The Sunday Post for June 12, 2016

Cities Like Seattle Are Recklessly Unprepared For Self-Driving Cars

New Seattle-based publidation Scout takes on the infrastructure of self-driving cars. It asks a vital question: in the modern days of rapid technological change, how can the traditionally slow process of civic change catch up to technology and ideas that will benefit the city?

Timelines for the arrival of consumer-ready self driving cars range from two to 20 years. Even if 20 years go by before Americans trade in their driver’s licenses, the fact that only one out of every 17 cities is even thinking about self-driving cars is shocking. Transit infrastructure, from roads to light rail, takes years to plan, billions in investment, and decades to build.

At best, cities omitting autonomous vehicles from transit planning represents a failure of imagination. At worst, it’s gross civic negligence.

Does Literary Criticism Have a Grade Inflation Problem?

Alex Shehard looks at LitHub's new Book Marks service, a review aggregator (the Seattle Review of Books is one of the source sites for Book Marks), and argues that the grades of the books are elevated on the site.

This is not a new debate. Literary criticism has been routinely lambasted for its niceness, its lack of intellectual rigor, and its mediocrity. n+1’s first issue took on The Believer, which “[differed] in at least one particular from, say, the New York Review of Books, in that its overt criterion for inclusion is not expertise, but enthusiasm.” Writing in Slate in 2012, the critic Jacob Silverman decried the effect of social media on reviewing, arguing that it made incisive criticism more difficult because your potential targets were almost always connected to you in some way: “Reviewers shouldn’t be recommendation machines, yet we have settled for that role, in part because the solicitous communalism of Twitter encourages it.” (In 2013, meanwhile, Clive James took to The New York Times to tell Americans that they simply weren’t good at writing hatchet jobs.)
Head in the cloud

Sophie McBain, in the New Statesmen, looks at whether we're losing our ability to remember things now that we can store them all in our external hand-held brain.

do not remember my husband’s tele­phone number, or my best friend’s address. I have forgotten my cousin’s birthday, my seven times table, the date my grandfather died. When I write, I keep at least a dozen internet tabs open to look up names and facts I should easily be able to recall. There are so many things I no longer know, simple things that matter to me in practical and personal ways, yet I usually get by just fine. Apart from the few occasions when my phone has run out of battery at a crucial moment, or the day I accidentally plunged it into hot tea, or the evening my handbag was stolen, it hasn’t seemed to matter that I have downloaded most of my working memory on to electronic devices. It feels a small inconvenience, given that I can access information equivalent to tens of billions of books on a gadget that fits into my back pocket.