Sunday 10.8.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. The Golden Age of ‘Existential’ Dread

“Calling something ‘a matter of life and death’ sounds hysterical and alarmist; ‘existential threat’ feels more solemn, gravely analytical, as if you’ve been poring over classified reports with world-weary experts. It is the verbal equivalent of a B-movie scientist somberly removing his glasses. We say it with abandon now, in every context.”

2. As Overdose Deaths Pile Up, a Medical Examiner Quits the Morgue

“After laboring here as the chief forensic pathologist for two decades, exploring the mysteries of the dead, he retired last month to explore the mysteries of the soul. In a sharp career turn, he is entering a seminary program to pursue a divinity degree, and ultimately plans to minister to young people to stay away from drugs.”

3. Global Economy’s Stubborn Reality: Plenty of Work, Not Enough Pay

“In many major countries, including the United States, Britain and Japan, labor markets are exceedingly tight, with jobless rates a fraction of what they were during the crisis of recent years. Yet workers are still waiting for a benefit that traditionally accompanies lower unemployment: fatter paychecks.”

4. Don’t Get Too Comfortable at That Desk

“New office designs are coming to a workplace near you, with layouts meant to cater to the variety of tasks required of modern white-collar workers.”

5. A Robot Makes a Mean Caesar Salad, but Will It Cost Jobs?

“Walking a couple of minutes within a building to a salad-tossing robot instead of venturing outside for lunch would mean shorter work breaks and increased productivity, he said.”

6. Pinpointing Racial Discrimination by Government Officials

“Emails with black-sounding names were 13 percent more likely to go unanswered than those with white-sounding names.”

7. Inside North Korea, and Feeling the Drums of War + While the U.S. Talks of
War, South Korea Shudders

“High school students march in the streets in military uniform every day to denounce America. Posters and billboards along the public roads show missiles destroying the U.S. Capitol and shredding the American flag.”

8. Confessions of a Sensible Gun Owner

“A great many hunters and gun owners are like me. We are not ‘gun nuts,’ stockpiling weapons in the name of some future apocalypse. We exercise our Second Amendment rights in a way that is palatable to most people who otherwise oppose guns — we’re the bridge that connects the two sides of the chasm in the national debate.”

9. N.R.A. and G.O.P., Together Forever

“The N.R.A. has successfully taken the issue of rational gun regulation out of the policy realm and made it a central feature of the culture wars. The issue is no longer simply about bump stock, or assault weapons, or specific regulations, or public safety; the debate over guns has become a subset of the larger cultural clash that pits us against them — liberals versus ‘normal’ Americans.”

10. No, That Robot Will Not Steal Your Job

“In the natural world, matter is neither created nor destroyed, but things are transformed. The same is true in the economic world. When new technology destroys, it leaves behind a layer of ash in which new jobs grow.”

11. Co-Parenting With Alexa

“Today, we’re no longer trusting machines just to do something, but to decide what to do and when to do it. The next generation will grow up in an age where it’s normal to be surrounded by autonomous agents, with or without cute names. The Alexas of the world will make a raft of decisions for my kids and others like them as they proceed through life — everything from whether to have mac and cheese or a green bowl for dinner to the perfect gift for a friend’s birthday to what to do to improve their mood or energy and even advice on whom they should date. In time, the question for them won’t be, ‘Should we trust robots?’ but ‘Do we trust them too much?’”

12. How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science

“Gerrymandering used to be an art, but advanced computation has made it a science.”

13. Who Invented ‘Zero’?

“The void is as old as time, but it was a human innovation to harness it with a symbol.”

14. Our Changing Climate Mind-Set

“When we viewed photographs and film of the annihilated cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we sensed that the world could be ended by nuclear weapons. Now these hurricanes have conveyed a similar feeling of world-ending, having left whole islands, once alive in their beauty and commerce, in ruin.”

15. Whatever Happened to Just Being Type A?

“One trend we see is people putting their personality types in their profiles as a shortcut to describing themselves.”

16. Blade Runner, Serving Sexy Replicant Looks for Fall

“Film professors put it on their syllabuses. Fashion designers turn to it as frequently as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And music video directors ape it shot for shot.”

17. A Trust Buster for the New ‘Knowledge Monopoly’

“We, the consuming public, have failed to properly understand the new tech superpowers, he suggests, leaving little hope for stodgy and reluctant American regulators. The scope of their influence is obscured by the sheer number of things they do and sell, or problems they purport to be solving, and by our outdated sense of what constitutes a monopoly.”

18. What if Platforms Like Facebook Are Too Big to Regulate?

“What can a government realistically do about a problem like Facebook?”

19. After the Hurricane Winds Die Down, Larry McMurtry’s Houston Trilogy Lives On

“Some claim the three essential books in Texas history are the Bible, the Warren Commission report and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about 19th-century cattle drives.”

20. How to Fight and Fix Your Car Like a Woman

“The book’s explanations of how to ‘fight like a woman’ are eye-opening, but of course there’s no substitute for physical practice. The biggest takeaway is counterintuitive: At all costs, resist. Many women are taught from an early age that the best chance of survival in an attack is to obey. Not true, says Kardian …. Get in the car, follow him to the deserted apartment, do what he wants — and you’re toast.”

21. Should Women Make Their Own Pop Music Canon?

“We take female musicians just seriously enough not to notice that we don’t actually take them seriously enough. They matter in the present. But posterity is another matter.”

22. Letters of Recommendation

“Six writers on their favorite cultural experiences of 2017.”

23. Frances McDormand’s Difficult Women

“I’m not an actor because I want my picture taken. I’m an actor because I want to be part of the human exchange.”

 

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