Toad Hall, America, Virtual Reality, Chinese Restaurants, Wisdom


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Warfighter: Toad Hall

PPT Sapper | Angry Staff Officer | 20th February 2017

“The situation is as follows. Two heavily armed factions – the Weasels and the Stoats – have undermined the local power in the region, namely, that of Toad and Toad Hall. While Toad was a fairly unsteady leader – investing at random in items that took his fancy – he remained the rightful leader. When Toad was absent the Weasels and Stoats infiltrated the seat of power and established themselves as the new brokers, necessitating the mobilisation of a strike force to retake Toad Hall” (1,600 words)

How Nature Created Consciousness

Steven Poole | New Statesman | 21st February 2017

There is “something fascinating on every page” of Daniel Dennett’s “brilliant” new book about the evolution of consciousness, From Bacteria To Bach And Back, though Dennett is better at raising questions than at answering them. He argues that consciousness arose from language: “Words became the tools that enabled our brains to reflect on what they were doing”. Perhaps so. But can we have a theory of how consciousness came into being, without a theory of what consciousness is?

Our Miserable 21st Century

Nicholas Eberstadt | Commentary | 20th February 2017

Work rates have “fallen off a cliff since the year 2000”. For every unemployed American male aged 25-55 “there are another three who are neither working nor looking for work”. Drug and alcohol abuse, often paid for with Medicaid or disability benefits, are reversing past gains in health and longevity. One in eight adult males has a felony conviction. For a snapshot of today’s America, “picture many millions of men, out of work and not looking for jobs, sitting in front of screens — stoned” (5,090 words)

Hollywood And Virtual Reality

Ty Burr | MIT Technology Review | 16th February 2017

Will cinema and virtual reality converge to a produce a next generation of feature films? That seems logical — but the conventions of film will have to be reinvented. Film holds our attention and tells us a story; VR feels more like an invitation to participate and experiment, to decide the story for ourselves. “Warner Brothers did such a brilliant job imagining the world of Casablanca that we’d be content to explore it until we bumped up against the walls, like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show“ (2,200 words)

I’m A Commis In A Chinese Restaurant

Melissa Tsang | Middle Ground | 19th February 2017

Anatomy of a Chinese restaurant kitchen. “Wok 1 is head chef, 老大/大佬. He makes the big decisions for the main kitchen. He doesn’t do much prep work. If there are orders for abalone, sea cucumber, Alaskan crab, the expensive stuff, they go to him. But he is really more important as a political figure, not as a cook. He is supposed to protect the interests of the main kitchen, especially against front-of-house. For this reason, people expect him to exhibit a lot of machismo” (2,300 words)

Better Wisdom From Crowds

Peter Dizikes | MIT | 25th January 2017

How to get better answers from straw polls. For a given question, you need to ask two things: What is the right answer? And, what will most other people say? For example: “Is Philadelphia the capital of Pennsylvania?” A minority will reply, correctly, “No”. But they will expect most others to reply, incorrectly, “Yes”. So when 30% say “No”, yet only 5% expect “No” to be the majority answer, then “No”, albeit a minority opinion, is the “surprisingly popular” answer — a reason to think it correct (1,500 words)

Video of the day: Oliver Sacks On Ripe Bananas

What to expect:

Oliver Sacks talks to Henry Tischler about sight, blindness, and colour blindness (6’22”)

Thought for the day

A mathematician thinks in numbers, a lawyer in laws, and an idiot in words
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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