Self-driving cars attack men; men attack penguins; and toast is refused. [Snippets 3]
Bonus: how to be a tech unicorn
1. Choosing who dies, and living with the choice
This is an amazing piece of writing where the context and backstory all happens in the footnotes. When the dialogue between editor and author makes you all teary, you know it’s worth sharing.
For context, “stet” is a word (or abbreviation maybe?) used by editors etc when reviewing a document. It means “let is stand”. The first time I came across this handwritten on a draft document it took me a long time to work out that the handwriting that look liked it spelled ‘stet’ did actually mean to spell ‘stet’. It took a few minutes and a dictionary to work that one out.
Plus this story relates to AI and the trolley problem. This fascinates me. There’s a lot of talk around self-driving cars and when they have to make the decision about who to (potentially) kill in case of an accident, e.g. the passenger, the pedestrian, or the people in the other car. By talking about this, we assume that everything else about the car is working perfectly — that the car has perfect information and the only thing left is the moral choice. By framing the conversation like this, it comes as a big surprise when something else goes wrong and the car just didn’t see the pedestrian it hit.
Anyway, take 10 minutes (and grab a handkerchief) and read STET all the way to the bottom of the page.
2. How much is a penguin worth?
Following a public uproar over inadequate sentencing, a Tasmanian man convicted of “bludgeoning six penguins to death” has had his sentence increased on appeal from 49 hours community service… to 98 hours community service.
Given the callousness and seriousness of his crime, once again this doesn’t feel like sufficient. This got me thinking: what would have been a fair sentence? To make a comparison between the penalty and the crime, we need a common unit of comparison: that means calculating everything into dollars.
What a wonderful and terrible way to deal with an unstoppable feeling of injustice: with maths. This is so nerdy it surpasses nerdiness and comes out the other side.
Death, Justice and Penguins: A Financial Perspective
Following a public uproar over inadequate sentencing, a Tasmanian man convicted of "bludgeoning six penguins to death"…
3. Managing a dodgy boss
Who won this exchange?
There was one incident, which I think they wrote about in the Washington Post, where he used to require that everybody make him toast. He liked buttered toast in a certain way. So he would have the chief of staff make him toast. And so he called me in one day and said, “Would you make toast?” And I told him, “No, I’m not making you toast.” And he said, “Everybody on staff makes me toast, and if you don’t, you get fired.” I said, “Well, I’m not making you toast. So you’re going to have to fire me.” And he goes, “Just so you know, if I ask you and you don’t make it, I’ll fire you.” I said, “OK, good.” And he never asked me, not once.
There’s something romantic about this kind of looking back on terrible managers. Not, like, smoochy romantic. Romanticised. Glorified. I don’t mind! If you live through something like this then you should have cool stories to tell, to make up for how crap it feels to be on the receiving end of this kind of power relationship. Also, this is the kind of crap I wish I would say if I found myself in this situation. But I wouldn’t. I would make toast.
Kara Swisher on What She Learned From the Worst-and Best-Bosses She's Ever Had
Executive Time is Slate's pop-up blog about bosses. This as-told-to essay has been transcribed and edited for clarity…
4. How to be a tech unicorn
I wrote a blog post breaking down the steps to go from startup idea to startup unicorn. I just couldn’t write a post about unicorns without using that hero image…