Middle East, Minecraft, Adderall, History, Generals


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

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The Middle East In 2018

Patrick Cockburn | Independent | 29th December 2017

There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that Isis has been defeated, and that stability is returning to the northern tier of the Middle East between Iran and the Mediterranean, stretching through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Iraq is reconstructing after 40 years of conflicts. The bad news is that the arc of instability has shifted south, to the Arabian peninsula: “The stalemated war in Yemen is now the bloodiest and cruellest in the region” (1,280 words)

Minecraft

Alice Maz | 27th December 2017

Lessons in market economics from the virtual economy of Minecraft. Interesting throughout. “Read the patch notes and keep them in mind. Think about how changes to the game will change the market. You can make a killing in any game by hoarding the things that will be more valuable when the patch hits than they are right now”. “Study people. Know your competition and know what makes them tick. Know the major buyers, know the tendencies of the swarms of anonymous buyers” (9,700 words)

Adderall: Much More Than You Wanted To Know

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 28th December 2017

A psychiatrist writes: Everybody wants Adderall. It improves concentration. You work better. Doctors are supposed to prescribe Adderall only to sufferers from ADHD, a condition which determined patients can easily fake. Why not just give Adderall to everybody who asks, and let everybody concentrate better? Are there risks that outweigh the benefits? “I didn’t realize how much of a psychiatrist’s time was spent gatekeeping Adderall. This post records my attempt to figure out something better” (6,800 words)

Is History Probabilistic?

Daniel Little | Understanding Society | 30th December 2017

An interesting question to raise, if an impossible one to answer conclusively in a relatively short piece of writing: “Can we look at history as a vast series of stochastic events linked by relations of probabilistic causation? And does this permit us to make historical predictions after all?”. We can certainly do the first; but almost certainly not the second, because historical events are so diverse and complicated; history never tosses the exact same coin twice. Still, hold that thought (1,060 words)

Stars In Their Eyes

Sir Humphrey | Thin Pinstriped Line | 30th December 2017

Expert analysis of career paths at the top of the British armed forces — which, stripped of military terminology, generalises to the question of how to manage and reward talent within the particular conditions of a closed-shop workforce. Grooming a two-star Admiral “requires roughly 30 years of naval experience across a wide range of jobs and roles”. Shrinking the number of top jobs is a false economy, if it de-motivates a much larger number of mid-career officers aspiring to them (2,750 words)

Video of the day What Quantum Computing Isn’t

What to expect:

Scott Aaronson does his best to explain quantum computing to a lay audience (15’43”)

Thought for the day

Successful revolutions are those which end up by erasing all traces of themselves
Terry Eagleton

Podcast of the day Shakespeare And Power | Under The Skin

Russell Brand talks to Tony Howard about the lessons we can still learn from Shakespeare
(1h17m29s)

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