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The best writing of the week, March 23

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We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.

Grab the entire list as a Readlist.

On building San Francisco

Alexis Madrigal uses one building, 140 New Montgomery, to tell the story of a changing San Francisco in 26 parts.

The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - A 26-Story History of San Francisco

The historian Nye described how people reacted when they first traveled to the tops of skyscrapers: they marveled at "the wonderful quality of seeing actual objects as if they are pictures, maps, or panoramas of themselves."

Being so high meant seeing where they lived from an "olympian" perspective. The city, as viewed from a skyscraper, meant that nature and civilization had done battle, and the people had won.

But some people had won more. Viewing from above was viewing from power.

On pickup artists in the Ukraine

Katie J.M. Baker continues her exhaustive coverage of the geopolitics of pickup artistry, this time focusing on the conflict in Ukraine. If it joins the European Union, many in the seduction community worry an influx of western feminism will ruin their game.

Dissent: Katie J.M. Baker - Risk, Rated X: Geopolitics and the Pickup Game

When forum members aren’t debating the geopolitics of pussy like an X-rated game of Risk, they’re analyzing breaking news using their preferred terms. One user explained how Putin vs. Obama is a classic Alpha vs. Beta male struggle: "Putin is not afraid, he is confident, and willing to call Obama’s meaningless bluff’s. Obama as a leader, thinks that (being the Beta he is) if everyone just sits down, and talks this over, it will all end well; it won’t."

On unplugging

Casey N. Cep takes a harsh look at the trend of unplugging from the internet, and the unexamined assumptions behind it.

The New Yorker: Casey N. Cep - The Pointlessness of Unplugging

[T]he "real" world, like the "real" America, is an insidious idea. It suggests that the selves we are online aren’t authentic, and that the relationships that we forge in digital spaces aren’t meaningful. This is odd, because some of our closest friends and most significant professional connections are people we’ve only ever met on the Internet, and a third of recently married couples met online. It’s odder still because we not only love and socialize online but live and work there, too. Is it any less real when we fall in love and break up over Gchat than when we get fired over e-mail and then find a new job on LinkedIn?

On the electrified brain

NYU professor Gary Marcus takes a thorough look at the world of neuroprosthetics, medical implants designed to improve or correct brain function.

The Wall Street Journal: Gary Marcus and Christof Koch - The Future of Brain Implants

The real question isn't so much whether something like this can be done but how and when. How many advances in material science, battery chemistry, molecular biology, tissue engineering and neuroscience will we need? Will those advances take one decade, two decades, three or more? As Dr. Maharbiz said in an email, once implants "can be made 'lifetime stable' for healthy adults, many severe disabilities…will likely be chronically treatable." For millions of patients, neural implants could be absolutely transformative.

On lobbying

Allan Holmes takes a painstakingly detailed look at the billion-dollar lobbying push to control the newly opened spots on the wireless spectrum poised.

Public Integrity: Allan Holmes - Wireless Companies Fight for their Futures

[C]onsumer groups are outgunned by AT&T and Verizon. With their big spending on traditional lobbying and funding of associations, think tanks and universities, the corporations play the influence game better than anyone else, said Kevin Werbach, who studies Internet and communications policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. "This is their core competency, and they have been playing this game for a long time," Werbach said. "These are companies that support foundations and other groups that do a lot of good work, but in the end are strategically designed to advance [AT&T’s and Verizon’s] interests."

For more great longreads, visit our friends at Longreads.

Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.

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