Browser Daily Newsletter 1274


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

Rise Of The Robots

Editorial | Economist | 29th March 2014

The robot revolution has been a mild disappointment — so far. Bomb disposal bots and free-range vacuum cleaners are useful, but not intelligent. The world is about to change, however: Robotics has hit the exponential part of the curve where it starts shooting almost vertically upwards towards machines that will hardly be machines any more — they will be our friends, enemies, equals, servants and superiors (1,006 words)

Advice For A Happy Life

Charles Murray | Wall Street Journal | 28th March 2014

Marry young: "If you wait until your 30s, your marriage is likely to be a merger. If you get married in your 20s, it is likely to be a startup." Choose a mate with similar personal habits: the key variables are "punctuality, orderliness and thriftiness". Get religion — any religion. Cultivate ambition in youth, but give it a rest when you hit 40. And watch Groundhog Day often: it's the equal of Aristotle's Ethics, but a lot more fun (2,240 words)

Israeli Sniper Looks Into The Crosshairs

Gershon Morris | Forward | 17th March 2014

IDF sharpshooter tells of mission to disable "The Shamen", a Palestinian militant, with a bullet to the leg. "It is 10 times harder to shoot someone in the leg than to simply kill him. The leg is narrow, easily concealed by the land, and always moving. And I could have always shot above the leg and claimed it was an accident. No one would have known. It’s ironic how much effort we put into not killing these men" (4,550 words)

Big Data: Are We Making A Big Mistake?

Tim Harford | FT Magazine | 28th March 2014

Big-data enthusiasts make four main claims: That data analysis produces uncannily accurate results; that every data point can be captured, making sampling techniques obsolete; that observable correlation supersedes theories of causation; and that scientific or statistical models aren’t needed because "the numbers speak for themselves”. At best these are simplifications, at worst they are "absolute nonsense" (3,260 words)

Don’t Play Too Close To The Tar Pits

Alexander Aciman | Paris Review | 24th March 2014

Close reading of Dante's Inferno, canto by canto. This week, Canto 22, in which demons and sinners horse around in tar pits while Dante and Virgil look on. "Dante is spellbound by a pool of pitch, where, now and then, he will see a sinner expose his back above the boiling liquid to relieve his suffering for a moment before diving back down. If the sinner stays above the surface for too long, a demon swoops and tears him apart" (774 words)

Video of the day:  Big Bang Big Boom

What to expect: Time-lapse video. The story of evolution told through street art. Strange but spectacular

Thought for the day:

"The non-artists among us are always terribly busy, but finally disappear without a trace" — Helen Vendler

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