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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thealmsrace

The Alms Race examines the sorry history of aid projects in Africa as a way to explore the charitable impulse. It asks the question, why do voluntary aid organizations perpetually repeat projects that fail to help the poor, and finds that the answer is that those projects are magically transformed into successes when viewed in terms of the benefits they bring to the donors. The book argues that the basic purpose of voluntary aid abroad is to extend the boundaries of the consumer society. This book set the stage for Affluence and Discontent.

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Short Take

In an Interconnected World, Niches Get Big

There’s an excellent article by David Gardner in the online sports magazine The Ringer about niche sports and how social media allows the best players in tiny niche sports -- disc golf, trick archery, e.g. -- to make a living where these players couldn't possibly make much money through exposure in the mainstream media. This is the benign side of a fundamental feature of the internet: it allows tiny constituencies at the far ends of the normal curve to find each other. 

Because the internet connects billions of people, those tiny niches (in percentage terms) can turn out to be very large numbers of people in the aggregate. Large enough to allow players in obscure sports to get multi-million dollar endorsement contracts; large enough to assemble a gigantic mob to invade the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

There’s the rub. This feature of the internet and social media not only allows niche athletes to make a living, but also enables paranoids and psychopaths to hatch plots and recruit. Where in the old days the dangerously deranged might have a hard time connecting with like-minded sociopaths, now an army of such is just a few clicks away.

Which of these two sides of the coin will have the biggest impact on the future?

 



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