Weekend edition—The joy of Brexit, hospital soundscapes, algorithmic bias

Good morning, Quartz readers…

…and rejoice, people of Britain! The “sunlit uplands” beckon!

Following the country’s brave, momentous decision to leave the European Union, the brilliant post-Brexit future is beginning to come into view.

Manufacturing is humming. Retail sales are soaring. Property prices are rising to ever-dizzier heights. And the tortuous process to officially quit the EU has barely begun.

Look at how those thuggish eurocrats are treating poor Apple, forcing it to cough up billions in back taxes, despite its perfectly reasonable agreement with Ireland to pay as little as 0.005% tax on its European earnings. Free from the suffocating grip of Brussels, the UK can welcome the shell companies of the world with open arms to a lightly regulated offshore business hub. Why should companies settle for the British Virgin Islands—so hot this time of year—when they can squirrel away profits on the British island?

The more reasonably valued pound—down 10% against the dollar since the Brexit vote—is already encouraging a flurry of activity. The ultra-rich are buying more Swiss watches at London boutiques. Foreign conglomerates are snapping up Britain’s most innovative companies. The boost to exports will reduce the country’s large trade deficit. (Buy British!)

The cabinet held its first Brexit brainstorming session this week, a high-powered meeting of the government’s sharpest minds (and Boris Johnson). In due time, prime minister Theresa May will surely explain in great detail what she means by her oft-repeated mantra “Brexit means Brexit.” The newly formed Department for Exiting the European Union is already off to a flying start—it has a beloved Twitter presence and is definitely, probably, not holding its meetings at Starbucks anymore.

Ignore the haters—Britain has a glorious future outside of the EU. Yes, many of Brexit’s supporters said they hoped it would curb immigration and reverse globalization. It may be a shock, at first, when they realize many in May’s government actually have the opposite in mind. But they will come around when the country restores its status as a proud, open, and independent trading nation. Move over, Macau! Step aside, Singapore! Britain is open for business!—Jason Karaian


What the hospital of the future will sound like. Hospitals have become incredibly noisy, preventing patients from sleeping and healing. But a quiet revolution is under way, writes Lauren Brown, altering everything from architecture to the technology of alarms to nurses’ and doctors’ habits, to bring the noise down.

How Facebook’s controversial Trending algorithm (probably) works. Having dismissed the human editors of its Trending news section, Facebook is now letting a computer choose what’s news, with sometimes disturbing results. Despite Facebook’s secretiveness, Mike Murphy and Dave Gershgorn pieced togetherroughly how the algorithm works, and why it will sometimes fail.

Stop saying “sub-Saharan Africa.” You might think it’s just a way to show that you know the difference between the Maghreb and the rest of the continent. No, says Max de Haldevang; it’s an unhelpful phrase with a racist colonial tinge that glosses over the region’s vast diversity.

Millennials and their meat hypocrisy. The generation that wears its social consciousness on its sleeve claims to want to eat less animal flesh, but they’re actually eating at least as much as their parents, and spending more on it. Chase Purdy looks at why the habit is so hard to kick.

The syntactic subjectivity of the emoji dialectic. Or, “why we can’t speak in emoji,” as Samantha Lee discovered after trying to use nothing else for 24 hours. The effort led her to create some ingenious emojigrams (“Socratic method” required 28 symbols) and a thoughtful rumination on the nature of language.


It’s Quartz’s flagship conference: about the next billion people to come online for the first time, and what that means for the internet and every industry that touches it. Listen to the founders of Airbnb and LinkedIn; leaders from Andreessen Horowitz, Coursera, and Qualcomm; and people who are bringing technologies like blockchain and robotics to the next level. RSVP here with the discount codedailybriefsub to join us in San Francisco.


The global super-court where corporations rule. What began years ago as a legitimate international dispute-resolution mechanism has increasingly become the tool of powerful companies to bully governments into rewriting laws and even wiping clean criminal records. In a four-part, 18-month investigation, Buzzfeed’s Chris Hamby unveils its workings.

How not to run a gun registry. Hilarious and terrifying profile of the US National Tracing Center, into which, every month, come 2 million gun sale records that by law—by law!—cannot be computerized. But as Jeanne Marie Laskas explains in GQ, that’s OK, because the guy in charge is a Six Sigma devotee whose life’s purpose is to run the world’s most efficient microfiche system.

On “average.” From standardized tests to insurance rates, the podcast 99% Invisible tells the history of averages, including how our t-shirt sizes (small, medium, and large) come from averages calculated in the American Civil War; how our obsession with averages caused high death rates in the US Air Force during the 1950s; and how averages went from the Platonic ideal to meaning something sub-par.

The unpredictable bias of algorithms. Decision-making by algorithm is often framed as somehow more scientific and rigorous than human caprice. But as Cathy O’Neil describes for The Guardian, in a case involving applicants for minimum-wage jobs screened by software, algorithms have preferences too, and they often end up punishing the poor.

The rise and fall of Roger Ailes. New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman relates how the Fox News chairman was toppled after more than two dozen women—including Fox employees—accused him of sexual harassment. But the real story is how Ailes over 20 years built an immensely powerful political machine on a culture of misogyny, corruption, and smear campaigns.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, gun records, and averages tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.



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