Read - Want to Read: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Gaius Suetonius TranquillusGaius Suetonius Tranquillus
As private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colourful biographical works in history. The Twelve Caesars chronicles the public careers and private lives of the men who wielded absolute power over Rome, from the foundation of the empire under Julius Caesar and Augustus, to the decline into depravity and civil war under Nero and the recovery that came with his successors. A masterpiece of observation, anecdote and detailed physical description, The Twelve Caesars presents us with a gallery of vividly drawn—and all too human—individuals.
Listened to Episode 40: Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology from Sean Carroll's Mindscape

The modern world is full of technology, and also with anxiety about technology. We worry about robot uprisings and artificial intelligence taking over, and we contemplate what it would mean for a computer to be conscious or truly human. It should probably come as no surprise that these ideas aren’t new to modern society — they go way back, at least to the stories and mythologies of ancient Greece. Today’s guest, Adrienne Mayor, is a folklorist and historian of science, whose recent work has been on robots and artificial humans in ancient mythology. From the bronze warrior Talos to the evil fembot Pandora, mythology is rife with stories of artificial beings. It’s both fun and useful to think about our contemporary concerns in light of these ancient tales.

Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar Classics and History and Philosophy of Science at Stanford University. She is also a Berggruen Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Her work has encompasses fossil traditions in classical antiquity and Native America, the origins of biological weapons, and the historical precursors of the stories of Amazon warriors. In 2009 she was a finalist for the National Book Award.

I’d never considered it before, but I’m curious if the idea of the bolt on Talos’ leg bears any influence on the bolts frequently seen on Frankenstein’s monster? Naturally they would seem to be there as a means of charging or animating him, but did they have an powers beyond that? Or was he, once jump-started, to run indefinitely? Bryan Alexander recently called out his diet (of apples and nuts), so presumably once he was brought to life, he was able to live the same way as a human.
Read Humane Ingenuity 14: Adding Dimensions by Dan Cohen (buttondown.email)
In HI12 I mentioned Ben Shneiderman’s talk on automation and agency, and he kindly sent me the full draft of the article he is writing on this topic. New to me was the Sheridan-Verplank Scale of Autonomy, which, come on, sounds like something straight out of Blade Runner:
Watched Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes from The Joy of Stats - BBC Four | YouTube

Hans Rosling's famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport's commentator's style to reveal the story of the world's past, present and future development. Now he explores stats in a way he has never done before - using augmented reality animation. In this spectacular section of 'The Joy of Stats' he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers - in just four minutes. Plotting life expectancy against income for every country since 1810, Hans shows how the world we live in is radically different from the world most of us imagine.

More about this programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wgq0l

I really love the visualizations here! There’s so much to pull apart and analyze. I do wish I had a more focused view on some of the time lapse. There are some countries moving around in interesting ways and I’d love to be able to watch what they’re doing and match them up with various historical events. Watching Japan, for example is fascinating. The near-global dip for large portions of the connected world in 1918 was particularly interesting to see as well.
Annotated Unequal Scenes - USA (unequalscenes.com)

"Some inequality of income and wealth is inevitable, if not necessary. If an economy is to function well, people need incentives to work hard and innovate.The pertinent question is not whether income and wealth inequality is good or bad. It is at what point do these inequalities become so great as to pose a serious threat to our economy, our ideal of equal opportunity and our democracy."
—Robert Reich

An important observation. What might create such a tipping point? Is there a way to look back at these things historically to determine the most common factors that would create such tipping points?
Bookmarked The Federalist with Letters of "Brutus" by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, Terence Ball (Cambridge University Press)

The Federalist represents one side of one of the most momentous political debates ever conducted: whether to ratify, or to reject, the newly drafted American constitution. This authoritative new edition presents complete texts for all of the eighty-five Federalist papers, along with the sixteen letters of "Brutus", the unknown New York Antifederalist. Each paper is systematically cross-referenced to the other, and both to the appended Articles of Confederation and U.S. Constitution. Terence Ball's editing skills enhance the accessibility of a classic of political thought in action.

More and more I find myself wanting to go back and read all of these.
Read The Hidden Stakes of the 1619 Controversy (Boston Review)
Seeking to discredit those who wish to explain the persistence of racism, critics of the New York Times’s 1619 Project insist the facts don’t support its proslavery reading of the American Revolution. But they obscure a longstanding debate within the field of U.S. history over that very issue—distorting the full case that can be made for it.
Incidentally when I read this article, I saw a pop up of a book by the paper that is an anthology of essays presumably published by the site. Is this becoming a common thing now to help create ancillary streams of revenue for newspapers and magazines? I saw one the other day for a series by Colin Woodard as the first.

Originally bookmarked at January 24, 2020 at 02:48PM

Read The Disintegration of the American Presidency (The Atlantic)
The president’s job is to oversee the whole of the executive branch, but under Trump the inverse is happening.

The tweet, in fact, was the 1,163rd entry in a thread that began back in April 2017

Annotated on January 23, 2020 at 12:34PM

Article bookmarked on January 21, 2020 at 01:01PM

Read Did George Washington’s false teeth come from his slaves?: A look at the evidence, the responses to that evidence, and the limitations of history (washingtonpapers.org)
George Washington‘s false teeth were not wooden, as you may have heard. They were actually made from a variety of materials, including human teeth. According to the accounting record in Mount Vernon’s Ledger Book B, the teeth may have been pulled from Washington’s slaves.
His teeth apparently came from slaves… ugh.
Read Don Gellers, victim of state sponsored conspiracy, receives full, posthumous pardon in Maine by Colin Woodard (colinwoodard.blogspot.com)
In a 31-part Portland Press Herald series on the Passamaquoddy tribe's epic struggles with Maine, "Unsettled," I told the story of Donald Gellers, the idealistic young attorney who, in the 1960s, joined forces with Chief George Francis to challenge legal, civil rights, and material abuses of the tribe and its members by state officials, law enforcement, the courts, and local businesspeople. Upon returning home from filing a suit that sought redress for a $150 million trust fund and 10,000 acres of reserved land stolen by Maine -- the fund alone worth $1.1 billion in today's dollars -- he was arrested in a sting and raid that would be comic if its results were not so tragic and charged with "constructive possession" of six marijunaa cigarettes allegedly found in the pocket of a jacket in his upstairs closet.
I’d love to get a bundled e-book copy of this 31 part series. And what do you know the newspaper actually published one! I wish more newspapers would do something like this. Imagine a bound book for big coverage of things like the Trump Impeachment from the Washington Post or the New York Times?