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News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@jamb_london
News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The Improbable Rise and Endless Heroism of Volodymir Zelensky

As I write this, Volodymyr Zelensky, the most improbable national leader in the world, just might be the world’s most popular. By now everyone knows his life story’s surreal outline: a comedian who rose to fame with a portrayal of a president becomes the real thing, then transcends it.

The erstwhile Ukrainian voice of Paddington Bear, the star of a dozen shitty comedies and one decent one, he first stared down Trump over their “perfect” phone call—if you recall, 45 tried making aid to Ukraine conditional on a “small favor,” i.e. a sham investigation into the Bidens, and got impeached for his troubles—and is now staring down Putin on the streets of his besieged capital.

A huge part of Zelensky’s global resonance is that he seems to fit a type everyone knows the world over, because, thanks to millennia of persecution, the type exists the world over: a Jewish wiseacre. The idea of one of those (of us, I should say), becoming a wartime icon is in itself a perfect Jewish joke. It’s Woody Allen in Bananas, it’s Dustin Hoffman in Ishtar, it’s Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder. Except in real life. Risking real death.

The true story of 44-year-old Zelensky’s rise is a tad more complicated, and speaks more to the incredibly messy cultural tangle that exists between Russia and Ukraine than to any easy stereotype. His business and comedy roots lie in KVN, a longtime Russian showbiz phenomenon whose title is an acronym for a musty Sovietism—“The Club for the Jolly and the Resourceful.” KVN is a bizarre but admittedly original concept: Imagine if sketch comedy functioned as a pro sport, with city teams battling one another for a spot in the major league, and the top matches televised.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

He walks through the door into the apartment where he grew up. The apartment is empty, which is strange but also kind of beautiful, seeing it clean like this. The parquet floors shine in the winter sun. Today is Sunday. In two days the sale will close, and the apartment his parents owned for fifty-six years will belong to someone else.

Fifty-six, the age he is now.

His sister, Amy, was with him today for a while, and they sat on the floor in their old rooms. As kids they used to knock on the walls to each other at night, in a secret knocking language.

He has children of his own now, who are flying through their teenage years.

When he was little, Ben would lie under his sheets after bedtime listening to music on his clock radio. WNYC had a program called While the City Sleeps, hours of classical music that made him feel as if he were floating. He always felt like he was getting away with something, listening to it. The city was asleep, but he was awake! He would stare out the window at the lights glowing in the apartment buildings up West Eighty-fourth Street. The city lights seemed to trickle up into the stars, and with the dreamy music playing softly—it was magical.

On Christmas Eve, he would look up into that sky for as long as he could keep his eyes open, trying to spot Santa’s sleigh.

Some nights he would hear his parents working in what the kids called the Big Living Room—which, walking through it all these years later, doesn’t seem so big. His famous parents, the husband-and-wife comedy duo, working on their act or writing commercials or whatever else they did in there while Ben was falling asleep. Stiller and Meara. A household name. Dad and Mom.

He’s working on a documentary about his parents. Their brilliance, their humor, their generosity, their struggles. It brings up memories of all the times they were there for him, and the times it felt like they weren’t, and how he thinks about that with his own kids. This apartment was always here, and they were always here, and he could always come home, even when he didn’t want to because he was out chasing his own dreams.

But the documentary is a good year away from being done. First he’s got to finish directing this nine-episode show for Apple TV+, Severance, which has taken forever because of the pandemic but which is finally looking just how he wants it to—a show he’d want to watch.

Read the rest of this article at: Esquire

Yaël Eisenstat is a Future of Democracy Fellow at the Berggruen Institute. In 2018, she was Facebook’s Global Head of Elections Integrity Operations for political ads. Previously, she spent 18 years working around the globe as a CIA officer, a national security advisor to Vice President Biden, and a diplomat.

With the onslaught of press coverage and congressional hearings about Big Tech’s role in society in recent years, we have heard variations of an all-too common defense from tech leaders: “We do more good than harm.” On its face, this is both an unsubstantiated and unquantifiable assertion, based on the self-described tech industry’s views of what is good for the rest of us, both today and in the future they are building. More importantly, it is an irrelevant argument intended to subvert a fundamental purpose of democratic governance: protecting the public from predatory or harmful actors and business practices.

What has come to be known as “tech” presents a two-faced image. On the one hand, tech represents (and especially presents itself) as all that is good about contemporary capitalism: it produces delightful new products, generates vast new troves of wealth and inspires us quite literally to reach for the heavens. On the other hand, the harms caused by “tech” have become all too familiar: facial recognition technology disproportionately misidentifying people of color, Google reinforcing racist stereotypes, Facebook stoking political polarization, AirBnB hollowing out city centers, smartphones harming mental health and on and on. Some go so far as to claim that tech is depriving us of the very essence of our humanity.

Read the rest of this article at: Noema

News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s easy to forget about the toilet-paper shortages, the empty streets, and the disinfected groceries. The first days, weeks even, of the pandemic felt like a twisted novelty. You could try out a TikTok trend: whipping together sugar, instant coffee, and a little bit of warm water, then laying that fluffy meringue over milk—dalgona coffee. In the fridge, your sourdough starter looked mushy and gassy. Later, you’d go for a socially distanced walk, but for now you’d make some progress on that loan you owed Tom Nook in the Animal Crossing universe. You didn’t know what a variant was. You’d never heard of a “Fauci ouchie.” And you thought you would probably return to school or your office in a couple of weeks. This was March 2020.

Deep in the throes of the late-stage pandemic, millions of young people have grown to miss this time early last year. Their longing is captured in TikToks and YouTube videos that romanticize the trends, obsessions, and sounds of 18 months ago. These “early-pandemic aesthetic” creators have built an online community tied together by a yearning for a time when the world seemed united in facing an uncertain future.

James Ikin, a 25-year-old in London, jumped onto the pandemic-nostalgia TikTok trend last October, using a soundtrack that mashed together the most viral songs from quarantine, including “Say So,” the disco-infused pop track from the L.A. rapper and singer Doja Cat. (The video has more than 3 million views, and a similar video he made in February has more than 450,000.) “Back then it was just pure and simple,” Ikin told us. “You’re locked down, and this is what life is going to be for the foreseeable future for absolutely everybody. Whereas now you’re trying to plot a path forward … and it makes life more complicated again.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 28.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In his book Until the End of Time (2020), the physicist Brian Greene sums up the standard physicalist view of reality: ‘Particles and fields. Physical laws and initial conditions. To the depth of reality we have so far plumbed, there is no evidence for anything else.’ This physicalist approach has a heck of a track record. For some 400 years – roughly from the time of Galileo – scientists have had great success in figuring out how the Universe works by breaking up big, messy problems into smaller ones that could be tackled quantitatively through physics, with the help of mathematics. But there’s always been one pesky outlier: the mind. The problem of consciousness resists the traditional approach of science.

To be clear, science has made great strides in studying the brain, and no one doubts that brains enable consciousness. Scientists such as Francis Crick (who died in 2004) and Christof Koch made great strides in pinpointing the neural correlates of consciousness – roughly, the task of figuring out what sorts of brain activity are associated with what sorts of conscious experience. What this work leaves unanswered, however, is why conscious experience occurs at all.

There is no universally agreed-upon definition of consciousness. Awareness, including self-awareness, comes close; experience perhaps comes slightly closer. When we look at a red apple, certain neural circuits in our brains fire – but something more than that also seems to happen: we experience the redness of the apple. As philosophers often put the question: why is it like something to be a being-with-a-brain? Why is it like something to see a red apple, to hear music, to touch the bark of a tree, and so on? This is what David Chalmers called the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness – the puzzle of how non-conscious matter, responding only to the laws of physics, gives rise to conscious experience (in contrast to the ‘easy problems’ of figuring out which sorts of brain activity are associated with which specific mental states). The existence of minds is the most serious affront to physicalism.

This is where the zombie – that is, the thought experiment known as the ‘philosopher’s zombie’ – comes in. The experiment features an imagined creature exactly like you or me, but with a crucial ingredient – consciousness – missing. Though versions of the argument go back many decades, its current version was stated most explicitly by Chalmers. In his book The Conscious Mind (1996), he invites the reader to consider his zombie twin, a creature who is ‘molecule for molecule identical to me’ but who ‘lacks conscious experience entirely’. Chalmers imagines the case where he’s ‘gazing out the window, experiencing some nice green sensations from seeing the trees outside, having pleasant taste experiences through munching on a chocolate bar, and feeling a dull aching sensation in my right shoulder.’ Then he imagines his zombie twin in the exact same environment. The zombie will look and even act the same as the real David Chalmers; indeed:

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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