Reason Magazine Articles
The second season of HBO's brooding cop anthology series True Detective trades the mystical nihilism of the first for a grim libertarian fatalism: The whole system is rigged, and there's nothing to be done about it.
The story, insofar as it can be determined, revolves around a scam put on by the City of Vinci—modeled after the real-life California city Vernon, which was set up to bilk taxpayers and benefit a small band of municipal hoodlums—to enrich city employees and their crony-capitalist pals as a new high-speed rail line is installed.
The show snidely references Hollywood's use of film tax credits, pokes fun at psychiatry and New Age self-fulfillment, sneers at workplace sexual harassment training, and offers barbed asides about the impossibility of destroying vice markets for drugs and prostitution. It's a show about dour detectives digging for the truth—and finding that everything, everywhere is some kind of a scam.
Just outside the heavily fortified campus of the National Security Agency in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, sits a museum highlighting the work of that agency's employees. But how much is the mysterious intelligence outfit willing to reveal? Plenty. From original Enigma machines to an exhibit on the Soviet attempt to steal the Manhattan Project's secrets to a replica "cypher wheel" designed by Thomas Jefferson, the National Cryptologic Museum offers a surprisingly meaty assortment of cryptography artifacts.
The run-down building is even looking to grow. A sign announces that an exhibit on "information assurance" will open soon, and an ongoing capital campaign will eventually result in a new (and largely privately funded) 87,000-square-foot home for the museum.
There's no mention of the domestic spying efforts brought to light by Edward Snowden. But perhaps decades hence he'll be recognized there alongside other fallen heroes and living honorees.
The infamous 1971 experiment in prison dynamics conducted by Philip Zimbardo has symbolized the authoritarianism in the human psyche ever since. A new film—that portrays Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) placing 24 student volunteers into a mock prison and dividing them into correctional officers and inmates—doesn't challenge the resulting conventional wisdom about the situational nature of morality and the banality of evil. (The guards quickly become abusive and the makeshift cells unsanitary.) But a skeptical modern viewer of The Stanford Prison Experiment will see the chaotic, flawed experimental design. The project was called off after a mere six days, thanks to the objections of a fellow academic.
The competent retelling, which hews closely to footage and transcripts from the actual event, quietly conveys the genuinely horrifying behavior from subjects and scientist alike.
Deutschland 83, a sly and creepy Cold War spy thriller/coming-of-age drama airing on SundanceTV, is the first German-language television show to run on a commercial American channel, and one of the first works of entertainment available here focusing on those grim years in Germany.
The show's protagonist is a young Stasi officer who, after being assured that his ill mother will receive expedited medical care, agrees to be sent across the border to pose as a West German general's aide-de-camp. There, he spies on negotiations with the U.S. military to station nuclear warheads on German soil.
Never lacking for cloak-and-dagger intrigue or a healthy amount of cynicism, some of the eight-part series' most enjoyable elements include its lovingly chosen electro-pop soundtrack, as well as the dry comedy of spies from the Communist East struggling to deal with the complexity of a personal computer and the enormity of choice at an ordinary Western supermarket.
In May, Nevada issued the first license for an autonomous big rig to Daimler Trucks North America. Though the truck is totally self-driving, for now Daimler's Freightliner Inspiration functions like a commercial airliner—the driver uses manual controls until he reaches the highway and then activates autopilot.
This hybrid approach may end up beating fully self-driving cars in the race to ubiquity, since highway travel is more consistent than urban and suburban driving. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck's autonomous vehicle technology will make the wide-open road even more predictable. In a press release, Daimler Board Member Wolfgang Bernhard claimed it "will help reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion, and safeguard the environment."
Accidents involving heavy trucks were responsible for over 3,600 deaths in 2013, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Bernhard pointed out that 90 percent of those accidents are due to driver error.
Eliminating the slow reaction time of human drivers will also allow for "platooning," in which several trucks drive close behind each other, like a train. This practice reduces the space trucks take up on the road and increases fuel efficiency.
Though the technology is road-ready, in most states the law hasn't kept up with the pace of innovation. Nevada is currently one of only a handful of jurisdictions with legislation on the books permitting autonomous vehicles.