Design, Presidency, Innovation, Decisions, BHL, Psychometrics

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

Erik Spiekermann: No Free Pitches

Matt McCue | 99u | 9th May 2017

Aphorism-packed interview with “German font god” Erik Spiekermann, designer of branding for Audi, VW, Deutsche Bahn and many others. “I’m designing a lot of books at the moment because I’ve always been annoyed by the fact that so many books are badly designed. I’m not talking about the covers but the internals. There’s no excuse why big publishers can’t have a decent template. I get my style sheets done, and I design a book in an afternoon that might take other people a week” (3,100 words)

The Rules About The Rules

Kevin Williamson | National Review | 2nd May 2017

America’s tripartite government is “a tricycle with a wonky wheel — the presidency”. Congress and the Supreme Court collaborate in a “reasonably effective and stable” modus vivendi. But the presidency is an “opportunistic political organism” which always seeks to grow, and in recent times has gained power by inflating the role of Commander-in-Chief and by claims to executive privilege. Donald Trump demands yet more powers — and demonstrates, by his behaviour, why he should not get them (1,800 words)

The Case For A French Industrial Revolution

Anton Howes | 9th May 2017

Many factors combined to launch the Industrial Revolution in 18C Britain — including the political economy, and the individual talents of one or two thousand scientists and industrialists. But what if those individuals had been lacking? Would the Industrial Revolution have happened elsewhere? Probably yes — and in France a few decades later. France had the necessary human capital, but innovation was slowed by religious intolerance and political instability (1,100 words)

Simple Rules For Complex Decisions

Jongbin Jung et al | Harvard Business Review | 19th April 2017

We worry about handing life-changing decisions over to algorithms — for example, a doctor’s decision about a medical procedure, a judge’s decision about setting bail; and it is certainly worrying when decisions are made by algorithms too complex for human understanding. But very simple algorithms, the workings of which are clear to all, can be a great aid to consistent decision-making. For example, a three-step rule to setting bail “significantly outperforms expert human decision makers” (1,010 words)

Macron, The Novel

Bernard-Henri Levy | Project Syndicate | 9th May 2017

“Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French presidential election could be mistaken for the plot of a novel that no publisher would accept. And then, the one who finally does so finds himself with a runaway bestseller. At the end of these implausible twists and turns, at the moment of truth, a young man, practically unknown a year ago, accedes to the presidency of France. My only wish is to greet a man who, with a throw of the dice, abolished chance and the hazards of the road before him” (980 words)

Cambridge Analytica Explained: Data and Elections

Frederike Kaltheuner | Privacy International | 13th April 2017

Big-data companies collect public facts (your location, browsing history, purchasing history, your friends, etc.); from which they infer more personal information (what you will buy next, your political leanings, your sexual orientation, your current emotional state, etc.). Cambridge Analytica claims also to derive a “psychometric profile” of your personality traits, aptitudes, and abilities. This last technique is oversold, for the moment. But yes, do worry. “It’s Orwell when it’s accurate, and Kafka when it’s not” (1,800 words)

Video of the day: Dan Pink On Persuasion

What to expect:

RSA talk with hand-drawn animation. “We are all in sales now” (3’13”)

Thought for the day

We choose between descriptions of options, not between the options themselves
Amos Tversky

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