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On September 5, a reader sent me…

this, from the MIT Technology Review. It was an insider reckoning with the school’s Media Lab, which turns out to have been an Early Epstein Responder. But unlike a lot of people and institutions, the Lab, under its modest, unworldly, cerebral, founder (“[Nicholas] Negroponte said that he prided himself on knowing over 80% of the billionaires in the US on a first-name basis…”), kept on taking Jeffrey Epstein’s money long after he had been convicted of sex crimes. (“He wiped his reputation off with the dirty money [the Lab] took. Then he raped more kids.”) Of course they tried to hide what they were doing (wouldn’t you?), and now the story of greed, moral degeneracy, and coverup at one of America’s most burnished schools has jumped all over the place, esp. the New York Times and the New Yorker.

A writer for the Guardian draws out – way out – some possible implications of this big ol’ scandal.

The ugly collective picture of the techno-elites that emerges from the [MIT] Epstein scandal reveals them as a bunch of morally bankrupt opportunists… [A] “third culture” [was supposed to] replace the [university’s] technophobic literary intellectuals with [intellectuals] coming from the world of science and technology…

It’s not uncommon for intellectuals to serve as useful idiots to the rich and the powerful, but, under the “third culture”, this reads like a job requirement… [C]lose the Media Lab, disband the Ted Talks, refuse the money of tech billionaires… Without such drastic changes, the powerful bullshit-industrial complex that is the “third culture” will continue unharmed, giving cover to the next Epstein.

As a technophobic literary whatever, UD‘s thrilled at the prospect of threadbare morally serious professors taking their no money and no influence and bashing the brains out of the techies and their billionaire buddies… but this seems unlikely. The Guardian writer seems a bit over the top. After all, it ain’t just techies – look at what Stanford med school professors have been doing forever! The future belongs to the bullshit-industrial (industrial bullshit?) complex.

Margaret Soltan, September 8, 2019 11:55AM
Posted in: the university

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3 Responses to “On September 5, a reader sent me…”

  1. Ravi Narasimhan Says:

    More likely that the big few research universities will formally set up their own collective much like the big few football schools and rework oversight accordingly.

    Stanford and Its Startups

    Meanwhile, after all the furor, Felicity Huffman gets 30 days.

  2. Ravi Narasimhan Says:

    When it rains it pours.

    “TECHNOLOGY SEPT. 4, 2019
    How to Major in Unicorn
    Many of the freshmen now arriving in Palo Alto came to raise capital and drop out. A cynic’s guide to killing it at Stanford.”

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Ravi: All of this is why the Guardian writer with his insistence on sweeping it all away looks a little silly.

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