Martian-Americans Can VoteBut Only if They Come From Texas

This week, Shane Kimbrough cast his vote from space. The astronaut is the sole American on the International Space Station, keeping democracy alive 250 miles above Earth.

His right to do so is guaranteed by a Texas law, passed in 1997. And the same law would apply even if Kimbrough were way further out, say on Mars. But that’s only because he, like all other NASA astronauts, lives near Johnson Space Center in Houston. If Elon Musk fulfills his promise for a multi-million person Martian settlement, the law is going to need revisiting to handle all the Americans whose Earthly residences are (were?) outside the Lone Star State.

The first American voted from space in 1997, just after the Texas law was passed. David Wolf was aboard the Russian Mir space station. He, like every astronaut after, identified the elections he would be spaceborne for well ahead of time—since crew members might launch before the election commission knew all the issues and candidates on the absentee ballot.

Once the ballot is nailed down, the Houston County Clerk delivers it to Johnson Space Center’s mission control, who uplink it to the ISS electronically. “The astronaut then gets a special code from the clerk’s office that lets them access their personal ballot,” says Daniel Huot, a spokesperson for NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “Then they send it back to mission control, who delivers it back to the county clerk office.”

And that’s not the only civic duty astronauts can perform in space: NASA also has procedures in place so they can pay taxes. Astronauts are, however, exempt from jury duty. “I don’t know how high that ranks on the list,” says Huot. “But there’s a lot of good reasons to go to space besides getting out of jury duty.” Speak for yourself, man.

Civic-minded Martian-Americans are going to either need to register in Texas before liftoff, or pressure the government to make new laws that allow any citizen to vote from the vacuum. “There’s a whole world of space legislature that will need to be revisited as we begin living in space more permanently,” says Huot.

Like, what happens when Martian settlements become permanent? Do their citizens still have a right to vote in US elections? Do their children? If the settlers came from states outside Texas, their home jurisdiction would first have to come up with some similar laws allowing them to transmit and receive ballots from the void. And their kids would be given citizenship, just like children born abroad to diplomats and military are today.

All that starts to get foggy once you look into the future. “The real question here is: Is the human future in space?” says Scott Pace, director of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute. It’s not too hard to imagine third or fourth generation Martians getting fed up with politicking on a blue dot millions of miles away. Maybe they’ll start dumping Tang into Schiaparelli Crater and declare their independence.

Their ability to do so depends on two things: “One, are they able to live off the land, or do they rely on supplies from Earth? And two, are they able to earn money out there, or are they always being paid on the taxpayers nickel?,” says Pace. If no to both, then space is like Mt. Everest: a place for adventure and symbolism, but not to live. It could be like Antarcticayou can live there, but not make money. Or like an oil platformyou can make money, but you can’t live. In any of those scenarios, it’s pretty unlikely that spacefarers will be able to successfully declare independence.

In a yes/yes situation, the settlers are fully independent, and they may indeed decide to secede from Earthly affairs. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have democracy. “We need to ask now if we want the space community that engages in the democratic process, and make that happen because it won’t happen naturally,” says Pace. In space, no one can hear you scream, but they should be able to hear you whine about how fed up you are with politicians.

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30-year-old millionaire: This is how to beat self-doubt – – CNBC


30-year-old millionaire: This is how to beat self-doubt –
Kyle Taylor didn't graduate from college, but he knows what it takes to succeed. The self-made millionaire now runs his own company, and he didn't have an …

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Adtech isn’t dead, it just has a lot of dead weight

LUMAScapesmap the constellations and clusters of the digital advertising universe. For many years, that universe, like our own, was ever-expanding. But also like our universe, theres debate about whether it will continue to expand or end in a big crunch. I would argue the latter is happening and happening now.

Its been difficult for small adtech firms to raise capital for a while, and we are beginning to see the inevitable consequences of that capital shortage. In this respect, the adtech sector is due for a correction; Im hardly alone in predicting it. But contrary to what you may have heard, thats not because adtech is dead or dying. The industry just needs to shed dead weight.

Dead weight in the form of small me-too companies, purveyors of point solutions and standalone tools for optimizing, verifying and measuring advertising. Undifferentiated companies with wide gaps between the narrative of what their tech does and the reality of the value that that tech provides. Dead weight in the form of companies founded within the last five years that are now burning through the last of their A rounds.

That doesnt mean the entire space of adtech is doomed, though. Its just facing an important and overdue reckoning with the hard realities that face any business. Namely you have to be a well-run business, you have to add real value, solve real problems and have a path to profit. Thats true of any startup, in any space.

Im constantly asked what I think of adtechs terrible reputation within the investment community. My response is the same: There are bad and good companies in any investment category, and innovation is still happening in this space. That said, there are characteristics of adtech that make it harder to separate the good from the bad.

A lack of transparency has sustained fakers

Adtech over the past few years bears a resemblance to the mortgage industry during the sub-prime days. Which is to say, a lack of transparency has contributed to an environment where a lot of people are throwing a lot of money around for short-term gain without a lot of concern for creating long-term value. Sooner or later, the truth emerges and all that cash gets vaporized.

In the case of adtech, fraud has run rampant, and marketers have justly felt like theyve often been throwing away money (because many of them have). In 2010, a marketer using a programmatic exchange would not expect to confirm that the ad would be seen by a human and not a bot (some two-thirds of them werent seen by humans), or be sure that the ad was actually viewable in the first place (about half of them were). We took those conditions for granted.

Even Facebook, as savvy a customer as any, was fooled. The company bought video ad server LiveRail in 2014 for $400 million to $500 million. Two years later, Facebook effectively shut the company down with the rationale being that it couldnt vouch for much of LiveRails traffic because it was rife with fraud.

Adtech is a massive category, and those paying attention know that change and innovation is happening in the space more so than ever.

A market beset by such transparency issues was easy to exploit. You could put together an adtech startup without a great deal of tech just a lot of salesmanship: hire a sales team, have limited tech, resell a mix of good and suspect inventory and make money.

That strategy is much less tenable these days. Transparency is increasing. Advertising is now checked for viewability, screened for non-human traffic and tied to actual sales performance by an increasingly sophisticated suite of measurement tools that look well beyond the click. With digital advertising climbing out of the shadows, it will be harder for me-too players to growth-hack their way to success by manufacturing scale. And its going to expose a lot of dead weight for what it is.

It is indeed time for these smaller players to fall by the wayside. The question becomes, then, whats left in the wake of this correction?

Adtech versus badtech

The answer is simple: fewer, but healthier adtech companies, poised for growth and worthy of investment.

Not all adtech businesses fit this description, but plenty do. Enough, indeed, to make the adtech space a lively and promising one for those businesses built on solid foundations, as well as for the investors smart enough to spot them.

Criteo and The Trade Desk fit the bill. The latter just recently going public. As the companys S-1 filing with the SEC outlines, The Trade Desks business is very healthy. In 2015, it posted $113.8 million in revenues, which was up 155.5 percent year-over-year. The company is also profitable, netting $39.2 million in EBITDA, which was up 589 percent. The company also has $37.6 million in cash on hand.

Good adtech companies like Criteo and The Trade Desk meet a set of proven criteria. Good adtech companies derive their competitive advantage from three main areas: They own or enable unique supply, have unique data or own the advertiser relationships as a tech provider versus a service provider.

Owning and enabling supply means having unique and/or enabling access to advertising inventory connected with the valuable audiences advertisers need to reach. Having unique data means providing the insight and intelligence to help advertisers target and optimize messages to those consumers. And having the advertiser relationships as a tech provider means providing the software and technology tools that advertisers need to create and deploy campaigns to those consumers.

In contrast, a badtech company relies on arbitrage and, in effect, rents traffic rather than owning it. Many adtech companies buy their supply by making revenue commitments and guarantees to publishers, effectively making their reach a liability rather than an asset. The tech is primarily a new ad execution that can easily be replicated.

Other instances of badtech take the form of new ad units designed to maximize short-term performance stats, gaming the measurement standards that still reward clicks and views instead of real engagement. Often these badtech tactics compromise the user experience and lead to ad blocking. The badtech might generate some impressive numbers, but really what its doing is prioritizing short-term gains at the expense of the long-term relationship between brands, publishers and consumers.

It pays not to generalize

Think back to 2002. In the hangover of the dot-com bust, squeamish investors were very skeptical about the entirety of technology. Theyre the ones that missed out on Baidu (2005), Facebook (2004) and Twitter (founded in 2006). Meanwhile, the investors (like Jim Breyer), bankers (like Michael Grimes) and entrepreneurs (like Mark Zuckerberg) made their way through a no-nonsense environment and created some of the most valuable companies in the world.

It may be a stretch to claim that our category will pull out a Facebook, but the lesson is clear: As many investors ran, the good investors and entrepreneurs kept innovating and reaped the huge benefits. Adtech is a massive category, and those paying attention know that change and innovation is happening in the space more so than ever.

That innovation is creating real value and is separating the winners from the also-rans. The big crunch that is coming will leave the shining stars intact and help them shine even brighter.

Just watch.

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Lawyer takes top award as blogging explodes in Kenya – Daily Nation (blog)

Daily Nation (blog)

Lawyer takes top award as blogging explodes in Kenya
Daily Nation (blog)
Splitting her time between teaching and blogging, Wandia Njoya, picked the award for Best Social Issues and Active Citizenship. In her blog,, she consistently written on the education system in Kenya especially the new curriculum that

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Is self-publishing coming of age in the digital world? – BBC News

Media captionWhat has self-publishing achieved?

Erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey began life as a humble, self-published e-book, unable to satisfy the tastes of traditional publishers.

Within a few years it had achieved domination on a global scale, spawning a series that has sold more than 125 million copies.

E. L. James’s personal story has become a tantalising fantasy for aspiring authors. But one that technology and social media are making increasingly realisable.

“There was a time when self-publishing was equated with vanity,” explains John Bond, co-founder of Whitefox, one of several new companies helping ‘amateur’ authors publish professionally on platforms like Amazon Kindle, Google Play, Apple’s iBook Store or Kobo.

“Because of the digital revolution, democratisation has happened. It’s almost as if the writer has become his own entrepreneur around the publication process.”

Mission to Mars?

In their competition to get noticed, self-publishers are proving willing to take risks.

Andy Weir’s The Martian eventually went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster. But the story was originally published chapter by chapter on the author’s blog for free.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Oscar-nominated film The Martian starring Matt Damon began life as a self-published book

This turned out to be great exposure and it became a huge hit as an audiobook, e-book and physical book.

“There was an adversarial attitude between mainstream publishing houses and self publishers a few years ago,” says Mr Bond, “but I think that’s changed dramatically.”

He attributes this to traditional publishers’ new-found admiration for the self publishers’ social media skills, which have helped them find new readers without the benefit of expensive marketing campaigns.

Lawyer-turned-author Mark Dawson, for example, uses his website and Facebook page to give out free copies of his thrillers and curates ‘Readers’ Groups’. Online conversations help him establish a closer relationship with his readers encouraging them to come back for subsequent publications.

Another thriller writer Joanna Penn has bolstered her following by helping others to self-publish through her website which explains how to go about self publishing. She also hosts a popular podcast interview series.

So-called “Instapoets” like New Zealander Lang Leav have built up huge followings on Instagram and Tumblr, publishing their work on these platforms, before securing traditional publishing deals.

“Not for everyone”

Douglas Wight has just completed his first self-published book and has a more cautionary tale to tell.

The former News of the World tabloid journalist set up his own company to self-publish a biography of pop diva Rita Ora, in the run up to Christmas.

Image copyright 22five
Image caption Douglas Wight and Jennifer Wiley took control of all aspects of the publishing process

He and his co-author opted to sell the e-book version on Amazon, but also took the added risk of organising their own hardback print-run.

Self-publishing wasn’t as straight-forward as he had hoped.

“You have control of what you are doing, but it’s not for everyone,” warns Mr Wight. “It’s a lot of work and a huge learning curve.”

That work includes satisfying all the different formatting requirements of the various e-book outlets, organising cover illustrations and marketing, all while bearing the financial risk of the whole enterprise, explains Mr Wight.

That said, he feels his gamble paid off.

The hardback version has sold more than 3,000 copies and performed better than expected on Kindle.

He has covered his costs and is now hoping to begin a new chapter of profitability.

After the gold rush

But what if it is not just readers you are after, but cash rewards?

Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, believes the hard work of self-publishing can pay off.

In the past traditional publishers would give the author around 10%, she says, negotiating a tough contract as they were the only route to market, with advances that were getting smaller.

Image copyright Reedsy
Image caption New companies like Reedsy offer services like proofreading, cover illustration and marketing to support people taking the self-publishing route

Amazon may be seen in a negative light for its impact on the high street, but for self-publishers its market disruption is largely welcomed, she says.

Kindle Direct Publishing can give authors up to 70% of the purchase price. It allows authors to retain copyright and gives them a non-exclusive deal.

In the US, the most mature market, independent authors are now collectively earning more from e-books than authors handled by the so-called Big Five publishers, according to advocacy website Author Earnings.

However, they also charge roughly half the amount for their e-books, and there are many more of them.

Generous profit margins don’t mean so much if you are selling cheap and struggling to sell at all in a crowded market.

Image caption Michael Tamblyn of Kobo originally founded BookNet Canada, specialising in digital analytics for publishing

Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller magazine, believes it’s a lot harder to make money from self-publishing now that the Kindle-inspired gold rush has petered out.

“Smart, entrepreneurial authors” could use clever marketing on social media to get their e-books into the Top Ten charts, timing it to sell enough books over Christmas to make a tidy profit.

But that trick is harder to pull off when there are so many e-books out there, he argues.

“I do worry that as the market has slowed so the number of sharks willing to take money from authors has grown,” warns Mr Jones.

“Publishing, when it works properly, should be about moving money towards authors.”

Into the unknown

The exact number of self-publishers and their impact on publishing is surprisingly hard to pin down.

Amazon does not disclose its e-book sales, which are worth more than a billion dollars annually in the US alone, but remain a comparatively small part of its retail empire.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nielsen Book Research estimates that 61 million e-books were sold in the UK between January and September last year

Author Earnings, which scrapes public data from Amazon’s bestseller lists for its analytics calculates that in the US, the amount of money spent on self-published books went up from around $510m in 2014 to $600m in 2015.

“E-book sales are like dark matter,” says Michael Tamblyn, chief executive of e-book retailer, Kobo, though he is willing to volunteer some information.

“For us, 12% of the books we sell globally are self-published.”

The fragments of available data build up a picture of a new literary landscape, where the self-published author looms large.

Follow Dougal Shaw and Technology of Business editor Matthew Wall on Twitter.

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Tinder’s New Paid Feature Shoves Your Profile In Other User’s Faces

Turns out money CAN buy you love after all. Or at least, it can on Tinder.

OK, so maybe lovewas a bit of an exaggeration. But at the very least,money can up your chances of locking down that super-hot one-night stand with Tinders new feature, Tinder Boost.

So how does it work? Tinder is following in the footsteps of competitors such as Bumble and figuring out a way to make money off of particularly thirsty users by ensuring that their profiles come across more potential matches.

If you subscribe to the new feature, your profile willbe one of the first users in your area come across for 30 whole minutes!

According to Tinder reps, that means youre getting up to 10x more profile views, aka 10x more chances at love or that super-hot one-night stand. OH, BABY!

Mashable writes that Tinder said, in an email statement, that the new feature is just another attempt for them to [provide]you a simple, fun introduction to new people nearby so you can get out and meet them in the real world.

Right. Becausethats totally Tinders mission

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[VIDEO] Why Ezekiel Elliott Is The Most Important Cowboys Player – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Blogging The Boys (blog)

[VIDEO] Why Ezekiel Elliott Is The Most Important Cowboys Player
Blogging The Boys (blog)
It was a little over a year ago when the Dallas Cowboys decided to use the fourth pick in the 2016 draft on running back Ezekiel Elliott. This went against the recent trend of not selecting running backs high in the first round. That position had been

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All deals on AngelList will soon be private (plus other updates you should know)

Earlier this week, we sat down with Naval Ravikant, cofounder of five-year-old AngelList, a popular platform that matches startups with early-stage investors. Three million people, including 50,000 accredited investors, have created profiles on AngelList since its founding, and AngelList now uses that information to pair startups with capital, pair startup employees with employers and, more newly, pair startups with customers.

Its become a big business, as well as a confusing one, Ravikant readily admits. And while we cant report on one interesting new, performance-related wrinkle thats coming soon, he walked us through many otherstats and initiatives.Our chat has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: A few years ago, AngelList introduced Syndicates, essentially pop-up funds that allow angel investors to syndicate their investments in exchange for some upside. It wasfairly transparent at the outset, but thatsbeen changing.Why?

NR: Seventy-five percent of the deals are now private, up from 45 percent a year ago. Itll be default private soon because a lot of the hot deals tend to be private. Also, that public-private dichotomy is always really hard for entrepreneurs [in fundraising mode] to figure out, so they start associating our brand [with a place to share information publicly to accredited investors], which is a negative, so they dont want to go on here. We might take a hit on liquidity by making the default private, but at the end of the day, its all about getting the high-quality companies.

TC: An investor,Gil Penchina, has built a big business on the platform. Are more leads starting to see a kind ofof network effect?

NR: Gil is a unique case. Hes the one whos always breaking the system. Were more catering to operator-angels, meaning people who have operating jobs, or VPs at big companies or whove started their own startups. Its people who arent professional VCs but who do four to six deals a year, investing in alumni and people they know.

TC: How many of them close a deal each month? And are the investors on the platform mostly based inSilicon Valley?

NR: We had 55 deals led by 41 leads close in June; we had 44 deals led by 38 leadsclose in July. The average for most leads on the platform is a couple of deals per year. As for demographics, Id say over half [the people who lead deals on the platform] are in Silicon Valley.

TC: Youd said publicly somewhere that you weregetting into special purpose vehicles, which come together quickly to invest in a single, later-stage company. Why would someone create an SPV onthe platform?

NR: Theyresyndicates, too; theyre just targeted to later-stage investors. It isnt a [big part of the platform] yet but theyre fully automated. We dont charge you any carry for any investors you bring in. Its a one-time charge of $8,000 and we handle all the K-1s, reporting, accounting, collections, filings, regulatory compliance, accreditation. Its all online so people can track their exits, distributions, and bank accounts, and we can distribute stock in cash. So its like setting up a Schwab or e-Trade system for people who want to do that. Pejman Mar [now Pear] has used it. Accomplice uses it. Then there are a lot of one-offs.

We also now have a network of 20 family offices, and when we get a later-stage deal, with a lead investors approval, well show them those and they can vote on whether they are in or out. Itll take a year to fully fill out, but you could see 200, 300, 400 [family offices] accessing SPVs in all the hot companies at some point.

TC: People canlead seed rounds; they can form SPVs. Why arent moreVCs using AngelList instead of raising funds the old-fashioned way?

NR:Were not really built for that. For starters, we dont supportmanagement fees. We also dont support custom [limited partner]documents; youd have to go cookie-cutter with our Syndicates model. What we are starting to see ispeople who [build a track record and graduate to their own fund], thoughthats kind of a failure for us. [Laughs.]

TC: Youve saidtheres $200 million flowing through the platform each year right now. Break down for readerswhere that money is coming from.

NR: Between $120 million and $160 million is coming from [accredited individualinvestors]. The other roughly $40 million comes from partnerships and funds that we run on the platform. One of those is the [$400 million seed fund] CSC Upshot fund [in partnership with a China-based private equity firm]; another is Maiden Lane [a $25 million fund raised by mostly individual investors outside of AngelList]. Thats managed by Dustin Dolginow, formerly of Accomplice; Jeff Fagnan, a general partner at Accomplice; and me.

Then theres a third that weve raised from individuals who join AngelList and want a basket of AngelList companies; we try and pick the best 100 to 150 deals for them. I manage that with our COO, Kevin Laws; and Parker Thomson [formerly of 500 Startups].

TC: As for conflicts of interest?

NR: Wehave heavy conflict of interest rules, so when Im running a deal [as a Syndicate lead], I dont vote in any of the funds and Im recused from anything involving the deal.

TC: Whats happening with the recruiting side of AngelList? You launched a service in beta a few months ago. What stats can you share?

NR:[The platform] is stillfree for anyone who wants to use it freely. But for someone with limited time and a certain budget and a specific role they need to fill with good engineers, we launched a service three months ago called A-List. We do the work of going through AngelList and finding the top couple hundred candidates, then we put [the hiring company]into this format where we make sure the parties arematched up very welland wecharge $10,000 for a successful hire.

TC: How many job candidates are on the platform altogether, and whats your close rate on matches?

NR: Its between 1 percent and 2.5 percent, judging by thepercent of candidates who update their profile later with a new employer who was introduced to them on AngelList. Over the last two months, theres been around200,000active candidates, so we think [our hit rate is] between 800 and 2000 hires a month.

TC: Think this business will account for 50 percent of your revenue at some point?

NR: More. Were the largest hiring platform for startups on the planet.

TC: You say youre the largest seed fund, and that youre thelargest hiring platform for startups.What else is on the roadmap?

NR: Its still being built, but were also working on AngelList Enterprise, so companies can evenfind customers at some point. Say you want bug tracking software; all these companies have AngelList profiles on the platform and they tell us what their tech stack is and [other details like] how many customers theyve signed in the last 90 days, and thats all we need to help [both sides to connect].

Its all free, but you can see how it would eventually make money. Right now, were just seeing if its even useful to users.

TC: How far away from profitability are you?

NR: Were not at breakeven, but I expect in the next six to 12 months, we will be, for sure.

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Jeremy Irons: ‘I have the natural tendency of a benign dictator’

The veteran actors run of flawed gentlemen continues with his roles in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and High-Rise. He explains his trouble with democracy and why his statue of buddha is so important

By his own admission, Jeremy Irons is good at getting into trouble. Last week, he was on breakfast radio twice. On Chris Evanss show, he swore at 9.10am; on Today, he annoyed some by saying he would refuse a knighthood, others with his explanation (I became an actor to be a rogue and a vagabond).

His stickiest slip was three years ago, when he cautioned that gay marriage could lead fathers to marry their sons to avoid inheritance tax (Incest is there to protect us from inbreeding). There was uproar, followed by a faintly baffled clarification. Later, Ironss son Max he has two with wife Sinad Cusack said his father was just working through an argument out loud and got lost in the loopholes.

To meet Irons is to appreciate what he might have meant. Here is a smart man singularly unsuited for the social media age and egged on by its outrage. He is compassionate, but also unstudied, slightly naive, contrarian, contradictory and compulsive. Intentionally so. If he opens his mouth, its to spitball. He would like us all to do the same.

I think all of society should be a thinktank where you throw ideas about. I had hoped the internet would help. Actually, what it has done is make everybody go schtum. Theyre attacked for saying anything. So they say nothing.

Irons sighs at the memory of gay-marriage-gate. Secret homophobia seems unlikely (big break: Brideshead; best man: Christopher Biggins, who also came on the honeymoon; in 1991, Irons was the first celeb to wear an Aids ribbon to an awards ceremony). Its more likely he was interested in the tax aspect. I have developed a life which seems to need a relatively high income, he says. It includes six houses and a 15th-century castle in Cork, for which Irons took two years off to renovate; he painted the external walls peach.

As for marriage? Hes all for it all for anything that helps lead us from temptation. Our society is based on a Christian structure, he says. If you take those religious tenets away, then anything goes and it will become terrible and you usually get into trouble.

Irons with his wife, actor Sinad Cusack. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

Adultery might be very nice, but finally it fucks us up. And it fucks up the structure of society. We dont steal well, some people do because it makes life intolerable for everybody. Yes, you can be in love and raise a family wonderfully by not being married, but actually marriage does give us a strength, because its quite hard to get out of, and so it makes us fight more to keep it together. If divorce becomes dead easy which it sort of has then we dont have that backup. Because, for everybody, relationships are hard.

Take abortion, he says. I believe women should be allowed to make the decision, but I also think the church is right to say its a sin. Because sin is actions that harm us. Lying harms us. Abortion harms a woman its a tremendous mental attack, and physical, sometimes. But we seem to get that muddled. In a way, thank God the Catholic church does say we wont allow it, because otherwise nobodys saying that its a sin.

Dont be fooled by the brimstone. Irons is lovely company. He is generous as well as garrulous, warm and kind and tactile (you feel his arm behind your back before you shake his hand). He was like that at a posh supper and Q&A in Toronto last autumn and on a roof terrace the next day (steampunk coat, huge boots). Hes like that today, too, in a London rehearsal room as the sun sets, perched on a stool by the window so he can chain-smoke, swaddled in layers of leather and linen. Smudge his 18-month-old jack russell/bichon frise mix and I take a tatty sofa near the heater.

For a man who traded antiques to put himself through drama school,such decor is difficult. I make a good home, he says. Always have. The other day, he found an 1830s chair he really fancied. I thought: I want it, to sit in it and have it in my house. Its like if you meet a wonderful person and think: Id love to have them to dinner and spend time with them.

Irons as mathematician GH Hardy: He loved his mind. And I think he lived in his mind. Photograph: Warner Brothers

He sips a capful of the Famous Grouse Ive brought. I believe inanimate objects have a spirit. He continues with considered articulation: energy never dies, just travels, so the older an object is, the more it has absorbed. Sometimes, its evil (spooky experience with an African mask). Usually, its not: a sculpture from Chad acts as a real force for positivity sort of like a relationship glue; a buddha from Burma gives good vibes from the foot of the stairs.

I often just sit and commune with him. Which you need to do. Theyre used to being spoken to; they were part of a culture, a religion. If theyre ignored, they die. But its symbiotic? He looks right through you. Something connects. It puts things in proportion. Youre working on a play or a movie and think its the end of the fucking world. What comes out of him is massive and calming and the slight smile says: Come on

The buddha must have been busy lately: at 67, Irons is working like a packhorse. Earlier this week he opened in A Long Days Journey Into Night, Eugene ONeills drama about an actor with a morphine-addict wife, last week in Ben Wheatleys film of JG Ballards High-Rise. Maths biopic The Man Who Knew Infinity is out in a fortnight and this Friday sees the release of his first blockbuster in 20 years: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Hes Alfred, Ben Afflecks butler a more competent and acid helpmeet than Michael Caines doddery codger.

In all four, he plays variations on a familiar theme: the distinguished gent with an inner flaw, apparently impeccable, actually cracked. Men of casual eloquence whose commands we like Smudge obey, wagging even when the signs point to trouble. Maybe the most recognisable for fans of Dead Ringers, Reversal of Fortune and Die Hard 3 is Anthony Royal, High-Rises architect, depravity detectable under the manners. Royal lives atop his brutalist tower block, regarding calmly as the social experiment beneath implodes.

Depravity detectable under the manners Irons as Anthony Royal in High-Rise. Photograph: Allstar/Film4

Irons shares with Royal some sensibility I have the natural tendency of a, hopefully benign, dictator but not an aesthetic. I need the earth, the garden, I need weather. He tuts at the view. I think city life encourages a certain behaviour not a behaviour I like. As more of us are compressed, we tend to cut off more from each other. The fault of the designers or the residents? The money builds the sty and the pigs have to live in it. But so much of the world now is run like that. If something is going to make money, thats allowed.

Irons felt better in Cambridge. Yet The Man Who Knew Infinity also shows the place as a golden dolls house that cossets the don he plays, Trinity College maths professor GH Hardy. It also stifles his protege, Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), who arrives just before the first world war.

Its an unusually abashed turn from Irons: scant eye-contact, emotional gaps. Sexless, too. Hard sums are as far as the bromance goes. But Hardy loved his mind. And I think he lived in his mind.

Did he detect evidence, while shooting, of the kind of class prejudice or racial bias the film addresses? Irons says correct things about the injustice of skint kids being priced out. But, of course, if you want to succeed, then you can overcome that.

Irons was born on the Isle of Wight, educated at Sherborne, then, sick of the ramrod types he has ended up riffing on since, thought he would join the circus. He changed his mind when he saw inside the caravans, so went to Bristol Old Vic. A decade on came Brideshead.

Anthony Andrews and Irons in Brideshead Revisited, the latters big break. Photograph: ITV/Rex Features

The legacy of that series, for audiences, is to for ever associate the actor with academia. For Irons, too. Yet, being a poster boy via pretence seems to have bred in him fondness and disdain for establishment higher education. He loves being a guest at high table, with extraordinary people allowed to be real eccentrics, not smoothed out by society. But he also scoffs at overthinking and prizes being an autodidact. Hes enormously proud of being asked to be the voice of TS Eliot by the poets widow, Valerie; he hopes his gentle, sober radio reading of Four Quartets is among his best work. Im not intellectual at all. I would read them with a gut instinct and she responded to that, said thats the way, with its inconsistencies and naughtiness.

Hes similarly torn about Westminster. Sometimes, he suppers at the House of Lords. You think: God, this place is fantastic architecturally, but its a different world. What does it have to do with Bradford and Huddersfield and Swansea wrecked cities where theres no work and no investment? He loathes the Eton-alumni cabinet, yet is sceptical about the MPs that came in under Blair to whom he contributed funds who cant cut the mustard at the despatch box, because debating isnt a state-school staple.

As for Corbyn? I think he might be the death knell. I love his idealism, but hes not what I would call a politician. I think the Labour party is no longer fit for purpose. What we very, very, very strongly need is a not a party that represents the labour movement, but everyone who doesnt like that we are governed, in effect, by global economics. We have to find an intelligent alternative to the Conservative ethos.

Irons talks politics two-thirds of the time. Plugging products takes second place, perhaps third or fourth once you count chairs and sin. He shares ideas about the migrant crisis (barter EU membership with Turkey by building them a proper refugee city with makeshift embassies), Africa, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, pollution, recycling, industrial faming and prison recidivism.

Irons and Dev Patel in The Man Who Knew Infinity: An unusually abashed turn from Irons.

Why such evangelism? Why so frank? In part, its because he is genuinely offended: civilising is a watchword. Despite his talk of honours rejection, there is something of a brighter Prince Charles to Irons (I know if you play music to plants they do better). Theres also perhaps an element of rebellion: his father, an accountant, advised him against involvement in such matters.

Most strongly, hes fuelled by the conviction that so irks people about some of his peers: that having a platform brings with it a duty to use it. If youre a politician, you cant, because it might affect your career. People dont take what actors say very seriously, because they know theyve nothing to win or lose. And if they dont speak freely? I think its a waste.

This vocation, he says, rolling another cigarette, affords insight, because it involves travel, and inhabiting other mindsets. He remembers asking the mayor of Jakarta why they didnt give people bins so they wouldnt chuck stuff into the river. And he said: Because people would live in them. And I said: Ah, I see your problem.

Thats why, while Irons hates committees, [hates] having to convince people, hes also allergic to interventionism. Its like genetic engineering. Everything is held in balance, whether good or not, by diverse internal forces. Syria deals with the opposition with great cruelty, but there are cruel people, as one sees from Isis, and youre not going to remove that part of nature from those fanatics at that stage of their civilising development. Yet everybody especially the Americans seems to think the only way of life is theirs. Democracy? What the fuck does that mean? Freedom? What the fuck does that mean?

Irons is a figure of everyday glamour: zipping about on his motorbike, shinning up his castle, thin as a ripped whippet, a rogue and a vagabond, dressed for the part and proud of it. Photograph: Adela Loconte/WireImage

The deeper Irons goes, the doomier he gets. Real worry is etched on his head. Its not the scotch: those caps are dinky. The US election signals maybe the end of democracy. If democracy has become a gameshow where you vote for the one who makes you laugh most, or whatever, then were not worthy to have the vote.

Brexit is no better, but weve been cheated of proper debate, because the cabinet hasnt deigned to present simply the pros and cons. They have this sort of aristocratic view of the great unwashed, how you get them to vote a certain way. Hence the rise of Farage. People feel so cut off are so cut off.

More unexpectedly, this is also one reason why he thinks Batman v Superman makes for rewarding viewing. It concludes, he says, that we must all be responsible and involved. Batman is the questioning everyman, Superman, the American drone.

Our feeling of powerlessness must be why we love superheroes, he says arts in general, in fact, be it Batman or Coriolanus or sitting in the music hall and watching Lillie Langtry walk about being very flirtatious and lovely. For a minute, shes yours, out of your own maudlin, little life.

Irons is currently starring opposite Lesley Manville in Eugene ONeills Long Days Journey Into Night. Photograph: Seamus Ryan

That said, Irons concedes he doesnt quite clock it. I dont really understand how people get obsessed by a thing on screen, he says. Never have. Is it odd that someone who has worked in cinema so long feels like this? Perhaps not. Irons does not require vicarious living. He has been a star for 40 years. He is also a figure of everyday glamour: zipping about on his motorbike, puppy riding pillion, shinning up his castle, thin as a ripped whippet, a rogue and a vagabond, dressed for the part and proud of it.

At that Toronto supper, I tell him, there seemed to be a real sense that, at 67, the crowd still found him highly attractive. He demurs. The way people see me is a sort of composite of the films theyve seen me in, and some have had a sort of sexually attractive aspect. Quite useful if 50% of the audience is female.

But how will he feel in another decade? Does that frighten him? Oh, I ache a bit more in the mornings than I used to. My relationship with my wife changes as we get older, and I find that fascinating. There are great, good things that come. But I dont think when I get old, craggy and smelly Im going to mind.

He sucks his rollup and smiles. The secret to ageing is to remain interested and not look back. I know some things could have gone better, but at the time that was the best I could do. And then he says something rather amazing: Ive never regretted anything in my life. I guess getting into trouble doesnt seem so terrible if you dont care youre there.

High-Rise is on general release; A Long Days Journey Into Night runs at the Bristol Old Vic until 23 April; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens in the UK on 25 March, The Man Who Knew Infinity on 8 April

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