Author Archives

Writer jacobsilverman.com @silvermanjacob

Private Telegram, Public Strife

Telegram App, Wikimedia Commons

Jacob Silverman | Longreads | July 2018 | 10 minutes (2,418 words)

Telegram, a messaging app with more than 200 million users, is a company known for its rakish independence. Pavel Durov, who created the app with his brother, Nikolai, is a 33-year old from St. Petersburg, Russia, with a taste for dark suits and tax-free municipalities. In 2006, he founded VKontakte (VK), Russia’s answer to Facebook, which quickly became the country’s largest social network and a target of its security services. Durov, who identifies as a “part-time troll” in his Twitter bio, earned a reputation as a sort of maverick entrepreneur, a persona that has come with both free-speech absolutism and immature antics. His most notorious stunt took place in May 2012, when he stood at his office window and tossed paper airplanes made of rubles down onto the street below. He later explained that he had been talking to a vice president at his company who had been awarded a large bonus, and when the VP said that he didn’t care about money, the two decided to throw cash out the window—until bystanders started fighting over the windfall.

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The Menace and the Promise of Autonomous Vehicles

Illustration by Katie Kosma

Jacob Silverman | Longreads | June 2018 | 10 minutes (2,419 words)

In Tempe, Arizona, on the cool late-winter night of March 18, Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old homeless woman, stepped out onto Mill Avenue. A new moon hung in the sky, providing little illumination. Mill Avenue is a multi-lane road, and Herzberg was walking a bike across; plastic bags with some of her few possessions were dangling from the handlebars. Out of the darkness, an Uber-owned Volvo XC90 SUV, traveling northbound, approached at 39 miles per hour, and struck Herzberg. The Uber came to an unceremonious stop, an ambulance was called, and she died later in a hospital. The car had been in autonomous mode.
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