September 19, 2020
Rural Electrification programs were supposed to help communities with education, productivity and healthcare among other things. But sometimes communities needed to be sold on the idea of getting connected and that's where electricity mascots came in. Reddy Kilowatt had been the "corporate spokesman" for power companies since 1926 and was a licensed trademark. His creator, Ashton Collins thought "electric cooperatives were 'socialistic' because they borrowed money from the federal government." Collins refused to let Reddy be associated with co-ops, and threatened co-op mascots that were "too similar" with lawsuits. Willie Wiredhand, representing the co-ops, was created in 1952, and in 1956 Collins and his lawyers filed suit in Federal Court. In 1957 they lost and Willie Wiredhand was trademarked later that year. [more inside]
Planet of Ails How can we warn people away from a dangerous site for 10,000 years? Inspired by a 1993 report, Janelle Shane (previously; Twitter) asks a neural net (GPT-3) to generate some plans. [more inside]
The Social Dilemma is a Netflix documentary-drama on "the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations." But is their solution of "humane technology" the right one? An essay on LibrarianShipwreck argues that in a world of empowered arsonists, "humane technology" seeks to give everyone a pair of asbestos socks.
Looking for YT videos to distract you? Try Today Is Spaceship Day! (12:29) This animated short (and children's book) was scripted by an AI trained on text from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Stephen King, and a YA novel. It's much more coherent than Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash, but still delightfully baffling.
In the autumn of 2019, the German Embassy in Budapest invited Hungarian journalists working for several independent outlets for an off-the-record discussion to talk honestly about the media situation in Hungary. After several journalists complained about the attitude of German corporations doing business with the government toward Hungarian media freedom, a high-ranking German diplomat reacted by saying that he is fully aware of this and ashamed of himself. “But please understand that this is Germany, which is a democracy where the Federal Foreign Office cannot put pressure on German companies[...]”
"Matchmaker of Mars" by Rachel Manija Brown (writing as Edonohana) is a short, funny, sweet fan fiction story in which "John W. Campbell accidentally matchmakes T'Pring and Uhura." Tags: T'Pring (Star Trek), Nyota Uhura, John W. Campbell Jr., 1930s Science Fiction Writer Alternate Universe, Pastiche, Epistolary, Fiction within fiction, Bigotry & Prejudice, Baking. Should be understandable even if you're not a Star Trek fan.