Surveillance, Debt, Alibaba, Melatonin, Nature

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

Don’t Imagine You’re Smarter

Neal Ascherson | LRB | 11th July 2018

If you lived in a Soviet-era communist country, your secret-police file was filled with denunciations made by people that you knew, trusted, even loved. Reading it later is a sobering experience. “The crowning mercy of human relations is that we don’t know what other people are really thinking about us. To read one’s police file is to have the curtain pulled open. The self you think you know becomes a mask, concealing a devious somebody else whose relationships are mere espionage fakes” (3,600 words)

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Debt To Me

M.H. Miller | Baffler | 4th July 2018

An editor at the New York Times resigns himself to decades of debt, having borrowed $200,000 to take an English degree. “I understand now the extent to which I was among the most overeducated group of young adults in human history. Still, following completion of this degree, I enrolled in night school because the cost of a French class at New York’s Cooper Union, an action that deferred my having to start paying off the debt, was cheaper than making the monthly payments I owed” (4,650 words)

The Battle For China

Adam Lashinsky | Fortune | 26th June 2018

Thorough one-stop read on the state of the tech industry in China. Alibaba and Tencent are mopping up everybody else. Alibaba is stronger on e-commerce, Tencent is stronger on gaming and messaging, but they are competing more and more aggressively across the board. Neither is yet as big as Apple or Amazon, nor are they yet attacking American markets. But they are strong enough to see off foreign challengers inside China, which matters more for future growth (5,350 words)

Melatonin: Much More Than You Want To Know

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 10th July 2018

The neurohormone Melatonin, sold freely as a dietary supplement in America, is an effective sleeping pill. “My totally unprincipled guess is that melatonin is about half as strong as Ambien. It also has about a hundred times fewer side effects, so there’s definitely a place for it in sleep medicine”. The optimal dose is 0.3 milligrams. Steer clear of the 10mg pills sold at pharmacies. High doses of Melatonin stay in your system all day, and your body just gets used to it (4,670 words)

Nature Defends Itself

Dayton Martindale | Boston Review | 9th July 2018

Is humanity part of Nature? The answer matters a lot if your priority in life is the defence of Nature. Then there is the tactical variant: What is the best way to think of Nature, if your priority is to mobilise the rest of humanity into acting against pollution and climate change? “It helps to conceive of human society as a subset of the natural. It may not be enough to rewild the forests, the prairies, the oceans and the deserts (although of course we must do those things). Perhaps we must rewild ourselves” (4,250 words)

Video of the day Four Billion Years Of Evolution

What to expect:

Prosanta Chakrabarty explains the basics of evolution. We are fish that learned to walk and talk (5’39”)

Thought for the day

Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me
Audre Lorde

Podcast Happy Birthday, OED | Lexicon Valley

John McWhorter celebrates the virtues of the Oxford English Dictionary, first published 90 years ago
(32m 17s)

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