News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For many of us, for better or for worse, the internet is home. Our communities are here, because many of them could not exist any other way. Superfans, shitposters, amateur experts, wiki nerds, grizzled forum moderators, obsessive sneaker enthusiasts, and hobbyists who spend a substantial amount of their time photographing vintage Furbies in human clothes, for example—the cultural and creative output of these communities is enormous and ever growing.

At the same time, the internet is constantly disappearing. It’s a world of broken links and missing files—often because the people in charge cast things off on a whim. In 2019, MySpace lost 50 million music files and apologized for “the inconvenience.” Around the same time, Flickr started deleting photos at random. Even though many of Vine’s most unnerving or charming or “iconic” six-second videos have been preserved, its community was shattered when the platform was shut down. It doesn’t help that the internet has no attention span and no loyalty: What isn’t erased or deleted can still be quickly forgotten, buried under a pile of new platforms, new subcultures, and new joke formats. The feed refreshes, and so does the entire topography of the web.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Tony Blair was usually relaxed and charismatic in front of a crowd. But an encounter with a woman in the audience of a London television studio in April, 2005, left him visibly flustered. Blair, eight years into his tenure as Britain’s Prime Minister, had been on a mission to improve the National Health Service. The N.H.S. is a much loved, much mocked, and much neglected British institution, with all kinds of quirks and inefficiencies. At the time, it was notoriously difficult to get a doctor’s appointment within a reasonable period; ailing people were often told they’d have to wait weeks for the next available opening. Blair’s government, bustling with bright technocrats, decided to address this issue by setting a target: doctors would be given a financial incentive to see patients within forty-eight hours.

It seemed like a sensible plan. But audience members knew of a problem that Blair and his government did not. Live on national television, Diana Church calmly explained to the Prime Minister that her son’s doctor had asked to see him in a week’s time, and yet the clinic had refused to take any appointments more than forty-eight hours in advance. Otherwise, physicians would lose out on bonuses. If Church wanted her son to see the doctor in a week, she would have to wait until the day before, then call at 8 a.m. and stick it out on hold. Before the incentives had been established, doctors couldn’t give appointments soon enough; afterward, they wouldn’t give appointments late enough.

“Is this news to you?” the presenter asked.

“That is news to me,” Blair replied.

“Anybody else had this experience?” the presenter asked, turning to the audience.

Chaos descended. People started shouting, Blair started stammering, and a nation watched its leader come undone over a classic case of counting gone wrong.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

The Balmoral in Chestnut

Shop the Balmoral in Chestnut
at Belgrave Crescent &

It’s well over 100 days into the Covid-19 crisis, and I have to make a confession: I hate doing everything over video chat. I hated it at the start, and I hate it in new ways now. You’ve probably heard of “Zoom fatigue.” I’ve transcended Zoom fatigue. At this stage in the pandemic, I’m experiencing something more advanced, like that moment on a long run when you’ve fought through fatigue, tapped into your body’s store of endorphins, and also lost a toenail.

Whether I like it or not, most of my work life and social life will happen via webcam in the weeks and months to come. Despite my complaints, however, this does not have to be a bad thing.

Even after the pandemic ends, video chat will play an increasingly important role at work, for school, in health care, and in our relationships with friends and family. The pandemic not only pushed this technology into new scenarios of our daily lives but also forced people to learn how to use it. Folks that hadn’t tried Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Meet before March became power users in record time. Some of these new users have even embraced the software’s virtual backgrounds and AI-generated face-smoothing effects. (The software is extremely easy to use now compared to 15 years ago, when I first used it.) While few of us want to keep doing Zoom happy hours after the pandemic ends, more of us are comfortable using it than ever before.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the first season of The X-Files, Dana Scully accompanies her former FBI Academy teacher, Jack Willis, to an attempted bank robbery. One of the robbers shoots Willis and Scully shoots the robber, who dies. After a near-death experience in the hospital, Willis wakes up, but he has changed. He’s dark, evil. His body has been possessed by the bank robber, who will try to reunite with his lover and seek revenge on whoever tipped off the FBI.

As a graduate student, Nina Strohminger binge-watched The X-Files (“as one does”, she said), and throughout all the episodes of aliens and monsters, this supernatural trope caught her attention: the “soul switch.” (It happens again later in the series when Fox Mulder swaps bodies with an Area 51 operative.)

Strohminger, now an assistant professor at the Wharton School, found the premise fascinating because if a bank robber could leave his body and end up in Willis’, it implied that he wasn’t fused to his body in the first place. There was some separate essence of him that was picked up and transported. Further, she noticed that in soul switches, people “would only bring over some of their traits,” she said. “It seemed selective. I wondered if there was any pattern there.”

Her curiosity ultimately led her to an experiment. She and her colleague, Shaun Nichols, asked people a question: If you went into another body, which of your traits would most likely come with you? Above other personality quirks, memories, and preferences, people consistently said that they would retain traits related to their morality.

This work is just one of many demonstrations over the years of a psychological notion called the “true self.” The true self is different from the self, which is made up of a blurry combination of your physical appearance, your intelligence, your memories, and your habits, all which change through time. The true self is what people believe is their essence. It’s the core of what makes you you; if it was taken away, you would no longer be you anymore.

Read the rest of this article at: Vice

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News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I’m bashing my head as well,” says Devi Sridhar.

It is January 2021, and the Florida-born, Edinburgh-based professor of global public health is looking back on the pandemic year, marveling and despairing at opportunities lost. From early last winter, Sridhar has been among the most vocal critics of the shambolic U.K. response — urging categorically more pandemic vigilance, which she believed might have yielded a total triumph over the disease, a cause that has picked up the shorthand “Zero COVID.” “This is where I started,” Sridhar says. “An elimination approach to the virus. My mind never went, ‘Oh, we should treat this like flu.’ It started off with, like, ‘We treat it like SARS until I see evidence otherwise.’”

In 2003, SARS had been eliminated after only 8,000 infections; its biggest foothold outside Asia was in Canada, which reported just a few hundred suspected cases. With COVID, Sridhar says, “I was following the response in China. They went into lockdown. You saw New Zealand pivoting that way and then Australia after.” But not the U.K., where an erratic series of scientific advisories pushed the government first to embrace a target of herd immunity, then to backpedal, but not enough. Sridhar describes those advisories with retrospective horror, an inexplicable preemptive surrender by the public-health apparatus.

“Basically, going back to January, they’d be like, ‘China’s not going to control it; 80 percent of the population is going to get it; all efforts to contain it are going to fail; we have to learn to live with this virus; contact tracing and testing make no sense; this is going to be everywhere; right now we need to build up hospitals’ — which they didn’t even do. But they really didn’t think it was stoppable,” she says. “And then all of a sudden you started to see, in February, South Korea stopping it, Taiwan stopping it, and China stopping it. Then, in March, New Zealand. And then Australia. And then there’s this realization of, ‘Oh, wow. Actually, it is controllable.’”

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

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