The spirit of play
Forbes, September 20, 1998IN THE HOLLYWOOD VERSION, Otto Wichterle would be the villain—an obsessed inventor who defied nature and wouldn't listen to reason, who combined technological hubris with political pig-headedness. His creation served vanity, not "vital needs." He pursued it out of pleasure and pride. In the movies, he would come to no good end.
The Work Ethic, Redefined
The Wall Street Journal, September 04, 1998Monday is Labor Day, a holiday that harks back to the industrial revolution and honors the struggles of American workers. But the American workplace's downtrodden Everyman is no longer a cog in a machine, fighting to keep up with the inhuman pace of the assembly line. (Think of Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times" or Lucy Ricardo stuffing candies in her mouth.) He's a cartoon cubicle dweller who loves technology and struggles against "time-wasting morons." Dilbert knows more than the boss does, and he craves the chance to use that knowledge. He dreams less of security than of meritocracy.
The Freedom of Order
Forbes ASAP, August 23, 1998WHEN I SENT THE manuscript of my book, The Future and Its Enemies, to the publisher, my editor there made a good suggestion: You're trying to do too much in the first chapter, he said. Put the discussion of the book's overall thesis in an introduction and focus Chapter 1 entirely on the "enemies." Then he made a bad suggestion: "You could call the first chapter something like 'The Quest for Order.'"
Who needs it?
Forbes, August 09, 1998REPRESENTATIVE Billy Tauzin (RLa.), the chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee, recently proposed a bill to increase the annual funding for public television by 63%, to $475 million. A friend who has spent decades working in and around PBS sent me a stunned e-mail: "Just as PBS is becoming completely marginalized, a Republican committee chair proposes a major increase in their funding. Amazing."
Why investigative reporters and political activists seem so depressed.
Reason, August/September 1998At a recent convention for investigative journalists, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd found a lot of unhappy reporters. They're digging up tons of dirt--the Clinton scandals alone can fill several pages of every day's newspaper--but the public just won't get hysterical about it. "We live in this bland yuppified era when people just care about fresh-squeezed orange juice and watching the stock numbers in the paper," complained Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity
Why E-mail is dangerous
Forbes, July 26, 1998THANKS TO COP SHOWS from Dragnet to NYPD Blue, most Americans over the age of 10 know that "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." We think the warning applies only to criminal suspects.
An alienated GOP hands the future to Al Gore.
Reason, July 1998Republicans sound different when they talk to their big donors. The party they describe isn't a party you hear from much these days. They say nothing about "culture wars" and lots about freedom. They praise entrepreneurship and free enterprise. They hardly even utter the word conservative
Carrying On About Carry-On Baggage
Intellectual Capital, June 18, 1998It won't surprise any frequent flyer to learn that the Latin word for "baggage" is mpedimenta. Dragging your belongings with you on long journeys has been a hassle since Julius Caesar was crossing the Rubicon.
Disney reinvents the future
Forbes, June 14, 1998FOR THE THIRD TIME in its history, Disneyland has opened a revamped Tomorrowland. Gone are the impersonal chrome and steel of the old structures, along with the Mission to Mars ride, the PeopleMover and the Circle-Vision theater. In their place, Disney has built a kinder, gentler tomorrow with buildings decorated in lush jewel tones and gardens filled with fruit trees and edible plants. Tomorrowland still has spaceships aplenty, but it hasn't shut out things that grow.
The push for Internet privacy controls combines a bad theory with a dangerous agenda.
Reason, June 1998Over the past week, I received about two dozen unsolicited mass e-mails, otherwise known as "spam." About half were devoted to sex, including six messages promoting a new Hustler Web site and one paradoxically promising a site "SO HOT WE CANT SHOW IT ON THE WEB." Most of the rest advertised the stuff of late-night TV commercials and dubious classified ads: "LUXURY CARS FOR UNDER $1000" from government auctions, family histories and coats of arms ("All Nationalities"), credit cards for people with lousy credit records, a psychic hotline. One offered to teach me how to become a spammer myself. The most reputable-seeming message promoted a site for golf-related classified ads