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@clive@saturation.social avatar



Writer, musician/songwriter, hobbyist coder. Contributing writer to New York Times Magazine and Wired. Author of "Coders". Blogging at clivethompson.medium.com, archive of writing at www.authory.com/clivethompson #science #technology #coding #software #writing #literature #poetry clive@clivethompson.net

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pluralistic , to random
@pluralistic@mamot.fr avatar

's Cahokia Jazz is a fucking banger: it's a taut, unguessable whuddunit, painted in ultrablack noir, set in an alternate Jazz Age in a world where indigenous people never ceded most the west to the USA. It's got gorgeously described jazz music, a richly realized modern indigenous society, and a spectacular romance. It's amazing:



clive ,
@clive@saturation.social avatar


omg this sounds AMAZING

mattblaze , to random
@mattblaze@federate.social avatar

Every time I teach my election tech course, it gets a little easier. Not because I'm getting better at it or because there's been some new technical breakthrough, but because I no longer as often need to have That Conversation with students. The one where I have to explain that no, blockchains don't solve this.

clive ,
@clive@saturation.social avatar


This is a delightful thing to hear, honestly

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar


It's time for ...

... "the opposite of doomscrolling" 🌞

The latest issue of my newsletter "The Linkfest" just dropped 📬

Free to read here (and subscribe! free or pay whatevs you want): https://buttondown.email/clivethompson/archive/linkfest-14-indoor-clouds-a-ferrofluid/


🌥 indoor clouds

🏸 why lefties have the edge in badminton
🚢 decoding container-ship markings
🐦 pigeon data-transfer
📸 the "Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards"
🧪 Lord Byron's vinegar diet
#️⃣ tic-tac-toe made using only HTML

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

I started my career as a freelance science/tech writer in the mid 90s

I wanted to write climate stories -- but back then, editors were leery

About five years ago, things changed: They started greenlighting those ideas

In the last five years, I've published more pieces on climate, mobility and lower-carbon power than I did in the previous 25

My essay on it: https://clivethompson.medium.com/its-getting-easier-to-have-climate-stores-greenlighted-a775698ee76d

Free friend link: https://clivethompson.medium.com/its-getting-easier-to-have-climate-stores-greenlighted-a775698ee76d?sk=7cf74d9af6ed48d2c57e950163f092dd

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

I generally have found the trend towards "let's illustrate this blog post / new story with a Midjourney image" to be a little dreary ...

So many of the images tend towards "sci-fi hyperrealism" that it gets boring after a while

(And man, I'm someone who grew up on Omni magazine covers, so normally I'd love this stuff, lol)

But, I will say, the Midjourney illustrations for this Boing Boing post are total <chef's kiss>


clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

Okay people 📣

It's time for "the opposite of doomscrolling" 📖

The latest issue of my newsletter, "The Linkfest", just dropped 📬

Free to read here, subscribe via pay-whatevs-you-want, including free: https://buttondown.email/clivethompson/archive/linkfest-13-17th-century-chatgpt-the-merovingian/

This issue includes:
🏛 17th-century ChatGPT
🎀 the "Merovingian" knot
🎧 CT scans of Airpods
🧊 "superionic" ice
☀️ pixels made of bioluminescent algae
❓ the "blood footprint" mystery
⚔️ how historically accurate is the armor in Baldur's Gate, anyway


clive OP ,
@clive@saturation.social avatar


You know, it doesn't look like Buttondown offers the option to automatically generate an RSS feed for the web archive of a newsletter

I'll email the guy who runs it to ask if he plans on adding that functionality ...

Seems like it'd be great to have!~

pluralistic , to random
@pluralistic@mamot.fr avatar

Progressives: if you want to lose to conservatives, all you need to do is reflexively praise and support everything conservatives turn into a culture-war issue, without considering whether they might be right. Because sometimes...they're right.


If you'd like an essay-formatted version of this thread to read or share, here's a link to it on pluralistic.net, my surveillance-free, ad-free, tracker-free blog:



clive ,
@clive@saturation.social avatar


That’s a really good one

I fall into this trap sometimes myself

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

A bot that automatically does stock trades …

… by identifying trades being done by US politicians …

… who probably have inside (I.e. and thus basically illegal-to-act-upon) knowledge of market-moving government info …

… and doing the same trades

He’s up 20% since May 2022


andybaio , to random
@andybaio@xoxo.zone avatar

This is apparently an internal Automattic memo making the rounds on Tumblr, indicating that they’ve failed to get Tumblr activity/revenue up since its 2019 acquisition and it will now be maintained by a skeleton crew of Trust & Safety and support folks, with the majority of its 139 employees moving to other projects inside Automattic.

clive ,
@clive@saturation.social avatar


Aha, interesting

clive ,
@clive@saturation.social avatar

@ernie @andybaio


clive , to random
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Trump, by all reports -- including what he says, quite openly, at his rallies -- intends to turn the Justice Department into a tool to attack his perceived enemies

Another report on this from the Washington Post (free friend link): https://wapo.st/3sqYKNF

The rule of law already has plenty of problems in the US ... but this would be an enormous shift in magnitude

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

“The Literary Style of Alt-Text”

For years, I didn’t add alt-text to my online images

But I’ve started doing it all the time now — being on Mastodon is what showed me how important it is!

Along the way, I’ve started noticing …

…. what an oddly literary activity it is

Here’s an image I wrote alt-text for when I blogged a few weeks ago, below

My essay on alt-texting: https://clivethompson.medium.com/the-literary-style-of-alt-text-9f1595cd8f0c

A free “friend” link in case you don’t subscribe to Medium: https://clivethompson.medium.com/the-literary-style-of-alt-text-9f1595cd8f0c?sk=1d9cd685997cb08d8909da687a2d03cf

A screenshot of a story written by the author, describing how he wrote alt-text for the attached photo. I reads: And at first I just wrote a simple description, something like "a cyclist going down the street." Then I added more details, including that the cyclist is in the center of the picture, and behind them are a bus stop and a brightly lit store, and that the cyclist is moving quickly. But as I was writing that last clause - "the cyclist is moving quickly" - I realized something curious about the composition of the photo: The cyclist is crisp, while the background is blurred. That's not an easy effect for the photographer to achieve! And it' precisely what gives the image its power. So I wound up writing the alt-text thusly ... “A cyclist going rapidly down a city street. The photo is taken from the side, and the cyclist is in the center of the image, heading towards our right. In behind the cyclist we see a bus stop and a brightly lit store. Interestingly, despite the fact that the cyclist is moving quickly, they are unblurred and crisp in the photo - while the background is blurred. The ultimate effect is curious: It's as if the store were moving quickly, while the cyclist was standing still” One could critique this alt-text for being too damn long. Fair enough! And there's something a bit narcissistic about me focusing on the internal experience I have while puzzling over how best to describe this image.

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

Christine Dierk designs a dress made from light-diffusing panels -- using them as pixels to change the patterns on the fly

Item #1 in my "Linkfest" newsletter, free to read here online and subscribe: https://buttondown.email/clivethompson/archive/linkfest-12-tyromancy-point-nemo-and-why-movie/

(Hover over that gif to watch it loop)

n animated gif of the inventor wearing the dress as it produces a wave-like pattern in response to her moving around

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar


The latest issue of my "Linkfest" newsletter just dropped! 📬

I call it "the opposite of doomscrolling" 😃

Read it for free here, subscribe via pay-what-ya-want (from free to whatevs): https://buttondown.email/clivethompson/archive/linkfest-12-tyromancy-point-nemo-and-why-movie/

This issue includes:

🧀 tyromancy
🚀 "Point Nemo"
📱 why movie villains never use iphones
🕹️ 36 versions of Pong
🎨 next-gen Spirograph
🚗 the "boot girls" of Atlanta
⚓ Christopher Columbus, tech bro
🎶 1924 pocket-sized record player

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

"A Gloriously Fixable Laptop, Pt. 2"

In which I continue my blubbering praise for the Framework laptops ...

... observing how folks who've owned an older model can, with trivial ease, put in a whole damn new processor to make it run faster

In like 15 minutes

This is how all laptops should be

My essay: https://clivethompson.medium.com/a-gloriously-fixable-laptop-pt-2-53d7c2fd3fb9

A free "friend" link in case you're not a Medium subscriber: https://clivethompson.medium.com/a-gloriously-fixable-laptop-pt-2-53d7c2fd3fb9?sk=f1d5b7714dc00c4c33cd1c57be15b6da

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

"How I Grew To Love the Aesthetics of Rooftop Solar"

I used to worry the panels on my roof were ugly

Now, five years later, I think they look amazing

A wee cyberpunk glimpse of a better future

My essay: https://clivethompson.medium.com/how-i-grew-to-love-the-aesthetics-of-rooftop-solar-eda118df0290

A free "friend" link in case you don't subscribe to Medium: https://clivethompson.medium.com/how-i-grew-to-love-the-aesthetics-of-rooftop-solar-eda118df0290?sk=14bbcf0c2b43a3bd2ea9b044180329cf

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

"Let's Stop Calling It 'Content''

I first starting noticing the word "content" in the late 90s

Companies looking to put writing, animation, video or art on their web sites would call it "content"

It flattened innumerable forms of culture into a sort of goo, extruded from a tube

25 years on, the term "content" has metastasized, eating whole the way many people talk about -- think about -- culture.

Let's stop now

My essay: https://clivethompson.medium.com/lets-stop-calling-it-content-8410bf5f94a9

A free link: https://clivethompson.medium.com/lets-stop-calling-it-content-8410bf5f94a9?sk=7a2668c44c31a4359876cfcd25a5f2d0

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

"The Cognitive Style of Subtitles"

Subtitles are becoming much more common these days -- on TV, in films, on livestreamed video conferencing, and in social media

It's damn interesting

Research finds that subtitling has really good effects on comprehension and recall

My essay on it: https://clivethompson.medium.com/the-cognitive-style-of-subtitles-f1e9d9f27dd0

A "friend" link in case you're not a Medium subscriber: https://clivethompson.medium.com/the-cognitive-style-of-subtitles-f1e9d9f27dd0?sk=583af74146da6cfdf387414f0d048ff0

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar
clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

"It's Time To Kill The Lawn"

Between their voracious thirst for water, the flattening of local biodiversity, and the gnarly pollutants coughed up by mowing ...

... American lawns are the products of an exquisite mania for Order

Time to uproot them

My essay: https://clivethompson.medium.com/its-time-to-kill-the-lawn-46ecb2e1ba9a

A "friend" link in case you're not a Medium subscriber: https://clivethompson.medium.com/its-time-to-kill-the-lawn-46ecb2e1ba9a?sk=dfd130469d2659410259f1365778dcea

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

Canadian doctors do ballet dance moves in N95 masks to show it's easy to breathe, and breathe heavily, in them: https://boingboing.net/2023/09/19/canadian-doctor-dancers-demonstrate-how-easy-it-is-to-breathe-in-an-n95-mask-respirator.html

I co-sign! Back in the first nasty pre-vaccine summer of 2020, I cycled 100 miles in a day from NYC to Philadelphia, wearing a mask the entire way

It's actually a wonderful way to protect from gnarly traffic fumes!

And yeah, even with my heart rate up high most of the way, no trouble breathing

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

"Why Parking Makes Housing More Expensive"

Most cities have strict rules -- if you wanna develop a new piece of housing, you have to offer parking, too

This winds up jacking up the price of housing considerably. Parking is expensive to build

One study found that providing parking added an average of $34,945 to the cost of building each low-income housing unit

My essay: https://clivethompson.medium.com/why-parking-makes-housing-more-expensive-6c64b0749503

A "friend" link in case you're not a Medium subscriber: https://clivethompson.medium.com/why-parking-makes-housing-more-expensive-6c64b0749503?sk=3876a3e658f46c6a9418ff093b155aac

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

One reason it's eminently possible for the FTC to take action against big tech firms -- for their anticompetitive, customer-gouging actions?

Because the FTC needs to establish intent

That's normally very hard to do ...

... but tech executives have a habit of carefully writing down all their malign intents in memos 😂

Here's @pluralistic's post about it: https://doctorow.medium.com/big-tech-cant-stop-telling-on-itself-f7f0eb6d215a

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

A superb essay by Karawynn Long pointing out a central challenge in today’s language-focused AI — which is the assumption that fluency with language is intelligence: https://karawynn.substack.com/p/language-is-a-poor-heuristic-for

As Long notes, many folks with autism are exceptionally intelligent but don’t possess high fluency with spoken language — and they get regarded as unintelligent: https://karawynn.substack.com/p/language-is-a-poor-heuristic-for

(via @emilymbender)


clive , to random
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clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

Amazon is crawling with travel guides written by AI -- vague, crappy, and pushed up in search results by astroturfed fake five-star reviews: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/05/travel/amazon-guidebooks-artificial-intelligence.html?unlocked_article_code=Gmcb6fkRXSAX7JUdbTpFyhH1lSBWBcI0RuiXgcku3gVTdQV7s_SPvl1tKw76F_txTehAmHdU0bZ3PUoPyH0h-dybeb8_bGL7UzysZynt-SFcx9yByC4wr37_65cVodjr_Z-sRcqUfioeOsUAKJpEECejhG2SlL4jPCoaBG8PFnu_YLKDXA0hkzvhrJnGuD5kw59N8Bz7T7D7UOeJXLkowJnnoB6IDt6bHn6XiBvlH--t6M_9xmGCkNlYdtiiScdbS3ebGG5C3xKkCxwacaT96yLi9NK5dx9YHwhHSPdoVJPqslvVGAwQFvpSQvDvgHZGOFxW09EeUVAHYZl6uI-aSYS0_UfYhcXjDi6J2-M1oFlpWg&smid=url-share

That's a "gift" link so you don't need to be a New York Times subscriber to read it

It's a great investigation, and highlights the real problem, which is ...

... unsurprisingly by now, Amazon seemingly does little-to-nothing to stop this

The site is just soiled top to bottom with fake crap in every category

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

Every time someone talks to ChatGPT for 20 exchanges or so ...

... Microsoft's servers use a half-liter of freshwater to cool down

AI is thirsty

My essay on some implications of this: https://clivethompson.medium.com/ai-is-thirsty-37f99f24a26e

A "friend" link, in case you don't subscribe to Medium: https://clivethompson.medium.com/ai-is-thirsty-37f99f24a26e?sk=f5b2ea10c649a34236577139fecfd86a

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

When I get some time free I'm gonna program a version of Pac-Man where you play as the fruit

Tight close-up on the part of the maze where you appear

When you appear, you have no control over anything

All you do is wait

And wonder

If you're going to get eaten

You can hear, in the distance, the sounds of the game; see the ghosts go by; hear the approach of Pac-Man, hear him fade further away

If you don't get eaten in that round, you score one point

If you do get eaten, the game's over

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

When did people stop being drunk all the time?

A fascinating historical analysis: https://lefineder.substack.com/p/when-did-people-stop-being-drunk

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

Here’s my essay in praise of video-game piracy!

tl;dr — a new study estimates that 90% of classic video games aren’t in release any more

They’re vanishing from the marketplace at the pace of silent film and radio serials, despite being only a few decades old

Basically, the game industry (often understandably, mind you) doesn’t want to preserve older games

So, the only force that’s keeping this legacy alive?


My essay: https://clivethompson.medium.com/piracy-is-saving-video-game-history-a83d5b3700ff

“Friend” link https://clivethompson.medium.com/piracy-is-saving-video-game-history-a83d5b3700ff?sk=6a137aa6cd89229a86112844f0d6c809

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

“Machines, pretending to be humans, talking to other machines that also pretend to be humans: I had not expected our technological future to be scripted by Samuel Beckett.”

My column on the “boring apocalypse” of large-language-model AI: https://clivethompson.medium.com/the-boring-apocalypse-of-todays-ai-6365345444a8

A “friend” link in case you’re not a Medium subscriber: https://clivethompson.medium.com/the-boring-apocalypse-of-todays-ai-6365345444a8?sk=d3fc1a0c86c558e0bf22dcfdbdcead52

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

People of mastodon in NYC!

@traceylindeman is appearing Thursday, July 13 at the KGB bar (7-9 pm) as part of an event on sex, gender and power

The speaker lineup is amazing, and so is Tracey’s book

Check it out! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/live-reading-event-sex-gender-and-power-tickets-663101794317/

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

Back in the early 1800s, a popular American conspiracy theory held that nunneries were hotbeds of sexual exploitation

On August 11, 1834, a large group of Boston residents decided — having carefully, publicly, and even leisurely laid plans — to burn down the Ursuline Covent in what is now Somerville

They boasted to the nuns that they’d liberated them

Here’s a superb essay about it, and how US conspiracy theories about sex cults go back centuries: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/07/conspiracy-theory-burned-convent-down/674599/

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

I asked ChatGPT to recommend some of “the most interesting articles written by the journalist Clive Thompson”

Of the nine it listed …

… seven were ones I hadn’t written, and a few didn’t exist at all, by anyone

One was a pastiche

Only one was truly correct

This performance is so unbelievably terrible it’s almost charitable to call it “bullshit”

My essay, showing ChatGPT’s responses: https://clivethompson.medium.com/you-know-nothing-of-my-work-chatgpt-66d3ac542f3f?postPublishedType=repub

A “friend” link in case you’re not a Medium subscriber: https://clivethompson.medium.com/you-know-nothing-of-my-work-chatgpt-66d3ac542f3f?sk=8765f2e9dffa3d0151c66ce12a0ac2e6

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

Denver last year offered subsidies for buying electric bikes

Their first 600 were snapped up in 10 minutes. Demand was huge

Denver ended up issuing over 4,700 (about 2,300 of which went to low-income residents)

Research shows it reduced car-miles driven in the city by 100K a week

My takeaway?

We should have ebike subsidies everywhere, and now. Cheaper than electric car subsidies, and arguably even more catalytic

My essay: https://clivethompson.medium.com/its-time-to-subsidize-e-bikes-900a862b8e76

"Friend" link https://clivethompson.medium.com/its-time-to-subsidize-e-bikes-900a862b8e76?sk=dea9f07c0dab4be831ee50a197360f95

clive , to random
@clive@saturation.social avatar

“Myst” remade for the Atari 2600: http://deater.net/weave/vmwprod/myst_vcs/

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