To round off the second year of the Weekly Filet, I went through all of this year's issues to come up with a selection of what I consider the best pieces of the year (in order of their appearance, with the original comment). I hope you enjoy it, see you next year. If you like some music to go with your reading, the soundelier recommends this fine selection: A Dive Into Post-Rock (Spotify Playlist).
Favourite Reads of the Year
An essay based on a lecture at the US Military Academy at West Point in 2009. It's about leadership, in general, not in the military, and about how leadership is not about being on top, not about excelling, not about leading the pack, but first and foremost about thinking. About taking the time and enduring the solitude that are prerequisite to being able to think. My favourite quote from an essay filled with quotes worth highlighting: «I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s.»
→ Solitude and Leadership (The American Scholar)
Capitalism is here to stay. But it will have to change. Like it did numerous times in the past. Interesting perspective.
→ How to Save Capitalism (TIME)
It took months of killing and terrorising civilians for the UN to reach a non-binding resolution on Syria. And while people in Europe are protesting for a free internet, people in the Middle East are risking their lives for free speech. BBC-correspondent Paul Wood reports from inside Homs, a haunting piece. And don't tell me you've already heard enough of Syria.
→ Homs from the frontline: never-ending shelling and a child buried in the night (The Observer)
There has been quite some talk about Liquid Democracy as a new, more direct form of democratic engagement. In short: Everyone gets to vote on everything, but has the right to delegate his votes to people he trusts. Here's a case for a different approach that sounds counter-intuitive at first: If fewer people vote, outcomes will be better. For each ballot, a small subset of all people is allowed to vote, picked by random. Not quite sure what to make of it, but it got me thinking.
→ How Selecting Voters Randomly Can Lead to Better Elections (Wired)
So death is bad, right? If you start thinking about why exactly this should be considered true, things get a bit complicated. In this dazzling article, Yale philosophy professor Shelly Kagan ponders the possible explanations - dismissing one after the other. A perfect example of what the Weekly Filet is about: challenge your assumptions, make your head spin.
→ Is Death Bad For You? (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
David Graeber explores why the future that is now just doesn't live up to the expectations people had for it back in the sixties and seventies. This anthropologist's view on technological research and development of the past decades brings to light some intriguing explanations (innovation was pushed in the wrong fields, motivation faded after the Cold War, it's bureaucracy's fault, it's capitalism's fault...). Reading the article will take you an hour. Thinking about it will take longer. That's proof it's worth the time.
→ Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit (The Baffler)
What does it mean if linguists claim that language shapes the way we perceive and think about the world? This two-part series about the different concepts of colour various languages have, provides some great insights. So for example, some people might not be able to spot the difference between a blue and a green square - not because they are colorblind, but because in their language, they are the same color. Think about what this means for concepts like gender, nationality or time.
→ The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains (Empirical Zeal)
They can't wait for cyborg body enhancements to become available. So they build and implant them by themselves. This is a thrilling (in all possible senses) report on «body hackers». They have magnets implanted in their fingertips to feel electrical waves, wear permanently attached computerised glasses and control a robot arm with their own arm across the Atlantic. Their next challenge: Implant an LED-display under the skin of the forearm to display heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. What makes this such a compelling read: Here you have the somewhat crazy DIY-wannabe-cyborgs, but then again this is pretty much the direction medical technology, nanotechnology and the likes of Google are leading us to.
→ Cyborg America: inside the strange new world of basement body hackers (The Verge)
A man is found dead in his apartment, having hanged himself. The creepy part: It might have been an «accidental suicide», committed while sleepwalking and experiencing a special form of nightmare called night terrors. In a brilliant and captivating article, Doree Shafrir, who herself has had night terrors for quite some time, explores what night terrors are, why people have them and what can be done about them - always driven by the looming question whether dreams can really kill you.
→ Can You Die From A Nightmare? (Buzzfeed)
It all starts with a beer or two and in the long run, we're all dead. A beautiful, humorous short story by Robert Coover. Just the right thing to head into the weekend with a smile.
→ Going For A Beer (The New Yorker)
The history and future of mankind, told as a biological science story. Brilliant, just brilliant.
→ State of the Species (Orion Magazine)
Images (And A Video) That Stood Out
→ France in the Year 2000 (The Public Domain Review)
→ Portraits of Power (The New Yorker)
→ Self-portraits done to a different drug every day (The Chive)
→ Sky Burial (Imgur)
→ Microscopic Beverages (William Legoullon)
→ When I Die: Lessons From the Death Zone (Adrian Steirn)