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In the News 27.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 27.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 27.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 27.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

At a Vigil, Manchester Gets the Poem it Needs

Who would have thought that a poet could have offered succor on a day like this? But he did. His name is Tony Walsh, a Manchester writer who goes by the handle “Longfella”—because of his greater-than-average height, one assumes. In front of a crowd of many thousands in Albert Square, in the civic heart of Manchester, as late-afternoon sunshine bathed the Victorian façade of the town hall, and as people in the crush climbed on statues to find a better view, and as a few held up homemade banners expressing love and solidarity, and others held bunches of flowers that they had brought to the ceremony, Walsh delivered a performance of a poem so resonant that the crowd cheered and laughed, and the eyes of the grown men who stood on either side of me grew glassy.

The city authorities called “a vigil” for 6 p.m., but Albert Square was teeming well before then. After the horrors that took place at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday, and the news that twenty-two people had died, including children as young as eight, Mancunians were naturally searching for some kind of meaning in the tragedy, or at least for togetherness in the face of it. But there was dissonance everywhere. Work had carried on, for most, as normal. Schoolchildren took exams. Criminal courts were in session. Moreover, today was the first ice-cream day of the British summer: blue skies and vapor trails. It was hard to reckon with such horrifying news in such pleasant weather.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

In the News 26.05.17-01

A Pet Tortoise Who Will Outlive Us All

In the News 27.05.17-01 (1)

Every morning, Fred takes a walk around my parents’ yard in suburban Honolulu. The yard, though small, around 600 square feet, is beautiful, green and cool and jungly, densely planted with lacy native ferns and heavy-headed crimson heliconia and fragrant with white flowers: gardenia, plumeria, ginger, night-blooming jasmine. Fred is 15 years old and 80 pounds, and since my parents adopted him two years ago, he has never left this yard. When he is dozing in the shade, the old shower trees outside the picket fence that surrounds the yard rain their pink and yellow petals down on him.

People get up early in Hawaii — by 6:30, kids are being dropped off at school and adults are driving to work — and yet Fred doesn’t start moving until 8 or, sometimes, 9. By the time he does, the neighborhood is silent. Everyone else has already begun the day.

But exceptions are made for Fred, because Fred has nowhere to go and nothing to do, and my parents expect nothing from him. This is because Fred is not a human, but a sulcata tortoise, an impulse purchase ($250, from a man living a few minutes drive away, near Waikiki) whose consequences — as with all impulse purchases — were not quite fully imagined. Every morning, Fred must be fed: a mixture of timothy hay, romaine and protein-rich kibble, which is spread across a baking tray so he can see it easily. As Fred is eating, his turds — wet, cold, fat as hand-rolled cigars and strafed with undigested hay and grass — must be collected and the lawn around them doused with water. Some five hours later, lunch must be provided. Then, at around 6 in the evening, someone has to check that Fred has put himself to bed in his wooden house, where he spends at least 20 minutes bumping and scraping against the walls and the floor: the sulcata, which is native to sub-Saharan Africa, is like most tortoises a burrower by nature; in those arid climates, tortoises will dig deep tunnels in order to access damper, cooler earth. My parents’ neighborhood is humid — it rains every morning and every evening, a light, brief mist that makes the air smell loamy and slightly feral — but Fred is conditioned to dig regardless, his stumpy back legs chafing against the flagstones beneath his house. By 8 p.m., he is silent, sluggish; like all reptiles, Fred is coldblooded, and he will remain in his house until the morning and the return of the sun and its heat.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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How People Decide Whether to Have Children

Isabel Caliva and her husband, Frank, had already “kicked the can down the road.” The can, in their case, was the kid conversation; the road was Caliva’s fertile years. Frank had always said he wanted lots of kids. Caliva, who was in her early 30s, thought maybe one or two would be nice, but she was mostly undecided. They had a nice life, with plenty of free time that allowed for trips to Portugal, Paris, and Hawaii.

“I wasn’t feeling the pull the same way my friends were describing,” she told me recently. “I thought, maybe this isn’t gonna be the thing for me. Maybe it’s just going to be the two of us.”

At times, she wondered if her lack of baby fever should be cause for concern. She took her worries to the Internet, where she came across a post on the Rumpus’ “Dear Sugar” advice column titled, “The Ghost Ship that Didn’t Carry Us.” The letter was from a 41-year-old man who was also on the fence about kids: “Things like quiet, free time, spontaneous travel, pockets of non-obligation,” he wrote. “I really value them.”

Cheryl Strayed, the author of the column, wrote back that each person has a life and a “sister life” they’ll never know—the “ghost ship” of the title. “The clear desire for a baby isn’t an accurate gauge for you,” she wrote. Instead, she recommended “thinking deeply about your choices and actions from the stance of your future self.” In other words, think about what you’ll regret later.

Read the rest of this article at: Buzzfeed

In the News 27.05.17-03

Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire

In the News 27.05.17-04

WHEN EDWARD SNOWDEN leaked the biggest collection of classified National Security Agency documents in history, he wasn’t just revealing the inner workings of a global surveil­lance machine. He was also scrambling to evade it. To com­municate with the journalists who would publish his secrets, he had to route all his messages over the anonymity soft­ware Tor, teach reporters to use the encryption tool PGP by creating a YouTube tutorial that disguised his voice, and eventually ditch his comfortable life (and smartphone) in Hawaii to set up a cloak-and-dagger data handoff halfway around the world.

Now, nearly four years later, Snowden has focused the next phase of his career on solving that very specific instance of the panopticon problem: how to protect reporters and the people who feed them informa­tion in an era of eroding privacy—without requiring them to have an NSA analyst’s expertise in encryption or to exile them­selves to Moscow. “Watch the journalists and you’ll find their sources,” Snowden says. “So how do we preserve that con­fidentiality in this new world, when it’s more important than ever?”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

Are We About to Witness the Most Unequal Societies in History?

Biotechnology and the rise of AI may split humankind into a small class of ‘superhumans’ and a huge underclass of ‘useless’ people. Once the masses lose their economic and political power, inequality levels could spiral alarmingly

Inequality goes back to the Stone Age. Thirty thousand years ago, bands of hunter-gatherers in Russia buried some members in sumptuous graves replete with thousands of ivory beads, bracelets, jewels and art objects, while other members had to settle for a bare hole in the ground.

Nevertheless, ancient hunter-gatherer groups were still more egalitarian than any subsequent human society, because they had very little property. Property is a pre-requisite for long-term inequality.

Following the agricultural revolution, property multiplied and with it inequality. As humans gained ownership of land, animals, plants and tools, rigid hierarchical societies emerged, in which small elites monopolised most wealth and power for generation after generation.

Humans came to accept this arrangement as natural and even divinely ordained. Hierarchy was not just the norm, but also the ideal. How could there be order without a clear hierarchy between aristocrats and commoners, between men and women, or between parents and children?

Priests, philosophers and poets all over the world patiently explained that, just as in the human body not all members are equal – the feet must obey the head – so also in human society, equality will bring nothing but chaos.

In the late modern era, however, equality rapidly became the dominant value in human societies almost everywhere. This was partly due to the rise of new ideologies like humanism, liberalism and socialism. But it was also due to the industrial revolution, which made the masses more important than ever before.

Industrial economies relied on masses of common workers, while industrial armies relied on masses of common soldiers. Governments in both democracies and dictatorships invested heavily in the health, education and welfare of the masses, because they needed millions of healthy labourers to work in the factories, and millions of loyal soldiers to serve in the armies.

Consequently, the history of the 20th century revolved to a large extent around the reduction of inequality between classes, races and genders. The world of the year 2000 was a far more equal place than the world of 1900. With the end of the cold war, people became ever-more optimistic, and expected that the process would continue and accelerate in the 21st century.

In particular, they hoped globalisation would spread economic prosperity and democratic freedom throughout the world, and that as a result, people in India and Egypt would eventually come to enjoy the same rights, privileges and opportunities as people in Sweden and Canada. An entire generation grew up on this promise.

Now it seems that this promise was a lie.

Globalisation has certainly benefited large segments of humanity, but there are signs of growing inequality both between and within societies. As some groups increasingly monopolise the fruits of globalisation, billions are left behind.

Even more ominously, as we enter the post-industrial world, the masses are becoming redundant. The best armies no longer rely on millions of ordinary recruits, but rather on a relatively small number of highly professional soldiers using very high-tech kit and autonomous drones, robots and cyber-worms. Already today, most people are militarily useless.

The same thing might soon happen in the civilian economy, too. As artificial intelligence (AI) outperforms humans in more and more skills, it is likely to replace humans in more and more jobs. True, many new jobs might appear, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem.

Humans basically have just two types of skills – physical and cognitive – and if computers outperform us in both, they might outperform us in the new jobs just as in the old ones. Consequently, billions of humans might become unemployable, and we will see the emergence of a huge new class: the useless class.

This is one reason why human societies in the 21st century might be the most unequal in history. And there are other reasons to fear such a future.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: all by @natasia.life on Instagram

  • isabel said...

    great stuff! thank you so much for sharing, this blog is amazing.

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