The Sunday Post for May 1, 2016

Uncanny Valley

I have mixed feelings about this form — we've seen them before, notes from inside the boom industry. It's personal essay, not reportage, it's a confession from the one who accepted the paycheck and now feels that the price of this betrayal to their college idealism is exposure of their lush corporate lifestyle. We've read them from inside Wall Street and Hollywood, Real Estate, and now the tech boom. A lot of them from the tech boo.

Didn't it start from inside the factory? The genius with the blue collar job who wanted to make it writing truthy things about truth for the people who love truth? Bukowski inside the Post Office? (Which has its own set of problems, believe me.) But then it jumped from the blue collar punching up to the college graduate in privilege punching sideways.

The conceit is that the writer is an outsider among true believers, who will never buy into the mantras the company chant, that the writers at least confess to moving their lips along with.

These were my thoughts when I kept stumbling over links to Anna Wiener's piece in N+1 this week. What saves it, though, is her writing and detail. She inhabits the form, but makes it good, and that is definitely worth a link (and, Wiener will always have my ear after doing an amazing piece on Ellen Ullman for the New Republic earlier this year).

Morale is down. We are making plenty of money, but the office is teeming with salespeople: well-groomed social animals with good posture and dress shoes, men who chuckle and smooth their hair back when they can’t connect to our VPN. Their corner of the office is loud; their desks are scattered with freebies from other start-ups, stickers and koozies and flash drives. We escape for drinks and fret about our company culture. “Our culture is dying,” we say gravely, apocalyptic prophets all. “What should we do about the culture?”
The Case Against Reality

Amanda Gefter interviews the fascinating cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman:

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like. Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.
Noir Is Protest Literature: That’s Why It’s Having a Renaissance

Nicholas Seeley on what it is about noir that we can't leave alone.

What is it about crime films and novels from the 1940s and ’50s that calls to us so strongly? True, we are also drowning in superheroes, wandering dumbly through an endless series of post-apocalypses, smothered by the advances of paranormal romance… Each of these gluts derives, in part, from the scope of today’s near-infinite media universe, which offers space for just about anything to have a renaissance, but to the degree it includes mainstream as well as cult success, each also taps into specific cultural desires and anxieties of the moment. There are reasons why noir was powerful to begin with, and why it’s coming back now.