Reading on Tuesday 31 January

Robert Shrimsley’s column in the FT weekend magazine “Dancing: a nifty career move?” makes a good point.  In the age of AI and higher level automation, are the truly future-proof career skills the really human ones that you learn from the creative and performing arts?  Maybe, but better learn some maths too.  At least enough to vaguely understand what the computer is telling you anyway.

Reading through Chatham House expert comment is always a profitable exercise and this article on Armenia’s troubles with the CSTO is no exception.  If you ask the average person in the UK “what do you make of the situation in Nagorny-Karabakh?” you will (rightly!) get a blank expression in return.  The frozen conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been going on since 1994 and is one of a clutch of disputed regions that are the gift to a grateful world of the collapse of the Soviet Union (see also Abkazia and South Ossetia – which led to the Russia-Georgia war in 2008).  

Why is it important you ask?  Well, it is faultlines like this which end up causing major wars (Nagorny-Karabakh, a faraway country of which we know nothing and care little?).  The CSTO is an alliance more honoured on paper than in action but it is symbolic of the Russian sphere of influence.  With Armenia straddling the CSTO and NATO, what happens in the Caucuses won’t end there.

Really good article about ways to avoid the happiness-sapping quest after more and more “status cocaine” (the dopamine hit that comes from being the Alpha ape).  The suggestions of ways to short-circuit the quest for more and more are useful but some are just status questions in a different direction.  For example, the guy who climbs high-13K mountains instead of the 14K+ gets his dopamine hit from the smug pride that his are more challenging.  This is a Hipster approach to status “I climbed this 13,988 mountain – you won’t have heard of it” but still just another form of status.

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