Best of the Moment
Jonathan Derbyshire | Prospect | 18th July 2013
Mainly about India, but spilling over into more general areas of human development, politics, economics. "In order to get there in a democracy you have to fight for it. There is no way that democracy automatically guarantees that. I first argued that functioning democracies prevent famine in around 1979/80. I think today I would put it slightly differently and say that human beings in a functioning democracy prevent famine"
Edward Mendelson | New York Review Of Books | 17th July 2013
Deeply strange. Apple as religion. "Programmers risk excommunication if they violate canon law by bypassing Apple’s banking system or ignoring its infallible doctrine. Rebellious heretics can jailbreak an iPhone and induce it to accept software anathematized by Apple, but a heretic’s phone is refused communion when presented for repair at the Apple Store". Dissenters have their own cult within the church: Apple Script
Mark Johnson | The Economist | 19th July 2013
On the rise of technologies that predict crime. No precogs as yet. Systems rely on data analysis to find patterns in past crime, and use those to warn of crime-prone places and situations. British police are testing a computer programme called PredPol: "Cops working with predictive systems respond to call-outs as usual, but when they are free they return to the spots which the computer suggests"
Charlie Warzel | Buzzfeed | 18th July 2013
Useful wrap. Nothing new, but everything brought into focus. The era of free online content and services is coming to an end. The turning point was the successful launch of iTunes in 2003, which showed how many people were willing to pay for digital content if the price was right, the payment system was secure, and the transaction was low in friction. Now paywalls are rising everywhere: one-third of US newspapers are using or building them
William Scheuerman | Foreign Affairs | 18th July 2013
How Wild Bill Donovan, head of US espionage in WWII, hired emigré German Jewish Marxist intellectuals to explain Nazi culture to Washington. "The Frankfurters argued that the Nazis’ radical anti-Semitism was an attempt to guarantee the complicity of the broadest possible swath of the populace in Nazi crimes. With their hands dripping with blood, most Germans would likely see no real choice but to fight to the death against the Allies"
Thought for the day:
"Democracy is a guarantee of process. It offers no guarantee as to how that process will be pursued and what will come of it" — Amartya Sen