Week of December 30, 2019

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

CapitalOneism

I suspect that a lot of people harbor some sort of denial of the harm being done as a result of their job. This is just a particularly egregious example.

The real question, of course, isn’t whether a credit card with a 27 percent interest rate and a $39 late fee is better than a payday loan. It’s whether Capital One’s marketing campaigns push people into debt who would have otherwise avoided it; whether it is actually in a person’s best interest, desperate though they may be, to borrow money at an exorbitant rate; and whether this enterprise is ethically defensible—in particular, for the decent, hard-working employees who toil every day to make Capital One’s mercenary strategy a reality. Because the ugly truth is that subprime credit is all about profiting from other people’s misery.


Kids

Paul Graham on having kids:

What I didn't notice, because they tend to be much quieter, were all the great moments parents had with kids. People don't talk about these much — the magic is hard to put into words, and all other parents know about them anyway — but one of the great things about having kids is that there are so many times when you feel there is nowhere else you'd rather be, and nothing else you'd rather be doing. You don't have to be doing anything special. You could just be going somewhere together, or putting them to bed, or pushing them on the swings at the park. But you wouldn't trade these moments for anything. One doesn't tend to associate kids with peace, but that's what you feel.


Unknown

It seems inevitable to me that mining on the seafloor will occur, whether this year or in the decades to come. My hope is that we’ll use all of the technological progress we’ve made to minimize the impact we have on an environment we know almost nothing about.

Drazen is an academic ecologist; Venter is not. Venter has been accused of trying to privatize the human genome, and many of his critics believe his effort to create new organisms is akin to playing God. He clearly doesn’t have an aversion to profit-driven science, and he’s not afraid to mess with nature—yet when I asked him about the prospect of mining in deep water, he flared with alarm. “We should be very careful about mining in the ocean,” he said. “These companies should be doing rigorous microbial surveys before they do anything else. We only know a fraction of the microbes down there, and it’s a terrible idea to screw with them before we know what they are and what they do.”


Plunder

An unfathomable number of invaluable antiquities we’re plundered from China over the past several centuries—now the Chinese people, government, and conglomerates want them back.

Even art-crime experts, though, are quick to acknowledge that the situation might look different from China's perspective. Noah Charney, a professor of art history and founder of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, says that when it comes to winning back their lost art, the Chinese can't imagine how such a thing would be wrong. “It's almost like there's a fog around it from a criminological perspective,” he said. “It's like another planet, in terms of the way people think about what art is, what authenticity is, what is socially unacceptable to do.”


Treasure

An incredibly reported story about a life-long fisherman who finds a potentially life-changing treasure. Unfortunately, finding the treasure is the easiest part.

His obsession was hard for his loved ones to understand, but to him it made perfect sense. He had spent his whole life fishing blind, never seeing his huge net do its work. Now, for the first time, he could observe his most important piece of equipment and the cold, dark water through which it moved. A mysterious realm, suddenly illuminated. And then, one night, he saw something that he never expected to see. He saw a flash of gold.


2020

A quick Wait But Why post looking at where we are in modern history.

But the weirdest thing about kids today: most of them will live to see the 2100s.


🎇 Have a Happy New Year 🎇