News 19.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 19.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 19.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 19.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It was a rainy Sunday in June, and Danielle had fallen in love.

The 23-year-old paralegal spent the first part of her afternoon in McCarren Park, envying the happy dog owners with their furry companions. Then she stumbled upon an adoption event in a North Brooklyn beer garden, where a beagle mix being paraded out of the rescue van reminded her of the dog she grew up with, Snickers. It all felt like fate, so she filled out an application on the spot. She was then joined by her best friend and roommate, Alexa, in sitting across from a serious-looking young woman with a ponytail who was searching for a reason to break her heart.

Danielle and Alexa were confident they would be leaving with Millie that day: After all, they had a 1,000-square-foot apartment within blocks of McCarren and full-time employment with the ability to work from home for the foreseeable future. But the volunteer kept posing questions that they hadn’t prepared for. What if they stopped living together? What if Danielle’s girlfriend’s collie mix didn’t get along with her new family member? What would be the solution if the dog needed expensive training for behavioral issues? Which vet were they planning to use?

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

News 19.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 19.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

ow many books are there about Facebook? I’ve lost count. Many of them belong to the genre of the “insider” story – by an early investor in the company, perhaps; or by a supposed intimate of its founder and Supreme Leader; or by an ex-employee with a bad conscience for the societal damage for which he (and it’s always a he, by the way) has been responsible; or (occasionally) by a vigorous critic of social media such as Siva Vaidhyanathan or Franklin Foer.

I’ve read most of these and so approached An Ugly Truth with a degree of scepticism on account of its subtitle: “Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination”. But this book is different. For one thing, its co-authors are not “insiders”, but a pair of experienced New York Times journalists who were members of a team nominated in 2019 for a Pulitzer prize. Much more importantly, though, they claim to have conducted over 1,000 hours of interviews with 400-odd people, including Facebook executives, former and current employees and their families, friends and classmates, plus investors and advisers to Facebook, and lawyers and activists who have been fighting the company for a long time. So if this is an “insider” account, it’s better sourced than all of its predecessors in the genre.

We’ll get to what this account reveals in a moment, but first let’s clear up the title. It comes from the header on an internal memo sent by Andrew Bosworth (AKA “Boz”), a senior Facebook executive and one of Mark Zuckerberg’s closest confidants. “So we connect more people,” it says. “That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good.”

In a way, this tells you everything you need to know about Facebook. The only thing Boz omitted to mention is that the more people Facebook “connects”, the more money it makes. And the view from its HQ is that it’s still early days in the growth story. After all, Facebook currently has 2.8 billion monthly active users and there are 7.8 billion people on the planet at the moment. Which means, in the megalomaniacal view of the company’s Supreme Leader, that leaves 5 billion still to be “connected”. Only then – when every sentient being on the planet is on Facebook – will the world’s problems be solved. And if you think I’m making this up, then an inspection of some of Zuckerberg essays on his Facebook page may give you pause.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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My father, a neurologist, once had a patient who was tormented, in the most visceral sense, by a poem. Philip was 12 years old and a student at a prestigious boarding school in Princeton, New Jersey. One of his assignments was to recite Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. By the day of the presentation, he had rehearsed the poem dozens of times and could recall it with ease. But this time, as he stood before his classmates, something strange happened.

Each time he delivered the poem’s famous haunting refrain—“Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore’ ”—the right side of his mouth quivered. The tremor intensified until, about halfway through the recitation, he fell to the floor in convulsions, having lost all control of his body, including bladder and bowels, in front of an audience of merciless adolescents. His first seizure.

When my father heard this story, he decided to try an experiment. During Philip’s initial visit, he handed the boy a copy of The Raven and asked him to read it aloud. Again, at each utterance of the raven’s gloomy prophecy, Philip stuttered. His teeth clenched and his lips pulled sideward as though he were disagreeing with something that had been said. My father took the poem away before Philip had a full-blown fit. He wrote a note to the boy’s teacher excusing him from ever having to recite another piece of writing. His brain, my father explained, had begun to associate certain language patterns with the onset of a seizure.

Read the rest of this article at: Naurilus

News 19.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner, sat atop his stallion Smokey and faced the camera. It was Saturday, August 1, 2020. Miller had a message to share.

“Good morning, patriots,” Miller began, raising the coiled lasso in his right hand by way of greeting. “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of all these surprises coming out of China. First it was the Chinese virus, then we had the murder hornets, then we had to close the embassy in Houston because of espionage … Now we’ve got all these mystery seeds coming in in the mail.”

It was the seeds that Miller wanted to speak about. By then, news of the seeds had been circulating for several days. Packets were turning up at homes across the United States; residents of every state would eventually report receiving them. Their address labels and Customs declarations indicated that they had been sent from China. The contents were usually described as an item of jewelry—something like “rose stud earrings”—but inside would be a small packet of unidentified seeds. There was no evident reason why particular people were receiving particular seeds, or why people were receiving seeds at all.

Miller advised anyone who received one of these packages to handle it with extreme care. “Treat them like they’re radioactive,” he said. As Smokey flicked his tail, the commissioner laid out what he considered to be the worst-case scenario: “My greatest fear is that someone will open these packages up—open these seeds up—and be infected with a new virus of some kind.” If you found yourself in possession of such a package, Miller said, you should email him immediately, and he would send an inspector to pick it up.

“You don’t want to cry wolf unless there’s a wolf at the door,” Miller told me when I called recently, “but I have a $100 billion industry here just in Texas to protect.” In the face of something so odd, Miller’s instincts arced toward suspicion.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 19.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The scene is a familiar one: an urban park, with young couples picnicking, dog owners playing fetch, parents chatting while their children scamper around. Marie – a young child – becomes entranced by a new wonder of her world – maybe a springtime butterfly, maybe another child throwing an impressive fit. Eventually, looking away from her intense focus, she realises that the world has shifted around her and that her parents are no longer in sight. Interest and elation morph into concern and fear, as she holds back her tears and begins to search. Just around the corner, she finds her father, who scoops her up, and, as quick as her fear started, it dissipates; her world is complete and safe again.

From the moment we are born, we are hardwired to seek attachment to others. Throughout our lives, relationships that involve attachment serve as sources of emotional security, joy and companionship, while at other times, pain and grief. Compared with those of other animals, human relationships are staggeringly multifaceted. Yet despite this, what lies at the core of our relationships is an elaboration of a phenomenon whose roots across the species spectrum are wide and deep. As we wend our way through life’s course – from infancy to adolescence to adulthood to loss – attachment holds a strong grip on our lives, shifting to accommodate our changing needs. While the roots of this phenomenon tell us much about who we are, they tell us just as much about mysteries that remain unanswered in evolution, psychology, neuroscience and more.

In The Conquest of Happiness (1930), the British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote:

Those who face life with a feeling of security are much happier than those who face it with a feeling of insecurity … The child whose parents are fond of him accepts their affection as a law of nature … The child from whom for any reason parental affection is withdrawn is likely to become timid and unadventurous, filled with fears and self-pity, and no longer able to meet the world in a mood of gay exploration.

What Russell was describing would only later in the 1930s get a scientific description, when the Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz observed that ducks and geese are hard-wired to become attached to the first moving figure they encounter in their life, and will demonstrate signs of distress if separated from that figure. Lorenz found this innate drive to be so strong that attachment happens regardless of whether it’s to the birds’ mother, a bicycle tire or Lorenz himself.

While it’s more complicated for human babies, in the 1950s, the British psychologist John Bowlby extended this concept to us. He observed that children who were separated from their families during the air raids of the Second World War first tended to cry out in protest while seeking them out, then would lie in vigilant despair, then become detached. Bowlby’s observations led to his principle that children, from day one, begin to develop unique mental models of how their primary caregivers recognise and respond to their needs. In effect, these caregivers serve as a base from which to explore the world and, in doing so, become the first of many attachments we experience in our lives. As Bowlby wrote:

All of us, from the cradle to the grave, are happiest when life is organised as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.

The importance of this secure base can hardly be understated. Imagine our park denizens in the age of the Second World War. Kai – a child who plays at that park – is evacuated to live in the peaceful countryside without his parents. Another park child, Marie, remains in London, and experiences bombings and war-related events but in the company of her parents. While perhaps not intuitive – after all, Kai’s parents also had their child’s safety at heart – those who stayed in London with their parents, despite the constant threats of bombings, ultimately fared better psychologically.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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