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ProLinks #60 – Trust, Exercise, Constitution and more


5 peculiar cases of identity theft and how they could have been prevented

Andorrie Sachs, a mother of four children, had left her wallet in a car which was later broken into, and her wallet stolen. The thief turned out to be a pregnant woman who was, on top of all else, a regular meth user. Having Sachs’ driver’s licence and other papers enabled her to steal Sachs’ medical identity, and she delivered her baby in Sachs’ name, abandoned her child at the hospital and left Sachs with a $10,000 hospital bill. Afterwards, the local authorities then mistakenly reported Sachs as an unfit mother and threatened to take her four children away.

The dispassionate developer by Mark Seemann

For reasons that are complicated and that I don’t fully understand, the software development community in the eighties and nineties developed a culture of anti-capitalism and liberal values that put technology on a pedestal for its own sake. Open source good; commercial software bad. Free software good; commercial software bad.

An introduction to DNS and its relationship with Univention Corporate Server

Recursive and authoritative name servers place considerably different demands on the admins who operate them, with recursive name servers being significantly less laborious to administer.


Bruce Wayne should probably start wearing sunglasses.

RACHEL BOTSMAN: “The issue of trust does not lie in the technology, it lies in the culture.”

When people used to live in tribes, villages or small communities, trust was largely interpersonal: it was based on personal reputation and proximity. Then urbanisation and trade came in, we needed to interact with people not in our proximity, we needed to trust them. The local trust mechanisms did not work anymore.

12 people are behind most of the anti-vaxxer disinformation you see on social media

The largest anti-vaxxer influencer on social media, according to the report, is Joseph Mercola. Mercola is an alternative medicine promoter who runs a multimillion dollar online business selling treatments and dietary supplements. The FDA recently sent Mercola a warning over his sham treatments for COVID-19.

Face to Face: Building Trust through Accurate Recognition

With enough computing power, a machine could recognise every person on the planet in 500 milliseconds. At Innovatrics, our algorithms can match a single person from among 8 billion people in under a minute, using just three standard servers. The same task would take a human almost 100 years!

Email Is Making Us Miserable — Here’s What to Do About It

Cal describes how email and chat channels have created what he calls “the hyperactive hive mind,” and the costs to productivity, well-being, and focus that this hive mind incurs. He then explains why we feel the need to quickly respond to messages, even if rationally we know they’re not urgent. Cal then lays out practical ways to replace the hive mind with a more effective way of working, and why it involves concentrating on processes over messaging, increasing intellectual specialization, a return to hiring support staff, and, counterintuitively, more friction and less convenience.

All my career rejections

Over 50 times I have been rejected in my short career. Gotta collect em’ all!


What You Can (Really) Learn About Exercise from Your Human Ancestors

We all know how indisputably good exercise is for you. Yet a lot of folks still find it a struggle to engage in much physical activity. To understand the reason that this conflict and tension exists and how to overcome it, it helps to understand the lives of our human ancestors.


Are you hosting a memetic Parasite?

Some memes propagate by making their hosts’ lives better and richer. These memes likely travel slowly, as it can take a person a while to improve their life. And yet these memes can have excellent longevity – there are many thousand-year old stories people still tell themselves, because these stories help them live more fulfilling lives. These are symbiotic memes.

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

Our brains evolved to keep our bodies alive — thinking is just a bonus by-product.

Information is surprise

Forget about the person who is sending the message and the meaning they want to convey and simply imagine the machine picking words at random, based on a probability distribution that closely reflects the structure of the English language. To formalise things even further, forget about words and think of the machine picking individual symbols according to a certain probability distribution. This way, we can measure surprise not only for languages spoken by people, but also for strings of 0s and 1s produced by a computer, or for smoke signals sent in the forest.

How Intelligent Could Life Be Without Natural Selection?

Science fiction can be terribly pessimistic, but that pessimism is unfounded. Other factors are at play. Resources are limited. Eventually, even the crabs on the island run out of materials with which to make new robots. Admittedly, humans have caused tremendous damage to our own planet, but we’ve hardly destroyed the universe. In fact, there’s no indication in the night sky that any organism, biological or artificial, has spread its influence as far and wide as we might expect if they were growing exponentially like robot crabs.


China’s COVID Vaccine Problem


Should I let the source read my article before publication?

The consensus is: do not let your source be your editor. As a journalist, once your interviewee has spoken to you on the record, you do not have to show them your article. 

How celebrities became irrelevant

influencers can only ever be one person: themselves. Or rather, their Best Self. The influencer’s outward-facing persona is a carefully curated costume, a highlights reel of personhood that feels authentic without being too real. A proper influencer has to be messy but not sloppy, open but not extra. Weeping is allowed; ugly crying is not. Done right, this complex alchemy adds up to the greatest asset an influencer can possess: a sense that you could, with just a little effort, be just like her.


This is why we can’t have nice things

The Rule of History

Essentially, what happened in 1215 was that the kingdom turned around and told the king to obey his own rules

When Constitutions Took Over the World

Many of the founders later had grave doubts about the government they’d erected, as Dennis Rasmussen argues in “Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America’s Founders” (Princeton). Washington regretted partisanship, Hamilton thought the federal government too weak, Adams damned the vices of the people, and Jefferson expected the divide over slavery to doom the Union

A ‘Thrilling’ Mission to Get the Swedish to Change Overnight

Some 360,000 street signs had to be switched nationwide, which largely took place on a single day before the move to right-hand driving, with council workers joined by the military and working late into the night to ensure the task got done before H-Day formally revved into gear on Sunday morning. All but essential traffic was banned from the roads.

Our Strange Addiction

Versions of this account of the globalization of smoking have been told countless times. Broadly speaking, they’re true. But they can also be misleading.

How Portugal silenced ‘centuries of violence and trauma’

By the mid-16th century, Africans were part of almost every area of Portuguese life, and around 10,000 Africans were living in Lisbon, making up 10 percent of the population. “It was the first European city with a large concentration of Black people,” Gaglo explains, strolling through Lisbon’s still-resplendent downtown. “Mostly life in the city for Africans was work, work, work. They were housemaids, they took care of children in the city, they provided water for the houses, the men worked unloading ships, in construction. Enslaved people were denied a family life, because mostly men and women would belong to different owners, who didn’t let them leave to get married.”

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