Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are the corporatisation of God, Love, Consumption and Sex

And that’s ok.

Welcome to Medium version of The Pourquoi Pas, the newsletter for the inherently curious.

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What to read this week

Tech/politics :
In our hyper-connected world, any identity/culture clash is bound to escalate to multi-theatre warfare. Up until now, tech companies have been able to pull a Switzerland on many issues (looking at you, rampant sexism), but the current uber-polarisation of Western society has meant that they eventually had to be dragged into the scuffle.
Following the Charlottesville drama (find a recap of the events here), many major tech corporations stepped forward to ban various hate groups from using their services. But this has created/creates/will create about as many problems as it solves:
A) Once you start banning people off the internet, where do you stop? Who gave you the right? Who owns the internet? Silicon Valley has always been mildly authoritarian, yet often bothered to put on the costume of liberal democracies. As the purge begins, this might just change. 
B) In many ways, far-right groups WANT to be purged. It allows them to play the persecution card, pointing out the hypocrisy of a society which vehemently pretends to uphold the values of free speech as it repeatedly shanks its mere concept in the back.
C) It offers hate-group the opportunity to create, nurture and spread their own platforms and echo-chambers, allowing for faster, more potent forms of radicalization. 
Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are the corporatisation of God, Love, Consumption and Sex, respectively reassembled as private companies: looking at these firms is our society looking into an (un-)flattering mirror. As the walls start to close in on them one can only hope they haven’t just entered a war theyare doomed to lose.

Youth :
Can somebody tell the Washington Post to go home? Its editorial team is (once again) hiding blind drunk in the bushes, rambling about millennials and how their humour doesn’t make sense.
What else have millenials been accused of this month?
- Changing the wealth management landscape.
- Being technologically inept (seriously?)
- Killing gyms, banks, soap, cereal, and many, many more industries.
24 year-olds are not cereal-hating weirdos. They’re just young, hungry and broke. Seriously. Get a grip.

Privacy :
You may have heard that India’s top court recently ruled that privacy is a fundamental right. This news comes as Chinese netizens peering at strangers through surveillance feeds becomes increasingly common (give them a break, they don’t have Youtube). Looking at these two neighboring, yet radically different ways of approaching the concept, one would be excused for musing about our relationship with privacy. 
Few care to recall that privacy is recent, what with having walls and separate beds not being a thing for thousands of years. As a matter of fact, only 125 years elapsed between the time the terms “right to privacy” (1890) and “voluntary web tracking” (2015) were coined. Nevertheless, we so quickly became used to, and fond of, our newfound anonymity, thus explaining our uneasiness towards having it stripped away by governments and corporations alike.
In the face of the evidence, one of the Internet’s original architect theorises that “privacy may be an anomaly”, whilst renowned whistleblower Julian Assange goes as far as to candidly state that “privacy is dead”.
Could the digital age be civilization reverting to the mean? Feel free to share your answer with the rest of the class. I for one don’t think knowing everything about everyone else is the end of the world. In some ways, it’s beneficial. We so often suffer alone unnecessarily.

Language :
Polyglots rejoice! There is now scientific proof that bilinguals show cognitive advantages from infancy onward. This however does not mean that we should take other “facts” about bilingualism at face value: a lot of what we take for granted about it are myths.
Monoglots rejoice (too)! It is being reported that physical exercise can help you learn a new language (on top of all the added benefits), and that you can use this new handy capability to make better decisions
Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the matter in either English or French. 
War :
Among (oh so) many horrifying stories, below are three conflicts which caught our attention last week. 
Ghost of war past : Do you have an hour? Do you wanna get, like, really sad? Then read this 1946 New Yorker article describing the few days following the moment an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima. You’d think we’d try to not do that anymore, but a mix of North Korea and the T-man means that we’ve slowly edged slightly closer to a new nuclear conflict in Asia.
Ghost of war present : Speaking of history repeating itself, the Sentient-Caps-lock-Button-In-Chief recently agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan. The Atlantic wrote that it was a good thing. 4 days later, it wrote that it was a bad thing.
Now that’s what I call consistent journalism. 
Ghost of war future : Elon Musk and a few dozens of his CEO pals wrote a letter to the United Nations, warning against the proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons. Seems to make sense emotionally, but the idea needs a lot more work intellectually. We are far from fully automated AI weapons, and what little we do have would be very impractical to ban. Furthermore, we may have bigger fish to fry with non-weaponised robots being easily hacked forviolent purpose.
Bonus: How Washing Your Hair Could Help You Survive a Nuclear Blast.

Music :
Taylor Swift has a new single! And it’s terrible. Spare a thought for the super-fans who now have to pretend it’s the best thing they’ve heard in years.
More seriously, it’s been a great few weeks for research into music : 
For those craving a scientific, peer reviewed explanation as to why they can’t get Despacito out of their head, I strongly advise having a look at this Frontiers paper, linking structure and song’s popularity.
For the less scientifically inclined, yet keen to discuss musical structure, head over to this Rolling Stone article, which discusses how and why pop songs have gotten slower.
Finally, we all know that pop artists like to sing about cars. And Jordans. And Rolex. And… Xanax? Bloomberg analyzed the lyrics of each song that made it into the top 20 spots of the Billboard Hot 100 from May 2014 to May 2017, counting the brands or products mentioned. Dive in.
Bonus: What music do Americans love most in 50 maps.

Kittens :
Congrats on making it through. Have a kitten Gif.


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