Rome, Xi Jinping, China, John Stuart Mill, Robots

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

Ancient Rome In Arctic Ice

Robinson Meyer | Atlantic | 15th May 2018

Drilling down into the Greenland Ice Sheet yields records of pollution going back to the dawn of history. From traces of lead pollution between 1100 BC and 800 AD we can now deduce, year by year, the economic activity of the Roman empire, because the currency of Rome was silver, and lead was a by-product of silver production. “It feels sort of like we’ve discovered the Americas. There was another continent over there, that was always there, that we can see now” (2,300 words)

The Xi Jinping Era

Jiang Shigong | China Story | 11th May 2018

Despite the political jargon, a readable and potentially very useful guide to how President Xi Jinping is rewriting Chinese politics. Xi has reversed the Communist habit of dismissing or devaluing all Chinese history before 1949. He seeks to present himself as heir to political and philosophical traditions dating back to the ancient emperors and Confucius. By this telling, Mao was a leftist deviationist, Deng was a rightist deviationist, and Xi has returned China to its historic course and role (4,500 words)

How Britain’s First Mission To China Went Wrong

Stephen Platt | China Channel | 18th May 2018

Britain’s 18C emissary to China, Lord Macartney, knew no Chinese, and so was unaware how completely his mission failed. When the Emperor received him, it was to express sympathy that the British, living so far away, were denied the benefits of Chinese civilisation. “In words that would sting the British for a generation, he added: ‘Strange and costly objects do not interest me. We possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures’” (4,500 words)

Reading List

John Stuart Mill | Lapham's Quarterly | 18th May 2018

In his autobiography, the philosopher John Stuart Mill recounts an education almost unimaginable today. “I have no remembrance of the time when I began to learn Greek. I have been told that it was when I was three years old. My earliest recollection is of committing to memory lists of common Greek words with their signification in English. I learnt no Latin until my eighth year. At that time I had read a number of Greek prose authors, among whom I remember the whole of Herodotus” (1,500 words)

Welcome To The Future

James Vincent | Verge | 8th May 2018

Report from a robot-run warehouse serving the British online supermarket Ocado. “You look over what seems to be a huge chessboard, populated entirely by robots, each the size and shape of a washing machine. Their job is to be cheaper and more efficient than humans, and they are very good at it. Each of the bots has a central cavity and a set of claws it uses to grab crates and pull them up into its interior, like an alien abduction in a supermarket aisle” (2,300 words)

Video of the day Political Correctness: A Force For Good?

What to expect:

Stephen Fry and Jordan Peterson debate Michael Eric Dyson and Michelle Goldberg (2h 04m)

Thought for the day

The best things are achieved in a state of surprise
Brian Eno

Podcast Julian Barnes | NYT Book Review

Julian Barnes talks about “The Only Story”. Lawrence Wright talks about “God Save Texas”
(1h 15m 43s)

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