Links

----- 3 stars -----
The Real Story of Automation Beginning with One Simple Chart / Medium

This is a story of technological unemployment that is crystal clear, and yet people are still arguing about it like it’s something that may or may not happen in the future. It’s actually a very similar situation to climate change, where the effects are right in our faces, but it’s still considered a debate. Automation is real, folks. Companies are actively investing in automation because it means they can produce more at a lower cost. That’s good for business. Wages, salaries, and benefits are all just overhead that can be eliminated by use of machines. [...] One of the most telling statistics I’ve come across in regards to the automation discussion is how almost everyone in the US knows we’ve lost manufacturing jobs over the past three decades. 81% know that very real fact according to a poll of over 4,000 adults by Pew Research. What few people know however is that at the same time the total number of jobs has decreased, total manufacturing output has increased. The US is manufacturing more now than it ever has, and only 35% of the country knows that’s true. The percentage of Americans who know both of the above facts are true is a mere 26%. Only one out of every four Americans knows that thanks to technology, we’re producing as a country far more with less. Most people don’t know that, or blame things like immigrants or offshoring for job losses, even though offshoring is only possible due to technology improvements and only accounts for 13% of manufacturing job loss.

http://bit.ly/2iJnXP9

The Family That Built an Empire of Pain / New Yorker

Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative, at Brandeis University, has worked with hundreds of patients addicted to opioids. He told me that, though many fatal overdoses have resulted from opioids other than OxyContin, the crisis was initially precipitated by a shift in the culture of prescribing—a shift carefully engineered by Purdue. “If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it’s in 1996 that prescribing really takes off,” Kolodny said. “It’s not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks.” When I asked Kolodny how much of the blame Purdue bears for the current public-health crisis, he responded, “The lion’s share.” Although the Sackler name can be found on dozens of buildings, Purdue’s Web site scarcely mentions the family, and a list of the company’s board of directors fails to include eight family members, from three generations, who serve in that capacity. “I don’t know how many rooms in different parts of the world I’ve given talks in that were named after the Sacklers,” Allen Frances, the former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, told me. “Their name has been pushed forward as the epitome of good works and of the fruits of the capitalist system. But, when it comes down to it, they’ve earned this fortune at the expense of millions of people who are addicted. It’s shocking how they have gotten away with it.”

http://bit.ly/2iI2c27


----- 2 stars -----


Boko Haram strapped suicide bombs to them. Somehow these teenage girls survived. / New York Times

The New York Times interviewed 18 girls who were captured by militants in Nigeria and sent into crowds to blow themselves up. Here are their stories.

http://nyti.ms/2iM9TEr


Is the Modern Mass Extinction Overrated? / Nautilus

After decades of researching the impact that humans are having on animal and plant species around the world, Chris Thomas has a simple message: Cheer up. Yes, we’ve wiped out woolly mammoths and ground sloths, and are finishing off black rhinos and Siberian tigers, but the doom is not all gloom. Myriad species, thanks in large part to humans who inadvertently transport them around the world, have blossomed in new regions, mated with like species and formed new hybrids that have themselves gone forth and prospered. We’re talking mammals, birds, trees, insects, microbes—all your flora and fauna. “Virtually all countries and islands in the world have experienced substantial increases in the numbers of species that can be found in and on them,” writes Thomas in his new book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction. Thomas is a professor of conservation biology at the University of York in England. He is not easily pigeonholed. He has been a go-to scientist for the media and lawmakers on how climate change is scorching the life out of animals and plants. At the same time he can turn around and write, “Wild geese, swans, storks, herons and cranes are returning as well, and the great whales, the largest animals ever to have lived on Earth, are once more plying their way across our seaways in numbers after centuries of unsustainable butchery.” Glass half empty, meet Chris Thomas.

http://bit.ly/2iJoFvN


On Safari in Trump's America / The Atlantic

It was the hippies who drove Nancy Hale over the edge. She had spent three days listening respectfully to the real people of Middle America, and finally she couldn’t take it any longer. [...] Hale, who is 65 and lives in San Francisco, is a career activist who got her start protesting nuclear plants and nuclear testing in the 1970s. In 2005, she was one of the founders of Third Way, a center-left think tank, and it was in that capacity that she and four colleagues had journeyed from both coasts to the town of Viroqua, Wisconsin, as part of a post-election listening tour. They had come on a well-meaning mission: to better understand their fellow Americans, whose political behavior in the last election had left them confused and distressed. The trip was predicated on the optimistic notion that if Americans would only listen to each other, they would find more that united than divided them. This notion—the idea that, beyond our polarized politics, lies a middle, or third, path on which most can come together in agreement—is Third Way’s raison d’etre. It is premised on the idea that partisanship is bad, consensus is good, and that most Americans would like to meet in the middle. But these are not uncontested assumptions. And, three days into their safari in flyover country, the researchers were hearing some things that disturbed them greatly—sentiments that threatened their beliefs to the very core.

http://theatln.tc/2iJAy4Y


From boiling lead and black art: An essay on the history of mathematical typography / Practically Efficient

No matter how hard it’s ever been to create printed text, creating printed math has always been even harder. In pre-digital times, equation-laden texts were known as “penalty copy” because of the significant additional time and expense it took to set math notation for printing presses. Even when modern word processors like Microsoft Word include equation editors, they tend to be difficult to use and often produce unpleasing results. While LaTeX and similar variants produce the highest quality digital math type, these frameworks also have much more of a learning barrier than general word processing. But these modern quibbles are much more the fault of hedonic adaption than any of the tools available to us today. We have it vastly easier than any previous stage of civilization, and I think it’s critically important for those of us that write math to have at least a basic awareness of the history of mathematical typesetting.

http://bit.ly/2iJCPwO


Short Cuts / London Review of Books

A big part of a producer’s job is getting people to do things they don’t want to do. I thought about this when the open secret about Harvey Weinstein and his treatment of women broke. Everybody has a Harvey story. Mine is unlurid but revealing. I was attending a reading of a new musical for Broadway and afterwards I was introduced to Harvey. I felt a familiar wave of something when he shook my hand. Hard to place but located in my youth somehow, something primal. ‘I invested in your show,’ he grinned. ‘Ah. I can only apologise,’ I replied, referring to the failure of my play Enron on Broadway. I sensed he liked me. And so it proved. And though I can’t say I liked him, I recognised him, and it can be hard to tell the good from the familiar. High-powered men tend to be conspiratorial by nature: that’s how they become powerful. Deliberate isolation masquerades as trust – an immediate sense of being both inside and outside something. (‘All these people think this but we – you and I – we know that it’s this.’) Often competitive, they are frequently keen on working with young women, who can be pleasing company whom they don’t feel the need to destroy. At least not intentionally. [...] There will be plenty of women who will never speak out about Weinstein. Some because of non-disclosure agreements, but some because of their own confusion about their consent. And the shame of that. ‘Surely that’s infantilising, consent is consent,’ I hear. Well, perhaps.

http://bit.ly/2iKbASW


Why Facebook Shouldn't Be Allowed to Buy TBH / Stratechery

The issue is straightforward: networks are the monopoly makers of the Internet era. To build one is extremely difficult, but, once built, nearly impregnable. The only possible antidote is another network that draws away the one scarce resource: attention. To that end, when it comes to the Internet, the single most effective tool in antitrust regulation is keeping social networks in separate competitive companies. That the FTC and Office of Fair Trading failed to do so in the case of Instagram and WhatsApp is to the detriment of everyone.

http://bit.ly/2iH9B1D


How 'Words With Friends' Became a Game About the Language of Everyday Life / Waypoint

These differences from Scrabble resonate every time I play Words With Friends, but the most fundamental distinction between the games is within the gameplay itself. Not just strategic arrangements or compilations of letters, words in Words With Friends are valued as whole, discrete units: words. It can sometimes feel like a devolution, but this turn back toward words-as-words transforms both the nature of the game and the words themselves, and is a direct product of how Zynga, the publisher of Words With Friends, manages its word list. Zynga's conception of words is a wholesale divergence from Scrabble's word list and its impact ripples from the words, down to the gameplay, and onto players. Words With Friends isn't just a Scrabble clone; it's a living, raging mutiny.

http://bit.ly/2iJO8VS


The Future of Online Dating Is Unsexy and Brutally Effective / Gizmodo

Dating apps promise to connect us with people we’re supposed to be with—momentarily, or more—allegedly better than we know ourselves. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But as machine learning algorithms become more accurate and accessible than ever, dating companies will be able to learn more precisely who we are and who we “should” go on dates with. How we date online is about to change. The future is brutal and we’re halfway there.

http://bit.ly/2iKxrd0


Capitalist Triumphalism: A Brief History / Stumbling and Mumbling

What I mean is that the American government did not commit mass murder, sacrifice tens of thousands of its own young men, cause vicious domestic social divisions and jeopardise the economy in order to save Vietnam from a flawed economic experiment. It did so because it feared communism would succeed, not that it would fail – that communism could supplant capitalism. Equally, the Macarthyism of the early 50s was aimed not at rooting out cranks but genuine threats to American capitalism. When Khrushchev spoke of “burying” and “overtaking” western capitalism, nobody laughed. The danger was a serious one. And the launch of Sputnik suggested to the world that Communism could produce technologies that eclipsed capitalist ones. As Francis Spufford showed in Red Plenty (discussed here and here) the Soviets had a genuine optimism that they could beat capitalism – and cold warriors feared they were right.

http://bit.ly/2iIWQnn


----- 1 star -----

Lights On | Lights Out / ESRI

What if we could isolate that flickering, and directly compare the changing location and amount of our night lights over time? Would patterns of expansion and contraction arise? Would it tell us something about ourselves? Here is a map that directly compares Earth at Night imagery from 2012 and 2016. In those intervening years, much happened that resulted lights coming on...and lights going off.

http://arcg.is/2iMUsMA


Majority Of White Americans Say They Believe Whites Face Discrimination / NPR

A majority of whites say discrimination against them exists in America today, according to a poll released Tuesday from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "If you apply for a job, they seem to give the blacks the first crack at it," said 68-year-old Tim Hershman of Akron, Ohio, "and, basically, you know, if you want any help from the government, if you're white, you don't get it. If you're black, you get it."

http://n.pr/2iJOc88


Here's An Absolutely Incredible High School Volleyball Play / Digg

If you though the next "holy crap" sports highlight you'd see would be from a high school volleyball match in Texas, well, we commend you on your strangely specific foresight. In any case, here's a play that will make you wish you'd gone to more volleyball games when you were in high school.

http://di.gg/2iJOuMg


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