desert

Edition 134 of my email newsletter went out last weekend.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox before it’s posted here, simply enter your email address at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💰 1) By me in The WSJ: Walmart Picks a Freewheeling Partner for Its $15 Billion Passage to India [WSJ.com] — It’s official. Walmart on Wed. completed its blockbuster acquisition — the largest in the company’s history — of India’s biggest e-commerce startup, Flipkart. In this piece, my colleagues and I examined the potential corporate culture clash ahead. The lede:

The famously frugal and focused Walmart Inc. is betting $15 billion on a much different kind of company: a sprawling Indian e-commerce startup that has burned through mountains of cash to try to conquer the country’s online shopping market.

🇮🇳 2) By me on my blog: Book Notes: ‘The Other One Percent: Indians in America,’ by Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh [Newley.com] — My notes from an excellent work I recently read. My brief summary: “An illuminating look at how Indians in America – a tiny percentage of the overall population – have come to enjoy such outsized success.” Highly recommended.

🗣️ 3) Shot: Should our machines sound human? [Kottke.org] — Google just showcased new tech that allows an artificial intelligence system to carry on life-life conversations with people.

Click through to listen to the demos as people unwittingly, it seems, speak with this program. This raises real ethical concerns. Should the person on the other end of the call not be made aware somehow that they’re not speaking to a real human?

🔮 4) Chaser: How Frightened Should We Be of A.I.? [New Yorker] — “If the arc of the universe bends toward an intelligence sufficient to understand it, will an A.G.I. be the solution—or the end of the experiment?” Tad Friend writes in the New Yorker.

🕵️ 5) Related: Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. [NY Times] — From the top of Craig S. Smith’s story:

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.

And:

Mr. Carlini added that while there was no evidence that these techniques have left the lab, it may only be a matter of time before someone starts exploiting them. “My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,” he said.

📖 6) 50 Pulp Cover Treatments of Classic Works of Literature [Literary Hub] — Love it. And these are not spoofs! “Classic works of literary fiction have existed as pulps from the very beginning of pulp—the new paperback publishers of the 1940s and 50s printed them right along with classic crime and some genuinely lowbrow (and sometimes quite lurid) new novels, often commissioning the very same artists to design their covers,” Emily Temple writes.

🎮 7) How is this speedrun possible? Super Mario Bros. World Record Explained [YouTube] — One video game “speedrunner” explains how another, Kosmic, set the world record for completing the game in 27 minutes. Taking advantage of glitches, timing screen scrolling, and more — this is simply incredible.

💊 8) The New Science of Psychedelics [WSJ] — An essay adapted from Michael Pollan’s new book “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.” Related: Pollan, author of books like “Food Rules” and “In Defense of Food” was also recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast.

✈️ 9) Heartwarming story of the week: He searched for his Japanese birth mother. He found her — and the restaurant she had named after him [Washington Post] — Kathryn Tolbert tells Bruce Hollywood’s remarkable story.

🐈 10) Silly cat video of the week: Graceful Alley Run [Neatorama/YouTube] — Lest you think I am too dog-centric, here’s a video of a majestic feline parkour-ing through a sticky situation — all set to AWOLNATION’s song “Run.”

If you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend. If you received this from a pal, you can sign up here.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley