Yakuza, Star Trek, Race, London, Machine Learning

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

Why The Yakuza Are Not Illegal

D.M. | The Economist | 29th September 2015

Japan’s crime syndicates are not banned organisations, and are surprisingly visible. “Full gang members carry business cards and register with the police. Some have pension plans.” In their 1960s heyday they had close links to the ruling party, which called on them to break up Trade Unions and other left-wing groups. Examines why Japan prefers to keep them legal – and easier to manage – rather than “drive crime underground” (540 words)

The Politics Of Star Trek

Timothy Sandefur | Claremont Institute | 25th August 2015

The shifting moral tone of the Star Trek franchise. Early episodes embodied a "humanist vision" opposing "the dehumanizing forces that deprive mankind [of] opportunities and challenges." Over time, this morphed into "a preference for non-judgmental diversity and ... hostility to innovation, and finally into an almost nihilistic collection of divergent urges." This path, says the author, parallels the shifts in liberalism itself (4,770 words)

Skin Feeling

Sofia Samatar | New Inquiry | 25th September 2015

"University life demands that academics of color commodify themselves as symbols of diversity—in fact, as diversity itself, since diversity, in this context, is located entirely in the realm of the symbolic.... It’s not that we’re too few, nor is it that we suffer survivor guilt for having escaped the fate of so many in our communities. It’s that our visibility is consumed in a way that legitimizes the structures of exclusion" (4,230 words)


Jon Kelly | BBC | 30th September 2015

Weak, hand-wavy argument redeemed by gorgeous photography and some useful facts and figures. The capital houses 12.5% of the UK population, and generates 22% of UK GDP. "Inner London's GDP per head was 328% of the European Union average in 2010." Financial services accounted for 26% of UK corporate tax receipts in 2006, employing 350,000 people. Foreigners "accounted for 36.2% of the capital’s population in 2014" (3,710 words)

The Programs That Become The Programmers

David Auerbach | Slate | 25th September 2015

A somewhat difficult article about the important but difficult topic of Machine Learning, a booming area of computer science. It "creates systems that are less under our direct control but that — ideally — can respond to their own mistakes and update their internal states to improve gradually over time." It has "succeeded best in cases where there’s a high degree of fault tolerance, such as search results or movie recommendations" (1,640 words)

Video of the day: How Do They Braid Rope?

What to expect: How-to about rope-making. Don White (1997) for the National Film Board of Canada (4’08”)

Thought for the day

The days is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution
Paul Cézanne

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