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In the News 04.01.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

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In the News 04.01.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets
In the News 04.01.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets
In the News 04.01.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

Animals think, therefore…

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IN 1992, at Tangalooma, off the coast of Queensland, people began to throw fish into the water for the local wild dolphins to eat. In 1998, the dolphins began to feed the humans, throwing fish up onto the jetty for them. The humans thought they were having a bit of fun feeding the animals. What, if anything, did the dolphins think?

Charles Darwin thought the mental capacities of animals and people differed only in degree, not kind—a natural conclusion to reach when armed with the radical new belief that the one evolved from the other. His last great book, “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals”, examined joy, love and grief in birds, domestic animals and primates as well as in various human races. But Darwin’s attitude to animals—easily shared by people in everyday contact with dogs, horses, even mice—ran contrary to a long tradition in European thought which held that animals had no minds at all. This way of thinking stemmed from the argument of René Descartes, a great 17th-century philosopher, that people were creatures of reason, linked to the mind of God, while animals were merely machines made of flesh—living robots which, in the words of Nicolas Malebranche, one of his followers, “eat without pleasure, cry without pain, grow without knowing it: they desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing.”

Read the rest of this article at The Economist 

How the Mast Brothers fooled the world into paying $10 a bar for crappy hipster chocolate

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Whether you’ve seen their beautifully wrapped bars for sale at Shake Shack or Rag & Bone, featured in the pages of the New York Times or Vogue, or decorating one of their New York, London, or soon, LA shops, Mast Brothers chocolate bars have become the world’s most prominent brand of artisanal chocolate.

But while customers can’t get enough of the company’s bearded, Brooklyn hipster founders, and their brilliantly marketed, $10 “bean to bar” chocolates, a term reserved for chocolate that has been produced entirely under the maker’s control, from the cocoa bean to the wrapped bar, chocolate experts have shunned them. Earlier this year, Slate published a story on Rick and Michael Mast, detailing complaints by the craft chocolate community about their undeserved media attention and unparalleled hubris. (“I can affirm that we make the best chocolate in the world,” Rick told Vanity Fair in February.)

Now, in “Mast Brothers: What Lies Beneath the Beards,” a new series of posts on DallasFood.org, Scott, the first-name-only blogger who in 2006 presented detailed allegations that the now-defunct Noka Chocolate was selling another company’s chocolate at significantly higher prices, has targeted the Mast Brothers’ story. He alleges that the company—whose business is staked on its authenticity and commitment to transparency—did not originally make its own chocolate from scratch, as it claims it always has. As artisanal food surges in popularity, whether it’s chocolate, liquor or jam, the Mast Brothers’ story highlights how a company can have great success selling a product of dubious quality as something “artisanal” or “handcrafted” with beautiful packaging and handsome, bearded founders.

Read the rest of this article at Quartz

The League of Extraordinary Assholes

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WHO AMONG US has not felt the affront? Macadamia nuts arrive in a bag, not on a dish, and something shrivels in the soul. Are we animals? Did we execute the challenging task of being born insanely wealthy only to eat in-flight snacks from a bag? We did not. And that is why, when Korean Air heiress Cho Hyun-ah was confronted by a bag of nuts on a flight out of New York in December 2014, she became enraged and forced the plane back to the gate. Now forty-one, Cho, daughter of the airline’s chairman, Cho Yang-ho, was charged with offences including assault and obstructing an airline captain in performance of his duties

Read the rest of this article at The Walrus

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ORWELL

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At various points in his essays—notably in “Why I Write” but also in his popular occasional column As I Please—George Orwell gave us an account of what made him tick, as it were, and of what supplied the motive for his work. At different times he instanced what he called his “power of facing unpleasant facts”; his love for the natural world, “growing things,” and the annual replenishment of the seasons, and his desire to forward the cause of democratic socialism and oppose the menace of fascism. Other strong impulses include his near-visceral feeling for the English language and his urge to defend it from the constant encroachments of propaganda and euphemism, and his reverence for objective truth, which he feared was being driven out of the world by the deliberate distortion and even obliteration of recent history.

Read the rest of this article at Literary Hub

What I Learned from Losing $200 Million

The 2008 financial crisis taught me about the illusion of control, and how to give it up.

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I’d lost almost $200 million in October. November wasn’t looking any better.

It was 2008, after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. Markets were in turmoil. Banks were failing left and right. I worked at a major investment bank, and while I didn’t think the disastrous deal I’d done would cause its collapse, my losses were quickly decimating its commodities profits for the year, along with the potential pay of my more profitable colleagues. I thought my career could be over. I’d already started to feel those other traders and salespeople keeping their distance, as if I’d contracted a disease.

My eyes started to fill from a sudden wash of gratitude and relief that came, I think, from no longer being alone.

I landed in London on the morning of November 4, having flown overnight from New York. I was a derivatives trader, but also the supervisor of the bank’s oil options trading team, about a dozen guys split between Singapore, London, and New York. Until this point I’d managed the deal almost entirely on my own, making the decisions that led to where I … we … were now. But after a black cab ride from Heathrow to our Canary Wharf office, I got the guys off the trading floor and into a windowless conference room and confessed: I’d tried everything, but the deal was still hemorrhaging cash. Even worse, it was sprouting new and thorny risks outside my area of expertise. In any case, the world was changing so quickly that my area of expertise was fast becoming obsolete. I pleaded for everyone to pitch in. I said I was open to any ideas.

As I spoke, I noticed that one of the guys had tears welling up in his eyes. I paused for a second, stunned. Then my own eyes started to fill from a sudden wash of gratitude and relief that came, I think, from no longer being alone.

Stress testing is a standard technique derivatives traders use to test how their portfolio will perform in an imagined “worst-case” scenario. The problem is that “worst-case” is subjective, making stress testing as much of an art as a science, and exposing the trader doing the testing to something called the “illusion of control.”

The psychologist Ellen Langer coined the phrase in 1975 to describe “an expectancy of personal success probability inappropriately higher than the objective probability would warrant.” Experimental evidence for the illusion goes back at least to 1965, when one research team found that college-educated employees of AT&T asked to press buttons to illuminate lights had the tendency to believe they had more control than they actually did, even when the lights lit randomly, and even when they used pen and paper to track their results.

Read the rest of this article at Nautilus

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.