Singularity, Ad Blockers, David Brooks, James Bond, Soviet Union

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The Singularity Is Not So Near

Tim Harford | Financial Times | 1st November 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

Enthusiasts for artificial intelligence claim that the world economy could double in size every few weeks, once the singularity comes and computers can think for themselves. Which may sound crazy; but the invention of agriculture, and the industrial revolution, brought about comparable step-changes in growth at earlier stages of human history. The downside is that the singularity may also mark the end of human history (816 words)

Why It’s OK To Block Ads

James Williams | Practical Ethics | 16th October 2015

Using an ad blocker is not merely reasonable, it may even be a moral obligation, if ad blockers are the only way to effect a general change in the economy of the Internet and so bring to an end the exploitation of Internet users without their informed consent. "The burden of proof falls squarely on advertising to justify its intrusions into users’ attentional spaces — not on users to justify exercising their freedom of attention" (1,550 words)

The Transformation Of David Brooks

Danny Funt | Columbia Journalism Review | 27th October 2015

David Brooks occupies "a lonely journalistic space". He insists that politics still moves him, but his columns in the New York Times hew ever closer to moral philosophy. "There’s no formal quota, but when Brooks writes a political column, he feels he’s allowed himself a moral one." His aim is to "restore the standard of a couple generations ago", when “public discussion was awash in philosophies about how to live well” (4,850 words)

Alien Life Will Be Robotic

Martin Rees | Nautilus | 22nd October 2015

If we encounter alien intelligence it is likely to be in the form of machines. Any civilisation smart enough to reach across galaxies will surely have made the transition from organic to artificial intelligence. If the aliens do still have bodies, they will stay at home and send intelligent robots to do their exploring. Even for us primitive humans, unmanned space probes are far cheaper than manned ones, and almost as capable (1,480 words)

The Tragedy Of James Bond

Laurie Penny | New Statesman | 29th November 2015

"Bond is supposed to be a hero, but if you knew him in real life, you would be warning all your friends not to invite him to their parties. That disconnect follows men home from the cinema and into their daily lives, because most of the behaviours that are supposed to make you a hero – the things you are still supposed to do if you want to be a strong, respected, manly man – also make you an unqualified arsehole" (1,360 words)

Boys In Zinc

Svetlana Alexievich | Granta | 2nd November 2015

Memories of the Soviet war in Afghanistan from widows, mothers and soldiers, collected by the winner of this year's Nobel prize for literature and translated by Arch Tait. "The war lasted twice as long as the Second World War. Every year for ten years, 100,000 Soviet troops went to fight in Afghanistan. Officially, 50,000 men were killed or wounded. You can believe that figure if you will. Everybody knows what we are like at sums" (6,100 words)

Video of the day: A Guide To Candy Trading

What to expect: Ze Frank explains how to Pareto-optimise your household after Halloween

Thought for the day

History is the science of what never happens twice
Paul Valéry

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