What if the government got really good at technology and felt it had to protect us from ourselves?

March 4th, 2014
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When we think about the cutting edge of technology, our thoughts usually turn to Silicon Valley, or to other tech centers around the world. When we think about technology and government, we tend to think about failure. The inability of the government to make a simple website work, or the fact that it was a big deal for the current President to get a Blackberry when he came to office, or that most government agencies, including the IRS, don’t function with email. In a funny kind of way, it should make us feel better about the NSA story. Knowing that when it comes to technology, the government is usually the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

However, what if all that changed? If the best and the brightest of technology came to Washington with the intent of controlling or subverting technology? With the resources and power that they have, they could do some real damage.

And so begins the world that Daniel Suarez portrays in his new techno thriller Influx.
My conversation with Daniel Suarez:

James Meredith, Civil Rights and the rise of Black Power

March 2nd, 2014
The recent debate and court challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 reminds us of what was the once and future fragility of registering black voters in the south. Back in 1966, a year after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, James Meredith, who became the first African American student at University of Mississippi, set out on an almost solitary march from Memphis to Jackson Mississippi to register black voters.

At the end of that march, which started on June 5 1966, the civil rights movement would be forever transformed.  The movement's twin goals of the dream of integration and of nonviolence, would be replaced by black power and impatience.

It's a story that's not as famous as the Selma to Montgomery march a year earlier, but its impact was everlasting and its tensions still relevant today. This is the story that Aram Goudsouzian tells in Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear.
My conversation with Aram Goudsouzian:

Statistics never lie…That’s the first lie

March 2nd, 2014
Years ago the Wall Street Journal ran an ad campaign referring to itself as the “Daily Diary of the American Dream.”  Today, we might say that the barrage of statistical information we get about the economy is that kind of diary.  Just this morning, we probably all heard the latest GDP numbers.  

But what does it mean and what problem is it solving?  Sometimes it seems there is a kind of “uncertainty principle” at work. In that the process of trying to measure every aspect of the economy and even our politics, actually changes those numbers because it changes the way we see the world.  And since perception is often reality, the daily recitation of these numbers from Washington and Wall Street actually creates its own unreal reality.

Zachary Karabell in his new book  The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World gives us a random walk though these numbers that often rule our lives, but mean very little.

My conversation with Zachery Karabell: