Luck, Libraries, Money, Appalachia, Decisions


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

Just Deserts

Robert Frank | Hedgehog Review | 25th July 2016

We tend to attribute our successes to our own talent and hard work, and to deny the part of luck in our lives; which betrays a clear cognitive bias, but a useful one, if it serves to motivate us. We are more likely to work hard if we think that hard work brings success. “Denying the importance of luck may actually help people summon the formidable efforts generally required for success … Pride in one’s achievements is often one of the most powerful motivations to expend the effort it takes to succeed” (4,600 words)

The Library Of Last Resort

Kyle Chayka | n+1 | 14th July 2016

All the world’s information goes into the Library of Congress — and very little comes out, at least online. The last Librarian, James Billington, was a “luddite” whose grasp of technology stopped at the fax machine. His successor, Carla Hayden, has a lot of catching up to do. The Library has 160 million items in its collection. Digitising them will take decades at best — centuries, at the current rate of scanning. “We’re trying to figure out what our place is in a society that has Google” (3,500 words)

Central Banks And Digital Currency

Marilyne Tolle | Bank Underground | 25th July 2016

The Bank of England blog reflects on whether central banks should create their own digital currencies. By doing so they would probably put an end to most commercial banking, since government-issued digital currency would offer overwhelming advantages, including risk-free deposits and instant transactions. The central bank would assume complete control of money supply. Private banks would “lose their power to create money and become pure intermediaries of loanable funds” (1,500 words)

Hillbilly America

Rod Dreher | American Conservative | 11th July 2016

Admiring review of J.D. Vance’s grim memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, about growing up poor in Appalachia. “Our homes are a chaotic mess. We scream and yell at each other like we’re spectators at a football game. At least one member of the family uses drugs. At especially stressful times, we’ll hit and punch each other, all in front of the rest of the family, including young children; much of the time, the neighbors hear what’s happening. A bad day is when the neighbors call the police to stop the drama” (4,350 words)

Is Your Nervous System A Democracy?

Ari Berkowitz | Scientific American | 21st July 2016

The political economy of nervous systems. Repetitive actions in simple organisms can be dictated by single cells — the chirping of a cricket, for example. But in humans and other complex organisms the nervous system functions more like a democracy, or the wisdom of crowds. Thus we perceive colors by the “proportional voting” of three kinds of photoreceptors which respond to different wavelengths of light. Millions of cells make their own individual decisions, and the majority prevails (1,250 words)

Video of the day: •hathor|room•

What to expect:

Surreal flow of images, vaguely psychedelic, by Benjamin Portas, with sound by Ned Beckley (3’00”)

Thought for the day

There is no philosophy without the art of ignoring objections
Joseph de Maistre

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