News 24.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

News 24.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

If you’ve been enjoying these curated article summaries that dive into cultural, creative, and technological currents, you may find the discussions and analyses on our Substack page worthwhile as well. There, I explore themes and ideas that often intersect with the subjects covered in the articles I come across during my curation process.

While this curation simply aims to surface compelling pieces, our Substack writings delve deeper into topics that have piqued our curiosity over time. From examining the manifestation of language shaping our reality to unpacking philosophical undercurrents in society, our Substack serves as an outlet to unpack our perspectives on the notable trends and undercurrents reflected in these curated readings.

So if any of the articles here have stoked your intellectual interests, I invite you to carry that engagement over to our Substack, where we discuss related matters in more depth. Consider it an extension of the curation – a space to further engage with the fascinating ideas these pieces have surfaced.


We will never know how many died during the Butlerian Jihad. Was it millions? Billions? Trillions, perhaps? It was a fantastic rage, a great revolt that spread like wildfire, consuming everything in its path, a chaos that engulfed generations in an orgy of destruction lasting almost a hundred years. A war with a death toll so high that it left a permanent scar on humanity’s soul. But we will never know the names of those who fought and died in it, or the immense suffering and destruction it caused, because the Butlerian Jihad, abominable and devastating as it was, never happened.

The Jihad was an imagined event, conjured up by Frank Herbert as part of the lore that animates his science-fiction saga Dune. It was humanity’s last stand against sentient technology, a crusade to overthrow the god of machine-logic and eradicate the conscious computers and robots that in the future had almost entirely enslaved us. Herbert described it as “a thalamic pause for all humankind,” an era of such violence run amok that it completely transformed the way society developed from then onward. But we know very little of what actually happened during the struggle itself, because in the original Dune series, Herbert gives us only the faintest outlines—hints, murmurs, and whispers, which carry the ghostly weight of prophecy. The Jihad reshaped civilization by outlawing artificial intelligence or any machine that simulated our minds, placing a damper on the worst excesses of technology. However, it was fought so many eons before the events portrayed in the novels that by the time they occur it has faded into legend and crystallized in apocrypha. The hard-won lessons of the catastrophe are preserved in popular wisdom and sayings: “Man may not be replaced.” “Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.” “We do not trust the unknown which can arise from imaginative technology.” “We must negate the machines-that-think.” The most enduring legacy of the Jihad was a profound change in humankind’s relationship to technology. Because the target of that great hunt, where we stalked and preyed upon the very artifacts we had created to lift ourselves above the seat that nature had intended for us, was not just mechanical intelligence but the machinelike attitude that had taken hold of our species: “Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments,” Herbert wrote.

Read the rest of this article at: Harper’s

The Sargasso Sea, a warm, calm expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean, is bordered not by land but by four strong currents—a gyre. Vast mats of prickly brown seaweed float so thickly on the windless surface that Christopher Columbus worried about his ships getting stuck. The biodiverse sanctuary within and beneath the sargassum produces Anguilla rostrata, the American eel. Each female lays some eight million eggs. The eggs hatch as ribbonlike larvae that drift to the Gulf Stream, which carries them to the continental shelf. By the time they reach Maine, the larvae have transformed into swimmers about the length of an index finger, with the circumference of a bean sprout and the translucence of a jellyfish. Hence their nickname, glass eels, also known as elvers. The glass eel is barely visible, but for a dark stripe—its developing backbone—and a couple of chia seeds for eyes. “Ghosts on the water,” a Maine fisherman once called them. Travelling almost as one, like a swarm or a murmuration, glass eels enter tidal rivers and push upstream, pursuing the scent of freshwater until, ideally, they reach a pond and commence a long, tranquil life of bottom-feeding. Elvers mature into adults two to three feet in length, with the girth and the coloring of a slimy bicycle tire. Then, one distant autumn, on some unknown cue, they return to the Sargasso, where they spawn and die.

Maine has thirty-five hundred miles of coastline, including coves, inlets, and bays, plus hundreds of tidal rivers, thousands of streams, and what has been described as “an ungodly amount of brooks.” Hundreds of millions of glass eels arrive each spring, as the waters warm. Four hundred and twenty-five licensed elvermen are allowed to harvest slightly more than seven thousand five hundred pounds of them during a strictly regulated fishing season, which runs from late March to early June. Four Native American tribes may legally fish another two thousand or so pounds, with more than half of that amount designated for the Passamaquoddy, who have lived in Maine and eastern Canada for some twelve thousand years. Maine is the only state with a major elver fishery. South Carolina has a small one (ten licensed elvermen), but everywhere else, in an effort to preserve the species, elver fishing is a federal crime.

The elvermen sell their catch to state-licensed buyers, who in turn sell to customers in Asia. The baby eels are shipped live, mostly to Hong Kong, in clear plastic bags of water and pure oxygen, like a sophisticated twist on pet-store goldfish. They live in carefully tended tanks and ponds at aquaculture farms until they are big enough to be eaten. Japan alone annually consumes at least a hundred thousand tons of freshwater eel, unagi, which is widely enjoyed kabayaki style—butterflied, marinated, and grilled.

The American eel became a valuable commodity as overfishing, poaching, and other forms of human interference led to the decline of similar species in Japan (Anguilla japonica) and Europe (Anguilla anguilla). Those species are now red-listed as, respectively, endangered and critically endangered. The U.S. has not declared the American eel endangered, and fishermen want to keep it that way.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 24.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

Erik Maund had always lived the high life, as you might expect of a man whose surname had been blasted on TV ads for decades. By the time he was in his forties, he was an executive at Maund Automotive Group, a car sales business whose first dealership was opened by his grandfather Charles Maund. “If you say the Maund name in Austin in a 7-Eleven, two people say, ‘I bought a car from him,’ ” said Wallace Lundgren, a retired Chevrolet dealer. Austinites could probably recognize the major names in the car business better than they could identify any local politician. And members of the city’s old power circles would recognize Erik—a six-foot-three white guy with short brown hair, a boxy head, and heavy-lidded eyes tucked under a straight brow—as a likely heir to the business.

He and his wife, Sheri, a former dealership office worker, had raised two kids to the cusp of adulthood and lived in a seven-thousand-square-foot white brick mansion next to the Austin Country Club, where he teed off regularly with a close-knit group of friends. He owned a boat and a lake house. On Sundays he often enjoyed brunch at the club with his family.

Read the rest of this article at: Texas Monthly

News 24.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

The school year has ended and with it its practice schedules and playoffs, but most sports can be year-round if you want them to be, and now the summer leagues begin, along with the clinics and the development camps. We are all familiar with the critiques of the turbocharging of youth sports over the past couple of decades. Critics argue that spending all this time and money on recreational sports that are getting more competitive and overheated is not necessarily good for children. Nevertheless, youth sports culture seems to barrel ahead on its trajectory toward more, faster, and stronger, partly thanks to billions of dollars in private-equity investment. It all must be ultimately worth it, right?

Parents complain about the time and money commitments that even local leagues can require, but they keep participating, which makes me wonder what the lesser-explored reasons for opting into sports parenting might be. Beyond the obvious — kids’ motivation, parents’ pride in their kids’ accomplishments, and enjoyment of a shared activity — what do parents get out of all-encompassing youth-sports culture?

I have always suspected that by getting their kids involved in demanding sports schedules, some parents are willingly trading their free time for an ironclad peace of mind that is hard to find anywhere else. When you spend your weekends ferrying your children to their activities (and this goes beyonds sports — chess team, anyone?), you may sacrifice time for your own pursuits, but you can also silence any nagging sense that you weren’t showing up as a parent. Sports solves the problem of what it even means to show up: You can sit on the bleachers and space out and it counts as having been supportive. In our age of anxious parenting, being a committed sports parent is a path toward absolution of any guilt. You drove to the games, you bought the equipment: peace of mind.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

Like much of Northern Virginia, Loudoun County was once known for its horse farms and Civil War battle sites.

But over the past 15 years, many of this community’s fields and forests have been cleared away to build the data centers that form the backbone of our digital lives.

The rise of artificial intelligence is now turbocharging demand for bigger data centers, transforming the landscape even more and taxing the region’s energy grids.

On a crisp afternoon this spring, the newest facility was nearing completion. When it’s done, this 200,000-square-foot building could use as much energy as 30,000 homes in the US.

But first, it needs to get enough power…

The energy supply can’t come soon enough for DataBank, the data center provider that owns the Virginia facility. An unnamed “big tech” client leased the entire facility and was so eager to tap into the complex to access computing resources for AI applications that it had servers ready in the building before DataBank was scheduled to have electricity for them.

“That’s the thing with AI. They need a lot of power and as soon as you have it, they want it right away,” said James Mathes, who manages some DataBank facilities. “Right now, it’s like a blank check for AI.”

The almost overnight surge in electricity demand from data centers is now outstripping the available power supply in many parts of the world, according to interviews with data center operators, energy providers and tech executives. That dynamic is leading to years-long waits for businesses to access the grid as well as growing concerns of outages and price increases for those living in the densest data center markets.

The dramatic increase in power demands from Silicon Valley’s growth-at-all-costs approach to AI also threatens to upend the energy transition plans of entire nations and the clean energy goals of trillion-dollar tech companies. In some countries, including Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Malaysia, the energy required to run all the data centers they plan to build at full capacity exceeds the available supply of renewable energy, according to a Bloomberg analysis of the latest available data.

By one official estimate, Sweden could see power demand from data centers roughly double over the course of this decade — and then double again by 2040. In the UK, AI is expected to suck up 500% more energy over the next decade. And in the US, data centers are projected to use 8% of total power by 2030, up from 3% in 2022, according to Goldman Sachs, which described it as “the kind of electricity growth that hasn’t been seen in a generation.”

Globally, there are more than 7,000 data centers built or in various stages of development, up from 3,600 in 2015.

These data centers have the capacity to consume a combined 508 terawatt hours of electricity per year if they were to run constantly. That’s greater than the total annual electricity production for Italy or Australia.

By 2034, global energy consumption by data centers is expected to top 1,580 TWh, about as much as is used by all of India.

These are only estimates and there remains a high degree of uncertainty about how the current AI frenzy will play out. There’s also a difference between the projections for how much electricity data center developers want and how much generation actually gets built.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg