J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Category: Culture Rants/Shares (Page 1 of 12)

Changing Social Norms Don’t Present an Existential Threat

I read recently fired ex-Google employee James Damore’s “left bias” manifesto with much interest. I think a lot of people (especially younger white males) feel the same way he does.

Damore’s memo starts off with some reasonable assertions that there are statistical psychological differences, on average, between men and women. No problem there, even though some of the broader generalizations struck me as outlandish, and weren’t backed by evidence. Damore goes on to assert that Google has a politically and culturally left bias, which makes me wonder what he was thinking when he signed up to work at a Silicon Valley tech company. Finally, Damore makes the leap that because the gender and ethnicity gaps in tech are not solely due to bias (but also because of innate biological differences), that Google’s diversity programs are discriminatory, and therefore they should be eliminated or opened to white males.

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Why I Started (and Stopped) Running Google AdWords

Now if I could only get paid for running ads like this one …

From December 2016 to February 2017 I ran Google Adwords on this site. At that time jdmoyer.com was getting about 12,000 views per week. I was curious if I could bring in significant ad revenue with a minimal approach, only running ads on a small percentage of the posts on this site.

I didn’t exactly need the money–I had (and still have) plenty of freelance work to pay the bills, and some additional income from music royalties and investments. But passive income is nice. I considered the pros and cons:

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Seven Big Questions For the Next 100 Years

One way I generate ideas for science fiction stories is to consider big unanswered questions, and then consider how various combinations of results might play out. The challenge is to try to imagine a future that is neither an apocalyptic wasteland nor a rosy utopia, but rather messy and complex with lots of good aspects as well as miserable aspects (as reality tends to be).

Probable 100-year megatrends include including a warming climate, advances in technology and artificial intelligence, the human population peak, and major ecological disruption, especially in the oceans. But the future is not written. Here are seven major questions/variables I’m considering:

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Lyft (and Uber?) Drivers Don’t Know Where They’re Going

Logan Green of Lyft (photo by JD Lasica)

As part of an ongoing no-car month experiment (not owning or leasing a car for the last eleven months), I’ve relied heavily on the freelance taxi/ride-sharing service Lyft. Overall my experience with Lyft has been good. The drivers are generally courteous, friendly (but not too friendly), and drive safely. In turn I try to be a good rider, being ready when drivers arrive, not slamming doors, and tipping (which Lyft allows in-app; their competitor Uber doesn’t). I like most of the drivers I meet, and I almost always give 5-star ratings.

But here’s the thing–if there’s any complexity to a pickup or drop-off location, most Lyft drivers will get it wrong. Lyft drivers rely almost entirely on GPS, and even though GPS navigation is a miraculous invention, it fails consistently with large buildings, detours, poor cell-service areas, and even some straightforward locations (GPS often ignores the street I live on and directs drivers to one block away from my house).

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How To Be Less Racist


In the United States and Europe, racists are coming out of the woodwork, freely expressing views that were considered taboo only a year ago. Concerns about terrorism and economic security (some valid, some exaggerated) are amplified and directed broadly at people of color, most of whom have nothing to do with terrorism or the availability of jobs. This racism was always there, but it’s more dangerous now that it’s moving into the mainstream (including aspects of our federal government). Some of the dangers, specifically, are harassment and violence against non-whites (including police violence), voter disenfranchisement, and deportation of immigrants (some legal, some undocumented, many if not most vital to our national economy).

Other problems with open racism include social discord and a divisive sense of “us vs. them” pervading our national consciousness. More severe, dystopian outcomes of open racism might include internment camps for Muslims, reversals of civil rights protections, harassment or murder of civil rights activists (including journalists), use of lethal force against peaceful protestors, or even “ethnic cleansing” scenarios (genocide). Big problems, in other words.

I guess one potential benefit of racist attitudes being openly expressed is that it opens the door to conversation, debate, and the potential for attitudes to shift. That’s the purpose of this post: to influence those who might feel racist but are open to non-racist perspectives.

I’ve been reading some Alt-Right blogs and trying to better understand where this racism comes from (I won’t say which ones, because attention and web traffic fuels these hate blogs). From what I’ve read so far, the Alt-Right openly-racist/white-supremacist perspective looks something like this:

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Three Things Trump Can’t Do

I promise this blog won’t become a 100% Trump-rant, but there are big geopolitical events afoot. I’ll be chewing the Trump cud for a little longer.

This essay from science fiction author Charles Stross gave me some big-picture perspective. Reactionary populism is a global problem, and the Russia-as-puppeteer theory may have legs. The “U.S. won the cold war” narrative is looking laughable at this point. The Kremlin has a long memory, and plays a ruthless international chess game with decade-long turns.

Now we have an administration that is not only politically conservative (in an extreme way, with the intention to roll back women’s rights and civil rights) but also potentially incompetent, led by a president with a history of criminality and corruption. Trump’s corruption and impulsiveness worry me just as much as his ideology (which, like Bannon’s, is flexible and opportunistic). Reckless decision making, cynicism, cronyism, corruption, and a failure of leadership could lead to economic collapse and systemic breakdown. Could it be as bad as what we’re seeing now in Venezuela? I think our checks-and-balances will probably save us from that fate, but the same forces are at work.

Across the pond we have Brexit in the UK, and anti-immigration sentiments all across Europe. Global reactionary populism. Terrorism is also a massive problem. What’s happening to our planetary society? I think we’re seeing the convergence of at least six macrotrends:

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