Monday 2 August, 2021

Quote of the Day

“Men only learn from history how to make new mistakes.”

  • A.J.P. Taylor

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Stamitz | Clarinet Concerto No.7 in E Flat | 3rd movement – Rondeau | Andreas Ottensamer


Filmed in a recording studio.

Long Read of the Day

Why there is no solution to our age of crisis without China

Absolutely fabulous New Statesman essay by Adam Tooze which aims to bring some historical perspective to our (Western) views of China.

In November, the UK will host the Cop26 climate negotiations, where all eyes will be on China. Responsible for 28 per cent of global CO2 emissions, it emits more than the entire OECD, the US, Europe, Japan and the rest combined. There is no solution to the climate crisis without huge and expensive commitment from Beijing. Only China has the clout necessary to move the energy exporters of the world, especially Russia, to begin preparing to move beyond oil. Beijing, quite literally, holds the future of the humanity in its hands.

This is an unmissable piece.

The Pegasus problem

My column in yesterday’s Observer:

What’s the most problematic tech company in the world? Facebook? Google? Palantir? Nope. It’s a small, privately held Israeli company called NSO that most people have never heard of. On its website, it describes itself as “a world leader in precision cyberintelligence solutions”. Its software, sold only to “licensed government intelligence and law-enforcement agencies”, naturally, helps them to “lawfully address the most dangerous issues in today’s world. NSO’s technology has helped prevent terrorism, break up criminal operations, find missing people and assist search and rescue teams.”

So what is this magical stuff? It’s called Pegasus and it is ultra-sophisticated spyware that covertly penetrates and compromises smartphones. It’s particularly good with Apple phones, which is significant because these devices are generally more secure than Android ones. This is positively infuriating to Apple, which views protecting its users’ privacy as one of its USPs.

How does Pegasus work? Pay attention, iPhone users, journalists and heads of government…

Read on

Doc Searls on ‘the final demographic’

Doc is one of the wisest people on the Net — an elder statesman, if you like. In 2012 he fell off what he described as “a demographic cliff” (remember he started in marketing). And here are some of his reflections on the milestone he’d reached.

For individuals, demographics are absurd. None of us are an age, much less a range of them. We’re animals who live and work and have fun and do stuff. Eventually we croak, but if we stay healthy we acquire wisdom and experience, and find ourselves more valuable over time.

Yet we become less employable as we climb the high end of the demographic ladder, but not because we can’t do the work. It’s mostly because we look old and our tolerance for bullshit is low. Even our own, which is another bonus.

Nearly 100% of the people I work with are younger than me, usually by a generation or two. I almost never feel old among them. Sometimes I joke about it, but I really don’t care. It helps to have been around. It helps to know how fast and well the mighty rise, and then fall. It helps to see what comes and stays, and to know why those things matter more than what comes and goes. It helps to know there are sand dunes older than any company born on the Internet.

For most of my life I’ve worked in the most amazing industry the world has ever hosted. Technology is a miracle business. Lots of good new things come and go, but three aren’t sand dunes. They’re staying for the duration. I knew they would when I saw each arrive and then fail to leave. They were things nobody owned, everybody could use and anybody could improve. For all three reasons they supported boundless economic growth and other benefits to society. They are:

The personal computer

The internet

The smartphone.

That was nine years ago. He’s still going strong.

Sweat (contd)

I got the Victorian euphemism wrong. “Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies simply glow” is. how it goes

Thanks to CA for putting me right.

The Delta variant: as infectious as chickenpox.

According to the US CDC, as reported in the Guardian,

The Delta variant spreads much faster, is more likely to infect the vaccinated, and could potentially trigger more severe illness in the unvaccinated compared with all other known variants, according to an internal report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The document, a slide presentation prepared by officials within the US’s health protection agency first obtained by the Washington Post, warned that the Delta variant is as infectious as chickenpox, and argues that government officials must “acknowledge the war has changed” given how dangerous the variant is.

Citing data from an outbreak in a county in Massachusetts, the CDC document suggested that infections in vaccinated people can produce viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant.

However, scientists acknowledge that the likelihood of vaccinated people spreading the virus, if infected, is much rarer compared with unvaccinated people.


En Passant: Remember how, at the beginning of the pandemic in the UK, someone in 10 Downing Street was heard to say that maybe the country should be holding ‘chickenpox parties’ — presumably to get to herd immunity quicker?

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