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Cecily Cecily

Writing Worth Reading

Kurdistan: A Nation In Waiting

Kurdistan manoeuvres towards independence. The threat of Islamic State has forced a temporary closing of ranks with the Iraqi government in Baghdad; but the Kurds doubt that Iraq can be saved. “I ask every person I meet whether Kurdistan will still be part of Iraq in a year, and the consensus view is that it will. When I put the timeframe at five years, however, most Kurds tell me that breaking away is far more probable” (4,550 words)

Automation Makes Us Dumb

Computerisation traps us in “a vicious cycle of de-skilling”. Pilots, doctors, architects and others cede work to machines and forget how to do it themselves. “By isolating them from hard work, [automation] dulls their skills and increases the odds that they will make mistakes. When those mistakes happen, designers respond by seeking to further restrict people’s responsibilities — spurring a new round of de-skilling” (2,355 words)

Salvage Beast

Portrait of Captain Nick Sloane, “one of the greatest seafarers at work today”. Insurers and bounty hunters pay him to “to intervene where other captains have failed, and to make the best of ships that are sinking, burning, breaking apart, or severely aground”. He refloated the Costa Concordia liner which foundered off Italy — a two-year job with a $1 billion budget. The “burly South African” may be “the most valuable man on the seas” (7,100 words)

Co-Operation

“The fashionable philosophy of individualism draws its respectability in part from an appeal to biology and specifically to the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection … The appeal to biology is not to the coherent body of scientific thought, but to a confused myth. It is a travesty of Darwinism to suggest that all that matters in social life is conflict. Social cohesion may become a critical condition for the survival of the society” (2,292 words)

Ivan Pavlov In 22 Facts

Pavlov trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell, called it a conditioned reflex, and got a Nobel Prize for the work. Not quite. He used a buzzer, not a bell (the Russian word zvonok was mistranslated). His Nobel was for earlier work on digestive physiology. He called his discovery the “conditional reflex” — conditional on the sound of the bell. Bonus fact: He bottled gastric juice from his lab dogs and sold it as a remedy for dyspepsia (1,100 words)

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