News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Thousands of New Millionaires are About to Eat San Francisco Alive

SAN FRANCISCO — Big wealth doesn’t come in monthly paychecks. It comes when a start-up goes public, transforming hypothetical money into extremely real money. This year — with Uber, Lyft, Slack, Postmates, Pinterest and Airbnb all hoping to enter the public markets — there’s going to be a lot of it in the Bay Area.

Estimates of Uber’s value on the market have been as high as $120 billion. Airbnb was most recently valued at $31 billion, with Lyft and Pinterest around $15 billion and $12 billion. It’s anyone’s guess what prices these companies actually will command once they go public, but even conservative estimates predict hundreds of billions of dollars will flood into town in the next year, creating thousands of new millionaires. It’s hard to imagine more money in San Francisco, but the city’s residents now need to start trying.

Welcomed finally into the elite caste who can afford to live comfortably in the Bay Area, the fleet of new millionaires are already itching to claim what has been promised all these years.

They want cars. They want to open new restaurants. They want to throw bigger parties. And they want houses.

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

News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How ‘Creativity’ Became
A Capitalist Buzzword

News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

“Creative” and its variants are a versatile part of the vocabulary of contemporary capitalism, able to link imagination, aesthetic practice, and religious faith in the pursuit of private gain. The oldest word on creativity’s family tree is “creation,” whose first meaning was specifically Christian—the term for the divine genesis of the universe. One of the newest is the nominal form of creative, normally an adjective for an original thinker or idea. Creative is now also a count noun (think of the creatives who may be moving into your shrinking rust-belt city) and a mass noun (get creative on the horn, said account services to production). Many people would probably agree that creativity is an essential human trait, crucial to a happy life, though this noun is a relatively new coinage. An even more recent development is the notion that creativity is a trait of capitalist markets. And in the United States, the political phrase “job creators” borrows some of creation’s residual divine light to illuminate the benevolent fiat of the capitalist, who is thought to create jobs out of the formless void.

If creation has been divine, creativity is decidedly human. The most important conflict in the etymological history of “creative” is the struggle between its religious and secular meanings. Before the late 19th century, to the degree that people could participate in something called “creation,” it was only to approximate the purity of the original, capital-C Creation, rather than inaugurating their own. “There is nothing new under the sun,” Ecclesiastes reminded humans inclined to creative hubris. “The created cannot create,” (creatura no potest creare) added St. Augustine, insisting that such power resided only in God, and not in his creations. In the history of the word “creative,” there are actually two decisive rifts: this initial one between the divine and the human creation suggested here, and then, once creativity became a human trait, a division between its aesthetic and productive forms. We can roughly date this latter conflict to around 1875, the earliest example of the word “creativity” given in the OED, from an essay on Shakespeare’s singular brilliance.

Read the rest of this article at: Lit Hub


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A Belief In Meritocracy Is Not Only False: It’s Bad For You

Meritocracy has become a leading social ideal. Politicians across the ideological spectrum continually return to the theme that the rewards of life – money, power, jobs, university admission – should be distributed according to skill and effort. The most common metaphor is the ‘even playing field’ upon which players can rise to the position that fits their merit. Conceptually and morally, meritocracy is presented as the opposite of systems such as hereditary aristocracy, in which one’s social position is determined by the lottery of birth. Under meritocracy, wealth and advantage are merit’s rightful compensation, not the fortuitous windfall of external events.

Most people don’t just think the world should be run meritocratically, they think it is meritocratic. In the UK, 84 per cent of respondents to the 2009 British Social Attitudes survey stated that hard work is either ‘essential’ or ‘very important’ when it comes to getting ahead, and in 2016 the Brookings Institute found that 69 per cent of Americans believe that people are rewarded for intelligence and skill. Respondents in both countries believe that external factors, such as luck and coming from a wealthy family, are much less important. While these ideas are most pronounced in these two countries, they are popular across the globe.

Although widely held, the belief that merit rather than luck determines success or failure in the world is demonstrably false. This is not least because merit itself is, in large part, the result of luck. Talent and the capacity for determined effort, sometimes called ‘grit’, depend a great deal on one’s genetic endowments and upbringing.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How the Internet
Travels Across Oceans

News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The internet consists of tiny bits of code that move around the world, traveling along wires as thin as a strand of hair strung across the ocean floor. The data zips from New York to Sydney, from Hong Kong to London, in the time it takes you to read this word.

Nearly 750,000 miles of cable already connect the continents to support our insatiable demand for communication and entertainment. Companies have typically pooled their resources to collaborate on undersea cable projects, like a freeway for them all to share.

But now Google is going its own way, in a first-of-its-kind project connecting the United States to Chile, home to the company’s largest data center in Latin America.

“People think that data is in the cloud, but it’s not,” said Jayne Stowell, who oversees construction of Google’s undersea cable projects. “It’s in the ocean.”

Getting it there is an exacting and time-intensive process. A 456-foot ship named Durable will eventually deliver the cable to sea. But first, the cable is assembled inside a sprawling factory a few hundred yards away, in Newington, N.H. The factory, owned by the company SubCom, is filled with specialized machinery used to maintain tension in the wire and encase it in protective skin.

The cables begin as a cluster of strands of tiny threads of glass fibers. Lasers propel data down the threads at nearly the speed of light, using fiber-optic technology. After reaching land and connecting with an existing network, the data needed to read an email or open a web page makes its way onto a person’s device.

While most of us now largely experience the internet through Wi-Fi and phone data plans, those systems eventually link up with physical cables that swiftly carry the information across continents or across oceans.

In the manufacturing process, the cables move through high-speed mills the size of jet engines, wrapping the wire in a copper casing that carries electricity across the line to keep the data moving. Depending on where the cable will be located, plastic, steel and tar are added later to help it withstand unpredictable ocean environments. When finished, the cables will end up the size of a thick garden hose.

A year of planning goes into charting a cable route that avoids underwater hazards, but the cables still have to withstand heavy currents, rock slides, earthquakes and interference from fishing trawlers. Each cable is expected to last up to 25 years.

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

Why So Many Americans Are Turning to Buddhism

News 03.11.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Dressed in flowing gold robes, the bald female meditation teacher told us to do nothing. We were to sit silently in our plastic chairs, close our eyes, and focus on our breath. I had never meditated, but I’d gone to church, so I instinctively bowed my head. Then I realized, given that this would last for 15 minutes, I should probably find a more comfortable neck position.

This was the first of two meditation sessions of the Kadampa Buddhism class I attended this week near my house, in Northern Virginia, and I did not reach nirvana. Because we were in a major city, occasional sirens outside blasted through the quiet, and because this was a church basement, people were laughing and talking in the hallways. One guy wandered in to ask if this was an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The more we focused on our breath, the teacher assured us, the more these distractions would fade away.

After we had meditated for 15 minutes, the teacher shifted focus to the topic of the class: letting go of resentments. This was the real reason I had come to this meditation class, rather than simply meditating on my own at home with an app. I wanted to learn more about Buddhism and how its teachings might be able to improve my mental health—and that of the myriad other Americans who have flocked to some form of the religion in recent years. These newcomers aren’t necessarily seeking spiritual enlightenment or a faith community, but rather hoping for a quick boost of cognitive healing.

The people I spoke with were young and old, but few were Buddhist by birth. Perhaps some have just run out of options: Mental-health disorders are up in Western societies, and the answer doesn’t seem to be church attendance, which is down. There’s always therapy, but it’s so expensive. My meditation class was $12.

As she opened a book on Buddhist teachings, the teacher told the class that holding grudges is harmful. Resentment feels like clutching a burning stick and complaining that it’s burning us. And yet, being harmed by someone also hurts. So, the teacher said, the question was this: “What do I do with my mind if I feel like I’ve been harmed by someone?”

Americans everywhere seem to be asking themselves variations on this very question: What do we do with our minds?

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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