Wednesday 14 February, 2024

On the beach

One of my grandsons on a Kerry beach on an Easter Sunday morning.

Quote of the Day

”Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”

  • Karl Popper

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Ennio Moricone | Lady Caliph | YoYo Ma and the Roma Sinfonietta


Long Read of the Day

The Rise of Techno-authoritarianism

Terrific essay by Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic on the underpinning ideology of Silicon Valley.

Here’s how it opens:

If you had to capture Silicon Valley’s dominant ideology in a single anecdote, you might look first to Mark Zuckerberg, sitting in the blue glow of his computer some 20 years ago, chatting with a friend about how his new website, TheFacebook, had given him access to reams of personal information about his fellow students:

zuckerberg: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard zuckerberg: Just ask.
zuckerberg: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
friend: What? How’d you manage that one?
zuckerberg: People just submitted it.
zuckerberg: I don’t know why.
zuckerberg: They “trust me”
zuckerberg: Dumb fucks.

That conversation—later revealed through leaked chat records—was soon followed by another that was just as telling, if better mannered. At a now-famous Christmas party in 2007, Zuckerberg first met Sheryl Sandberg, his eventual chief operating officer, who with Zuckerberg would transform the platform into a digital imperialist superpower. There, Zuckerberg, who in Facebook’s early days had adopted the mantra “Company over country,” explained to Sandberg that he wanted every American with an internet connection to have a Facebook account. For Sandberg, who once told a colleague that she’d been “put on this planet to scale organizations,” that turned out to be the perfect mission…

It’s spot on. Worth your time.

The Salt of the Earth

This I gotta see: Wim Wenders’s film about the great photographer Juliano Salgado

The trailer is here.

My commonplace booklet

And while we’re on the subject of Karl Popper, how about ”The Open Society and its AI” by my Cambridge colleague Neil Lawrence, who has an interesting book on AI coming out in May.


Something I noticed, while drinking from the Internet firehose.

“Annotated version of Andreas Vesalius’s masterwork on human anatomy up for auction” 

When the Renaissance physician Andreas Vesalius wrote his magnum opus on human anatomy in 1543, he transformed the study of medicine and revolutionised the way scientists investigate the world.

A “mind-blowing” edition of his De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem, estimated to be worth up to £1m, is to be sold at auction for the first time since scholars discovered it was annotated by Vesalius himself.

The fragile, 800-page book was last sold in 2007 for about £8,500 to Dr Gerard Vogrincic, a retired Canadian pathologist and medical history buff who collects old annotated medical books.

Vogrincic’s copy was heavily annotated in Latin — which experts eventually decided were by Vesalius himself. So it’s now worth a lot more than he paid for it.


Max Whitby was struck by something I wrote in last Sunday’s edition of my Observer column:

Whenever people learn that I have an electric vehicle (EV) the conversation invariably turns to whether I suffer from “range anxiety” – the fear of running out of charge. The answer is that generally I don’t, though I might if I were contemplating a drive across the Highlands of Scotland to Aviemore, say. But otherwise, no. Why? Because I am able to charge the car overnight at home, and most of my trips are much much shorter than the vehicle’s 300-mile range.

Max wrote to say:

Perhaps you unfairly malign Scotland’s fast-charging infrastructure, which in my experience is impressive. 14 charging stations on the 200 miles journey from here to Aviemore.

He also included a map, which made the point forcefully. Triggered my mantra that The great consolation about being a blogger is that your readers often know more than you do.

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