5 insightful op-eds or articles to help make sense of today’s world

Room for Debate: “How to Regulate Disruption”
(The New York Times, May 6, 2014 – metered paywall)
As a growing number of apps and online services give consumers more direct control over their choices, eight academics and experts debate whether they should be encouraged or not. As expected, there is a great deal of disagreement about the rationale for greater regulation and also about the intricacies of what “better” regulation means.

Joseph Stiglitz, “A Light Unto Cities”
(Project Syndicate, May 7, 2014)
The Nobel-prize winning economist reports from Medellin where he just attended the World Urban Forum to discuss the future of cities. He explains why the transformation of the Columbian capital – dubbed the world’s most innovative city” – holds important lessons for urban areas everywhere. His most important observation: a lot of planning is required to make livable cities.

Eugene Rumer, “It would be better to split Ukraine than to tear it apart”
(Financial Times, May 8, 2014 – metered paywall)
Ukraine is at the moment on the brink of civil war. Among the flurry of articles trying to predict what might happen next (often in a sensationalist manner), this one does a good job at outlining the likely scenario that Ukraine will not emerge from the crisis as a unitary state. In Rumer’s opinion, “dividing the country is no one’s first choice, but it is better than a descent into messy civil war”.

Lizzie Widdycombe, “The End of Food”
(The New Yorker, May 12, 2014)
This is a longish article about an entrepreneur who considers food as an engineering problem. He and a group of friends came up with a product that could replace food. It is called Soylent, possesses all the nutrients one needs, and it has already attracted the interest of some venture capitalists. Another great disruption, but is this the harbinger of a dystopian future?

Anjan Chatterjee, “Neuroaesthetics”
(The Scientist, May 10, 2014)
New research in neurology is trying to unravel the biology of beauty and art. This article, written by a scientist who just wrote a book on the subject, does a good job at summarizing the main findings of neuroaesthetics: this relatively new discipline that studies what triggers aesthetic experiences.