News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

London — Near the conclusion of the Brexit referendum campaign last year, Michael Gove, then the British justice secretary, infamously said that “people in this country have had enough of experts…” If you watch the video of the interview, Gove had begun to say something more specific but was interrupted by a particularly hectoring interviewer. He has since clarified that he had intended to say that the public has had enough of economists.

We can all giggle about that now, but it is the literal and uncharitable reading of Gove’s remark that still makes headlines and comes up in discussions of the idea that we live in a post-fact or post-truth era. Suspicion of experts and professionals is not new. Claims that experts were engaged in some sort of conspiracy against the public or the public interest were widely voiced during the 1980s, and accusations of “professional coziness” were cited as reasons for shifting from professional to regulatory discipline of experts. But the current suspicion of experts is more troubling and cannot be addressed by regulatory remedies — they would be promptly tarred with the same brush.

Read the rest of this article at: Noema

News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Danielle Reed stopped counting after the 156th email arrived in a single afternoon. It was late March, and her laboratory at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia had abruptly gone into Covid-19 lockdown. For weeks, there had been little to do. Reed, who is famous in her field for helping to discover a new family of receptors that perceive bitter flavors, had spent years studying the way human genetics affect the way we experience smell and taste. It was important but niche science that seemingly had little to do with a dangerous respiratory virus spreading around the globe.

And then one Saturday, she checked her email. Reed watched in amazement as the messages proliferated. It wasn’t how many threads there were, though that was overwhelming, but the way they seemed to grow like Hydras, sprouting in all directions. Recipients copied other people they thought might be interested in the discussion, who added more people, who added still others, across a huge range of countries and disciplines. The cascading emails were all responding to the same rather obscure news alert, meant for ear, nose and throat doctors based in Britain. It was titled: “Loss of smell as marker of Covid-19 infection.”

The week before, Claire Hopkins, the president of the British Rhinological Society and an author of the alert, was seeing patients in her clinic in London when she noticed something odd. Hopkins, who specializes in nose and sinus diseases, especially nasal polyps, was accustomed to seeing the occasional patient — usually about one per month — whose sense of smell disappeared after a viral infection. Most of the time, such losses were fairly self-explanatory: A stuffy, inflamed nose keeps odorants from reaching the smell receptors at the top of the airway. Sometimes these receptors are also damaged by inflammation and need time to recover. But patients were now arriving with no blockage or swelling, no trouble breathing, no notable symptoms, other than the sudden and mysterious disappearance of their ability to smell. And there were nine of them.

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


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It happened faster than seemed right. One day, the tiny gray pinheads of mushrooms were just beginning to emerge from a two-inch cut in a bag of sawdust; the next, they were huge, scalloped hand-like lobes. They looked practically in motion, like muscular forearms reaching out of a wormhole.

It was early summer and I was growing blue oyster mushrooms on my kitchen counter. It was more dramatic than I could have imagined.

It started out benignly enough. About two months into lockdown, the ecology of my Instagram feed began to shift away from sourdough bread and toward mushroom grow kits. These kits are blocks of compressed waste from sawmills, which have been implanted with the mycelium of wood-eating fungus. (Mycelium are the fine, hairlike tendrils that are the principal part of any fungus; mushrooms are merely the fruiting parts — similar to apples on a tree.)

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

News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Arthur Hayes lives large. Like Bobby Axelrod-in-Billions large. Just replace New York with Hong Kong and infuse it with a dose of Silicon Valley—where unicorns spring from the minds of irrepressible company founders—and, well, you get the picture. One minute Hayes is hitting the powder in Hokkaido, the next he’s crushing it on a subterranean squash court in Central—Hong Kong’s Wall Street. And all the while he keeps one eye trained on an obscure-sounding currency exchange that he built out of thin air and through which more than $3 trillion has flowed.

Screen-star handsome and fabulously wealthy, the African American banker turned maverick personifies the contemporary fintech pioneer. But the feds describe Arthur Hayes differently: a wanted man who “flouted” the law by operating in the “shadows of the financial markets.” Hayes’s indictment was unsealed in October, and he remains at large in Asia as prosecutors in New York hope to arrest him and try him on two felony counts, which carry a possible penalty of 10 years in prison.

This is a tale of new money versus old, financial whiz kids upstaging banking’s old guard, and American authorities attempting to apply 20th-century laws to 21st-century innovation. Prosecutors allege that Hayes and his business partners violated the Bank Secrecy Act by failing to implement and maintain an adequate anti-money-laundering program—to weed out bad actors and dirty money. Meanwhile, Hayes’s colleagues in the cryptocurrency world believe he is being punished for building an ingenious product that has baffled lawmakers, bedeviled regulators, and—once it became wildly popular—posed a threat to some of the markets’ biggest players. Adding to the chorus of voices are some high-powered legal experts who consider the case United States of America v. Arthur Hayes to be largely unprecedented.

At a time when the SEC is seemingly doing the bidding of Wall Street titans—eager to punish the unwashed masses of day traders for scuttling banks’ and hedge funds’ trading positions on GameStop and other stocks—Hayes might just be patient zero when it comes to exposing the hypocrisy in high finance that is now coming into sharp relief.

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

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News 02.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The pandemic, which has seemed stranger than science fiction in so many ways, has occasioned much debate about the role of speculative fiction in imagining the future: The possibilities of such stories have felt, to some, like answers amid uncertainty, even as others have questioned the limits of dystopian visions. But perhaps an equally relevant literature to revisit is speculative nonfiction: the constantly evolving genre we might call “pop futurism.”

What are the telltale signs of a “pop futurist” book? It sketches out possible tomorrows, highlights emergent trends to watch, and promises ways for even nonspecialists to apply these insights to their own life and work. It’s likely to sport an arresting cover, a style dating back to the work that arguably pioneered this genre and still casts a long shadow. Future Shock—the book by Alvin Toffler that helped popularize “futurism” as a concept in mainstream culture and business, and which recently marked its 50th anniversary—was printed in multiple colorways so that it would jar the eye as a neon rainbow beaming off bookstore shelves. Other titles have kinetic lettering that judders off the page, as if traveling at high speed. The writing’s tone usually sits somewhere between start-up pitch and self-help mantra, with the oracular confidence of the returned time traveler.

Though their contents have varied over time, refracted through the concerns of each era, the appeal of pop-futurist books remains the same: We all want to know what’s coming next. They tap the ancient power of the future to fascinate and frighten, in a way that both soothes and feeds our contemporary anxieties. Like all good pop-science or self-help texts, they vow to separate signal from noise and give us a bit of comforting control (however illusory) in a chaotic world. They offer clues about where the future is heading, no matter how muddled the present looks.

But the most important promise underlying much of the canon inaugurated by Future Shock is that with the right foresight, readers can not only prepare for what’s coming, but also profit from it. This whiff of insider trading presents the future as a commodity, an exercise in temporal arbitrage in which knowledge of new developments yields a financial edge. It’s no coincidence that the authors of such works have historically skewed white, male, and capitalist in mindset; many of them work as futurists, consulting in the gray area between business, government, technology, advertising, and science fiction.

This mercantile approach has dominated pop futurism, though it may be changing. This past year saw an astonishing number of new entrants to the field—strangely apt at a time of deep uncertainty about what will happen tomorrow, never mind the next decade. Could such a historically swaggering genre still provide some solace, let alone true insights?

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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