Happy New Year, gentle readers! Here’s looking forward to a better and brighter 2018. Before we delve into sharing the longreads we’re loving right now, our most popular post last week was E. Young’s look at The Shape of Water. Have you seen it yet? What did you think?
‘Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking‘ (Mara Hvistendahl for Wired)
Credit scores draw upon a lot of information. What if they drew upon your interactions with big data, asking more than simply ‘have you paid your bills on time,’ ‘how much money do you make,’ and ‘how much debt are you carrying?’ It’s something that’s already happening, and we should be talking about it.
To get an Alipay ID, Liu had to enter his cell phone number and scan his national ID card. He did so reflexively. Alipay had built a reputation for reliability, and compared to going to a bank managed with slothlike indifference and zero attention to customer service, signing up for Alipay was almost fun. With just a few clicks he was in. Alipay’s slogan summed up the experience: “Trust makes it simple.”
‘Losing Conner’s Mind‘ (Amitha Kalaichandran for The Atavist)
A little boy got sicker and sicker with a mysterious illness that no one could identify, and when his condition began to degenerate, it sparked panic. This is a fascinating, thoughtful look at the story of one strange childhood illness and how it interacted with family, the medical system, and the foundations of our minds.
Conner had just turned four. As he headed into his second year of preschool, he took various combinations of anti-seizure medications as his doctors tried to find a cocktail that worked. Hollie and Jeff had never heard of the prescriptions, which had names like Keppra, Depakote, and Onfi. Sometimes Conner would scream when he couldn’t remember a word for something he’d once been able to name, which seemed to happen more and more often. His legs began trembling when he walked.
‘What Are We Going to Do About Tyler?‘ (Sarah Smith for ProPublica)
The media finally seems interested in exploring a significant social justice issue embedded within the already snarled US injustice system: What happens to mentally ill people, who languish without treatment or support in a system that sometimes condemns them to live for months or years in a strange state of limbo. This is an intense and fantastic read.
Holland did his best to level with Tyler. He told him the state system would not care if he was mentally ill. They only cared about maintaining order. He told him to follow orders. As state guards approached, Holland told the shackled Tyler to face the nearby wall.
‘How Facebook’s Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda‘ (Lauren Etter, Vernon Silver, and Sarah Frier for Bloomberg)
Think Facebook and the tech industry at large have too much influence over our daily lives? Then you’ll definitely want to read this chilling report of how far down Facebook’s social control really goes.
In the U.S., the unit embedded employees in Trump’s campaign. (Hillary Clinton’s camp declined a similar offer.) In India, the company helped develop the online presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who now has more Facebook followers than any other world leader. In the Philippines, it trained the campaign of Rodrigo Duterte, known for encouraging extrajudicial killings, in how to most effectively use the platform. And in Germany it helped the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party (AfD) win its first Bundestag seats, according to campaign staff.
‘The Plot to Bomb Garden City, Kansas‘ (Jessica Pressler for NY Mag)
Racism and Islamophobia didn’t start with Trump’s election, and this look at the entrenched nature of such hatred, and the effects it can have on communities, is definitely worth taking some time with.
The Somali Mall, in Garden City, isn’t actually a mall. It’s a store selling African imports and a popular Somali hangout, though its location on a back road makes it harder to see and for some people maybe a little bit scary. “The first time I went there, to be downright honest, my fear was some guy might come out with a machine gun and say ‘Allahu akbar!’ and shoot me,” said John Birky, the doctor. He laughed, embarrassed, because, of course, he went in and it was just a handful of Somalis drinking tea.
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