Blog / Shawn Borton

Weekly Reading: Volume 7

March 14, 2021

Why Won’t Amnesty International Call Alexey Navalny a Prisoner of Conscience

Amnesty International held a series of internal discussions, reviewed Navalny’s public record, and concluded that statements he had made more than a decade ago reached “the threshold of advocacy of hatred.” (I recently wrote about Navalny’s record and his political evolution in detail.) The organization also found that, although Navalny has not retracted his past statements, he has not made any xenophobic remarks in years, and that the Russian government is persecuting him solely for his opposition to Vladimir Putin’s regime. At the end of the discussions, Amnesty decided to continue actively campaigning for Navalny’s release—collecting, for example, more than two hundred thousand signatures on a letter that was delivered to the Russian government last week—but to refrain from referring to him as a prisoner of conscience. This policy was almost certainly too nuanced to convey publicly, but it wasn’t meant for public consumption: it was internal guidance. But it leaked.

It’s hard to come to any other conclusion: Amnesty International got played.


Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee warns of widening digital divide

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says too many young people do not have internet access and the digital divide has widened during the pandemic.


You Can’t Censor Away Extremism (or Any Other Problem) - Freddie deBoer

The debate about whether we should censor unpopular views such as hate speech is an important one, but also a strange one. In my experience, it operates wholly independent from any consideration of the restraints of reality. People debate only on the level of the highest principle; everything is a referendum on the mores of democracy. They are all should questions - should we erode the right to free expression in the name of protecting minority groups from psychic harms? Should we prohibit the use of certain offensive terms? Should we declare some political positions out of bounds in public society?


Alphabet is repurposing Google TPUs for quantum computing simulations | VentureBeat

Experts believe that quantum computing, which at a high level entails the use of quantum-mechanical phenomena like superposition and entanglement to perform computation, could one day accelerate AI workloads compared with classical computers. Scientific discoveries arising from the field could transform energy storage, chemical engineering, drug discovery, financial portfolio optimization, machine learning, and more, leading to new business applications. Emergen Research anticipates that the global quantum computing market for the enterprise will reach $3.9 billion by 2027.


Justice League: The Shocking, Exhilarating, Heartbreaking True Story of #TheSnyderCut

In late 2017—months after the couple cut ties with the superhero epic amid an increasingly demoralizing battle with Warner Bros.—Deborah Snyder sat in a screening room on the studio lot alongside Christopher Nolan, one of the movie’s executive producers, as well as the director of the Dark Knight trilogy. She braced herself as the lights went down. “It was just…it’s a weird experience,” she says now. “I don’t know how many people have that experience. You’ve worked on something for a long time, and then you leave, and then you see what happened to it.”

What happened to Justice League was a crisis of infinite doubt [ed’s note — Ha!]: a team of executives who lost faith in the architect of their faltering comic book movie empire, and a director in the midst of a family tragedy that sapped him of the will to fight. Joss Whedon, a director from another universe, the Marvel Cinematic one, left the Avengers after two movies and crossed over to comics rival DC, picking up Justice League not where Snyder left off, but remaking it significantly with extensive rewrites and hurried reshoots, just as the studio demanded.

After reading this, it’s hard not to root for Snyder, who I think has a captivating visual style. It’s also easy to hate Warner execs. I really think if they didn’t have jelly running in their veins, they could have made a cinematic universe that was visually stunning and entertaining, but also more thought-provoking for viewers than what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer.


Ask HN: What is a creative product you’ve discovered recently

Some things you may expect, some not, but all of it interesting.


Hockey Goalies Are Too Big Now - The Atlantic

The problem was right there on the screen: Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, 6 foot 3, 210 pounds, athletic, fit, one of the very best goalies in the NHL, in the handshake line after the Lightning had won an early-round series in last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. From the side, his belly seeming to hang low in front of him, he looked like Humpty Dumpty.

Penned by Ken Dryden, one of the best to don the slim goaltender gear.


Written by Shawn Borton who builds and writes and builds and writes... Socials: TwitterInstagram