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Jerktech: When Callow Ideas Become Code

Technologically mediated obnoxiousness is spawning a new lexicon

3 min read
opening illustration for technically speaking
Illustration: Eddie Guy

opening illustration for Technically SpeakingIllustration: Eddie Guy

Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars.

In a recent issue of The New Yorker, a cartoon depicts a psychiatric patient lying on a couch with his therapist sitting behind him. The caption reads, “I guess I want what everyone wants—a billion dollars for being a jerk.” We chuckle because we recognize an unfortunate truth—that many of the young bros running today’s most successful tech startups are arrogant boors. It’s why we see so muchjerktech:apps or other technologies that encourage or monetize antisocial behavior. It’s why Uber, the poster firm for Silicon Valley bad behavior, would think it’s okay to greyball—that is, blackball someone temporarily or provisionally—public officials who were investigating the company.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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