Giraffe Edition 45
Can A Robot Be Too Nice?
Leon Neyfakh | Boston Globe | 15th August 2014
Should we try to give robots human-like personalities? Arguably not, on the grounds that too much anthropomorphism might make us over-respectful of robots, too reluctant to pull the plug. But in practice, robots with human traits will tend to be easier for us to understand and use. The issue is rather that personalities are hard to construct; and our notions of where robots belong in society are still taking shape (2,160 words)
A Reader’s Guide To Strategy
Paul Kennedy | Foreign Affairs | 18th August 2014
Review and discussion of Strategy, Lawrence Freedman's "monumental" study of theory and practice in war, politics and management. The section on management sits awkwardly; the historical influence of the Boston Consulting Group is scarcely comparable with that of Clausewitz. But still, this is "one the most significant works in the fields of international relations, strategic studies, and history to appear in recent years" (2,960 words)
Ferguson: What’s The Crime?
Paul Cassell | Volokh Conspiracy | 19th August 2014
To obtain a federal civil rights conviction against the police officer who shot Michael Brown, prosecutors would have to prove mens rea — that the officer acted with a “bad purpose or evil motive”. Negligence or recklessness alone would not be enough, and would result in an acquittal. A criminal case under state law for murder or manslaughter would be safer, if prosecutors find a prima facie case (1,124 words)
Attending James Joyce’s Birthday Party
Padraic Colum | New Republic | 13th May 1931
Another gem from the archives of the New Republic. "It is tea time at the Joyces'. Mrs. Joyce gives us the best tea and the nicest cakes that are to be had in any house in Paris". James Joyce is re-reading Madame Bovary, and going often to the opera. He considers modern Irish writing over-rated: "If we lift up the back-skirts of English literature we will find there everything we have been trying to do" (2,800 words)
The Anaesthetized Queen
Lindsey Fitzharris | Chirurgeon's Apprentice | 15th August 2014
On the first use of anaesthetics in childbirth. A Scottish doctor called James Simpson experimented with ether in 1847 but found it too smelly and explosive. He switched to chloroform, which seemed to do the job pretty well; the first child born to a mother under chloroform was christened "Anaesthesia". Widespread acceptance came after Queen Victoria took chloroform for her seventh delivery in 1853 (1,120 words)
Video of the day: Filming Wildlife
What to expect: BBC producer discusses advances in cameras. Gorgeous visuals
Thought for the day
"Unfortunately, few things that are really interesting are in the first place clear"
— Bernard Williams