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News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@mariwka
News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@verandamag
News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@mariwka

During my time in the Bahamas, I bump up against the edges of this family. For example, while waiting for Alexey to wake up from a nap one afternoon, his housemate Arnaud Jerald (the new Constant Weight Bi-Fins world-record holder until Alexey breaks it five days later) insists on making me an omelette and salade. He is from Marseille, has been at this house near the blue hole for a month, training and taking pictures. He has grand designs for his life in the sport, a plan to excite more high-end sponsors into supporting freediving. He just signed with Richard Mille—making him one of the few freedivers to ink an endorsement deal with a luxury-watch company. He shows me some underwater photos that his partner, Charlotte, had just taken of him in a polo walking on the edge of the blue hole, like it was the surface of a distant planet. He wants would-be sponsors to see what’s possible with divers in the picture.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On a recent afternoon, Steven Pinker, the cognitive psychologist and bestselling author of upbeat books about human progress, was sitting in his summer home on Cape Cod, thinking about Bill Gates. Pinker was gearing up to record a radio series on critical thinking for the BBC, and he wanted the world’s fourth richest man to join him for an episode on the climate emergency. “People tend to approach challenges in one of two ways – as problem-solving or as conflict,” Pinker, who appreciates the force of a tidy dichotomy, said. “You can think of it as Bill versus Greta. And I’m very much in Bill’s camp.”

A few weeks earlier, Gates had been photographed in Manhattan carrying a copy of Pinker’s soon to be published 12th book, Rationality, which inspired the BBC series. “We sent it to his people,” Pinker said. Pinker is an avid promoter of his own work, and for the past 25 years he has had a great deal to promote. Since the 1990s, he has written a string of popular books on language, the mind and human behaviour, but in the past decade, he has become best known for his counterintuitive take on the state of the world. In the shadow of the financial crisis, while other authors were writing books about how society was profoundly broken, Pinker took the opposite tack, arguing that things were, in fact, better than ever.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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Simone Biles has a keen air sense, the ability to let muscle memory pilot against the brain’s logical judgment. She can clear her mind and think of absolutely nothing. Catlike in her reflexes, she locates herself in space and lands on her feet every time. This has been the mark of her genius since childhood, the thing that made her different. Watching her is like trying to catch light. You think, Did that just happen? She flies higher and is more nimble than her competition, with more room for failure because what she attempts is that much more difficult. She has beaten the records of her idols — Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Alicia Sacramone — and they think she’s the undeniable greatest too. She’s what superheroes are made of, except she’s made of bones and muscles that strain and break.

This time, though, the break wasn’t a bone; it was something in her spirit, an injury that could not be explained by CAT scan or X-ray. The past few years had been the most trying stretch of her personal and professional life. In 2018, Biles revealed she had been sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar; the organization she was winning medals for had covered up his crimes. Still, going into the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021, after a successful competitive year, she expected things to go as they always did. Then, on the fifth day of competition, she pushed off the vault and discovered she couldn’t see herself in her head, couldn’t see the map of the floor in order to land. It wasn’t just unexpected — it was terrifying. She immediately withdrew from the finals. “My perspective has never changed so quickly from wanting to be on a podium to wanting to be able to go home, by myself, without any crutches,” Biles tells me over brunch at a hotel facing the south side of Central Park in early September.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Sid Meier is famous for creating the video game Civilization. He’s also known for having his name on the box. Meier released Civilization thirty years ago this month, after developing it with Bruce Shelley, a veteran board-game designer. The pair were inspired by the illustrated history books you might find on a middle-school library shelf, and by titles like Seven Cities of Gold (1984), a video game of Spanish conquest created by the designer Danielle Berry. In Civilization, you start with a covered wagon on a map that is largely obscured. You found a city. You learn metalwork, horse riding, feudalism, democracy, and diplomatic relations. Eventually, the rest of the world is revealed—a patchwork of nations. You can dominate your neighbors or strive to outshine them. History rolls on.

Civilization didn’t mark the first time Meier’s name appeared on a box. In 1987, we got Sid Meier’s Pirates!, in which you sail your way across the Caribbean, evolving from a winsome privateer to a peg-legged Blackbeard. In 1990, Meier’s earlier collaboration with Shelley resulted in Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon, a construction simulator that spawned a slew of copycats. And then, in 1991, with little marketing fanfare, Civilization appeared. Players realized that they had found a gem. The Sid Meier stamp exploded, popping up on Sid Meier’s Gettysburg!, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, and Sid Meier’s SimGolf. There were sequels to Civilization, which Meier had little to do with. We’re now on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. His name is still on the box.

The latest rectangle to bear his name is not a game but a book: “Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A Life in Computer Games” (W. W. Norton). It provides a whistle-stop tour of the video-game industry as it evolved across Meier’s four-decade career. Today, we swim through a digital soup made by machines that were developed, in large part, to play games. Graphics processors designed in the nineteen-nineties for first-person shooters became useful, a decade later, to the developers of the neural nets that power our social-media platforms. Many of the people who helped create our virtual environments cut their teeth by making and playing video games. “I’ve been playing Civilization since middle school,” the Facebook C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, wrote in a post on his Web site. “It’s my favorite strategy game and one of the reasons I got into engineering.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 29.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In October 2001, a few weeks after the attacks of September 11th, Abdul Haq, probably the most revered figure in the Afghan anti-Taliban resistance, was interviewed by Anatol Lieven, a leading specialist on the region. Abdul Haq bitterly condemned the invasion, which he recognised would kill many Afghans and undermine the efforts to overthrow the Taliban from within. He said that “the US is trying to show its muscle, score a victory and scare everyone in the world. They don’t care about the suffering of the Afghans or how many people we will lose.”

It turns out that was not far from the doctrine of Donald Rumsfeld, America’s then defence secretary, when the Taliban offered surrender in 2001, a stance now being acknowledged 20 years too late. If there were reason to apprehend Osama bin Laden (which was not obvious—he was just a suspect then) the right procedure would have been a police operation, probably with Taliban co-operation: they wanted to get rid of him. But America had to show its muscle—as it has been doing in recent weeks by sending an armada into the South China Sea. It goes on and on: there is little new in imperial history.

Assessing the future of American power is a highly uncertain undertaking. The question might turn out to be moot. There is no need to tarry on the fact that the world is hurtling towards disaster. If the denialist Republican Party returns to power, the chances of pursuing responsible policies on environmental destruction will be sharply reduced. But assuming the best, we can at least identify the main factors on which American power is based, such as the state of the global order, the trajectory of America’s power and the justifications that have been offered to defend America’s actions.

First, the international system. The imbalance of military power is so extreme that comment seems hardly necessary. America increased its military spending in 2020 to $778bn, compared with China’s increase to $252bn, according to SIPRI, which tracks such expenditures. In fourth place, below India, is Russia at $62bn. America is alone in facing no credible security risks, apart from alleged threats at the borders of adversaries, which are ringed with American nuclear-armed missiles in some of its 800 military bases around the world. (China has just one foreign base, in Djibouti.)

Read the rest of this article at: The Economist

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