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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Did Xi Just Save the World?

As usual: If the title of an article is a question, the answer almost always is «No». Still, Xi Jinping’s announcement that China plans to peak emissions before 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060 is a big deal and deserves closer examination. Remember: China is currently responsible for around 28 percent of global carbon emissions.

Published in Weekly Filet #319

    This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic

    As the world grapples to make sense of this pandemic, sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has consistently been ahead of the curve. So much so that the NYT wrote a profile of her, as the woman who «keeps getting the big things right». In this new piece, she focuses on the fact that a majority of people infected with the coronavirus don’t pass the virus on. Why that makes R a flawed indicator, what needs to be changed about contact tracing, and why Sweden doesn’t deserve its special role in debates about strategies.

    Published in Weekly Filet #319

      Seeing Our Own Reflection in the Birth of the Self-Portrait

      If you’ve been following this newsletter for a while (quick break here: In that case, you’re awesome), you know I’m rarely recommending art critique. This is different. Consider this: How do you draw a self portrait before good mirrors existed? The New York Times’ discussion of an Albrecht Dürer self portrait turned out way more interesting that I’d anticipated.

      Published in Weekly Filet #319

        «You might not like it, but it’s smart politics.»

        I’m currently reading The Dictator’s Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. It makes for a chilling read as we follow the events in the USA. The key premise of the book is this: «Bad behavior is almost always good politics.» If you have the time (and the nerves), read it, it’s worth it. What I’m recommending here, though, is a slightly different (and shorter) take. Jay Rosen, journalism professor in New York, warns that the media must not fall into exactly that trap, of describing Trump’s behaviour as smart politics—when indeed they need to cry foul and raise the alarm.

        Published in Weekly Filet #319

          Things that would like to be stars

          No matter how many animations and visualisations I see on the vastness of the universe, I’m never not fascinated when I see a new one. This animated video focuses less on distances between various planets and stars, but on what these stars are actually like. Can you imagine something 500000 times brighter than the sun? Like I said: never not fascinated.

          Published in Weekly Filet #318

            Fake Data Could Help Solve Machine Learning’s Bias Problem — if We Let It

            By now, we should know that when we let Artificial Intelligence solve problems, it will reproduce (and often amplify) whatever biases were in the data we trained it with. That’s why A.I. thinks women are less qualified for certain jobs and black people are likely criminals. Now, what could possibly go wrong if we replaced (biased) real data and trained A.I. with «synthetic data» instead, created by A.I., for A.I.?

            Published in Weekly Filet #318

              Country of Liars

              Reply All, as usual, takes you down an internet rabbit hole and, as usual, doesn’t disappoint. In this episode, it goes to the very beginnings of QAnon, this wild conspiracy theory that is gaining in popularity fast — and offers a quite compelling case for who is actually in control of the account that everything is based on.

              Published in Weekly Filet #318

                The Glorious RBG

                Of all the articles I’ve seen on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I liked this one best. It captures both her personality and her momentous achievements — and how it made her, a feminist with a fundamentally optimistic vision, an icon of dissent. And yet: «What made her RBG would also enact the most tragic and sickening ironies of today.»

                Published in Weekly Filet #318

                  How Movies Like Black Panther Could Help Us Save the Planet

                  «We are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful what we pretend to be», Kurt Vonnegut once said. In this essay, climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis discusses why much of popular culture reaffirms the idea that where humans go, ecological devastation inevitably follows. She offers Black Panther as a rare counter example: «Maybe we should start telling ourselves a different story. One that is a bit more like Wakanda.»

                  Published in Weekly Filet #318