Friday 26 April, 2024


I often think I should put this cautionary pic up as a spoiler alert when writing about stuff that’s above my intellectual pay-grade.

Quote of the Day

”You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.”

  • Evelyn Waugh

Probably true. The problem is that he was also a gifted satirist.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Kate Rusby | Who Will Sing Me Lullabies


Long Read of the Day

The Cultural Contradictions of Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is generally thought of as an economic project, but in fact it’s something much more pervasive — a mindset that has infected most institutions in Western societies. Which means that it has also been a cultural project, and we are living with the cultural wreckage brought about by neoliberal policies and ideology. The Roosevelt Institute has produced an interesting 50-page report on the pervasiveness of this mindset, which I guess is a bit of a stretch for busy subscribers. But the Executive Summary usefully lays out the basic arguments of the report.

Long video of the Day

A TED talk by Mustafa Suleyman, a co-founder of DeepMind and Inflection and now — I think — working for Microsoft. It has the usual TED bugs/features — including the illusion that wisdom can be compressed into 20 minutes. It’s also imbued with the boosterish tech pretence that machine-learning technology is somehow weightless in environmental and societal terms. But his metaphor — which is basically that we should think of AI as a new ‘digital species’ that has arrived on earth — at least provides a different lens for thinking about this stuff. Hence this recommendation.

My commonplace booklet

Legal Fiction

If you want a striking illustration of the degeneration of the UK over the last two decades then this LRB blog post by Nicholas Reed Langen would be hard to beat. It’s written in the aftermath of the passage into law of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which has been relentlessly pushed by the Tory Prime Minister to appease his party’s xenophobic base. In passing the legislation, Langen writes, the UK has effectively become a rogue state which violates international treaties to which it is a signatory. It also runs counter to the judgment of the country’s Supreme Court. So much for the rule of law.


Something I noticed, while drinking from the Internet firehose.

In 2022, researchers at the Bee Sensory and Behavioral Ecology Lab at Queen Mary University of London observed bumblebees doing something remarkable: The diminutive, fuzzy creatures were engaging in activity that could only be described as play. Given small wooden balls, the bees pushed them around and rotated them. The behavior had no obvious connection to mating or survival, nor was it rewarded by the scientists. It was, apparently, just for fun.

The study on playful bees is part of a body of research that a group of prominent scholars of animal minds cited today, buttressing a new declaration that extends scientific support for consciousness to a wider suite of animals than has been formally acknowledged before.

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