Russia, Castro, Westeros, Thinking, Religion, Work


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

The Mysteries Of The Russian Mindset

Christian Neef | Spiegel | 22nd August 2017

Veteran Spiegel correspondent reflects on the Russian national character. “Putin initially thought like a Westerner, but ultimately realized why every Russian ruler struggles to lead this nation: Because its inhabitants, in accordance with an unshakable tradition, freely delegate all their power to a single person, and then wait for that power to take care of them, without doing anything themselves. Liberalism has no chance in Russia. The people won’t allow it” (3,030 words)

Essentially Bohemian

Louis Allday | London Review Of Books | 21st August 2017

Extracts from a confidential profile of Fidel Castro written in 1963 by the outgoing British Ambassador to Cuba. “However much you hear about the Grand Canyon it still turns out to be much bigger than you expected. So it is with Castro – and I do not mean merely his physique. He is in fact a good six feet four inches and he must weigh sixteen stone. He would have got a good Second rather than a First Class at Oxbridge, but he can think clearly and quickly and can argue with a lawyer’s shrewdness” (970 words)

Why Is Westeros Still Poor?

Adam Ozimek | Modeled Behavior | 20th August 2017

“Technological and economic conditions in Westeros seem to have been stuck in the same place for a very long time. Bran the Builder constructed Winterfell and the Wall about 8,000 years ago, suggesting the same basic medieval technologies existed back then. If anything, it’s unclear that the wall could be built today, suggesting possible decline. So given they’ve had so much time, why hasn’t Westeros had an industrial revolution and emerged from medieval poverty?” (1,120 words)

Aerodynamics For Cognition

Tom Griffiths | Edge | 21st August 2017

Tom Griffiths, professor of psychology and cognitive science at UC Berkeley, argues for the remarkable efficiency of the human mind. Yes, we have cognitive biases; but that is because we have limited time and attention; we optimise between learning new things and working with the knowledge we have. “The classic standard of rational behavior focused on the idea of rationality in terms of finding the right answer without any thought as to the computational costs that might be involved” (7,060 words)

How To Be Rational About Irrationality

Nassim Nicholas Taleb | Incerto | 22nd August 2017

Argument for the rationality of religion. To do anything, we must survive. So any effective survival strategy is supremely rational. Religion helps us to survive by binding us into communities of trust. So a popular religion, whatever its nominal content, is rational. “It may be ‘irrational’ for people to have two sinks in their kitchen, one for meat and the other for dairy, but it led to the survival of the Jewish community as Kashrut laws forced them to eat and bind together” (2,800 words)

Jobs Most Segregated by Gender and Race

Justin Fox | Bloomberg | 16th August 2017

Whatever the structural causes, the division between jobs dominated by men and jobs dominated by women is clear-cut. The jobs with the highest proportion of male workers are about working with things. The jobs with the highest proportion of female workers are about working with people. “If you believe that men are congenitally disposed to prefer working with things and women to prefer working with people, these numbers offer some support for your position” (1,200 words)

Video of the day: Interstellar Clouds

What to expect:

Stunning computer-generated models of particle clouds in space (2’55”)

Thought for the day

When a lot of remedies are suggested for a disease, that means it cannot be cured
Anton Chekhov

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