Appetisers, Behaviour, Talk Radio, Trust, Machine Learning, Death Arbitrage


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

My 14-Hour Journey To The End Of Endless Appetizers

Caity Weaver | Gawker | 18th July 2014

When TGI Friday’s advertises “endless appetisers”, does that really mean endless appetisers? There’s one way to find out. A classic post from Gawker, soon to close, bankrupted by Peter Thiel’s lawsuit. “The mozzarella sticks are golden, dense, and huge. As a frequent and enthusiastic consumer of mozzarella sticks, I estimate that these are about twice the standard size. They arrive in herds of six, lightly dusted with shavings of ‘Parmesan’. Each plate contains 1,100 calories” (6,200 words)

Uber Is Forcing Us To Be Better Customers

Nick Leftley | MEL | 17th August 2016

When you take an Uber ride, you rate the driver. Did you know that the driver also rates you as a passenger, and that if you get a lot of low scores you will be offered fewer rides and eventually at all? This is a good dynamic; it incentivises us to behave better as customers; so it is odd is that Uber makes it hard for the user to find out his or her own passenger rating — and on Lyft discovery is impossible. Your passenger rating should be right there when you open the app (1,500 words)

Meet The Late-Night Radio DJs

Miranda Sawyer | Guardian | 14th August 2016

Conversations with London’s late-night talk-radio hosts. “My show is from 10pm until 1am and about halfway through we lose the daytime listeners and callers, and get the people on the fringes. When I do the show, I turn all the lights off. It’s for the insomniacs, the people driving, working all night in factories. I would say losers, because I’m a loser, but it sounds bad. We’re a drop-in centre for the lost, lonely and emotionally battered. It’s more like chatting at the bus stop or at a coffee shop” (3,800 words)

The Meaning Of Trust

Tim Harford | Undercover Economist | 17th August 2016

A holiday in Bavaria provokes a reflection on the nature of trust. The “rather old-fashioned guest-house” “happily allowed us to run up a bill of nearly €1,000 without ever demanding more than a signature”. Room keys were stored “in an unlocked cabinet in a quiet corridor”. And, indeed, “our belongings were not stolen and we paid our bill when we left”. Trust and prosperity tend to go together. Rich people have less incentive to steal. “Prosperity not only requires trust, it also encourages it” (850 words)

The Concept Of Cat Face

Paul Taylor | London Review Of Books | 11th August 2016

How machines learn. “Google’s neural network analysed images selected at random from YouTube videos. If this network had been fed images labelled as ‘contains cats’ or ‘doesn’t contain cats’ and trained to work out the difference for itself, that would have been impressive enough. What Google achieved is more extraordinary, and slightly chilling. The images weren’t labelled in any way. The network distilled the concept of ‘cat face’ out of the data without any guidance” (4,900 words)

Death Arbitrage

Matt Levine | Bloomberg | 16th August 2016

Is it wrong to profit from death? American regulators pursue a hedge fund which paid hospice patients to open joint investment accounts that rewarded the survivor when one party died. “These patients had something valuable. They were going to die soon. Lathen found a way to make a profit off of it — $9.5 million. Lathen gave $10,000 each to the people who supplied his most important raw material: death. I don’t know if that’s the going rate, but he found willing sellers” (2,300 words)

Video of the day: Dear John

What to expect:

Music video for James, by Péter Vácz. “A couple’s trip to a mountain is interrupted by a black cat” (4’3″)

Thought for the day

Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking
J.W. von Goethe

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