America, Design, Kim Philby, African Drones

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

The Anger Of The White Working Class

Alexandra Wolfe | Wall Street Journal | 29th July 2016

Profile of J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, about growing up poor in Appalachia. “He describes how his mother got pregnant at 18, was divorced by 19 and remarried four times”. His grandmother was “a caring but tough woman who once set his grandfather on fire after he came home drunk one night”. Vance credits his grandparents, religion and the Marine Corps for setting him straight. He graduated Yale Law School, and is now a venture capitalist. “It feels like my spaceship crash-landed in Oz” (1,030 words)

Why Growth Will Fall

William Nordhaus | New York Review of Books | 30th July 2016

Review of Robert Gordon’s “magnificent” book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, about the economic history of the United States over the past 150 years. Gordon’s work is exceptional “in providing a statistical analysis of the uneven pace of growth and technological change, in describing the technologies that led to the remarkable progress during the special century, and in concluding that the future is unlikely to bring anything approaching the economic gains of the earlier period” (3,900 words)

The Pioneer Who Walked Away

Sally Davies | Nautilus | 28th July 2016

Quantum physicist Fotini Markopoulou worked with Lee Smolin “at the vanguard” of discovering quantum gravity. She was acclaimed as “one of the most radical and fiercely creative theoretical physicists alive today”. Then she walked away from a brilliant career in hard science to train as an industrial designer, and joined a London tech start-up making a pulsating wristband. What changed? “It’s a devotion thing — your devotion has just gone. It’s not really a loss of faith; I changed” (6,400 words)

Trust No One

Malcolm Gladwell | 28th July 2014

Previously paywalled at the New Yorker, now ungated on the author’s website. Discussion of Ben Macintyre’s biography of the British traitor Kim Philby, and of trust and suspicion in the espionage world. “When Kim Philby decided that he wanted to join the British Secret Intelligence Service, he ‘dropped a few hints here and there’, and waited patiently. A formal application wasn’t necessary. Then he got a call from someone at the War Department, and was invited to tea at St. Ermin’s Hotel” (4,400 words)

Agents Of Hope

Zoe Flood | Guardian | 27th July 2016

Drones will transform Africa — delivering goods, surveilling terrain, linking communities without need for roads. Rwanda has contracted with an American drone startup for nationwide delivery services, starting with parachute-drops of blood to transfusion units. South Africa is using drones to overfly national parks at night in search of poachers. The apparent constraints are legal rather than technical: in Kenya drone trials were abandoned after regulators said that they posed security risks (1,900 words)

Video of the day: The Prisoner’s Dilemma

What to expect:

Simple explainer of the thought-experiment central to game theory. How we behave depends upon how we expect others to behave (5’44”)

Thought for the day

Don’t complain too loudly about the wrongs done you; you may give ideas to your less imaginative enemies
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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