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The History of the Future: A Reading List

A new technology reading list by Daniel A. Gross, featuring Wired, The Atlantic and Esquire.
SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2014

The Most Insane Truck Ever Built and the 4-Year-Old Who Commands It

Bran Ferren has spent four years and millions of dollars constructing the most audacious exploration vehicle ever built. Its mission: Take his 4-year-old daughter camping.

It’s a late-summer afternoon, and Ferren—celebrated inventor, technologist, former head of research and development for Disney’s Imagineering department—is sitting inside a guesthouse-slash-storage facility on his ample East Hampton, New York, spread, drinking his third or fourth Diet Coke of the day. He’s 61 years old and towering, with a wily-looking red-gray beard and dressed in his everyday uniform of khaki pants, sneakers, and a billowy polo shirt. Ferren is the cofounder and chief creative officer of Applied Minds, a world-renowned tech and design firm whose on-the-record customer list includes General Motors, Intel, and the US Air Force; before that he worked on everything from Broadway shows to theme park rides.

SOURCE:Wired
PUBLISHED: April 7, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4546 words)

Colten Moore Returns to the Mountaintop

The story of Caleb and Colten Moore—two talented brothers who competed in the X Games doing tricks on snowmobiles. After Caleb died in a competition, Colten had to learn to move on without his older brother, whom he looked up to all his life:

Wade was not enthusiastic about their desire to ride freestyle. They’d already spent so much time and money on racing and some of those stunts seemed so crazy. But soon Caleb had an agent who wanted to pay him to perform in arenas all over the world. The shows were full of pyrotechnics and heavy metal and, on occasion, monster trucks. And at every opportunity, Caleb would tell his agent about his little brother and all the fantastic tricks he could do. When he finally convinced someone to give Colten a shot, he then had to convince Colten that he could do it. Colten actually crashed in his first show, but Caleb was relentless with both his little brother and the promoters, and Colten eventually got another shot. Every time her sons left home, Michele would remind them to take care of each other.

SOURCE:D Magazine
PUBLISHED: April 1, 2014
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5417 words)

The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

An adaptation from Michael Lewis's new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, about high-frequency trading and the rigging of Wall Street:

“As the market problem got worse,” [Brad Katsuyama] says, “I started to just assume my real problem was with how bad their technology was.”

But as he talked to Wall Street investors, he came to realize that they were dealing with the same problem. He had a good friend who traded stocks at a big-time hedge fund in Stamford, Conn., called SAC Capital, which was famous (and soon to be infamous) for being one step ahead of the U.S. stock market. If anyone was going to know something about the market that Katsuyama didn’t know, he figured, it would be someone there. One spring morning, he took the train up to Stamford and spent the day watching his friend trade. Right away he saw that, even though his friend was using software supplied to him by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the other big firms, he was experiencing exactly the same problem as RBC: He would hit a button to buy or sell a stock, and the market would move away from him. “When I see this guy trading, and he was getting screwed — I now see that it isn’t just me. My frustration is the market’s frustration. And I was like, ‘Whoa, this is serious.’ ”

PUBLISHED: March 31, 2014
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10876 words)

Watching Team Upworthy Work Is Enough to Make You a Cynic. Or Lose Your Cynicism. Or Both. Or Neither.

Abebe goes inside the viral site Upworthy to discover their motivations and their formula for reaching a huge audience:

Its choices are the ones you’d normally associate with a race to the bottom—the manipulative techniques of ads, tabloids, direct-mail fund-raising, local TV news (“Think This Common Household Object Won’t Kill Your Children? You’d Be Wrong”). It’s just that Upworthy assumes the existence of a “lowest common denominator” that consists of a human craving for righteousness, or at least the satisfaction that comes from watching someone we disagree with get their rhetorical comeuppance. They’ve harnessed craven techniques in the service of unobjectionable goals—“evergreen standards like ‘Human rights are a good thing’ and ‘Children should be taken care of’ ”—on the logic that “good” things deserve ads as potent as the “bad” ones have. “I think marketing in a traditional sense, for commercialism—marketing to get you to buy ­McDonald’s or something—is crass,” says Sara Critchfield, the site’s editorial director. “But marketing to get people’s attention onto really important topics is a noble pursuit. So you take something that in one context is very crass and you put it in another. People will say, ‘That’s very crass,’ but in the service of doing something good for humanity, I think it’s pretty great.”

PUBLISHED: March 24, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4081 words)

The Brutal Ageism of Tech

Scheiber meets founders and VCs who are fighting back against age bias in Silicon Valley:

Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America. Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. “Young people are just smarter,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford back in 2007. As I write, the website of ServiceNow, a large Santa Clara–based I.T. services company, features the following advisory in large letters atop its “careers” page: “We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.”

And that’s just what gets said in public. An engineer in his forties recently told me about meeting a tech CEO who was trying to acquire his company. “You must be the token graybeard,” said the CEO, who was in his late twenties or early thirties. “I looked at him and said, ‘No, I’m the token grown-up.’ ”

PUBLISHED: March 23, 2014
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7020 words)

Pixel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In The Gig Economy

Kessler spends a month trying to make a living wage using new tech platforms like TaskRabbit and Postmates. The results aren’t promising:

My experiences in the gig economy raise troubling issues about what it means to be an employee today and what rights a worker, even on a assignment-by-assignment basis, are entitled to. The laws regarding what constitutes an employee have not yet caught up to the idea that jobs are now being doled out by iPhone push notification.

PUBLISHED: March 18, 2014
LENGTH: 37 minutes (9445 words)

The Creeping Tech Angst in Silicon Valley: Our College Pick

Every week, Syracuse University professor Aileen Gallagher helps Longreads highlight the best of college journalism. Here’s this week’s pick.
SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: March 12, 2014

Showtime, Synergy: Exclusive Early Access to a New Story from The Awl and Matt Siegel

This week, we are excited to give Longreads Members exclusive early access to a new story from Matt Siegel, to be published next week on The Awl. Here’s more from The Awl co-founder and editor Choire Sicha:

“Matt Siegel’s very funny nonfiction story of love, deceit and betrayal (oh my God, I know!!!) comes on all unassuming and conversational. Unlike many citizens of the MFA world (Matt’s a recent graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program), he keeps his techniques hidden. We’re really looking forward to publishing this at The Awl, but we’re more thrilled to share it with Longreads Members—like ourselves!—first.”
Siegel (@unabashedqueer) has previously written for The Huffington Post, The Hairpin, Flaunt Magazine, and The Advocate.

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SOURCE:Longreads
PUBLISHED: March 2, 2014
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7343 words)