Plato, Poetry, AI, Work, Pianos

Why The West Needs Plato

Adrian Wooldridge | Engelsberg Ideas | 4th September 2020

Rulers of 19C Britain and America learned from reading Plato's Republic that good government was a moral duty, and perhaps the most important moral duty in a secular society. We have lost sight of that truth in the West; with the result that our governance is in steep and perhaps terminal decline, as the pandemic has shown. If we hope to halt that decline, we should start by re-reading Plato (2,400 words)

The Art Of The One-Word Poem

Paul Stephens | MIT Press Reader | 7th September 2020

One-word poems were fashionable in the 1960s thanks largely to Aram Saroyan, for whom they served as a strategy for being a writer while doing the least possible actual writing. In 1968 Saroyan took the next step by writing (or not writing) Ream, which comprised 500 blank sheets of paper. "Ream might be read as a one-word poem whose one word is implied but never directly stated" (3,800 words)

Building Character

Mariana Lin | Paris Review | 4th September 2020

Thought experiment, though the practice cannot be far behind. Can we make an AI more likeable by giving it the right backstory — depicting its origins, its aims, and its beliefs? "A rich origin story will give substance to what may later seem like arbitrary decisions around the AI personality — why, for example, it prefers green over red, is obsessed with ikura, or wants to learn how to whistle" (1,700 words)

A Seat At The Table

Jonathan Berry et al | American Compass | 6th September 2020

Manifesto from an American think-tank that wants to be seen as conservative but also pro-labour. Interesting if true. "The defence of markets has at times made us overly solicitous of businesses. As we advocate for owners and managers in their pursuit of profit, and celebrate the enormous benefits their efforts can generate for us all, we must accord the same respect to the concerns of workers" (770 words)

Verne Edquist

Katie Hafner | Glenn Gould | 3rd September 2020

Obituary for Glenn Gould's piano tuner, Charles Verne Edquist. "Verne liked to think he could take a piano beyond mere sound, into realms of color. And he liked to think he was giving people a glimpse of that color every time he tuned a piano. Unlike many tuners, who banged a key as hard as they could, he kept it gentle, careful not to hit the key any harder than he had to" (1,875 words)

Video: Write Your Story | Willy Hajli. A dissatisfied employee rebels against a dystopian employer (3m 30s)

Audio: Consider The Greenland Shark | LRB. Katherine Rundell introduces us to a fish that weighs a ton and can live for 500 years (8m 57s)

Afterthought: "The curious are always in some danger" — Jeanette Winterson

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