Mob justice and Cecil the Lion; a popular chatbot that can ask how you’re doing post-breakup; and more.
Governmental disruption: Steven Levy reports for Medium’s Backchannel on the rise of the U.S. Digital Service. Since USDS is already delivering measurable results for government IT development, here’s the money quote, from its deputy director Haley van Dyck: “Our institutional innovation strategy is, if we can prove our value over the next 18 months, we believe it will be asinine for the next administration to not continue to invest in this resource.” She also adds, speaking of the service’s recruits from high-tech companies: “about 66 percent of the people that came out for three months ended up going home, quitting their job and coming back full time. And it’s on the rise. I think it’s over 80 percent now.”
Presidential disruption: Political scientist Lee Drutman of New America has a nifty suggestion for how to test presidential contenders worthiness for the White House. Instead of holding debates, have them handle a simulated crisis, like a terrorist attack or a bank failure. He writes, for the Washington Post, “Film crews could record the entire simulation, then television producers could turn it into a reality-TV special. Make all the footage public, and journalists could comb through it and analyze who handled the situation best and why. Candidates could critique each other’s responses. We’d also learn about the quality of advice the candidates get.”
Speaking of quality advisers, the Donald Trump campaign has fired a political consultant, Sam Nunberg, whose racist statements on Facebook were first uncovered by Hunter Walker of Business Insider.
Social disruption: Writing for Vox, Max Fisher takes note of the recent online campaign against American dentist Walter Palmer, who killed a beloved lion named Cecil, and argues that “mob justice is not justice.” Indeed, it looks like the “human flesh search engines” of China are now here.
Writing for the Atlantic, Rose Eveleth asks a really good question: “Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Speaking of the future, in China millions of young people are hooked on a realistic chatbot named Xiaoice, made by Microsoft, that has mined the Chinese internet for human conversations, John Markoff and Paul Mozur report for the New York Times. The program “remembers details from previous exchanges with users, such as a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend, and asks in later conversations how the user is feeling.”
Uber disruption? Cory Doctorow tweets from FOO Camp: “Building a co-op Uber alternative that returned Uber’s share of the $$ to riders/drivers is ‘as hard as making Linux…” and adds, “Therefore, the existence of GNU/Linux proves that building a co-op, open alternative to Uber is eminently do-able.”
One of Uber’s top New York political consultants, Bradley Tusk, Mike Bloomberg’s former campaign manager, is starting Tusk Ventures, “a political consulting firm geared toward helping start-ups work with—and in some cases, beat back—government regulators,” reports Dino Grandoni for the New York Times.
Ideological disruption: If you’ve ever wondered what exactly is so grating about the “Aspen Ideas Festival” and all the other happy chatter that warbles down from places like the Aspen Institute all summer long, read the text of a speech author Anand Giridharadas gave at the Aspen Institute’s Action Forum last week. A tidbit:
The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this: the winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm. The Aspen Consensus holds that capitalism’s rough edges must be sanded and its surplus fruit shared, but the underlying system must never be questioned. The Aspen Consensus says, “Give back,” which is of course a compassionate and noble thing. But, amid the $20 million second homes and $4,000 parkas of Aspen, it is gauche to observe that giving back is also a Band-Aid that winners stick onto the system that has privileged them, in the conscious or subconscious hope that it will forestall major surgery to that system—surgery that might threaten their privileges.
Civic disruption: Chicago has announced a new system using public data to prioritize inspections restaurants most likely to have health code problems, “helping them resolve any issues as quickly as possible and prevent foodborne illnesses before they ever begin,” according to a press release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. The system was created as party of a $1 million grant to Chicago from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge.
The NYC City Council Speaker’s Office is hosting this week’s Civic Hacknight here Wednesday at Civic Hall with BetaNYC, with a focus on participatory budgeting and civic engagement.