Irrespective

Making narrative change; Yang=Perot; MIT mess continues; and more.


  • This is civic tech: Say hello to Kelly Halseth, the new coordinator for the international Code for All Network.

  • Attend: This Friday at 5:30pm, Civic Hall is co-hosting a forum with the Narrative Initiative on “Building a Bigger We: Narrative Change in the Digital Age,” featuring Astra Taylor, Ricardo Oliver-Lora and Waleed Shahid. Learn more and RSVP here.

  • Attend: Reboot Democracy is holding a forum on innovations in election tech next Tuesday night at NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute.

  • Apply: Civic Hall is looking to hire a research consultant for a field scan on emerging technology in the public interest.

  • WTF: Nicholas Negroponte, the original founder and longtime director of MIT’s Media Lab, said in an internal community-wide meeting Wednesday that he had told current director Joi Ito to take Jeffrey Epstein’s money and he would, today, “still say, ‘take it’,” Angela Chen and Karen Hao report for the MIT Technology Review. Negroponte also said he prided himself on knowing more than 80% of the billionaires in the US on a first-name basis, that he mined those connections to build and fund the Lab, and that was how he came to know Epstein, and that essentially everyone ought to just be grateful to him for funding their nice educations. He would have continued talking but Kate Darling, a researcher at the Lab, shouted out him to “shut up.” (Bonus: Read Darling’s excellent oped in The Guardian on why she is leaving the Brockman literary agency over its ties to Epstein but wants Joi ito to stay on as the Media Lab’s director and “fix his mistakes.”)

  • Of the many reactions to Negroponte’s remarks, this one from VC Caterina Fake, cofounder of Flickr, stands out: “The MIT Media Lab has always been the academy in the service of the oligarchy. Negroponte’s idea in its founding was to take money from big business to fund science, irrespective of its source—even sex trafficking.”

  • Life in Facebookistan: If you gave your phone number to Facebook, it’s likely now online on the open web, as Zach Whittaker reports for TechCrunch. More than 419 million phone records, each tied to a user’s unique Facebook ID, have been found on an exposed server, he reports.

  • Having successfully monetized “friendship,” Facebook is now launching Dating as a service here in the U.S. Given that social networking as currently designed has been shown to increase the unhappiness of people the more time they spend on it, one wonders if finding out that your “secret crush” isn’t reciprocated really is going to be a boon for humanity.

  • Tech and politics: Progressive economist Max Sawicky explains on Jacobin why Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur running in the Democratic presidential primary with a focus on providing a universal basic income, “is Ross Perot for millennials.”

  • Vox’s Peter Kafka says the $170 million that Google just paid to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for violating the privacy of children using YouTube shows that the feds are nowhere near ready to seriously regulate the tech giants.

  • LinkedIn founder and VC Reid Hoffman wants you to watch this rap-style battle video he produced pitting Alexander Hamilton and centralized banking vs decentralized bitcoin currency. In case you are wondering where Hoffman stands, he’s shown in the video nodding heartily with the bitcoin side. (Hoffman’s Greylock Partners is a major investor in several bitcoin startups.)

  • Food for thought: If you are an avid reader, you are probably a GoodReads user; and if you are GoodReads user, you are also probably really frustrated with how bad the tool is. “Readers and authors deserve a better online community,” Angela Lashbrook writes for OneZero, detailing many of the ways GoodReads could be so much better.

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