News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Early in the pandemic, I received an e-mail from a reader who embraced my writing about the importance of deep work and the need to minimize distractions, but was thrown by my use of the term “productivity” to describe these efforts: “The productivity language is an impediment for me.” Intrigued, I posted a short essay on my Web site that reacted to her message, proposing that the term “productive” could be salvaged if we define it more carefully. There were, I wrote, positive aspects to the idea of productivity. For example, by better organizing administrative tasks that cannot be ignored—paying taxes, filing forms—you can reduce how much time you spend on such drudgery. On a larger scale, the structured “productive” pursuit of important projects, far from being soulless, can be an important source of meaning.

My readers didn’t buy my defense. The comments were filled with a growing distaste for the many implications and exhortations that had become associated with productivity culture. “The productivity terminology encodes not only getting things done, but doing them at all costs,” one reader wrote. Another commenter pushed back against the proliferation of early-pandemic business articles that encouraged workers to stay “productive” even as they were thrown unexpectedly into remote environments: “The true message behind these posts is clear: ignore your growing sense of existential dread, ignore your children, and produce value for our shareholders—or else!” Others advocated for alternative terms, such as “alive time,” or “productive creativity”—anything to cleave the relationship between “productivity” the signifier and all that it had come to signify.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

During the months leading up to Big Bang, Chin and his team had been able to watch this torrent of information flow toward them, like a thousand wiretaps chirruping simultaneously. The AFP claims it tracked only criminals on the platform (an assertion that, until every collected message has been read and assessed, cannot be confirmed with absolute certainty). Big Bang’s targets constituted a diverse array of underworld figures: Italian mobsters, stud-jacketed bikers, neighbourhood drug barons. Their alleged crimes ranged from drug trafficking to money laundering to attempted murder. What they had in common was their choice of texting app.

The scheme was seeded 10 years earlier, in Vancouver. There, in 2008, Vincent Ramos, a young entrepreneur who started out as a bathtub salesman before progressing to smartphones, founded Phantom Secure, a telecoms company that promised users absolute privacy. It was a prescient selling point. After years in which data has been endlessly mined, the idea that users of technology now want to avoid online surveillance is widespread in Silicon Valley; Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, recently pronounced: “The future is private.” In 2008, however, both the sentiment and the technology that enabled secure communication were niche concerns.

In contrast to An0m’s bespoke technology, Phantom Secure’s phones were off-the-shelf BlackBerries modified to remove the camera, microphone and GPS tracking software, and installed with a remote-wipe feature. Every message sent from one device to another was encrypted and routed through servers in Panama and Hong Kong. To build word-of-mouth interest in his new product, Ramos offered free devices to high-profile “influencers” – rappers and athletes for whom privacy was a primary concern. For paying customers, the seemingly basic functionality came at an exorbitant cost: according to court documents, a Phantom Secure phone and subscription could set you back as much as $2,000 for a six-month contract. It was a fair price to pay, Ramos assured prospective clients, for total discretion.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

The Willis Avenue Bridge, a 3,000-foot stretch of asphalt and beige-painted steel connecting Manhattan and the Bronx, is the perfect place for an ambush. The narrow bike path along its west side is poorly lit; darkened trash-strewn alcoves on either end are useful for lying in wait. All summer, food-delivery workers returning home after their shifts have been violently attacked there for their bikes: by gunmen pulling up on motorcycles, by knife-wielding thieves leaping from the recesses, by muggers blocking the path with Citi Bikes and brandishing broken bottles.

“Once you go onto that bridge, it’s another world,” one frequent crosser said. “You ever see wildlife with the wildebeest trying to cross with the crocodiles? That’s the crocodiles over there. We’re the wildebeests just trying to get by.”

Lately, delivery workers have found safety in numbers. On a humid July night, his last dinner orders complete, Cesar Solano, a lanky and serious 19-year-old from Guerrero, Mexico, rode his heavy electric bike onto the sidewalk at 125th Street and First Avenue and dismounted beneath an overpass. Across the street, through a lattice of on-ramps and off-ramps, was the entrance to the Willis, which threads under the exit of the RFK Bridge and over the Harlem River Drive before shooting out across the Harlem River. Whatever happens on the bridge is blocked from view by the highway.

Read the rest of this article at: The Verge

News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Carl Winslow, the protagonist of the ’90s sitcom Family Matters, wore his badge with honor. On the show, about a middle-class Black household in Chicago, Winslow (played by Reginald VelJohnson) loved being a police officer almost as much as he hated seeing the family’s pesky neighbor, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), popping up in his home. Carl was a quintessential TV-sitcom cop, doughnut clichés and all. In one scene, he announces that he’s just had the worst day of his life: “I was in a high-speed car chase and ran out of gas.” The humor did not always break new ground.

The cast of Family Matters was predominantly Black, but the series was written and conceptualized mainly by white people. A 1994 episode, “Good Cop, Bad Cop,” illustrates the degree to which a Black writer could be sidelined, even on a show about a Black family. In the episode, Carl’s teenage son, Eddie (Darius McCrary), storms into the house, visibly upset about a run-in with the police. Yet Carl insists that Eddie’s account of being harassed and forced to the ground doesn’t add up: “That’s unusual procedure—unless you provoked it.” Carl’s response is jarring. He may be Officer Winslow when he’s on duty, but he’s still a Black father—one who ought to know how police in America often treat young Black men. Eddie walks away angry.

Felicia D. Henderson, a Black producer and screenwriter who worked on Family Matters from 1994 to 1996 before moving on to The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirSoul Food, and Empire, recalls the tension in the writers’ room when the episode was being workshopped. Television shows are typically written by a staff that collaborates on scripts; trading ideas and criticism around a table is an integral and sometimes raucous part of the process. Yet there’s a hierarchy in the room: The senior writers hold sway and the showrunner is ultimately in charge. Family Matters was no different. Then a junior writer, and one of only a few Black staffers on a team of more than a dozen, Henderson was at first hesitant to weigh in when a white writer tossed out the possibility of Carl responding the way he did. But the line felt wrong to her, and she spoke up. “I just said, ‘Well, no Black father would tell his Black son that,’ ” Henderson told me recently. “And the room got silent. I mean, you can hear a pin drop.” The white showrunner defended the line, and it went in. “It was clear in the room and in the moment that I had offended them,” Henderson recalled. “Like, ‘What, are you saying—we’re racist?’ No, but I am saying that’s not realistic.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 15.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Someone’s probably told you before that something you thought, felt or feared was ‘all in your mind’. I’m here to tell you something else: there’s no such thing as the mind and nothing is mental. I call this the ‘no mind thesis’. The no-mind thesis is entirely compatible with the idea that people are conscious, and that they think, feel, believe, desire and so on. What it’s not compatible with is the notion that being conscious, thinking, feeling, believing, desiring and so on are mental, part of the mind, or done by the mind.

The no-mind thesis doesn’t mean that people are ‘merely bodies’. Instead, it means that, when faced with a whole person, we shouldn’t think that they can be divided into a ‘mind’ and a ‘body’, or that their properties can be neatly carved up between the ‘mental’ and the ‘non-mental’. It’s notable that Homeric Greek lacks terms that can be consistently translated as ‘mind’ and ‘body’. In Homer, we find a view of people as a coherent collection of communicating parts – ‘the spirit inside my breast drives me’; ‘my legs and arms are willing’. A similar view of human beings, as a big bundle of overlapping, intelligent systems in near-constant communication, is increasingly defended in cognitive science and biology.

The terms mind and mental are used in so many ways and have such a chequered history that they carry more baggage than meaning. Ideas of the mind and the mental are simultaneously ambiguous and misleading, especially in various important areas of science and medicine. When people talk of ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’, the no-mind thesis doesn’t deny that they’re talking about something – on the contrary, they’re often talking about too many things at once. Sometimes, when speaking of ‘the mind’, people really mean agency; other times, cognition; still others, consciousness; some uses of ‘mental’ really mean psychiatric; others psychological; others still immaterial; and yet others, something else.

This conceptual blurriness is fatal to the usefulness of the idea of ‘the mind’. To be fair, many concepts build bridges: they exhibit a specific, generally harmless kind of ambiguity called polysemy, with slightly different meanings in different contexts. The flexibility and elasticity of polysemy binds disparate areas of research and practice together, priming people to recognise their similarities and interrelatedness. For example, if a computer scientist talks about ‘computation’, they normally mean something slightly different than an engineer, a cognitive scientist or someone chatting with a friend means. The overarching concept of computation links all these conversations together, helping us to spot the commonalities between them.

The problem is that making links like this isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes it spurs creative interactions between different areas of expertise, and offers helpful analogies that would otherwise be hard to spot. But other instances of polysemy lead to harmful conflations and damaging analogies. They make people talk past each other, or become invested in defending or attacking certain concepts rather than identifying their shared goals. This can cement misunderstandings and stigma.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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