Free 15 min read

Rohit Krishnan on bureaucracy, experimentation and problems of scale

Uri: I’m excited to be here today with Rohit Krishnan of Strange Loop Canon, who has burst out the gates this year as one of the most interesting and prolific bloggers in an indescribable corner of the internet that I vaguely describe as “tech culture writing”.

Rohit, something I’ve been interested in from reading your writing is whether there’s a few core lenses you could articulate that underlie your worldview. I don’t know if you read Matt Levine, but one thing I always enjoy about him is that I think he brings some clear and consistent lenses to bear on a lot of different situations, and every edition of his newsletter is like “here's some applications of my classic lenses to some new situations.” He’s given a bunch of his lenses names, like everything is securities fraud, and I find that very helpful too.


Free 2 min read

The art of the limerick

Do limericks still form part of the culture? They were commonplace and often rude, but it's ages since we saw a decent (or indecent) new coinage. This week's bleg was for the best limerick which draws, however slightly, on the questions and answers in this week's Browser quiz.

... and of course, our ever-delightful readers delivered in spades. Here are just a few of our favourites...

Bryan Baird kicks us off with not one, but two offerings:

The first, regarding the quote on friendship:

It's a Wonderful Life has a book
Inscribed with a memorable hook
Yet no one can find
A source for the line
Though many made effort to look

The second, on the picture book that is Shrek:

Though the first story form was quite slick
Shrek really took off as a flick
The loveable ogre
(Mike Myers made brogue-er)
Made money, and that is what sticks!


Free 18 min read

Lea Degen On Saving San Francisco And Getting Out Of The Kiddy Pool

In today's interview, The Browser's Applied Divinity Studies (ADS) sits down with Lea Degen, the host of Frontiers, a podcast that aims to make the tacit state of knowledge in advancing areas of technology, science, and the arts explicit and accessible to a broader audience. She is also the author of "We Must Save San Francisco", a piece in Palladium arguing for the importance of reforming America’s vanguard city.

ADS: I want to start by asking about the cultural backdrop to your essay.

You’re touching on a few subcultures here. There’s the libertarian / Progress Studies piece, the YIMBY / New Urbanism / NUMTOT piece, and then the burgeoning Palladium-style Governance Futurism view. How do these overlap? How would you even describe Governance Futurism?

Lea Degen: All these subgroups recognize that stagnation is not an option for solving problems that have their roots in scarcity (of which San Francisco housing

Free 3 min read

Idiomatic Expressions That Need Explaining

Let's chew the fat — unless you have other cats to whip (autres chats à fouetter)though, if so, you could always borrow a cat's paw (猫の手も借りたい), if you will pardon my French. Anyhow, that's enough walking through hot porridge (chozeni kolem horké kaše); if we don't stop soon you will be telling us where lobsters spend the winter (где раки зимуют). So here's where the dog is buried (Вот, где собака зарыта): Browser readers told us about idiomatic expressions in any language which are completely incomprehensible until you have them explained to you.

Douglas Gray wrote in to tell us that, in Mexico:

dando tres pies al gato means, very roughly “ giving three feet on the cat" – that is, a dangerous or impossible or unnecessarily complicated situation.

Charales Troob informed us that:

"to have a bee in one's bonnet" is derived from the Scottish idiom a head full of
Free 1 min read

Jim Fruchterman on listening at scale and using technology for social good

Jim Fruchterman talks about the trajectory of his life from Stanford and rocket science via Silicon Valley to his present role as a "karmic consultant" helping non-profits, charities and communities to develop effective tech-based strategies and solutions in areas such as disability, education, and climate. Jim is a MacArthur fellow, CEO of Tech Matters, and founder of Benetech

Jim Fruchterman on Twitter  

Tech Matters:

Jim's recommended book:  What's the Future, by Tim O'Reilly

WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us: O’Reilly, Tim: 9780062565716: Books
WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us [O’Reilly, Tim] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us
Free 21 min read

Lars Doucet On Taxing The True Value Of Land

Uri: I’m delighted today to welcome back Lars Doucet, this time to talk about the economic philosophy called Georgism, which is all about taxing the true value of land.

Lars, like many people I studied economics in college but am now just completely unable to think about it, I know it’s very important but when I see things like a full and rigorous explanation of Georgism I just really struggle to focus.

So, I thought today we could have a conversation about Georgism that just aims to give people like me a basic intuition for the land value tax. And we’ll assume the reader is coming in un-cantakerously, such that you don’t need to prove the claims of Georgism so much as outline what they are and why they’re plausible. (You’ve written extensively about this, so anyone who wants more details can follow up

Free 12 min read

The Man In Seat 61 on global train travel, hidden subsidies, and Burmese numerals

Sylvia Bishop: Hello, and welcome to Browser Interviews. Today I am overexcited to be here with Mark Smith, The Man in Seat 61 - and his dog Pip, if I heard that right?

Mark Smith: Yeah!

Sylvia Bishop: Mark, thank you so much for coming on. To start with, for our readers who don’t know Seat 61, can you give us a quick overview of what this wonderful project is?

Mark Smith: Well, it’s to help people with train travel. If you want to travel from the UK to just about anywhere in Europe, or around Europe, or indeed by train and ferry around the world, it’s the place to start and have a look at what the options are.

Sylvia Bishop: Yes. I did a quick check and I think you cover every continent except Antarctica, which is reasonable!

Mark Smith: There aren’t many trains

Free 5 min read

Foods With Misleading Names

Mongolian barbecue was invented in Taiwan. Homard a l'Americaine was devised by a French cook in Paris. English muffins were first made in New York City. French fries were invented in Belgium when Belgium was still called the Spanish Netherlands. No Dijon mustard is made in Dijon. The Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America. Russian dressing is unknown in Russia.

We asked our beloved Browser readers to surprise us with more and better examples of other foods and drinks which make utterly misleading claims about their places of origin, which they duly did....

Tom McLaughlan writes in with four suggestions:

​1) You can't buy spaghetti bolognese in Bologna.
2) Austrians created the croissant.
3) Sauerkraut is Chinese.
4) Vindaloo from India was originally Vinha d'alhos from Portugal.​

Buon appetito/Guten appetit/Bon appetit/Desfrute de sua refeição/Buon appetito/请享用​

Basel Kirmani tells this charming tale:

In Hong Kong
Free 28 min read

Learning, by John Jay Chapman (1911)

Part of our Browser Classics series, recommending outstanding essays from centuries past.

John Jay Chapman was an American essayist. He "injured himself so badly, in remorse after a student brawl, that medical staff amputated his left hand," and edited the journal The Political Nursery (which surely could use a revival?). He was the author of 23 books including Learning and Other Essays, of which the following is the title essay.

Text courtesy of Project Gutenberg

An expert on Greek Art chanced to describe in my hearing one of the engraved gems in the Metropolitan Museum. He spoke of it as ‘certainly one of the great gems of the world,’ and there was something in his tone that was even more thrilling than his words. He might have been describing the Parthenon or Beethoven’s Mass—such was the passion of reverence that flowed out of him as he spoke. I

Free 19 min read

Alexander Berger On Philanthrophic Opportunities And Normal Awesome Altruism

Alexander Berger is the Co-CEO of Open Philanthropy, focused on their Global Health and Wellbeing grantmaking. He speaks to The Browser's Applied Divinity about how the world is getting better, why that means philanthropic opportunities are probably getting worse, and the normal awesome altruism of having kids.

On Donating Kidneys, Giving Money, And Being Normal

Applied Divinity: Several years ago, you donated a kidney to a complete stranger. At the time, The Economist wrote of you:

Mr Berger would be angry that I called him a saint. He thinks "deifying donors only serves to make not donating seem normal." He'd rather such donations be seen as "one of the many ways a reasonably altruistic person can help others."

I also don’t want to deify anyone, but objectively speaking, this isn’t normal behavior right? How would you like to be seen?

Alexander Berger: I think kidney donation (and donating

Free 25 min read

Lea Steinacker on Ada and ada

Baiqu Gonkar: Welcome to The Browser. Today, I’m with Lea Steinacker, who is an award-winning journalist, researcher and entrepreneur. She’s also the co-founder and COO of ada, which is a learning platform for corporate training, looking specifically at the future of work. Did I get that right?

Lea Steinacker: Yes, absolutely.

Baiqu Gonkar: Lea and I  go way back -- I’ve known her since I was 15 years old. And it’s really surreal to be interviewing you. I’ve been following her journey, which is incredible. She’s just such a… how do I describe her? A sunshine person, when you’re in her presence, you just feel like you’ve got to smile.

Since we left school you’ve obviously done a huge amount, including, apparently, just finishing off a PhD. So can you just tell everyone a bit about your journey? Specifically, I’m

Free 19 min read

Agnes Callard and Robin Hanson on the secrets of communication and how to be an expert

The Browser's Uri Bram and Applied Divinity Studies sit down with Robin Hanson and Agnes Callard to discuss their new podcast, Minds Almost Meeting.

Uri: Agnes, Robin, you just started a podcast together, Minds Almost Meeting. What kind of thoughts are best expressed (or discovered) in speech? What kinds of thoughts are best expressed in writing? How do the two interact?

Robin: I love conversation, but we academics don’t get that much credit for it. A podcast is a place to do that, but most podcasts don’t actually have a real conversation. They are usually lots of softball questions that let someone give a series of prepared speeches. In a real conversation, the other person might challenge you and derail your speech.

Agnes: The thought that can worst be expressed in writing is a question.  This is not only because one needs the other person to offer an

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