Long reads of the week

The Hypocrisy of ‘Helping’ the Poor

Every so often, you hear grotesquely wealthy American chief executives announce in sanctimonious tones the intention to use their accumulated hundreds of millions, or billions, “to lift people out of poverty.” Sometimes they are referring to Africans, but sometimes they are referring to Americans. And here’s the funny thing about that: In most cases, they have made their fortunes by impoverishing whole American communities, having outsourced their manufacturing to China or India, Vietnam or Mexico.

I Am a Person for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

While retrospective judgment tends to make us feel superior to our ancestors, it should really evoke humility. Surely some contemporary practices will be deemed equally abominable by succeeding generations. The only question is: Which ones? I’ve long thought it will be our treatment of animals. I’m convinced that our great-grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded, and slaughtered them on an industrial scale — for the eating.

London Police ‘Super Recognizer’ Walks Beat With a Facebook of the Mind

Friends call Constable Collins Rain Man or Yoda or simply The Oracle. But to Scotland Yard, London’s metropolitan police force, he is known as a “super recognizer.” He has a special gift of facial recall powers that enables him to match even low-quality and partial imagery to a face he has seen before, on the street or in a database and possibly years earlier.

What happens next will amaze you

Ad blockers have been in headlines a lot recently due to Apple’s introduction of that functionality to their latest mobile operating system. Advertisers and publishers are not happy with this loss of revenue; users are not happy being tracked across the web.

A recent talk by Maciej Cegłowski on personal data, its collection by dysfunctional advertising networks, and their own pillaging by robots, explains clearly and depressingly why we’ve reached this standoff.

Here are a few choice samples, but you should really read through the whole transcript.

In this world, privacy becomes a luxury good. Mark Zuckerberg buys the four houses around his house in Palo Alto, to keep hidden what the rest of us must share with him. It used to be celebrities and rich people who were the ones denied a private life, now it’s the other way around.

Today we live in a Blade Runner world, with ad robots posing as people, and Deckard-like figures trying to expose them by digging ever deeper into our browsers, implementing Voight-Kampff machines in Javascript to decide who is human. We’re the ones caught in the middle.

Advertisers end up right back where they started,still not knowing which half of their advertising budget is being wasted. Except in the process they’ve destroyed our privacy.

Week-end long reads

Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.

I have seen this resilience during my own research at a device-free summer camp. At a nightly cabin chat, a group of 14-year-old boys spoke about a recent three-day wilderness hike. Not that many years ago, the most exciting aspect of that hike might have been the idea of roughing it or the beauty of unspoiled nature. These days, what made the biggest impression was being phoneless.

Why We Hate Cheap Things

Why, then, do we associate cheap prices with a lack of value? Our response is a hang-over from our long pre-industrial past. For most of human history, there truly was a strong correlation between cost and value: the higher the price, the better things tended to be – because there was simply no way both for prices to be low and quality to be high.

White people react to evidence of white privilege by claiming greater personal hardships

In a study published in the November issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, L. Taylor Phillips and Brian S. Lowery point out that progress on racial equality is limited by the fact that many whites deny the existence of inequities.

The last pig

A documentary in the making called The last pig is seeking funding on Indiegogo.

It’s the story of pig farmer Bob Comis who, after ten years of struggling with the ethics of raising animals for slaughter, decides to quit.

It looks like a worthwhile project to support. The trailer is below.

Shark dancer

Amazing images of Cristina Zenato, known as the shark whisperer or the shark dancer. She somehow seems to put these fierce looking creatures into a trance as she caresses them.

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My name is Colin O'Brien, I live in Brussels, Belgium. This blog has been compiling my random thoughts and links since 1998.

One day there may be a more interesting bio here…

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