What I'm Reading (Jan. 7)

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Cultured meat, not meat raised listening to Mozart, meat raised in a petri-dish or bioreactor, the emotional connotation of words like privilege, cybersecurity is this generations' asymmetric warfare, and while waiting to be vaccinated, take a moment for delight.

"Much like self-driving cars, the advocates of which hope their use will reduce car crashes, cultured meat is promoted by those who believe in its practical and ethical benefits. But cultured meat is also like the self-driving car insofar as opinions vary as to whether a single technology can resolve a complex and, in some senses, social problem that involves not only engineering challenges but also the vagaries of human behavior. Like medical therapies based on stem cells, cultured meat excites the imagination and creates hope, but the hype seems to be running years or decades ahead of the reality. (Cultured meat itself is an offshoot of the effort to create tissues for transplant to human patients, an effort that goes by the name "regenerative medicine.")"

Cultured meat is not an Impossible Burger, but is built from stem-cells. In this article from the Hedgehog Review, we get a philosophical take. Will cultured meat allow us to have our meat and ethical concerns for animals simultaneously? Or will cultured meat change us and our relationship in unintended ways? Biotech Cockaigne of the Vegan Hopeful

"The term privilege is used not to make a case but to convey a mood. Why is there so much political opportunity to be had by deploying this mood as a weapon? What accounts for our susceptibility to being cowed by it, or indeed to indulging in it ourselves, this fuzzy indignation? In particular, we need to account for the fact that accusations of privilege are most prominent among…well, the privileged (for example, Ivy League students)."

I am privileged, but what does that really mean. Again, from the Hedgehog Review, an inquiry into some common terms with unclear meanings, privilege, diversity, injustice, and a word used far, far less often (although I just heard it in an episode of the West Wing I have been binging), shibboleth. Privilege

"Indeed, cybersecurity risk is akin to pollution, a cost that the business itself doesn't fully bear, but that the rest of society does. The private role in cybersecurity is now brushing up against the libertarian assumptions of much of the policymaking world; national security in a world where private software companies handle national defense simply cannot long co-exist with our monopoly and financier-dominated corporate apparatus.

All of which brings me to what I think is the most compelling part of this story. The point of entry for this major hack was not Microsoft, but a private equity-owned IT software firm called SolarWinds. This company's products are dominant in their niche; 425 out of the Fortune 500 use Solar Winds."

Do you know anything about Solar Winds other than that they were hacked? Matt Stoller uncovers what else, private equity firms at the bottom of the pile. If you are mad at Big Oil or Big Chemical for environmental pollution, then take a minute to see what Big Finance is putting at risk. From Big, How to Get Rich Sabotaging Nuclear Weapons Facilities

An Aural Treat

"(HOST) IRA GLASS: OK, so like I said at the beginning, our show today is about delight. And it was during that summer, Bim says, because it was so full of moments of delight, she started to really take notice of that feeling and think of it as a thing, a thing that you liked. It wasn't just enjoyable, she thought. That feeling seemed important somehow.

BIM ADEWUNMI: And I thought, OK, this feeling is something worth repeating. And the idea that you can go and look for delight and you might find it, was, I think, fully planted that summer. … Like if I actively sought out delight, I might be able to find it and replicate it forever. So I thought, OK, we'll just keep doing that. That was a way of organizing my life. "

From This American Life, the delightful, The Show of Delights. It is very much worth listening to. We can all use some delight, especially as we wait patiently for a vaccination.