14 July 2019

Max Gladstone – Two Serpents Rise

in Bucharest, Romania
Max Gladstone - Two Serpents Rise

La granița între continentul ars de soarele tropical și apele oceanului, Dresediel Lex își duce viața tumultoasă de metropolă sub amenințarea constantă a lipsei de apă. Înainte de Căderea Zeilor Quechal, Stăpânul Mărilor Qet oferea locuitorilor toată apa de care aveau nevoie, desalinizând oceanul cu magia lui divină – în schimbul unor sacrificii umane periodice. Acum rolul zeilor a fost preluat de corporația Regelui Roșu, magicianul care condusese asaltul împotriva vechii ordini. În această masivă organizație alimentată de magie, postul de manager de risc al lui Caleb Altemoc îl conduce la un rezervor infestat cu demoni Tzimet și la întâlnirea cu o alergătoare misterioasă, pe care în ciuda protocolului o lasă să fugă de la locul incidentului. În timp ce Regele‑în‑Roșu se pregătește de o mega-fuziune corporatistă care ar trebui să asigure furnizarea de apă pentru oraș timp de decenii bune, Caleb încearcă să descopere identitatea femeii de la rezervor – și cine avea interes să testeze măsurile lor de apărare contra demonilor atât de aproape de încheierea contractului dintre Red King Consolidated și Heartstone.

The sun died, devoured by the rolling ocean. Dresediel Lex bloomed from its death, like a flower on a grave. Pyramids and skyspires cast light into darkness. The arteries of commerce glowed. In an office atop the obsidian pyramid where he once broke the gods, the King in Red sipped coffee and watched the city his power made possible, the city his radiance illuminated.

Dacă în primul roman al seriei am explorat coasta de est a unei Americi ficționale eliberate de jugul zeilor, Two Serpents Rise ne duce pe coasta de vest, într‑o metropolă care ar putea fi Los Angeles, dar cu o cultură inspirată de azteci și mayași, de la panteonul însetat de sânge la jocurile populare, similare cu pelota/ullamaliztli. Deși sistemul magic e același, situația din oraș este cu totul alta. Față de Alt Coulumb, unde Zeul Kos conduce în continuare, mai nou alături de consoarta lui Seril, vechii zei Quechal au fost alungați complet din Dresediel Lex, venerarea lor fiind înlocuită de birocrația magicienilor, care nu mai are nevoie de sacrificiile umane. Asta nu înseamnă însă că în oraș domnește armonia: puținii zei care au supraviețuit, alături de ultimul lor preot, Temoc, tatăl lui Caleb, organizează atentate teroriste și sunt constant vânați de forțele de ordine. Atmosfera generală aduce astfel mai mult a secolul XXI decât în romanul precedent, care părea mai apropiat de epoca industrială.

01 July 2019

The New York Times: “Zuckerberg’s So-Called Shift Toward Privacy”

At the moment, critics can (and have) held Facebook accountable for its failure to adequately moderate the content it disseminates — allowing for hate speech, vaccine misinformation, fake news and so on. Once end-to-end encryption is put in place, Facebook can wash its hands of the content. We don’t want to end up with all the same problems we now have with viral content online — only with less visibility and nobody to hold responsible for it.

It’s also worth noting that encrypted messaging, in addition to releasing Facebook from the obligation to moderate content, wouldn’t interfere with the surveillance that Facebook conducts for the benefit of advertisers. As Mr. Zuckerberg admitted in an interview after he posted his plan, Facebook isn’t “really using the content of messages to target ads today anyway.” In other words, he is happy to bolster privacy when doing so would decrease Facebook’s responsibilities, but not when doing so would decrease its advertising revenue.

Zeynep Tufekci

I’m very much behind on my blog writing, but this seems a good time to link back to this story. As with Facebook’s plans for a global currency, an earlier report that the company plans to integrate its separate messaging apps was confirmed in March by an official statement from Mark Zuckerberg. There are many possible unintended consequences, but what struck me most was that the majority of reactions were negative, whereas back in 2016, when Apple refused to break the encryption of an iPhone at the request of the FBI, the public opinion side with Apple. To me, it seems fundamentally a very similar case: a private company is making information encrypted, essentially hiding it from potential law enforcement inquiries. Has the public opinion really shifted to view this as a complex issue, warranting a nuanced solution? Or it’s just the knee-jerk reaction of ‘we trust Apple more than Facebook’? I fear it’s still much more the latter than the former…

Quartz: “The fundamental problem with Silicon Valley’s favorite growth strategy”

We live in a global, hyperconnected world. There is incredible value to companies that operate at massive scale. But those companies have responsibilities that go with that scale, and one of those responsibilities is to provide an environment in which other, smaller companies and individuals can thrive. Whether they got there by blitzscaling or other means, many of the internet giants are platforms, something for others to build on top of. Bill Gates put it well in a conversation with Chamath Palihapitiya when Palihapitiya was the head of platform at Facebook: A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it exceeds the value of the company that creates it.

The problem with the blitzscaling mentality is that a corporate DNA of perpetual, rivalrous, winner-takes-all growth is fundamentally incompatible with the responsibilities of a platform. Too often, once its hyper-growth period slows, the platform begins to compete with its suppliers and its customers. Gates himself faced (and failed) this moral crisis when Microsoft became the dominant platform of the personal computer era. Google is now facing this same moral crisis, and also failing.

Tim O’Reilly

Great article about the issues with Silicon Valley’s insistence of focusing on fast growth and scale above anything else. While Google is discussed in more detail, Facebook also fits the bill of a platform competing with its content suppliers – and it doesn’t even do that in a consistent manner. As for Uber and Lyft, both highlighted as examples of scaling gone wrong, the poor performance of their recent IPOs should serve as a warning for future companies to avoid these sort of tactics and focus on more sustainable growth strategies.