Browser Newsletter 1068

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

Best of the Moment

The Signalling Value Of Religious Beliefs

Paul Troop | Practical Ethics | 26th July 2013

"Perhaps what is important is not whether religious beliefs are true, but that they are specific to that religion. That is, religious beliefs act as a ‘badge of identity’ for that religion that is difficult to fake. It would be easy for adherents to that religion to learn the weird and wonderful tenets of that religion, but difficult for outsiders. Thus beliefs could be the means of working out whether a person is safe to trust"

The Charitable-Industrial Complex

Peter Buffett | New York Times | 26th July 2013

Son of billionaire philanthropist denounces billionaire philanthropy. "As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to 'give back'. It’s what I would call 'conscience laundering' — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity" (Metered paywall)

NSA: The Decision Problem

George Dyson | Edge | 27th July 2013

Why police states are necessarily stupid. "It will never be entirely possible to systematically distinguish truly dangerous ideas from good ones that appear suspicious, without trying them out. Any formal system that is granted (or assumes) the absolute power to protect itself against dangerous ideas will also be defensive against original and creative thoughts. For human beings individually and for society, that will be our loss"

The Science Of Winning At Poker

Christopher Chabris | Wall Street Journal | 26th July 2013

The relevant science used to be psychology. Then it was probability. Now it's game theory. "The right way to analyse a poker decision is to consider your opponent's range — that is, the full set of different hands that he could plausibly have, given all the actions that he has thus far taken." Which is too difficult to do while playing a real game; you have to train your instincts using poker apps

Wildcatting: A Stripper’s Guide To The American Boomtown

Susan Elizabeth Shepard | Buzzfeed | 25th July 2013

On the culture and economics of striptease clubs, in particular a club called "Whispers" in the oil-boom-town of Williston, North Dakota. "I knew I’d found the right place, even if the stage was just a corner of linoleum-tiled floor. You could tell that this was the kind of club where dancers might occasionally wear flip-flops or cowboy boots on stage and where an ankle monitor or extra pounds wouldn’t keep a friendly dancer off the schedule"

Video of the day: Radiolab

Thought for the day:

"The greatest achievements of philosophy are the formulation of questions that haven’t occurred to scientists " — Alex Rosenberg

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