News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Picard’s purview was perhaps more descriptive than prescriptive. “Energetic constraints, energetic flow, and the forces that drive energetic flow—these questions aren’t taken into account as much as they should be,” he said. “The way of the future is understanding personalized energy flows. The last ten years of personalized medicine has been taken over by genomics. The premise is that if you can sequence it you’ll know whether you’ll get sick or stay healthy. That’s where all the money goes. It’s a lucrative hypothesis, but it’s doomed to yield incomplete answers. The genome is static. Health is so dynamic.”

“People are somewhat gorgeous collections of chemical fires, aren’t they?” Harold Brodkey wrote, in the story “Angel.” “We are towers of kinds of fires, down to the tiniest constituencies of ourselves, whatever those are.” Some years ago, without thinking, I introduced two friends of mine, B. and M., to each other, in a loose crew of people meeting up in a bar before a concert. B. and M. were both married. “I love your energy!” B. told M. Everyone laughed: such cheese. The next day, he called me and asked for her number. Such trouble. M. began referring to him, when discussing him with others, as “Energy”; she liked his, too. Their marriages didn’t survive the radiative flux, and B. and M. now live together, in a gravitational field of their own, otherwise known as Essex County, New Jersey. (When I told M. recently that I was writing about energy, the kind you feel, she said, “Talk about how annoying it is that everyone says they are tired. Tired is universal. We are exhausted until we die.”)

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

During the pandemic, the everyday significance of modeling — data-driven representations of reality designed to inform planning — became inescapable. We viewed our plans, fears, and desires through the lens of statistical aggregates: Infection-rate graphs became representations not only of the virus’s spread but also of shattered plans, anxieties about lockdowns, concern for the fate of our communities.

But as epidemiological models became more influential, their implications were revealed as anything but absolute. One model, the Recidiviz Covid-19 Model for Incarceration, predicted high infection rates in prisons and consequently overburdened hospitals. While these predictions were used as the basis to release some prisoners early, the model has also been cited by those seeking to incorporate more data-driven surveillance technologies into prison management — a trend new AI startups like Blue Prism and Staqu are eager to get in on. Thus the same model supports both the call to downsize prisons and the demand to expand their operations, even as both can claim a focus on flattening the curve.

If insights from the same model can be used to justify wildly divergent interventions and political decisions, what should we make of the philosophical idea that data-driven modeling can liberate decision-making from politics? Advocates of algorithmic governance argue as though the “facts,” if enough are gathered and made efficacious, will disclose the “rational and equitable” response to existing conditions. And if existing models seem to offer ambiguous results, they might argue, it just means surveillance and technological intervention hasn’t been thorough enough.

But does a commitment to the facts really warrant ignoring concerns about individual privacy and agency? Many started to ask this question as new systems for contact tracing and penalizing violations of social distancing recommendations were proposed to fight the coronavirus. And does having enough “facts” really ensure that these systems can be considered unambiguously just? Even the crime-prediction platform PredPol, abandoned by the Los Angeles Police Department when critics and activists debunked its pseudo-scientific theories of criminal behavior and detailed its biases, jumped on the opportunity to rebrand itself as an epidemiological tool, a way to predict coronavirus spread and enforce targeted lockdowns. After all, it had already modeled crime as a “contagion-like process” — why not an actual contagion?

Read the rest of this article at: Real Life

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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It started with a mysterious image on billboards all over the world (and the internet). The sun rising above four dark planets; the only words Abba: Voyage. By the time an announcement was made on 2 September, it had fair claim to call itself the most anticipated comeback in pop history.

And the details exceeded expectations. Not only was there a new album, Voyage, the first in 40 years: 10 new songs that brought the original band together in the studio for the first time since a split that had been precipitated by the couples in the band divorcing. Not only that, but there was to be a new “immersive live experience”, in a bespoke stadium in London – nobody seemed to have noticed the planning application being published online – featuring futuristic de-aged “Abbatars” playing a potentially never-ending series of gigs. In the depths of a miserable year, it seemed, Abba were coming to rescue 2021.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Tom Hanks Nearly Destroyed Connor Ratliff’s Life. So He Made a Podcast About It

News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The first time Tom Hanks nearly destroyed Connor Ratliff’s career was on June 12, 2000. The Missouri-born Ratliff, then an aspiring actor in his mid-twenties living in England, landed what he hoped would be a life-changing role in HBO’s World War II epic Band of Brothers, playing Private Zielinski, the aide to the show’s central character, the stoic officer Dick Winters (a young Damian Lewis). The day before Ratliff was set to begin filming, he learned that America’s most iconic actor-slash-good-guy — who had developed the miniseries and was directing the episode that featured Zielinski, aptly titled “Crossroads” — wanted him to come back in, essentially to audition again. Worse, Ratliff’s agent’s assistant told him that Hanks felt Ratliff had “dead eyes.”

The re-audition went by in a blur — by this point, most of the Zielinski dialogue had been cut, leading a puzzled Hanks to ask, “Oh, is that it? I wish there was more!” — and moments later, Ratliff’s worst fears were realized: Hanks had decided to replace him. In a state of shock, he spent the afternoon wandering the streets of London. When he came across a poster of Hanks’ most recent hit, The Green Mile, in Picadilly Circus, it was a personal rock-bottom.

“I just remember thinking, ‘I’m never going to forget this. I’m going to be constantly reminded of this experience,’ ” Ratliff says now. “A lot of bad experiences in life, you can get away from. But when an aspect of that experience is so ingrained in the popular culture, that was when I realized this thing I thought was going to be so great was now a huge bummer for me.”

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

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News 01.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Two key words were missing from the statements that followed the inaugural in-person summit in September of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the Quad, which features Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. The first absent word was predictable: “China.” Although the country’s growing strength is the clear geopolitical impetus for this Indo-Pacific grouping, officials are at pains to portray their efforts as positive and not about containing a rival. The other omitted word, however, was both less obvious and more important. The four governments released a set of joint principles on technology, emphasizing shared values, fair competition, and an “open, accessible, and secure technology ecosystem.” That rhetoric may sound familiar enough from four countries meeting to champion a “free, open, rules-based order.” But for years, each of these governments, almost reflexively, would also have advocated for an even bigger technological vision: a “global” one.

Almost from its inception, idealists saw in the Internet the radical potential to help bridge divides among people. Digital connectivity spread rapidly during the heady post–Cold War period in which globalization surged and democracy, to many, seemed triumphant. Techno-globalism took root as an ideal among diplomats, scholars, and technologists who believed in free and open exchange both as a virtue in and of itself and as a means to spread political and economic freedoms.

The most utopian techno-globalist visions were never realized. Indeed, one reason political leaders embraced a free and open global Internet was to advocate against efforts to wall off parts of the Web: authoritarian governments, especially in China, worked quickly and effectively to erect digital barriers that prevented their citizens from freely accessing the Internet. Even as U.S. diplomats preached openness, the country’s defense and intelligence sectors perceived new risks and used the Internet to advance more parochial national security interests. Today, far short of the leveled playing field many hoped for, access to the Internet and the benefits that flow from it remains highly unequal around the world.

The recent statements and actions at the Quad and beyond suggest that many long-standing supporters of a global Internet now have moved toward a new vision of technological development: a world fractured between competing national or ideological blocs, each relying on its own trusted hardware and software suppliers to defend against malign interference. To abandon the global ideal in favor of clubs of techno-democracies or techno-autocracies, however, is to abandon a crucial recognition of the Internet age—that despite real divides, humanity and its technologies are stubbornly interconnected.

Read the rest of this article at: Foreign Affairs

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