039: Slash and burn


Verbatim

For The Atlantic, Ed Yong meets Jason Slot, an Ohio State mycologist who studies the trippier strains of shroom. Why, he asks, are mushrooms magic at all? And is psychedelics research quietly making an unstigmatized comeback?

“We don’t have a way to know the subjective experience of an insect,” says Slot, and it’s hard to say if they trip. But one thing is clear from past experiments: Psilocybin reduces insect appetites. By evolving the ability to make this chemical, which prevents the munchies in insects, perhaps some fungi triumphed over their competitors, and dominated the delicious worlds of dung and rotting wood. And perhaps other species gained the same powers by taking up the genes for those hallucinogens.


A picture paints a thousand words


Things

With blockchain-based e-residency and potentially associated cryptocurrency, Estonia appears to be transforming itself into what they call a borderless, location-independent digital society. Translated: please incorporate your hard-to-trace offshore companies here. A seductive vision of an agile modern nation state or a rather elegant and difficult-to-untangle modernization of the tax haven model? Worth keeping an eye on.

Meanwhile, China doesn’t bother with such market-friendly jargon as they do away the final shreds of online anonymity. Yet Silicon Valley continues to regard WeChat as the paragon of the “platform” model. So is it time we set aside the"platform" metaphor? On the one hand, it’s as useful as any business modelling tool. But its subtle technological flavour has encouraged some to misinterpret its utter blandness as a claim to natural order. Platformists: the new Social Darwinists.

Amazon’s Whole Foods takeover is happening this week, and already we’re seeing the predicted first moves in the kind of slash-and-burn price war the Bezos warship has used to carve through other industries. Discounts, of course, tied to Prime membership. We’re no fans of Whole Foods, but we’ll be fascinated to watch how shackling this beacon of sustainability and “fair” pricing to Amazon’s aggressive bottom line quickly causes ripples throughout the global food industry.

After noticing the algorithm hinting it had a fair idea of old family secrets, Kashmir Hill tries to figure out the next-level creepiness of Facebook’s People You May Know.

Just as we talked about Arcade Fire gaming the music charts a couple of weeks back, here’s a delicious tale of the Young Adult book community becoming detectives, taken aback by a spectacularly bad “#1 New York Times best seller” that came out of nowhere. What they uncovered was an elaborate rigging, undone only by its hubris—the tricks that worked here for a moment aren’t unique, just terribly executed.

Speaking of pulp, here are some famous passages of poetry—emojified.

It’s hard to complain about grammatical fussiness without seeming fussy yourself. (Oh God, now we're doing it!) Whatever. This was a good read: a somebody-had-to-say-it smackdown of the New Yorker's dictatorial house style. Because editing should bring out good writing—not thwart it from the get-go.

Keep those comma placements in mind, and maybe consider what else they might be suggesting, while you devour this long history of those who have attempted to steer mental health away from Freud, and why he continues to linger like a bad dream.


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