BITES // 02.07.19

Every month we collect eight of the best pieces of content published on the web and share them with you, because we believe that the most extraordinary thinking is inspired by looking to unexpected places. BITES is a reading list for those who want to bring a little of the outside, in.

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1. HARVARD HAS FOUND ALIENS

We all know someone with a crazy alien story, except this time it’s Harvard’s top astronomer and he thinks extraterrestrials have entered our galaxy. Despite harsh criticism from some of his peers, the scientific community remains baffled by the mysterious object flying through the Milky Way. If he’s right, he’d prove that sometimes it’s okay to suspend your disbelief, not for fantasy, but to see the world as it really is.

2. ‘SCAM SEASON’ IS IN FULL BLOOM

When does the long parade of scammer stories—Fyre Festival, Anna Delvey, Theranos, and now the best-selling thriller author Dan Mallory—turn from an enjoyable collection of just that, stories, and into something more troubling? A statement about the culture we’re building? As Hess writes, “The expectations placed on actual children have grown wildly out of proportion with the economic reality into which they’ve been born. Only a scam could bridge the gap.”

3. THE BIGGEST CONCERT EVER WAS NOT IN REAL LIFE

10 million people danced their butts off at Marshmello’s latest concert, only everyone was doing Fortnite emotes (dance moves…for the generationally challenged) because they were, in fact, watching the concert in the popular video game Fortnite. With visually stunning and gravity-defying stage production, Epic Games is raising the stakes for what’s possible in interactive entertainment. Believe it or not, in-game experiences may be the next big thing in experiences.

4. ‘SHARENTING’ IS FUELING SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM

It’s a natural impulse for parents to boast about how awesome their kids are; we may have bragged about their first steps since the dawn of time (we could walk upright? Homo erectus?). Although, back then, no one was profiting from the anecdotes, scrapbooks, and photo albums of yore. Meanwhile, you may think your documentation of little Susie’s first middle finger is cute, but, today’s social media platforms unequivocally profit from knowing everything about their users and we’re doing just that—telling them everything.

5. SNACKIFICATION OF A NATION

A foodie 50 years ago could be forgiven for imagining an elaborate culinary future in which Americans consume four distinct cuisines and two newly-discovered delicacies every day. And maybe that’s the case for some. But for most, the “new” meal option is modern hardtack—a granola bar, ingredients essentially unchanged from the oats folks whipped up in 1900. The story of how we got here is surprisingly vicious, as brands fight to un-niche the snack and bring a bar to breakfast, dinner, and every meal in between.

6. YOU CAN’T OPT OUT FROM AMAZON

If you don’t like a brand, or they do something you disagree with, you can always opt out—you know, “vote with your dollar.” That’s the central thesis of “conscious consumerism,” which is itself central to modern social movements and branding strategies. But what if it’s not that easy? What happens when there’s a company so ubiquitous you can’t avoid patronizing them—a company like Amazon?

7. STOP PRETENDING YOU LOVE THE GRIND

“Thank God it’s Monday”: the mantra of a movement that is glorifying burnout or hustle culture. As an entire generation of workers “desperately striving to meet their own high expectations” embraces workaholism as a lifestyle, we’ll continue to see backlash from those wondering what kind of magical things can happen when companies introduce radically liberating work policies.

8. THE FORENSICS OF FORGERY 

Jackson Pollock paintings can sell for over $100M, but you paid way less for the print hanging in your bathroom. Art exists on a spectrum of authenticity—from originals, to forgeries, to prints. In this exhibitive video, a forensic scientist and an art historian meticulously examine a purported Jackson Pollock painting and reveal the painstaking process of assessing authenticity. Imagine if we were this methodical about the information we propagate on social media.


TAKEAWAY:

Shouldn’t we believe age-old institutions when they claim aliens are among us? Shouldn’t we believe celebrity entrepreneurs when they sell us on a dream experience? Shouldn’t we believe an entire generation of workers when they profess their masochistic love of the hustle? An overabundance of informational sources just means our powers of discernment must be sharper than ever. A post-post-truth era will increasingly demand that we cast our beliefs aside in pursuit of the authenticity and truth.

MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM

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