Eclipse, Tech, Xi Jinping, Self-Consciousness, Fascism

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


Vi Hart | 13th October 2017

Notes on watching the recent solar eclipse: “I’d seen photos of coronas around suns, but this wasn’t that. I thought there might be a glow of light in a circle, or nothing, or, I don’t know. What I did not expect was an unholy horror sucking the life and light and warmth out of the universe with long reaching arms, that what I’d seen in pictures was not an exaggeration but a failure to capture the extent of this thing that human eyes, and not cameras, are uniquely suited to absorb the horror of” (2,220 words)

The Scale Of Tech Industry Winners

Benedict Evans | 13th October 2017

American tech as oligopoly. “The four leading companies of the current cycle — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon — have together over three times the revenue of Microsoft and Intel combined. This change is even more striking if you shift the timeline. If you compare GAFA in their current dominance with Wintel in their period of dominance, you see not a 3x difference in scale but a 10x difference. Being a big tech company means something different now to in the past” (1,170 words)

The Thoughts Of Chairman Xi

Carrie Gracie | BBC | 13th October 2017

Perceptive profile of Chinese President Xi Jinping. His father was a Communist Party grandee in the 1950s, disgraced and jailed in the 1960s. The young Xi worked on a farm and slept in a cave until his father’s return to power in the 1970s. Xi has built his personality cult on that interlude of poverty — he is a man of the people, of the soil. Politically, too, he is something of a throwback, bent on re-asserting the power of the Communist Party and re-centralising that power in his own hands (5,900 words)

How To Build A Self-Conscious Machine

Hugh Howey | Wired | 4th October 2017

The distinctive feature of the human mind is not so much consciousness as it is self-consciousness — the capacity to spend a lot of time misunderstanding one’s self. “The blueprint for a self-conscious machine is simple. You need (1) A body that responds to stimuli; (2) a method of communication; and (3) an algorithm that attempts to deduce the reasons and motivations for these communications. The critical ingredient here is that the algorithm in (3) must usually be wrong” (10,100 words)

The Cultural Axis

Robert Paxton | New York Review Of Books | 14th October 2017

On the centrality of cultural politics in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. “Cultural concerns were vital to the imperial projects of Hitler and Mussolini. We do not normally associate their violent and aggressive regimes with soft power. But the two dictators were would-be intellectuals. They thought literature and the arts were important, and wanted to weaponize them as adjuncts to military conquest”. Cinema was the first priority for the fascist message; then music; then literature (3,000 words)

Video of the day: Argerich And Barenboim

What to expect:

Mozart’s Sonata K448 in D for Two Pianos, Finale (6’48”)

Thought for the day

It doesn’t matter how you say the lines, it matters what you mean
David Mamet

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