Grey Matter’s Grey Area

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1. Grey Matter’s Grey Area

The iPhone just celebrated its tenth anniversary. Most people would agree that the technology has accelerated progress and unleashed a lot of human potential. People also seem to agree that technology has invaded our lives, distracted us, and caused as many problems as it’s cured. This conflict is especially important because the tech revolution is just getting started. The phone will be followed by watches, goggles and glasses, as tech companies look to overlay more information and experiences onto every aspect of your life. If you talk to tech evangelists, they’ll tell you it won’t be long before artificial intelligence will be implanted into our brains. Is this just the natural evolution of humankind striving for self-improvement? Or are we coding ourselves into the abyss? Steven Levy talks to Bryan Johnson about why you will one day have a chip in your brain. “For humans to be relevant in a matter of decades there is no choice other than to unlock our brains and intervene in our cognitive evolution. If you try to imagine a world where we are happy 30, 40, 50 years from now, there is no version of that future where we have not been able to figure out how to read and write our neural code.”

2. State of the City

“If you want to know who is serious about forging a new path on global warming, ignore all the airy proclamations about meeting the Paris targets — and instead pay attention to the cities and states making the very real and measurable pledge to go 100 percent renewable.” The threat of Climate change seemed to be an issue that would almost create an “argument for world government.” Instead, it has become one of the key issues reshaping the political landscape and moving cities and states to the forefront. This is an important trend to watch. From New Republic: The New Nation-States.

+ And many cities have more connections and common goals with each other than with their own state governments. From the NYT Upshot: Blue cities want to make their own rules. Red states won’t let them.

3. Pole Positions

In the first stop on his European trip, President Trump spoke to a large crowd in Warsaw and called on NATO countries to do more to protect the western way of life, confirmed US support for Article 5, and commented on Russia’s destabilizing role in Ukraine.

+ The biggest moment of the trip will be Trump’s sit-down with Putin; and the biggest question mark is whether Trump will call out the Russian leader for his election hacking ways. In Warsaw, Trump didn’t seem to veer far from his usual refrain: “I’ve said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia. I think it could well have been other countries. I won’t be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.” (Editor’s note: Everybody knows.)

+ “The president often doesn’t read the usual briefing books and relies on in-person briefings, the officials said, so aides also have written a list of tweet-length sentences that summarize the main points Trump could bring up with Putin.” LA Times on what to expect during the Trump/Putin meeting.

+ Fred Kaplan: When Trump Meets Putin: “The peril of a full-blown meeting between Trump and Putin — of something more elaborate than a brief hello and, maybe, an exchange of views, a brief and well-monitored probe of possibilities — is that Putin has a goal and a policy, while Trump doesn’t but seems eager to come home with something. That’s when diplomacy can be most risky.”

+ Who’s gonna be in the room where it happens? Reports suggest it will just be four officials and two translators.

+ NYT: China Sees Opening Left by Trump in Europe, and Quietly Steps In (with Pandas). And the EU and Japan just struck a trade deal.

4. Conn Job

Derek Thompson explains the state of things of Connecticut, a place that has surprisingly become a microcosm for many broader American trends. “The state of Connecticut has many nicknames. It is the Nutmeg State, the Constitution State, and America’s Country Club, while Hartford, its capital city, has been called the Nation’s Filing Cabinet. But as Connecticut grapples with a deep fiscal crisis, it might as well embrace another moniker: The Rorschach State.”

5. The Nays Have It

“Scenes of the melee shared on social media showed masked pro-Maduro assailants kicking and punching lawmakers in the chambers of congress and in the streets outside. Reporters inside the building were also attacked and robbed of their equipment.” The situation in Venezuela has further deteriorated as government supporters attacked the Venezuelan congress, and injured opposition lawmakers.

6. I Can Name That SEO in Three Notes

“Even if the money-grubbing isn’t new, the manner in which it’s grubbed is. And no matter who’s doing it, the effect is the same: Music is devalued.” NY Mag on how spammers, superstars, and tech giants gamed the music industry. (Think of what SEO did for content, but for songs…)

+ The Guardian: How gentrification threatens America’s music cities.

+ Can we get kids and other beginners hooked on instruments in the age of iPads? No one has more incentive to get it done that companies like Fender. Here’s how they’re trying to reinvent guitar lessons for the age of distractions. (They start off with you getting attacked by a crowd of sex-starved groupies. You can learn to play later.)

7. Facting Reality

“Individuals may be willing to change their minds about the facts, but we do not observe changes in the candidate whom they support.” The Atlantic’s David Graham explains why fact-checking doesn’t faze Trump fans. It makes total sense in our current state of us vs them politics. You don’t stop rooting for your team because of a details like facts.

+ Vox: Almost 90% of Americans don’t know there’s scientific consensus on global warming.

8. Screen Shots

“Among retailers who operate in multiple categories, George said, the combined company will be No. 3 in North America in e-commerce, as well as in mobile-commerce in the U.S., and behind only Amazon and Walmart in dollar value of transactions.” It might surprise you that the company being described is the newly merged QVC and Home Shopping Network.

+ In other merger news, Cirque du Soleil just acquired Blue Man Group.

9. Boots on the Face

“Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the recently re-established National Space Council, toured the Kennedy Space Center Thursday and vowed to renew American leadership on the high frontier, telling spaceport workers “our nation will return to the moon, and we will put American boots on the face of Mars.” He also dropped this line: “Under President Donald Trump, American security will be as dominant in the heavens as we are here on Earth.” (Zeus quickly referred to that assertion as fake news.)

10. Bottom of the News

“In the summer of 1978, two future directing legends, Bill Murray, and a group of teenagers went into the Canadian woods. They came back with one of the most groundbreaking movie comedies of their generation.” Well, it was a fun camp movie, anyway. And thus, here’s Meatballs: An Oral History.

+ Why Are So Many Bottles “Sqround“?

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