Rules, Alan Turing, Wether Underground, Xi Jinping, Big Banks, Guinness Records

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

The World Will Only Get Weirder

Steve Coast | 27th March 2015

All the truly useful rules have already been made. Which is why we live in a world of tail events — and good luck trying to make rules against those. "We created rules to make sure people can’t get in to cockpits to kill the pilots and fly the plane in to buildings. That looked like a good rule. But it’s created the downside that pilots can now lock out their colleagues and fly the plane in to a mountain instead" (1,100 words)

Computing Machinery And Intelligence

Jack Hoy | 22nd March 2015

Highly readable summary of Alan Turing's great paper. Every sentence rewards consideration. "It is probably wise to include a random element in a learning machine. The learning process may be regarded as a search for a form of behaviour which will satisfy the teacher (or some other criterion). Since there is probably a very large number of satisfactory solutions the random method seems to be better than the systematic" (2,350 words)

The Weather Underground

Bryan Burrough | Vanity Fair | 29th March 2015

Dizzying exposé of the counter-cultural terrorist group which detonated dozens of bombs across America in the early 1970s aimed at police and soldiers. They posed as idealists, lived as criminals, and succeeded mainly in killing themselves: Three died when their New York bomb factory exploded. The others, incredibly, more or less got away with it. When they surrendered, only one went to prison, for less than a year (7,900 words)

Born Red

Evan Osnos | New Yorker | 30th March 2015 | Metered paywall

Portrait of Xi Jinping, President of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, the sixth ruler of communist China and the first born after the 1949 revolution. Xi was a dull fish during his early career as a well-born provincial bureaucrat; he was nudged into the top job by fellow princelings who expected him to be weak and biddable; instead he is emerging as China's most authoritarian leader since Mao (11,300 words)

Breaking The Banks

Oliver Ralph | Financial Times | 30th March 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

The universal banking model is broken; specialist banks produce much higher returns; JP Morgan and its peers should be broken up or whittled down. The supposed economies of scale and scope claimed for universal banks appear not appear to exist. The banks will doubtless argue for more time to tweak their business models. But that may prove to be just a way of postponing more fundamental change (1,895 words)

Biggest Sellout

Ben Mathis -Lilley | Slate | 29th March 2015

How the Guinness Book Of Records works. It isn't just about selling books. Don't be old-fashioned. Publicity-hungry companies pay the publisher's consulting arm for help in setting up stunts. If the stunt comes off, Guinness certifies the record. "Playing record-breaking huckster and record-keeping historian at the same time, and getting paid to do so on both ends, seems like a classic conflict of interest" (1,900 words)

Video of the day: Confessions Of An Idiom

What to expect: The Elephant In The Room and the Skeleton In The Closet exchange clichés (2'30")

Thought for the day

Mere absurdity has never prevented the triumph of bad ideas, if they accord with easily aroused fantasies
Anthony Daniels (

Join 150,000+ curious readers who grow with us every day

No spam. No nonsense. Unsubscribe anytime.

Great! Check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription
Please enter a valid email address!
You've successfully subscribed to The Browser
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
Could not sign in! Login link expired. Click here to retry
Cookies must be enabled in your browser to sign in