This week, the Paul Manafort saga gets a juicy infusion. Kevin Spacey deflects allegations in a most unsavoury way. There’s a warrant out for Rose McGowan. Joe Ricketts gives billionaires a bad name. Plus more bullshit in Texas and New York. Otherwise, it was a good week for sexy nurses (sexy anythings, really) and Houston Astros.
At Pacific Standard, Delphine Schrank surveys the informal economies (black and not so black) that emerge in the liminal spaces of modern conflict and crisis, particularly refugee camps like the “Jungle” that stood in Calais until late last year. Informal economies, she writes, are a mindset more than an economic category, “premised on adaptation, improvisation, and nimble thinking.” That is, at least, until they’re bulldozed or burned to the ground by those with more formal power seeking control over areas they can’t quite comprehend.
Competition grew fast. Up and down the mud path through the Jungle's southern district, the arrival of gas stoves for cooking and boiling water gave rise to other restaurants, bakeries, even a bar. A few people began hauling in generators, eliminating reliance on candlelight and permitting activity, hours into darkness. Eventually, according to Konforti, nearly every restaurant could claim a flat-screen television. People came to charge their phones or to warm up from the bone-chilling North Sea winds. The Jungle's self-appointed community leaders made the Kabul Café their unofficial headquarters for biweekly meetings with volunteers and aid workers. On occasion, a musician would pull out an oud and play a tune. Day by day, pot by pot, a semblance of complex social life began to flicker into being.
Emily Wilson is, apparently, the first woman to translate The Odyssey into English. The result, as a certain corner of Twitter went crazy about this week, seems quite staggering in its tiny, contemporary specificities. Wyatt Wilson’s profile of her in the Times mag is a beautiful exploration of the nature of translation, how its challenges rightly shift, evolve and remain forever unresolved over millennia, and how the simple choice of a word like “complicated” can ripple profoundly.
Behind the scenes of the Antifa supersoldier uprising that didn’t happen yesterday, you might like to get to know the much cultier, decades-long story of Chairman Bob and the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Google/Alphabet offshoot Sidewalk Labs hosted their first town-hall meeting in their new Toronto test lab this week. By the Twitterings and waitlist, you could be excused for mistaking it for a particularly well-attended TEDx. But don’t let the slick appearance fool you: this was a typical government-mandated public consultation dressed up as something new. Fortunately, that also means that we needn’t build defences from scratch. Evgeny Morozov writes about how tech companies scale their influence up in public services from products to big data to influence. From the other direction, Keller Easterling discusses how global systems of power are being woven into the fabric of our cities by way of the Zone.
This week in extrapolating AI thinking to the extremes: Joi Ito with a sprawling and ambitious essay that sounds a warning against singularity fetishism by looking back to Norbert Wiener’s “The Human Use of Human Beings.” Ito warns against measuring progress through the lens of market economies and capital as our only currency: “The idea that we exist for the sake of progress, and that progress requires unconstrained and exponential growth, is the whip that lashes us.” Meanwhile, over at Scientific American, a computer scientist writes with terrifingly blind enthusiasm about how privileged he will be to help bring about the singularity that will stretch to the ends and edges of the universe and time. We guess that’s as soon as we help the machines figure out that cats aren’t guacamole.
The cat/guacamole dilemma in web game form: Something Something Soup Something. It’s a fair question: what is soup, anyway? We wonder what we’re really training this for—possibly a new Guy Fieri-sponsored neural network.
Is this electronic album from George & Jonathan 3 years old? Very much so. But the fun and semi-interactive visuals that go with it are worth a look, even in 2017.
Bitcoin is hailed as the 21st century return to virtues of the gold standard—money used to mean something, man. Rather than counting on stockpiles of precious metals, cryptocurrencies depend on the real energy required for the decryption verifying each transaction. But now that each transaction requires enough energy to power a house for two weeks, a closer parallel than gold bullion might be the thirsty almond. In the face of scarcity, precious remnants are reserved for rituals that reify economic maladies and reinforce inequality.
Speaking of, it’s not just your tomatoes that are canned on the broken backs of seasonal, exploited labour. Apparently it’s your Haribo too. Slavery gummies are not a good look. Though for a nice counterpoint unexpected food story, this one about how sushi counters in supermarkets across America came to be run by Burmese refugees is just really satisfying.
Stumbled on this girl this week in an intimate and weird turn of events. She’s got zero internet presence, but was just signed to ROC NATION (Jay-Z). Let’s all follow Victory Boyd!
And finally, a Social Network Tarot Deck. Our Favourite? “The Troll: You Will Be Trolled.”