tl;dr – some recent longreads


Yes, we know that it’s all about video these days and streaming boxsets and hashtags and old people marooned on the moon, but for thousands of years humankind has used words to convey complex ideas and so here are lots of words, with a roundup of some of the best longreads that have recently crossed our tablets.


  1. Selfie – A long, passionate and provocative defense of the selfie, ‘an artifact and a gift’.

Selfies, though, are all about looking away. They are not a closed loop​. T​hey are a new and vibrant language. Selfies never exist in a vacuum. Once they go live, they have adventures, they go out and ​make friends. They are born by waves, digital driftwood: millions of faces washing up on various shores, launching various ships. They ​voyage ahead ​and probe new communities, and sometimes they bring back stories. Our selfies are weightless versions of ourselves, with wings.

2.   The Story Trap – why do we fall back to narrative to describe complex phenomena?

We need narrative not because it is a valid epistemological description of the world but because of its cognitive role. It’s how we make sense of things. An inability to render life experiences into a coherent narrative is characteristic of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Text that fails to deliver narrative coherence, for example in terms of relating cause to effect and honouring the expectations of readers, is harder to understand.

3.   The Doomsday Invention – profile of Nick Bostrom, AI philosopher and author of SuperIntelligence

In people, intelligence is inseparable from consciousness, emotional and social awareness, the complex interaction of mind and body. An A.I. need not have any such attributes. Bostrom believes that machine intelligences—no matter how flexible in their tactics—will likely be rigidly fixated on their ultimate goals. How, then, to create a machine that respects the nuances of social cues? That adheres to ethical norms, even at the expense of its goals? No one has a coherent solution. It is hard enough to reliably inculcate such behavior in people.

4.   User Behaviour – on the UI and ethics of Internet Addiction

A handful of corporations determine the basic shape of the web that most of us use every day. Many of those companies make money by capturing users’ attention, and turning it into pageviews and clicks. They’ve staked their futures on methods to cultivate habits in users, in order to win as much of that attention as possible. Successful companies build specialised teams and collect reams of personalised data, all intended to hook users on their products.

5.   Inside the Sony Hack – a gripping account of life inside Sony in the days and weeks after the hack.

The telephone directory vanished. Voicemail was offline. Computers became bricks.  Internet access on the lot was shuttered. The cafeteria went cash-only. Contracts—and the templates those contracts were based on—disappeared. Sony’s online database of stock footage was unsearchable … “It was like moving back into an earlier time,” one employee says. The only way to reach other Sony staffers was to dial their number directly—if you could figure out what it was—or hunt them down and talk face to face.

Well, that little lot should fill your reading quota for the week – please let us know of any longreads worth sharing in the comments below.

Something for the Weekend?

(Massive Printer, film by Newspaper Club)

Yes, we snack, we graze, we nibble, we heartily partake of the morsels, the canapés of content offered our way on the trays of twitter, google reader (sob) and flipboard. But sometimes it’s nice to loosen our belts, turn off the stream and get stuck into a something a little more filling. So, here are some of the longer reads that have sated our appetites recently, instapapered for your mobile reading pleasure.


On Disney’s pursuit and capture of Lucasfilms and its plans for the Star Wars franchise

““I felt a disturbance in the Force, as if millions of geeks were shocked in an instant,” tweeted one ecstatic fan boy the day the news broke. It was a common refrain. The fans, too, had watched what happened when Disney bought Pixar and Marvel and many felt that the company could be trusted with R2-D2 and Princess Leia. “Their handling of the Marvel properties has given them a lot of geek cred,” says Swank, the RebelForce Radio co-host.


On trying to create the dynamic of a realistic city in SimCity and enjoying the process of failing at it

Cities, he [Geoffrey West] points out, are physical manifestations of human interactions. The data reveal those social dynamics, but do not necessarily shape them. From Lagos to Los Angeles to Mumbai, the physical world is experiencing a great rushing tide of urbanization, which creates huge environmental problems and at the same time concentrates the creativity needed to solve them. In the Sims’ world, though, the masses migrate and settle, then file passively through their lives. SimCity’s engineers have repeated the same mistake made by countless potentates, forgetting that cities are forged both by master builders and the people who hack their grand plans.


On learning about the fragility of passwords by learning how to crack them

At the beginning of a sunny Monday morning earlier this month, I had never cracked a password. By the end of the day, I had cracked 8,000. Even though I knew password cracking was easy, I didn’t know it was ridiculously easy—well, ridiculously easy once I overcame the urge to bash my laptop with a sledgehammer and finally figured out what I was doing.


On the marketing  of diamonds and the commoditisation of romance

The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.

On the erosion of privacy and thirty-four other arguments against Google Glass

Google Glass is a snazzy set of specs that will part the Red Sea if you tap it from the right angle. It aims to fuse smartphones and computers into a hands-free user experience more pleasurable than sex, religion, and world domination combined.

And finally, a transcript of a story conference between Lawrence Kadsan, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, on Raiders of the Lost Ark!

At some point in the movie he must use it [a bullwhip] to get a girl back who’s walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.

Let us know in the comments if there are any other choice meals to add to the menu. Bon Appetit.