29th March 2013 | Evgeny Morozov | New York Times
Makers of tech products aim for frictionless design: It just works. But convenience comes at a cost. Consumers are deprived of awareness and understanding. "Pick any electrical appliance in your kitchen. The odds are that you have no idea how much electricity it consumes, let alone how it compares to other appliances and households. This ignorance is neither natural nor inevitable; it stems from a conscious decision by the designer. Multiply such ignorance by a few billion, and global warming no longer looks like a mystery"
28th March 2013 | Yuri Zhukov | Foreign Affairs
Russia is playing a long game. It declined to bail out Cyprus this time round because prospective Russian losses from a banking collapse were relatively modest, there wasn't time to evaluate the oil and gas prospects that Russia would want as security, and the European Union could probably have frustrated any deal that Cyprus and Russia struck. But now Cyprus is descending into a long and deep recession. Russia can hope to pick up everything it wants, more cheaply and far more discreetly
17th March 2013 | Elina Halonen | InDecision
Interview with advertising executive about use of economics and sociology in marketing. "To a good decision scientist, a consumer preference for buying advertised brands is perfectly rational. The manufacturer knows more about his product than you do, almost by definition. Therefore the expensive act of advertising his own product is a reliable sign of his own confidence in it. It is like a racehorse owner betting heavily on his own horse"
27th March 2013 | Claire Cameron | LA Review Of Books
Interview with Sam Garrett, who translated Herman Koch's The Dinner from the original Dutch. Interesting throughout, on the pleasures and pitfalls of translation and the specificities of Dutch culture. "The Dutch are less scatological than English or French speakers in their use of bad language. They go in more for hideous, lingering diseases, and for the genitalia"
28th March 2013 | Matthew James | McSweeney's
Yes, it's McSweeney's. But it's not a funny. It's a sad, gentle, intelligent reflection on the movement in the American right away from small-government conservatism towards Tea-Party populism, from a writer who returns home to Kansas after 15 years away and feels the change in mood. "I’m talking about the number of people who believe Obama is probably OK with Sandy Hook, or even glad it happened, because it serves his greater goal. I have no idea what those poll numbers would be, but I would be terrified to find out"
29th March 2013 | John Lanchester | London Review Of Books
Essay. Appreciation of Game Of Thrones, books and films. Rare breakout from fantasy genre. Fantasy and sci-fi books may sell millions of copies, but general readers of literary usually won't touch them. Why is Game different? Because it is brilliantly plotted, television has delivered it to a wider audience, it captures our present public mood of uncertainty and anxiety, and it doesn't rely on magic (though magic is there). It's addictive. Hence the worry over whether George Martin will ever finish it
Thought for the day:
"The role of thinkers is primarily to keep options open ... So when the brute force of events make a change inevitable, there is an alternative available" — Milton Friedman