Weekly Reading from 20.06.2019
World Refugee Day. In honour of World Refugee Day (20 June), the Metropolitan Museum of Art is covering up one of its major works for the week, Marc Chagall’s The Lovers (1913–1914). The gesture attempts to show what the world stands to lose if countries turn away refugees, as Chagall, a Russian Jew, fled from the Nazi invasion to France and then New York. Shining a light on those fleeing, Al Jazeera has compiled a list of documentaries that tell the tales of migrants and refugees around the world.
– Artnet News | Al Jazeera
Guns. Facebook, and by extension Instagram, forbids retailers from running ads that promote the sale or use of firearms, making it tricky for companies that sell guns or related products. From a loophole, a new kind of influencer has emerged: she is outdoorsy, smiley, and armed. Dozens of women are making a full or part-time living by posting lifestyle pictures with sponsored firearms. The NRA’s CFO, Wilson H. Phillips, Jr, was caught embezzling before starting his current position. Phillips not only succeeded in stealing money without repercussions, but also has been paid over $10 million by the NRA since 2005.
– Vox | The New Yorker
AI and climate change. Can machine learning be used to fight climate change? A new report, compiled by David Rolnick, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and advised by a number of industry titans, outlines how it can be utilised to improve energy predictions, discover new materials, optimise supply chains and buildings, and more. However, training a single AI model has serious environmental costs: not only is the process expensive, it emits as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes.
– Technology Review | Technology Review
Currency. In 2015, under the Obama administration, the US Treasury Department announced that it would add a woman of historical importance to a bill. Winning the bid, Harriet Tubman was selected to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill in 2020; however, Steven Mnuchin recently stated the debut would be delayed to 2026. After rumours and leaks, Facebook finally announced that it is working on a cryptocurrency called “Libra”. Unlike bitcoin, there will be no mining of Libra; instead, one just buys it. Libra’s value will be guaranteed by a reserve of assets, initially provided by Facebook’s partners (Mastercard, Visa, Uber, Lyft, Spotify, eBay, PayPal, Union Square Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz, to name a few).
– The New Yorker | Vox
Should US Congress resolve to study reparations? This week lawmakers heard impassioned testimony for and against the idea of providing compensation for America’s history of slavery and racial discrimination. In a long read published in 2014, American author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates argues for reparations by examining how the legacy of slavery has continued to harm black Americans. He concludes that the US has avoided undertaking such a study because it forces the country to acknowledge the role white supremacy played in not only its founding but also its rise to becoming global superpower in the twentieth century.
– Ta-Nehisi Coates