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Your Inner Drone Pick of the day

Book extract. We have passed a tipping-point in the automation of our lives. “As we grow more reliant on applications and algorithms, we become less capable of acting without their aid. That makes the software more indispensable still. Automation breeds automation”. We lose our skills. We surrender our agency. “When we launch an app, we ask to be guided. We place ourselves in the machine’s care” (3,800 words)

Anatomy Of Attention

Brain scans tell us what the brain does — or, or least, where it reacts — when subjected to particular stimuli. The next big question: “How do neurons signal to one another and to a cognitive command center that they have something important to say?” When we understand the nature of attention, we will be closer to answering the question of what it means to be conscious; or, perhaps, making the question redundant (1,400 words)

Executive Pay: Mind The Gap

Recommended primarily for the eye-opening chart entitled “Actual, estimated and ideal pay ratios of CEOs to unskilled workers, according to respondents in 16 different countries”; which says, roughly speaking, that most people have no idea how much top executives are getting paid. Americans think that the average CE0 earns 30 times as much as the average worker. The true figure is 350 times as much (950 words)

The Soldiers’ Philosopher

Interview with Nancy Sherman, first professor of ethics at the US Naval Academy, who teaches philosophy to naval officers, and reports that her students almost invariably gravitate towards Stoicism. “It fits an idealized model of invincibility, of external goods not mattering. I can expand the perimeter of my agency so that the only thing that matters is what I can control – namely my virtue” (2,000 words)

The Road To Bamiyan

Realities of post-war Afghanistan encapsulated in the story of a 100-mile stretch of new road between Kabul and Bamiyan, begun in 2006 with money from Italy. Less than half has been built. Thirty people have been killed along the route in the past four years. The contractors pay off local villagers to pay off the Taliban. The road will probably never be finished, and the section in place already needs repairing (3,260 words)

Learning From The Goldman Sachs Tapes

“The key question for public policy and regulatory reform is: What were the supervisors afraid of? That their bosses were themselves in cahoots with Goldman? Were they intimidated by the political and legal resources that Goldman could bring to bear in case of any adverse decisions? Were they afraid that they did not fully understand the economic consequences of saying no to Goldman?” (1,355 words)

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