Languages, Feminism, Russian Television, Armenia, Watership Down, Alan Turing

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What The World Will Speak In 2115

John McWhorter | Wall Street Journal | 2nd January 2015

The number of languages commonly spoken around the world will shrink from 6,000 to 600 in the coming century, as globalisation and urbanisation force competition and choice. Larger languages offer more opportunity, smaller languages smack of backwardness. English will remain the world's common language, by virtue of having got there first. "If the Chinese rule the world, they will likely do so in English" (2,530 words)

Listen Up, Women Are Telling Their Story

Rebecca Solnit | Guardian | 30th December 2014

"I have been waiting all my life for what 2014 has brought. It has been a year of feminist insurrection against male violence: a year of mounting refusal to be silent, refusal to let our lives and torments be erased or dismissed. It was a watershed year ... Women are coming out of a silence that lasted so long no one can name a beginning for it. This noisy year is not the end – but perhaps it is the beginning of the end" (4,960 words)

Inside Putin’s Information War

Peter Pomerantsev | Politico | 4th January 2015

The main job of Russian television used to be the relatively simple one of making the president look good: “The news is the incense by which we bless Putin’s actions". But since the invasion of Ukraine, television has taken on a more sophisticated political role at home and abroad. "The aim is to confuse rather than convince, to trash the information space so the audience gives up looking for any truth amid the chaos" (3,880 words)

A Century Of Silence

Raffi Katchadourian | New Yorker | 1st January 2015 | Metered paywall

As the centenary of the Armenian genocide approaches, the author seeks traces of his family in the Turkish town of Diyarbakir, where his grandfather survived the massacres. Decades of "Turkification" have abated; the atmosphere is "welcoming" to returning émigrés; the Armenian cathedral has been restored. But history hangs heavy. "If you have a hundred years’ worth of fear in you, it’s hard to change from one day to the next” (14,300 words)

I Can’t Do Humans

Alison Flood | Guardian | 4th January 2015

Richard Adams, now 94, talks about writing his classic children's story, Watership Down. "To create his rabbit characters, he drew from people he had met and from the world of literature. Bigwig was based on an officer he had known in the war, a great fighter at his best when given explicit orders, while Fiver was derived from Cassandra, the figure from Greek mythology who had the power of prophecy" (1,340 words)

What Was Alan Turing’s Imitation Game?

Drew McDermott | The Critique | 31st December 2014

Alan Turing "was a brilliant thinker, but an average writer". His papers "read like lists of thoughts that were put down in the order they occurred to him. His "Turing test" for artificial intelligence, requiring a machine to impersonate human conversation, is "a fun thought experiment and not much more". It recurs so often in popular scientific discussion because it is easy to understand, not because it has much practical value (4,300 words)

Video of the day: We Are Built To Be Kind

What to expect: Psychologist Dacher Keltner discusses how evolution favours good people (4'36")

Thought for the day

To be a composer, you must remember a tune that no-one else has thought of
Robert Schumann

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