This week I fell back in love with a piece of software (DevonThink Pro Office) while reorganising and refreshing two dozen archival databases. I’ve been busy putting the final touches on The Taliban Reader and I’ve made new strides of progress on the slackline.
- Lina Mounzer - “War in Translation: Giving Voice to
the Women of Syria” (Lithub)
A deeply affecting account of the author’s work as a translator of stories from Syria, how language mediates and obfuscates the terrifying realities of daily life, and how even translation and re-communication gives rise to secondary trauma of a kind. If you read nothing else this week, make it this article.
- Hamzah Nassif - “Understanding Amman’s Yellow Taxi Dilemma: a Different Take on the Government’s Ongoing Battle With Ride-Hailing Apps” (The Black Iris)
I wrote about Amman’s taxis in my Arabic-language newsletter, and this (slightly old) piece helps answer some of my questions as to why taxi drivers in Jordan’s capital behave as they do. It also makes a strong case for changing the status quo. Taxi drivers seem barely able to make a living under current circumstances, and passengers aren’t getting much of a service.
- David Meyer - “The dark side of .io: How the U.K. is making web domain profits from a shady Cold War land deal” (Gigaom)
As someone who has just bought a couple of new .io domains, I was unsettled to learn the backstory, how something dating back to the early nineteenth century’s colonial expansion (in this case, to the Chagos islands) has a direct descendent in the modern age. I’m most likely not going to return the domains I bought, but I probably won’t buy anything new from the .io set.
- Andrew Ng - “What Artificial Intelligence Can and Can’t Do Right Now” (Harvard Business Review)
There’s nothing especially new in this overview piece by one of the leaders in the field of artificial intelligence, both in terms of innovation and education. But it’s nevertheless a useful summary of some of the unique features of AI and machine learning, as well as some of the things it is less good at.
- Richard Benton - “Language hacking ≠ language love” (Loving Languages)
Richard’s posts are excellent at returning us to the reasons why it’s worth learning languages — to connect, to be useful perhaps, and not to simply chalk up notches on one’s belt. This recent posts is a challenge to the thankfully-less-omnipresent online polyglot community. Recommended if you’ve ever studied more than one second-language.
This week, I reread Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Looking into my Goodreads list, I noted that I gave it a two-star rating when I first read it a few years back. Now, perhaps I was in a better place to absorb some of the lessons, but I gave it four stars. I’ll be writing a longer review for the blog here of some of the more contrarian or unexpected lessons. I’m currently reading Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me alongside Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fck* (as audiobook).
Films / TV
I’m working my way through Channel 4’s Humans, albeit painfully slowly. It was recommended on a recent podcast as a possible vision for what a future with humanoid AI machines might look like: not as different as we might imagine, but still different enough to provoke some real societal challenges.