Violence, Zadie Smith, Prospect Theory, Concrete, Diving

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Lessons In Killing

Dave Grossman | Literary Hub | 18th November 2016

Violent video games teach children to kill “using the same mechanisms of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning employed to train soldiers” — and without the discipline that is an equally vital part of military training. “If it troubles you that our young soldiers have to go through a process of conditioning to learn to kill, it should be infinitely more troubling that we are doing the same thing indiscriminately to our children without the safeguards of discipline” (1,875 words)

A Conversation With Zadie Smith

Isaac Chotiner | Slate | 16th November 2016

Interesting throughout. Topics include children, middle age, civil rights. “When I write criticism now, I tend to write about things I love just because I’m more motivated by that. Hate is not enough for me any more. It doesn’t give me the energy to write 5,000 words. I can be cool in criticism, I can be right, which is a great joy — whereas in fiction you can only be variously vulnerable. There’s no such thing as a perfect novel, and you’ll always reveal yourself in a way that is kind of horrifying.” (4,700 words)

Prospect Theory And Voting

Christophe Heintz | Cognition And Culture | 15th November 2016

Prospect theory explains appetite for risk. People tend to take bigger financial risks when they seek to recoup losses. Apparently this also holds true for political risks. “Because there is great uncertainty with regard to Trump’s performance, and because, in this situation, people are risk seeking, Trump’s presidency ends up being more desirable. The expected utility of Trump’s presidency is higher than Clinton’s, in spite of the fact that its expected performance is lower” (860 words)

The Most Effective Modern Weapon Is Concrete

John Spencer | Modern War Institute | 14th November 2016

If you cannot shut down a threat, shut it out or shut it in. Concrete is the most effective defensive weapon in modern warfare. “Many soldiers deployed to Iraq became experts in concrete during their combat tours. Concrete is as symbolic to their deployments as the weapons they carried. No other weapon or technology has done more to contribute to achieving strategic goals of providing security, protecting populations, establishing stability, and eliminating terrorist threats” (1,700 words)


James Nestor | Epic | 17th November 2016

A grand 19C tale of treasure, invention, madness, wealth, and war. Two poor London brothers invent the deep-sea diving suit — and with it enjoy a brief monopoly on the raising of sunken treasure from wrecked ships around the British Isles. “In an instant, they knew, their lives had been transformed. They were now wildly, ecstatically rich”. They fall out, and part ways. One descends into madness. The other demines a Russian harbour in the Crimean War and is acclaimed a national hero (9,000 words)

Swipe Right

Jonathan Badeen | Business Insider | 17th November 2016

Tinder’s co-founder explains how he came up with the app’s distinctive gesture. “About half way through my shower I realized I forgot to turn on the fan. No big deal, it happens all the time. When I stepped out, the room was especially foggy. I wiped the mirror clean, but within a minute it was fogging up again. I wiped it clean a second time, only this time, I wiped in the opposite direction. I saw a familiar face looking back at me in the clear sliver of the mirror that my hand had just … swiped“ (1,030 words)

Video of the day: The Last Samurai

What to expect:

Helen DeWitt talks to the Paris Review about starting 100 novels, and finally finishing one of them, “The Last Samurai” (6’34”)

Thought for the day

Let us distrust our first reactions, they are invariably much too favourable
Friedrich Nietzsche

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