Last year, while writing about an Uber-like app that helps companies procure temporary workers, Noam Scheiber began to wonder about the long-term effects of these new technologies on the labor force. If more and more workers were able to sell their services like free agents in professional sports, some might do exceptionally well, but many more would fare worse than if they had stable jobs at traditional companies. It dawned on Scheiber, a longtime writer at the New Republic who now covers labor and the workplace for the New York Times, that he’d seen this story play out before—at law firms. “When the rainmakers started jumping from firm to firm, they cashed in, but lots of other partners suffered,” he says. “That’s unfortunately where the rest of us are headed.” It’s yet another thing to blame on Uber: In the job market of the future, we will all suffer the indignities of being a lawyer.
PETER C. BAKER
Peter C. Baker remembers seeing Arthur Chu on Halloween in 2004, across a small quad at Swarthmore College, where the two were undergraduate students. Chu was wearing a Duke basketball jersey and rubber rain boots. “I’m the Duke of Wellington,” he told Baker. Even by then, Chu had a reputation as a proud, vocal nerd on campus. Years later, Chu made his famous winning run on Jeopardy! and became a leading voice on Gamergate and on issues concerning nerd culture. “It is compelling to see Arthur on this national platform and using it not to tell a triumphant story, but a critical one,” Baker says. “Chu is saying, ‘Nerd-dom, this community where I live my life, has a lot of problems, and they are problems that are increasingly connected to the larger culture.’”
As someone who once struggled with cocaine and heroin addiction, the writer Maia Szalavitz wanted to bring the drug user’s perspective to the public’s understanding of addiction. “Most of the coverage in this area continues to traffic in stereotypes. Drug users are one of the few remaining groups that it’s OK to stigmatize,” she says. This perspective has found its way into our drug court system, which for the most part still insists that it knows what is best. The judges, Szalavitz says, “are basically practicing medicine without a license.” Szalavitz also wrote our March/April issue’s cover story about the New Zealand drug pioneer Matt Bowden. She is at work on a book that will be in part a memoir and in part about neuroscience and drug policy, to be published next year.
Washington, D.C.-based writer Kevin Carey has spent his career reporting on education and technology, so he was particularly qualified to cover AltSchool, an experimental private K-12 school in the San Francisco Bay Area that uses technology to provide students with personalized curricula. “I was interested in how the same set of world-views and technological talents that is changing higher education might be applied to K-12 schools,” Carey says. In his cover story, “The Omniscient Classroom,” he explores the sustainability of such programs. “It’s good that the school’s concept is one in which technology helps teachers become better teachers. The question, though, is whether they can replicate that 10 or 100 times over.” Carey is the director of the education policy program at the New America Foundation and the author of the new book The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere.
CHARLES C. MANN
In the 1980s, when Charles C. Mann traveled to Mexico for the first time, he saw thousands of people living off the spoils of garbage dumps south of Mexico City. When he returned two decades later, the community had transformed into an “illegally constructed” and “seismically shaky” middle-class neighborhood. “We’re living in a period in which large numbers of people are not starving for the first time in human history,” he says. Famines, a scourge of humanity since our earliest days, have all but disappeared. Cormac Ó Gráda’s Eating People Is Wrong, reviewed by Mann, asks, “Has our species really turned a corner when it comes to famines?” Mann’s many books include 1491, 1493, and Noah's Choice. He’s also written for the Atlantic, Wired, National Geographic, and many others. He is at work, with science fiction writers and a martial arts expert, on a graphic novel called Cimarronin, about a samurai in 17th-century New Spain.
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