Automation, P-Values, Rhinos, El Salvador, Patton, Advertising


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

Crash: Computer-Assisted Disaster

Tim Harford | Guardian | 11th October 2016

A computer one hundred times more accurate and one million times faster than a human will make 10,000 times as many mistakes. “This is not to say that we should call for death to the databases and algorithms. There is at least some legitimate role for computerised attempts to investigate criminal suspects, and keep traffic flowing. But the database and the algorithm, like the autopilot, should be there to support human decision-making. If we rely on computers completely, disaster awaits” (5,200 words)

The Problem With P-Values

David Colquhoun | Aeon | 11th October 2016

The job of science is to establish facts as precisely as possible. But how do you distinguish between a genuine discovery and a chance event? The rule of thumb is to discard experimental results which have more than a 5% likelihood of occurring purely by chance. But that still leaves a big margin for wishful thinking. “If you observe a ‘just significant’ result, say P = 0.047 (4.7%) in a single test, the chance that you are wrong is at least 26%, and could easily be more than 80%” (2,400 words)

Inside The Deadly Rhino Horn Trade

Bryan Christy | National Geographic | 3rd October 2016

PG-13 for disturbing pictures of mutilated animals. Profile of Dawie Groenewald, the “butcher of Prachtig”, a game rancher who faces almost 2,000 charges of rhino racketeering, and who is fighting in the South African courts to legalise the sale of rhino horn. “Everybody knows I’m not a poacher. I believe that an animal like a rhino should be mine. If I buy that animal, it belongs to me. If you want to shoot the rhino, it’s my rhino; it’s on my farm. If I want you to shoot it, you can shoot it” (6,100 words)

Prince Of Peace

Lauren Markham | VQR | 10th October 2016

Gang violence has reduced El Salvador to a state of de facto civil war, with 104.2 murders per 100,000 inhabitants last year, against 5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in the United States. In San Salvador, the country’s “political and homicide capital”, Mayor Nayib Bukele thinks the remedy lies with social reforms and civic improvements. But his plan to cut crime by installing streetlamps throughout the city foundered when the lamps themselves were stolen in broad daylight (6,400 words)

Addressing The Troops

George Patton | Lapham's Quarterly | 5th June 1944

General Patton’s speech to American troops before the invasion of France; breathtaking, even on the page. “You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you right here today would die in a major battle. Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all men. Yes, every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he’s not, he’s a liar. Some men are cowards, but they fight the same as the brave men or they get the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as scared as they are” (1,033 words)

Welcome To Hoodwink

Katie Brinkworth | McSweeney's | 5th October 2016

Satire. “We are not an advertising agency. We are Hoodwink, a collective of artists, dreamers, poets, storytellers, digital wizards, disrupters, gambling addicts, misfits, misfit toys that have creepily come to life and refuse to die no matter what we do, and one lone gunman. We cultivate. We think-o-vate. We adver-tain. We make up words. We don’t write copy, we craft maddening, inescapable verbal labyrinths, creating a sense of wonder that compels your audience to ask: What does this even mean?” (750 words)

Video of the day: Mervyn King: Why Banks Fail

What to expect:

Former governor of the Bank of England talks about the causes and consequences of bank failures (3’28”)

Thought for the day

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes
Henry David Thoreau

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