A preview of my November, 2021 Locus Magazine column

The cover for Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Ministry For the Future.”

Margaret Thatcher was the least science-fictional world leader in modern history.

Her motto was “There is no alternative,” a phrase she repeated so often it became an acronym: “TINA.”

She was referring to capitalism, asserting that there is no conceivable alternative. It was a cheap, but remarkably effective, rhetorical device, treating a demand as an observation. The true meaning of TINA isn’t “No alternative is possible,” but rather, “Stop trying to think of an alternative.”

I mean, thinking of alternatives is literally my job.

TINA is part of a philosophy, “capitalist realism,” a phrase coined by Mark Fischer in the…


Beyond “competition,” “efficiency” and “innovation,” interop delivers self-determination.

Image from Theophilus Brown’s 1915 patent for a manure spreader (USP#1139482)

I am recuperating from hip-replacement surgery and while that often means I can’t concentrate enough to work, it also means I have long, uninterrupted periods to carry on correspondence, such as the paragraphs below, from my overdue reply to a left-wing economist with whom I’ve been discussing the case for interoperability. In our previous round, my correspondent had suggested that interop wasn’t necessarily good, and that even profitable interop could be bad for all of us — do we really need 50 nearly identical inks on Amazon that can all work with our printer? How can anyone make a “good”…


A victory in a largely invisible fight over the soul of antitrust.

Last week, federal Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled in Epic’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple, in which the maker of Fortnite alleged that Apple’s prohibitions on third party app stores and payment processors, combined with its sky-high processing fees for in-app purchases, constituted a violation of US antitrust law.

Depending on who you ask, Apple won big or suffered a crushing loss. …


A letter to a discouraged young writer

A broken pencil.
Photo: Eric/CC BY-ND

This week, a friend wrote to ask if I had any words of encouragement for a 14-year-old writer who had grown discouraged, convinced that writing would neither improve her life, nor this tormented and fraught world. Here is what I wrote to her, with a few edits.

Dear XXXXXXXXXXXX,

XXXXXX asked me to send you a brief note of encouragement. I understand where you’re coming from. Writing can be incredibly demoralizing, in part because it is incredibly elevating. Working out your anxieties, hopes and fears on paper through the lives of imaginary people can be an absolute tonic, and when…


Ian Linkletter saved the receipts.

A laptop on a desk, its screen filled with the eye of HAL 9000. Image: Cryteria (modified) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HAL9000.svg CC BY: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

Remember Proctorio? They’re the “remote proctoring” company that boomed during the pandemic by promising that they could stop exam cheating through gross, discriminatory privacy invasions and snake-oil machine learning.

In case you’ve lost the thread (it’s been a minute), Proctorio is a tool that transforms students’ personal computers into surveillance tools.

For example, when you sit down, you have to use your webcam to give a remote party a tour of your room. If you live in crowded conditions (say, in a one-room flat with an “essential worker” who works night shifts), you can get failed before you even start.


2020.

#1yrago Political ads have very small effect-sizes https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/04/elusive-mind-control/#persuadables

#1yrago CO asphyxiation accounts for half of Hurricane Laura deaths https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/04/elusive-mind-control/#co

#1yrago Physicists overestimate their epidemiology game https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/04/elusive-mind-control/#hubris

Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California. His latest nonfiction book is How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. His latest novel for adults is Attack Surface. His latest short story collection is Radicalized. His latest picture book is Poesy the…


And then lied about it.

The logo for ALEC with an ‘I Voted?’ sticker over it.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) solicits fortunes from corporate donors, then produces “model legislation” that formalizes corruption and impunity for companies and lobbies states to adopt it.

For years, companies that prided themselves on their progressive public image got a pass for their involvement with ALEC.

Somehow, Apple, Amazon, the Gates Foundation and others could promote “conscious capitalism” while backing stand your ground laws, ag-gag laws, homophobia, immigration bans, anti-public-education campaigns, tobacco-cancer denial.

And a suite of energy policies with three pillars: pro-fracking, pro-pollution and anti-solar.

But the Trump years — where it pushed hard for the Trump agenda…


Remington finds new depths of depravity to plumb.

A child’s report card with a crosshairs and the Remington logo superimposed over it.

It’s not clear to me whether running a company like Remington makes you into a fucking monster, or whether depraved assholes seek out companies like Remington to work for.

In 2012, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, and murdered 20 children aged six and seven, and six staff members.

Since 2014, the families of the dead have been suing gun-makers, a distributor, and a retailer for their role in promoting military weapons to civilians. Remington is a defendant in this case, and has distinguished itself with its callous, depraved conduct in the suit.

In July, the…


2006, 2020.

#15yrsago Sudo make me a sandwich https://xkcd.com/149/

#1yrago Corporate spooks track you “to your door” https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/03/rip-david-graeber/#hyas

#1yrago Hedge fund managers trouser 64% https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/03/rip-david-graeber/#2-and-20

#1yrago Rest in Power, David Graeber https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/03/rip-david-graeber/#rip-david-graeber

#1yrago Coronavirus is over (if we want it) https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/03/rip-david-graeber/#test-test-test

#1yrago Snowden vindicated https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/03/rip-david-graeber/#criming-spooks

#1yrago Algorithmic grading https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/03/rip-david-graeber/#computer-says-no

#1yrago Big Car says Right to Repair will MURDER YOU https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/03/rip-david-graeber/#rolling-surveillance-platforms

Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California…


2000.

#1yrago Amazon’s weird, terrible Flex https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/02/free-steven-donziger/#chickenized-flex

#1yrago Russia didn’t hack Michigan https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/02/free-steven-donziger/#mittenski

#1yrago Chevron’s dirty tricks against environmental lawyer https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/02/free-steven-donziger/#free-donziger

#1yrago Amazon drivers hide phones in trees https://pluralistic.net/2020/09/02/free-steven-donziger/#phone-trees

Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California. His latest nonfiction book is How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. His latest novel for adults is Attack Surface. His latest short story collection is Radicalized. His latest picture book is…

Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Twitter: https://twitter.com/doctorow

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