Earplugs, Medicine, Prison Life, Meritocracy, Cass Sunstein, Advertising


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

In The Hearing Of Soldiers

Mary Roach | Daily Beast | 18th June 2016

Earplugs reduce noise by about 30 decibels — useful against the background din of an armoured vehicle or a helicopter, essential against the 187-decibel boom of an anti-tank weapon that can bring permanent hearing loss in a single second. The problem is that earplugs also prevent soldiers from understanding orders and noticing signs of danger: “If this were a natural hearing loss, we’d be questioning whether they’re still deployable. If that’s not insanity, I don’t know what is” (4,400 words)

Writing About Medicine

Andrew Solomon | Electric Literature | 23rd June 2016

Language is central to medicine. It is very hard to cure a condition that cannot be described. “Even veterinarians, trained to diagnose animals who cannot put their complaints into words, begin by labelling the illness and proceed by specifying the treatment.” Every visit to the doctor is a test of both parties’ language skills: “He seems not to understand the problem because you can’t describe it lucidly enough. You don’t understand the proposed treatment because he can’t explain it” (4,100 words)

Four Months As A Prison Guard

Shane Bauer | Mother Jones | 23rd June 2016

Tales of prison life from a reporter enrolled as a guard. PG-15 for sex and violence. “The human resources director tells us that if we recruit a friend to work here, we’ll get 500 bucks. She gives us other tips: Don’t eat the food given to inmates; don’t have sex with them or you could get 10 years; if we have friends or relatives incarcerated here, we need to report it. She hands out fridge magnets with the number of a hotline to use if we feel suicidal. We get three counseling sessions for free” (35,000 words)

Beyond Meritocracy

Chris Dillow | Stumbling And Mumbling | 22nd June 2016

Meritocracy is overrated. It is a useful principle to have at work in a well-functioning society, but it can also prop up a badly-functioning society. “Imagine we lived in a centrally planned economy which was, thanks to its lack of freedom, a pure meritocracy. The job of commissar of bread supply therefore goes to the best person for the job. Is this efficient? Obviously not. Nobody has sufficient skill to control and plan something as complex as bread production. The job simply shouldn’t exist” (590 words)

A Conversation With Cass Sunstein

Tyler Cowen | Medium | 22nd June 2016

Topics include Star Wars, affirmative action, and behavioural nudges. “If one person is appealing to another in a way that wholly bypasses deliberative capacities, there’s at least a risk of manipulation. The nudges appropriate in a democratic society are either nudges that appeal to people’s reflective or deliberative capacities, or that don’t exploit or inflame solely people’s non-deliberative capacities. If you’re doing that, you owe them publicity about what you’re doing” (12,000 words)

Television Advertising

Ben Thompson | Stratechery | 21st June 2016

It may seem as though television advertising has survived the internet era undamaged: “Advertising’s share of GDP has remained consistent for 100 years. TV’s share of advertising, after growing for 40 years, has also remained consistent at just over 40% for the last 20 years”. But perhaps the real threat is coming from another direction. The top 25 television advertisers are traditional consumer-goods and services companies. What happens if and when the internet sweeps them away? (1,600 words)

Video of the day: How Venice Works

What to expect:

The bridges, the hydraulics, the logistics. A city of 60,000 residents, 124 islands — and three million tourists (18’15”)

Thought for the day

True love is usually the most inconvenient kind
Kiera Cass

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