On Open Source with Max Tegmark

I was on WBUR’s Open Source with Christopher Lydon – a show I regularly listened to when I lived in Somerville – last night discussing Max Tegmark’s new book, Life 3.0. Other guests were Erik Brynjolfsson and Yarden Katz. Here’s the episode:

Intelligence By Design

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Essays: Futurism and Equifax

I’m very happy with an essay that just came out this morning with Boston Review, on futurism:

Know Thy Futurist

Also, my newest Bloomberg View column came out this morning, about how we’re having the wrong conversation about personal data:

The Equifax Hack Started the Wrong Conversation

For the rest of my Bloomberg View columns, go here.

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Gaydar algorithms and ethics

My latest Bloomberg View article is out. I interviewed Michal Kosinski, gaydar algorithm author, about the ethical responsibilities of data scientists:

‘Gaydar’ Shows How Creepy Algorithms Can Get

Read my other Bloomberg View columns here.

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Upcoming events (and recent podcasts)!

September 14, 2017 8 comments

The paperback edition of my book just came out last week, so I’ve been on a tear with interviews, and I’m also doing two public events in New York City in the next week. I wanted to tell you about it in case you have time to come!

  1. I’ll be at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday morning, on a panel with Tim Wu entitled Big Data & You (free event)
  2. I’ll be at an Authors @ Grand Central Tech event on Tuesday evening (this costs $20 but you get a copy of my paperback)
  3. I was on the 99% Invisible podcast with Roman Mars! The episode is called the Age of the Algorithm.
  4. I was on the Leonard Lopate Show for thirty whole minutes!
  5. I was on the Tom Barnard Show in an episode with comedian Mitch Fatel.
  6. I was on the Political Book Show podcast
  7. I was on the EdSurge podcast
  8. I was on the Future of Work podcast
  9. I was on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast
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Facebook and Google, Show Us Your Ad Data

September 13, 2017 Comments off

My latest Bloomberg View column is out, in which I try to imagine an internet optimized for citizens rather than consumers:

Facebook and Google, Show Us Your Ad Data


For other columns, take a look here.

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The Gallons of Milk Theory of Weight Loss

September 11, 2017 20 comments

I have a new and disgusting if useful way of thinking about weight loss. You’re welcome in advance.

A couple of weeks into the starvation diet and right after my surgery, I complained to my husband that all my weight loss – something like 20 pounds or so at the time – had been taken out of my boobs. I was sad to see them go, I told him. Why couldn’t the weight loss happen elsewhere?!

He demurred. You should look at yourself as a container – most likely a bag – of liquid, he said, much like a plastic container of milk. After all, we’re almost entirely made up of liquid. So, thinking that way, and considering that a whole gallon of milk weighs 8 pounds or so, you’ve lost more than two gallons of milk, which means that your weight loss most definitely hasn’t entirely come from your boobs. Because, after all, they didn’t start out as big as gallons of milk, nor are they entirely gone.

This explanation was foolproof but left me with a queazy feeling which has since only grown.

As of my last weighing, which close readers of my blog will know happened at my doctor’s office last week and not my home, since I threw away my scale, I’ve lost 43 pounds and counting. That’s about 5 gallons of milk, friends. And it’s definitely not exclusively coming out of my sad, baggy boobs.

Indeed I have a new theory about how one loses fat, and it’s called my “sponge theory of fat loss.”

Namely, I think every fat cell in my body is losing weight at the same rate. That’s not to say, of course, that all parts of my body are losing weight at the same rate, since my fat cells accumulate in certain areas like hips, butt, and stomach (and until recently, boobs). Although it has to be said that my shoes have been seeming to grow bigger, which is mysterious. I never thought of my feet as at all fat.

Now, the reason I call it the sponge theory is that, as my voluminous thighs lose weight, they get increasingly spongey. That is, if you squeeze them, you feel like you’re maybe wringing out a sponge. This isn’t necessarily a bad sensation, but it’s definitely weird. It’s basically a loss of density just as much, or more than, a loss of volume.

But I do think the overall loss of volume is catching up in intensity. My skin is excessive for my needs, if you catch my drift. And that’s not going away.

I’ll tell you a secret. When I was young, like maybe 39 or 40, I went on a low carb diet. To be more precise: I decided to eat stuff my friend Laura ate. I modeled myself after her. She’s tiny, and eats well, and loves food, and so I thought, why not give that a try? I lived for months on healthy food like nuts, vegetables, fruit, lentils, and cheese.

It was a good life, and I lost quite a bit of weight. I never got to the point I am now, but I did get close. And you know what happened next? I saw my boobs disappearing, and my skin get excessive for my needs, and I freaked out. I ate a bagel. A single, delicious, still-warm-from-the-oven cinnamon raisin Absolute Bagel with cream cheese. It was delicious, my friends, and it broke me. Somehow I could never look back.

I now have a theory about that, too, because why not, an overactive mind. My theory is that I’d managed to develop a “skinny biome” in my stomach due to the hard work of adjusting to the Laura diet, but that it was precarious for whatever reason, and that bagel tipped my over into a fat person’s biome once again.

To clarify:

  1. I never ate any poop.
  2. I don’t regret this experiment. It taught me that real weight loss would mean a major shift in my body, including lots of extra skin that I would have to adjust to over time (and which I definitely wasn’t ready for 7 years ago).
  3. There’s good reason to think that one of the main reasons that bariatric surgery works is because it fosters a skinny biome.
  4. That means I can expect to want to eat like Laura, rather than using my limited will power to force myself to at all times.
  5. Which is good, because honestly nobody’s got that kind of willpower to be perfect all the time.
  6. Correction: some people do fight every minute of every day to stay thin, but I wouldn’t want to be one of them. Too many other things to do.

Long story short, in the past 7 years I’ve tried to come to terms with what major weight loss would do to my skin. I haven’t, yet. By night I have nightmares that yards and yards of my own excess skin smother me in my sleep. By day I feel guilty for the implicit ageism of my fears. I want to be someone who loves every inch of herself, even the extra skin.

This is what I want to say to people who congratulate me for losing a ton of weight, starting now and ending never: Please don’t equate thin with beautiful. I liked my body so much more when I was fat, when I looked like an enormous buddha, full and round. I didn’t do this to look better, I did it to be healthier, to bike in the summer and to avoid diabetes. I’m hoping to eventually find a way to love my body in spite of how it looks, but it’s a monumental challenge.

Statistically speaking I’m expected to lose quite a few more gallons of milk before stabilizing. I’m scared. I’ve decided to give it a few years of adjustment before turning to surgical means of dealing with excess skin, which would be expensive, dangerous, and a blow to my identity as someone who can adjust to things and rise above issues of vanity.

Wish me luck.

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We’re Losing the War on Opioids

My newest Bloomberg View column just came out:

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