The Wrong Stuff

Ever wonder why empires don't last forever? After all, by definition an empire holds all the cards. They dominate trade, education, science, literature, quality of life and so on. So, why do they all inevitably whither? Because, nothing fails quite like success.

Here are two examples from the world's current Imperial office holder -- the U.S. of A.

It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's a turkey.

And there it was yesterday, all dressed and no place to go. America's only manned space vehicle, the space shuttle, steaming off liquid oxygen like a giant upright turd in the Florida sun.

The space shuttle is the actualization of the old joke, "An elephant is a mouse designed by a committee."

The reason I choose the space shuttle as proof the US is on the down-slope of the empire bell curve is because, of all the ways we could have explored space, we chose to invest all our marbles in bolting an 18-wheeler to rockets.

Sending a Mack truck into orbit required some very complicated and expensive engineering contortions. Satellites sent up on the shuttle cost $25 million a ton. Compare that with the cost of sending the same payload up on simpler Russian or Chinese rockets, $3-6 million a ton.

It costs upwards of $10,000 per pound to launch anything, including the crew, into orbit on the shuttle, a cost that is more than triple that charged by the workhorse expendable launch vehicles of NASA's heyday, the Apollo era.

What happened to NASA's own "right stuff"?

Read More Show less
ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up