The Monday Kickoff

Start your week with nine curated reads, served fresh each Monday

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

ChatGPT Is an Ideology Machine, wherein Leif Weatherby argues that the seemingly ubiquitous large language mode, and others like it, have the potential to produce shifts in the very way we think about things (for good and for bad).

Musk and Bezos Offer Humanity a Grim Future in Space Colonies, wherein Matthew R. Francis argues that off-world settlements run by corporate space lords have the potential to be less like libertarian utopias and more like the worst company towns of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Problematic Myth of Florence Nightingale, wherein we learn a bit about the history of nursing, which didn't start with the famed Victorian carer, and how the story that's been built up around her has affected the profession.

How to spot an AI cheater, wherein Alex O'Brien surveys the burgeoning set tools designed to spot writing and other content generated by artificial intelligence software, and why humans still need to be part of the detect process.

Degrowth in Japan, wherein Nathan Gardles looks at the ideas of Kohei Saito, which imply that returning to the economic heights of the 1980s isn't the cure for Japan's ills, when rather it's the opposite.

Hold the Line, wherein we learn how the profession of switchboard operator, which was almost entirely dominated by women, came into be as telephony spread, and about how that profession vanished as newer telephony technology hit the scene.

What we know from decades of UFO government investigations, wherein Joel Mathis summarises what the US government learned over various decades of looking into the existence, and potential threats, of unidentified aerial vehicles.

Know It All, wherein Willow Defebaugh ponders what we can learn from owls about different ways in which to perceive and process the world.

Britain is Dead, wherein Samuel McIlhagga explores the long, slow decline of Britain as a political and economic power, and power, and the British elite’s profound inability to prevent national decline.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

A new month and a new ... well, whatever is upon us. It's hard to believe that 2024 is rapidly coming into clearer view, too. When did time start moving so quickly?

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

In AI We (Don’t) Trust, wherein Lam Thuy Vo ponders the dangers of a world, seen and mediated through an algorithmically curated lens, and the effects that has on us as individuals and as a society.

Tape Heads, wherein we learn about the Mellotron — a precursor to the analog synthesizer that used magnetic tape rather than circuitry to produce sounds — and the way in which this novel instrument changed popular music for a short period.

What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?, wherein we learn we learned how the famed technologist morphed into the fiercest and weightiest critic of the new digital world.

Journey to the Golden Age, wherein Avetis Muradyan look at what the term golden age meant at certain points in history, and why people looked back to those times as ideals and for inspiration.

The Ether Dreams of Fin-de-Siècle Paris, wherein we learn why sniffing ether and chloroform became popular in both medicinal and recreational circles, and how it shaped some 19th century literature.

Gadgets and Gizmos That Inspired Adam Smith, wherein we get glimpse at some common everyday carry items from the 18th century, and how the manufacture and sale of those items may have been an influence on the titular economist's thinking.

Clean Water, wherein Omotara James examines the pollution and contamination of Okinawa's water supply, past and present, caused in large part by the American military bases there.

Faulty Memory Is a Feature, Not a Bug, wherein we learn about memory and forgetting, and how both are related to imagination and creativity.

Fusion and the Holy Grail, wherein Tristan Abbey looks that the technical and regulatory obstacles in the way of nuclear fusion powering the world, and how we're a long way off negotiating both obstacles.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Prepare for the Textpocalypse, wherein Matthew Kirschenbaum ponders how, thanks to AI, machines are on the verge of putting out text ad infinitum, flooding the internet with synthetic text devoid of human agency or intent.

AI: the key battleground for Cold War 2.0?, wherein we learn about how some American tech firms and contractors are trying to cash in on the current AI boom and creating wares for the US government to combat China in a new (virtual) arena.

My High-Flying Life as a Corporate Spy Who Lied His Way to the Top, wherein we learn about a struggling actor who entered the world of corporate espionage in a sideways sort of way, and found that he had a talent for the work.

Space Junk, wherein we learn about the amount and dangers of the debris orbiting the Earth, and why the European Space Agency is taking it upon itself to spearhead the cleanup of that junk.

Memories of Water, wherein Amitangshu Acharya recounts the role of small bodies of water in Bengal, and the deeper meaning and purpose of that water to the denizens of the region.

Why the Age of Revolution loved the classical world, wherein Francesca Langer explains the intellectual role [the classical past] played in the emergence of modern democracy and why we still encounter the physical symbols honouring that past.

The Unbelievable Zombie Comeback of Analog Computing, wherein Charles Platt examines why analog computers and components, or at least something resembling them, are having a bit of a resurgence in a number of fields, including artificial intelligence research.

What to Do If Your House is Overflowing with Books, wherein Emily Grosvenor offers some tips and techniques that can help you thin out that pile of books (read and unread) that's cluttering up your space.

AI Is a Lot of Work, wherein we learn that a lot of the intelligence behind AI is human, and how masses of low-paid workers are powering that via a lot of tedious, repetitive labour.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Canada's Big Flex in Space, wherein we learn about the robotic arms that Canadian industry has been building for NASA for decades, and how those devices (while not flashy or glamorous) are and will be key components of space exploration to come.

Desperate for dollars, Argentina just gave digital nomads another advantage over locals, wherein we learn about the country's foreign tourist dollars which, while making Argentina attractive to expats, isn't benefitting locals.

Did This Writer Actually Know Tennessee Williams?, wherein we learn about James Grissom, whose book about the famed playwright claims a deep connection with him, a connection that others question or refute.

The Icelandic Art Of Swim Lessons, wherein we learn that swimming pools in the Nordic country are considered public utilities and social hubs, while also being places where everyone learns a potentially life-preserving skill.

Is My Writing a Hobby Or a Career?, wherein Rainesford Stauffer ponders the dilemma that many a writer faces: doing their serious work while taking on jobs that pay the bills and give them space and time to do that serious work.

The Dao of Using Your Smartphone, wherein Alan Levinovitz argues that to change our relationships with our phones, we need to adopt rituals around using them.

Social media is doomed to die, wherein Ellis Hamburger recounts his 7+ years working at Snapchat and how it (and other social media) wound up manipulating and disappointing users.

Stratoplanes: The aircraft that will fly at the edge of space, wherein we learn about some of the latest developments with that class of flying machine, and what the future might hold for them.

The Carrington event of 1859 disrupted telegraph lines. A “Miyake event” would be far worse, wherein we learn a bit about massive solar flares and their effects on human technology, and about the potential for a really big one to turn civilization upside down.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

The Lows of the High Life, wherein Andre Dubus III contrasts his early life, furnished in poverty, with the life of some excess that he (briefly) lead after reaping a windfall from a best-selling novel.

How Einstein made the biggest blunder of his life, wherein we learn what led the physicist to incorporate a so-called cosmological constant into his theory of general relativity, and what happened afterwards.

Beamer, Dressman, Bodybag, wherein Alexander Wells explores how, in Germany, English and German have been melding into a strange, joyous melange, and how that's subtly changing the way people speak both language.

The workers quitting digital nomadism, wherein we get some other perspectives on this phenomenon, and learn that some things just aren't for everyone (or even a long-term option for everyone) and that's OK.

She Measures the Heavens and Outlines the Earth, wherein we learn about a Sumerian high priestess named Enheduanna, who was also an early poet and ardent observer of the night sky.

Red Finance, wherein Lin Chun examines economic development in China, especially economic policy, over the span of several historical periods and how that influenced policy in the country today.

Is my phone listening to me? My story of the internet reading my mind., wherein Merritt Tierce ponders how the internet knows so much about us, and can predict many of our moves and wants, thanks to (in part) the little rectangles that we constantly carry with us.

The New Generation of Digital Hoarders Are Harming the Planet, wherein we learn how collecting and saving mass amounts of digital cruft, which we rarely if ever use, has a huge impact on the environment.

My Search for the Origins of Clothing, wherein Ian Gilligan explores how the ancestors of some of us might have made the vestments that helped them survive harsh environments, and how modern scientists are figuring that out.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Crooks’ Mistaken Bet on Encrypted Phones, wherein we learn why criminals flock to hardened smartphones and private networks set up to support them, and how law enforcement has been able to penetrate those supposedly impenetrable networks and catch some of those crooks.

Astrophysics and stale beer: What life is like working at the South Pole, wherein we get not only a look at what it's like to work at an Antarctic research station, but also the motivations of some of the people who choose to work there.

Was Modern Art Really a CIA Psy-Op?, wherein Lucie Levin examines the closer-than-expected relationship between the Museum of Modern Art and the intelligence agency, and how art was used to win the hearts and minds of allies and nations sitting the fence during the Cold War.

The Prehistory of Glass Windows, wherein we learn a bit about how windows were made, and how they were viewed, in the time before glass became the material from which windows are made.

One man’s quest to make pickleball quiet, wherein we discover that the popular game is shockingly loud, and the ways in which retired engineer Bob Unetich is trying to dampen the sound of balls against rackets.

We need “good jobs” to restore trust and save capitalism, wherein Zeynep Ton argues that America needs more better-paying, less dehumanizing jobs to not only ensure that workers can support themselves but to also rebuild frayed bonds of trust between workers and employers.

The internet is unusable now, wherein Rachel Cunliffe argues that all of the (bad) things that make up much of the modern web — SEO, popups, overlays, algorithms, and the like — have made finding and engaging with anything online far more difficult than it needs to be.

Japan’s Akiya Houses, wherein Laura Pollacco looks at why there are so many empty houses in the Japanese countryside, and what's involved in buying and renovating one.

Notes on Craft, wherein Natasha Caulder explains how taking up bouldering helped her face and accept any failures she encountered as a writer.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Have you no shame?, wherein Niloufar Haidari looks at why some people overshare and behave outrageously online, and why that isn't always for the best.

The Two-Century Quest to Quantify Our Senses, wherein we learn about psychophysics and how scientists have tried to understand the mechanisms that underlie our senses and to explain them using data.

The V Files: The Shocking Legacy of an ’80s Sci-Fi Cult Classic, wherein we learn how to original idea for the series V changed from conventional drama to SF, how studio executives ousted the creator and ruined everything, and learn how V's creator is trying to take back the rights to the series.

No cellphone? No problem! The vintage radio enthusiasts prepping for disaster, wherein we learn about modern-day ham radio operators, who see their older technology of choice as a near-perfect way to effectively communicate during a crisis.

Do Animals Get Drunk?, wherein we learn the hows and whys of certain species consume large amounts of alcohol, and about the (believe it or not) evolutionary and nutritional advantages that has given those species.

Banks For The People, wherein Piper French looks at the wave of closures of bank branches in poorer American neighbourhoods, and at a less profit-driven and more community-base alternative.

Madame Mao’s Nietzschean Revolution, wherein Dylan Levi King examines how the German nihilist philosopher, and not Marx or Lenin, informed the revolutionary ideas of China's one-time first lady, and the effects that had on the country's cultural life.

The Long Delay Is Nearly Over, wherein Alex Dubin looks at the history of delays in returning humans to the moon, and why that's starting to change in this decade.

The City That Fell Off a Cliff, wherein Matthew Green introduces us to Dunwich, a once-thriving English port city that succumbed to erosion, and how the ruins of the city gripped the imaginations of artists and writers.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

We’re effectively alone in the Universe, and that’s OK, wherein Paul Sutter explores why we haven't found evidence of other life in the universe, and the implications of that for us.

AI Shouldn’t Decide What’s True, wherein Mark Bailey and Susan Schneider argue that we shouldn't look to AI-powered chatbots to be the arbiters of truth or sources of truth, and discuss the dangers of doing that.

Most humans haven’t evolved to cope with the cold, yet we dominate northern climates – here’s why, wherein Laura Buck and Kyoko Yamaguchi explain how our distant ancestors were able to survive and thrive in regions to which they were physically unsuited.

The Joy of Losing Your Phone, wherein Clare Coffey recalls leaving her smartphone in a taxi while in Mexico and how (in some ways) that was a liberating experience.

Tokyoids: The Aesthetics of Dismemberment in Japan, wherein François Blanciak explains how the idea of fragmentation is an essential part of many aspects of Japan, including aesthetics.

Skeletons in the Dungeon: Conspiracy Theory, Nationalism, and the French Revolution, wherein Nicole Bauer contrasts the climate of paranoia in post-revolution France with today's world, and find more than a few familiar parallels.

Noise Is All around Us—and It’s Affecting You More than You Think, wherein Bojan Furst looks at the impacts and effects that noise has on the well being of humans and animals, and what can (and should) be done about it.

My Mother, the Poker Shark, wherein Ian Frisch recounts how his mother, having to resort to whatever means she could to support the family, turned to playing competitive poker full time to pay the bills.

The One Best Way Is a Trap, wherein L.M. Sacasas examines philosopher Jacques Ellul's ideas around technique, and concludes that adopting the so-called one best way to do something is just a way of eliminating our freedom of action.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Beware a Culture of Busyness, wherein Adam Waytz explains that being busy isn't a measure of creativity or productivity on the part of employees, and offers some advice for reversing the prevailing reverence for busyness into something that actually benefits both employees and employers.

Nixon, NASA, And How The Federal Government Got Design, wherein we learn how, in the 1970s, US government agencies revamped their visual images, and about the bold, radical way in which they did it.

Throngs of Himself, wherein we learn about academic Paul Linebarger, who had an outsized influence on the fields and study of international studies and psychological warfare, and who also wrote pioneering SF under the name Cordwainer Smith.

Japan’s sleepy tech scene is ready for a comeback, wherein Roland Kelts looks at how a core of entrepreneurs are trying to revive their country's long moribund tech and startup scene.

Apollo: How Moon missions changed the modern world, wherein we learn the benefits that those of us here on Earth reaped from NASA's crewed moon missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

American Hippopotamus, wherein we learn of a fanciful scheme to import hippos to America and raise them for meat, and how two enemies became allies to try to make the scheme a reality.

The Work of the Audiobook, wherein we learn a bit about what goes into create the spoken version of a tome, from writers adjusting their styles to finding the right narrator to some of the production tricks used.

Why You Can’t Hear TV Dialogue, wherein explores the reasons (some of them technical) many people can't make out what's being said on a TV show. And, no, you're not losing your hearing ...

The Birth of Brainstorming, wherein we learn about Alexander Faickney Osborn, the head of an ad agency who helped pioneer and publicize a method for groups to quickly come up with and develop ideas.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

**The crazy plan to explode a nuclear bomb on the Moon, wherein we visit one of the stranger episodes in the Space Race, sparked by a serious research paper, involving a proposal to put some fear into the Soviets by dropping a hydrogen bomb on the lunar surface.

How Google Docs Proved the Power of Less, wherein we learn how the search engine company's online word processor survived and thrived not by trying to mimic its desktop counterparts, but by being lean and subtracting rather than adding features.

Why willpower is overrated, wherein we discover why some psychologists believe that self control isn't the key to leading a good life, and why it seems like it is.

Bucky Fuller’s Most Complex Invention May Have Been Himself, wherein we learn a bit about the famed inventor, and about the public image he crafted for himself which was, in many was, at odds with his true self.

Why the Floppy Disk Just Won’t Die, wherein we learn why the obsolete storage medium is still in use today, as well as the problem facing those users as supplies of those disks are becoming more and more scarce.

The Merchant, the Marriage, and the Treaty Port: Reassessing Ōura Kei, wherein we learn about the important but little-know titular merchant from Nagasaki, and some of the challenges that she faced as a successful female business person in a very patriarchal society.

The Invention of the Polygraph, and Law Enforcement’s Long Search for a ‘Lie Detector’, wherein we learn about the origins of the polygraph, and how law enforcement first tried to prove that this unlikely contraption worked.

Can We Make Bicycles Sustainable Again?, wherein Kris De Decker looks at how environmentally unfriendly the manufacturing of bikes is, and at some ways in which to make that manufacture more sustainable.

The Sanctions Age, wherein we learn about the effects of unilateral American sanctions on other nations, and about the knock-on effect of some of those sanctions on both countries allied with the US and firms from those countries.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt

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