Eugene Linden
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Latest Musing

Imagining a Post Pandemic World

How might a post-pandemic world look and feel? Let’s imagine a creative team at a New York City advertising agency pitching a campaign in 2050 for a new perfume (more than most products, perfumes are sold by attaching to the dreams and aspirations of their times).  The Big Apple, ...

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Latest Book

Deep Past
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Articles by Category
endangered animals
rapid climate change
global deforestation
fragging

Books

Winds of Change
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Afterword to the softbound edition.


The Octopus and the Orangutan
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The Future In Plain Sight
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The Parrot's Lament
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Silent Partners
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Affluence and Discontent
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The Alms Race
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Apes, Men, & Language
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global_deforestation

Eugene Linden's Publications

Books [reverse chronological order]

THE OCTOPUS AND THE ORANGUTAN; More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity. Hardcover: Dutton; Aug. 2002.

THE PARROT'S LAMENT; And Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity. Hardcover: Dutton; Sept. 1999. Softbound and 11 foreign editions

THE FUTURE IN PLAIN SIGHT: Nine Clues to the Coming Instability. Simon and Schuster: August 1998. Soft: Plume; Feb. 2002

SILENT PARTNERS: The Legacy of the Ape Language Experiments. Hardcover: TIMES Books; April 1986. Soft: Ballantine; August 1987. Foreign: Dobutsusha Ltd., Japan; 1987.

AFFLUENCE AND DISCONTENT: The Anatomy of Consumer Societies. Viking/Seaver Books: 1979.

THE ALMS RACE: The Impact of American Voluntary Aid Abroad. Random House: 1976.

APES, MEN, AND LANGUAGE. Hardcover: Saturday Review Press/Dutton; Jan. 1975. Soft: Penguin; Feb. 1976, revised edition, 1981. Seven foreign editions.

Selected List of Articles [reverse chronological order]

The Nature of Cuba, Tiny frogs. Vst swamps. Pristine rivers. Whether by design or default, the island boasts the Caibbean's best-kept wildlands. But for how long? , Smithsonian, May, 2003 [COVER]

Who's Going to Pay For Climate Change?; The threat of lawsuits — and an exodus of insurance companies — may finally force corporations to think green, Time.com; February 7, 2003

Eugene Linden Diary, Slate; June 25-28, 2001.

The Road To Disaster; If Brazil paves this route through the Amazon, the earth's largest rain forest could go up in flames, Time; October 16, 2000; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 96. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

The Big Meltdown; As the temperature rises in the Arctic, it sends a chill around the planet, Time; September 4, 2000; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

Condition Critical; An exclusive look at a U.N. assessment of Earth's ecosystems shows they are strained to the limit, Time; Spring 2000; STATE OF THE PLANET; Pg. 18. [COVER]

Bats And Brokers; Looking for clues to explain Tuesday's market gyrations? Observe a bloodsucking mammal, Time; April 17, 2000; Pg. 92.

Facing Our Ecofolly; Environmental abuse and overpopulation mean the worst is yet to come, Time; January 31, 2000; TIME LATIN AMERICA; LATIN AMERICA; Viewpoint; Pg. 19.

Forcasting the Digital Age, Slate Dialogue; First entry: October 14, 1998.

Volatility: Get Used to It; The global market magnifies our worst instincts, Time; September 28, 1998; INT TIME ATLANTIC; Viewpoint; Pg. 89.

Smoke Signals; Vast forest fires have scarred the globe, but the worst may be yet to come, Time; June 22, 1998; ENVIRONMENT/PLANET WATCH; Pg. 50.

How to Kill a Tiger; Speculators tell the story of their attack against the Baht, the opening act of an ongoing drama, Time; November 3, 1997; TIME ASIA; Pg. 24.

What Have We Wrought?; Our descendants in the next century may find themselves paying dearly for the material magic of the consumer society, Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; OVERVIEW; Pg. 10.

Legions of the Dispossessed; Land degradation is creating multitudes of ecomigrants who cross borders and threaten the security of nations, Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; VIEWPOINT; Pg. 28.

A World Awakens; History Shows that societies pollute first and pay later. Will the new awareness change our ways before it’s too late? Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; PERSPECTIVE; Pg. 80.

A Way to Break the Impasse on Global Warming, The New York Times; September 27, 1997, Saturday, Late Edition - Final, Section A; Page 15; Column 1; Editorial Desk.

From Rio to Ruin?; Maybe not. As the U.N. Dithers, the poor take action, Time; July 7, 1997; VIEWPOINT; Pg. 33.

Antartica; Warnings from the ice the conventional wisdom is that climate change will be gradual and moderate. But what if it is sudden and extreme? A frozen wilderness may hold the answer, Time; April 14, 1997; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 54. [INTERNTIONAL COVER]

Global Fever; Climate change threatens more than megastorms, floods and droughts. The real peril may be disease, Time; July 8, 1996; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

The Tree Gods Are a Bit Testy, The New York Times; June 22, 1996; Op-Ed.

The Exploding Cities of the Developing World, Foreign Affairs; January/February 1996;

ESSAYS; Pg. 52.

The Tortured Land; An epic landscape steeped in tragedy, Siberia suffered grievously under communism. Now the world’s capitalists covet its vast riches, Time; September 4, 1995; Pg. 42. [COVER]

Chain Saws Invade Eden; Vast, pristine forests in South America's sparsely populated Guyanas ought to be safe. Not so., Time; August 29, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 58.

Ancient Creatures In A Lost World; In an isolated, rugged region that divides Vietnam and Laos, scientists find a trove of new species, Time; June 20, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52.

Population: The Awkward Truth, Time; June 20, 1994; U.S. Edition, ESSAY; Pg. 74.

Tigers On The Brink, Time; March 28, 1994; U.S. Edition, Pg. 44. [COVER]

Burned By Warming, Time; March 14, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 79.

Sustainable Follies, Time; May 24, 1993; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

Who Lost The Ozone?; How the world waited too long to rescue the shield that protects earth from the sun's dangerous UV rays, Time; May 10, 1993; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

Will the System Defeat Al Gore? Time; February 1, 1993; U.S. Edition, ESSAY; Pg. 74.

Megacities,Time; January 11, 1993; U.S. Edition, Pg. 28. [COVER]

The Green Factor; Does protecting the planet destroy jobs? Time; October 12, 1992; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 57.

The Last Eden; A trip into a remote African rain forest is a journey back in time to a world where the animals have never encountered humans. Time; July 13, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 62. [COVER]

Summit To Save The Earth; Rio’s Legacy; Time; June 22, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 44.

Summit To Save The Earth; Population: The Uninvited Guest, Time; June 1, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 54.

Apes and Humans: A curious kinship, National Geographic; March 1992. [COVER]

Demanding Payment for Good Behavior, Time; February 3, 1992; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52.

Hot Air at The Earth Summit?; As the U.S. stonewalls a Rio meeting, citizens offer a planet-saving proposal, Time; November 4, 1991; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 77.

TIME cover story: ">Lost Tribes, Lost Knowledge, Time; September 23, 1991; U.S. Edition, CULTURES; Pg. 46. [COVER]

Foreign Aid; Good Intentions, Woeful Results; How an ambitious environmental program ended up damaging the tropical rain forests, Time; April 1, 1991; U.S. Edition, WORLD; Pg. 48.

Endangered Earth Update; Is the planet on the back burner?; War and recession may be grabbing the headlines, but the relentless trashing of the world’s air, land and seas continues apace, Time; December 24, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 48.

The Last Drops; Population growth and development have depleted and polluted the world's water supply, raising the risk of starvation, epidemics and even wars, Time; August 20, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 58. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

Dashed Hopes and Bogus Fears; The Smithsonian chronicles an unpredictable Information age, Time; June 11, 1990; U.S. Edition, TECHNOLOGY; Pg. 58.

Earth Day; Will the Ballyhoo go bust? Time; April 23, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 86.

Can We Really Understand Matter? Time; April 16, 1990; U.S. Edition, SCIENCE; Pg. 57.

How the Earth Maintains Life; An intriguing scientific theory continues to win adherents, Time; November 13, 1989; U.S. Edition, IDEAS; Pg. 114.

Special Report: Greening of Geopolitics; How the U.S. Can Take The Lead in the Third World; First: stop sending mixed signals, Time; October 23, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 63.

Playing with Fire; Destruction of the Amazon is "one of the great tragedies of history", Time; September 18, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Cover Story; Pg. 76. [COVER]

Putting the Heat on Japan; Accused of ravaging the world's forests and seas, Tokyo starts to clean up its act, Time; July 10, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 50.

BIODIVERSITY; The Death of Birth; THE PROBLEM: Man is recklessly wiping out life on earth, Time; January 2, 1989; U.S. Edition, PLANET OF THE YEAR; Pg. 32. [COVER]

Putting Knowledge to Work; Suddenly, artificial intelligence produces some results, Time; March 28, 1988; U.S. Edition, TECHNOLOGY; Pg. 60.[COVER]

Boom in the Bust Market; Taking Stock in Bankruptcy, Time; October 12, 1987; U.S. Edition, ECONOMY & BUSINESS; Pg. 52.

The Gambia; signs in the wilderness, The Atlantic; March, 1986; Vol. 257 ; Pg. 32.

Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom Inc., April, 1984, THE AGE OF THE ENTREPRENEUR; Pg. 64.

Politics Means Getting To Say You’re Sorry Wall Street Journal, Op-Ed 1984.

The Demoralization of an Army: Fragging and Other Withdrawal Symptoms Saturday Review; January 8, 1972.[COVER]

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Short Take

A Slippery Slope?

I’ve had some back and forth with some friends on the insurrection last week and the subsequent media bans. Some see a slippery slope towards censorship; I see a unique set of circumstances. 

With regard to the invasion of the Capitol, it speaks to the sheer lunacy of the moment I would be quoting a  Wall Street Journal editorial, but they put it best: The head of the executive branch incited an attack on the legislative branch with the hope of overturning a lawful election. Zip-tie carrying paramilitary troops thinking that they were aiding Trump’s cause, came within minutes of kidnapping members of Congress. They were actively seeking Pelosi and knew where they were going. Trump had urged them to come to DC, and then urged the march on Congress, using the word “fight” 20 times in his speech, and saying he would be with them.

Even before the insurrectionists were driven from the Capitol, violent fringe elements had begun planning major events for Jan. 17, and also to disrupt the inauguration.

This is a unique set of circumstances.

The uniqueness comes from the relatively new element of social media, particularly Twitter, and the instantaneous reach and enormous scale of the internet.  These factors turbocharged the volatility of this already combustible situation. Never before in our history have people been able to instantaneously recruit like-minded people. Given the explosion of human numbers, this means that truly dangerous psychotics have a lot of company. 

They no longer have to seethe alone and can join with others who share their delusions. And they have guns.

Truly dangerous psychotics are rare. I don’t know what the numbers are, but probably upwards of one in a thousand. Even that low guess would amount to 330,000 people in the U.S., and the number is probably far larger. 

The point is that if a meme gets out there – e.g. that Democrats are led by blood-drinking pedophiles who stole the election – it might gain casual traction with large numbers of people due to a long-standing susceptibility to conspiracies in the U.S.  (I’ve been thinking about this susceptibility since I first investigated fragging in Vietnam).  Much more dangerous: the meme will also gain recruits among that tiny, really violent, really delusional, fringe. And if there’s a goal or an event, even though that cohort represents a tiny percentage of the population, they can be rallied and brought together to become a significant force. And again, they have guns.

We saw this last week. Yes, there were a lot of people who sincerely bought Trump’s lie that the election was stolen, and came to DC thinking there was still a chance to pressure Pence and others to overturn the election.

But, we also saw a Who’s Who of nut groups leading the charge -- neo-Nazi’s, Proud Boys, Confederate flags wavers, holocaust deniers, holocaust embracers (!), militia members, and God knows who else. Most of these were feckless blowhards, but the invaders also included  the zip tie guys, and others who were blood brothers to the fanatics who wanted to kidnap and lynch Gretchen Whitmer.

The execs of Twitter, Facebook, etc. saw what happened and recognized that their platforms were being used, either directly or through Parler, to organize similar, violent events in the run-up to the inauguration. They also saw that the fomenters were using Trump’s tweets to bless their crusades with a patina of legitimacy, even nobility. 

At Twitter the staff was in near open rebellion, and I’m sure that execs at the other companies wondered about liability, culpability, ad boycotts, and Elizabeth Warren campaigning to break them up if another violent event resulted from their passivity. (Apparently, a potential ad boycott was one reason why the head of content at Cumulus radio threatened to fire Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro, and Dan Bongino if they didn’t STFU about the election being stolen.)

So, the tech and social media giants acted, and in doing so, dramatically underscored their awesome power. This show of force is going to provoke a lot of discussion about how these companies exercise discretion about content, about whether they should be broken up, regulated, or otherwise held responsible for their content and their decisions about content (which would dramatically shrink them). 

I don’t think they are going to come out of this unscathed. 

One other thought. IMO, the biggest disruption of the internet can be summed up in one word: disintermedition. The internet has given people direct access to data, markets, people, information, and endowed everyone with the ability to be a pundit, reporter, influencer, or brand. 

The disappearing intermediaries are the editors, producers, fact checkers, brokers, market makers, etc., who previously, maintained standards, buffered markets, and in myriad ways provided some friction that in the case of mainstream media, prevented complete fabrications from gaining traction with the broader public, and, in the case of markets, modulated price movements and reduced the probability of panics. We’re going to miss them.

 



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