Five Reads: Austin is Weird and Wired

What follows is our roundup of five of the most compelling stories discovered over the last few days. Look for this column every week in this space.

Keeping Austin Weird and Wired
For the New York Times, Manny Fernandez dropped in to the Capital Factory VR holiday party and reported on Austin’s position in the tech world, what with Apple planning a $1 billion campus in the city, more than 138,000 tech-related jobs already in the Austin metropolitan region (about 14 percent of the total jobs) and the presence of the Army Futures Command, “the only so-called four-star command that is based not on a military installation but in a civilian building.” He found, predictably, a city struggling to maintain its core while welcoming change and growth.

Don’t Believe Everything You Click
Not that it’s a massive surprise, but according to Max Read in New York magazine, a huge amount of the internet is fake. The metrics, the people, the businesses, the content, even the news. “Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot,” he writes. Read explores the mind-bending that occurs when you can’t be sure of what’s real: “Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real…the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not ‘real’ but is also undeniably not ‘fake,’ and indeed may be both at once, or in succession, as you turn it over in our head.”

In the SXSW 2019 Social and Global Impact track, speakers will discuss Building Trust in Distrustful Times among other related topics.

How to Keep Covering #MeToo
In the wake of Harvey Weinstein and everyone else who followed, the entertainment industry media has had to examine its own complicity in overlooking sexual abuse rumors and take on a more confrontational role in a world where the media and its subjects typically had a more “see no evil, write no evil” relationship. In BuzzFeed News, Krystie Lee Yandoli writes that the #MeToo movement has been “a transformational moment” for the news industry covering Hollywood. She says, “entertainment reporters and editors are asking the question: Where do we go from here?”

Making Waves
About 100 miles east of the California coast, near Fresno, surfing G.O.A.T. Kelly Slater has built a system that makes perfect waves on demand. For the New Yorker, William Finnegan explores the ramifications of such a marvelous machine…just as soon as he can re-focus after being filled with awe and longing for the incredible waves. He explains the complex technology involved — Slater worked with scientists at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering — and the impact of the breakthrough. He writes, “Matt Warshaw, surfing’s unofficial historian, says that the sport now has only two eras, Before Kelly’s Wave and After. It did feel as if something basic had changed — as if technology had, improbably, outdone nature.”

How to Survive
There are plenty of articles wrapping up the best and worst of 2018, and countless more advising readers on different ways to set intentions for the year to come. But consider beginning 2019 with some inspiration and hope. Outside magazine has collected a series of incredible survival stories. From being lost in the mountains to floating in the ocean to crashing from the sky, these tales of overcoming insurmountable odds make you realize that people can and do survive all sorts of terrible situations.

Five Reads Archive
December 22: The End of Traffic
December 15: Guarding the Truth
December 5: Becoming an Obama
November 30: The Trouble for Juul
November 21: Life Is Good
November 16: Whither Facebook
November 9: Why Does the US Love Guns?
November 2: Esther Perel Knows Love

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.



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Hugh Forrest

Hugh Forrest


Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.