Felix Sater, History, Guns, AI, Neo-Latin

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The Asset

Anthony Cormier & Jason Leopold | Buzzfeed | 12th March 2018

Riveting back-story of Felix Sater, recurrent figure in Trump-Russia scandals, routinely dismissed as a mobbed-up real estate developer, portrayed here as an astonishingly bold US agent penetrating the Russian Mafia, Al Qaeda, and North Korea. “He obtained five personal satellite telephone numbers for Osama bin Laden and helped flip the personal secretary to Mullah Omar, then the head of the Taliban, into a source who provided the location of al-Qaeda training camps and weapons caches” (5,000 words)

How To Change The Course Of Human History

David Graeber & David Wengrow | Eurozine | 2nd March 2018

“Most see civilization, hence inequality, as a tragic necessity. Some dream of returning to a past utopia, of destroying everything, and going back to being foragers again. But no one challenges the basic structure of the story. There is a fundamental problem with this narrative. It isn’t true. Our species did not, in fact, spend most of its history in tiny bands; agriculture did not mark an irreversible threshold in social evolution; the first cities were often robustly egalitarian” (8,700 words)

Making Guns Obsolete

Frances Woolley | Worthwhile Canadian Initiative | 5th March 2018

“The problem with guns is that they last too long. The IKEAs of this world ensure themselves repeat customers by making cheap products that do not last. The typical gun will outlive the typical gun owner. A gun must be robust to fire bullets accurately at minimal risk to the shooter. Gun manufacturers cannot build in obsolescence. They can only sell substantial numbers of new weapons by persuading people who already possess guns to want more and more of them” (1,517 words)

Humans Learn Faster Than AI — For Now

arXiv | MIT Technology Review | 7th March 2018

“Humans use a wealth of background knowledge whenever we take on a new game. This makes the games significantly easier to play. Faced with games that make no use of this knowledge, humans flounder, whereas machines plod along in exactly the same way. Removal of prior knowledge causes a drastic degradation in the speed with which human players solve the game. The time it takes for humans to solve the game increase as different kinds of prior information are removed” (1,180 words)


Tom Hendrickson | Eidolon | 12th March 2018

“The Latin of the Renaissance and Early Modern era is broadly known as Neo-Latin. Why do so few of us read, and even fewer teach, Neo-Latin? One reason is philological snobbery. A regrettable but persistent feature of classical scholarship is the contempt for the failure to master and reproduce the rules of Classical Latin. We look down on those authors, like medieval ones, who fail to follow the classical standard, even if that standard did not exist for them” (2,400 words)

Video of the day A Song For Europe

What to expect:

Music video for the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s mesmerising album, Orpheé, animated at Studio Aka (2’34”)

Thought for the day

The distance needed for humour is always missing from dreams
Siri Hustvedt

Podcast of the day A Conversation About Guns | Ezra Klein

“Why can’t we make progress on the guns debate? Because this isn’t a debate over policy. It’s a debate over identity”
(52m 54s)

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