Information is Dangerous to a Dictatorship...

Repressive governments are in the business of keeping secrets from their own people. The Chinese Government has attempted (with much success) to filter the Internet anything critical of their practices and record. To get a sense of the huge repressive enterprise involved in scrubbing the Internet of any inconvenient truths, have a look at some of these sites. And give some thought to the long term intellectual consequences of institutional dishonesty.

The Brave New World of the Sharing Economy

Benjamen Walker's podcast "The Theory of Everything" investigates the new world being shaped by the big tech companies. A recent series of three podcasts (instaserfs) looked at what Walker calls the "On-Demand Economy", a development more advanced in the US than elsewhere. An associate of Walker attempts to live by working for Uber, Lyft, Manservant and other online services. He finds working without rights, for very little money and constantly hurried along by staff-facing apps to be a stressful affair. The lack of empathy shown by most of the companies in this space for those who actually provide the service is quite striking. A sobering corrective to the usual line that the customer experience is all important.

Word in a Browser

'Free' and 'Microsoft' were once words rarely uttered in the same sentence. Today, no longer ascendant and under pressure from Google's free browser-based text and spreadsheet editors, Microsoft offers its signature word processing and spreadsheet products in browser form, at a price of $0.00 (for personal use). The browser-based offerings are not as fully featured as the non-free desktop versions, but they are at least as good as Google's alternative. And surprisingly for anyone used to the ugliness of pre-cloud Microsoft interfaces, the portal is very clean, minimal and attractive.