The coming war on the hidden algorithms that trap people in poverty || “A family member lost work because of the pandemic and was denied unemployment benefits because of an automated system failure. The family then fell behind on rent payments, which led their landlord to sue them for eviction. While the eviction won’t be legal because of the CDC’s moratorium, the lawsuit will still be logged in public records. Those records could then feed into tenant-screening algorithms, which could make it harder for the family to find stable housing in the future. Their failure to pay rent and utilities could also be a ding on their credit score, which once again has repercussions.” // The harms done by automated decision making are deeply under appreciated, and routinely harm those whom society has set aside as ‘appropriate’ test subjects for these inequitable technologies. It’s abhorrent, unethical, and unjust.
How Russia wins the climate crisis || “…agriculture offers the key to one of the greatest resources of the new climate era — food — and in recent years Russia has already shown a new understanding of how to leverage its increasingly strong hand in agricultural exports. In 2010, when wildfires and drought conspired to ruin Russia’s grain harvests, Putin banned the exporting of wheat in order to protect his own people, then watched as global wheat prices tripled. The world reeled in response. From Pakistan to Indonesia, poverty increased. High prices rocked delicate political balances in Syria, Morocco and Egypt, where about 40 percent of daily caloric intake is from bread. The shortages poured fuel on Arab Spring uprisings, which eventually pushed millions of migrants toward Europe, with destabilizing effect — a bonus for Russian interests. And much of this turmoil began with wheat. As Michael Werz, a senior fellow for climate migration and security at the Center for American Progress, says, “There’s a reason people demonstrated with baguettes in Cairo.”” // Bread will, once more, be a functional weapon of war as climate change devastates currently fertile land and enables authoritarian countries to express their will—and encourage chaos—by withholding the nutrients required for life itself. One can only hope that countervailing democracies in the Nordic nations and Canada can acts as sufficient counterbalances to withstand potential Russian malfeasance.
The outbreak that invented intensive care || “Comparisons are being made to the 1918 influenza pandemic — eerily, just over a century ago — which had a mortality that might turn out similar. But that outbreak occurred without a ventilator in sight. Is this new disease, in fact, more deadly? Thanks to what my predecessors learnt in Copenhagen almost 70 years ago, we can, in some parts of the world, offset the havoc of COVID-19 with mechanical ventilation and sophisticated intensive care that was not available in 1918. But it is as COVID-19 continues to spread in areas that do not have ICU beds — or not nearly enough of them — that we will, sadly, learn the true natural course of this new virus.” // It’s incredible that, until 1952, we didn’t have modern ventilators, and worrying that the ‘true’ mortality of the current pandemic may only be apparent after studies are conducted of countries where contemporary medical technologies are often unavailable.
How infectious disease defined the American bathroom || “When architects designed homes in the wake of the 1918 flu pandemic and World War I, they typically took one of two approaches to the recent traumas. The first was to start at the ground-up and rethink everything, like Modernists and the Bauhaus did in the 1920s. The second — and far more common — tactic was to try to forget about the trauma and make ourselves comfortable, which bolstered the popularity of Art Deco design, according to Dianne Pierce, adjunct professorial lecturer in decorative arts and design history at the George Washington University.” // The links between human perceptions of health and safety, and the design and configuration of where we live, are fascinating. The extent(s) to which there will be substantial changes in how we build out homes and living areas will similarly be curious: will design change as a result of the current pandemic or, instead, will we see an active effort to not change or to ignore the events of the past (and coming) year?
Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right —for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
Daniil Trifonov – NPR Tiny Desk Concert // Trifonov’s performance is just spectacular, and his Chopin is amongst the best I’ve ever experienced. The nuance of his playing cannot be overstated; his technical mastery lets him truly express the emotions behind each of the with which pieces he engages.
Kehlani – While We Wait // I’ve been listening to this a lot over the past few weeks; Kehlani’s R&B and soul vibes make for both pleasant background listening as well as concentrated, full attention, listening. Her track with 6LACK, in particular, strikes me as a solid contribution to her emerging body of work.
Run the Jewels’Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2, and Run the Jewels 3 // I’ve had these albums on near-constant replay over the course of the past two and a half weeks. I really appreciate the aesthetic of the beats that El-P lays down and his general MC skills, especially as combined with Killer Mike’s lyrics. It feels like they’ve taken the best of New York circa the mid-90s or early 2000s and Atlanta circa the mid-2000s to today. Almost every track has a special bit of resonance and, on the whole, the cohesiveness of all their albums to date is really exceptional.
Neat Podcast Episodes
TVO – The World’s Shrinking Problem // This is a counter-intuitive assessment of the state of the world’s population. Whereas popular thought holds that the world is running out of space, Darrel Bricker and John Ibbitson’s new book Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline suggests that average birth rates are significantly declining to under 2.1 children per women in numbers well populated areas of the world (e.g. China, India, etc). The result: immigration is critical to maintain populations, and especially youthful populations, if a consumer-based economy is going to continue.
TVO – The Asian world Order is Coming // With Asian populations increasingly coming into their own, as they become more truly self-governing states as opposed to driven substantively by colonialists their decisions on who to trade with, how to approach basic rights, and baseline conceptions of equality will increasingly follow from self-determined positions as opposed to those imposed by others. There are more people living in Asian democracies than in any other part of the world and trade between Asian countries is increasingly interregional. As such, a genuine reorientation of the world blocs may be taking place and to the effect of seeing Asian nations coming (back) into their own after approximately 500 years of colonial influence and rule.
Lawfare – Marie Harf and Bill Harlow on CIA Public Relations // In this long form interview with former members of the CIA’s public relations team, Daniel Priess unpacks what the role of the team is, how they interact with other members of the Agency, and the reasons for which the relations team tries to correct the record. What I found most interesting was that the press team was not designed to create positive spin for the CIA but, instead, to make news that comes out less negative. Close observers of the CIA might dispute this position — there is a history of the CIA, especially over the past decade or so, attempting to influence American public opinion vis-a-vis who gets access to people in the CIA to develop movies and TV shows — but nonetheless this was an interesting podcast that while presenting information about the public relations team was also, without a doubt, an effort to influence minds about how the CIA itself operates.
The Axe Files – Claire McCaskill // McCaskill was a Democratic Senator who lost her seat in the last election. This interview with her is helpful and productive in thinking through how the Senate works, changes in USA politics over the past twelve years, and the things that primarily drive Mitch McConnell, the current Senate majority leader.
The Documentary – Japan’s Elderly Crime Wave // The issues of loneliness, shame, and insufficient welfare state mechanisms along with a generally healthy society are all leading to a heightened number of elderly persons in Japanese prisons. This episode of The Documentary dives into the problem and speaks directly to those who are incarcerated to better understand why they’re imprisoned, whether they see a life for themselves that is permanently outside of prison, and how a Japanese culture of shame is leading to elder members of families being permanently exiled from their closest social connections.
Love and Limerence // A long assessment of what’s it’s like to experience infatuation towards another, this review of limerence — “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person” — functions as a diagnostic utility as well as a way of mapping likely outcomes when there is a variance between expressions or perceptions of limerence. The review of the term, and Studs Terkel’s associated book, are underscored by hundreds of pages of first hand accounts of feeling enthralled by another person, with the components of limerence breaking down to, first, a sign of hope that the person might reciprocate and, second, uncertainty. However, the perceptions that a limerent person has towards their limerence object is as much a projection of their own illusions as anything else; that which is perceived is unlikely to be representative of the actual other person.
Shopping in Pyongyang, and Other Adventures in North Korean Capitalism // The development of the North Korean economy, and specifically the acceptance and integration of open markets throughout the country, bely the perception of the country as a fully controlled socialist system. Of particular note is the rise of bosses who collect rents from persons selling in markets. This emerging upper-merchant class is unlikely to seek political power and work to open North Korea’s borders and gain access to foreign markets. Instead, these merchants principally seek to maintain the existing political system because it protects them from external competition; instead, this group of merchants are likely to instead seek to obtain and leverage political power to keep the state’s attentions fixed elsewhere. In effect, these are scions of political conservatism as opposed to leaders for liberal political reform.
Don’t buy a 5G smartphone—at least, not for a while // Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo has a terrific, and concise, summarization of what 5G technologies entail in 2018/19 and why the hype over the technology likely won’t meet reality in the near future. Specifically, the characteristics of the radio frequency utilized in 5G communications combined with the increased size of chips used (and associated radios) mean that not only will early-generation 5G-compatible phones be significantly more expensive, they will likely also have worsened battery lives. It’s based on details like this that I genuinely believe we won’t see real 5G penetration for at least 5 years, barring a significant revolution in how and why the newly utilized spectrum is taken advantage of by innovative technologies and systems.
How Run the Jewels Became Hip-Hop’s Most Intense Truth-Tellers // While Weiner’s article came out several years ago, it continues to provide a solid background to where Run the Jewels emerged from, the variances in attitudes and politics of El-P and Killer Mike, and what happened (and why) when they teamed up. Further, it’s noteworthy that their music is as much ‘consciousness rap’ as it is about asserting their status in the hip hop community and delving into their sometimes difficult pasts.
Modern Love – How Bibliophiles Flirt // There is so much to appreciate in this story about presentation of self, and becoming who one desires to be (or sees oneself as), as well as the blossoming of love that culminates with a return to fun game which was played a year earlier.
A basic question about TCP // This is about the best explanation of TCP/IP that I’ve ever come across. Graham has littered the typically technical explanations with a large volume of examples so that even the most technically unsophisticated reader should walk away with a pretty good grasp of the protocol, its difficulties, and the problems associated with ‘smart’ networks.
Strep A bacteria kill half a million a year. Why don’t we have a vaccine? / I’d had no idea just how dangerous Strep A could be or that repeated cases of it can lead to serious health issues. impressively, there has been an uptick in efforts to develop a vaccine against most types of Strep, with tests appearing promising. Hopefully a vaccine can be developed…and we can then convince or coerce people to get vaccinated.
UCCA Dune // Without a doubt, this is perhaps the single most beautiful contemporary art gallery — from an architectural perspective — that I’ve seen in a very long time. The interior shots of it are organic and sensuous and communicate an openness to the world whilst simultaneously behaving as a protective shell for inner contemplation.
Animating Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars™ Battlefront™ / The way in which the designers attribute psychological properties to Skywalker based on how he used his lightsaber prior to his turn to the dark side is pretty incredible, and speaks to the thoughtfulness that goes into many games associated with the Star Wars universe.