Sunday 1.20.2019 New York Times Digest


1. How Tech Companies Manipulate Our Personal Data

“Surveillance capitalism depends on the constant gathering of ‘behavioral surplus,’ or the data exhaust that we produce as part of the normal course of web browsing, app use and digital consumption. All of it is potentially revealing, allowing companies to make sophisticated inferences about who we are, what we want and what we’re likely to do.”

2. The N.F.L.’s Obesity Scourge

“Blocking for a $25-million-a-year quarterback, it turns out, can put linemen in the high-risk category for many of the ailments health experts readily encourage people to avoid.”

3. How Sticky Gloves Have Changed Football

“The grippy polymer used on the new generation of gloves, said to be developed first by a Canadian wide receiver and a chemist in a Pakistan laboratory in 1999, is about 20 percent stickier than a human hand.”

4. Hollywood’s Mountain, Now a Molehill

“Netflix, which occupies a rented office tower six blocks from Paramount headquarters, has been swallowing the entertainment business whole. This year, the streaming service will pump out about 90 movies, including documentaries. To compare, the five conventional studios left standing — Paramount, Universal, Sony, Disney and Warner Bros. — will make about that many combined. Paramount is set to contribute 13.”

5. How to Think About the Costs of Climate Change

“Many of the big economic questions in coming decades will come down to just how extreme the weather will be, and how to value the future versus the present.”

6. The Malign Incompetence of the British Ruling Class

“The British political class has offered to the world an astounding spectacle of mendacious, intellectually limited hustlers.”

7. An Adjunct Instructor’s Final Syllabus

“They will experience the short story as a brief immersion in the lives and experiences of others — a vehicle for insight. Students may come to understand, for example, why a 39-year-old woman, graduate degree in hand and reasonably attractive, would allow herself to be seduced by a potbellied has-been 20 years her senior, a scholar-cum-novelist who, after buying her a number of drinks at a conference, persuaded her to relocate from a reasonable metropolitan area to a splotch on the prairie, only to reunite, two and a half weeks after her arrival, with an almost-ex-wife he had somehow neglected to mention.”

8. In Search of Non-Toxic Manhood

“In the actual history of the human race ‘traditional masculinity’ as a single coherent category simply does not exist.”

9. You Have to Look Really Closely

“Up close we can see that in Mr. Opdyke’s fevered vision, the forests are aflame, smoke billowing up from one card into the next, while an orange grove is decimated by freeze. (‘Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.’) A steamboat lolling up the Mississippi is being swallowed up whole by some sort of invasive new species: a mega-faunapus, if you will. The shimmering wheat fields are desiccated, the once proud threshing machines abandoned. A plague of locusts swells out over another tranche of cards. Giant tornadoes churn through entire sections of the grid up to the left. Frogs are falling out of the sky to the right. Monarch butterflies flit and flutter, probably the last of their kind.”

10. A Woman’s Rights

“More and more laws are treating a fetus as a person, and a woman as less of one.”

11. Do You Take This Robot…

“In a world where sex toys that respond and give feedback and artificial-intelligence-powered sex robots are inching toward the mainstream, are digisexuals a fringe group, destined to remain buried in the sexual underground? Or, in a culture permeated with online pornography, sexting and Tinder swiping, isn’t everyone a closet digisexual?”

12. Why Do We Hurt Robots?

“While human antagonism toward robots has different forms and motivations, it often resembles the ways that humans hurt each other. Robot abuse, she said, might stem from the tribal psychology of insiders and outsiders.”

13. New & Noteworthy

“A professor of media theory, Rushkoff files field notes from the war between man and machine, arguing gloomily that technology is currently winning, quickly chipping away at our humanity.”

14. Double Exposure

“Why did a man whose life and work were knitted into the civil rights movement feed information to J. Edgar Hoover?”

15. Behind the Guitar Heroes

“He came up with something simpler, eliminating fine woodworking and its sculptural glued-on neck; his neck was bolted on and easily replaceable, for a guitar that could be manufactured, affordable and practical. ‘This was the leap from classical design to modernism; from the age of walnut to the age of celluloid; from the America of brick-and-iron cities to the America of stucco-and-glass suburbs.’”

16. All the President’s Memes

“It’s impossible to overstate how peculiar it is that the most powerful man in the world, who will turn 73 in June, posts memes.”

17. How Secrecy Fuels Facebook Paranoia

“When platforms become entrenched and harder for users to leave, the secrets they keep are reflected back to them as resentments.”

18. Letter of Recommendation: Rides to the Airport

“In modern friendship, riding in a car with someone represents a significant form of intimacy, one almost equivalent to lying on the couch in contented silence. It’s an intimacy built through comfort, proximity and aimlessness. And the airport ride is the ultimate gesture of selflessness: an act of service with little reward for the giver. So that has always been my standard of knowing you have found a place in a new town: having someone whom you’d call to grab you from the airport with little promised in return, besides a beer or two.”

19. How to Wear Camouflage

“No whites anywhere but in the snow.”

20. Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths — or Falling Into Old Traps?

“When we thought of populations as stationary and largely stable, we assumed that whatever evolutionary progress they made, from toolmaking to agriculture, reflected either a native innovation or the incorporation of some adjacent group’s avant-garde practice. Now it seemed as though culture was less about the invention and spread of new ideas and more about the mass movements of particular peoples — and the resulting integration, outcompetition or extermination of the communities they overran.”

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