Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future


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This is a post from Wait but Why which took forever to write. The post is as long as Old Man & the Sea, well almost. But, if you want to understand (really understand) what Elon Musk is up to these days and understand human brain better as a bonus, please invest some time reading it.

Not only is Elon’s new venture—Neuralink—the same type of deal, but six weeks after first learning about the company, I’m convinced that it somehow manages to eclipse Tesla and SpaceX in both the boldness of its engineering undertaking and the grandeur of its mission. The other two companies aim to redefine what future humans will do—Neuralink wants to redefine what future humans will be.

The mind-bending bigness of Neuralink’s mission, combined with the labyrinth of impossible complexity that is the human brain, made this the hardest set of concepts yet to fully wrap my head around—but it also made it the most exhilarating when, with enough time spent zoomed on both ends, it all finally clicked. I feel like I took a time machine to the future, and I’m here to tell you that it’s even weirder than we expect.

The complete article

Tim Urban — Wait but Why

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Rankings and Ratings in Our Lives


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I am guilty of this and so are most people these days. Our reliance on ratings and stars to make a decision or a judgment is progressively increasing. Today’s needull looks a little deeper into how the ratings are generated and should we blindly trust them.

On Zomato, a 29-year-old who is a ’13 connoisseur’ (having hit 20,000 points) says, “I am not a food critic. I am a food influencer.” He adds, “When we bloggers and microbloggers go to a restaurant, we are treated like gods. We get 15 dishes on the table, in the hope that we will like one. I am equivalent to five reviewers, so my rating matters more.” In the last year-and-a-half, he has been to more than 600 restaurants in NCR and says that he has two meals out nearly every day.”

The complete article

Nandini Nair — OPEN

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The United Airlines Debacle and the Morality of Capitalism


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We have all seen or read about how a passenger was forcefully removed from a United Airlines flight because the flight was overbooked. This needull talks about the morality of capitalism in this context.

Once the common good and the dignity of each person are introduced into the equation, then such things as compassion, kindness, and care for the poor and the environment will come to be understood as values that are every bit as important as efficiency, aggressiveness and hard work. In other words, once you introduce another goal into the equation, then the priorities of the corporation and its employees shift a bit. And, incidentally, it makes for happier employees and a happier organization, because who wants to work for a hard-hearted company?

The complete article

Knowledge@Wharton

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The Man Behind History’s Most Iconic Movie Posters, From Breakfast at Tiffany’s to James Bond


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This needull is dedicated to the charm of the old movie posters. I would literally walk up a kilometer to take a look at new movie posters every Friday in the small town that I lived in.

The McGinnis Woman is a mix of Greek goddess and man-eating Ursula Andress. While today she might be interpreted as a sex object or adornment, she was conceived, in her day, to represent the empowered woman. In fact, the McGinnis Woman possesses a whirling narrative force all her own, a perfumed cyclone of sexuality, savvy, mystery, and danger. She also sells books—lots and lots of books. “The McGinnis Woman was impossibly tall, impossibly beautiful, slightly aloof, and unattainable,” in the words of Charles Ardai, the editor in chief of Hard Case Crime, a publisher of noir fiction, who still hires McGinnis to illustrate his covers. “When Bob was doing the Brett Halliday series, back in the late 50s and early 60s,” adds filmmaker Paul Jilbert, who directed the McGinnis documentary, “they were offshoots of the men’s magazines: the bare-chested men with the women behind them, cowering in the corner. What Bob did was to bring the women into the foreground—put them out in front of the guy, and made them much more powerful, sophisticated, intelligent. You just didn’t see that in other covers.”

The complete article

Michael Callahan — Vanity Fair

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WHICH AMERICAN DREAM?


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There are two versions of the American Dream – one a rising standard of living for all and the the other the ability to achieve success through hard work and talent. Which dream do you live?

It is downright dangerous to identify the American Dream with intergenerational mobility, with progress defined as the children of janitors and store clerks becoming lawyers or doctors or professors. The number of job openings for vocations that require little or no training beyond high school will continue to exceed job openings in elite professions. It would be a social disaster if many janitors and store clerks are overqualified for the work they do and resentful of the society that promised too few high-status jobs to too many ambitious citizens.

A nation in which most citizens are told that they can achieve anything they want and that if they fail to do so the fault is purely their own, will be a society with a majority of embittered failures. In contrast, one in which the standard of living goes up constantly over time, for the less educated and less able as well as the highly educated and talented, is likely to be a happier nation.

The complete article

Michael Lind — The Smart Set

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The Crisis of Attention Theft—Ads That Steal Your Time for Nothing in Return


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Attention is a resource and we have limited quota of it. This is being stolen by Ads, whether we like it or not. Ads are everywhere, ads we don’t want and don’t need.

What makes it “theft?” Advances in neuroscience over the last several decades make it clear that our brain’s resources are involuntarily triggered by sound and motion; hence the screens literally seize scarce mental resources. As neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and psychologist Larry Rosen put it in their book, The Distracted Mind, humans have an “extreme sensitivity to goal interference from distractions by irrelevant information.” Meanwhile, in the law, theft or larceny is typically defined as the taking control of a resource “under such circumstances as to acquire the major portion of its economic value or benefit.” Given the established market value of time and attention, when taken without consent or compensation, it really is not much different from someone taking money out of your pocket. Hence, when the firms selling public-screen advertising to captive audiences brag of double-digit growth and billions in revenue, those are actually earnings derived by stealing from us.

The complete article

Tim Wu — Wired

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In Search of Islam


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“Among the Believers” was written by Naipaul in 1981. Today’s needull is a a review of the book. Many do not agree with Naipaul’s views but almost all agree that he is a great writer.

All four of them, like so many others they stand for, bring to their religion and tradition modern demands and anxieties. This creates pressures, for today’s needs are great. The outside world at once tempts and threatens Moslems. Many of them enter that world, but they can enter it only partly. When they fail to deal with it, they retreat into their shell. When they surrender to it, guilt seizes them. In Naipaul’s words: ”In the fundamentalist scheme the world constantly decays and has constantly to be re-created. The only function of intellect is to assist that re-creation. It reinterprets the texts; it re-establishes divine precedent. So history has to serve theology, law is separated from the idea of equity. …”

This theme comes close to being Naipaul’s central theme, and in dealing with it he lets his personal feelings get in the way of his presentation. He chides Moslems for being ”made” by the Western world they reject. Instead of trying to understand these people, Naipaul is ready to judge them. In his desire to discover their hidden vulnerabilities and point out their contradictions, their need for outside goods and outside approval, he tends to miss the drama and the real meaning of their situation. He forgets that it is part of the painful process of history that people are always made by the world they reject and that the rage at it they express is in large measure rage at themselves.

The complete article

Fouad Ajami — The New York Times

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