Techno Sapiens: The End of Serendipity

Welcome to Techno Sapiens, a biweekly series of six podcasts hosted by Future Tense fellows Christine Rosen, senior editor of the New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society, and Marvin Ammori, a First Amendment lawyer who has worked for Google, eBay, and Dropbox, among others. Each podcast will examine how technology—now and in the future—will impact us as a species, and how we relate to each other.

On today’s episode, Christine and Marvin discuss online ranking with Tom Vanderbilt, journalist and author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). The hosts ask whether we’ve let our obsession with grading everything from restaurants to books on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon is undermining expertise and serendipity, or whether we’re finally getting the facts rather than the overrated opinions of critics.

Here are some of the links and references mentioned during this week's show:

  • Tom Vanderbilt’s Wilson Quarterly article, “Star Wars: the Rise of Online Review Culture”.
  • The various lawsuits against Yelp for alleged fake negative reviews.
  • More details about the low royalties that artists receive when their songs are played on Spotify.
  • Do we still need blockbuster cultural production?
  • Maybe the success of Fifty Shades of Grey proves that expertise, especially in the publishing world, is often wrong.

Contributors:

Christine Rosen was a Future Tense fellow. She is a writer and senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society, where she covers the social impact of technology, bioethics, and the history of genetics.

Marvin Ammori