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.
- 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. They 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.