Girard, Forgiveness, Scams, Recipes, Chatbots

A weekly selection of fine writing from Conked.


Who Is René Girard? And Why Does Silicon Valley Care?

Justin E. H. Smith | Substack | 03 JAN 2021

René Girard was a literary theorist and anthropologist who has many fans in Silicon Valley, including the founder of PayPal, Peter Theil, who considers him his greatest intellectual inspiration. Girard had two big concepts that intertwined. One was the theory of mimesis – imitation of the world in literature and art. The other was the theory of the scapegoat. Girard believed imitation was a drive to have what others have because someone else has them. In Silicon Valley, it can be seen that what one company releases, successfully, is hastily imitated. This article examines the theories of Girard and identifies some of the gaps or weaknesses in his principles. (3,921 words)

The Fantasy of Self-Forgiveness

Gordon Marino | The Hedgehog Review | 4 JAN 2021

There is a large market on the subject of learning to forgive ourselves - countless books and therapy hours have been devoted to this topic. This article challenges the concept and the right of anyone to forgive themselves for harming someone else when in reality it should be the individual who has been hurt that should have this role if they choose. As the writer was once told when seeking forgiveness, they should ask God for this, not another. And yet, if a believer, to truly ask God, or ourselves, for forgiveness you need to recognise your wrongs and change your ways. (922 words)

The Unsettling Story of a Creative Commons Photo Scam

Valentina Di Liscia | Hyperallergic | JAN 2021

Years after photographer Kyle Cassidy uploaded a photo to Wikimedia Commons, allowing it to be used free or modified as long as he was credited, the image was used in a scam. Using the image, one blogger received an email from someone claiming to work for a company that tracks photo thieves and asking for a link to their site. Checking the link, it was an "affiliate site, a commercial site that earns money through clicks.” It exposed multiple instances of a fake user claiming copyright for images in order to receive affiliate link income. This article gives great tips on how to avoid this scam and protect your copyright on photos. (1,193 words)

The Chef Recreating 18th-Century Recipes From a Thrift-Shop Find

Reina Gattuso | Atlas Obscura | 5 JAN 2021

Textile artist Lucinda Garderton discovered a treasure in a British thrift shop - a handwritten 1830s cookbook of more than 150 rag-paper pages. Contained within the pages were dozens of recipes, varying from cakes to catsup to plague cures, some dating from as early as 1780 with the manuscript completed in 1831. Offering a glimpse into the daily world from this era it appears that the recipes reflect the privileged life of the authors, with some recipes needing dozens of eggs and pounds of flour. Perhaps the reason it was so intact reflects that the lady of the house may have read them out while the chefs toiled. (2,226 words)

Chatting With the Dead

Davide Sisto | The MIT Press Reader | 4 JAN 2021

When tech entrepreneur Roma Mazureko died in 2015 his friend and fellow entrepreneur and software developer Eugenia started reading the thousands of text messages they had exchanged over the years. Initially adapting a messenger app, Luka, that used Augmented Intelligence (AI) to mimic dialogue, she asked Roman's friends and family for other messages. She then created a bot that could enable them all to communicate via messaging with "Roman". She went on to create a chatbot called Relika that learns about their users in order to mimic personalities and even express empathy. These bots give us a "digital ghost" of our loved ones, enabling a connection that is lost in the real world. (1,293 words)


“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”

― Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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