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That better game would be Pong, which was deceptively simple to pick up, but infuriatingly difficult to master (not least because a developmental hiccup meant that your paddle couldn’t defend all your territory in the original coin-operated version). Today it is considered one of the biggest arcade games in the world, responsible for the success of the video game industry, valued at $78.5 billion this year. Pong took video games out of windowless computer labs full of buttoned-up coders and brought it to the masses, and with it, Bushnell’s nascent company, Atari.
It would’ve been hard to imagine then, but games today are bigger than the global film industry, which had a 60-year head start. Pong is the reason that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 can make more than three times as much in its first five days on sale as The Avengers can in its first five days in theaters. But while today’s blockbuster games are largely created by hundred-strong teams at bankrolled developers, the men who created and crafted Pong embodied the bootstrap start-up culture that typifies the most exciting edges of today’s tech landscape. They were knocked back by old men in drab suits who said games weren’t going to be big business. But games were going to be big business, even those started in unassuming surroundings. And nothing was going to stop them.
What was going on here? My fellow mothers, women who once swore they would never be dependent on a man, smiled indulgently at daughters who warbled “So This Is Love” or insisted on being addressed as Snow White. The supermarket checkout clerk invariably greeted Daisy with “Hi, Princess.” The waitress at our local breakfast joint, a hipster with a pierced tongue and a skull tattooed on her neck, called Daisy’s “funny-face pancakes” her “princess meal”; the nice lady at Longs Drugs offered us a free balloon, then said, “I bet I know your favorite color!” and handed Daisy a pink one rather than letting her choose for herself. Then, shortly after Daisy’s third birthday, our high-priced pediatric dentist — the one whose practice was tricked out with comic books, DVDs, and arcade games — pointed to the exam chair and asked, “Would you like to sit in my special princess throne so I can sparkle your teeth?”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” I snapped. “Do you have a princess drill, too?”
She looked at me as if I were the wicked stepmother.
But honestly: since when did every little girl become a princess? It wasn’t like this when I was a kid, and I was born back when feminism was still a mere twinkle in our mothers’ eyes. We did not dress head to toe in pink. We did not have our own miniature high heels. What’s more, I live in Berkeley, California: if princesses had infiltrated our little retro-hippie hamlet, imagine what was going on in places where women actually shaved their legs? As my little girl made her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom, I fretted over what playing Little Mermaid, a character who actually gives up her voice to get a man, was teaching her.
Apparently, I had tapped into something larger than a few dime-store tiaras. Princesses are just a phase, after all. It’s not as though girls are still swanning about in their Sleeping Beauty gowns when they leave for college (at least most are not). But they did mark my daughter’s first foray into the mainstream culture, the first time the influences on her extended beyond the family. And what was the first thing that culture told her about being a girl? Not that she was competent, strong, creative, or smart but that every little girl wants — or should want — to be the Fairest of Them All.
Even as new educational and professional opportunities unfurl before my daughter and her peers, so does the path that encourages them to equate identity with image, self-expression with appearance, femininity with performance, pleasure with pleasing, and sexuality with sexualization. It feels both easier and harder to raise a girl in that new reality — and easier and harder to be one.
As with all of us, what I want for my daughter seems so simple: for her to grow up healthy, happy, and confident, with a clear sense of her own potential and the opportunity to fulfill it. Yet she lives in a world that tells her, whether she is three or thirty-three, that the surest way to get there is to look, well, like Cinderella.
Clearly, many workers feel threatened by technology. In a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 who were not working, 37 percent of those who said they wanted a job said technology was a reason they did not have one. Even more — 46 percent — cited “lack of education or skills necessary for the jobs available.”
Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. They could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.
The challenge is evident for white-collar jobs, too. Ad sales agents and pilots are two jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will decline in number over the next decade. Flying a plane is largely automated today and will become more so. And at Google, the biggest seller of online ads, software does much of the selling and placing of search ads, meaning there is much less need for salespeople.
“Because the slow decline is more common and less visible, it is seldom remarked upon, while gentrification, when it happens – which is both unusual and dramatic – is far more evident change,” explains the report.
“There are more areas of poverty than areas undergoing gentrification, but that doesn’t mean that when communities do revitalize that people aren’t uprooted,” says Harold Simon, executive director of the National Housing Institute. “That kind of thing has happened all over the place.”
It’s not a matter of which is worse: gentrification or poverty. Americans should be concerned about both, says Simon.
Often the cities where gentrification occurs are also the cities where poverty slowly spreads across other neighborhoods. Take Brooklyn, for example. Over the last decade, Brooklyn went from having four of New York’s poorest neighborhoods to having five. At the same time, it went from having zero of New York’s richest neighborhoods to having two and was singled out as having the least affordable housing market.