Japan, True Crime, Expertise, Algorithms, Tamil Tigers

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Japanese Train Stations

Allan Richarz | Citylab | 22nd May 2018

How Tokyo train operators manage 13 billion passenger-trips a year through the world’s most crowded railway stations. The method is part planning, part engineering, part psychology. Blue lamps at the ends of platforms deter suicide attempts. Melodic jingles alert passengers to departing trains, in place of alarmist whistles and buzzers. High-pitched noise generators, inaudible to the over-25s, disperse teenagers tempted to gather in station concourses (1,700 words)

Blood Will Tell

Pamela Colloff | Pro Publica | 23rd May 2018

Part one of a gripping two-part crime thriller set in 1985 Texas. School principal Joe Bryan is convicted of murdering his wife Mickey. The account given here presents Joe as a model husband, railroaded into jail by a suspicious brother-in-law, an over-reaching expert witness, and a police department wanting a quick conviction. Joe’s purported motive: Mickey discovered that Joe had a secret gay life, and Joe wanted Mickey’s life insurance. But bear in mind that part two is still to come (11,000 words)

Effective Action

Dominic Cummings | 22nd May 2018

Taleb-like note on how to distinguish between real expertise and bogus expertise. Real expertise can exist only in fields which produce enough hard information, and patterns, and feedback, to make good prediction and error-correction possible. In such fields — physics, and fighting, for example — the real expert is readily apparent. Macroeconomics, forex trading and politics have fuzzier metrics and more indulgent time-scales, leaving much more leeway for bogus experts to thrive (2,280 words)

When Algorithms Surprise Us

Janelle Shane | AI Weirdness | 23rd April 2018

Examples of the ingenuity of machine-learning algorithms. “A simulated robot was supposed to evolve to travel as quickly as possible. Rather than evolve legs, it assembled itself into a tall tower, then fell over. Other robots learned to turn their falling motions into somersaults, adding extra distance”. “An algorithm was supposed to minimize the difference between its own answers and the correct answers. It found where the answers were stored and deleted them, so it would get a perfect score” (1,200 words)

Women Fighters Of The Tamil Tigers

Kim Wall & Mansi Choksi | Longreads | 22nd May 2018

Travels through north-eastern Sri Lanka meeting women who fought for secession with the Tamil Tigers, hoping to create “a new order for women in the promised homeland”. Instead, with defeat in 2009, they lost everything. “Unlike men, female combatants who returned to civilian life were uniquely disadvantaged. The men had never ceased to be real Tamil men, thus they needed no reintegration, but the girls had ceased to be what a real Tamil woman is supposed to be” (5,980 words)

Video of the day Safari Botswana

What to expect:

Up close with wildlife in Botswana, from Okavango to Chobe to the Kalahari. By Tyler Fairbank

Thought for the day

Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive
Edward Gibbon

Podcast David Mamet | The Economist Asks

David Mamet talks to Anne McElvoy about the role of the male on modern culture in the age of #MeToo
(25m 28s)

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