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How Google search could decide the 2016 US election [сообщение #457223] Втр, 13 Октябрь 2020 08:00
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The best recent long reads in science and technology, including how Google has the power to change elections and the late Oliver Sacks' last article.

oting | How Google could rig the 2016 election

Google has great power to control elections through search results. Google's algorithms "can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20% or more" by assigning higher and lower search rankings to candidates and issues. Obviously we should fear deliberate manipulation by Google or a rogue employee; but Google is already swaying our elections in ways that nobody fully understands simply by being there. (Robert Epstein, Politico, 2,680 words)

Psychiatry | Why can't we stop for death

Fear of death dominates human psychology, claims a resurgent school of psychiatry drawing on the works of Ernest Becker. The thesis is an elegant one; and it is true that "awareness of death, more than anything else, differentiates human beings from other animals". It is also true that denial of death is a powerful force in human life. But not everybody is terrified of dying. "Many human beings have welcomed their mortality." (John Gray, New Statesman, 2,100 words)

Psychology | I am not a story

Life is not a story, and not everybody experiences life as a story. Indeed, it is hard to say whether those who claim to experience life as a story actually do so, or whether they are surrendering to a clumsy metaphor. It is equally possible to experience life as something that begins again every day, every hour, every second; and the past as remembered fragments which are individually useful, but with no collective significance. (Galen Strawson, Aeon, 3,275 words)

Neuroscience | Urge

A last article from the late Oliver Sacks: The case-history of Walter B., an "affable, outgoing man of 49", who had opted for brain surgery to control his epilepsy. The epilepsy went but ravenous cravings for food and sex took its place. "The inevitable happened, and federal agents came to Walter's house to arrest him for possession of child pornography." Would a court convict him, knowing his condition? The answer turned out to be: yes. (Oliver Sacks, New York Review Of Books, 1,500 words)

Value | We hate cheap things

To say that we value things because they are expensive is almost a truism; but the logic of it is far from obvious. When pineapples were expensive and rare they were served to kings and celebrated in art a sculpted pineapple tops the south tower of St Paul's Cathedral. Now that pineapples are cheap, they are "one of the world's least glamorous fruits". Yet they still taste the same. What do we gain from devaluing the things we can afford? (Alain de Botton et al., The Book Of Life, 3,250 words)

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