Insiders and outsiders keep democracy alive: Whistleblowing, civil disobedience and discourse

From the Revolutionary War, to Rosa Parks and #MeToo, whistleblowing and civil disobedience are in America's DNA.

  • The first U.S. whistleblower protection law was passed unanimously in 1778 in response to the misconduct of Navy Commodore Esek Hopkins.
  • Whistleblowing and civil disobedience are tools of discourse that keep elites honest and protect democracy.
  • The difference? Whistleblowers are insiders who expose improper conduct to the authorities or to the press. Civil disobedience starts with outsiders whose actions slowly gain popular support, which then catalyzes change.
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Computing history: From government secrets to a failed tech utopia

Historian Maragaret O'Mara explains why a tech utopia was, and still might be, a pipe dream.

  • Elon Musk isn't the first technologist to worry about robot overlords. The early computers of the '40s and '50s were referred to as electronic brains, and people regarded them with fascination and fear.
  • Until the 1960s, computing power was wielded only by corporations and the government. Then, out of the 1960s counterculture rose a generation of technologists with a techno-utopic vision: Give everyone a personal computer as a tool for empowerment and enlightenment, rather than being siloed machines of government secrets and war.
  • The personal computing movement thought technology would solve inequality, racism, and war – but as we now know, it did not. History seems to suggest that humans, not tech alone, must be the agents of change.
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What do we lose when we can't get lost?

Maura O'Connor discusses her new book, Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World.

Photo by Helene Pambrun/Paris Match via Getty Images
  • Science writer Maura O'Connor spent four years traveling the world to better understand how humans navigate their terrain.
  • She writes "getting lost is a uniquely human problem," noting that other species don't have issues navigating.
  • While the book is not anti-technology, O'Connor questions our reliance on GPS and self-driving cars.
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Should universities be held accountable for student debt?

On the first episode of The Portal, Eric Weinstein and Peter Thiel discuss the future of education.

Photo credit: Lane Turner / The Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • On his new podcast, The Portal, Eric Weinstein dives into student debt and the function of universities with Peter Thiel.
  • Weinstein floats the idea of a college equivalence degree (CED) through an online testing system.
  • Thiel notes that if you don't pay off your student debt by age 65, the government garnishes your social security checks.
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Apple co-founder says we should ditch Facebook — permanently

Steve Wozniak doesn't know if his phone is listening, but he's minimizing risks.

Photo by Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
  • Steve Wozniak didn't hold back his feelings about the social media giant when stopped at an airport.
  • The Apple co-founder admitted that devices spying on his conversations is worrisome.
  • Wozniak deleted his Facebook account last year, recommending that "most people" should do the same.
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