This week on the web

By Josh Cowls

Here’s another round-up and run-down of the best of the web this week.

1. In Prospect, Evgeny Morozov offers a history of the internet, and the dangers it now poses:

The internet’s early visionaries wanted to build an exemplary city on the hill, but never bothered to spell out how to keep it exemplary once it started growing.

2. John Carlin takes a fresh look at the legend of Nelson Mandela, ahead of his 93rd birthday next week:

The big truth is that Mandela, like Lincoln, achieved the historically rare feat of uniting a fiercely divided country. The feat is rare because what ordinary politicians have always done is seek power by highlighting difference and fueling antagonism. Mandela sought it by appealing to people’s common humanity.

3. In City Journal, a review of Francis Fukuyama’s tome on human civilisation, and global developments since he proclaimed ‘the end of history’ twenty years ago:

Will this book—a 500-page survey of the growth of states “from prehuman times to the French Revolution,” with a promised second volume taking the story up to the present—finally be the one to emancipate Fukuyama from the end of history?

4. Ahead of the launch of the US version of The X Factor, which will be pitted against his previous smash-hit American Idol, a look at the career so far of Simon Cowell:

Years of sitting at a judging table determining a person’s fate with a sharp-tongued critique has given Mr. Cowell a Messiah complex.

5. From The Atlantic, the suggestion that your mobile phone is fueling civil war in Africa’s heartland:

Pick up any household electronic — a phone, a remote, or a laptop — and it could contain minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country where armed rebel groups connected with crimes of rape and murder profit from trade of these minerals.

6. Six months on from the first protests in Tunisia, an upbeat assessment from The Economist of the prospects for more change in the Arab world:

The immediate fate of the Arab spring turns on Libya and Syria, both in the throes of revolution. If either got rid of its dictator, the overall Arab movement towards democracy would enjoy a huge step up.

7. Comedian Ricky Gervais has some brief suggestions on how to live:

I don’t know what happiness is but it’s definitely NOT just going with the flow. Stop the flow, go against the flow, start the flow, but don’t under any circumstance just go with the flow.

8. In Foreign Policy, international relations theorist Stephen Walt identifies nationalism as the most powerful force in the world today:

Modern states have a powerful incentive to promote national unity — in other words, to foster nationalism — because having a loyal and united population that is willing to sacrifice (and in extreme cases, to fight and die) for the state increases its power and thus its ability to deal with external threats.

9. The Guardian has news on how Zambia and Ghana are the latest countries to escape the poverty trap:

Remember the poverty trap? Countries stuck in destitution because of weak institutions put in place by colonial overlords, or because of climates that foster disease, or simply by the fact that poverty is overwhelmingly self-perpetuating. Apparently the trap can be escaped.

10. The Daily Mash has the scoop on why Team GB might fall behind at next year’s Olympic Games:

“A cheerful smile, a thank-you card for the judges awarding you zero points and offering to make everyone a cuppa while they’re busy receiving their medal is far better than anything so gauche as a world record, I feel.”

Video of the week: the trailer for One Day on Earth, a film compiling footage shot on a single 24-hour period in every country.

Photos of the week: 1940s Manhattan.

Graphic of the week: everything you ever wanted to know about suncream.

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