Design Intervention, Political Survivors


L. Rhodes

Project Alias is an open source "parasite" that runs interference on smart speakers when they're not being actively used. Created by two Copenhagen-based designers, Bjørn Karmann and Tore Knudsen, the gadget rests atop the smart device's speaker, feeding it noise until activated by a custom wake-word. Better still, I suppose, is simply not inviting a smart device into your home, but as more and more appliances get inducted into the Internet of Things, that may soon cease to be practical. Frequent travellers, in particular, may want their own Alias, since some hotel chains are already cutting deals to install smart speakers in their rooms. Until there's legislation to limit aural data collection, I foresee countermeasures like this becoming more common.


The standard popular conception of genetic inheritance held that most of the traits that determined our individuals fates were built from instructions hard-coded in our genes, but a review of recent literature in Nautilus points to a changing consensus. Rather, genes seem to serve as templates that the body draws upon, and modifies, on the fly. Naturally, this has (or ought to have) consequences from those who would craft governmental policy on the basis of the old one-to-one model of genetic expression, but try telling that to James Watson.


Despite their apparent repudiation at the ballot box, prominent neoconservative intellectuals continue to find high profile venues from which to preach their disreputable creed. Stephen Wertheim at the NYRB explains their newfound appeal thus:

Neocons have spent decades reducing politics to an all-encompassing crisis, a Manichean struggle between an imperiled liberal democracy and a pervasive totalitarian menace. Now certain liberals see things in much the same way. Lionizing the neocons indulges these Democrats’ fantasy that respectable Republicans will rise up to sweep Trump and all he stands for onto the ash heap of history.

I'll add that trotting out woebegone neocons is a handy way to reinforce the idea that the conservative movement is cracking up, rather than morphing into something worse.


Over at Guernica, Patrick Hicks tells the astonishing story of Wernher von Braun, the Nazi physicist who invented the V-2 rocket, oversaw a secret concentration camp to carve out factories underneath a mountain, and went on the mastermind the US space program.