The 40 Year Collapse Of Trust In Print News

Something I believe that nobody I know believes: Woodward and Bernstein Watergate coverage precipitated the 40yr collapse of trust in print news. That long slow slide of trust can be seen, among other places, in Gallup polls over the years. After Nixon resigned 40 years ago this weekend, Washington Post Watergate coverage became exemplar for the entire next generation of reporters. The political press became obsessed with unearthing scandal, which metastasized throughout print journalism, gunning for Pulitzer bait.

There are clearly scandals that need to be unearthed, like Watergate, but endless scandal frenzy is exhausting and demoralizing. Particularly when applied indiscriminately across the news landscape, and particularly when extrinsic press motivations are so clear. Irony is we now know Woodward and Bernstein less reported Watergate than had the story fed to them by Mark Felt, a partisan in an internal FBI battle.

I think the 40 year echo effects of Watergate have more to do with the existential crisis of newspapers than anyone would ever admit. As news consumers, the endless barrage of scandal, tragedy, and conflict has real psychological effects. They make the world seem worse than it is.

Followup reading that provokes thought: Avoid News, The Information Diet, You Can’t Not Believe Everything You Read. Also the book “Breaking The News” by is thought provoking and recommended. Last but not least, Steven Pinker on the broad perspective of our era.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

The International Socialist Review In 1964

The answer to the last last tweetstorm is: 1964, in the International Socialist Review. Every single argument made by today’s “technology will eat all the jobs” brigade is in there, from 50 years ago. The claim that “this time is different”, that we finally reached the tipping point where the Luddite Fallacy would come true. Including the demand for massive additional government intervention in the economy to correct the resulting inherent structural flaw.

Of course, since 1964, an enormous number of new jobs have been created and the quality of life in the US is way up at all income levels. Identifying the fallacies and flaws in logic in the 1964 manifesto given the 50 years that followed is an interesting exercise and I propose, identical to identifying the fallacies and flaws in logic in the equivalent arguments today. Perhaps the most interesting change in the era: Advocates then were proud to call themselves Socialists. This is less so today, history is speaking to us.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

Manifesto On “Technology Eats All The Jobs” Guess Who Wrote It and When

Here is a manifesto on “technology eats all the jobs” which I did not write. Guess who wrote it and when.

Computers and the Internet result in a system of almost unlimited productive capacity which requires progressively less human labor. The technology revolution invalidates the general mechanism so far employed to under gird people’s rights as consumers. Potentially unlimited output can be achieved by systems of machines which will require little cooperation from human beings.


As machines take over production from people, the men and women who are displaced become dependent on minimal government welfare. The existence of this paradox is denied or ignored by conventional economic analysis. Capitalist system designed to produce increasing quantity of goods; distribution of purchasing power would occur almost automatically.


Continuance of the income-through-jobs link now acts as the main brake on the almost unlimited capacity of a tech-based productive system. Adequate distribution of goods plus services, not how to increase production but how to distribute the abundance created by technology. Underlying cause of unemployment: the capability of machines is rising more rapidly than the capacity of many human beings to keep pace.


As a first step to a new consensus it is essential to recognize that the traditional link between jobs and incomes is being broken. We urge that the government undertake an unqualified commitment to provide every individual with a basic income as a matter of right. Distribution of abundance in technological society must have criteria strikingly different from economic system based on scarcity.

Bonus points: Identify the publication, and its ideological affiliation in which this manifesto first appeared.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13

Founding Fathers Arguably Designed US System Specifically To Be Dominated By Moneyed Interests

A common thing one hears in the US is the “Political system is broken; Founding Fathers never intended politics to be dominated by moneyed interests.” But in 1776, voting was “restricted to property owners—most of whom are white male Protestants over the age of 21″. In 1789, George Washington was elected President. “Only 6% of the population can vote.” Not until 1856 was voting expanded, even to all white men (eliminating property ownership requirement).

In 1868, voting was extended to former slaves (at least in theory), but still explicitly defined as male. Women could first vote starting in 1890 in Wyoming! In 1920, the 19th Amendment passed, giving women the right to vote throughout the US. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s,there were lots of battles for and against the rights of other groups e.g. Native Americans and immigrants to vote. Of course, the massive battles in the 1960’s to extend practical right to vote to African-Americans; some battles continue to this day.

Not until 1971 (year I was born) did the voting age get lowered to 18, despite 18-21 year olds being conscripted and sent to war throughout. Founding Fathers arguably designed US system specifically to be dominated by moneyed interests, aka white male Protestant landowners. We have far broader-based voting and political participation today than ever before, due to hard work by many activists over 200 years and we’re still by no means perfect. There is lots of progress yet to be made. But we’re leaps and bounds ahead of 50-100-150-200 years ago and no, I’m not watching the World Cup finals :-).

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

Gallup Survey Shows Low Confidence Levels In Large Centralized Institutions

Gallup surveys on confidence in institutions are endlessly interesting.

High-trust US institutions (above or near 50%): Military, small business, police, churches.

Low-trust US institutions: Medical system, Supreme Court, Presidency, public schools, banks.

Almost-no-trust US institutions (<25%): Justice system, newspapers, organized labor, big business, Internet news, TV news, Congress.

The conventional glass-half-empty argument is the terrible erosion of trust and competency in key institutions, decline, and fall of the United States. An alternate glass-half-full argument: Large centralized institutions *shouldn’t* be highly trusted: monopolies/oligopolies let people down. A lack of trust in institutions motivates construction of competitive alternatives better attuned to we the people. Large centralized institutions were 20th century; flexible, responsive, accountable organizations for 21st century.

I don’t think the answers are at all straightforward. But I think this debate is going to inform a lot of the next 30 years of politics. It will be interesting to see how many large centralized institutions can win those arguments starting with such low confidence levels.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Harvard Business School Publishes New Study On The Interplay Between Diversity and Success In VC Investing

The Harvard Business School has published a new study on the interplay between diversity and success in venture capital investing in startups.

The more ethnic and educational affinity there is between two venture capitalists investing in a firm, the less likely the firm will succeed. Venture capitalists have a strong tendency to team with other venture capitalists whose ethnic and educational backgrounds are similar.


Two VCs from the same undergraduate school are 34.4 percent more likely to collaborate and increase by 39.2 percent if of the same ethnicity.


The odds of success of an invested company go down 17% if two VCs worked at the same company; -19% if the same undergrad school; -20% if the same ethnicity. The lack of success among similar investors seemed to lie in the decisions that *followed* the investment due to ‘groupthink’.

Side note: Last names of the three researchers who wrote the paper — Gompers, Xuan and Mukharlyamov.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Udacity Is Opening Up Higher Education To Far More People

We are very proud of portfolio company for going straight after opening up higher education to far more people.

For $200 a month, teach anyone basic programming skills for entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer, etc. Harnessing the web to provide effective schooling to the many young Americans for whom college has become a distant, unaffordable dream. We are trying to widen the pipeline,’ said AT&T’s Charlene Lake. ‘This is designed by business for specific skills needed in business.


Education still offers children from disadvantaged families their best chance at climbing the ladder of success. One reason for enormous payoff from college degree (2x payoff vs 1979) is that too few young Americans ever earn one. Peter Lubbers, who runs MOOC developer training for Google says, ‘We want all the techniques we know about to get out to the market. The ‘NanoDegree’ offers a set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job–a chunk of knowledge and immediate motivation to acquire it.


Could offer a plausible path to young men/women who may not have time, money or skill to make it through 4-year or even 2-year degree. US students in bottom quarter of income distribution: college graduation rates only 9%, from 5% 20 years ago.” Not *nearly* high enough.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Cybersecurity Firm Tanium Receives $90M Investment

Today we’re thrilled to be able to talk about our newest investment,Tanium. We’re investing $90M. The first venture capital investment since it was co-founded in 2007. Collectively, partners at have maybe 200 years of experience in systems management; Tanium is a breakthrough like we’ve never seen. Tanium –> people responsible for large networks of computers and software, what Google –> people on the Internet. I don’t say that lightly.

The company is operating under the radar, but its customers could not be more enthusiastic. The product must be seen to be believed. It’s amazing. Tanium is a real-time query *and* control–100s of Ks of computers and virtual machines with natural language queries.

We are thrilled to be working with genius founders David and Orion Hindawi and their colleagues. Masters of the art and science of computing. More info: or email

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Karl Marx and The Lumpenproletariat

The thing I find most interesting about Marx is how much he hated the poor and dispossessed. Lumpenproletariat: “Layer of working class lost to useful production, of no use to the struggle, an impediment to the classless society.” “Translated as slum workers or the mob. A class of outcast, degenerated, and submerged elements within a population of industrial centers.” “Beggars, prostitutes, gangsters, racketeers, swindlers, petty criminals, tramps, chronic unemployed or unemployables.” “Declassed, degraded or degenerated elements…innumerable young people also, who cannot find an opportunity to [become] producers.”

“Alongside decayed rouĂ©s w/dubious means of subsistence and dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie.” “Vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers.” Maquereaux [pimps], brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars.”

“In short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither.” The man did have a way with words.

References: Lumpenproletariat, MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

How We Learn Is Changing Rapidly

A personal meditation on how we learn, and how we learn is changing radically for the better due to new technology.

1989: I go to college and want to learn about how “real” computers work–VMS and Unix–the foundation of all of today’s phones/tablets/PCs/servers.

Only way: Get a job at a computer lab that owned such a computer; get access to the literal wall of paper manuals. Read those cover to cover; then what? Scientific/technical journals. Only with access to the research university library.

1990: Co-op job at IBM where I discovered a mainframe (!) search engine of science/tech journals; in 3 days, I had printed copies via office mail!

This posed a major dilemma: How many papers could the intern request before Big Blue would fire his ***? Tested it into the hundreds. All other relevant info was on the Internet–IETF RFC’s, free software code–but who had access to the Internet in 1990? Not many.

25 years later: Every smartphone is the equivalent of a million-$ Unix supercomputer from that time, plus *all* that info is freely available online. Science/tech journals are still not completely free, but even those walls are falling fast now due to Google Scholar/PDF searches/policy reform.

Regarding journals: The Aaron Swartz documentary is out. It’s a powerful memory of freedom of an information hero and warrior for progress.

The Internet’s Own Boy – Trailer from FilmBuff on Vimeo.

Why does this matter? Information is the foundation of progress; info about computers is the basis of key tools for progress as software eats the world. Means of production being put in hands of the masses for the first time in human history. I’m a broken record on this, but: profound change.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12