Luddites, Pseudoscience, Ikea, American Hispanics, Leadership, Terry Pratchett

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

Man Versus Machine, Again

Tim Harford | Financial Times | 13th March 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

The Luddites were skilled textile workers who correctly foresaw that factory automation in the early 19th century would weaken their own bargaining power by enabling factory owners to use less skilled labour. They were not simpletons who thought that machines would destroy jobs in general. The Luddite view remains a useful starting point for considering how intelligent robotics may affect jobs in the future (790 words)


Nigel Warburton | Five Books | 13th March 2015

Philosopher Stephen Law discusses "dodgy" systems of belief, including Christian Science and homeopathy, which falsely claim to be scientific. "There remain many mysteries. Many may be beyond our ability to solve. That’s all fine. I don’t say that you should only ever believe something if you’ve got really good evidence for it. But I do say you shouldn't pretend that you’ve got good evidence when you haven’t" (3,690 words)

It’s Ikea’s World

Beth Kowitt | Fortune | 12th March 2015

Ikea is brilliant at selling Ikea, everywhere in the world. Eight of its ten biggest stores are in China. After a hasty first expansion into America flopped, the Swedish firm learned to study local cultures and to show how Ikea could fit into them. “We are world champions in making mistakes, but we’re really good at correcting them.” Bonus fact: The internal nickname for a product that takes too long to put together is a "husband killer” (3,400 words)

Hispanics Transform America

David Rennie | The Economist | 13th March 2015

The Hispanic population of the United States is expected to double by 2050, to one-quarter of the nation, while non-Hispanic whites become a minority. Fears of a permanently unassimilated Hispanic underclass are overblown, but cannot simply be dismissed. "Calm logic should prod older Americans to welcome well-educated young taxpayers of any colour. But in politics culture matters just as much as logic" (2,300 words)

The Art Of Agile Leadership

Venkatesh Rao | Ribbonfarm | 12th March 2015

Leaders rarely lead. They are helpless in the face of events like everybody else, but they handle it better. We need a word for that: "Leadering is the art of creating a self-serving account of whatever is already happening, and inserting yourself into it in a prominent role." The worst thing in a leader is vision; it is probably wrong, and even if it is right, circumstances will change. The best is agility: go with the flow (3,525 words)

Obituary: Sir Terry Pratchett

Anonymous | Telegraph | 12th March 2015

Pratchett's "immaculately written, wildly imaginative" Discworld books revived comic fantasy as a genre, paving the way for Harry Potter. Patchett was often compared with Swift, but he was closer in spirit to P.G. Wodehouse. He created "a self-contained world in which he could dictate everything from the laws of physics to the number of colours in the spectrum (eight), with human nature the only factor outside his control" (2,080 words)

Video of the day: Flowers

What to expect: Time-lapse using 9,624 stills taken over four months to show flowers blooming (2'21")

Thought for the day

The more horrible this world, the more abstract our art
Paul Klee (

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