Week of April 15, 2019

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:


From Ben Thompson:

Indeed, the hidden victims of overly broad regulation focused on companies like YouTube and Facebook are all of the infrastructure providers that makes sites like Stratechery possible. Any hosting provider with a brain — or email service or message board or anything that hosts content from users — would be wise to simply block Australia completely. This law is a disaster, and a reminder that tech companies owe it to the Internet to get their houses in order before everything becomes far, far worse.

At a time when human talent is so often the binding constraint, and amid so many calls to improve the educational system, these kinds of ideas deserve further attention.


It's infeasible but I would give every one a private jet—it's a transformative experience. Abigail Disney on what it’s like to grow up with unimaginable wealth:

Actually, having a jet is a really big deal. If I were queen of the world, I would pass a law against private jets, because they enable you to get around a certain reality. You don’t have to go through an airport terminal, you don’t have to interact, you don’t have to be patient, you don’t have to be uncomfortable. These are the things that remind us we’re human.


Tim Maughan asks the question: is the Internet really unbreakable?

It’s both an exciting and frightening idea, that activists and protest groups—rather than military, paramilitary, or nation state forces—might be able to cause disruption and chaos via DIY methods of attacking internet infrastructure, but how realistic is it really?


There is only one copy of the highest resolution scan of the Notre Dame Cathedral which could be integral as it is rebuilt.

Blaer estimated that, despite the high resolution of the scans and panoramic photographs, the files would be roughly a terabyte, small enough to fit on a single hard drive, but unlikely to be stored in the cloud. All those data now exist on a single disk, a tiny portal into the past, which is sitting somewhere on Earth. Blaer thought it might be in the hands of Tallon’s students at Vassar. But Ochsendorf thought the data were most likely with the rest of Tallon’s archive, in the possession of his widow, Marie, who held Andrew in her arms as he died.


Two tweets about the first image of a black hole ever captured.


Deep dive on how Banksy authenticates his (or her) work:

Can an information system be art? Because, like I said, it’s flipping sweet, and all executed in Banksy’s trademark tongue in cheek style. This whole authentication process would easily be my favourite artwork by Banksy.


I think this is a really great, original (to me) take:

Sometimes I think of Kickstarter as the original sin for modern patronage. Kickstarter, with its fundraising goals, email updates, and reward tiers, inadvertently created a blueprint for every other crowdfunding platform thereafter. But we never stopped to think about whether we repeated these behaviors because they were actually good for creators, or because that’s just how Kickstarter did it.

Week of April 1, 2019

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:


This rings very true:

I remember the thrilling convenience of buying a book online for the first time, and the sudden insatiable 2AM desire to have The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes or Hiram’s Red Shirt. Because I can! That feeling is separate from the responsibility of owning that book, separate from the act, spread out over hours, days, and weeks, of reading the book, separate even from the feeling of being possessed by one. I know this. And yet the moment when the mouse hovers over the purchase button contains the promise of transformation, a hope that obliterates the knowledge there is no more space on the shelves. It’s a feeling far less tidy, and far less personal, than joy.


You can’t take away the hard work:

But for Swaney, the very qualities that got her into the Olympics in the first place — the unadulterated belief that her hard work would somehow pay off, her refusal to succumb to, or even acknowledge, self-doubt — were the very things that prevented her from being an athlete the public could connect with. When the online trolling began, Swaney responded not as someone who understood what spectators needed — an acknowledgment of her underachievement — but as someone who felt pride in what she had managed to accomplish against long odds.


We need each other to survive:

Diversity is what makes us stronger, not weaker. Biologically, without diversity we die off as a species. We can no longer adapt to changes in the environment. This is true of social diversity as well. Without diversity, we have no resources to face the inevitable challenges, no potential for beneficial mutations or breakthroughs that may save us.


On Kris Humphries many facets:

I was never a person who wanted to be famous. I’m a guy from Minnesota who loves the game of basketball. And yeah, 99 times out of 100, when people come up to me, it’s still “Bro, are you that dude?” But one out of 100, someone will come up to me and say something like, “Hey, all the bullshit aside, I watched those Nets teams, and you really played hard, man.” Whenever that happens, I say thank you, but deep down, I almost want to stop and give them a hug.


Continuing the Kardashian theme:

Even so, l’affaire Jordy is emblematic of a well-established Kardashian ecosystem: Family turmoil feeds the celebrity news cycle, which drives interest in the TV show, which then helps to publicize an ever-increasing number of sponsorships and branded products.

Week of February 25, 2019

HAL 9000

The most levelheaded and coherent summary of OpenAI's recent NLP advancements. Turns out, the robots are not taking over the world quite yet.

Then the entire world lost its mind. If you follow machine learning, then for a brief period of time, OpenAI’s slightly bigger, slightly more coherent language model may have overtaken Trump’s fictitious state of emergency as the biggest story on your newsfeed.


Dictionaries used to be a lot more fun to read and a lot more useful to the writing process because of it. James Somers goes into detail about what we’re missing.

Webster’s dictionary took him 26 years to finish. It ended up having 70,000 words. He wrote it all himself, including the etymologies, which required that he learn 28 languages, including Old English, Gothic, German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Welsh, Russian, Aramaic, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit. He was plagued by debt to fund the project; he had to mortgage his home.


The story of why a man is standing next to one of the most dangerous artifacts in the world and why he keeps returning to it.

In the days and weeks after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in late April 1986, simply being in the same room as this particular pile of radioactive material—known as the Elephant’s Foot—would have killed you within a couple of minutes. Even a decade later, when this image was taken, the radiation probably caused the film to develop strangely, creating the photo’s grainy quality. The man in this photo, Artur Korneyev, has likely visited this area more than anyone else, and in doing so has been exposed to more radiation than almost anyone in history.


I think this article is a bit breathless but still brings up interesting questions to ponder about the effects of modern technology on society and our lives.

Larry Page grasped that human experience could be Google’s virgin wood, that it could be extracted at no extra cost online and at very low cost out in the real world. For today’s owners of surveillance capital the experiential realities of bodies, thoughts and feelings are as virgin and blameless as nature’s once-plentiful meadows, rivers, oceans and forests before they fell to the market dynamic. We have no formal control over these processes because we are not essential to the new market action. Instead we are exiles from our own behaviour, denied access to or control over knowledge derived from its dispossession by others for others. Knowledge, authority and power rest with surveillance capital, for which we are merely “human natural resources”. We are the native peoples now whose claims to self-determination have vanished from the maps of our own experience.



The level of detail in this post rivals the Stephen Wolfram’s reigning champion, his post on his personal analytics from six years ago. I think this new one, on his personal infrastructure, wins.

Of course, a critical piece of making my metasearcher work is that I’ve stored so much stuff. For example, I actually have all the 815,000 or so emails that I’ve written in the past 30 years, and all the 2.3 million (mostly non-spam) ones I’ve received. And, yes, it helps tremendously that I’ve had a company with organized IT infrastructure etc. for the past 32 years.

But email, of course, has the nice feature that it’s “born digital”. What about things that were, for example, originally on paper? Well, I have been something of an “informational packrat” for most of my life. And in fact I’ve been pretty consistently keeping documents back to when I started elementary school in 1968.

Week of February 18, 2019

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:



The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, created by a team at the University of Surrey, has pulled off its most demanding experiment yet. It fired a harpoon at 20 meters a second at a separate satellite panel that it was holding at the end of a boom. As you can see in the video above, the harpoon succeeded in stabbing and capturing the item. Last year the team also accurately fired a giant net at a satellite to capture it, and tested out a lidar- and camera-based system for identifying space junk.

Cognitive Dissonance

Arthur Finkelstein and George Birnbaum are both Jewish.

Finkelstein and Birnbaum created a Frankenstein monster that found a new life on the internet. In that stew are the resentments for his assault on communism, and allegations that he’s a communist; anti-Jewish slurs and charges he’s a Nazi; and above all the old mix of European anti-Semitism.


There’s very little that can stop Amazon.

…Amazon now has 288 million square feet of warehouses, offices, retail stores, and data centers. In 2017—the biggest growth year for the company’s properties—alone, it added more square feet of building (74.6 million) than the company had total in 2012 (73.1 million), when it was already the largest online retailer in the world. Amazon has added more building space from 2016 to 2018 than it did in all the rest of its history. Go back a little further in time, and the growth is even more astounding: Amazon has 48 times the square footage it did in 2004.

Future Medicine

The stomach doesn't have any pain receptors.

The test device, called Soma, is shaped like the tortoise’s shell. Inside is a miniature post made of insulin. After the tiny device positions itself against the stomach wall, the post pops out and injects insulin. The device then travels through the colon and eventually is eliminated by the patient.

Week of February 4, 2019

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:

No Code

Don’t make things harder than they should be:

We often perceive things that are hard to do as better. Sometimes that’s true. But as these “no code” tools advance, it will be silly to do it the old way.


DeepMind’s rate of progress is amazing:


What it’s like to live as the brother of the Parkland shooter:

Zach leaned forward. “I know you, you probably felt like you had nobody but I, I care about you. . . . I know I made it seem like when we were growing up that I hated you. . . . but truth is I just didn’t want to look like a — I didn’t want to look weak. I love you with all my heart.


Possibly the only redeemable character in the current administration…or not:

Perhaps the greatest indication that Hicks is, in fact, highly skilled at this kind of work is the way in which she has managed her own P.R. In a campaign and White House where nearly every person became the story at some point, Hicks was able to largely stay out of sight.


A name you’ve probably never heard quietly helping build a dynasty:

Entering Super Bowl LIII, that’s why the question of whether Slater is actually good at the tasks he’s supposed to perform is beside the point. He’s accepted the responsibility of carrying out football’s grimiest grunt work. Most of us are too lazy to even watch what Slater does from game to game. We associate him with the success of Belichick, Brady, and these Patriots, and—unsure of how much success stems from Slater’s actual talents—heap accolades upon accolades on him. And because Slater has received heapings upon heapings of accolades, he’s become the prime example of how to thrive as a Patriot.

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