The Local-global Flip

The idea that people would “inexpensively have access to a tremendous global computation and networking facility” was supposed to create wealth and wellbeing. Has it instead created a technologically advanced dystopia?

Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck?

Noel Morris’s place in history? Noel Morris was my older brother, who had dropped out of MIT and spent most of his waking hours holed up in an apartment working at a computer terminal. This was in the ‘60s, long before there was anything close to a home computer. The name Tom Van Vleck was not unfamiliar. He was a friend of my brother’s who worked with him at MIT in those days. I called him.
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  2. Part Two

  3. Part Three

  4. Part Four

  5. Part Five

Computers Aren’t So Smart, After All

I love combing through The Atlantic’s archives. There’s almost no better way of grasping the strangeness of the past than to flip through a general interest magazine from 1960. Here, we find Fred Hapgood grappling with what human intelligence meant in the light of new machines that could do something like thinking. Intelligence was being explored in a new way: by finding out what was duplicable about how our minds work. Hapgood's conclusion was that if you could automate a task, it would lose value to humans. What tremendous luck! Humans value that which only humans can do, he argued, regardless of the difficulty of the task. And that because computers were so good at sequential logic problems, we'd eventually end up only respecting emotional understanding, which remained (and remains) beyond the reach of AI.

-A. Madrigal

Crypto Rebels

Steven Levy’s piece on cypherpunks and Internet libertarians could not feel more relevant in the wake of WikiLeaks’ rise and the heavily scrutinized role of online organizing in recent revolutions. During Wired’s first year, I’d just gotten an Internet account and had somehow stumbled on the magazine. It became my guide to this hybrid life that we all live now, half-online, half-offline.

-A. Madrigal