The Era of Fake Video Begins


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Fake news will soon become passé. Fake videos are soon going to dominate media.

But the problem isn’t just the proliferation of falsehoods. Fabricated videos will create new and understandable suspicions about everything we watch. Politicians and publicists will exploit those doubts. When captured in a moment of wrongdoing, a culprit will simply declare the visual evidence a malicious concoction. The president, reportedly, has already pioneered this tactic: Even though he initially conceded the authenticity of the Access Hollywood video, he now privately casts doubt on whether the voice on the tape is his own.

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Franklin Foer — The Atlantic

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The Ethics of Donald Trump Jr.’s India Adventure


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This week Trump Jr. visited Delhi. All newspapers were covered with front page ads selling real estate brandishing the Trump brand.

“When these sons go around all over the world talking about, one, Trump business deals and, two, … apparently giving speeches on some United States government foreign policy, they are strongly suggesting a linkage between the two,” Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer who is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, told me. “Somebody, somewhere is going to cross the line into suggesting a quid pro quo.”

He added: “It might not be the Trump boys. It might be somebody working for them. It might be somebody over in India or in some other country who believes that’s the way to curry favor with the United States government, to get something in return from the United States government, to do a deal that’s favorable to the Trump Organization.”

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Krishnadev Calamur — The Atlantic

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The Amazon-ification of Whole Foods


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So, what is Amazon doing with Whole Foods.

But it would be a bigger mistake to analyze Thursday’s news in a vacuum, because this announcement is bigger than heirloom tomatoes and two-hour delivery windows. In the broader context of Amazon’s ambitions—to build an operating system for the home, to expand into pharmacies and health care, to become a hit-making television production studio—this is the logical next step in turning Prime into the ultimate “life bundle,” a single membership program to bind consumers to every possible commercial need. As Amazon extends into more product areas, it can own both the search platform and the product, so that when a dad says to the smart speaker on his counter, “Alexa, I need brown rice and pork,” the product that arrives is an Amazon-branded box containing Amazon–Whole Foods–branded rice and pork.

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Derek Thompson — The Atlantic

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Did 13 Reasons Why Spark a Suicide Contagion Effect?


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There is a debate going on whether the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why should have depicted suicide the way it did.

The study, while troubling, is not entirely surprising. In May, I examined how 13 Reasons Why managed to break virtually every rule that exists when it comes to portraying suicide, featuring a graphic, prolonged scene of the main character’s death in the final episode and glamorizing it as a force for positive change in her community. One of the biggest concerns among psychologists and educators was that the show might spark a contagion effect, where increased coverage of suicide in the media leads to a related increase in suicide attempts. Netflix doesn’t release data regarding its viewing figures, but the wide discussion of the show on social media (it became the most-tweeted about show of 2017) implies that a significant number of people watched it, particularly teenagers. The rush to produce a follow-up season (currently being filmed and scheduled for a 2018 release) indicates the show has been a big hit for the streaming service.

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Sophie Gilbert — The Atlantic

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His Kampf


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Graeme Wood writes a detail profile of his classmate Richard Spencer,who has become an icon for white supremacists.

Spencer must have known that the life he was choosing would get him hated and taunted. But he seemed at most half-aware that it would get him slugged in the face, and completely unaware that it might get him killed. Fifty years ago, George Lincoln Rockwell, the urbane leader of the American Nazi Party, was shot dead in the parking lot of a laundromat, just seven miles from where Spencer lives now. There must be an intellectual thrill in knowing that people might care enough to want to kill you. Spencer seemed unsure whether the thrill would remain worth the risk.

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Graeme Wood — The Atlantic

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How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All


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Prices of products are changing by the minute. The pricing algorithms are getting more and more complicated. The price of a soda can in a vending machine can change depending on the temperature outside. Welcome to the world driven by software where you don’t understand what is happening in the background.

The complexity of retail pricing today has driven at least one of Boomerang’s clients into game theory—a branch of mathematics that, it’s safe to say, has seldom found practical use in shopping aisles. Hariharan says, with a smile: “It lets you say, ‘What is the dominant competitor’s reaction to me? And if I know the reaction to me, what is my first, best move?’ Which is the Nash equilibrium.” Yes, that’s John Nash, the eponymous Beautiful Mind, whose brilliant contributions to mathematics now extend to the setting of mop prices.

Where does all this end?

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Jerry Useem — The Atlantic

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Why Nothing Works Anymore


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Currently, I am reading Taleb’s Antifragile. So these days, I am looking at everything and asking the question – whether it is fragile? Today’s needull discusses the instability due to technology.

The common response to precarious technology is to add even more technology to solve the problems caused by earlier technology. Are the toilets flushing too often? Revise the sensor hardware. Is online news full of falsehoods? Add machine-learning AI to separate the wheat from the chaff. Are retail product catalogs overwhelming and confusing? Add content filtering to show only the most relevant or applicable results.

But why would new technology reduce rather than increase the feeling of precarity? The more technology multiplies, the more it amplifies instability. Things already don’t quite do what they claim. The fixes just make things worse. And so, ordinary devices aren’t likely to feel more workable and functional as technology marches forward. If anything, they are likely to become even less so.

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Ian Bogost — The Atlantic

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