Discover more from The Ruffian
Keeping an eye on the world going by my window
In this week's Ruffian: how to sleep, how to be human, how to predict how someone will vote.
When I first heard about the allegation that Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, had sexually assaulted someone while at high school, I admit to not taking it that seriously. He was a kid, kids sometimes do stupid, awful things, and adults shouldn't have to spend their whole lives accounting for what they did before their brains were fully formed. But the more I read about Christine Blasey Ford's story, the more I was persuaded that this is serious, and that if it's true, Kavanaugh shouldn't be Supreme anything. If I had any lingering doubts they were dispelled by this extraordinary piece by Caitlin Flanagan (who by the way is a brilliant writer, always worth reading). Flanagan uses her own painful experience to shed light on the moral logic of this case, in simple but spellbinding prose.
I'm excited to have a regular slot in the New Statesman, as part of a rotating cast of great writers, looking at digital culture from different angles. My contributions will appear every four weeks; the first is on sleep. If you're interested in reading more on insomnia, check out this Guardian Long Read from Simon Parkin. It turns out the cure for it is quite simple, it's just really, really hard to do.
SENSE AND NONSENSE
More people have been to Russia than I have. Wait a minute - does that sentence make sense? It reads OK, but it's actually meaningless. It's an example of what semanticists call an Escher sentence, and it reveals a lot about the way we process language. Read more here.
CALM DOWN DEARS
I was sceptical of the UK media's dramatic and panicky reaction to Salzburg because it didn't seem to tell us anything we didn't already know. So I'm glad to read someone who actually knows what they're talking about agree with me. Martin Sandbu in the FT says that what Salzburg tells us is that Chequers, with further concessions from May, is still viable.
WE THE PEOPLE
Very interesting podcast interview with the political scientist Mirta Galesic, who looks at how people form political beliefs, through the lens of social network theory. Galesic has published a study of recent general elections in the US and France, which showed that asking a voter how her friends are likely to vote is a more reliable predictor of her vote than asking her directly. Crazy but true.
This is a piece I wrote for the ad industry's trade body, the IPA, on whether AI means the end of human jobs (spoiler: no). It promotes a training course I'm co-running in November, called How To Be Human, in which we'll look at how companies can thrive in the age of AI by boosting their uniquely human capabilities (for details see here). We'll be focusing on advertising in November, though we might subsequently adapt it for other industries.
I loved this post about one of those obscure YouTube sub-sub-cultures (a nice one, mind): people are making familiar pop songs sound as if they're being played in empty shopping centres, or in the toilet at a club. The results are weirdly, inexplicably moving.
Remember to tell your friends about The Ruffian - send them an email, tweet or post, and always include this link: https://tinyletter.com/IanLeslie