Jul 23, 2017

A much-lambasted forecast proves out

AT&T Tech Channel

In 1995, Clifford Stoll, an infectiously enthusiastic astronomer who mildly resembles Emmet Brown, Marty McFly's wild-haired scientist friend in Back to the Future, forecast our Internet miasma, one not of carefree democracy but "handles, harassment, and anonymous threats." For that, he was sent into scientific purgatory, forever to be mocked and trolled. As we know now from fake news bots, the 2016 U.S. election, and the fully-blocked Chinese internet, Stole was right, per Rob Howard at Medium.

Not entirely right, mind you: Stoll, for instance, could not foresee the reasonably safe transfer of money through cyberspace, or the cratering of malls. But he was sufficiently accurate to deserve a massive apology from the scientific and tech community, including:

  • "A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee."
  • "Who'd prefer cybersex to the real thing?"
  • "What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact."

Go deeper

MLB's Rob Manfred is latest villain in Astros' cheating scandal

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's decision to grant Astros players immunity in exchange for confessions about their sign-stealing scheme has undermined his reputation — and he only made himself look worse on Sunday.

The interview: In a 45-minute conversation with ESPN, Manfred asserted that public shame was punishment enough for the Astros. He also called the World Series trophy "just a piece of metal" and said that taking a title away from Houston "seems like a futile act."

Go deeperArrow38 mins ago - Sports

Economists warn coronavirus risk far worse than realized

Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Worries are growing that the economic impact from the novel coronavirus outbreak will be worse than expected and that markets are being too complacent in factoring it in as a risk.

What's happening: The number of confirmed cases has already far outpaced expectations and even those reports are being viewed through a lens of suspicion that the Chinese government is underreporting the figures.

National newspapers thrive while local outlets struggle to survive

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While big national newspapers grow stronger, local newspaper chains that have for decades kept the vast majority of the country informed are combusting.

Why it matters: The inequity between giants like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and their local counterparts represents a growing problem in America as local communities no longer have the power to set the agenda for the news that most affects them.