News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Six nights a week, Vladimir Solovyov, one of the dominant voices in Russian propaganda, gathers a half-dozen pundits for more than two hours of what appears to be unscripted political crosstalk. Most recent episodes have been devoted to mocking Ukraine and its allies—especially the United States and President Biden—and debating Russia’s options. “Should we just turn the world to dust?” Solovyov asked during his show on April 29th. His guests—seven middle-aged men—laughed heartily. Later, Solovyov grew sombre. “I’d like to remind the West of two statements of historic significance,” he said. “The President of the Russian Federation has asked, ‘What is the point of a world in which there is no Russia?’ ” This is a quote from an interview Solovyov himself conducted with Vladimir Putin, in 2018, in which Putin responded to a question about the possibility of a nuclear war. The second statement Solovyov quoted was also from Putin in 2018: “If they start a nuclear war, we will respond. But we, being righteous people, will go straight to Heaven, while they will just croak.” Solovyov quotes this one a lot, sometimes as a sort of call-and-response with his guests.

All broadcast television in Russia is either owned or controlled by the state. The main evening newscasts on the two main state channels, Channel One and Russia One, cover more or less the same stories, in more or less the same order. On April 30th, for example, Channel One led with a report from a village recently “liberated from the neo-Nazis”; Russia One began its newscast with a general update on the gains made by Russian troops—“Hundreds of neo-Nazis liquidated, tens of airborne targets hit, and several hits against command centers and equipment stockpiles.” Both newscasts reported on atrocities ostensibly committed by Ukrainian troops. “The Ukrainian Army once more bombed civilian targets,” Russia One claimed. Channel One carried a detailed confession supposedly made by a Ukrainian prisoner of war, who said that he had raped a Russian woman and murdered her husband. Both channels carried reports from a military hospital where a group of young men in identical striped pajamas received medals for their heroic roles in “liberating” Ukrainian towns and villages.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the late nineteen-forties, Delmar Harder, a vice-president at Ford, popularized the term “automation”—a “nickname,” he said, for the increased mechanization at the company’s Detroit factory. Harder was mostly talking about the automatic transfer of car parts between machines, but the concept soon grew legs—and sometimes a robotic arm—to encompass a range of practices and possibilities.

From the immediate postwar years to the late nineteen-sixties, America underwent what we might call an automation boom, not only in the automotive sector but in most heavy-manufacturing industries. As new technology made factory work more efficient, it also rendered factory workers redundant, often displacing them into a growing service sector. Automation looks a little different these days, but the rhetoric around it remains basically the same. Popular discourse alternates between a vision of benevolent machines—ones that could, say, carry out dangerous or gruelling tasks—and one of job-stealing robots. Such talk frequently swells in moments of technological innovation. (Think of the birth of the personal computer, or, more recently, of the rise of Amazon.) COVID-19 only intensified this anxiety, as labor shortages, and the pressure to keep people safe, gave companies new opportunities to automate. Are robots really, finally, going to replace us?

Two recent books suggest that we shouldn’t believe the hype. As Aaron Benanav’s “Automation and the Future of Work” (Verso) and Jason E. Smith’s “Smart Machines and Service Work: Automation in an Age of Stagnation” (Reaktion) remind us, talk of automation is hardly new, dating as far back as 1835, when the Scottish theorist Andrew Ure praised “the automatic factory.” Both books cite a range of writing on automation, positive and critical, to present a different view of our moment. The future might have fewer jobs, but it probably won’t be because of robots. In fact, we are living not so much in the dawn of peak automation as in something like its long, drawn-out twilight.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

The Staircase documentary editor Sophie Brunet never wanted to be a character in HBO Max’s adaptation.

The show’s creator, Antonio Campos, called her in 2020 with questions about the Peabody-winning docuseries, which chronicled the defense strategy of Michael Peterson after he was accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen, in 2001.

But Campos didn’t just ask about the making of The Staircase, which has been heralded as true-crime cinema—providing astonishing access into a fascinating trial that unfolded in a series of stranger-than-fiction story twists involving secret lovers and the late discovery of a missing suspected murder weapon. Campos wanted to know about a plot twist that proliferated offscreen—when Brunet and Peterson, the subject of The Staircase, engaged in a yearslong romance that largely overlapped with his time in prison. Brunet confirmed the relationship in a 2008 interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, and Peterson had written about it in his 2019 book, Behind the Staircase.

In an email to Vanity Fair, Brunet recalls her conversation with Campos: “I told him specifically that I could tell him, as a friend, some aspects of [the relationship], but that I did not want to be a character in his [project].”

Brunet had met Campos a number of times before, initially in Paris when the filmmaker was meeting with Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, the Academy Award–winning director of The Staircase docuseries, and again at Peterson’s 2011 hearing in Durham. A few years after Brunet helped edit 2013’s Palme d’Or–winning film, Blue is the Warmest Color, she says she reconnected with Campos on the film-festival circuit. By the time Campos called her in 2020, Brunet says she understood that de Lestrade trusted the American filmmaker. De Lestrade had shared his archives from the iconic crime documentary with him—letting Campos sift through hundreds of hours of raw footage for reference and research.

Some time after her conversation with Campos, Brunet got a phone call from de Lestrade with an update about Campos’s miniseries. Not only was Brunet a character, but the actor cast to play her, Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche, was eager to meet with her. “I was upset when I heard that I was going to be a character in the Antonio Campos series. I felt betrayed and I was angry with myself that I had trusted Antonio,” writes Brunet. By that point though, she didn’t feel like she could stop the momentum of the Hollywood adaptation, which now had not one, but two Oscar winners involved. “I did not feel that there was anything I could do to avoid being a character in Antonio’s [project].”

“I decided to make the best of it and meet with Juliette,” she writes, explaining that she and Binoche ended up hitting it off—a silver lining to a roller-coaster Staircase saga that preceded the adaptation ordeal. “I took this new friendship as a late gift, an unexpected happy ending to my painful story.”

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


The Lady Vanishes

News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

What was the name of the female scientist who pioneered the mRNA research behind the success of recent COVID-19 vaccines? Who was that 16th-century catholic nun from whom René Descartes stole the evil demon thought experiment that secured his place in public memory as the father of modern philosophy? I doubt you remember either woman. Their names appeared recently in newspapers, on social media, and within academia. But recalling them is difficult. Seldom have women thinkers been more acknowledged and lauded than today. But how many of their names have we retained in our memory?

The mechanisms of collective forgetting are fascinating and important. Our practice of writing genealogies determines who gets remembered, and who doesn’t. It is also haphazard. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, if our lines of transmission remain co-opted by strategic omissions, the selective erasure of names will continue.

Many names that have faded from history were women’s. That’s no coincidence. Women aren’t just missing. They have been made absent, as the historian David Noble argued in A World Without Women (1992). The overwhelming absence of women in intellectual history is constructed. And we won’t prevent the fading of women from future history simply with an occasional reminder about the existence of a few remarkable individuals throughout the ages. What really causes our collective forgetting is the stepwise removal of their names from ongoing conversation.

For centuries, women scholars have routinely appeared isolated during their lifetimes. Old black-and-white photographs of academic meetings typically show that one exceptional woman sitting rather awkwardly among many men. Stil, this isolation is not the kind that would soon lead to their disappearance from collective memory.

he story of Mary Hesse shows how quickly even well-known women from our recent past can vanish from the collective memory of their peers. The first time I encountered Hesse was in grad school thanks to a brief and dismissive aside in Paul Feyerabend’s landmark book Against Method (1975):

This position, which is a natural consequence of the arguments presented above, is frequently attacked – not by counter-arguments, which would be easy to answer, but by rhetorical questions. ‘If any metaphysics goes,’ writes Dr Hesse in her review of an earlier essay of mine, ‘then the question arises why we do not go back and exploit the objective criticism of modern science available in Aristotelianism, or indeed in Voodoo?’ – and she insinuates that a criticism of this kind would be altogether laughable. Her insinuation, unfortunately, assumes a great deal of ignorance in her readers.
Hesse came across as a bit conservative in this portrayal. I did not think much of it at the time, or of her for that matter. Despite Feyerabend’s counterintuitive belief that there are no restrictions about what can pass as scientific research, he is idolised as a maverick in the philosophy of science. He is known widely even outside the field. Against Method feels like an enthralling missile directed at ossified ideas about logic and inference at the heart of theories about scientific rationality. ‘Anything goes!’ Feyerabend’s battle cry echoes. I was seduced by his rebel yells at first.

Read the rest of this article at aeon

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News 23.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Facebook rebranded as Meta last October, it brought into the mainstream a concept that has been exciting the bright minds of Silicon Valley for years: the metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg’s unveiling of a vision for a new era of integrated, immersive technologies was met with enthusiasm in some quarters, and cynicism in others. It’s easy to see why. Skepticism is a natural reaction to something that sounds like it’s straight out of a science fiction novel — in a way, it is — especially when there are wider societal concerns about how tech operates in the two-dimensional world.

Many rightly ask: what is the metaverse and why should I care? And even if I can be persuaded that it is worth getting excited about, how can I trust that these new technologies will be built and governed responsibly?

When Facebook started 18 years ago, we mostly typed text on websites. When we got phones with cameras, the internet became more visual and mobile. As connections got faster, video became a richer way to share things. We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile; from text to photos to video.

In this progression, the metaverse is a logical evolution. It’s the next generation of the internet — a more immersive, 3D experience. Its defining quality will be a feeling of presence, like you are right there with another person or in another place.

A wide range of technology companies — from big players like Microsoft and Google to smaller ones like Niantic and Emblematic — are already building experiences and products for the metaverse. Early versions of it already exist in the virtual worlds of games like Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite. It incorporates technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) that, while still young, have been in use for some time.

The metaverse isn’t just about the detached worlds of VR, where we don headsets that take us out of our environment in the physical world and transport us somewhere new. VR is one end of a spectrum. It stretches from using avatars or accessing metaverse spaces on your phone, through AR glasses that project computer-generated images onto the world around us, to mixed reality experiences that blend both physical and virtual environments.

The word ‘metaverse’ is actually a little misleading, as ‘verse’ implies you are transported to another ‘universe’. Of course, there is escapism inherent in using some of these technologies — like an immersive gaming experience. But the metaverse is much more than that. It’s ultimately about finding ever more ways for the benefits of the online world to be felt in our daily lives — enriching our experiences, not replacing them.

Imagine, for example, how useful it could be to wear glasses that give you virtual directions in your line of sight, or immediate translations of street signs in foreign languages. Or even make it possible for you to have a conversation with someone who is thousands of miles away as a three-dimensional hologram in your living room instead of a head and shoulders on a flat screen. And, as I will go on to explain in more detail, the potential societal benefits — particularly in education and healthcare — are vast, from helping med students practice surgical techniques to bringing school lessons to life in new and exciting ways.

Read the rest of this article at: Nick Clegg

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