Each day Document has an agenda: news from the underread corners of the world, and the web, that might not end up crossing your path. Discoveries, curiosities, essential cultural dispatches—with this information, go forth.



The World

A cognitive scientist explains the perils of Google translate.

Language is one of the most complicated of human constructs explains Pulitzer Prize-winner Douglas Hofstadter in The Atlantic, which is why AI is a long way off real understanding, and why it should never get there.

“Such a development would cause a soul-shattering upheaval in my mental life. Although I fully understand the fascination of trying to get machines to translate well, I am not in the least eager to see human translators replaced by inanimate machines. Indeed, the idea frightens and revolts me. Translation is an incredibly subtle art that draws constantly on one’s many years of experience in life, and on one’s creative imagination. If, some “fine” day, human translators were to become relics of the past, my respect for the human mind would be profoundly shaken, and the shock would leave me reeling with terrible confusion and immense, permanent sadness.”


The Mind

Darwinism is loaded with cultural and aesthetic baggage rarely found in science. 

The tribalism of Charles Darwin’s theories have been adopted by literature is peppered with the tell-tale signs of society-wide doctrine in this essay at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

“Since religious practice today tends to be less institutional and denominational than it was even a few generations ago, it has become common to apply the label “religion” to everything from professional spectator sports and celebrity culture to partisan politics, philosophical trends, dietary fads, and Pokémon Go. All of these things resemble religion in important ways (tribalism, orthodoxies, et cetera), but they clearly serve different cultural functions. Ruse wants rather to get at what Beer called “Darwinian myths”: thus, he distinguishes between “Darwinism” as a worldview and Darwinian science per se, since the scientific theory of natural selection is not a myth but rather an explanation of the means by which the marvelous life forms around us have evolved.”


The Future

How YouTube algorithms pass judgment

In an investigation form the Guardian, an ex-YouTuber reveals how the world’s biggest video platform gives preference to the wrong type of content

“YouTube is something that looks like reality, but it is distorted to make you spend more time online,” he tells me when we meet in Berkeley, California. “The recommendation algorithm is not optimising for what is truthful, or balanced, or healthy for democracy.”



On wrestling in the British countryside

In a place of outstanding natural beauty, a particular type of rural wrestling that has left the mark on the area according to this essay in the London Review of Books.

“A 1656 edict from Oliver Cromwell’s Associated Ministers and Churches of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland includes wrestling on a list of sinful amusements that would lead to any perpetrator being ‘suspended from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper’. Prohibition failed but moral concern about wrestling endured. Professor John Wilson, writing under the pen name Christopher North in Blackwood’s Magazine in December 1823, voiced his consternation that such was the mania for wrestling, ‘we fear it is thought of even in church’.”



If you want to encourage healthy eating, presentation is key

It’s not that people don’t like healthy food, says Food Navigator,  it’s that we prefer visual indulgence.

“Participants with a low health conscious rated a healthy food item as more hedonically pleasing and were more likely to choose that item when it was presented in a picture rather than text format.



Understanding the sonic environment

According to research reported in Science Daily, the sound of traffic can disrupt the body on the cellular level.

“The authors [of the report] looked at some of the mitigation strategies used around the world and said strategies like traffic management and regulation, the development of low-noise tires could help reduce noise, and air traffic curfews help reduce hazardous noise”