Philosopher Daniel Heller-Roazen tells us the story of Pythagoras and the fifth hammer and how Kant and Kepler both tried(and failed)to record the universal harmonies Pythagoras once heard. Your host sets out to make some money doing experimental medical testing, and gets the chance to record the voice in his head.
A few years ago your host took a pilgrimage to Copenhagen to walk the streets the great Dane Søren Kierkegaard once walked. He wanted to understand the meaning of Kierkegaard’s religious stage so he decided to ask the experts at the Kierkegaard research center. Also Photographer Dina Litovksy tells us about the history and some of the secrets of the modern bachelorette party. And Michael Holmes tells us about life’s final stage – death.
This week we examine the legacy of The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility by Walter Benjamin. Media Theorist and Benjamin scholar (and translator) Thomas Levin explains why this essay resonates today and what Benjamin has to tell us about the utopian power of new media. Also Russell Meyer tells us about the Wu-Tang clan’s plan to release a sole copy of their new album and why he has turned to Kickstarter so he can buy it and release it to the world. And your host shares an imaginary story about Hitler and Goebbels encountering Benjamin’s essay during their final days in the bunker.
Andrew Rubin opens up his Archives of Authority to tell us the story of how George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 became global phenomenons. Melissa Gira Grant tells us about her new book Playing the Whore and the complicated relationship between sex workers, Feminists, Journalists, and the Police. And your host turns to ToE correspondent Peter Choyce for advice on how to fight his bike ticket in traffic court.
In 1984 your host was twelve years old and like George Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith, he kept a diary for the citizens of the future. For this special installment of Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything we travel back in time and give this diary a soundtrack. TV commercials, radio spots, movie clips – all sound from 1984 (the year not the book). Along with personal memories of making the transition to middle school, the show focuses on four of the most important people of year: Ronald Reagan, Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs and Clara Peller. Find out what totalitarianism really sounds like.
This week we freak out about the future of wearable technology! (http://bit.ly/1hg4h7Q)
Technology consultant Sarah Slocum loves social media and her Google Glass, she wears them everywhere. But when she walked into Molotov’s, a bar on Haight Street in San Francisco, she discovered that not everyone shares her love for wearable tech.
Also, your host makes his annual pilgrimage to SXSWi and ends up designing wearables at a surreal Hack Day. We also hear from Shingy, AOL’s Digital Prophet. He believes wearables will allow us to have it both ways: we can be both digital and human.
**This episode features elements that were recorded binaurally. If you listen with a pair of headphones or a LiveAudio enabled device, you will experience three dimensional sound – it will be like you are there.**
Music from this episode:
“Billy (Starsky Instrumental)” — Tha Silent Partner (http://bit.ly/1fUCZTA)
“big” “big (2)” “big (5)” — klimperei, from the album “big & bang” (http://klimperei.bandcamp.com) You really should buy some records from this genius!
“Food of the Range” — Electric Sound of Joy, from the “Food of the Range EP”
Writer Olivia Laing didn’t plan on moving to New York alone, but after a few lonely months in the city she discovered the truth about loneliness. She says it is a gift. Laing wrote an essay on loneliness for Aeon magazine. She is also the author of The Trip to Echo Spring, which is one of the best books of the year — no contest.
Eric Klinenberg says more and more people are choosing to live alone and that cities like New York must invest in housing stock that single people not only can afford but actually want to live in, the type of housing they have in Scandinavian countries. He is a sociologist at New York University and the author of Going Solo, a book about the extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone.
In Denmark when someone dies alone, and no-one claims the body, the authorities put an ad in the newspaper calling for Possible Relatives. This is also the title of a photo-book by Danish photographer Tina Enghoff. She took pictures of some of these apartments after the bodies were removed, often the bodies go undiscovered for weeks. My friend Pejk Malinovski, who is also a Dane (and a radio producer) met up with Tina on a recent trip home to Copenhagen.
To Bot or Not? That’s the big question for Data Scientist Gilad Lotan. His research suggests we may be damaging our online reputations if we choose not to play the fake follower game. Jason Q Ng, author of the book Blocked On Weibo, tells us why the Chinese government hates fake bots and why they targeted Black PR companies last summer. And your host imagines a future were humans are forced to shower their new Bot overlords with unwavering attention.
Photographer Robert Burley takes pictures of the end of Analog for his book The disappearance of darkness. Christine Frohnert explains how conservators must care for Art with a Plug. Curator Christiane Paul tells us how the Whitney Museum of American Art restored the digital artwork “The world’s first collaborative sentence” by Douglas Davis. And TOE’s Washington D.C. corespondent ‘Chris’ tells us the truth about Edward Snowden and Snapchat.
This week your host tries to break through to the other side using the art of John Singer Sargent as a… jumping off point. Also we get an update from our corespondent Peter Choyce. When we last heard from Peter (in “admissions of defeat”) he was heading to rehab, he is now free and living in the woods in North Carolina.
When Private Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison she announced her desire to transition from male to female. Yvette Gonzales tells us a first person story about what its like to be transgender in Prison. Gender theorist B. Preciado tells us about what happens when a person takes testosterone without the intention of transitioning from one gender to another. Also, Jim Elledge tells us about his new biography of Outsider Artist Henry Darger, and why he drew little girls with penises.
About a year ago I travelled across America for the BBC. I visited Airports, Amusement parks, Highways and Community Colleges in order to understand how the priority queue is changing the American experience of waiting in line. ***A version of this piece aired on the BBC World Service, part of their “Real America” series. Click for more info or VISIT toe.prx.org
Programmer David Heinemeier Hansson tells us about his Out Of Office experience, David is a partner at 37signals and a co-author (with Jason Fried) of REMOTE: Office Not Required. We also meet Ignacio Uriarte, he left his cubicle for a career in Office Art. And Ravenna Koenig, TOE’s newest correspondent, explains the difference between Facebook-Work & Work-Work. Click for more info or VISIT toe.prx.org
We check in with a few of our TOE regulars: Peter Choyce has is one of my oldest friends and a listener favorite, but he has a secret we’ve never addressed until now. We also check in with our D.C. correspondent ”Chris” who tells us about the NSA’s desire to install backdoors in Podcasts. Also, I tell you the story about what happens when I wander into @ psychic for a late night reading. PLUS: a few extracts from ‘Brand New World’ Click for more info or visit toe.prx.org
Anyone seriously interested in hacking today eventually finds their way to Gabriella Coleman. As an anthropologist, Gabriella has been researching Anonymous and Hacking culture for years now but she started out studying Free Software in the Bay Area. This work is the basis of her book Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking. Gabriella showed up right at the moment the Free Software movement rebranded itself as “Open Source” It turns out that there are too many meanings of the word free in the English language: free beer, free speech. But when the government started using the DMCA to crack down on coding, Hackers bonded together around a very specific definition of the word.
This episode also marks the debut of someone I have been recording for years: my friend “Chris” He is always up to something, sometimes I fear he may be pulling our collective ear-leg but his tales are always fascinating. In this installment he tells us the truth about the Chinese Hackers and the New York Times.
Also, since yours truly is sick and tired of waiting for the next installment in George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga (this is the basis for the Game of Thrones TV show) I ask a hacker named $poiler to see if he can hack into Martin’s server and get me the next book. Click for more info
Recently I decided to watch these torture scenes from Zero Dark Thirty with Joshua Phillips, a journalist who spent years researching the effects of torture on detainees and interrogators. He is the author of None of Us Were Like this Before: American Soldiers and Torture. At Joshua’s apartment we recorded a torture commentary track for our imaginary Criterion edition of the film.
We will probably never learn the truth about how we found Osama Bin Laden. But there is one thing I know for certain. We didn’t get the information from Umarov Muhibullah.
Journalist McKenzie Funk ran into Umarov, one of the first men to be released from Guantanamo, while hiking in Tajikistan in 2004.
Our series concludes with some revelations. Metahaven’s Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk use the story of Wikileaks to show us the infrastructure of the cloud and its super-jurisdictional powers. The BBC’s Paul Mason takes us on a wild tour of China in his novel Rare Earth. And a pile of iPhones brings your host a moment of clarity.
Your host continues his journey to the center of the cloud by way of the earth. Rare Earth. Dr. Alex King leads the Critical Materials Institute in Ames Iowa, and he explains how dependent the cloud is on Rare Earth Elements like Neodymium. If we could get inside a Data Center we would find neodymium in all the custom made hard drives, and companies like Amazon are using giant wind turbines packed with neodymium magnets to power their data farms. In fact most of the devices we use to access the cloud: our ipads, our phones, our personal computers – they all use Neodymium too. Dr. Karl “Mr. Rare Earth” Gschneider introduces us to the other 16 Rare Earth elements and we learn that they are key to most of our advanced technologies, electric cars, medical devices, drones! When your host discovers that China controls 95% of the Rare Earth market he decides to go, he hopes to see the illegal mines in the Ganzhou region with his own eyes. We also hear from Frank Tang, a Beijing based analyst at the investment bank NSBO, and we visit a Rare Earth Magnet factory.
The Theory of Everything debuts with a three part expedition to the center of the cloud. In part one Twitter employee number 7 Britt Selvitelle tells us what happened when Justin Bieber joined Twitter in 2009 and how everything had changed by the time the Bieb joined Instagram in 2011. Harper Reed, CTO for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, explains why cloud infrastructure is awesome, Matt Wood, Amazon’s principal data scientist, explains how the cloud is changing our relationship with technology, and Parse’s Charity Majors shows us what it is like to work in the Cloud. But when your host attempts to get inside the cloud itself he runs into difficulties…