China, Basic Income, Railways, Radiation, Uber

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

China’s Worst Policy Mistake

Nicholas Kristof | China File / NYRB | 7th April 2016

China’s one-child policy, abolished last year, “violated the most fundamental of human rights”, while bringing little, if any, benefit. It imposed forcibly a slowing of population growth that would almost certainly have happened voluntarily. There may have been some tiny contribution to economic growth at the time, but at the cost of an ageing population and a contracting labour force for decades to come (4,000 words)

What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?

Andrew Flowers | Five Thirty Eight | 25th April 2016

The case for universal basic income. Simply by handing out the existing welfare budget you could give every American $700 a month. But would this deter people from working? To some degree yes. But if we expect many if not most existing jobs to be lost to robotics, that is probably a good thing. “Providing for basic needs will allow innovation to flourish. You’ll have 100 percent of your time available to you” (5,100 words)

Trains In Space

James Meek | London Review Of Books | 27th April 2016

Discursive essay about the place of railways in British life. “The modern British dream is to live in a spacious, high-ceilinged Georgian or early Victorian house, abounding in perfectly preserved period detail, but wired, WiFi-ed, insulated and kitchen-applianced up to the rafters. Few will get to live that dream; but for a few hours at a time, for the price of a ticket, you can live in the railways” (8,600 words)

Is Radiation As Bad As We Thought?

Manfred Dworschak | Spiegel | 26th April 2016

Thirty years after the nuclear meltdown, Chernobyl is “a nature paradise”. Wolves, wild horses, bison and lynx thrive in the forests around the reactor. “The still-elevated radiation seems to be less damaging to nature than humans are.” The evidence from Chernobyl and Fukushima is that we exaggerate the dangers of radiation. Large doses kill, but “cells can deal very well with low dosages of radiation” (2,900 words)

How Uber Conquered London

Sam Knight | Guardian | 27th April 2016

Gritty account of how Uber’s London business grew from nothing to ubiquity within four years. The day Uber took off was the day London taxi drivers staged their anti-Uber protest, gridlocking to the city. Uber was all over the news. Downloads jumped by 850%. The early work was all in recruiting drivers. But it’s clear from this account of Uber’s trajectory that drivers are an interim solution, pending the arrival of driverless cars (8,600 words)

Video of the day: Bridge Girder Monster Machine

What to expect:

Raw footage of a 300-ton, 580-foot bridge-building machine at work in China (10’17”)

Thought for the day

‘Friend’ is sometimes a word devoid of meaning. ‘Enemy’, never
Victor Hugo

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