Money, Mushrooms, Extinction, Utah, Automation, Milan Kundera


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Collecting Metal

Nick Szabo | Unenumerated | 29th March 2017

A history of specie from the origin of the Universe to the arrival of banknotes. Earlier cultures conflated money, jewellery and precious metals. Ancient trinkets that we prize now for their craftsmanship would have been prized once for their gold content. “Coins were not necessary for the existence of marketplaces, but they did help make them more efficient. When Alexander the Great looted the treasuries of the Near East, he converted low-velocity treasure to high-velocity coinage” (6,200 words)

The Day After

Fred Bahnson | Oxford American | 28th March 2017

Fungus forager Alan Muskat leads a walk through the woods of North Carolina and explains how to find food after an apocalypse. Top tip: gather Ganoderma tsugae, the immune-boosting mushroom known in China as ling zhi (the mushroom of immortality) and in America as “white butt rot”, found on hemlock trees in June. “One of the Floridians asked if it really makes you immortal. Alan replied: “I’ve been taking it for only a couple of hundred years. Check back with me in another two’” (2,100 words)

The Sense Of An Endling

Elena Passarello | Longreads | 24th March 2017

The last auroch expired in the forests of Poland in 1627; Icelandic hunters strangled the last great auk in 1844; the last Tasmanian tiger froze to death in 1936. When the last bucardo died in Spain in 2001, scientists were ready; they harvested its DNA to clone anew. We have a name now for the practice of bringing species back from the dead: “De-extinction”. We also have a name for the last natural member of a disappearing species, and it may be saddest word in our language: “Endling” (3,100 words)

Utah Keeps The American Dream Alive

Megan McArdle | Bloomberg View | 28th March 2017

Utah has the highest rate of upward mobility in America, some of the best social services, and one of the smallest state governments. How so? Three things: A “cheerfully effective bureaucracy”; an engaged and supportive community; and the overwhelming moral and financial power of the Mormon Church. It is uplifting to see the American dream flourish in Utah, and depressing to think how difficult it would be to replicate these conditions anywhere else. The key is “cultural agreement” (4,700 words)

Security Orchestration And Incident Response

Bruce Schneier | Schneier On Security | 29th March 2017

You can automate only what you are certain about; and it’s easy to get over-confident. In the mid-1990s the US Army decided that satellites, drones and battlefield sensors would clear away the fog of war. “Military strategists mistakenly believed that data would give them certainty.” A decade of over-reach followed. “In a world of uncertainty, the focus is on execution. In a world of certainty, the focus is on planning. Uncertainty demands initiative, certainty demands synchronisation” (1,400 words)

The Kidnapped West

Milan Kundera | Granta | 1st March 1984

Kundera’s great essay on the plight of Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, written when Communist power seemed immovable. “In the eyes of its beloved Europe, Central Europe is just a part of the Soviet Empire. And why should this surprise us? By virtue of its political system, Central Europe is the East; by virtue of its cultural history, it is the West. But since Europe itself is in the process of losing its own cultural identity, it perceives in Central Europe nothing but a political regime” (8,300 words)

Video of the day: Autopilot

What to expect:

Hands-off demonstration of Tesla’s self-driving car technology (3’27”)

Thought for the day

A person usually has two reasons for doing something, a good reason and the real reason
Thomas Carlyle

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