Sunday 7.14.2019 New York Times Digest

1. The Racist History Behind Facial Recognition

“Much like the 19th-century technologies of photography and composite portraits lent ‘objectivity’ to pseudoscientific physiognomy, today, computers and artificial intelligence supposedly distance facial analysis from human judgment and prejudice. In reality, algorithms that rely on a flawed understanding of expressions and emotions can just make prejudice more difficult to spot.”

2. Quietly Hoarding Millions of Faces Culled From Web

“Companies and labs have gathered facial images for more than a decade, and the databases are merely one layer to building facial recognition technology. But people often have no idea that their faces are in them.”

3. The Cures Are Faltering

“Resistance to antibiotics has become one of the world’s most pressing health issues. Overuse of the drugs in humans and livestock has caused germs to develop defenses to survive, rendering a growing number of medicines ineffective in treating a wide range of illnesses — a phenomenon that is playing out worldwide with U.T.I.s.”

4. Rufus the Hawk Rules the Skies Over Wimbledon

“Without him, Wimbledon just might descend into aviary chaos. Pigeons could reign supreme, not just in the air, but also in the rafters, on the rooftops and across the grass courts.”

5. The Nordic Model May Be the Best Cushion Against Capitalism. Can It Survive Immigration?

“Growing numbers of native-born Swedes have come to see the refugees as a drain on public finances. Some decry an assault on ‘Swedish heritage,’ or ‘Swedish culture,’ or other words that mean white, Christian and familiar. Antipathy for immigrants now threatens to erode support for Sweden’s social welfare state.”

6. Why Do Medical Devices Sound So Terrible?

“Hospitals today can be sonic hellscapes.”

7. Unemployment Is Low, but That’s Only Part of the Story

“A falling participation rate suggests a growing accumulation of men and women who are neither working nor unemployed, but rather disengaged.”

8. It Was Never About Busing

“The school bus, treasured when it was serving as a tool of segregation, became reviled only when it transformed into a tool of integration.”

9. You Call It Starvation. I Call It Biohacking.

“Today’s eating disorder is as likely to come in the guise of a diet that purports to optimize you to survive and thrive in late capitalism as it is one that claims to make you beach-body ready.”

10. Please Touch Me

“If welcome, spontaneous touch had fallen out of favor, and formerly sexually active citizens were staying home with ‘Game of Thrones’ and a vibrator, wasn’t it possible that people could literally forget how to touch another human? And if we did lose the muscle memory of consensual touch, how would we get it back?”

11. This Land Was Your Land

“You’ve heard about the banality of evil. This is the banality of normalized degradation.”

12. Move Over Therapy Dogs. Hello, Therapy Cows.

“Cow cuddling, as the practice is called, invites interaction with the farm animals via brushing, petting or heartfelt chats with the bovines. The experience is similar to equine therapy, with one game-changing difference: Horses tend to stand, but cows spontaneously lie down in the grass while chewing their cud, allowing humans to get even more up close and personal by joining on the ground and offering a warm embrace.”

13. Apollo 11 Moon Landing 50th Anniversary

“Looking back at when NASA first put men on the moon.”

14. The Party of the Disappointed People

“When Gass’s book was published, in 1995, the cycle of history had revolved to a point more or less directly opposed to the moment in which it was conceived. Now that the wheel has come full circle, it seems frighteningly ahead of its time, as does Gass himself.”

15. A Lauded Satirist of the Weimar Republic Who Anticipated the Brutality of the Third Reich

“A satirist is an offended idealist.”

16. The Dangerous Art of Pyotr Pavlensky

“Institutions of power are oppressive, yet they are also oddly vulnerable to someone who denies their legitimacy.”

17. Zoos Called It a ‘Rescue.’ But Are the Elephants Really Better Off?

“Science has begun to reveal just how radically the elephant’s outwardly plodding appearance belies the exquisiteness of its senses and sensibilities. Neuroimaging has shown that elephants possess in their cerebral cortex the same elements of neural wiring we long thought exclusive to us, including spindle and pyramidal neurons, associated with higher cognitive functions like self-recognition, social awareness and language. This same circuitry, of course, renders elephants susceptible to the various psychic pathologies that afflict imprisoned humans: extreme boredom and depression, stereotypical behaviors like manic pacing and rocking and heightened aggression.”

18. The Great Race to Rule Streaming TV

“The dominant force driving TV in the Netflix age is the same one driving social networks, video-sharing platforms and online publishers: the relentless pursuit and monetization of our attention.”

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