China, Cosmology, Language, Martin Scorsese, Democracy

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What Xi Jinping Wants

Graham Allison | Atlantic | 31st May 2017

Chinese president Xi Jinping is overseeing perhaps the biggest shift in global power in world history, from West to East. “The size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance.” Xi promises to make China “fully developed, rich, and powerful” by 2049, and the country seems united behind him. “Today, few in China would say that political freedoms are more important than reclaiming China’s international standing and national pride” (3,040 words)

Curtains For Us All

Martin Rees | Edge | 31st May 2017

Astronomer Sir Martin Rees talks about space travel, extraterrestrials, multiverses, AI, pandemics. “We can observe many galaxies, out to 13 billion light-years from us; however, there’s no reason to think that that’s all of physical reality. We want to know how much further reality extends beyond the domain we can see. It may go so far that all combinatorial options are fulfilled, that there are avatars of us far away making the right decision where we might make the wrong one” (7,200 words)

Who Needs A Perfect Language?

Charlie Huenemann | Aeon | 30th May 2017

Survey of attempts down the centuries, notably by Leibniz, to construct a perfect language capable of expressing precisely and algebraically every thought and thing. This “mad passion for a language freed from all ambiguity” provoked at least 80 such projects in the 17C and 18C alone, none of which made much headway. Their failure was a good thing; because if we could fix every human thought perfectly in language, we might never feel the need for new thoughts, nor new words (1,300 words)

Standing Up For Cinema

Martin Scorsese | Times Literary Supplement | 31st May 2017

Defence of film as an art form. “Every time I get back into the editing room, I feel the wonder of it. One image is joined with another image, and a third phantom event happens in the mind’s eye – perhaps an image, perhaps a thought, perhaps a sensation. Something occurs, something absolutely unique to this particular combination or collision of moving images. And if you take a frame away from one or add a couple of frames to the other, the image in the mind’s eye changes” (1,800 words)

How Voting Makes Us Stupid

Benjamin Wittes & Jonathan Rauch | Brookings | 31st May 2017

Voters are “very ignorant, and always have been”. Rationally so; it makes no sense for each person to make a deep study of national governance. Direct democracy is thus dangerous and doomed to fail. America needs to rebuild trust in representative democracy, which delegates power to political parties and political professionals. “The Founders got it right when they established a hybrid system that mixes direct with indirect democracy, popular with professional decision making” [PDF] (9,200 words)

Video of the day: I Am Clim

What to expect:

Compilation of work by director and designer Clim (1’00”)

Thought for the day

To do criticism is to make harder those acts which are now too easy
Michel Foucault

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