Browser Daily Newsletter 1205

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

China Reorganises For The Future

Eric X. Li | Foreign Affairs | 10th January 2014

November's Communist Party Plenum launched "the biggest reform to Chinese political governance in decades" — the recentralisation of fiscal authority. "The new tax system and debt control mechanism will prevent local governments from misusing resources to reach short-term economic targets. With its new spending power, central government can finance social policies for years to come" (Free registration required)

Death Loves The Number Eight

Robert Krulwich | NPR | 8th January 2014

The likelihood of your dying during a given year doubles every eight years. When you are 33 the chances of your dying that same year will be about 1 in 1,500; when you are 41, the odds are 1 in 750; and so on. Why? The implication is that the immune system deteriorates at a steady pace throughout life, leaving us with fewer resources to combat disease. But the particular base-eight math has, as yet, no known explanation

A Manual Of Sacred Technology

Adam Kirsch | Tablet | 7th January 2014

On the relationship between religious behaviour and religious belief in Judaism. "Jewish observance can be likened to a technology — a series of tools that, if used correctly, will produce the desired result, which is to please God and win his blessing. The Talmud, then, would be a manual of sacred technology, showing how to calibrate every prayer, ritual, and action so that it will be most effective"

The Internet Of Things: Disaster Awaits

Peter Bright | Ars Technica | 9th January 2014

About all those fridges, doors, TVs etc. connected to the Internet. It's great fun initially, but what about later? Manufacturers will shift focus to new models, leaving old models without software and security updates, as now with mobile phones; and the software probably wasn't that robust in the first place. Unless you want to change your fridge every two years, prepare for a house full of appliances that work for somebody else

I Could Have Done That

Julian Baggini | Independent | 7th January 2014

A common criticism of much modern art is that "anybody could do that" — which is increasingly true. Technology has made the resources of professional photographers and composers available to amateurs. Abstract visual art favours painters skilled in relatively simple forms. Conceptual art is often made by other hands. Art still demands a creative imagination, but technical skills are no longer such a barrier

Life As Ponzi Scheme

Mark Johnston | Boston Review | 2nd January 2014

Philosopher Samuel Scheffler argues in Death and the Afterlife that we should care more about the survival of humanity than about our individual, inevitable deaths; if humanity is doomed — for example by climate change or infertility — then individual lives lose their value and meaning. Scheffler overstates his case; we are not merely hostages to the future; but his argument deserves hearing

Video of the day:  Pick Them Back Up

Thought for the day:

"Models are to academics like screenplays are to Hollywood waiters: everyone has one" — Benjamin Morris

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