Browser Daily Newsletter 1227

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

The Economics of Human Sacrifice

Ben Richmond | Motherboard | 1st February 2014

Interview with Peter Leeson, economist devoted to "finding the rational explanation for historically irrational things". Human sacrifice as practised by the Aztecs is relatively easy to understand: it functioned as a form of capital punishment for prisoners of war. The case of the Konds of Orissa is harder to explain: they bought people from neighbouring communities in order to sacrifice them. Was it a form of insurance?

Dear America, I Saw You Naked

Jason Edward Harrington | Politico | 30th January 2014

Confessions of an ex-TSA employee. Comes in some way beneath the low end of your expectations. "Just as the long-suffering American public waiting on those security lines suspected, jokes about the passengers ran rampant among my TSA colleagues. Many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people. All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels"

Generation War

Adam Kirsch | New Republic | 3rd February 2014

A German attempt to make a TV miniseries about WW2 hits all the wrong buttons. "The manipulation of sympathy, the defiance of historical realities, the insistence on showing the exception rather than the rule: These are practically requirements when it comes to making a middlebrow war movie. America has made plenty of them; but when the Germans do it, the rest of the world has a right to be concerned"

Baxter And The Second Machine Age

Andrew McAfee & Erik Brynjolfsson | Medium | 3rd February 2014

Extract from The Second Machine Age. It's easy enough to programme robots to do repetitive identical jobs; the problem comes in teaching them to deal with irregularities and uncertainties; that's why you tend to need a few humans around on even the most automated factory floor. But what if a full range of human skills could be transferred directly from shopfloor workers to robots? That's where Baxter comes in

Journalists As Jedis

Izabella Kaminska | Dizzynomics | 5th February 2014

Alternative models for journalism. Some are already with us — for example, "the news service that’s also something else". One for purists: "We get a religious like order of volunteer journalists, who forge a network based on the observation of strict hierarchies and codes of conduct. Free from corruption because they are driven by a higher mission, like the Jedi, they defend the veracity, quality and truth of everything"

Video of the day:  The Art Of Close-Ups

Thought for the day:

"It’s more comfortable to think you could write a novel, than to discover that you can’t" — Hugh Grant

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