wars will produce a new oligopoly. We can do better.

A screen announcing the Disney+ streaming service is seen at the D23 Expo.
A screen announcing the Disney+ streaming service is seen at the D23 Expo.
Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty Images

For decades, corporate consolidation has been judged almost exclusively on whether it would raise prices for consumers, ignoring how the market power of massive conglomerates can have broader negative effects on society and the economy. That’s finally starting to change.

In the past year, the campaign to break up the tech giants has gained steam with support from Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other progressive politicians. Two-thirds of Americans now support the proposal, recognizing that monopolistic control of digital platforms and services has negative implications for privacy and economic prosperity. …


Why celebrate hereditary wealth when inequality is tearing the world apart?

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Be warned: there are spoilers ahead.

Julian Fellowes’ aristocratic period drama is back. After a successful, five-season run, Downtown Abbey has moved to the big screen, bringing along its full cast of characters — both upstairs and down — as an unexpected announcement sends the typical wave of mild consternation through the great house. But as inequality is tearing British and American societies apart, a film that makes a point of celebrating hereditary privilege and wealth feels wildly out of place.

That doesn’t mean fans of the show won’t have things to look forward to. A letter from Buckingham Palace sets the stage for a visit from the King and Queen that the house, or rather its staff, must prepare for. Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) comes out of retirement, Ms. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) is flustered as she thinks about all that she’ll need to cook, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) is back to her scheming, and Mary (Michelle Dockery) is, well, Mary. But if the everyday concerns of these characters were once entertaining enough to cover over the terrible social relations in which the story takes place, Fellowes makes the odd choice to place special emphasis on them — not to illustrate their problems, but to emphasize their favorability. …


It’s another perk to joining the cult of Apple

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It’s no secret that the iPhone has been struggling. Since 2016, iPhone sales growth has fallen off a cliff, and revenue was down 12 percent year over year in the third quarter. Apple has been adjusting its strategy to make up for a stagnating iPhone, but that doesn’t mean it’s given up on the product that made it one of the largest public companies by market cap in the world.

At the iPhone event on September 10, Apple unveiled the latest iterations of the iPhone: 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max. They have some new colors, upgraded cameras (with a sizeable new camera bump), slightly better battery life, and some other minor upgrades. In short, nothing too exciting. …


Marvel fans will do anything to protect their superheroes

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Disney fans were overjoyed in 2015 when Disney and Sony announced they’d reached an agreement for Spider-Man to be rebooted and join Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The partnership generated billions in box office revenue for the studios, but last month they announced deal had been terminated — and fans were not happy.

Sony got the film rights to Spider-Man in 1998, but its Amazing Spider-Man films with Andrew Garfield struggled. To capitalize on Disney’s popular MCU, the two companies agreed Sony’s solo Spider-Man films would be co-produced by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige with merchandising rights and five percent of the revenue going to Disney. …


Autonomous vehicles could turn neighborhoods into no-go zones

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Map of San Francisco redlining. Source: Mapping Inequality

In the 1930s, the federal government surveyed 239 cities across the United States to create mortgage-lending risk maps, dividing the cities into four categories: green for the best areas, blue for areas that were “still desirable,” yellow for “declining” neighborhoods, and red to signify those that were most risky, which meant getting a mortgage was near impossible.

The racism of the time was built into these rankings, as neighborhoods condemned by their red designation “were predominantly made up of African Americans, as well as Catholics, Jews, and immigrants from Asia and southern Europe” — almost any groups that were not whites originating from northern Europe. …

About

Paris Marx

Critic of tech futures and host of Tech Won’t Save Us: https://bit.ly/twsu

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