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In the News 19.12.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 19.12.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 19.12.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 19.12.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Great A.I. Awakening


Late one Friday night in early November, Jun Rekimoto, a distinguished professor of human-computer interaction at the University of Tokyo, was online preparing for a lecture when he began to notice some peculiar posts rolling in on social media. Apparently Google Translate, the company’s popular machine-translation service, had suddenly and almost immeasurably improved. Rekimoto visited Translate himself and began to experiment with it. He was astonished. He had to go to sleep, but Translate refused to relax its grip on his imagination.

Rekimoto wrote up his initial findings in a blog post. First, he compared a few sentences from two published versions of “The Great Gatsby,” Takashi Nozaki’s 1957 translation and Haruki Murakami’s more recent iteration, with what this new Google Translate was able to produce. Murakami’s translation is written “in very polished Japanese,” Rekimoto explained to me later via email, but the prose is distinctively “Murakami-style.” By contrast, Google’s translation — despite some “small unnaturalness” — reads to him as “more transparent.”

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

A.: Only Through Death Will You Learn Your True Identity


A. HAD A recurring dream. He dreamed it almost every night, but in the morning, when Goodman or one of the instructors woke him and asked if he remembered what he had dreamed, he was always quick to say no. That wasn’t because the dream was scary or embarrassing, it was just a stupid dream in which he was standing on the top of a grassy hill beside an easel, painting the pastoral landscape in water colors. The landscape in the dream was breathtaking, and since A. had come to the institution as a baby, the grassy hill was probably an imaginary place he had created or a real place he had seen in a picture or short film in one of his classes. The only thing that kept the dream from being completely pleasant was a huge cow with human eyes that was always grazing right next to A.’s easel. There was something infuriating about that cow: the spittle dripping from its mouth, the sad look it gave A., and the black spots on its back, which looked less like spots and more like a map of the world. Every time A. had that dream, it aroused the same feelings in him—calm that turned into frustration that turned into anger that immediately turned into compassion. He never touched the cow in the dream, never, but he always wanted to. He remembered himself searching for a stone or some other weapon, he remembered himself wanting to kill the cow, but in the end, he always took pity on it. He never managed to finish the painting he was working on in the dream. He always woke up too soon, panting and sweating, unable to fall asleep again.

Read the rest of this article at Wired


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In Defense of Cosmopolitanism


These are dark times for cosmopolitans. Discontent with globalization and resentment towards minorities, immigrants, and intellectuals have fueled the rise of nationalism in Europe and the United States. Dressed in faux-neutral neologisms like “post-truth” and “alt-right,” propaganda, racism, and xenophobia have elbowed their way back into the mainstream. And cosmopolitans are being portrayed as a detached and indulgent elite.

Cosmopolitanism—the aspiration to become a citizen of the world—has become a tainted luxury good.

It might seem prudent, in this climate, to take distance from cosmopolitanism. That choice, however, leaves a distorted image of cosmopolitanism unchallenged and lets it become a casualty in the clash between nationalism and globalization. We must do better than that. If we want to fend off the globalization of ultra-nationalism, now is the time to take a stand for cosmopolitanism—extricating its broadminded attitude from its elitist parody, and putting it to work to temper nationalism and humanize globalization.

Taking such stand begins with remembering where contemporary cosmopolitanism came from and acknowledging how it lost its way.

Read the rest of this article at Harvard Business Review

Heat, Hunger and War Force Africans Onto a ‘Road on Fire’


AGADEZ, Niger — The world dismisses them as economic migrants. The law treats them as criminals who show up at a nation’s borders uninvited. Prayers alone protect them on the journey across the merciless Sahara.

But peel back the layers of their stories and you find a complex bundle of trouble and want that prompts the men and boys of West Africa to leave home, endure beatings and bribes, board a smuggler’s pickup truck and try to make a living far, far away.

They do it because the rains have become so fickle, the days measurably hotter, the droughts more frequent and more fierce, making it impossible to grow enough food on their land. Some go to the cities first, only to find jobs are scarce. Some come from countries ruled by dictators, like Gambia, whose longtime ruler recently refused to accept the results of an election he lost. Others come from countries crawling with jihadists, like Mali.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

My President Was Black

A history of the first African American White House—and of what came next


In the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, he and his wife, Michelle, hosted a farewell party, the full import of which no one could then grasp. It was late October, Friday the 21st, and the president had spent many of the previous weeks, as he would spend the two subsequent weeks, campaigning for the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Things were looking up. Polls in the crucial states of Virginia and Pennsylvania showed Clinton with solid advantages. The formidable GOP strongholds of Georgia and Texas were said to be under threat. The moment seemed to buoy Obama. He had been light on his feet in these last few weeks, cracking jokes at the expense of Republican opponents and laughing off hecklers. At a rally in Orlando on October 28, he greeted a student who would be introducing him by dancing toward her and then noting that the song playing over the loudspeakers—the Gap Band’s “Outstanding”—was older than she was. “This is classic!” he said. Then he flashed the smile that had launched America’s first black presidency, and started dancing again. Three months still remained before Inauguration Day, but staffers had already begun to count down the days. They did this with a mix of pride and longing—like college seniors in early May. They had no sense of the world they were graduating into. None of us did.

Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: 1 – @whitealice_by_aliciarueda on Instagram; 2 – pinterest; 3 – @audreyparisphoto on Instagram