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Here's what I read in March


Contrary to my goal of reading at least book a week this year, I didn't manage to finish a single book in March. It was one of the worst months of my life, and my thoughts were scattered and urgent; finding the mental space to immerse myself in someone else's work was difficult. Prolonged concentration at all, in fact, was hard to come by.

I've forgiven myself for this, and for probably failing to reach my goal for the year. At the same time, markedly increasing my book reading - and mostly avoiding business or tech books - has improved my life this year in many ways, and I'm getting back into it. I might well still hit 52 by the end of the year, although this was always an arbitrary goal that doesn't really matter. What matters is the books themselves, and the time spent reading them.

Notable Articles

Trapped in a hoax: survivors of conspiracy theories speak out. "In short, Fontaine is a vulnerable leftwing individual who would not harm a flea, which apparently makes them perfect fodder for the sadistic mockery of 4chan, the anonymous message board that hosts alt-right activists and other extremists." Truly tragic stories of exploitation by trolls and worse.

How Wealth Reduces Compassion. "Who is more likely to lie, cheat, and steal—the poor person or the rich one? It’s temping to think that the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to act fairly. After all, if you already have enough for yourself, it’s easier to think about what others may need. But research suggests the opposite is true: as people climb the social ladder, their compassionate feelings towards other people decline."

The Making of the Fox News White House. "Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda?" (Spoiler alert: absolutely yes.)

WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People. "The World Wide Fund for Nature funds vicious paramilitary forces to fight poaching. A BuzzFeed News investigation reveals the hidden human cost." Challenging: conservation is one of the most important movements for good.

Is Japan losing its umami? I very badly want to try this soy sauce.

The Case for Reparations. aka the most surprising David Brooks column ever. I agree with him: there is a strong and enduring case for real reparations.

Here’s how we can break up Big Tech. Elizabeth Warren has long been one of my favorite American politicians. I agree with her - strongly - about breaking up big tech (more on this, hopefully, soon). This is a concrete proposal that I'd be happy to co-sign. It would have a positive impact not just on the tech industry, but on all of American society.

You May Have Forgotten Foursquare, but It Didn’t Forget You. A sobering account of how tracking and surveillance have become a core part of our tech ecosystem, including as a part of apps and services that you might not expect. You don't need to have Foursquare installed to be adding to its dataset.

Facial recognition's 'dirty little secret': Millions of online photos scraped without consent. "The latest company to enter this territory was IBM, which in January released a collection of nearly a million photos that were taken from the photo hosting site Flickr and coded to describe the subjects’ appearance. IBM promoted the collection to researchers as a progressive step toward reducing bias in facial recognition."

The US Government Will Be Scanning Your Face At 20 Top Airports, Documents Show. When we talk about a "virtual wall", it's important to consider what this actually means.

The Government Is Using the Most Vulnerable People to Test Facial Recognition Software. "Our research, which will be reviewed for publication this summer, indicates that the U.S. government, researchers, and corporations have used images of immigrants, abused children, and dead people to test their facial recognition systems, all without consent."

Former Facebook Employees Say The Company’s Recent Prioritization Of Privacy Is All About Optics. I'm shocked; shocked, I tell you.

Facebook acknowledges concerns over Cambridge Analytica emerged earlier than reported. "The new information “could suggest that Facebook has consistently mislead [sic]” British lawmakers “about what it knew and when about Cambridge Analytica”, tweeted Damian Collins, the chair of the House of Commons digital culture media and sport select committee (DCMS) in response to the court filing."

Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control). It's about a failure to regulate emotions, which points to its relationship to anxiety, depression, and self-care. And therefore, a way to go about finding more focus: find more happiness.

The Adult Brain Does Grow New Neurons After All, Study Says. "Study points toward lifelong neuron formation in the human brain’s hippocampus, with implications for memory and disease."

What Facebook Is Getting Wrong in the Fight Against Fake News. A punch-the-air interview with Brooke Binkowski, formerly Managing Editor at Snopes. "If Facebook was really acting in good faith, they’d put it into a foundation and not use it to make the marionettes dance, which they do."

The 310 Miles Breaking Brexit. A beautiful exploration of the border between Ireland and the UK, its importance today, and its history. "The 310 mile (500 kilometer) line that cuts through rivers, lakes, farms, roads and villages separates two countries with different currencies, heads of state and political systems. It also marks a division that has weighed on British and Irish history for a century, a reminder of terrorist gun-running, illicit alcohol, military checkpoints and bombs."


Here's what I read in January and February.