Monday, March 23, 2020

Technology as Seducer

I loved Gluckman & Hanson’s remark that “Technology seduces us” in their new book, Ingenious. I’m surprised that I hadn’t thought of this as a mythical template before.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus stories

COVID-19 is a convenient source of widely shared stories that people are using to make sense of something important. They've help me think about what I mean by 'stories'.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Shiller’s Narratives: EconTalk 2020

Russ Roberts chatted with Bob Shiller about his book Narrative Economics on the EconTalk podcast in February 2020. (What looks like a complete transcript is available on the podcast page under “Audio Highlights.”)

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Shiller’s Narratives: AEA 2017

Robert Shiller’s 2017 AEA presidential address helped me understand what he means by narratives ("Narrative Economics," NBER Working Paper 23075). He explicitly includes explanations, and implicitly includes beliefs and descriptions; I think is far too broad. It looks like he’d count any concept as a narrative.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Myth definitions

This post is a rolling inventory of definitions and descriptions of myth – mine, and those of others. I’ll move it to the top of the blog every time I update it.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Frankenstein at the FCC

A full-text search for “Frankenstein” on ECFS (the repository for official records in the FCC's docketed proceedings from 1992 to the present) on 22 Feb 2020 returned 91 results. I was surprised the number was that small.

Monday, February 17, 2020

A little political history story

From the Talking Politics podcast episode Are We Losing Faith in Democracy? (Jan 29, 2020), here’s a nice little example of how stories are told in political economics.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Huawei as ritual scapegoat

Thinking about the mythological resonances of two recent op-eds about US posturing regarding 5G (h/t Dale Hatfield) took me to an ancient ritual: scapegoating.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Tech is just a cool tool, folks. Move along now.

For my sins, I occasionally look at corporate PR to see how companies talk about tech. This post by Satya Nadella would certainly win a bunch of Cringe Awards. I was struck (but not surprised) that tech is portrayed as a tool – and not at all as something, as Heidegger argues, that changes everything into stuff-ready-to-be-used (cf. section 2.1 of this SEP entry).

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The T Prize

Someone in Washington DC asked me how the government's R&D agenda could re-invigorate the US wireless manufacturing sector.

Thursday, January 02, 2020


My discovery of a performance of Corelli's La Follia on recorder and harpsichord (Michala Petri and Mahan Esfahani) led me to recordings of follias by Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI: La Folia, 1490-1701, and Altre Follie, 1500-1750. What I thought was one composer's set of variations turned out to be a tradition more than two hundred years long.

Though everyone improvised over pretty much the same bass line, each composer brought their own quirks. It was a wonderful reminder that there is great value in saying the same old thing, even just slightly differently.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Is high tech still pre-mythological?

I was struck by a paradox in an Esquire article about why les GAFA should be broken up : the argument and examples are compelling, but there’s no sense of who les GAFA are as characters, let alone as mythological archetypes.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

2020s - Decade of Reliability?

In the PolicyTracker 2019 Christmas newsletter, Martin Sims argues that the consumer benefits of higher and higher broadband speeds become ever more marginal. The challenge for industry (especially 5G) is whether customers will pay extra for it. While I sympathize with the sentiment, this claim is not new; we hear it every time broadband speeds click up. Betting on “Consumers now have enough X” is a proven way to lose money... and yet.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Tech the Troublemaker

A colleague recently circulated a news story that police in Longmont, CO decided to keep radio traffic encrypted after the completion of a pilot program. Discussion ensued about the pros and cons of encrypting police channels, including First Amendment concerns. I decided to take a mythological tangent.

Sunday, December 22, 2019


I think of experiment as a reasoned procedure to learn something by trying out a series of variations. (Wikipedia notes the importance of "repeatable procedure and logical analysis," for example.) I enjoy baking beskuit (South African rusks; think Boere-biscotti) because it's an endless experiment: with every batch, I try something new.