The Weekly Filet brings you the five best links of the week, every Friday. Making sense of the big issues of our time (with a healthy dose of serendipity and nerdiness). Brought to you by journalist David Bauer. Trawling the web for hidden gems since 2011.
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2020 US Election Forecast

FiveThirtyEight has released its forecast for the 2020 US election. At this point, I’m less interested in the actual forecast (Biden favoured to win, with a 72 in 100 chance), but in the design choices they made to communicate what exactly you can take away from such a forecast and what you shouldn’t. You can clearly see how the reckoning with 2016 has shaped their decisions (the main issue in 2016, at least with FiveThirtyEight, wasn’t that forecasts were wrong, the inherent uncertainty was just poorly communicated). Have a look.

Published in Weekly Filet #312

    How China Controlled the Coronavirus

    When I first heard that China had imposed a lockdown on the millions of people in Wuhan, it seemed like a drastic measure — something China would do, but surely not a model for…well, naive early 2020 me didn’t know what this year had in store. Today, with the virus still spreading in large parts of the world, China is mostly out of the headlines. The New Yorker offers a detailed report on the situation in China, and how it keeps the virus under control. Let’s hope this is not yet another glimpse into everyone’s future. Read it now.
    (Side note: I’ve started using Audm for listening to some very long pieces like this one, and like it a lot. Side note to the side note: This is not an ad, I just thought it worth mentioning.)

    Published in Weekly Filet #312

      Are Humans Intelligent? An AI Op-Ed

      In recent weeks, an artificial intelligence program named GPT-3 has wowed people. It’s arguably the most powerful and smart language generator ever produced. And it inevitably sparked a recurring discussion: While AI is good at specific tasks — will it ever be capable of true intelligence? That’s a very human-centered way to think about it. Why not turn things around for once, and let an artificial intelligence program argue whether or not humans are capable of true intelligence? This is exactly what you’re about to read. GPT-3 pulles no punches.

      Published in Weekly Filet #312

        Calling Bullshit — The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World

        I’ve recommended their syllabus before, now Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West have turned it into a book and it couldn’t be more timely. In a cosmic twist of irony, the book was released on the very day we saw Donald Trump bullshit his way though an interview by using printed out graphics to somehow «explain» why America is going great in the fight against Covid-19. Calling Bullshit is an excellent guide to understanding how data — in studies, visualisations, communication and elsewhere — is being used to disinform. And it provides you with the tools to spot such bullshit and call it out. Buy it now.

        Published in Weekly Filet #311

          COVID-19 is awful. Climate change could be worse.

          «By 2060, climate change could be just as deadly as COVID-19, and by 2100 it could be five times as deadly…In the next decade or two, the economic damage caused by climate change will likely be as bad as having a COVID-sized pandemic every ten years.» Bill Gates on the lessons we can, and must, learn from the pandemic for the fight against climate change. Read it now.

          Published in Weekly Filet #311

            The Great Green Wall of Africa: Is this the next wonder of the world?

            Some encouraging news: The Great Green Wall is a project looking to grow a belt of trees, across the full width of Africa, to stop the Sahara desert from expanding. It is far from finished yet, but it is already showing some great success. Take that, wannabe wall builders around the globe! Learn about it now.

            Published in Weekly Filet #311

              Remote work is a platform

              Imagine for a moment what it would be like if we had been working from home for decades and all of a sudden be forced into working together in offices. I’m sure we’d be struggling to adapt our proven routines to the new context. As Jason Fried, who built his company around remote work and wrote an excellent book on remote work, argues in this short article: That’s because simply porting one way of working to a new environment will inevitably lead to the worst of both worlds. Keep that in mind the next time you discuss the drawbacks of remote work with colleagues.

              Published in Weekly Filet #311

                How the Pandemic Defeated America

                Journalism is the first rough draft of history, they say, and there couldn’t be a better exhibit than this one here. It is truly astonishing how Ed Yong — who already wrote some of the most comprehensive articles on the pandemic — has managed to pull everything together into a, for now, definitive piece on the pandemic. It focuses on the USA and its failures, but most of what we writes is universal. So if you’d like to pause for a moment and reflect on what happened in the first half of 2020, this is your piece. One of the key takeaways for me: «The countries that fared better against Covid‑19 didn’t follow a universal playbook. Each nation succeeded because it did enough things right.» Read it now (available as audio, too).

                Published in Weekly Filet #311