From cynical to hopeful

+ Free Public Transit, Human Error, Cancer Fighting Pastry AI (#469)

As per our implicit deal, I browsed the web and found some great reads for you. But before we get to that, three quick notes.

  • I have updated the archive of the Weekly Filet. The treasure trove now holds 2417 recommended links since 2011, ready for you to explore.
  • Mark Zuckerberg has decided to let us privacy-concerned Europeans in. If you'd like to say hello on Threads, I'm here.
  • Unchanged from last week. The Weekly Filet still makes for a great gift, for others or yourself.

And one last thing: I'm making this week's extended edition free for everyone to read. Enjoy!

1. The COP28 Deal Is Literally Meaningless — But Not Useless

It's easy to be cynical about the latest climate conference's outcome. The agreement calls for «transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems». «It is the single most obvious thing one could possibly say about climate change», author and longtime climate activist Bill McKibben writes, «akin to ‹in an effort to reduce my headache, I am transitioning away from hitting myself in the forehead with a hammer.›» However, he then turns to something hopeful, potentially powerful he sees in that banal phrase.

2. Reporting on Long Covid Taught Me to Be a Better Journalist

Ed Yong continues to be an inspiration. This is such an important point about the value of journalism: «I had always imagined that the testing ground for my writing was the mind of my reader, who would learn something new or perhaps even change what and how they think. But this one-step model is woefully incomplete because we are a social species. Journalism doesn’t stop with first-generation readers but cascades through their networks. Done well, it can make those networks stronger.»

Opinion | Reporting on Long Covid Taught Me to Be a Better Journalist
Covering long Covid solidified my view that science is not the objective, neutral force that it is often said to be.

3. Should Public Transit Be Free?

Accessible and affordable public transit boosts economic opportunity and social mobility. And it’s good for the environment. So, why don't more cities make it free for everyone? Excellent Freakonomics episode on the pros and cons, with examples from large cities that have tried it.

Should Public Transit Be Free? (Update) - Freakonomics
Should Public Transit Be Free? (Update) - Freakonomics

4. «Human error» means they don’t understand how the system worked

A short piece with a narrow focus, but I'm sure you'll remember it the next time you read about how «human error» has been identified as the cause for a catastrophic incident.

Reminded of this piece I recommended in September 2022: When Cars Kill, It’s Not an «Accident».

“Human error” means they don’t understand how the system worked
One of the services that the Amazon cloud provides is called S3, which is a data storage service. Imagine a hypothetical scenario where S3 had a major outage, and Amazon’s explanation of the …

5. The Pastry A.I. That Learned to Fight Cancer

What's not to love: an A.I. system trained to tell apart croissants and other delicious pastries (to speed up checkout in Japanese bakeries) turns out to be rather skillful at other, more consequential tasks.

The Pastry A.I. That Learned to Fight Cancer
In Japan, a system designed to distinguish croissants from bear claws has turned out to be capable of a whole lot more.

What else?

These instant-gratification links are usually for members only.

The Future of...Religion

In digital dawn,
Faiths merge under starlit skies,
Hope's code, ever strong.

The Haiku is produced using ChatGPT, the illustration is made with DALL-E. Apart from formal instructions, the prompts are as simple as "The future of...x". Previously in this series...

A gem from the archive

From arctic permafrost to Chinese luxury markets: Mammoth ivory is a thing, apparently. A fascinating photo reportage.

The Mammoth Pirates
In Russia’s Arctic north, a new kind of gold rush is under way.

Thanks for reading. I wish you a nice weekend and hope to see you again next Friday!

— David 👋

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