Untouchables, Bitcoin, Poetry, Index Cards, Economics, Joel Mokyr


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God’s Oppressed Children

Pankaj Mishra | New York Review Of Books | 17th December 2017

Upper-caste Indian reviews Sujatha Gidla’s memoir of growing up as an untouchable, Ants Among Elephants. “One out of six Indians is a Dalit, but for years I neither witnessed nor imagined the life of one, although almost every week small columns in the newspapers reported the murder, rape, and torture of them. If any of the students at my schools were Dalits, I did not know. Such obliviousness about a hierarchy that benefited me was part of my privilege” (3,300 words)

Ending The Bitcoin Energy Drain

Joshua Gans | Digitopoly | 17th December 2017

On the economics of mining Bitcoin. Miners currently spend $36 million per day on electricity. “You don’t have to search for a gold mine. What you search for is a place to mine where electricity is cheapest. Then you face no transportation costs. It is the purest form of energy arbitrage we as a species have invented to date. If it continues, it has the capability to equalise the price of electricity world-wide. The thing about all of this is that there is no mechanism to stop it” (1,090 words)

Susannah Herbert On The Best Poetry Of 2017

Thea Lenarduzzi | Five Books | 15th December 2017

Interview. The news from the world of poetry is generally good. “Poetry book sales are bigger this year than they have ever been before. The internet has a lot to do with that, particularly YouTube. Poetry in performance used to be regarded as a thing apart from published poetry but we’re now seeing the two feeding off each other. When you go to a workshop and see the young poets there are all reading and arguing voraciously, it’s impossible not to be optimistic” (4,300 words)

How The Index Card Catalogued The World

Daniela Blei | Atlantic | 1st December 2017

The index card was a product of the Enlightenment, conceived by Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, physician, and the father of modern taxonomy, who began organising his thoughts on uniform slips of paper in 1752. “Linnaeus never grasped the full potential of his paper technology. There is no sign he ever tried to rationalize or advertise the new practice. Like his taxonomical system, paper slips were both an idea and a method, designed to bring order to the chaos of the world” (1,510 words)

Jews And Economics

Jonathan Sacks | Times Of Israel | 14th December 2017

“A reasonable case could be made that Joseph was the first economist. But why the predominance of Jews in economics in the modern age? I do not want to argue that Jews created capitalism. Clearly, though, there is a strong affinity between the market economy and what is broadly known as the Judeo-Christian ethic. To my mind, the most decisive single factor was the de-consecration of nature. For Jews, holiness lies not in the way the world is, but in the way it ought to be” (1,500 words)

Origins Of The Modern Economy

Mark Koyama | Independent Review | 15th December 2017

Joel Mokyr’s Culture of Growth argues that individuals, rather than impersonal forces, created the modern world in the period between 1500 and 1800. “Cultural entrepreneurs include innovators such as Martin Luther, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx, who developed new arguments and theories and successfully advanced them in the market for ideas. They acted as focal points around whom new ideas could coalesce. The key cultural entrepreneur in Mokyr’s account is Francis Bacon” (2,300 words)

Video of the day Jazz Slang

What to expect:

Jazz Night In America traces back the origins of “hipster,” “crib”, “the man” and much else to early-20C jazz culture (3’15”)

Thought for the day

Our permanent address is tomorrow
Marshall McLuhan

Podcast of the day The World In 2018 | The Economist

Anne McElvoy and Daniel Franklin begin a series of podcasts looking ahead to the world in 2018
(21'00")

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