Physiognomy, Money, Alasdair Gray, Lenin, Layli Long Soldier, Germany


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Physiognomy’s New Clothes

Blaise Aguera y Arcas et al | Medium | 8th May 2017

We can teach machines to recognise faces. But we should not teach machines to judge faces, because we will merely be teaching them our own prejudices. Physiognomy has a long history as a bogus science. Appearance is no predictor of behaviour. “It is urgent that developers, critics, and users of artificial intelligence understand both the limits of the technology and the history of physiognomy, a set of practices and beliefs now being dressed in modern clothes” (9,800 words)

The Rock-Star Appeal of Modern Monetary Theory

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian | Nation | 8th May 2017

Introduction to a newly popular school of economics based on the premise that government creates money, and can always create more money. There are no purely fiscal limits. “We don’t have to ‘find’ the money to ‘pay’ for universal health care by ‘cutting’ the budget elsewhere. In fact, our government already works that way: Spending must precede taxation, or there would be no dollars in the economy to tax. It’s the political will to spend on certain things, not the money to afford it, that’s lacking” (2,500 words)

Alasdair Gray: The Art of Fiction

Valerie Stivers | Paris Review | 1st November 2016

Highly entertaining interview with the Scottish writer and painter, described here as a “little grey deity” and a “notoriously digressive and polymathic conversationalist” with “a high voice capable of a range of reedy, shrill, or menacing intonations”. The digressive quality is much in evidence. “Throughout our interview, Gray gallantly struggled to quell his discursive tendencies, sometimes shuddering and saying, unprompted, ‘I’m trying to stick to your question!’ as if to do so caused physical pain” (6,330 words)

Dreaming Revolution

Catherine Merridale | New Statesman | 9th May 2017

Admiring portrait of Lenin as revolutionary. “He could order the deaths of tens of thousands, he encouraged class-based hate, yet all this was his duty, not some sadistic rampage. Tight-lipped and sober, always with a pen to hand, he took no joy in bloodshed, never witnessed executions. There was no white horse for this man to ride, nor did he tour the front lines of his own long war. As other people’s libraries burned, he worked an 18-hour day and never grudged the paperwork” (3,040 words)

You Should Be Reading Layli Long Soldier

John Freeman | LA Times | 5th May 2017

Remarkably vigorous review of Whereas, a debut poetry collection from Oglala Sioux writer Layli Long Soldier. “You do not slip into this book on silken bolts of easy beauty, but scratch yourself raw on language disassembled into glittering shards. Long Soldier uses repetition like a hammer on concepts she believes need breaking, and lyricism when she believes a reader needs to feel wonder. When she must be absolutely clear on what’s happened, Long Soldier writes in prose” (940 words)

Germany Responds To Emmanuel Macron

Charles Grant | Centre For European Reform | 8th May 2017

Useful note on the implications of Emmanuel Macron’s victory for Franco-German relations. Germany needs Macron to succeed. Even so, Germany will block Macron’s hopes of Eurozone reform, at least initially. But in other areas — such as Brexit, foreign policy, refugees and defence — there will be a “new energy” in Franco-German relations. “The departure of the UK means that Germany needs France more than ever, as a partner in helping it to run the EU. There are no other suitable partners” (650 words)

Video of the day: On The Turing Completeness Of PowerPoint

What to expect:

Tom Wildenhain presents his research into PowerPoint Turing Machines (5’33”)

Thought for the day

Great is the power of steady misrepresentation
Charles Darwin

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