Isolationism, Election Fraud, Sports Medicine, Artificial Intelligence, Cutman, James Bond


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

The Isolationist Temptation

Richard Haass | Wall Street Journal | 5th August 2016

America grapples with its second great foreign-policy debate of the post-Soviet era. The first, from Bush 41 through 43, concerned the appropriate extent of a strong America’s global ambitions. Now the goalposts have moved, and Americans are debating whether their chastened country should give up the global leadership role held since WW2. “Isolationists must not prevail in this new debate over foreign-policy fundamentals — one which I had never imagined would take place in my lifetime” (2,400 words)

How To Hack An Election In Seven Minutes

Ben Wofford | Politico | 5th August 2016

American electronic voting machines are almost absurdly easy to hack. None is more secure than a typical home computer. In this year’s presidential election 43 states will use voting or tallying machines at least 10 years old. What would happen if the election was sabotaged? “Both sides would accuse the other of corruption and sponsoring the attack. And the political response to the country of origin would prove equally difficult. What does an Election Day cyber-strike warrant? Cruise missiles?” (8,700 words)

Magic Blood And Carbon-Fiber Legs

David Epstein | Scientific American | 5th August 2016

More on the contradictions of drug-testing in sports. “So, as the rules stand: having an incredibly rare gene mutation that boosts red blood cells is OK; training at altitude to boost red blood cells is OK; shelling out thousands of dollars to sleep in a tent that simulates altitude is OK; but injecting a drug, one approved for other medical uses that causes your body to act as if it’s at altitude — you’re a disgrace. How should we draw the line? Where does a fair advantage end and cheating begin?” (1,300 words)

Romance Novels and Human Intelligence

Matt Langione | JSTOR Daily | 10th August 2016

Google is feeding thousands of romance novels to its natural language algorithm in an effort to “humanise” the “conversational tone”. The decision points to a “recovered interest” among technology companies in developing artificial intelligence platforms that move easily beyond formal logic to appear more general and more anthropic. There is still a long way to go. The test is not that an AI can read a romance novel, but that it can read one “with delight or disdain” (2,200 words)

You’ll Leave As Handsome As You Arrived

Jonathan Drennan | Guardian | 9th August 2016

Conversation with Jacob “Stitch” Duran, cutman of choice for world-champion boxers; the cutman binds hands and treats minor injuries between rounds. “I have always loved the moments just before a fight when I wrap the fighter’s hands. It’s a sacred moment. Every single fighter is different – some are silent, some are loud – but in that time, most are nervous. I have had some that have cried to me. I hold their eye contact and they know that, with me in their corner, everything will be alright” (1,200 words)

Licence To Kill

Kingsley Amis | Times Literary Supplement | 3rd August 2016

Kingsley Amis annihilates a 1982 novel by John Gardner reviving James Bond. “Whereas its predecessor was bad enough by any reasonable standard, the present offering is an unrelieved disaster.” Gardner’s Bond is a cipher: “No ridiculous feats are required of him. His personal armament seems plausible, his car seems capable of neither flight nor underwater locomotion, and M calls him 007. Nobody else does, though. The designation is a pure honorific, like Warden of the Cinque Ports” (1,600 words)

Video of the day: Simorgh

What to expect:

The Conference of The Birds, interpreted in Persian music and calligraphic art (4’25”)

Thought for the day

It is the mark of a good action that it appears inevitable in retrospect
Robert Louis Stevenson

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