Among the many disconcerting and ominous realizations from the Trump election is the final reckoning that not only is the American Century (1900-1999) long past, but what we once perceived as America’s special place in the constellation of eminent and enlightened civilizations was a flawed narrative and illusory from the start. When did exceptionalism metastasize into triumphalism?

The past 120 years have been a historical accident as well as an exercise of national self-deception on a massive scale. It turns out that although America may still be a magnificent idea it is flawed in execution. Not surprisingly our self-image is not really the one that appears in the mirror.

The American experiment may be a “shining city on the hill” at times and a beacon of freedom and democracy when we’re at our best, but more often than not we are just as selfish, corrupt and rapacious as every other government, tribe and guild that has ever existed before us, with some unique portion of hypocrisy and self-congratulation added to the mix.

Churchill is right: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Let’s hope that we learn from our mistakes, don’t make the same ones twice, and that we’ll find a measure of redemption in the future.


Not surprisingly the BBC is doing interesting digital work.

It’s Culture section is producing arresting video features to complement its always sterling broadcast and print efforts.

First everything became media and now it’s software.

But the potential problem of any innovation can be unintended consequences: the things and outcomes that we don’t see happening despite our original designs, plans or intentions.

In a Faustian Bargain Viktor Frankenstein created life (usurping God’s order) and unleashed evil in the act. The creation of code may inadvertently let loose similar unanticipated futures.

As Uncle Ben says to Peter Parker: “with great power comes great responsibility”.

As we debate the impact of AI, platform accountability and possible malfeasance, and ubiquitous digital transformation, it’s difficult to discern a gap between ourselves and our machines.

The social network platforms and global technology companies are under increasing public scrutiny as a result of their power, secrecy and intrinsic arrogance. Inevitably, they are designed to empower individuals and communities for good or evil.

The potential for abuse and some recent examples of damage to social good and the body politic may eventually culminate in government oversight and legal accountability.

Are they likely to be regulated as 21st Century utilities?

Time will tell but certainly the “Do No Evil” mantra is now being challenged by a social and political skepticism calling for a greater hands-on “Trust but Verify” future.

Ultimately, it will come down to your face and its interface with your machines.

Work and the nature and contexts of labor are a lightening rod of social, political and global change in the early 21st Century.

As the traditional end of summer passes by and autumn asserts itself, it’s back to school and the office. While we were away the issues of inequality, diversity, community and personal identity didn’t take a day off.

“I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.”

The thrill of the senses, of experiencing life through artistic expression, can transcend the misery, vanity and wasted time that is the lion’s share allotted to us in the course of our daily lives.

Rijksmuseum Celebrates Rembrandt’s Birthday by Putting His Drawings Online

Screens connect but they also isolate.

Today young people tend to live lives of intermediation, seeking engagement with the world through their devices. Ironically and sadly, an outcome of this media focus and behavior can be addiction and isolation.

How do you meet his or her eye, or catch a moment that may never come again if you’re always looking down, lost in a screen, as life passes by?