Bill Gates

The Smallness of Barack Obama: Diminishment, Drift, and Sighful Contemplation

A Chinese dissident shows us how to dream big

Obama's defeatist State of the Union should have taken its cues from the words of an inspiring Chinese dissident.

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The Myth of the Lone Inventor

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is wrong to oppose government subsidies. After all, he benefitted from them.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is wrong to oppose government subsidies. After all, he benefitted from them.

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And that food-stamps challenge? Yeah, not helping.

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In 1906, James McKeen Cattell of Columbia University assembled a list of the 1000 most eminent American scientists of his day and published an analysis of their geographic distribution in the journal Science, including the 40 cities with at least five top scientists. Those cities correspond to 30 metropolitan areas today. Those metropolitan areas were home to 26 percent of 1900 U.S. population but 78 percent of the nation’s top scientists. Today, these metropolitan areas account for 24 percent of the U.S. population and 42 percent of U.S.

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Who Goes There?

IT TAKES ONE to know one, as we used to say in Brooklyn. Jeff Bezos, one of the most powerful gatekeepers in the history of gatekeeping, had the effrontery to rhapsodize not long ago about “eliminating all the gatekeepers.” The eliminationist rhetoric was consistent with the monopolistic inclinations of his company. “I see the elimination of gatekeepers everywhere,” he hypocritically declared, referring no doubt to his fellow Internet oligarchs, whose codes and algorithms and policies and interests have broken new ground in the manufacture of gates.

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Would it be possible for Mitt Romney to handle the problem of his tax returns any worse than he has? By withholding them as he has, he has built up anticipation among political reporters who could generally care less about such matters. Romney's equivocating answer in the debate last night about whether he would release the returns sent Fox News' audience-response "hedge-ometer" machine literally off the charts. Then this morning he went ahead and confirmed the most salient fact in the returns: that he pays a rate of only about 15 percent.

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[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner]  “He is book smart.” “She has people smarts.” “He isn’t intellectually intelligent.” “She has no emotional intelligence." These phrases are all familiar because, as observers of other people, most of us do our best to define brain type as well as brain power. Particular varieties of intelligence are easy to recognize and difficult to precisely explain.

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I can’t find anyone who approves of what happened yesterday, when news titan Rupert Murdoch suffered a near-shaving-cream-pie in the face during a hearing before members of Parliament in London. Everyone seems to agree that the pie-thrower, “activist” Jonnie Marbles, is a dumbass. We even seem to agree that Rupert Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng, is a badass. (If you’re late to the story, Wendi personally lunged at Marbles and smacked him on the head.

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On Tuesday, Parliament’s hearing on News Corp was abruptly interrupted after a protester rushed toward Rupert Murdoch and tried to hit him in the face with shaving cream. The protester was identified as British comedian Jonnie Marbles, who tweeted about his intentions before the attack. “It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before (at)splat,” he tweeted, riffing off Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. The incident caused an uproar, but Murdoch was certainly not the first public figure to be “creamed,” so to speak.

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Don't Be Evil

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives By Steven Levy (Simon & Schuster, 423 pp., $26)  The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) By Siva Vaidhyanathan (University of California Press, 265 pp., $26.95)  I. For cyber-optimists and cyber-pessimists alike, the advent of Google marks off two very distinct periods in Internet history. The optimists remember the age before Google as chaotic, inefficient, and disorganized.

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