Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Esquire & Time Magazine writing - by Junod, McCracken, Walsh and Scherer

The most recent issue of Esquire and last few issues of Time Magazine had some great feature writing (with the Time site typically requiring a subscription to read online) that can be at least somewhat grouped together under the topics of business and it's impact.

The piece from Esquire's 80th Anniversary October issue was "Google: The Celebrity Profile" by Tom Junod and a look at the company, it's power, and the potential for abuse of that. To that end, Junod included in the story the interesting sections below...

"'Google is a data company that monetizes the collection of data through advertising,' says Rob Norman, the chief digital officer of GroupM, the world's largest buyer of online media. "The scale of data capture is massive, and the ability to match data with the likely intent of an individual is unparalleled." Does Rob Norman trust Google, working with Google, as he does, nearly every day? 'I happen to believe that Google is a nuclear power. One's feeling about nuclear powers depends on one's belief in their ability to use the weapons. In my view, Google is as responsible a nuclear power as you can expect a nuclear power to be.'"

"The most famous thing Google ever said was not to the world; it was to Google. "Don't be evil" — it sounds like a warning or an injunction. But it turned out to be a form of permission, a conflation of innocence with intention. Google didn't want to be evil, so Google wasn't evil. Google wasn't evil, so when Google started doing something that seemed morally dubious, Google wasn't selling out; Google was improving a morally dubious practice by the magic of Google's presence."

Junod also wrote in the piece about Google X and Google X-like efforts within the company around current programs such as Google Glass and not current, but also not out of the question, things like storing of biological data... which may be a great thing or may be troublesome if that data and accompanying power misused. From a bigger picture perspective, Junod wrote of how Google leaders looking for people to trust them to make the right moral decisions is somewhat similar to how our government looks for us to trust them to make the right decisions (which I think in the case of the current Presidential Administration they generally are). I've previously done posts which included stories on the CIA-funded data-mining company Palantir and on the world we live in and while Google, Palantir or the government having power certainly doesn't mean that power getting abused, the potential for abuse is something to keep in mind and written well about by Junod.

On the same topic of Google and huge initiatives at the company was a Time Magazine cover story written by Harry McCracken"Google vs. Death" is about a new company it's launching that's in the vein of current Google X "moonshots" Glass, Makani Power (which puts wind turbines on wings), Project Loon (which beams wireless internet access from large helium balloons) and self-driving automobiles. Calico as a new Google initiative differs in that it's separate from Google X, but as McCracken writes, Calico "will focus on health and aging in particular," very reminiscent of how Junod wrote of Google potentially getting into the field of biological data.

The second Time Magazine story to note here is on a different topic entirely with "The Challenges of America's Energy Revolution" by Bryan Walsh. I've posted a number of times on pieces by Walsh and he often does great work often on the subjects of energy and/or the environment. From this latest piece was the following...

"The same innovations that have resurrected oil and gas production in the U.S. have extended the age of fossil fuels, making it that much more difficult to break free of them. A number of independent studies have suggested that the world has to stop emitting carbon dioxide by midcentury to avoid dangerous climate change. We're not likely to get there if we keep inventing ways to extract and then burn the hydrocarbons still in the ground. 

The last Time Magazine piece to mention here was the excellent  "Michael Bloomberg Wants To Be Mayor of the World" by Michael Scherer. It's tremendously interesting stuff that details, among other initiatives, Bloomberg's work to reduce smoking rates. Also from the piece by Scherer is how this philanthropy by Bloomberg within the context of private benefactors and and their impact...

"Over the past 30 years, the world has been transformed by globalization and technology, and from that tumult has emerged a new class of billionaires who profited from the change, innovators, business leaders and heirs. In the prime of their lives, many have turned their attention to remaking the world, often through policy and politics. It's a return to the era of great benefactors like the Rockefellers, Mellons and Carnegies. It's their world. You just vote in it. The examples are so many, they crowd together. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg gives $100 million to rewrite the rules for Newark public schools, spends millions more on political television ads and then travels to Congress to demand immigration reform. The casino magnate Sheldon Adelson bets $100 million to elect Republican candidates who mostly lose in 2012, and then publicly vows to do it again. Without financiers George Soros and Peter Lewis, marijuana legalization would not have proceeded so far in so many states. Without the generosity of conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch, the groups now organizing to defund Obamacare would be a shadow of themselves. Without billionaires like Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Jim Walton, the revolution now taking place in K-12 education--charter schools, standardized tests, Common Core, merit pay, the end of tenure--would be years behind schedule."