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Of course, aid sometimes supports companies. Aid agencies gave Mohammad Yunus, the father of microfinance, some of the money he used to experiment with unsecured business loans to groups of poor Bangladeshi women. Microfinance has since become one of the highest-profile examples of an anti-poverty programme that works. But this sort of use of aid money is the exception rather than the rule. Although poor countries lack a dynamic private sector, there is often little will from either governments or aid agencies to help one grow and thrive. More importantly, the aid system is still not used to evaluating its projects in terms of the impact they have on the local private sector.

 

援助体系有时会援助公司,这点毋庸置疑。微型金融的创始人Mohammad Yunus起初在尝试给孟加拉的贫困妇女提供无保障商业贷款时,他的部分资金就来自于援助机构。随后微型金融成为了受关注最高的成功扶贫项目之一。但援助资金的用途却很少如此。虽然贫困国家私有经济死气沉沉,但政府和援助大多数情况下都无意加以培植。而更重要的是,现在的援助体系仍然不习惯于将检验措施的有效性与其对当地私有经济的影响相挂钩。

 

Messrs Hubbard and Duggan have in mind a blueprint for change. Appropriately enough for a field where everything seems to have been tried at least once before, they turn to history. They point out that the Marshall Plan, used to fund post-war reconstruction in Europe, operated in part by providing resources that were lent to local businesses. These companies then repaid their governments in local currency, which could be used to fund infrastructure, for instance. The authors’ solution, therefore, is a sort of modified new Marshall Plan for poor countries, with aid going directly to developing-country businesses; poor countries would compete by carrying out microeconomic reforms that make it easy to start and build companies.

 

二位作者对如何变革在脑海中有了初步打算。因为人们似乎在此领域已然穷尽所有方案,故而理所当然的,他们试图从历史中寻求灵感。二人指出,用于资助欧洲战后重建的马歇尔计划之所以成功,部分原因在于它为当地产业提供了贷款。当受援助公司用当地货币向政府归还贷款,这笔钱又可以发挥诸多作用,诸如资助基础设施建设。因而,二位作者提出了一个改良版的马歇尔计划以援助贫困国家,即将资金直接援助发展中国家的企业。这样一来这些国家为了竞争就会通过实施小型的经济改革,而这些改革则将有利于企业家创建、发展公司。

 

This is all sensible stuff. But as the authors well recognise, the political economy of a well-entrenched aid business will not welcome the sort of shake-up they have in mind. Nor is it obvious that what worked in post-war Europe, where the institutions that underpin a successful market economy were in place and human capital was not lacking, will work in Africa. The book’s account of how countries made seemingly counterproductive policy choices is simplistic at best. It is true that many poor countries embraced state planning after they became independent. But to claim that they did this partly because economists preferred focusing on what makes economies grow rather than paying attention to whether economic activity should be organised through markets or by the state is misleading.

 

这个计划看起来合情合理。但作者们自己也清楚,援助体系根深蒂固,其政治经济不会欢迎他们所设想的改革。此外,这一计划能在欧洲成功,不代表就一定会在非洲收到同样功效,毕竟当时欧洲已然有了支撑一个成功的市场经济所必需的种种体制,人才资源也不匮乏。故而,本书对有些国家如何制定了阻碍发展的政策的描述用最善意的眼光来看也只能是过于简单。的确有些贫困国家在独立后选择了计划经济,但仅仅凭此就断言部分原因是经济学家更侧重于发展经济而忽略了通过市场来调整经济活动难免有误导读者之嫌。

 

Still, the book articulates a constructive set of ideas about how to reform foreign aid. It should interest those who are convinced by the conclusions of the critics of aid, but remain disappointed by the poverty of their prescriptions.

 

但尽管有如上缺陷,本书还是清晰阐述了一系列有关改革国际援助体系的有建设性的观点。它应该会吸引那些同意对评论家对该体系的批评、却认为他们所提建议乏善可陈的读者。

 

The state of America

美国现状

 

An anthropologist on the run

逃亡的人类学家

 

Jan 28th 2010

From The Economist print edition

 

The Cracked Bell: America and the Afflictions of Liberty. By Tristram Riley-Smith. Skyhorse; 326 pages; $26.95. Constable; £8.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

《裂开的大钟:美国与自由的痛苦》,特里斯特兰·里莱·史密斯著,天马出版社;326页,26.95美元或8.99英镑。购买请登陆Amazon.com,Amazon.co.uk

 

 

THE final clear note of the Liberty Bell sounded in Philadelphia for the last time on the occasion of George Washington’s birthday in February 1846. That same day, after almost a century of service, it cracked irreparably. For Tristram Riley-Smith, a British civil servant posted for several years to Her Majesty’s embassy in Washington, DC, and now back working in Whitehall, the silenced bell, which was cast in London’s Whitechapel, has provided not only the title of this engaging and ambitious book but also a metaphor for its central idea.

 

自由之钟最后一次清脆地响起是在费城,恰逢乔治华盛顿在1846年2月的生日。就在同一天,在服务了近一个世纪后,它裂开了。特里斯特兰·里莱·史密斯曾是女王陛下驻华盛顿大使,现在已经回白金汉宫工作。对他来说,这座在伦敦白教堂铸造的缄默的大钟,不仅为他这本具有吸引力和挑战性的书提供了一个很好的名字,而且也是本书中心含义的隐喻。

 

Early in its prehistory, the author argues, America imported from England an ideal of freedom that was tempered by the moral sensibility of the Scottish Enlightenment. In the pressured atmosphere of America itself, however, this ideal was to become distorted by a radical form of individualism, which is now undermining social cohesion. “There is something almost pathological,” he concludes, “about a national narrative that is intoxicated by the spirit of freedom while failing to pay sufficient attention to its meaning.”

 

作者宣称,早在建立之前,美国就已经从英格兰引进了一种被道德敏感所调和过的自由的理念。这种道德敏感来自苏格兰式的启蒙。但是,在美国自身压抑的气氛下,激进的个人主义在破坏社会凝聚力的同时,也使得这种理念扭曲变形。“一个国家在沉醉于自由的形态意念同时,对它的内涵却不求甚解,这不是很反常吗。”他总结道。

 

What are the supposed “afflictions” of liberty in America? After little more than 50 pages the reader has already learned that Americans have made a religion out of commerce, are intellectually impatient and consume more than they conserve. Hurricane Katrina of 2005 was “engendered by the radiation of a consumer society”, and the subsequent looting of New Orleans exposed “the anger and appetite of an underclass that knew no other values than those preached in the Temple of Trade”. America’s “consumerist creed” creates a “candyfloss culture” dominated by instant gratification, the fallout from which includes “obesity, debt, poverty and pollution”. Thus Thomas Jefferson’s mandate to pursue happiness “falls like kerosene on the torch of liberty”, warming many but “scorching and blinding” countless others.

 

在美国,自由所带来的所谓“痛苦”指的是什么?读者读完五十几页就已经知道,美国人创造了一种商业宗教,他们在智力上焦躁,花的多,存得少。2005年的卡特里娜飓风“是在消费社会的渗透下产生的”,后续的新奥尔良掠夺则暴露了“下层人民的愤怒和欲望,他们得到的除了贸易神殿里的所灌输的之外,没有别的价值观。”美国的“消费贪婪”创造了一种“棉花糖文化”,在这种文化中,即时性的满足,以及包括“肥胖、负债、贫穷和污染”的后果占着主要的地位。因此托马斯杰弗逊关于追求幸福的命令“就像自由火炬中掉落的煤油”,给许多人带来了温暖,但是同时也“灼伤并弄瞎”了无数其他的人。

 

Irritated American readers tempted to give up at this point would do well to persevere. Thankfully, the author’s America becomes both less clichéd and less negative as he goes along. In the end a sharp eye, lively pen and a training in anthropology help Mr Riley-Smith to paint a vivid, impressionistic picture of a society constantly pushed and pulled between contradictory impulses: to forge a single identity while prizing diversity; to set some sort of social ballast alongside quicksilver individualism; to square a culture of innovation with politics that are throttled by special interests; to reconcile the American dream of achievement for all with the reality of personal failure for many. Among other things, such contradictions help to explain the American attachment to religion that puzzles many in Europe. “Submission to Jesus”, notes Mr Riley-Smith, “is an appealing alternative to the challenge of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.”

 

读到此处,恼火得打算弃书而去的美国读者,只需再忍耐一下,便可领略“峰回路转”之境。幸好,随着叙述的深入,作者笔下的美国慢慢变得不那么陈腐也不那么负面了。在书的最后,锐利的眼神、生动的笔触和在人类学方面受到的训练让里莱史密斯先生能给这个社会描绘出一副栩栩如生印象派画卷。这个社会一直在矛盾冲突之中摇来晃去:消融个性与褒扬多样性共举;社会稳定与激进个人主义并重;大力推行文化创新,其政治却被特殊利益扼住了咽喉;为大众的美国梦忙忙碌碌,现实却是许多个人的失败。在各方面,这些矛盾能够解释许多欧洲人心中关于美国人对宗教的喜爱的困惑。“皈依耶稣”,里莱史密斯先生指出,“是白手起家之外一个很有吸引力的选择。”

 

In his darkest moments Mr Riley-Smith perceives America as “Hobbesville USA”, a lawless place where liberty has degenerated into licence, setting man against man in a Hobbesian dystopia. At other times he imagines America as Hobbiton in J.R. Tolkien’s fictional shire, whose denizens maintain a voluntary, ordered society where the sense of fellowship is strong and where government is small. “There is”, he admits, “a piece of Hobbiton meshed into all but the most dysfunctional communities of the USA, not least in the suburbs that harbour the bulk of the nation’s population.” But he believes that the first decade of the 21st century has seen the balance tip too far in the direction of hyper-individualism. Now the balance needs to be corrected. But how?

 

在他对美国最阴暗的描述中,里莱·史密斯先生把美国看成是“霍布斯城式的美国”,即一个没有法律,而“自由”蜕变成“放纵”的地方

,那是人与人之间对立着的反面乌托邦。有时候他又把美国想象成J.R.托尔金小说中虚构的夏尔区里的霍比特屯,在那里市民们组成了自发有序的社会,社会的团体意识浓厚,而政府规模十分有限。“霍比特屯的某种管理形式已经融进了美国(除去秩序最紊乱地区之外)的所有社区”,他承认说,“尤其是国家人口大量聚集的郊区。”但是他认为在21世纪的头20年里,在针对过热的个人主义方面的平衡措施还远远不够。当前的平衡需要改正,但是要怎么做呢?

 

The answer, in so far as this book has one, is Barack Obama, whose mixed background and eloquent writing appear to have persuaded Mr Riley-Smith that this particular president has the “opportunity, the capacity and the vision” to recast the Liberty Bell and make room for the civic values such as equality, fairness and justice that America has neglected as a result of its disproportionate emphasis on personal freedom. How ironic that the book should be published just when a quirky election in Massachusetts has shown how little power even the most inspiring of presidents has to recast America. Some may say that this, too, is one of the “afflictions of liberty”. But maybe it is just liberty.

 

本书至此讨论得出的一个答案就是巴拉克奥巴马。他的混血背景以及辩才无碍好像要让里莱史密斯先生相信这位特别的总统有“机遇、能力及抱负”来重新铸造自由之钟,并为公平公正正义等社会价值留下空间。由于美国人对个人自由不恰当的强调,这些价值长期被忽略。具有讽刺意味的是,就在本书出版的时候,马萨诸塞州的一次荒诞的选举向人们展示了,即使是这位最能鼓舞人心的总统,在拯救美国方面也几乎是无能为力的。有人可能要说,这也是“自由带来的痛苦”之一。但,这也有可能正是自由本身吧。

 

New fiction 1

新小说 1

The young and the restless

年轻与躁动

 

Jan 28th 2010

From The Economist print edition

 

British and American fiction gets off to a promising start in 2010

2010年英美小说强势开篇

 

 

 

The Unnamed. By Joshua Ferris. Reagan Arthur; 310 pages; $24.99. Viking; £12.99. Buy from Amazon.com

《莫名者》.约书亚·费里斯. 里根亚瑟出版社;310页;24.99美元.海盗图书网;12.99英镑. 从亚马逊网购买

 

VLADIMIR NABOKOV, who liked to observe other people, once declared that “professional book reviewers are veritable bookmakers”. They gleefully declare who’s in, who’s out, and ask: “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” Hot young novelists, many believe, are meant to follow a predictable script. First, burst onto the scene with some bold, voice-of-the-generation debut—preferably with a comely author photo. Then, years later, deliver to the expectant public a sophomore effort that is, alas, disappointing. Critics favour lamenting squandered promise to praising yet another fine book from someone with unlined skin.

 

热衷于评点他人作品的弗拉迪米尔·纳博科夫曾经宣称:“专业书评家是名副其实的赌博庄家”。他们一边评判着孰优孰劣并进行赌马下注,一边问着“昔日白雪今安在?”。很多人认为,当红的年轻小说家们注定都会蹈循一条老路:起初,他们的一炮走红都是凭借着其富有时代锐气的处女作——往往还配有一张作者靓照;而几年后,他们给期待中的读者交出的第二部作品则往往,唉,让人大失所望。批评家们宁愿不停地哀叹自己被浪费掉的赞词,也不愿意再去称颂另一部同样是出自一位年轻作家的好书。

Not all writers oblige. Occasionally, a well-known name, such as Peter Carey, an Australian, will go through a fallow period only to enjoy a return to form; a rare few, having written a debut of note, then go on to pen an even better second book.

 

并不是所有的作家都极具天赋。一些有名气的作家,比如澳大利亚人彼特·凯里,偶尔也需要过一段清闲时光只为找回良好的状态;很少有人能够在拿出一部为人称道的处女作之后,还能再写出更好的作品来。

 

Joshua Ferris became an international success in 2007 with “Then We Came to the End”, a smart and breezy satire of office life in an advertising firm. Told in the collective first person, it was a stylish rendering of workplace ambivalence in the wake of the dotcom bust. (“We were delighted to have jobs. We bitched about them constantly.”) It wasn’t perfect, but it was fresh, with pages that turned freely and unpretentiously. At 32, Mr Ferris—gracious, photogenic, based in Brooklyn—was anointed a writer to watch.

 

约书亚·费里斯于2007年凭借《我们快到头了》一书红遍全球,这是一部轻松明快的讽刺小说,描述一家广告公司的白领办公室生活。全书以第一人称的视角,将互联网泡沫年代人们的矛盾与苦闷进行了精细的刻画。(“我们为有工作欢欣不已,我们抱怨它们永不停息”)并非完美无缺,但却新颖别致,情节的起承转合顺畅自然,朴实无华。费里斯——这位优雅、上镜、现居住于布鲁克林的年轻人——32岁时就被视为一位很有前途的作家。

 

Readers have not had long to wait for “The Unnamed”, his second novel. Anyone keen on another comedy of manners will be disappointed. So too will those who hoped to write off Mr Ferris as a victim of literary hype.

 

读者们并没有等待太久,他的第二部小说《莫名者》很快便已问世。以为这又会是一部时尚喜剧小说的人要失望了,同样会失望的还有那些试图把费里斯定性为又一颗文坛流星的批评家们。

 

From the opening page, he makes it plain that this is a very different book. “It was the cruellest winter. The winds were rabid off the rivers. Ice came down like poisoned darts…They were waiting for him. They didn’t know they were waiting for him.” The novel seizes readers by the lapels with a story that feels serious and mysterious. Tim Farnsworth, a successful Manhattan lawyer in his 40s, returns home one night and declares to his wife, Jane, “It’s back.” What’s back? A strange, unknown disease—one that compels the hero to walk helplessly, incessantly, until he drops from exhaustion. After a reprieve, Tim is once again a victim of his wayward body, “the frightened soul inside the runaway train of mindless matter, peering out from the conductor’s car in horror.”

 

一开篇,作者就清楚地表明这是一部很不寻常的书。“那是一个酷冷的冬日,寒风从冰河上呼啸而过,飞落的冰碴如同带毒的短箭......他们在等着他,它们不知道他们在等着他。”故事在一种凝重、诡秘的气氛中展开,紧紧抓住了读者的心。40岁的蒂姆·法恩斯沃斯是曼哈顿一名成功的律师,一天晚上他回到家对他的妻子简说:“又来了”。什么又来了?是他身上某种奇怪而未知的疾病——某种迫使主人公不停行走直至力竭而昏厥的疾病,又发作了。在经过了一个短暂的和缓之后,蒂姆又一次成为他那个倔强身躯的受害者,“失控的列车发疯似地向前飞驰,驾驶室里惊恐的灵魂张皇失措地盯着窗外。”

 

Tim is otherwise “horse-healthy” and content, a self-assured workaholic, devoted husband and father to a teenage daughter. But in a flash he is uncontrollably off, leaving his wife to find him passed out in a municipal parking place, a hospital or behind some chemist’s shop in the middle of the night. “Was she up for this?” Jane asks herself. These spells last for months at a time, and caring for him is a full-time job. But Jane has no choice: he could die out there. So she reads survivalist manuals, prepares his pack (a first-aid kit, snacks, GPS, a poncho—to carry at all times), and then waits for the call to pick him up. The only alternative is to tie him to the bed and ignore his screams.

 

蒂姆本来身体很健康,生活也算富足,是一个工作狂,也是一位称职的丈夫和一个未成年女儿的父亲。而他突然间就失去了自我控制,使得他的妻子每于午夜时分在停车场、医院或者药店门口找到已昏厥在地的他。“我应付得了吗?”简自问道。她丈夫每次发作起来都持续几个月,而照顾他就成了她全天候的工作。简没有其他选择:在外面他随时会死。于是她读了生存专家指南,给丈夫准备了防护包(装有急救设备、零食、定位仪,以及随时会用到的雨衣等物),然后等着电话去接他。除此之外,还有一个办法就是把他捆绑到床上,任由他叫喊。

 

Doctors around the world have no idea what the problem is. Tim, alone in his mutinous body, is left wondering whether the trouble is in his head. Readers wonder about this too. Here Mr Ferris achieves a clever balance: Tim behaves strangely, but isn’t that natural for anyone who loses the life he understood? Isn’t madness inevitable when suffering from something no one can explain? A subplot about a murder trial, which yields a haunting exchange between Tim and a possible suspect on a bridge at night, raises more questions about his mental stability. Yet Jane stops speculating that her husband might be crazy after she goes through the menopause. She could only imagine how infuriating it would be if a doctor insisted her hot flushes were “all in her head”.

 

全世界的医生都搞不清原因在哪儿;蒂姆,连同他那个不听话的身躯,也不知道毛病是不是源于大脑;读者们同样也不能明白。这里,作者费里斯的小说达到了一种很高明的对比协调:蒂姆的行为十分怪异,然而对于那些对自我失去掌控的人来说,这样的怪异难道不也很正常么?遭受到某种让人无法解释的疾病之后,难道不是必然要走向疯诞?小说中有一个次要情节涉及一起谋杀案,其中蒂姆和杀人疑犯之间有一场夜间发生在桥上的神秘对话,这个情节使得读者对蒂姆的精神状况催生出更多的疑问。然而,后来当简经历了更年期的时候,她便不再去怀疑她丈夫是不是发疯了,因为她已能够想象如果哪个医生非要坚称她的潮热症状都是“源自于大脑”,她将会多么的抓狂。

 

Mr Ferris keeps his prose direct and uncluttered, with only occasional flourishes (Tim’s feet “were like two engorged and squishy hearts”; a diner’s “fluorescent brutality” is “the national colour of insomnia and transience”). His fondness for his characters sometimes veers towards the sentimental. Still, he exercises a mature writer’s restraint, content to leave questions unanswered. He also has a fine ear for speech, and a good sense of what feels real, even when chronicling the surreal.

 

费里斯保持着他文笔的直率和简洁,但偶尔也会有几处花里胡哨的句子(蒂姆的双脚“就像两颗憋闷而潮湿的心”;那位就餐者的“闪着荧光的粗暴”就像“失眠症一样是一种民族特色”)。他对那位主人公的偏爱有时也稍显矫情。但他依然有着成熟作家的节制,比如在小说中设置疑惑而又并不作答。他对言说有着极高的领悟力,而且对现实世界时刻保持着敏锐,即便他是在编写超现实主义的小说。

 

Mr Ferris insists that “The Unnamed” is not a work of magical realism, but of “realist magic”. By inventing an incurable disease, he can meditate on its impact—on a marriage, on a career, on a character’s self-esteem—without dragging in the baggage of a familiar illness. This also amplifies the horror, leaving readers just as perplexed about what is afflicting Tim. Is this a physical or mental problem? Can a line be drawn between the two? In the last third of the book, Tim gives himself over to his need to walk. Raving and deteriorating, he lets his legs take him across the country, living a hobo’s life without possessions or attachments (“To own something was to keep it on his back or risk losing it forever”). Yet Tim’s dilemmas still feel real and his needs sympathetic. How does he go on? How does anyone?

 

费里斯一再说到,《莫名者》的风格不是魔幻现实主义,而是现实主义魔幻。通过发明一种不可治愈的疾病——不是牵强地通过一种常见的病——他才能够对受到这种疾病冲击的婚姻、职业以及主人公的自尊进行一番沉思。而这样做也能放大那种恐惧感,使得读者对发生在主人公身上的事情感到莫名的惊恐与不解,读者会问,问题到底是出在生理上还是心理上?两者之间能不能有个明确的区分?在本书的最后三分之一,蒂姆完全放任了自己的行走欲望。狂乱疯癫,每况愈下,蒂姆任由自己的双腿带着他游走于天南海北,过着无依无靠的浪人生活(“拥有某物就要一直把它背在肩上,否则就会永远地失去”)然而蒂姆的苦难又是那么的真切,那么的让人同情。他如何继续下去?我们每个人又如何继续下去?

 

This is a story about a man with a walking problem, but it is also a larger tale about struggling with uncertainty. Scattered throughout the novel are some odd events: blizzards, floods, fires, dying bees. Mr Ferris is reminding us of how little we know about the world we live in, and how little we know about ourselves within it, and yet we persist. This is not to say that Tim’s walking is some clunky metaphor. Mr Ferris is wise enough not to teach a lesson. Rather, he has teased ordinary circumstances into something extraordinary, which is exactly what we want our fiction writers to do.

 

这是一个关于患有行走强迫症的人的故事,而它也同样是一部与不确定性进行抗争的史诗。小说中处处充满着古怪的意象:暴风雪、洪水、火灾、垂死的蜜蜂等等。作者费里斯在提醒我们,对于我们生活在其中的这个世界以及我们自己,我们都还了解得太少,但我们却仍在安于现状。这并不是说,蒂姆的行走是某种笨拙的隐喻。费里斯先生很明智,他没有在小说里进行说教,而是通过戏谑的方式将人生中的寻常境况变得不同寻常,而这正是我们希望小说家们都去做的。

 

Detroit's blues

底特律的蓝调布鲁斯

 

Roadkill

车下亡魂

 

Jan 14th 2010

From The Economist print edition

 

Reuters

 

Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road From Glory to Disaster. By Paul Ingrassia. Random House; 306 pages; $26. Buy from Amazon.com

《速成课程(译注:也有“崩溃之路”的意思):美国汽车行业,从辉煌到灾难》,作者:保罗·英格拉西亚。兰登书社;306页;26美元。

 

ON JUNE 1st last year, General Motors, the world’s largest car company until 2008 (when Toyota overtook it), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with liabilities that were twice its assets. A month earlier Chrysler, the smallest of Detroit’s so-called Big Three carmakers, had also gone belly-up. Ford, which had mortgaged itself to the hilt three years earlier, only narrowly escaped the same fate.

 

去年6月1日通用汽车援引11号法案申请破产保护时,其债务是资产的两倍。通用是世界上最大的汽车公司,直到2008年丰田超过它。之前一个月,克莱斯勒,底特律所谓的汽车三巨头中最小的一家,也已经肚皮朝天。福特公司,三年前就把自己抵押了个精光,勉强逃脱了这一厄运。

 

The double-whammy of petrol at $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008 rapidly followed by the freezing of the credit markets after the Lehman Brothers bust had finally brought America’s native car industry to its knees. Yet only a decade earlier, GM, Ford and Chrysler were minting money, churning out the highly profitable pickups and SUVs that Americans loved and only Detroit knew how to make.

 

祸不单行,2008年夏天汽油价格达到了每加仑4美元,随后雷曼兄弟破产又导致了信贷市场冻结,这些最终让美国本土的汽车行业倒了下来。然而就在十年前,通用、福特和克莱斯勒简直就是印钞机,它们大量生产利润很高的轻型卡车和SUV,美国人很喜欢这些车,而且这些车只有底特律能够生产。

 

A great deal has been written about the decline of America’s carmakers (not least in this newspaper), but so far there have been few books on the subject, perhaps because until the middle of last year there seemed to be no obvious denouement. The same could be said again now. Thanks to $50 billion in federal loans for GM and $16 billion for Chrysler and the government-supervised “quick rinse” bankruptcies that magically made unsupportable liabilities disappear, both companies emerged from Chapter 11 after little more than 40 days, leaner, fitter and supposedly ready to fight another day.

 

关于美国汽车制造商的没落已经有人写了很多文章(不仅仅是本刊),但是以此为主题的书至今还很少,可能是因为明显的大结局直到去年年中还未出现。现在再次出现了同样的情况。多亏了给通用的500亿美元联邦贷款,以及给克莱斯勒的160亿美元贷款,再加上政府监管下的“快速清理”式破产使得那些无法清偿的债务魔法般地消失了,两家公司只用了40多天时间就从11号法案中重生了,更精干、更高效,而且据说已准备好再次投入战斗。

 

Nonetheless, for Paul Ingrassia, a retired Wall Street Journal reporter and editor, the dramas of 2009 are more than enough to warrant an account of Detroit’s history, from the birth of carmaking in America more than a century ago through its glory years during the long post-war boom to its mounting problems in the 1980s, its brief recovery in the 1990s and its eventual collapse. For Mr Ingrassia, there are no real villains, but lots of people who could and should have done better.

 

尽管如此,对华尔街日报的退休记者及编辑保罗?英格拉西亚(Paul Ingrassia)来说,2009年发生的种种就如同戏剧一般,已经足够写一部底特律的历史了:从一个世纪前汽车制造业在美国诞生,到战后的长期繁荣,到1980年代问题不断积累,1990年代的短暂恢复,再到最终的崩溃。对英格拉西亚先生来说,这里面没有真正的罪大恶极之人,但是许多人本来可以而且应该做得更好。

 

Among them are successive leaders of the United Auto Workers union, who extracted extraordinarily generous wages and benefits for their mainly unskilled members during the fat years when the car companies were throwing off more cash than they knew what to do with. But they then resolutely opposed any changes to pay and conditions long after it was obvious that the old model had been consigned to obsolescence, as surely as tail fins, by the new non-union Asian-brand “transplant” factories springing up in the southern states. One example of Detroit’s exceptionalism was the notorious “jobs bank” that paid laid-off workers more than 90% of their salary indefinitely just to sit around and play cards or watch television.

 

这些人中包括汽车工人联合工会的连续几任领导人,在汽车公司钱多得不知道怎么花的好年月里,他们给其主要是非熟练工人的工会成员争取到了特别丰厚的薪水和福利。但是很久之后,当这种旧模式就像汽车尾翼一样被南方各州雨后春笋般出现的生产亚洲品牌的没有工会的“迁移”工厂所淘汰时,他们仍然坚决拒绝在工资和工作条件上有任何改变。底特律这种例外主义的一个例子就是臭名昭著的“工作银行”,它无限期地给被解雇的工人支付超过其薪水90%的钱,只要他们坐着不动玩玩牌或看看电视。

 

The bosses also get their share of the blame for failing to confront reality and resorting to quick fix “game-changing” strategies, such as GM’s launch of its Saturn brand, which were either ditched after a few years or undermined by union intransigence and management cowardice. Rick Wagoner, the chief executive of GM for nearly a decade, on whose watch the company lost at least $85 billion, became the personification of Detroit’s tragedy. Intelligent, decent and charming, Mr Wagoner was revered at GM right up to the day in March last year when the head of President Obama’s car task-force told him that his time was up. Mr Wagoner placed two disastrous bets during his catastrophic stewardship of GM. The first was that petrol prices would stay low, thus allowing GM to concentrate on building gas-guzzling trucks rather than spend money on developing a competitive range of cars to take on the Japanese. The second was that he could win sufficient concessions from the UAW to restore GM to viability through reasoned negotiation rather than the knock-down, drag-out fight that the urgency of the situation demanded.

 

公司老总们也有责任,他们没能面对现实,而是依赖于作为权宜之计的“行业改变”策略,例如通用开始上马“土星”(Saturn)牌汽车,这些办法或者数年之后被迫终止,或者被工会的毫不妥协以及管理上的谨小慎微所破坏。瑞克?瓦格纳(Rick Wagoner),做了通用几乎十年的首席执行官,在其任上公司损失了至少850亿美元,成了底特律悲剧的代表人物。聪明,得体,风度迷人,瓦格纳先生在通用备受尊敬,直到去年三月份的一天奥巴马总统的汽车问题特别小组负责人告诉他他大限已到。瓦格纳先生在掌管通用期间错下了两个灾难性的赌注。一是认为油价将会保持低水平,因此让通用集中精力制造耗油量大的卡车,而不是花钱开发一些具有竞争力的车来与日本人较量。二是他认为自己能够通过理性的沟通而非紧迫的实际情况所要求的拼死战斗从汽车工人联合工会那里赢得足够让步以让通用恢复活力,

 

Mr Ingrassia tells Detroit’s story with economy, vigour and restrained fury. But the book takes on the feel of a long, not especially revelatory, magazine article as the author gets nearer to the most recent events. He is also reluctant to predict what may lie ahead for GM (shorn of brands and debt, but owned by the government), Chrysler (under the management of Italy’s Fiat) and Ford (well-managed, valiantly avoiding the stigma of bankruptcy and bail-out, but still groaning under the weight of an only partially restructured balance sheet). That may be wise. Mr Ingrassia’s last book, which came out in 1994, was entitled “Comeback: the Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry”.

 

英格拉西亚先生惜墨如金,带着有节制的愤怒生动地讲述了底特律的故事。但是当作者谈到最近发生的一些事情时,这本书有点像是杂志上的一篇长文,不是特别有料。他也不愿意预测三家公司的前景如何:通用(失去了品牌和债务,但由国家所有),克莱斯勒(由意大利的菲亚特管理)以及福特(管理到位,英勇地避免着破产和政府援助的耻辱,但仍然在一份只是部分重组了的资产平衡表的重压下呻吟)。这么做可能是明智的。英格拉西亚先生的上一本书,1994年出版,书名叫做《复苏:美国汽车行业的衰与兴》。

 

The science of music

音乐的科学

 

Sounds wonderful

听起来很美

 

Feb 4th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

 

The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can’t Do Without It. By Philip Ball. Bodley Head; 452 pages; £20. Buy from Amazon.co.uk

 

音乐本能:音乐的作用机理及人们欲罢不能的缘由。Philip Ball著,牛津大学出版社;452页; Amazon.co.uk购买价:20英镑。

 

MUSIC is a mystery. It is unique to the human race: no other species produces elaborate sound for no particular reason. It has been, and remains, part of every known civilisation on Earth. Lengths of bone fashioned into flutes were in use 40,000 years ago. And it engages people’s attention more comprehensively than almost anything else: scans show that when people listen to music, virtually every area of their brain becomes more active.

 

音乐真是神秘。它对人类具有独一无二的意义:没有其他事物可以无端发出如此精美的声音。它曾是且仍然是地球上任何一个已知文明的一部分。人类40000年前就开始使用骨头制成的笛子。而且,音乐较任何其他事物更能让大家全神贯注:观察发现,当人们聆听音乐的时候,大脑的几乎每一个部分都会变得更具活力。

 

Yet it serves no obvious adaptive purpose. Charles Darwin, in “The Descent of Man”, noted that “neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least direct use to man in reference to his ordinary habits of life.” Unwilling to believe that music was altogether useless, Darwin concluded that it may have made man’s ancestors more successful at mating. Yet if that were so, you might expect one gender to be musically more gifted than the other, and there is no evidence of that. So what is the point of music?

 

但音乐无法满足适应性需要。查尔斯?达尔文在“人类的遗传”中说道“既非谱曲的乐趣也非此种能力在人们的日常生活习惯方面没有丝毫的直接用处。”由于不相信音乐一无是处,达尔文推断它或许可以使人类祖先的交配成功率更高。然而,如果事实如此,可以预料某一种性别会较另一种在音乐方面更具天赋,而并无显著的证据证实这一点。于是音乐的意义何在呢?

 

Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist best known for his book “The Language Instinct”, has called music “auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of at least six of our mental faculties.” If it vanished from our species, he said, “the rest of our lifestyle would be virtually unchanged.” Others have argued that, on the contrary, music, along with art and literature, is part of what makes people human; its absence would have a brutalising effect. Philip Ball, a British science writer and an avid music enthusiast, comes down somewhere in the middle. He says that music is ingrained in our auditory, cognitive and motor functions. We have a music instinct as much as a language instinct, and could not rid ourselves of it if we tried.

 

认知心理学家Steven Pinker因作品“语言的本能”而出名,他将音乐称为“听觉上的奶酪蛋糕,一份精心制作的高级甜点,至少能对六种心理官能的敏感点有所刺激。”他说,如果人类突然失去音乐,“我们的生活方式将几乎一成不变。”有人争论认为,与此相反,音乐及艺术和文学是人之所以为人的一部分;没有音乐恐怕会使人更具兽性。英国科学作家及音乐的狂热爱好者Philip Ball在其中有所领悟。他认为音乐根植于人们的听觉、知觉和运动技能之中。人类的音乐禀赋同语言不相上下,摆脱音乐可谓欲罢而不能。

 

Music can mean different things in different cultures. But although it is culturally specific, some of its building blocks are universal: melody, harmony, rhythm, the timbre produced by a variety of instruments and the distinctive style added by particular composers. Almost all musical systems are based on scales spanning an octave—the note that sounds the same as the one you started off with, but at a higher or lower pitch. Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher who lived around 500BC, is said to have discovered that notes that sound harmonious together have simple ratios between their frequencies: for example, one that is an octave higher than another has double the frequency. The Pythagorean “diatonic” scale, still the basis of most Western music, is made up from seven notes. But it is far from the only one. Javanese gamelan uses two scales with different numbers of notes; North Indian music has 32 different scales. Arnold Schoenberg devised a 12-tone scheme of atonal music about a century ago.

 

音乐的意义因不同文化而异。但是,即使音乐带有文化特殊性,其某些构建模块却具有普适性:节奏、和谐、韵律、不同乐器产生的音色和特别作曲家增添的迥异乐风。几乎所有的音乐体系都是基于所跨越的八度音阶范围——这一音符的发音同开始时的完全一样,只是音高或高或低。据说,公元前500年左右,希腊哲学家毕达哥拉斯已经发现了发音和谐的音符在频率之间成简单比例:例如,高一个八度的音符具有两倍的频率。毕氏“全音阶”范围仍然是多数西方音乐的基石,它由七个音符组成。但是,这远不是仅有的一个。爪哇的加麦兰乐器使用两个音阶范围,每个音阶具有不同的音符数;北美印第安音乐具有32个不同音阶范围。一个世纪以前,Arnold Schoenberg已经设计出一种无调音乐,由12音色组合而成。

 

Mr Ball goes through each component of music in turn to explain how and why it works, using plentiful examples drawn from a refreshingly wide range of different kinds of music, from Bach to the Beatles, and from nursery rhymes to jazz. If you can read music, you will find yourself humming aloud to see what he means. If you can’t, you might occasionally get lost among the technicalities. But before things get too rarefied, Mr Ball’s facility for conveying complex facts in simple language comes to the rescue.

 

Ball先生曾通过依次检查音乐的每个成分来解释其运作机理,他从大量不同种类的音乐中抽取实例,从巴赫到披头士,从童谣到爵士乐。如果你能领悟音乐,你会发现自己通过大声哼唱来理解其中的含义。如果不能领悟,或许你会偶尔迷失在专业术语中。但是在事情变得简化之前,Ball先生以简单语言表达复杂实事的作用可以来救救场。

 

His basic message is encouraging and uplifting: people know much more about music than they think. They start picking up the rules from the day they are born, perhaps even before, by hearing it all around them. Very young children can tell if a tune or harmony is not quite right. One of the joys of listening to music is a general familiarity with the way it is put together: to know roughly what to expect, then to see in what particular ways your expectations will be met or exceeded. Most adults can differentiate between kinds of music even if they have had no training.

 

他的基本信息就是鼓励和激昂:大家对音乐的了解远超所想。通过倾听环绕周身的音乐,人们对音乐规则的无师自通与生俱来,或许更早。特别年幼的儿童也能感觉出一个曲调或和声是否正确。聆听音乐的一大乐趣就是对音乐组合方式的总体领悟:大概了解所期望的内容,而后知道你所期望的东西以什么具体方式得到满足或超越。多数成年人即使不经特殊训练也能区分不同类型的音乐。

 

Music is completely sui generis. It should not tell a non-musical story; the listener will decode it for himself. Many, perhaps most, people have experienced a sudden rush of emotion on hearing a particular piece of music; a thrill or chill, a sense of excitement or exhilaration, a feeling of being swept away by it. They may even be moved to tears, without being able to tell why. Musical analysts have tried hard to find out how this happens, but with little success. Perhaps some mysteries are best preserved.

 

音乐完全自成一格。它不应该讲述一个无音乐的故事;听者会自我解构。许多人,或许是大多数人,曾经历过一听到某首特别的乐曲而突然迸发情感;一个震颤或寒颤,一份激动感或者兴奋感,被其一扫而空的感觉。人们甚至不知道究竟就被感动落泪。音乐分析家曾努力寻找发生这些现象的原因,但鲜有成功。或许,某些神秘隐藏其中。

 

Carlo Gesualdo

卡罗?杰苏阿尔

 

Lurid rhythms

天籁之音 诡异之乐

 

Jan 21st 2010

From The Economist print edition

 

The Gesualdo Hex: Music, Myth, and Memory. By Glenn Watkins. W. W. Norton; 416 pages; $39.95 and £28. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

 

     《杰苏阿尔迷团:音乐、传奇与回望》。沃特金斯诺顿著。416页,39.95美元或28英镑。购买请登陆Amazon.com,Amazon.co.uk

 

THE lives of 16th-century composers of unaccompanied madrigals do not by and large make promising subjects for lurid films and operas. Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa (near Naples), is the exception. Descended from Norman rulers of Sicily and a Medici mother, he took a twice-widowed 24-year-old bride when he was 20, then bloodily murdered her and her lover (as local custom required) when his uncle, having himself failed to seduce her, informed Carlo of his wife’s infidelity. Things went downhill from there. The prince abused his next wife, and was subject to fits of melancholy that could be lifted only by thrice-daily beatings from a team of young men retained for the purpose. He ended his life tormented by the spells and potions of a rejected former concubine who turned to witchcraft.

 

     总的说来,16世纪无伴奏合唱乐作曲家们的生活不是猎奇电影及戏剧的题材。韦诺萨(那不勒斯附近)王子卡罗?杰苏阿尔[的生活却]是个例外。杰氏是西西里岛的诺曼统治者和一位梅第奇母亲的后裔,他在20岁时迎娶了一位曾两度丧夫的24岁寡妇为他的新娘,随后,当杰氏的叔叔诱奸杰氏的新娘不成,遂向杰氏告密[其新娘与他人的奸情],杰氏血腥地杀害了他的新娘及其情夫(以符合地方习俗的规定)。事态由此每况愈下。王子杰氏虐待他的下一位妻子,自身备受抑郁症折磨,这抑郁症得靠[雇请]一群年轻人专门每日对其殴打三次才得以缓解。一位他曾经抛弃的转向信奉巫术的妃子对他施以咒语、灌以巫汤,他在备受折磨中死去。

 

Werner Herzog made a mountain out of this in his “Death for Five Voices”, purportedly a documentary, in 1995. In the same year, Alfred Schnittke’s opera about Gesualdo added the (false) detail that he killed his own child, as if the facts were not colourful enough already. Aldous Huxley, who listened to Gesualdo’s music while taking mescaline, was so carried away by it that he once made up stories about him in a lecture. Bernardo Bertolucci has a film project about Gesualdo that is in development now. But it is the eerie passion of Gesualdo’s music, not the drama of his life, which led Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg to him. Both composers regarded Gesualdo as to some extent a model for their own musical innovations.

 

     据称,在1995年的一部纪录片中,维尔纳?赫尔佐格在他的作品《五种死亡的声音》里炮制了大量此类情节。同年,好像情节不足以引人入胜似的,阿尔弗雷德?施尼特克关于杰氏的歌剧中添加了细节(不真实)——杰氏杀死了自己的孩子。在听杰氏音乐的同时服食致幻剂的奥尔德斯?赫胥黎对杰氏非常着迷,以至于曾在一次演讲中编造了一系列关于杰氏的故事。贝尔纳多?贝托鲁奇有一个正在谋划的关于杰氏的电影拍摄计划。不过,Gesualdo身上吸引斯特拉文斯基和阿诺德?勋伯格的并不是他如同戏剧似的一生,而是其在音乐中表露出的神秘的激情。两位作曲家都把杰氏视作对其自身音乐创新多多少少起了点范式作用的人。

 

An 18th-century history of music described Gesualdo’s harmonies, which veer in and out of familiar scales, as “harsh, crude and licentious”. In 1956 Time magazine headlined a review of a Gesualdo recording as “Ahead of his time”, a questionable idea since it presupposes that the history of music is travelling in a single preordained direction. There was a boom of interest in Gesualdo among musicologists in the 1950s, and although performance of his music continues to thrive, Glenn Watkins, an American scholar of renaissance music and the leading authority on Gesualdo’s works, reports that academic interest in him is waning, for now. Mr Watkins published a study of Gesualdo’s life and music, with a preface by Stravinsky, in 1973; his new book traces the ebb and flow of Gesualdo’s reputation over the centuries, and tries to explain it.

 

     十八世纪的音乐史著形容杰氏的和声(将通常的音阶作突然性的高低转换) “刺激、粗俗、放肆”。 1956年,《时代》杂志发表头条文章《超越其所处时代的人》,这是一篇关于杰氏的评论文章,是一篇其表达的观点存疑的文章,因为它假定——音乐史是在单一的预定轨道上行驶。上世纪50年代,在音乐家圈子里,杰氏音乐突然成为热点,尽管其持续繁荣,但美国文艺复兴音乐学者、杰氏作品权威专家格伦?沃特金斯指出:而今,对于杰氏的学术兴趣正在消退。1973年,沃特金斯先生出版了一部杰苏氏生平及音乐成就的研究新著(由史达拉汶斯基作的序);他的这部新著追溯了几个世纪来杰氏声名的起起落落,并力图释明缘何起起落落。

 

But it does not try very hard. Mr Watkins gets lost rambling among minor details, and prefers musing over questions to answering them. He makes no attempt to explain musical terms: readers who do not know what a “diatonic, homophonic pronouncement of a frottola rhythm” is will be none the wiser after reading about it here. Mr Watkins writes that this book is part historiography, part cultural history, part autobiography, and “might well be called a notebook”. This is one notebook which probably should have remained in a drawer.

 

     不过,这部新著力度不够。沃特金斯对细节的处理杂乱无章,思考问题重于回答问题。他并不力图解释音乐术语:不知“弗罗托拉韵律的全音阶、同音发声法”为何物的读者不会在读了这部新著后变得聪明。沃特金斯先生的这部书属于部分史学编纂、部分文化艺术史、部分自传性质,甚至“完全可以称之为一本笔记”——一本或许应留在抽屉里的笔记。

 

Human identity

身份的识别

 

An elusive illusion

迷离幻象

 

Dec 17th 2009 From The Economist print edition

 

A scientific exhibition examines what makes human beings individuals

科学展览告诉你怎样识别人的身份

 

WITH the construction of the railways in the 19th century, a new sociological phenomenon was born: the travelling criminal. Until then, police had relied on local communities to recognise a bad apple in their midst, but now the felons were on the move, wreaking havoc in communities which had no knowledge of their past and hence no reason to be wary. For law enforcers trying to contain the problem by sharing descriptions of known recidivists, it became imperative to answer one question: what is it that identifies someone as a particular person?

 

十九世纪随着铁路的兴建,一种新型的社会现象诞生了:流动犯罪。以前,警方依靠地方社区的帮助来识别人群中的不法分子。 但流动作恶出现后,社区对犯罪人员的过去一无所知,预先防范也就无从谈起。为降低危害,执法人员公布了对已知惯犯的特征描述。因此我们有必要提出一个问题:怎样识别某个特定人员的身份呢?

 

This question has long troubled humanity, of course, and it is explored in all its facets in a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London. One practical application lies in the forensic arena. The first solution offered, branding, was simple and effective. But even in a society that preferred to believe that criminals were born and not made, this was soon deemed unacceptable. So there was a need to find something innate to human beings that remains constant from the cradle to the grave, and that is sufficiently differentiated in the population to make it useful in identifying individuals.

 

当然,这个问题早就长期困扰着人们。最近,位于伦敦的韦尔科姆收藏馆举办了一场新的展览,从各个方面对这个问题进行了探索。法学界有一种实际的操作方法。其中首当其冲的是肌肤烙印法,它简单而且有效。尽管当时的社会倾向于认为罪犯是天生的而不是后天养成的,但人们还是很快认为烙印法不能接受。因此,我们需要找到一种人类固有的特征,它既要从摇篮到坟墓都保持不变,也要能有效地将人群中的个体辨认出来。

 

Alphonse Bertillon, who appears in one of the identity cards he invented, came up with a system that combined photography (the profile and face-on photos that police still use today) with a range of bodily measurements. His system was widely taken up until Sir Francis Galton, a colleague, rival and inveterate classifier, realised the individualising potential of fingerprints. These held sway for a century until, in 1984, Sir Alec Jeffreys of Leicester University stumbled on an even more powerful personal barcode: DNA.

 

身份证发明家阿方斯·贝迪永设计过一个识别系统,即把摄像(即警方今天仍在使用的侧脸和正面照片)与一系列身体测量数据相结合。这个系统曾被广泛使用。后来,阿方斯的同事兼对手弗朗西斯·高尔顿,一个分类成癖的家伙,意识到指纹在身份识别中有巨大的潜力。从此,指纹识别法统治身份鉴定界长达一个世纪之久。直到1984年,莱斯特大学的亚历克·杰弗里偶然发现了一种更强大的身份“条形码”:DNA。

 

Embedded in this short history is all the elusiveness of human identity; each new advance reveals the flaws in earlier systems. Go to the website of the New York-based Innocence Project to see the latest tally of exonerations that have taken place in America, after DNA evidence showed those convictions to be unsafe. At the time of writing, the figure comes to 246. Mistaken eyewitness identification is a major culprit, but fingerprint misidentification is cited too.

 

上述简短的历史回顾说明,准确识别人类身份并不容易;每一个新的进展都能揭示出旧系统中的缺点。访问设立于纽约的“清白专案”计划网站,可以看到在美国,因DNA证据不支持定罪而最终被宣判无罪的最新案件记录。截止到写作本文时,这一数字已达到246起。目击者指认错误是判错案的重要原因,而记录显示,指纹识别错误也出现过。

 

Ironically, our facility for recognising faces may be to blame. The brain has evolved to look for patterns, and when one is incomplete it will fill in the gaps, sometimes leaping to the wrong conclusion, as Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer, discovered when he was wrongly implicated in the 2004 Madrid bombings on the basis of a single, poor-quality fingerprint.

 

具有讽刺意义的是,这可能得归咎于我们用来识别人脸的生理机能。人脑在进化的过程中,学会了通过寻找特征来辨认形象。当形象不完整时,大脑会主动补充出残缺的部分,因此有时会草率地得出错误的结论。俄勒冈州的一名律师布兰登·梅菲尔德就曾因为一个不甚清晰的指纹印,而被错误地指认为2004年马德里爆炸案的凶手。

 

So what of DNA? Within hours of reaching a crime scene, police may now have information that helps identify suspects. In the courtroom, DNA trumps all other identifiers. But it has its limitations. With ever more minute quantities becoming detectable, contamination is a serious issue. The Phantom of Heilbronn murdered her way across Europe until, last March, she was discovered not to exist. The DNA found at each crime scene actually came from a female worker in the factory that manufactured the cotton swabs used to collect evidence.

 

那么DNA鉴定又是否准确呢?如今,警方只要在几个小时内即时赶到现场,就可以获得能够帮助确定嫌疑人的信息。在法庭上,DNA证据胜过其他一切证据。但是,DNA鉴定也有一些不足之处。虽然现在通过微量的证物就可以检测出DNA,但是证物污染问题却十分严重。“海尔布隆幽灵”犯下的谋杀案遍布欧洲,但直到去年三月,人们才发现这个女幽灵其实并不存在。事实上,在犯罪现场发现的DNA都来自生产采证棉签的工厂的一名女工。

 

There is another problem with DNA. When the technology allows for a person’s entire genome to be read from a single drop of blood, it may well constitute a gold standard for identification. But for now analysts work with a snapshot of that genome, represented by an arbitrary number of markers spaced along it. If there are gaps to be filled, the brain will fill them, which could make it vulnerable to the same kind of errors as its predecessors.

 

DNA鉴定还存在另一个问题。由于科技允许我们从一滴血中读出一个人的全部基因序列,它为我们提供了一个识别身份的黄金标准。但目前为止,分析人员都是使用基因快照做鉴定,即在基因中任意选取几个标记点做分析。如果信息不够完整,人的大脑就会主动补充出残缺的部分。因此,使用DNA鉴定也可能重复使用以往鉴定方法时出现的错误。

 

From the very real travelling criminal, via the Phantom of Heilbronn, the Wellcome exhibition returns to the central question. Perhaps identity, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder, and if people want to see one and not the other, they need to invent a new way of looking.

 

从货真价实的流动犯罪,再到虚惊一场的“海尔布隆幽灵”,韦尔科姆收藏馆的展览带我们回到了文章一开始时提出的那个问题。或许,识别身份就像评价美一样,取决于观看者自身的意见。如果人们想得到唯一的答案,就必须发明新的评判方法。

 

Cutting down on errors

减少错误

 

Ticking off

列清单

 

Jan 14th 2010

From The Economist print edition

 

 

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. By Atul Gawande. Metropolitan; 209 pages; $24.50. Profile; £12.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

 

《清单宣言:如何不犯错误》,阿图尔·伽万德著,大都会出版公司出版。共209页,售价24.50美元(12.99英镑)。可从亚马逊网站(Amazon.com或Amazon.com.uk)购买。

 

ON OCTOBER 30th 1935, the US Army Air Corps held a competition to see which company would build the country’s next-generation of long-range bombers. The result looked preordained. Boeing’s “flying fortress” could fly farther and faster than any previous bomber, and carry more bombs. Martin and Douglas’s offering was a pup by comparison. But the fortress crashed shortly after take-off. Martin and Douglas won by default and Boeing almost went bankrupt.

 

1935年10月30日,美国陆军航空队举办了一场竞赛,以确定由哪家公司来打造美国下一代远程轰炸机。结果像是早已注定。波音公司的“飞行堡垒”比以前所有的轰炸机飞得更远更快,而且能携带更多炸弹。相比之下,马丁和道格拉斯公司提供的轰炸机显得非常稚嫩。但“飞行堡垒”起飞后不久就坠毁了。马丁与道格拉斯公司不战而胜,而波音公司几乎倒闭。

 

“The Checklist Manifesto” is both a meditation on the growing complexity of the world and a how-to book on coping with that complexity. Atul Gawande argues that humanity is in danger of sinking under the weight of knowledge, as scientists accumulate ever more information and the professions splinter into minute varying specialities. The reason why the flying fortress crashed was that, in the words of a contemporary newspaper, it was “too much airplane for one man to fly”. Confronted with four engines rather than two, the pilot forgot to release a vital locking mechanism.

 

《清单宣言》既是对越来越复杂的世界的思考,又是如何应对这种复杂性的指南。阿图尔·伽万德认为,科学家积累了越来越多的信息,各领域也细分为多种专业,在知识的重负之下,人类面临“沉没”的危险。“飞行堡垒”坠毁的原因,用时下报纸的话来讲,就是“太好的飞机,一名飞行员应付不了”。面对4个而不是2个发动机,那名飞行员忘记了必须解开锁闭装置。

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