Sunday 2.2.2020 New York Times Digest

1. Bot Net

“Once a machine-learning system has been running for a while, its decisions can become mysterious even to its creators.”

2. How Private Equity Buried Payless

“Why hasn’t the finance-driven capitalism of the last few decades created faster growth? What if the masters of financial efficiency are making choices that don’t actually create the more dynamic, productive economy they promise?”

3. The Robots Are Coming. Prepare for Trouble.

“As the gig economy grows, so does the need to modernize labor laws.”

4. Brad Pitt and the Beauty Trap

“Like Newman and Redford, Pitt has always seemed born to the screen, a natural. He has a palpable physical ease about him that seems inseparable from his looks, that silkiness that seems, at least in part, to come from waking up every day and going through life as a beautiful person. This isn’t to say that good-looking people don’t have the same issues, the neuroses and awkwardness that plague us mortals. But Pitt has always moved with the absolute surety you see in some beautiful people (and dancers), the casualness of movement that expresses more than mere confidence, but a sublime lack of self-consciousness and self-doubt about taking up space, something not everyone shares. This isn’t swagger; this is flow.”

5. For the Rich, Helicopters Are Just Like Cars

“The cities with the greatest volume of helicopter traffic have two things in common: a concentration of wealthy residents and horribly congested roads.”

6. Tears for the Magnificent and Shrinking Everglades, a ‘River of Grass’

“Two centuries ago, the great naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt was the first to comprehend the interconnectedness of nature, and how human activity affected it. Humboldt never visited the Everglades, but it is surely one of the best places on earth to observe nature’s complex harmony up close.”

7. A Former F.B.I. Negotiator and His Tips for Travel

“Never be mean to someone who can hurt you by doing nothing.”

8. What We Lose by Hiring Someone to Pick Up Our Avocados for Us

“The incursion of technology into every aspect of consumption has meant that only the indolent or pathologically tolerant wait for things.”

9. I Quit Yale

“The academic profession is so closely tied in with your sense of your moral self. It’s not just a career, but a comment on who you are as a human being. Helping young people to think critically and love literature is noble; trading stocks is not. Everyone who studies humanities in graduate school is there because it feels like a calling. For me, this zeal made it hard to have the kind of healthy distance I think you need from your work.”

10. I Quit My Smartphone

“I hadn’t deliberately chosen to worship my smartphone, but when you repeatedly bow your head to something, stroking it thousands of times a day, it begins to shine like an idol.”

11. By the Book: Laurie Anderson

“I read as a survival strategy. I wake up every morning full of dread and disbelief. Then I start reading.”

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