Marketplace - American Public Media

You won't die if you don't go to Harvard or Stanford

Fri, 2015-04-03 05:46

It's college acceptance season — or perhaps, more accurately, rejection season — at the most elite schools. Harvard and Stanford turned away about 95 percent of applicants this year, a new record for Harvard.

There are lots of reasons top-ranked colleges are turning away more applicants. They're getting more, thanks to more aggressive recruiting. And because some kids are so unsure of what it will take to get accepted, they're applying everywhere. 

All of this can be crazy-making and heartbreaking for a lot of kids and their parents. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni says it doesn't have to be. He's out with a new book: "Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be."

The fixation on getting into top colleges is nothing new for hyper-talented and extra, extracurricular-engaged high school students. But with 95 percent rejection rates, the competition is all the more intense. 

"It's fed by a whole industry of admissions consultants and coaches," Bruni says, adding the demand has deeper roots in parents' fears about the economy. "I think in their anxiety about the country's prosperity and its future, they want to give kids any leg up, anything that might be a leg up, and they see elite schools as one of those things."

One reason that the volume of applications have increased: ease. Most elite colleges and universities use the common app, an electronic form that allows students to apply to send the same information, scores and essays to an array of schools. Schools also market themselves aggressively to see as many applicants as possible. 

"They want to get the best students and they want the most diverse student bodies, so that's the good impulse behind it," Bruni says. "But they also just want big, big numbers because we've entered an era here where a low acceptance rate – proof that you've turned away masses of people – is bragging rights among colleges."

For low-income students in particular, research shows that going to a selective school can make a big difference in graduation rates and future earnings. 

"It's not fair to say that the brand doesn't buy opportunities," Bruni says of the most elite and selective colleges like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. "But it's not a do-or-die, make-or-break advantage. It's not going to last your whole life."

Listen to the complete interview below to find out which school produces the strongest startup founders, according to venture capitalist and Y Combinator President Sam Altman. (That question comes at 3:21). 

PODCAST: March jobs report and our National Parks Service

Fri, 2015-04-03 03:00

A surprisingly weak jobs report this morning has investors and economist rethinking our economic recovery. According the the Department of Labor, only 126,000 jobs were created last month — half what economists had expected. More on that. Why Nevada's Supreme Court is facing a funding shortage? The answer might lie in how fast people are driving. Finally, a visit to our national parks and their billion-dollar maintenance costs. 

Chrysler found liable in crash, may appeal

Fri, 2015-04-03 03:00

A Georgia jury awarded $150 million to the family of a four-year-old boy killed when the 1999 Grand Cherokee Jeep he was riding in exploded after it was rear-ended by a pickup truck. 

The Jeep's fuel tank was in the back, apparently with little protection around it. So, when the Jeep was hit, the fuel tank blew up.

Chrysler has issued a statement saying it was disappointed, and would consider an appeal.

But that could be difficult because the jury based the penalty partly on the value of the boy’s life. 

“I think it’ll be an uphill fight for Chrysler," says Carl Tobias, a professor of product liability law at the University of Richmond. "What’s  more likely is they may threaten to appeal and then maybe settle at some lower figure than the amount the jury brought in yesterday.”

Tobias also says people who were involved in Jeep accidents may re-evaluate lawsuits against Chrysler, since they’re now more aware of the apparent problems with these rear fuel tanks.

“They may be encouraged to sue where they weren’t before or may learn that their accident was caused by some defect in the vehicle," he says. 

But Chrysler says the Georgia jury was prevented from taking into account data that Chrysler says shows that the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee does not “pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.”

 

 

 

Nevada Supreme Court faces budget shortfall

Fri, 2015-04-03 02:00

Nevada's Chief Justice says the court is facing a funding shortfall of $700,000. He blamed the deficit on police issuing fewer traffic and parking tickets. Many people in Nevada were unaware that the state's highest court relies on lead-footed drivers to keep it fiscally afloat. Critics say tying court funding to the issuance of tickets could create a quota system in which police officers feel compelled to hand out higher numbers of tickets. 

Click the media player above to hear more.

Is this the most elaborate Easter egg ever?

Fri, 2015-04-03 02:00

The Easter egg—as in the the hidden message in computer programs or video games—got pretty interesting as the sixth season of the animated series Archer unraveled. The show’s creators plotted an elaborate Easter egg, thanks to lead motion designer Mark Paterson, who hid around 40 clues for an internet journey that superfans slowly but faithfully decrypted.  

If you’re wondering how complicated can it really get: the list of clues included a so-called HEX code, which led to a URL, which led to a weird YouTube video and then a craigslist advertisement and it goes on.

This isn’t the first time Archer’s creators tried something like this. They have planted jokes and hidden messages in previous episodes, but they were usually isolated; independent of each other.

“This time I wanted to do something that connected them all together so there was some kind of trail,” said Mark Paterson. “So it would constantly keep it going. They had to go from one to the next and maybe come back to the episode to get the next clue.”

Although he planned most of it ahead of time, he also kept adding to it, deepening the trail and making it more complicated.

“I spent a weekend adding in about 30 to 40 additional steps,” said Paterson.  

One of the most complex clues involved a spectrogram, which, Paterson explained, is “a way of encoding or hiding the message within the audio data.”

Basically, it’s something visual that’s in the audio data but you cannot see it in waveform.

“Most audio programs would show you the waveform by default,” said Paterson. “You have to go the extra step to find the spectrogram.”

But who could possibly succeed at this without some help?

“The nice thing about Archer is the fans are ... always looking out for this kind of thing,” said Paterson. “I was banking on them knowing to be looking for stuff. They have previously shown that they have found stuff.”

Bonus: Click below to hear Casey Willis, the show's co-Executive Producer, in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.

The economics of arcade claw games

Fri, 2015-04-03 01:59
126,000

That's how many U.S. jobs were added in March, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics's jobs report released on Friday. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.5 percent.

$64,432

Another bummer from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: average household income dropped for the second year in a row to $64,432. The Washington Post's Wonkblog notes the richest fifth of Americans saw their income rise by 0.9 percent before taxes, while the poorest fifth lost 3.5 percent.

$11.5 billion

That's the total costs of deferred maintenance for the National Parks Service. Of that figure, $850 million is attributed to the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Which means monuments like the Jefferson Memorial will have to wait on repairs such as a new ceiling.

4 percent

The portion of homes in Cuba with Internet access, one potential hurtle in Airbnb's recent expansion there, Bloomberg reported. There are about 1,000 listings up now, with more surely on the way. Airbnb is one of the first American companies to have a presence in Cuba since the U.S. reestablished diplomatic ties there.

1 in 23

The number of wins an arcade claw machine would have to allow to give the owner 50 percent profits. Vox looked into just how rigged those games are, finding that most machines let the owner adjust how often a claw grabs at stuffed animals with their full strength, tightly managing wins and losses.

40 clues

That's about how many hidden clues lead motion designer Mark Paterson hid in a single episode of FX's Archer. The Easter egg hunt led viewers on an epic internet journey, which included a so-called HEX code, which led to a URL, which led to a weird YouTube video and then a craigslist advertisement ... the list goes on. 

Silicon Tally: $19.99 problems, but low-def aint one

Fri, 2015-04-03 01:30

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Aminatou Sow, co-founder of Tech LadyMafia and co-host of the podcast, Call Your Girlfriend.

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What to look for in the jobs report, in four charts

Fri, 2015-04-03 01:00

On Friday, the Labor Department reports on job creation and unemployment for March.

The consensus among economists: The economy added approximately 250,000 jobs and the unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent. This would represent a modest pull-back from February, when 295,000 jobs were added and the unemployment rate fell. 

However, several anomalous factors could throw a wrench into March's employment figures, like severe winter weather, a West Coast port strike and the rapidly strengthening U.S. dollar and plummeting oil prices.

Here are four things to look for in the March jobs report (click on each chart for more detailed information):

As the unemployment rate falls, are more people coming back into the labor force to try to find jobs?

Labor-force participation — that is, the percentage of adults working or looking for work — hasn't been this low since the late 1970s. If people are entering the labor market after schooling, or coming back after they got discouraged in the recession, that's a sign of deepening economic strength.

Are average hourly wages rising more than inflation? Are they rising at all?

Wages have been stuck for years, even as the unemployment rate has declined. Lower unemployment should theoretically make employers scramble to hire new workers, and offer more pay to get and keep them.

If employers don't raise wages, it may mean there's more "slack" (more competition for jobs) in the labor market than 5.5 percent unemployment suggests. It could be people waiting in the wings to come back into the labor market and people working part-time who want full-time work.

Are more people who say they can only find part-time work but need more hours to support themselves, finally landing full-time jobs?

This would indicate a tightening labor market. 

Is the rate of long-term unemployment, which is still historically high after the Great Recession, gradually coming down?

If so, we may dodge a Europe-like problem of persistent long-term unemployment lasting years. 

The National Park Service's $11.5 billion repair bill

Fri, 2015-04-03 00:40

Washington, D.C.’s famed cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom, and with them they will bring 1.5 million tourists to the narrow path around the Tidal Basin, beside the Jefferson Memorial.

But the National Park Service, which administers the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin as part of its National Mall and Memorial Parks (NMMP) zone, has $11.5 billion on its backlog of deferred maintenance costs. Of that figure, $850 million is slated for the NMMP. So while the Jefferson Memorial may look good from afar, when you get closer you can see that it's falling apart.

“If you look up you can see the portion of the ceiling of the portico has fallen,” said Sean Kenneally, acting deputy superintendent for the National Mall & Memorial Parks. “Fortunately, no one was injured.”

But somebody might have been —a heavy piece of marble falling 50 feet onto a tourist would have generated headlines, and the system is still waiting on a replacement roof. Water, leaking through the 20+ year old roof, runs through the spaces in the monument’s marble, dissolving grout and leaving ugly black stains on the ceiling.

There are plenty of other blackened spots that look like the spot where the marble fell. Until money is appropriated for a new roof however, there’s just a fence and a plan to install a net.

The Lincoln Memorial also needs a new roof, but it’s harder to see the damage—only one of the Alabama marble ceiling panels is missing (There’s a piece of plywood instead). Otherwise, Honest Abe’s house looks pretty good.

Sean Gormley of Rye Neck, N.Y., was visiting Washington and suggested that philanthropic money be used to meet part of the $11.5 billion repair bill. “We already pay enough taxes here, whether it be our federal taxes, real estate taxes, et cetera,” Gormley said. “Things get built up, moths and rust do decay; I tell ya, it’ll crumble one day.”

Craig Obey, the senior vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said that the federal neglect of the National Park Service’s funding is a bipartisan problem that has grown more severe in the past 30 years.

“I think the parks have been dealing with less for quite a while, they’ve been asked to do more with less and we are at the point where they’re able to do less with less,” Obey said.

And indeed, the “less” is lessening, Obey said, “because the Park Service gets about between $200 and $300 million less than they need each year just to keep it even, not even to begin reducing it.”

Obey said National Parks aren’t just rock formations that sit in the desert. Most of them are east of the Mississippi and historic, not natural. People go on vacations, drive cars, flush toilets, ask for directions, climb stairs. While it is true that all this takes a toll on the infrastructure of our parks, they also generate economic activity: about $37 billion each and every year.

China, the economy and Xi Jinping's strategy

Thu, 2015-04-02 14:13

Few economies in the world are more closely watched than China’s. It is the second-largest and fastest-growing economy, so there's a lot of attention being paid to who 's running things. Chinese President Xi Jinping is the most authoritarian leader the country has seen since since Mao Zedong.

Jinping is making a clear effort to accumulate all of the formal structures of power in China. He is the head of the party, the head of the military and the head of the state. He has taken control of the police and the courts, and he even runs all of the most important committees on foreign affairs and government restructuring.

Although Jinping is taking over every structure of power in the country, he polls pretty well because of his anti-corruption campaign and patriotism.

"His success, failure and legacy will rest on his ability to re-engineer the Chinese economy for a new chapter," says Evan Osnos, who wrote about Jinping’s rise to power for the New Yorker. "So that it’s driven more by entrepreneurship [and] innovation, and less than by, simply, infrastructure and exports."

In order to do that, Jinping has to win some pretty big political fights, which is why he is accumulating power so fast and so brutally.

While many people who watch China from the outside see an economic force and growth, Jinping sees a serious corruption problem, environmental pollution and unrest. He feels like it is up to him to rescue the communist party from this series of threats.

CGI brings Paul Walker back to life in 'Furious 7'

Thu, 2015-04-02 12:30

Paul Walker’s unexpected death in November 2013 didn't keep Universal Pictures from finishing the seventh film in the "Fast & Furious" franchise. The star of "Furious 7," who passed away halfway through filming, was digitally reanimated using cutting-edge technology.

“If you have enough time and you have enough money ... and you have the talented visual effects artists, they can do pretty much anything," says Carolyn Giardina, who wrote about Paul Walker and other attempts at a digital actor in the Hollywood Reporter.

A few examples:

  • When Oliver Reed died while making "Gladiator," the filmmakers created a digital map of his face, put it on a body double and re-animated his mouth.
  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is one of the first times we saw a very realistic CG actor or facial performance. Digital effects changed Brad Pitt's age throughout the film.
  • Visual effects companies are already creating fully digital actors to perform stunts, often for safety.

Studios have started regularly taking digital scans at the beginning of production to keep for safety and for archival purposes. This raises questions about privacy and the posthumous exploitation of a celebrity’s image.

Some actors are safeguarding themselves from this trend. For instance, Robin Williams restricted the use of his likeness for 25 years after his death, so he won’t be appearing in any ads or performing stand-up as a hologram anytime soon.

We’ll take higher taxes over college tuition

Thu, 2015-04-02 11:58

We’ve been taking a look at the German education system for the last two days on Marketplace. In Germany, students go to college for free, even if they aren’t German citizens. German taxpayers pick up the tab.

The stories, from WGBH Radio’s "On Campus" team, detailed how a growing number of students are getting degrees in other countries where taxpayers pick up the tab.

In response to our poll  “Would you pay higher taxes to make higher education free?,” nearly three quarters of themore than 1,700 responses said, “Yes.”

Would you pay higher taxes to make higher education free?

Here are some of their comments:

Sheila said she spent a year teaching in Slovenia, “where higher education was free... Students took too long to graduate because they had little incentive to finish.”

Several commenters warned about tinkering with market forces, and others supported subsidizing education only for students who pursue degrees in high-demand fields.

Michele said her son went to Germany for school, got married and works there.

Bill highlighted differences between German and American education, and Roger said he can't imagine the United States implementing a German education system.

More than 100 responses came from users in Germany. Ten percent of those weren’t in favor of their taxes footing the bill for free college.

 

California drought prompts 25 percent mandatory cutbacks

Thu, 2015-04-02 10:28

We're not quite there yet, but it's entirely possible that the not-so-distant future in California includes two-minute showers, brown lawns, and — heaven forbid — unwashed cars.

Governor Jerry Brown ordered the first mandatory water cuts in California's history on Wednesday. Local water districts will be required to cut per-capita consumption by 25 percent.

The question on the minds of many Californians and other drought-watchers: what took the state this long?

"For some reason during this drought, [they] have not stepped up the way they have in earlier droughts, which is somewhat alarming to us," says Felicia Marcus, chair of California's Water Resources Control Board. "There really is, obviously, a need for greater state leadership."

Brown made his announcement at Tahoe, where officials measure the snowpack each spring. Sierra Nevada snowmelt trickles into rivers and aqueducts and accounts for about a third of the state's drinking water. 

Marketplace sustainability reporter Sarah Gardner has the key details:

  • The cuts will be handled at the local level. There are over 400 water districts in California. 
  • Districts that have already reduced consumption won't have to meet the full 25 percent target.
  • Some districts in Orange and San Diego Counties still tick off 500 gallons of water consumption, per person, per day. 
  • Over half of residential water use goes to maintaining lawns and gardens. 
  • Agriculture, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of water consumption in California, is not subject to these mandatory cutbacks. 

In short, Gardner says, this mandate is all about urban use, which may prove controversial among city-dwellers who resent agriculture's overwhelming share of water. Farmers counter that the state produces half of the US-grown nuts, vegetables and fruit. 

"Governor Brown made a point, yesterday, of sort of defending agriculture," Gardner said.

"He said, farmers, specifically those with junior water rights have already had a lot of cutbacks. State officials talked, too, about all the land that's been fallowed. They are not ready to challenge this centuries-old water rights system."

Gardner added, the mandatory cuts will only intensify the debate over who gets how much water in California, and for what purpose. 

Patagonia tests the limits of sustainability

Thu, 2015-04-02 09:18

On Thursday, the venture fund for outdoor clothing company Patagonia announced an investment of more than $1 million in a Swiss company, Beyond Surface Technologies (BST), that works to reduce the impact of textile chemicals on the environment.

Phil Graves oversees the Patagonia fund, called $20 Million and Change, which targets environmental problems. He says the investment in BST could yield dividends for the planet.

What makes them unique, Graves says of BST, "is they don't use synthetic, petroleum-based chemicals for their textile finishings. They use natural substances."

Patagonia is one of the most progressive, environmentally committed American companies. But at the same time that it searches for solutions, Patagonia has also contributed to the environmental problems.

For example, the current process of water-proofing for performance clothing, like Patagonia's rain jackets, involves some harmful chemicals.

"The existing technology uses fluorocarbons, which are pretty nasty things in terms of environmental impact," Graves says. "They take forever to degrade. The challenge is when you look at some of the existing alternatives that are more environmentally-friendly, they don't last."

That idea of durability is a recurring theme. It resurfaces again when Phil Graves takes me surfing. We hit the waves so I could test another Patagonia innovation — an earth-friendly wetsuit that's 60 percent plant-based bio-rubber.

"When you look at the environmental benefits, it's a much cleaner process than the process that goes into making neoprene," Graves says.

I wore the new, "green" wetsuit. Graves wore one of Patagonia's traditional wetsuits, which is 100 percent neoprene.

From my brief demo, I found the bio-rubber wetsuit just as warm as any neoprene versions I've ever used, and even a little bit thinner, which made it easier to paddle out.

But that bio-rubber wetsuit doesn't come cheap. Patagonia charges more than $500. That's about four times more than a standard neoprene wetsuit from a competing brand.

Mike Russo studied Patagonia for his book "Companies on a Mission: Entrepreneurial Strategies for Growing Responsibly, Sustainably, and Profitably."

"A significant part of the customer base cares and might reward the company for its environmental programs with purchases at prices higher than they would be willing to pay otherwise," Russo says.

Also, that innovative eco-wetsuit is still 40 percent synthetic rubber.

Back at Patagonia headquarters, I ask CEO Rose Marcario why the company entered the wetsuit market before it had an environmentally-friendly alternative to offer.

"In our case, we enter the market and create a market so that we have a voice in the market," Marcario says.

What about the conflict between the company's eco-friendly investments and its continued use of the traditional, harmful chemicals used for water-proofing?

"That's always been a tension because we create the best gear for very extreme conditions. And sometimes the best finishes for those extreme conditions — of wind and snow — are chemical based," she says.

And, again, there's that idea of durability.

"The issue, when you look at some innovative products — in terms of environmental sustainability — is that they don't have the performance," says Phil Graves. "What we've found is — long-term — when you look at the total footprint of the wetsuit or the jacket or whatever it is, extending the life of that garment makes the biggest difference in terms of environmental impact."

At some level, it may be better to have a synthetic product that lasts for generations, rather than an innovative substitute that repeatedly needs to be replaced.

Quiz: Balancing school and work

Thu, 2015-04-02 09:08

More than 10 percent of full-time undergrads receive work-study financial aid, according to the Department of Education.

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New report finds 64 percent of managers 'disengaged'

Thu, 2015-04-02 09:06

A new poll out from Gallup says half of all employees in this country have, at some point or another, quit their jobs to get away from a bad boss.

...Which is either depressing or empowering, I'm not sure which.

Of course, that may be because of the second part of the survey: just 35 percent of managers in American companies call themselves "engaged." 64 percent say they're "not engaged" or "actively disengaged."

Which is just a drag.

What can the Fed do about income inequality?

Thu, 2015-04-02 09:01

Once upon a time, back when Laurence Meyer was a governor of the Federal Reserve, he was called to testify before Congress. Bernie Sanders, today a U.S. senator from Vermont, asked him what the Fed would do about income inequality. Meyer's reply? "Nothing."

That's not because he thought it wasn't a problem, but because of the Fed's strictly defined mandate: "full employment and price stability," Meyer said. "Anything else — not their job."

But what the Fed can do is conduct research, and that's just what Janet Yellen called for in a Thursday speech in Washington, D.C. Yellen called income inequality a "disturbing trend" and noted that family dynamics and related microeconomic factors could impact economic mobility and the broader economy.

A growing body of research suggests that lifelong economic productivity is affected by both family and early childhood development.

Randall Kroszner, an economics professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, says "I think we have much more data than we did before to drill down into the micro-factors that may be driving macroeconomics."

Ted Peters, a former Fed director, said that Yellen's star status means she can use the bully pulpit to rally politicians to take note of emerging economic trends that might affect the American economy.

"Janet Yellen publicly speaking out against this carries a lot of weight," Peters says. 

PODCAST: The billion-dollar sweatshirt industry

Thu, 2015-04-02 03:00

For high school seniors, March and April mean the arrival of college acceptances – and a rush on college bookstores to buy sweatshirts to proclaim their new status.  A look at how admission seasons have created a billion dollar. More on that. Publishing giant Harper Collins is reportedly at odds with Amazon over details of its contract renewal. We explain how their fight will impact readers. 

College acceptances bring a rush to buy sweatshirts

Thu, 2015-04-02 02:00

This week, high school seniors across the nation have been laser-focused on one thing: their email inboxes.

That’s because April 1st is when many colleges and universities send out acceptance letters.

It’s also when college bookstores ready for a mad rush of T-shirt-seeking teenagers.

Count Rachel Fratt among that group. The 18-year-old is about to graduate from Forsyth County High School just north of Atlanta, and she’s eager to let everybody know she got into the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech.  

Thanks to a sweet scholarship, the aspiring biotech major also has a bit of extra cash. And where better to spend it than at the Barnes & Noble on campus, Tech’s official bookstore?

“I brought some money, and I’m probably going spend all of it,” says Fratt.

Until now, Fratt has avoided visiting the bookstore—she didn’t want to jinx her chances of getting into the highly selective school. But now that she’s here, she goes right to the sweatshirts. “It has ‘Tech’ in big letters,” Fratt says, noting that’s a good thing.

With her mom and grandma in tow, she makes her way from rack to rack, picking up a T-shirt, pajama pants, a baseball cap, a water bottle. And when she makes it to the checkout line, the reality of the trip becomes apparent.

“Your total is $256.85,” says a voice from behind the cash register.

Ouch.

That’s tough on Fratt’s pocketbook, but great for the bookstore. The college bookstore industry brings in $10.2 billion a year, according to the National Association of College Stores. And a lot of that cash comes in when admissions letters go out.

Leah Antoniazzi manages the Barnes & Noble on Emory University’s campus. She says students rush to buy stuff about five times a year—the first of April is just one.  

“During early admissions and during back to school—which would be August and January—we beef up our clothing and apparel,” Antoniazzi says. Acceptance emails even come with a coupon for Emory bling, she says.

But it’s not just the big universities where new students are stocking up on school-branded gear. Seventeen-year-old Kaley Lackey is heading to Atlanta’s Oglethorpe University—enrollment 1,000. Its bookstore is the size of a small gas station quickie mart, and sells about 2,000 Oglethorpe-branded shirts a year. Lackey walks in and buys the first sweatshirt she sees.

“I like how simple it is. It’s not too busy,” she says. “You look at it and you’re like, ‘Wow. She’s going to Oglethorpe.’”

And that’s exactly what she wants people to know, which is why she has no problem forking over $40 for a sweatshirt that says so.

 

 

 

Algorithm as Art

Thu, 2015-04-02 02:00

Imagine an auction where you could buy algorithms, or code. Like the one the dating website OkCupid uses for calculating compatibility between two people. If you think that’s too far-fetched, you’re in for a surprise.

New York’s Cooper Hewitt Museum recently held an auction exactly like the one described above: algorithms in all forms—from code scribbled on paper to a thumb drive—were represented in artistic ways, ready to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

“The Algorithm Auction,” as it was known, was the work of Ruse Laboratories, which describes itself as the “preeminent gallery of pure code.” That is, it’s a company that wants to get people to see code as art—art that can be auctioned. Achieving that goal, according to some observers, would increase the popularity of coding, as well as attract more money in the form of philanthropic donations.

“When you read the code as a computer scientist you can see the brushstrokes and the flourishes and the trills that the technologist uses when they craft what they are creating,” said Benjamin Gleitzman, one of the co-founders of Ruse Labs, speaking at the auction.  “I think it’s time the general population understands the beauty of code.”

One of the hottest items on the auction block was, in fact, OkCupid’s compatibility calculator.

“Because our match algorithm can be represented ... as a formula, not simply lines of code, we represented it as a piece of art showing two people falling in love on different ends of the world, being connected by that formula,” said co-founder Chris Coyne, who attended the auction.

 

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