Samir’s Selection 01/30/2014 (p.m.)
Why Monopolies Make Government Spying Easier : The New Yorker
The structure of the information industry often goes unnoticed, but it has an enormous effect on the ease with which the government spies on citizens. The remarkable consolidation of the communications and Web industries into a handful of firms has made spying much simpler and, therefore, more likely to happen…more centralization and concentration means convenience for consumers, but it also makes government surveillance and censorship easier…The national-security state tends to love monopolies-a coöperative monopoly augments and extends the power of the state, like a technological prosthesis. (Germany offers even more extreme examples of this than America does.) In general, when a dominant firm, or a few firms, holds power over part of the information industry, we can expect intelligence agencies to demand coöperation and partnership. Over time, the firm can become a well-compensated executioner of state will. If history is any guide, the longer that companies like Facebook and Google stay dominant, the more likely it becomes that they will serve as intelligence partners to the United States and other governments.For a model of what the Web could become, we need only look at Verizon or A. T. & T., both amply rewarded by Washington for serving as the state’s most reliable intelligence accomplices.Consequently, if you’d like less government surveillance, the alternative answer to political control is more competition in the industries that handle and store information. At the federal level, this means vigorous antitrust enforcement. At the personal level, it means that if citizens really want less spying, they must quit Facebook, and use search engines other than Google.
How Caffeine Can Cramp Creativity : The New Yorker
The caffeine quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier… and proceeds to block the activity of a substance called adenosine…
caffeine has a number of distinct benefits. Chief among them are that it boosts energy and decreases fatigue; enhances physical, cognitive, and motor performance; and aids short-term memory, problem solving, decision making, and concentration…
much of what we associate with creativity—whether writing a sonnet or a mathematical proof—has to do with the ability to link ideas, entities, and concepts in novel ways. This ability depends in part on the very thing that caffeine seeks to prevent: a wandering, unfocussed mind. Creative insights and imaginative solutions often occur when we stop working on a particular problem and let our mind move on to something unrelated.
In other words, a break in intense concentration may increase unconscious associative processing. That, in turn, allows us to perceive connections that we would otherwise miss…
Caffeine also inhibits another mental process that’s necessary for creative thinking: sleep…
Sleep deprivation has also been linked to negative effects on other elements associated with creativity and thought clarity: it diminishes emotional intelligence, constructive thinking, and the ability to cope with stress.
In one study, consuming two hundred milligrams of caffeine significantly increased the amount of time it took for people to fall asleep later that night. (An eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains ninety-five to two hundred milligrams of caffeine, according to the Mayo Clinic.) It also had a profound effect on the quality of that sleep: it lowered sleep efficiency; the duration of stage-two sleep (the point at which our bodies prepare to enter deep sleep); and the spectral power of delta-wave frequencies (which are closely associated with the depth and quality of sleep).
The Number of People Who Read the News Is Lower Than You Think : The New Yorker
“The figure is also important to the concept of filter bubbles, the main subject of the Microsoft paper. Commentators and journalists (and, of course, Barack Obama) have long bemoaned the division of America into highly polarized ideological camps, said to be reinforced by online filtering. But it seems that the most important filter bubble is the one that could be labelled, simply, “ignore everything.” It’s the bubble filled with people who, so long as the country remains basically stable, pay no attention to partisan politics.
The number may also help us understand why a relatively small number of motivated people can have such a significant effect on American politics and policy. For better or worse, the number of people in this game is pretty small. Bottom line: if you can get one per cent of the population vaguely interested in something nowadays, that’s huge.”
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.