The Age of Em review – the horrific future when robots rule the Earth


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A book review for today.

But there is plausibly a show-stopping problem here. If someone announces they will upload my consciousness into a robot and then destroy my existing body, I will take this as a threat of murder. The robot running an exact copy of my consciousness won’t actually be “me”. (Such issues are richly analysed in the philosophical literature stemming from Derek Parfit’s thought experiments about teleportation and the like in the 1980s.) So ems – the first of whom are, by definition, going to have minds identical to those of humans – may very well exhibit the same kind of reaction, in which case a lot of Hanson’s more thrillingly bizarre social developments will not happen. But then, the rather underwhelming upshot of this project is that fast-living and super-clever ems will probably crack the problem of proper AI – actual intelligent machines – within a year or so of ordinary human time. And then the age of em will be over and the Singularity will be upon us, and what comes next is anyone’s guess.

The complete article

Steven Poole — The Guardian

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The therapy of reading


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Reading can be therapeutic. Needull has always believed in finding good reads and sharing them with you. So, now you have one more reason to visit needull.

Sometimes it is not the content of the stories themselves but just knowing you have control by choosing to read or listen that provides the calming effect. All stories offer a safe, contained world with a beginning, middle and end. We have the power of when to start or stop and choose how long we stay in this story’s world.

Time spent listening to authors talk about their work and their own understanding of the power of literature also allows us, as readers, to reflect on stories that have shaped us.

The complete article

Germaine Leece — The Guardian

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Recommended by Abhishek

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness


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Arundhati Roy’s first novel “The God of Small Things” won her much acclaim and of course Booker. Now after 20 years comes her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. In the last 20 years, lot has happened. Arundhati Roy, with her political essays and activism has become someone about whom people in India have extreme opinions, good or bad. Today’s needull is an extract from her new novel published in The Guardian.

Is it possible for a mother to be terrified of her own baby? Jahanara Begum was. Her first reaction was to feel her heart constrict and her bones turn to ash. Her second reaction was to take another look to make sure she was not mistaken. Her third reaction was to recoil from what she had created while her bowels convulsed and a thin stream of shit ran down her legs. Her fourth reaction was to contemplate killing herself and her child. Her fifth reaction was to pick her baby up and hold him close while she fell through a crack between the world she knew and worlds she did not know existed. There, in the abyss, spinning through the darkness, everything she had been sure of until then, every single thing, from the smallest to the biggest, ceased to make sense to her. In Urdu, the only language she knew, all things, not just living things but all things – carpets, clothes, books, pens, musical instruments – had a gender. Everything was either masculine or feminine, man or woman. Everything except her baby. Yes of course she knew there was a word for those like him – Hijra. Two words actually, Hijra and Kinnar. But two words do not make a language.

The complete extract

Arundhati Roy

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How Marine Le Pen played the media


Marine Le Pen celebrates at a Front National rally after the presidential election first round

With French elections round the corner, Marine Le Pen has become one of the most talked about politicians. This longread looks at how she has played the media to her advantage.

All politics is storytelling, and all responsible political journalism attempts to account for this, or at least make it plain. Le Pen and her party have long sought to tell a story about the media themselves. This places the journalist in the difficult position of being at once subject and object: they can no longer perform their duties from behind the comfortable myth of neutrality; they are called to speak about themselves, account for their work. And if they are honest, they will be obliged to acknowledge the possibility of contradictions and flaws. Le Pen has intuited this weakness, and understands how to exploit it. If she cannot have what she wants from the media, then, she knows she can at least have her way with it.

The complete article

Scott Sayare — The Guardian

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Stephen King on Donald Trump: ‘How do such men rise? First as a joke’


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Stephen King talks to a few Trump supporters to understand why they supported Trump. Tons have already been written on Trump, but  still this has something new to offer.

King I think we’ve about finished, but I’d like to run one more thing by you before we break for lunch. Psychologists mention four basic traits when diagnosing a sociopathic condition known as narcissistic personality disorder. People suffering from this condition believe themselves superior to others, they insist on having the best of everything, they are egocentric and boastful, and they have a tendency to first select love objects, then find them at fault and push them aside. Comments?

[A long silence at the table.]

The complete article

Stephen King — The Guardian

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‘But what about the railways …?’ ​​The myth of Britain’s gifts to India


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Shashi Tharoor argues against supposed benefits of British colonialism in India.

The process of colonial rule in India meant economic exploitation and ruin to millions, the destruction of thriving industries, the systematic denial of opportunities to compete, the elimination of indigenous institutions of governance, the transformation of lifestyles and patterns of living that had flourished since time immemorial, and the obliteration of the most precious possessions of the colonised, their identities and their self-respect. In 1600, when the East India Company was established, Britain was producing just 1.8% of the world’s GDP, while India was generating some 23% (27% by 1700). By 1940, after nearly two centuries of the Raj, Britain accounted for nearly 10% of world GDP, while India had been reduced to a poor “third-world” country, destitute and starving, a global poster child of poverty and famine. The British left a society with 16% literacy, a life expectancy of 27, practically no domestic industry and over 90% living below what today we would call the poverty line.

The complete article

Shashi Tharoor – The Guardian

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Beyond Caravaggio review: a masterpiece of surprise


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It is easy to see from this deathly, sexy, unforgettable masterpiece, lent by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, why Caravaggio inspired so many followers. Like a savage Christ he accumulated wild disciples. This explosively brilliant and uniquely dangerous artist hit Rome like a thunderbolt at the end of the Renaissance, blowing away the saintly scenes of his soppy milquetoast contemporaries with hard-hitting visions of raw, dirty life. In the first two paintings in this exhibition we see him at the very start of his career, portraying male prostitutes with filthy fingernails tasting forbidden fruit and getting bitten.

The complete article

Jonathan Jones — The Guardian

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