Cars, Work, Cows, Identity, Civil War, Robert Silvers

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Cars And Second-Order Consequences

Benedict Evans | 29th March 2017

“There are two foundational technology changes rolling through the car industry: Electric and autonomy. Electric is happening right now, while autonomy is a bit further off. It was easy to predict mass car ownership but hard to predict Wal-mart. The broader consequences of the move to electric and autonomy will come in some very widely-spread industries in complex interlocked ways”. But in brief: Buy Netflix and brewers, sell tobacco and emergency vehicles (4,300 words)

Darwin Was A Slacker And You Should Be Too

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang | Nautilus | 30th March 2017

Creative geniuses organise their lives around their work, but not their days. Four or five hours’ work each day seems optimal; this was the pace favoured by Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and Henri Poincaré, among others. “When you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognise as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking” (5,000 words)

Planet Of The Cows

Vaclav Smil | IEEE Spectrum | 29th March 2017

If extraterrestrials conducted a survey of life on Earth they would find that most of it, measured by weight, consisted of microscopic and tiny organisms — bacteria, algae, insects; and that macroscopic life was dominated by two large vertebrates, cows and people. Earth supports 1.5 billion cows weighing 600 million metric tons and 7.4 billion people weighing 370 million metric tons. “The aggregate mass of cattle and humans is crushingly larger than the total mass of all wild vertebrates” (695 words)

Where Are You Really From?

Zara Rahman | Real Life | 29th March 2017

In real life you can walk away from the dullard who persists in asking: “No, but where are you really from?” Online you have no choice but to comply when the drop-down menu demands to know “your” country. “For all the 1990s utopian dreams of the internet as a space where nation-state borders don’t matter, what we’ve ended up with is an online version of our offline realities in which borders are not transcended but exaggerated. Citizenships aren’t ignored but enforced more strongly” (5,400 words)

Fighting Words

John Fabian Witt | New Rambler | 7th March 2017

The rules of war, formulated by 18C Swiss jurist Emer de Vattel, say that in war all causes are accounted equally just; the conflict decides which cause should prevail. Defeated soldiers may not be punished merely for having fought on the “wrong” side. Vattel’s rules provided a widely accepted framework for regulating international conflicts. But what of civil war? Does a rebellion or a revolution or an attempted coup d’état qualify as a civil war? And do the rules of war apply then? (3,600 words)

Bob Silvers’s Vision

Adam Thirlwell | Paris Review | 29th March 2017

A marvellous portrait. “Bob’s charisma was due to a particular bundle of charmed values —justice, precision, intimacy, élan — rooted in a philosophy so comprehensive it could only be examined through specificities. It was always as if he had just met world history at a party … His editing oddly expanded your writing. It refused to allow you the consolation of abandoning a sentence at moments when you felt lazy, or tired, or lost. For those, in the end, were the points of greatest interest” (1,400 words)

Video of the day: A Fictive Flight Above The Real Mars

What to expect:

3-D video constructed using images from Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (4’31”)

Thought for the day

The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one
Margaret Atwood

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