China, Kanesh, John Conway, Language, China, Borges

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

Is China A Meritocracy?

John Fitzgerald | Inside Story | 11th August 2015

Political philosopher Daniel Bell argues that China is a meritocracy, and that its system of appointing leaders on merit is proving superior to electoral democracy. But we know far too little about the Chinese state to reach any firm conclusions about its inner workings. All we can say with confidence is that the public is excluded from Chinese politics; it has been throughout history; and the results have been decidedly mixed (2,800 words)

Ancient Economics: The VCs Of BC

Adam Roberts | New York Times | 27th August 2015

A trove of clay tablets found in Turkey opens a "stunning, nearly miraculous window into ancient economics" by preserving the daily messages sent between merchants in the town of Kanesh and their counterparts across Central Asia four thousand years ago. The messages reveal a "staggeringly advanced" business culture utilising cheques, bonds, joint-stock companies — even a secondary market in debt (Metered paywall) (1,830 words)

John Conway’s Life In Games

Siobhan Roberts | Quanta | 28th August 2015

Delightful portrait of John Conway, Princeton mathematician, friend of Martin Gardner, backgammon addict and game theorist, whose inventions include the Game Of Life, the game of Sprouts, and the Doomsday Algorithm — the last of which supplies the day of the week for any given date. The Game Of Life was so popular among early geeks that in the mid-1970s "one-quarter of all the world’s computers were playing it" (7,300 words)

China Loves The Lingo Of Games

Christina Xu | BoingBoing | 21st August 2015

Half the Chinese population plays videogames; so gaming jargon quickly crosses over into everyday language. "开挂 or 开外挂 is the act of running an illegal plug-in on a game. Outside of gaming, it has become an expression of disbelief, as well as an adjective to mean exaggerated or enhanced. In English, you might say that a particularly beautiful sunset looks Photoshopped; in Chinese, you’d say it was running an illegal game plug-in" (1,150 words)

China’s Stock Market Takes A Tumble

Briefing | The Economist | 28th August 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

The turmoil in China's stock market is embarrassing for the government, which has handled the situation badly and lost much credibility, but it does not signal a domestic economic crisis. The Chinese market is relatively small and highly speculative. Worry instead about the world's emerging markets and commodity exporters which look set to be squeezed hard between slowing Chinese demand and rising American interest rates (3,445 words)

Interview: Jorge Luis Borges

Ronald Christ | Paris Review | 1st December 1967

Wide-ranging conversation; perhaps too much about other writers and not enough about Borges himself, but never dull. "In Tlön I may have been thinking of traum, the English dream. But then it would have to be Tröme, which might remind the reader of a railway train: t-l was a queerer combination. I thought I had invented a word for imagined objects called hrön. Yet when I began learning Old English, I found hran was a word for whale" (13,500 words)

Video of the day: How To Age Gracefully

What to expect: Advice to younger people from people of all ages. Starts cute, but cumulatively very moving (4'40")

Thought for the day

If you find it difficult to smile, do not open a shop
Rory Sutherland (

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