Writing, Sexism, Population, Drones, Amazon

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

Writing Wrongs

Daisy Dunn | TLS | 16th January 2018

What sort of culture would we have without the written word? A different one, but not obviously an inferior one. “Socrates wrote nothing down. Jesus writes just once, in sand, so his words are washed away. The wisdom of the Buddha is preserved in the memories of his students. Confucius teaches by example. Each had their reasons for shunning the scribes. The written word lacked the life of human speech; it encouraged idleness; it was dangerously susceptible to misinterpretation” (1,550 words)

Poets Behaving Badly

Daniel Cook | The Conversation | 24th January 2018

Is there a point in history before which we can agree that morals were different; or should modern standards of sexual conduct be applied to centuries gone by? If so, Lord Byron is up for severe reappraisal, as are Burns, Marvell, Catullus, Wyatt, Robert Browning and many others. “Many poems depict violence against women. Often the language is deeply personal. Often it is brutally inhumane. The time is right to reevaluate how we respond to literary traditions” (1,150 words)

The Feeding Of The Ten Billion

Charles Mann | Atlantic | 24th January 2018

William Vogt laid out the basic ideas of the modern environmental movement: Humanity was exhausting the Earth’s resources. Only by shrinking the global population and its appetites could humanity hope to flourish. Norman Borlaug argued that human ingenuity would suffice to multiply crop yields and sustain much larger populations. Borlaug has proved his point — but has he won the argument? What happens to the quality of life if the whole world becomes a factory farm? (6,850 words)

The Kill Chain

Roy Wenzl | Guardian | 23rd January 2018

Conversations with pilots who sit in Kansas directing drones in the Middle East, video-stalking targets for missile attacks. “You see enemy combatants kiss their kids goodbye, and kiss their wives goodbye, and then they walk down the street. As soon as they get over that hill, the missile is released. We don’t want the family to see it. The technology we use is just insane, it’s so good. We’re fighting with laser beams against people who beat each other to death with sticks” (2,300 words)

Amazon Go And The Future

Ben Thompson | Stratechery | 23rd January 2018

Unpacking the significance of Amazon’s newly opened grocery store in Seattle. This must be the start of something big, something which will scale, given the cost of developing the underlying infrastructure — cameras and sensors that manage automatic billing with no checkout. It only makes sense if Amazon intends to roll out a massive physical presence. “In five to ten years the countries Amazon serves will be blanketed with Amazon Go stores and Amazon fulfilment centres” (2,666 words)

Video of the day Barenboim On Debussy II

What to expect:

Daniel Barenboim returns to Claude Debussy for a brief exposition of ‘Soirée dans Grenade’ (5’36”)

Thought for the day

Justice is what love looks like in public
Cornel West

Podcast of the day Solve For X | TED Radio Hour

Randall Munroe, Guy Raz and others discuss how to make maths interesting, especially in schools

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