Cambridge University Press

The age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has arrived, though not so much an age of sentient robots as one of ubiquitous data collection and analysis fuelling automated decisions, categorisations, predictions, and recommendations in all walks of life. The stakes of AI-enabled decision-making may be as serious as life and death (Spanish police use a system called VioGén to forecast domestic violence) or as trivial as the arrangement of pizza-toppings.

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One consequence of the pandemic is that it has led many people to imagine themselves as someone else. Those whose work has dried up – actors, musicians, curators, librarians, flight attendants, and so on – have suddenly had to adapt to a world that has no place for the things they do and thus no place for people like them. What if this new world is not just a temporary blip, but the shape of things to come? Who will I be in this future world?

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Towards the end of Thoreau’s Religion, Alda Balthrop-Lewis, an academic at Australian Catholic University, evokes an experience each of us has likely had in some form. The sight of a rainbow or the sound of a bird amazes you so much that you simply have to share it. Delight inspires you to share with others, so that it may alter them as well as your relationship bringing you, collectively, into a more intimate and responsible accord with the freshly encountered world. In a book about Henry David Thoreau (1817–62), the explicit aim of such a passage is to convey that, contrary to the inherited belief that Thoreau was a dour ascetic, he actually embraced delight, and that, in this spirit of delight, his writing might be understood as a type of exhortation to ‘Look!’.

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Bain Attwood’s Empire and the Making of Native Title is a welcome contribution to the field. Like many good historians of sovereignty and native title in Australia and New Zealand, Attwood stresses the importance of contingency and complexity in the first decades of British settlement on both sides of the Tasman Sea. His early chapters focus on the local and imperial contexts that shaped Crown approaches to Indigenous title in New South Wales, Port Phillip, and South Australia. The rest of the book provides a forensic account of the lead-up to and aftermath of the British assumption of sovereignty in New Zealand, and its shifting ramifications for legal arguments about Māori land title.

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Written by a prominent economist with a long career in emissions reduction and policy modelling, this engaging book attempts to debunk eleven myths that undermine effective climate action. Jaccard also offers a ‘simple’ path to climate success, built around strong regulatory action, carbon pricing, a system of carbon tariffs, and supporting poorer countries in energy transitions. Jaccard focuses on emissions reduction in the transport and energy sectors, in line with his areas of expertise.

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In its long war in Afghanistan, Australia lost forty-one soldiers. These deaths were felt keenly, and usually the prime minister, other senior politicians, and army chiefs attended the funerals. In addition, more than 260 soldiers were wounded. Service in Afghanistan was trying and demanding. Yet, while Special Forces units were constantly rotated through numerous deployments, at any particular time fewer than 2,000 Australian soldiers were serving in Afghanistan. ... (read more)

A History of South Australia by Paul Sendziuk and Robert Foster

April 2019, no. 410

The first volume in this series, Beverley Kingston’s A History of New South Wales, was published in 2006. Since then another five have appeared, including a book on Tasmania by Henry Reynolds and another on Victoria by Geoffrey Blainey. Cambridge University Press may be proceeding with its ‘History of Australian States’ ...

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‘Canberra’ is a loaded term among Australians. The capital embodies the aspirations, expectations, and disappointments of a nation. It is at once a bold experiment in Australian democracy and a national source of ambivalence and derision, the unfortunate shorthand for the federal government, and a symbol of Australia’s collective disenchantment with politics. Many Australians feel they can speak for the capital and are quick to pass judgement on it. It is hotly contested ground. There is even tension between the Ngunawal, Ngarigu, and Ngambri people over who can speak for country on the Limestone Plains.

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Shakespeare’s great contemporary Ben Jonson dressed an actor in armour to open his play Poetaster. The Prologue explained:

If any muse why I salute the stage,
An armèd Prologue, know, ’tis a
dangerous age,
Wherein who writes had need present
his scenes
Forty-fold proof against the conjuring
Of base detractors and illiterate apes,
That fill up rooms in fair and formal
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It was not until the middle years of the nineteenth century, so far as we can tell, that anyone seriously doubted that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon called William Shakespeare had written the plays that for the past two and a half centuries had passed without question under his name. In the early 1850s, however, a private scholar from Connecticut named Delia Bacon began to develop an alternative view. She believed that the plays had been composed not by Shakespeare but by a syndicate of writers headed probably by Francis Bacon, whom she later came to think of as her distant ancestor.

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