Heteronyms, AI, Law, Truth-telling, Telecommute

A weekly selection of fine writing from Conked


Update from Rand:

Every week I will now be including some news. I am happy to report that, after a brief health hiatus - I am once again participating in the On Deck Writing Fellowship. I am enjoying the start of ODW2, an 8-week program and it has already spurred me into progressing to manuscript stage with the true-crime novel I have been researching the past few months. More details to follow in future newsletters!

Fernando Pessoa and His Fictional Coterie of Poets

Nolan Kelly | Hyperallergic | 30 JANUARY 2021

As an ambidextrous writer, I find this fascinating. After the death in 1935 of Portuguese corporate translator Fernando Pessoa, his family found a huge collection of poetry, prose and more in his handwriting. This in itself may have been unremarkable except for the fact that Pessoa attributed his own writing to around 137 aliases, which he called heteronyms. For each of these heteronyms, he created a history, an education, even horoscopes and how they related to each other. Troubled and prolific, Pessoa started writing under assumed names as early as six years old. There is now a newly translated collection of poems from the writer considered to be the "Master" of Pessoa's heteronyms - Alberto Caeiro. (1,240 words)

New ‘Liquid’ AI Learns Continuously From Its Experience of the World

Jason Dorrier | Singularity Hub | 31 JANUARY 2021

Using the 302 neurons that make up the nervous system of a tiny worm for inspiration, engineers have found the benefits of a simple approach to looking at AI. Researchers call this a 'liquid neural network' and one of the amazing things is that it can continue to learn and adapt, while most machine learning does not develop beyond the first training period. They developed a way to model the neurons of the worm, then built them into a neural network and discovered that although simpler than other machine learning algorithms, it could match similar tasks. But now researchers are adding in a whole new capability. (895 words)

Trial by Combat and the Myths of Our Modern Legal System

Brianna Rennix and Sparky Abraham | Current Affairs | 01 FEBRUARY 2021

For nearly 1,000 years in western Europe, trial by battle using blunt weapons, gouging and biting, was considered a legal procedure for resolving disputes. The loser was considered guilty and, if still alive, executed. Trials by ordeal, with the guilty plaintiff forcibly branded, or thrown into water, were seen as divine intervention settling the question. But these brutal methods were not the only way as there were additional paths to prove a case, either by sworn testimony, or documentary evidence. Then, as now, the wealth of the people in dispute could impact the outcome as the rich could hire hefty 'champions' - not unlike the legal heavyweights of today. (4,035 words)

Imagine a workplace where you could actually tell the truth

Lauren A Taylor and David Berg | Psyche | 01 FEBRUARY 2021

In many workplaces, there is an inherent belief that everyone delivers 'curated comments' instead of bald truth in response to questions. People tend to consider any professional ramifications or offer bland responses rather than being honest. While we encourage children in truth-telling, as parents we may model skirting the truth to be polite or to avoid hurt feelings. The way to encourage truth-telling in organisations is for chief executives to lead by example and build a culture that supports honesty, even if in incremental ways, with opportunities that are low-risk. Lies are not ok, and we can see the dangerous impacts of allowing them to go unchallenged. (1,485 words)

Superstar Cities Are in Trouble

Derek Thompson | The Atlantic | 01 FEBRUARY 2021

Working remotely may not seem like the new industrial revolution and yet the pandemic has forced a shift in social and work behaviour. While Zoom meetings may not be a substitute for in-person, it worked well enough and proved the work can be done this way. The remote-work revolution has impacts on the economy, the geography of opportunity and the fate of innovation. More people have moved out of metro areas during the pandemic in expectation of less need to commute to the office. Superstar cities have lost population, driving down rents and other cities and metros are gaining residents and increasing home values. What other changes will working remotely bring? (2,197 words)


“As more and more artificial intelligence is entering into the world, more and more emotional intelligence must enter into leadership.”

― Amit Ray, Mindfulness Meditation for Corporate Leadership and Management

This post is only for subscribers of Conked, but please feel free forward it to any friends who deserve some entertainment today, especially if you think they might be interested in becoming Conked subscribers in the future.

Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

Editorial comments and conk suggestions to the Conkerer: rand@exoscalr.com

Conked is an EXOscalr House venture.