Will an app replace your doctor?


You’ve probably read some widespread sillinesses about how technology is moving us toward a world split between “high-skill” and “low-skill” jobs. Worriers claim that people with high-skill jobs will gobble up all of the economic pie, and those with low-skill jobs will be left with mere crumbs. This notion was perhaps best exemplified by economist Tyler Cowen’s book Average is Over.

This is nonsense. Because high-skill jobs are in peril, too. And sometimes, their death will make way for a raft of new “low-skill” jobs.

For example, look at the future of the general practitioner of medicine. This is considered the epitome of the high-skilled, secure, remunerative job. Four years of college! Four years of medical school! Internship! Residency! Government-protected cartel membership!

And yet, this profession is going the way of the dodo bird.

The Telegraph Interviews Tolkien

This is a fun piece:

“Spiders,” observed Professor JRR Tolkien, cradling the word with the same affection that he cradled the pipe in his hand, “are the particular terror of northern imaginations.” The Professor, now 76, is the author ofThe Hobbit and of the three-volume epic fairy-tale, The Lord of the Rings, the slowest-developing bestseller in modern publishing history. He was on the subject of dragons and the other horrenda which are his scholarly stock-in-trade.

Discussing one of his own monsters, a man-devouring, spider-like female, he said, “The female monster is cer­tainly no deadlier than the male, but she is different. She is a sucking, strangling, trapping creature.”

To Professor Tolkien, a retired Oxford philologist and a man used to dealing evidentially with his material, everything, even in fantasy, must be specific. In his world of wondrous things, he moves with the surety of a white hunter on a game reservation. His dwarfs have detailed family trees. His elves have their own carefully-constructed languages. His wizards work according to union rules. And his hobbits, the most famous of all his characters are a distinctly unfanciful race – food-loving, gift-giving, house-proud, paunchy – and as believable as your local newsagent.

Abandoned by the Left

From TAC:

One reason for the continued vital role for TAC is that the left makes itself so difficult to identify with. Here is a personal example: white male, late middle age, Christian background, Obama supporter (volunteered in both campaigns) believes that major problems facing this country and the world are global warming, accelerating inequality, the outsourcing and general drying up of middle class jobs. Opposed the Iraq war from the moment the neocons began to push for it (September 12, 2001?); opposes the militarized war-as-first-or-second-resort mindset so dominant within the Beltway; supports Obama’s effort to explore detente with Iran. Supports a reduction in defense expenditures–the savings could be spent on infrastructure, debt reduction, education, health care subsidies. Pretty much a portrait of a 100 percent liberal Democrat, no?

Yet a person like this encounters at every step prominent purveyors of the dominant liberal narratives who spare no effort to repel him. If our would-be liberal is, as mentioned, white, Christian by background, male, he may know that he, or his male children are intended as the indirect targets of public shaming by Lena Dunham, the newly anointed “voice of her [millenial] generation.” Dunham writes in her highly praised best-selling memoir that she was sexually assaulted by a conservative Republican named “Barry” at her private college.

The Decline of the Movie Quotation

From the NYT:

Round up the usual suspects of classic films and you’re likely to summon at least a line or two from each that’s become proverbial.

But try to list similarly memorable snatches of dialogue from movies of the last 15 years or so, and you’re gonna need a bigger boat. When the Radio Times in Britain compiled the 50 greatest film quotations in September, only two from this millennium made the cut.

“Some of it is just bad writing,” said Wesley Morris, a film critic for Grantland. But it’s not solely because modern screenwriters have lost their mojo, unequipped to pen lasting work on par with William Goldman (“The Princess Bride” is so quotable that a 2012 broadcast of ESPN’s “NFL Kickoff” inconceivably larded its entire 30-minute show with allusions of unusual size). Rather, the production and distribution of films, at least in America, have radically shifted in recent years in ways that stifle the creation and inhibit the collective remembrance of notable lines.

Separated from Family, Far from Home

From the NYT:

NEWBERRY, S.C. — A shabby bunkhouse sits just beyond the shadows of this small city’s colossal Kraft meatpacking plant. Inside live a few older men with nowhere else to go, and several younger men who pay to throw down a mattress.

There is also Leon Jones.

Mr. Jones, 64, has an intellectual disability and a swollen right hand that aches from 40 years of hanging live turkeys on shackles that swing them to their slaughter. His wallet contains no photos or identification, as if, officially, he does not exist.

And yet he is more than just another anonymous grunt in a meat factory. Mr. Jones may be the last working member of the so-called Henry’s Boys — men recruited from Texas institutions decades ago to eviscerate turkeys, only to wind up living in virtual servitude, without many basic rights.

This may sound familiar. In 2009, a sister of one of the men complained toThe Des Moines Register about exploitation in a bunkhouse in Iowa, prompting investigations, reforms and a momentous court verdict concerning the workplace abuse of people with disabilities. This year, The New York Times published an examination of the case and its aftermath.

Product of Mexico

From the LA Times:

The tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers arrive year-round by the ton, with peel-off stickers proclaiming “Product of Mexico.”

Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers.

American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on.

These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers.

But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.

The Times found:

  • Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply.
  • Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods.
  • Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It’s common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest.
  • Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.
  • Major U.S. companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.

The Golden Age of Reading

From the Atlantic:

Remember the good old days when everyone read really good books, like, maybe in the post-war years when everyone appreciated a good use of the semi-colon? Everyone’s favorite book was by Faulkner or Woolf or Roth. We were a civilized civilization. This was before the Internet and cable television, and so people had these, like, wholly different desires and attention spans. They just craved, craved, craved the erudition and cultivation of our literary kings and queens.

Well, that time never existed. Check out these stats from Gallup surveys. In 1957, not even a quarter of Americans were reading a book or novel. By 2005, that number had shot up to 47 percent. I couldn’t find a more recent number, but I think it’s fair to say that reading probably hasn’t declined to the horrific levels of the 1950s.

All this to say: our collective memory of past is astoundingly inaccurate. Not only has the number of people reading not declined precipitously, it’s actually gone up since the perceived golden age of American letters.

The Sad Saga of Tommy Gaines

From Grantland:

I’m standing in the dark in downtown Atlanta, waiting for a man who carries his clothes in a polka dot suitcase and his teeth in his sweatpants pocket. He said he would be here, at Five Points Plaza, at 6:30 a.m. In the seven months that I’ve known him, though, Tommy Gaines has said a lot of things. He said he first dunked when he was 11, that he first smoked crack when he was 20. He said he used to be an All American. He said he’d never use drugs again. Most of the things he’s said are at least partially true. Others are not true at all. They are stories exaggerated, memories eroded, or explanations of a reality that he never fully grasped. They are vows — to himself and to those who love him — now broken.

But he’ll be here. He promised. The sun has not yet risen, but the drunks who passed the night on park benches are stumbling to nearby flophouses to sleep away the morning. Construction workers emerge from McDonald’s clutching coffee. And there, just across Peachtree Street, I spot Tommy. He is still striking, 6-foot-6 when he stands up straight, gray at the temples and in his mustache. But in the month since he disappeared, Tommy appears to have aged five years. His clothes hang as if on a coat rack. His belly has vanished; his eyes have gone red. He shakes my hand and nods, as if willing his next words to be true.

“I’m ready,” he says.

He turns down Peachtree and starts walking.

Chomsky and Zinn Watch Lord of the Rings

This is gold:

CHOMSKY: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. “The world has changed,” she tells us, “I can feel it in the water.” She’s actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

ZINN: Of course. “The world has changed.” I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn’t changed. Not at all.

CHOMSKY: We should examine carefully what’s being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the “master ring,” the so-called “one ring to rule them all,” is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor.

ZINN: I think that’s correct. Tolkien makes no attempt to hide the fact that rings are wielded by every other ethnic enclave in Middle Earth. The Dwarves have seven rings, the Elves have three. The race of Man has nine rings, for God’s sake. There are at least 19 rings floating around out there in Middle Earth, and yet Sauron’s ring is supposedly so terrible that no one can be allowed to wield it. Why?

CHOMSKY: Notice too that the “war” being waged here is, evidently, in the land of Mordor itself — at the very base of Mount Doom. These terrible armies of Sauron, these dreadful demonized Orcs, have not proved very successful at conquering the neighboring realms — if that is even what Sauron was seeking to do. It seems fairly far-fetched.

Rolling Stone UVA Rape Feature Roundup

Over the past three weeks a bizarre story has unfolded involving Rolling Stone magazine, the University of Virginia and some massive allegations of gang rape at a fraternity on campus.

To begin, here is the Rolling Stone feature that started the whole thing. It was published on November 19. Dreher was one of many to respond to the story. (You can also look at Vox’s explainer for it.)

From the start, a few folks were raising questions about the story’s authenticity.

Continue reading