Consciousness, Inernet Sabotage, Eugenics, American Judges, Sappho

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

The Consciousness Myth

Galen Strawson | Times Literary Supplement | 25th February 2015

Tom Stoppard's latest play, The Hard Problem, questions the nature of consciousness. Things don't think; yet the body is a thing: so how do people think? Recent developments in psychiatry and computing have spurred a new interest in consciousness. But it's an old story, and if you want to hear the rest of it, ask a philosopher. Philosophers have been tackling the Hard Problem intensively since Descartes made a stab at it 400 years ago (4,000 words)

People Who Could Really Break The Internet

Andrew Conway | Cloudmark | 5th March 2015

You could not hope to hack the top-level DNS servers that hold the internet together; but if you controlled enough bandwidth you could mount a denial-of-service attack against one or two Internet Exchange Points, which would make the rest of the Internet unusable. Who has access to that sort of bandwidth, and the expertise to point it all at one place? Some governments. At least a dozen corporations. And perhaps three individuals (1,600 words)

Engineering The Perfect Baby

Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review | 5th March 2015

Scientists can edit DNA — deleting bad genes and inserting good ones — with a technology called CRISPR, which is used on animals and is making its way into human medicine. But CRISPR can also edit the DNA of embryos, making changes inheritable by future generations. Laws and ethics have yet to catch up, but we have here the means to bio-engineer new strains of human; indeed, it may already have been tried (5,050 words)

Judges For Sale

Sue Bell Cobb | Politico | 6th March 2015

In most American states, judges run for office. The need to raise campaign funding skews the promises they make and the judgements they reach. How could it be otherwise? "Donors want clarity, certainty even, that the judicial candidates they support view the world as they do and will rule accordingly. They want to know that the investments they make by donating money to a candidate will yield favourable results" (3,400 words)

Girl, Interrupted

Daniel Mendelsohn | New Yorker | 9th March 2015 | Metered paywall

The Ancient Greeks ranked Sappho alongside Homer: He was "The Poet", she was "The Poetess". Plato called her the "tenth Muse". Her work has been almost entirely lost. Fewer than seventy complete lines survive. Even in that small compass her genius shines through. "For the better part of three millennia, she has been the subject of furious controversies — about her work, her family life, and, above all, her sexuality" (5,500 words)

Video of the day: What LBJ Said About Selma

What to expect: Recordings of President Johnson's telephone conversations; still photographs (5'45")

Thought for the day

I doubt if one ever accepts a belief until one urgently needs it
Christopher Isherwood (

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