What I’ve been reading

The skewing of American democracy is a growing problem. Simply put, the parts of the county where fewer and fewer people live are determining policies for everyone and it’s only going to get worse…

David Birdsell, a Baruch College political scientist, has calculated that by 2040, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states — and be represented by only 30 of the 100 senators.

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Sweden reined in monopolies and pushed tax policies promoting competition, all while providing a liberal social safety net to rather favorable effect. It also seems to help to be a country of rather agreeable people, so maybe it’s just a Swedish thing.

Sweden’s impressive start-up record can also be attributed to some broader aspects of how the country is set up. Its social safety net, for instance, helps entrepreneurs feel safe to take risks. In Sweden, university is free, and students can get loans for living expenses, which allows anyone to pursue higher education. Health care is free too, and childcare is heavily subsidized. None of these benefits are contingent on having a job, which means people know that they can take entrepreneurial risks and still know many of their necessities will be covered.

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Figuring out the technology is the easy part. The social changes involved in becoming a “driver-less” car culture will be harder to negotiate. Malcolm Gladwell does his Malcolm Gladwell thing with the language of autonomous cars and throws some shade on the iGeners along the way.

It wasn’t Audi, Ford, or GM that pushed hardest for the dependent ­vehicle. It was Apple, Google, and Intel, companies for which the automobile is not primarily an aesthetic object and driving is not an instrument of pleasure. And the users they have in mind, needless to say, are not the readers of Car and Driver. They are the kids lying passively on the couch with their smartphones.

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Just about everything written by Ta-Nehisi Coates is worth reading. Some of the writings about the things that Coates has written are also worth reading. In the former category is The First White President.

…the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker…It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.”

In the latter category, we have How Ta-Nehisi Coates Gives Whiteness Power from Thomas Chatterton Williams.

Though it [Coates’s recent writings] is not at all morally equivalent, it is nonetheless in sync with the toxic premises of white supremacism. Both sides eagerly reduce people to abstract color categories, all the while feeding off of and legitimizing each other, while those of us searching for gray areas and common ground get devoured twice. Both sides mystify racial identity, interpreting it as something fixed, determinative and almost supernatural.

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Stop flicking your thumb just that one more time on Facebook or Twitter. It’s your attention. Stop giving it away for free.

The most important asset in your life isn’t time, but attention. The quality of the experiences in your life doesn’t depend on how many hours there are in the day, but in how the hours you have are used.

On a related note, even the guy who designs iPhones to be more powerful, more convenient, more indispensable and more addictive thinks we use them too much.

When asked about how the iPhone has changed the world, Ive surprisingly said many iPhone owners misuse the device. He said: “Like any tool, you can see there’s wonderful use and then there’s misuse.” When quizzed further he clarified by adding “perhaps, constant use,” qualified as misuse.