Free Speech, Stephen Pinker, Europe, George Church, Almanacs


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Can Free Speech Survive The Internet?

Thomas Wells | Philosopher's Beard | 15th February 2018

The Internet has abolished the distinction between speech and publication. Everybody hears everything. Almost paradoxically, that makes free speech more difficult. Everybody reacts to everything, the world is full of indignation. “It is not enough to consider how your words will appear to the people for whom they are intended. You must bear in mind that anyone at all might discover them, share them with like-minded souls via social media, and hold you answerable to their moral standards” (3,300 words)

Reason Is Non-Negotiable

Stephen Pinker | Guardian | 11th February 2018

Book extract. How the Enlightenment thinkers of the late 18th Century shaped our modern view of the world. They elevated reason over faith, science over religion. They proposed a secular morality founded on “the well being of the individual”. They saw peace and prosperity as optimal and attainable. “War was no longer thought of as a divine punishment to be endured and deplored, or a glorious contest to be won and celebrated, but a practical problem to be mitigated and someday solved” (1,945 words)

Exquisite Corpse

Frances Stonor Saunders | Granta | 14th February 2018

Memories of Europe in 1947 — shattered by war, frozen by the coldest winter on record. “Ice floes drifted to the mouth of the Thames; trains carrying food supplies froze fast to the tracks; barges bringing coal into Paris became ice-bound. Each German family was allotted one tree for heating. By early 1946, the Tiergarten had already been hacked down to stumps, its statues left standing in a wilderness of frozen mud; by the winter of 1947, the woods in the famous Grünewald had been razed” (2,585 words)

A Conversation With George Church

John Brockman | Edge | 14th February 2018

Interesting throughout. Topics include climate change, biotechnology, AI. “For a computer to win at Go or Chess it has to use 100,000 watts of power while a human brain is using 20 watts. Admittedly, the body is using another 80 watts, but we’re very energy-efficient. Humans are also doing a lot more things that computers can’t yet do. We’re worrying about our family, about our careers, and about existential risk. We’re ahead, and biotechnology is going faster than computer technology” (6,400 words)

America’s Oldest Living Magazine

Marin Cogan | Topic | 14th February 2018

Beguiling account of the genteel rivalry between the Farmer’s Almanac (founded 1818) and the Old Farmer’s Almanac (founded 1792), which sell about five million copies a year betwen them, offering a mixture of gardening and household tips, astrology and astronomy, recipes, aphorisms and folkloric weather forecasts. But no politics. “Our last political commentary was in 1824. We said Congress speaks too much and spends too much. We haven’t had to make a political comment since” (3,600 words)

Video of the day The Madchines

What to expect:

If we lived in a world ruled by giant domestic appliances, these would be everyday scenes (0’36”)

Thought for the day

Be immortal, and then die
Jean-Luc Godard

Podcast of the day Atul Gawande | Project Syndicate

Atul Gawande talks to Katherine Semrau about ways to improve maternal and newborn health
(29'54")

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