The world can be a bewildering place, but not if you see it as a righteous war between whites and blacks, between straights and gays. The neo-Nazis are not the first group to discover that war is a force that can give an empty life meaning, even a race war.
The age of anxiety inevitably leads to an age of fanaticism, as people seek crude palliatives for the dizziness of freedom. I’m beginning to think the whole depressing spectacle of this moment — the Trump presidency and beyond — is caused by a breakdown of intellectual virtue, a breakdown in America’s ability to face evidence objectively, to pay due respect to reality, to deal with complex and unpleasant truths. The intellectual virtues may seem elitist, but once a country tolerates dishonesty, incuriosity and intellectual laziness, then everything else falls apart.
-David Brooks ‘How to Roll Back Fanaticism‘ The New York Times
The march of civilization has been about distancing ourselves from the raw power of nature. At home, we move the thermostat up or down by a degree, and we absorb the idea that we are lords of the universe. On the trail, we are either sweating or freezing, and it always feels as if the path is mainly uphill. Nature mocks us, usefully reminding us who’s boss.
-Nicholas Kristof ‘Fleeing to the Mountains‘ The New York Times
“We’re now in a world where you need to handle products down to an individual pen,” [Masaki Hojo, chief executive of Daifuku] says. If every product is placed in a separate box — black pens in one box and blue pens in another — then it is feasible for a robot to pick them. But moving and warehousing so many different containers is inefficient, hence picking is still largely done by hand.
“If you have a box with products X, Y and Z in it, then a robot needs to distinguish one from another. It needs to pick a soft item or a hard item without dropping it,” says Mr Hojo. Image processing and deep learning may make it possible for robots to do that work — but not yet.
-Robin Harding ‘Industrial robots lack smart, strong, sensitive human touch‘ Financial Times
They were just very simple people from the countryside without education. And yet in the Cultural Revolution they refused to sing Chairman Mao songs or to pray toward his statue. They were sentenced or bullied or beaten. They were much more courageous than the intellectuals. They were the toughest, the strongest. They succeeded. The intellectuals failed.
-Ian Johnson The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao
A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next—that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything.
-John Hersey ‘Hiroshima‘ The New Yorker
When journalistic institutions widely publicize material of this sort, only to abdicate the vital work of rigorously addressing its substance, they make its least plausible claims more likely to be normalized. They leave the project of assessing its merits and flaws to Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and other venues where the loudest voices tend to prevail, instead of offering their own careful reporting and expert analysis.
-Conor Friedersdorf ‘The Most Common Error in Media Coverage of the Google Memo‘ The Atlantic