News 22.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 22.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 22.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 22.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I was half asleep when I was jolted awake by beams of light and the sound of crunching rocks. Two men with flashlights were headed toward me, with some urgency, and they were calling out something. I caught a glimpse of one of the men: his face was partially obscured by a scarf. I unzipped the shelter, scrambled for my flashlight, put on my boots, and, in a panic, tried to remember where I had packed my knife.

The Black Tomato travel company has predicated its business, in part, on the notion that many affluent vacationers no longer wish to lounge for a week by an infinity pool: they want to earn their enjoyment in some way, either through physical exertion or by doing good works abroad. Black Tomato specializes in adventure, and its Web site beckons daring customers with such offerings as “iceland: snorkel and dive between tectonic plates.” The company’s packages are expensive. Some cost more than fifteen thousand dollars per person.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 22.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 22.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Growing at unprecedented rates, and shaped by forces both familiar and new, dozens of African cities will join the ranks of humanity’s biggest megalopolises between now and 2100.

Several recent studies project that by the end of this century, Africa will be the only continent experiencing population growth. Thirteen of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa — up from just two today — as will more than a third of the world’s population.

Researchers created three population models to account for different paths of development African countries might take this century, and in all of them, African cities outpaced the rest of the world’s cities in growth.

They found that changes in government policies, education levels, access to contraception, movements for women’s equality and the severity of climate change had significant effects on the birthrates driving population growth, but not enough to keep most major African cities from growing faster than cities on other continents.

In each of the following five African cities, we examine common themes — migration, inequality, foreign investment, conflict and planning — that underlie this transformation across the continent.

Read the rest of this article at: The Washington Post

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News 22.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

“Quiz Wiz–You remember that?” asks Al Kahn. We are sitting in his memorabilia-dense office, which occupies an upper floor of an old art deco edifice on Ninth Avenue in New York City’s theater district. And I do, in fact, remember Quiz Wiz–a handheld electronic trivia game that, somehow, became a must-have toy sensation in the early 1980s. Basically a hunk of rectangular plastic, it had a ­numerical keypad, a tiny speaker that buzzed, and an attached booklet of trivia questions that you answered by pressing certain keys–the whole apparatus as primitive as a glass-screened cathode-ray TV. “I think I got one of those for Christmas one year!” I say to Kahn, the very rhyming name of the game activating in my mind Super 8-ish images of childhood, of chaotic Christmas Day unwrappings.

Spend any length of time with Kahn, and this sort of thing happens over and over. Sooner or later, you come to realize that this plump, profane, fast-talking 74-year-old from Brooklyn is the person responsible for bringing into existence, for better or for worse, countless toys, games, and gizmos that have embedded themselves–also for better or for worse–in your remembrance of things past.

For more than 40 years, Kahn has been one of the world’s great toy impresarios–founding and losing empires, making and losing fortunes. You surely do not know his name, but you likely owe part of your childhood happiness to him.

He doesn’t, mind you, invent these amusements, or even really make them. What he does is unearth obscure toy ideas, license them from their inventors, and then scale the things up into mass-produced global phe­nomena, making everyone rich in the process, most notably himself. In this way, he’s like an old-school A&R man discovering pop musicians and signing them to the label, or like the early 20th-century showbiz producers Lee and J.J. Shubert, who bought scripts and songs and churned out Broadway smashes from their headquarters at the Shubert Theatre Building, which, as it happens, stands just down the street from Kahn’s office.

Read the rest of this article at: Inc

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News 22.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When historians look back on this period, one of the things that they will find remarkable is that for a quarter of a century, the governments of western democracies slept peacefully while some of the most powerful (and profitable) corporations in history emerged and grew, without let or hindrance, at exponential speeds.

They will wonder at how a small number of these organisations, which came to be called “tech giants” (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft), acquired, and began to wield, extraordinary powers. They logged and tracked everything we did online – every email, tweet, blog, photograph and social media post we sent, every “like” we registered, every website we visited, every Google search we made, every product we ordered online, every place we visited, which groups we belonged to and who our closest friends were.

And that was just for starters. Two of these companies even invented a new variant of extractive capitalism. Whereas the standard form appropriated and plundered the Earth’s natural resources, this new “surveillance capitalism” appropriated human resources in the shape of comprehensive records of users’ behaviour, which were algorithmically translated into detailed profiles that could be sold to others. And while the activities of extractive capitalism came ultimately to threaten the planet, those of its surveillance counterpart have turned into a threat to our democracy.

Some of the powers the companies wielded were relatively familiar, basically just contemporary manifestations of older kinds of industrial power: monopolistic domination of certain markets. But future historians will also note that some powers acquired by the tech giants of the early 21st century seemed genuinely novel. They included: the power to transform the public sphere by the algorithmic curation of our information feeds; the ability to silence the most powerful politician in the western world by suddenly banning him from company platforms; and the power effectively to render people invisible by delisting them from Google searches.

Democracy’s long slumber ended in 2016 when two political earthquakes shook the political world – the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US. Although both shocks were indicators of a deep malaise in liberal democracy, they were widely – but wrongly – attributed to social media. There’s no doubt that technology played a role in the upheavals of 2016, but anyone who attributes such seismic shifts just to the operations of tech companies hasn’t been paying attention to the recent history of either capitalism or democracy. In fact, blaming tech provides a convenient way of ignoring the deeper causes of the turbulence.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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