Yuval Noah Harari , Aristocracy, Great Dismal Swamp, Nicholson Baker, Chairs, Advice

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

How Data Will Destroy Human Freedom

David Runciman | Guardian | 24th August 2016

Review of Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus: “At the heart of this spellbinding book is a simple but chilling idea: human nature will be transformed in the 21st century because intelligence is uncoupling from consciousness. We are not going to build machines any time soon that have feelings. But we have already built machines that can know our feelings better than we know them ourselves: that’s intelligence. It can process our behaviour to know what we want before we know it ourselves” (1,700 words)

Jack In The Belfry

Terry Eagleton | London Review Of Books | 1st September 2016

“The line between eccentricity and insanity in the English aristocracy has always been hard to draw, never more so than in the case of John Charles Wallop, third Earl of Portsmouth.” Wallop loved blood-letting, bell-ringing, and death-beds. “He knew all the main hearse drivers in London, and would visit undertakers to find out if there were any forthcoming funerals”. He pulled Byron’s ears, tortured animals, and styled himself “The King of Hampshire”; before he was finally declared insane (2,800 words)

The Swamp Of Fugitive Slaves

Richard Grant | Smithsonian | 1st September 2016

An archaeologist reconstructs how communities of escaped slaves lived from the early 17C to the mid-19C in the Great Dismal Swamp between Virginia and North Carolina. “It’s clear that there were two different ways of marooning in the swamp. Those living near the edge of the swamp, or near the canals, had far more interaction with the outside world. In the remote interior there were maroons who lived in isolation, fishing, farming and trapping feral hogs in the deep swamp muck” (4,000 words)

Nicholson Baker, Substitute Teacher

Malcolm Harris | New Republic | 30th August 2016

Baker’s latest book, Substitute, is an “extremely detailed account of 28 days in a teacher’s shoes”. Baker spends 224 hours teaching, and 719 pages recounting the experience. “At about a minute per page, that’s 12 hours of material, which means Substitute moves through 28 days of school at 20x speed. That may sound fast, but it’s the slowest, most deliberate reproduction of the classroom experience I’ve ever seen”. The main conclusion: Pupils work hard, but they don’t learn much (1,600 words)

The Henry Ford Of Chairs

Witold Rybczynski | Work In Progress | 1st September 2016

The French craftsman Michael Thonet designed and patented the bentwood chair which soon filled the cafés of mid-19C Vienna. As demand grew, he built factories to mass-produce his furniture, bought forests and sawmills, and devised flat-pack shipping for export markets, fitting thirty-six chairs into a one-cubic-metre crate. We tend to think of Henry Ford as the pioneer of mass production and vertical integration, but Thonet had all the main elements in place almost 70 years earlier (2,000 words)

The Art Of Advice-Giving

Lidija Haas | Bookforum | 26th August 2016

Agony aunts discuss their trade. Participating: Heather Havrilesky, Dan Savage, Mallory Ortberg, Kristin Dombek. PG-13 for language. “I get annoyed with people who get annoyed that their partner has kept the smallest thing from them. They had lunch with an ex and didn’t get advance permission, just because they knew it would be a thing. This person has a meltdown: ‘Oh my God, they lied to me!’ Of course they lied to you, they’re your husband. It’s one of his responsibilities” (4,300 words)

Video of the day: Multihead

What to expect:

Fragment of performance art. Visually stunning, if musically a bit wearing (0.47″)

Thought for the day

The best remedy for worry is disaster
Steven Carter

Join 150,000+ curious readers who grow with us every day

No spam. No nonsense. Unsubscribe anytime.

Great! Check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription
Please enter a valid email address!
You've successfully subscribed to The Browser
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
Could not sign in! Login link expired. Click here to retry
Cookies must be enabled in your browser to sign in