Here is a sampling of the best content I consumed this past month. Enjoy scratching your brain’s curiosity itch! Also published on my website:

Dec 6, 2018 · 49 min read
  • Books
  • Audio books
  • Top 15 Articles/Essays
  • Podcasts
  • TED Talks
  • Videos
  • Lectures/Debates
  • Documentaries
  • “Best of the Rest” Articles/Essays

Top 15 Articles/Essays —

“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future — but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur. Americans increasingly recognize the risks climate change poses to their everyday lives and livelihoods and are beginning to respond (Figure 1.1). Water managers in the Colorado River Basin have mobilized users to conserve water in response to ongoing drought intensified by higher temperatures, and an extension program in Nebraska is helping ranchers reduce drought and heat risks to their operations. The state of Hawai‘i is developing management options to promote coral reef recovery from widespread bleaching events caused by warmer waters that threaten tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection from wind and waves. To address higher risks of flooding from heavy rainfall, local governments in southern Louisiana are pooling hazard reduction funds, and cities and states in the Northeast are investing in more resilient water, energy, and transportation infrastructure. In Alaska, a tribal health organization is developing adaptation strategies to address physical and mental health challenges driven by climate change and other environmental changes. As Midwestern farmers adopt new management strategies to reduce erosion and nutrient losses caused by heavier rains, forest managers in the Northwest are developing adaptation strategies in response to wildfire increases that affect human health, water resources, timber production, fish and wildlife, and recreation. After extensive hurricane damage fueled in part by a warmer atmosphere and warmer, higher seas, communities in Texas are considering ways to rebuild more resilient infrastructure. In the U.S. Caribbean, governments are developing new frameworks for storm recovery based on lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season.

Climate-related risks will continue to grow without additional action. Decisions made today determine risk exposure for current and future generations and will either broaden or limit options to reduce the negative consequences of climate change. While Americans are responding in ways that can bolster resilience and improve livelihoods, neither global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change nor regional efforts to adapt to the impacts currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

“Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. We did not make or devise the plan — the plan exists and is being implemented worldwide. It has been difficult to envision this possibility because the focus is overwhelmingly on the impacts of climate change. We gathered a qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change. What was uncovered is a path forward that can roll back global greenhouse gas emissions within thirty years. The research revealed that humanity has the means and techniques at hand. Nothing new needs to be invented, yet many more solutions are coming due to purposeful human ingenuity. The solutions we modeled are in place and in action. Humanity’s task is to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible as soon as possible.

“One might argue that the situation just described is no different from the moral issues revolving around the production, access, and control of any basic necessity of life. If one party has the privilege of the exclusive production, access, and/or control of some natural resource, then that by necessity prohibits others from using this resource without the consent of the exclusive owner. This is not necessarily so with digital information. Digital information is nonexclusory, meaning we can all, at least theoretically, possess the same digital information without excluding its use from others. This is because copying digital information from one source to another does not require eliminating the previous copy. Unlike a physical object, theoretically, we can all possess the same digital object as it can be copied indefinitely with no loss of fidelity. Since making these copies is often so cheap that it is almost without cost, there is no technical obstacle to the spread of all information as long as there are people willing to copy it and distribute it. Only appeals to morality, or economic justice might prevent the distribution of certain forms of information. For example, digital entertainment media, such as songs or video, has been a recurring battleground as users and producers of the digital media fight to either curtail or extend the free distribution of this material. Therefore, understanding the role of moral values in information technology is indispensable to the design and use of these technologies (Johnson, 1985, Moore, 1985, Nissenbaum, 1998, Spinello, 2001). It should be noted that this entry will not directly address the phenomenological approach to the ethics of information technology since there is a detailed entry on this subject available (see the entry on phenomenological approaches to ethics and information technology).”

NT: Explain what it means to hack a human being and why what can be done now is different from what could be done 100 years ago.

YNH: To hack a human being is to understand what’s happening inside you on the level of the body, of the brain, of the mind, so that you can predict what people will do. You can understand how they feel and you can, of course, once you understand and predict, you can usually also manipulate and control and even replace. And of course it can’t be done perfectly and it was possible to do it to some extent also a century ago. But the difference in the level is significant. I would say that the real key is whether somebody can understand you better than you understand yourself. The algorithms that are trying to hack us, they will never be perfect. There is no such thing as understanding perfectly everything or predicting everything. You don’t need perfect, you just need to be better than the average human being.”

“It’s an increasingly pressing question for the United States, where rising economic inequality is creating stress, anxiety and resentment. Endemic racism and ethnic prejudice are leading to clashes over citizenship and voting rights. Rampant corruption and ruthless ambition among elites are triggering political clashes that may crack the once-indestructible foundations of the American Republic — an unthinkable idea even a few decades ago, in the triumphalist aftermath of the Cold War.

“If you were to build your own time capsule, what would you want people — or alien beings — a million years from now to know about us? That we were loving, or warmongering, or dopes strung out on memes and viral videos? That we flew to the moon and made great art, ate Cinnabons (that we measured at 880 astonishing calories), and committed atrocities? How could you begin to represent these times, as lived by nearly 8 billion people? And what would give you, of all people, the right to tell the story?

After these questions would come another wave of more logistical ones. Assuming the capsule was found, how would it be translated into the language of the future, whatever that language might be? And what materials could be employed that might last that long? And how could you lead a future race of beings to the capsule itself, assuming our planet might be buried under ice or oceans of red sand by then?

“While Clifford’s final argument rings true, it again seems exaggerated to claim that every little false belief we harbour is a moral affront to common knowledge. Yet reality, once more, is aligning with Clifford, and his words seem prophetic. Today, we truly have a global reservoir of belief into which all of our commitments are being painstakingly added: it’s called Big Data. You don’t even need to be an active netizen posting on Twitter or ranting on Facebook: more and more of what we do in the real world is being recorded and digitised, and from there algorithms can easily infer what we believe before we even express a view. In turn, this enormous pool of stored belief is used by algorithms to make decisions for and about us. And it’s the same reservoir that search engines tap into when we seek answers to our questions and acquire new beliefs. Add the wrong ingredients into the Big Data recipe, and what you’ll get is a potentially toxic output. If there was ever a time when critical thinking was a moral imperative, and credulity a calamitous sin, it is now.

“Why has business education failed business? Why has it fallen so much in love with finance and the ideas it espouses? It’s a problem with deep roots, which have been spreading for decades. It encompasses issues like the rise of neoliberal economic views as a challenge to the postwar threat of socialism. It’s about an academic inferiority complex that propelled business educators to try to emulate hard sciences like physics rather than take lessons from biology or the humanities. It dovetails with the growth of computing power that enabled complex financial modeling. The bottom line, though, is that far from empowering business, MBA education has fostered the sort of short-term, balance-sheet-oriented thinking that is threatening the economic competitiveness of the country as a whole. If you wonder why most businesses still think of shareholders as their main priority or treat skilled labor as a cost rather than an asset — or why 80 percent of CEOs surveyed in one study said they’d pass up making an investment that would fuel a decade’s worth of innovation if it meant they’d miss a quarter of earnings results — it’s because that’s exactly what they are being educated to do.

Described this way, America’s economy has become a capitalist dystopia; a system of extraction by entrenched giants. Europe shows signs of the same sickness. Growing protectionism and increased digitisation may make things worse. The stakes are high.

Competition is an elixir. It spreads wealth today by lowering consumer prices and giving workers more choice of jobs, reducing firms’ monopsony power over them. It boosts productivity tomorrow by pushing firms to create better products for less. If profits in America fell to historically normal levels thanks to more competition, and private-sector workers got the benefits, real wages would rise by 6%. If competition also revived productivity growth, wages could rise a lot further. Without competition, capitalism is torpid and favours the few, not the many.

““You view it as a device that is yours and is serving you,” Umansky said. “And suddenly you realize it is a surveillance device being used by your health insurance company to limit your access to health care.

Privacy experts said such concerns are likely to grow as a host of devices now gather data about patients, including insertable heart monitors and blood glucose meters, as well as Fitbits, Apple Watches and other lifestyle applications. Privacy laws have lagged behind this new technology, and patients may be surprised to learn how little control they have over how the data is used or with whom it is shared, said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum.

“What if they find you only sleep a fitful five hours a night?” Dixon said. “That’s a big deal over time. Does that affect your health care prices?””

“The music analogy hit home for me. Over a lifetime of listening to and loving music, studying its history and structures, often through interviews with musicians and composers themselves, I have felt my musical emotions grow. Knowledge pries open feelings you never knew you had. How remarkable to realize science does the same. Being exposed to the neurons that make our limbs move, or learning the modal scales that distinguish Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, are not ends in themselves. They are journeys into the depths of beauty and humanity — a powerful lesson for which I have writers like Powers and Thomas to thank. They remind me that artists and scientists share the same drive for exploration and revelation, that scientists and artists elevate one another. “That’s our superpower, that’s humankind’s superpower — to be an artist and a scientist and to find ways in which each one of those capacities enhances and gives depth to the other,” Powers said.”

But don’t let your fundamental gloominess be a reason to do nothing. For the great victory of the reluctant is that we do despite knowing better — knowing our contributions will not change the course of humanity. That’s how Friedrich Nietzsche’s übermensch would approach the world: without the reliance on anyone else to confirm their existence. It turns meaninglessness into a sort of freedom that allows one to affirm life despite its absurdity.

Think about it. Really, it’s no big deal to try to be a decent human who does no harm and maybe even helps, is generous of spirit and labors diligently, if you think there’s a god, country, or boss who will reward you now or in the afterlife.

But if you manage to live life based on certain values because you’ve examined them and found them preferable under the circumstances to other less laudable or more destructive approaches, that’s no joke. Then you have forged meaning in the fires of futility and you have overcome, which is something. Or at least it’s more than nothing.

For most of human history leisure was a rare luxury. Toiling from dawn to dusk just to survive was the lot of almost all men, women and children up until a few hundred years ago. The English geologist Sir Charles Lyell wrote that in the 1840s America was a “country where all, whether rich or poor, were laboring from morning till night, without ever indulging in a holiday.” (Sir Charles Lyell) With the onset of the Second Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century and the rapid intensification of the division of labour that accompanied it, there occurred a “Leisure Revolution”. Not only did this period of rapid industrial development drive many from the farmlands into large cities in search of work, but the regimented hours associated with industrial work left the masses — for the first time in the modern era — with scheduled free time to direct their own activities.

Well over 100 years have passed since this leisure revolution, and the fruits of civilization have become more plentiful, and leisure, more bountiful. Perhaps more than at any point in the history of civilization, the average individual today is free from the daily struggle for survival. But with this newfound freedom a crucial question confronts each of us: that being, what are we free for? In other words, how are we going to use the time we have that is not devoted to the necessities of life?

“Bill Browder’s stories are melodramas. They often begin with a ringing phone — or a knock on a door. In May of this year, for example, the American-born financier was bundled into a police car in Madrid by the Spanish police, who, acting on an Interpol warrant at the behest of Russian authorities, simply appeared outside his hotel room and took him away. “I was frightened this wasn’t an arrest but an illegal rendition to Moscow,” Browder said. (He was let go an hour later.) These moments of crisis are familiar to his 180,000 Twitter followers — “the army of Bill,” they are called — who worry about his safety in his adopted role as both human-rights advocate and financial sleuth, taking on Putin and his kleptocrats. “Vladimir Putin wants me dead,” he says almost every time he is interviewed.”

“People — yes, even you — do not make decisions on an entirely rational basis. An audience is more easily won over with a one-liner that inspires applause or laughter than a five-minute explanation of a complicated phenomenon. A false statistic repeated confidently will be more convincing than a truth stated haltingly by some guy you’ve never heard of, and who you’ve already decided you don’t like because he’s arguing against the guy you came to see. Massively complex ideologies with hundreds of years of scholarship behind them are reduced to a couple of fast-talking egos in Dockers thinking about the best way to make their opponent look like a dumbass. Debate is not politics. It’s theater.

Real learning is hard. It’s a slow, confusing process where you sometimes have to read long books with dreadful covers, and look at footnotes and shit. It requires us to recognize and then overcome our biases as best we can. It can take years to learn what we really think and why, and then if we get a lingering feeling we might be wrong, it can take years to un-learn and start all over.”

‘Best of the Rest’ Articles/Essays at the bottom of the page:

A.I., Amazon, America, Art, Blockchain, Books, California Wildfires, China, Climate Change, Corporations, Cryptocurrency, Economics, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Facebook, Food, Health, Healthcare, History, Humans are incredible, Humans are incredible pieces of shit, Immigration, the Internetz, Journalism, Julian Assange, Law Enforcement, Lobbying should be illegal, best of Medium, Military & Murder Affairs Department, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Prisons, Psychology, Racism, Science, Sociology, Space, Sports, Tech Dystopia, Tech Utopia, Wisconsin is in the trenches of Democracy right now, Women are awesome, Work, World

Podcast(s) —

Videos —

R.I.P. — Stan Lee

R.I.P. — Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

‘Best of the Rest’ Articles/Essays —





by Diana Crow & Science Shortform Project



California Wildfires


Climate Change













Humans are incredible

Humans are incredible pieces of shit


the Internetz


Thread from Jay Rosen

Julian Assange

Law Enforcement

Lobbying should be illegal

best of Medium

by Barrett Brown

by Aytekin Tank

by Dorian Peters

by Mark Tseng-Putterman

by Erman Misirlisoy, PhD

by Douglas Rushkoff

by Benjamin P. Hardy

Military & Murder Affairs Department



by Zat Rana










Tech Dystopia

by Ryan North

Tech Utopia

Wisconsin is in the trenches of Democracy right now

Women are awesome



Eclectic Spacewalk

Your guide to thinking about the future with wisdom from the past, so you can navigate the present.


Written by

We live in the greatest time Humanity has ever experienced. Let’s start acting like it!

Eclectic Spacewalk

Your guide to thinking about the future with wisdom from the past, so you can navigate the present.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade