Category Archives: Culture

Google’s Pony Express & An Objectivist Theory Of Video Games

Around midnight on April 14th, 1860, the rider on the first westbound run of the Pony Express clattered into San Francisco, California, on his horse. The mail he carried had been borne at a gallop across the desert of the American West. He was the last rider in a ten-day relay that began in St. Joseph, Missouri. Ultimately, the journey of the Pony Express would continue criss-crossing the country for eighteen months, transmitting messages about the gold rush in California, Lincoln’s inauguration, and the Civil War.

The Pony Express company conceded to the transcontinental telegraph in 1861, losing the government mail contract the company’s founders had sought. But it had forever heightened expectations of speed in letter delivery, and, of course, had gained a place in the American imagination.

155 years have passed since that day, and there was no better celebration of the Pony Express’s memory than Google’s instantly iconic doodle last week. And there was no better entity to do it: The Pony Express’s founders sought to compartmentalize and distribute a 1900 mile pilgrimage across America in order to speed up communication. Google now compresses massive amounts of data and connects billions of people in order to put a world of information at our fingertips.

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Bitcoin and the Ayn Rand Imagination

This article was originally published at The Atlas Society.

The Atlas Shrugged movie is now accepting Bitcoin to join their web forum, called Galt’s Gulch Online. Limited content is available for free to all visitors of Galt’s Gulch Online, but premium content, such as the new Atlas Shrugged Part 3 teaser trailer, is available only to “producers” who pay a fee. And that fee can now be paid in Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a digital money sweeping the world and offering some degree of freedom from government currencies. It imitates the scarcity of a material currency (e.g. gold) by means of an algorithm, which places a limit on the amount of bitcoin that can be “mined” from its source by those who maintain the transaction ledger. As Rob Wile puts it, “It’s like a giant interactive spreadsheet everyone has access to and updates.”  Continue reading Bitcoin and the Ayn Rand Imagination

Why The Government Shouldn’t Regulate Photoshopping

 

A recent post by the show Julie Mastrine responded to a post by Miss Representation’s account on Facebook. Miss Representation is a documentary about the portrayal of women in media. It’s a valuable film with many insights, but it falls into the error that much of liberal feminism does, which is to call on government regulation as a solution. Their Facebook post was a link to Change.org, petitioning the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “to develop a regulatory framework for ads that materially change the faces and bodies of the people in them, in order to reduce the damage this type of advertising does to our children.”

I responded with a few comments, and many other libertarian feminists did as well.

laurie rice photoshopping

laurie rice photoshopping 2

Julie Mastrine did a longer write up on her own blog, with screenshots of my comments and others.

 

Julie Mastrine

Women’s representation in media matters. Study after study   has linked narrow beauty standards with low self-esteem, eating disorders, and general body-hatred among women. Women are tired of seeing themselves portrayed in a narrow way — light-skinned, thin, blonde, blue-eyed, big boobs, etc. But is government legislation the solution to create more representative media images? Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 2.34.44 PM

That’s the question raised by a newChange.org petition, which asks people to sign in support of The Truth in Advertising Act, or H.R.4341. The act is not very detailed, but in short, it would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a regulatory framework to reduce the use of altered photos in advertising and “to submit to Congress a report on the use, in advertising and other media for the promotion of commercial products, of images that have been altered to materially change the physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individuals depicted.”

This legislation…

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The Objectivism of Minecraft

Thanksgiving evening at home — snow on the ground outside, the hum of the dishwasher in the kitchen, half-eaten pies on the counter. The “kids” of the family have taken over the living room: my sister, my two brothers, and I. The TV displays a videogame called Minecraft and they pre-emptively defend it to me: it’s more than meets the eye, they say. When they start playing, I understand their warning. The graphics are blocky and old-school. The 1st-person protagonist looks like a lego man. “Mountains” in this digital world are more like green and brown staircases. When you approach the trees, their “leaves” are revealed as pixelated green cubes.

But here is the charm: Minecraft is a game of building. As the title suggests, it’s a game of mining and crafting. In other words, it’s a game of discovering and creating values in the world. While there is an over-arching structure to the game, it’s mostly opaque — a vague mission to move through a few different levels and eventually find a portal. The game never requires that you pursue the mission, and most of the fun is found in collecting resources and building things. For instance, you can chop wood from the trees and use the wood to fashion tools, construct a shelter, and build its furniture. As you become more adept, you can build fancier structures. My sister and brothers proudly show off houses incorporating caves, a big stately building with a dome and dozens of rooms, and their prize creation: a house built elegantly on stilts over the water.

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Feminism and the Future

Imagine a rich, new media landscape—one that extols complex heroines whose lives expand a young woman’s sense of the many ways that it is possible to be; one that de-emphasizes sexuality and appearance as the measures of a woman’s worth. Imagine energized women smartly banding together to solve social problems—using micro-financing to enable other women to launch businesses, for example—instead of leaning dependently on a paternalistic government. Before we look deeper into what our future could be, let’s consider feminism’s trek to date.

In the last 150 years, the United States has accepted a basic ideal of equality between males and females. Best understood, this ideal holds that men and women are first and foremost individuals who live by reason. As such, both men and women have the same requirements for freedom and the same potential for achievement. The belief in these core ideas is what Joan Kennedy Taylor, a feminist and Objectivist intellectual, called “the individualist feminist impulse.”

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