FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- In addition to Neanderthals and Denisovans, a third extinct species from long ago has been isolated in Eurasian DNA.
- With the full roll-out of 5G infrastructure, not one inch of the globe will be free of radiation.
- Every major radio telescope on Earth — collectively termed the Event Horizon Telescope – is networked together.
- The chronic shortage of seasonal agricultural workers is leading to the development of robots to do things as perceptually demanding and delicate as selecting and picking ripe strawberries – while leaving the others unharmed.
by John L. Petersen
Dream Detective Who Notified US Government About 9/11 Two Weeks Before The Event Coming to TransitionTalks
There’s only one person in the world who started dreaming about the 9/11 attack six months before it happened . . . and notified the US embassy in London of the impending disaster two weeks before that fateful day.
The Americans didn’t listen, but they should have. For Christopher Robinson was the man that British Intelligence and Scotland Yard depended on to dream about the future and notify them of upcoming IRA bombing plans. They depended on Chris because he never missed telling them when and where an upcoming attack would take place. He has anticipated plane crashes days before the event, found deceased crime victims, found missing persons that the police couldn’t locate (and told me in the morning, with extraordinary accuracy, what was going to happen in that afternoon)!
Chris’s amazing ability to dream about the future in terms that can be reliably translated into people, times, places and activities has been the subject of books, major university scientific studies, films, articles, TV shows and just about all forms of media.
He has taught many people how to dream about the future and, through his advanced intuitive capabilities, helped thousands to understand how to deal with seemingly impossible personal situations. He is also a healer, having on numerous occasions led people with supposedly terminal conditions to eliminate those issues and return to a healthy life.
There is no one in the world that has the fascinating background (undercover police work, etc.), coupled with the amazing personal gifts that Chris does and he’s coming from London especially to be with us to tell his story, explain his dreaming technique, demonstrate his healing modality and tell us what he thinks is on the horizon, in one very memorable Saturday afternoon on April 27th in Berkeley Springs.
As an added bonus, Chris will be available for personal consultations on Sunday the 28th. You can find complete information at www.transitiontalks.org.
Here’s a video about Chris that will give you a taste of this extraordinary man.
Come to Berkeley Springs on Saturday, the 27th of April to hear Christopher Robinson and stay around for the reception afterwards to meet him personally. Get the complete details at TransitionTalks.org.
NSA Whistleblower, Tom Drake, at TransitionTalks in May
Following closely on our session with Chris Robinson will be Tom Drake, the famous whistleblower from the National Security Agency who was successful over the government’s efforts to imprison him for up to 35 years. Tom exposed major fraud and waste and the plans for the NSA to field a capability that would spy on the American people and after that happened, the government came after him. It’s an amazing story of extraordinary courage, but in addition to talking about where he’s been, Tom is going to build his idea of where the country and humanity will be going in the coming years.
Here’s a short interview that I did with Tom a couple of weeks ago.
Do come and be with us on the 11th of May to hear and meet Tom Drake. Full information is at TransitionTalks.org.
Karen Elkins Launches Beautiful, New Book InsideOut
Visionary graphic designer, Karen Elkins (who produces the e-magazine for TransitionTalks), has published a marvelous, gorgeous new book that combines extraordinary graphics with forward looking articles by scientists and researchers who are defining the leading edge of science. It’s really an amazing piece of work that will take you to the edge of discovery – in a very beautiful environment!
Click on the image below to see just how extraordinary this book is. Tip: The video is really worth the price of admission!
Find out more here
PostScript Interview with Pierre Dubois
Our TransitionTalks guest in March was spiritual teacher Pierre Dubois, who came down from New York City to speak to a full-house grouip here in Berkeley Springs. Here’s the interview with him before the event.
|Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:
Ten Recent Low-tech Inventions That Have Changed the World – (Technology Review – February 27, 2019)
This article provides a simple list (each item with a short description) of ten inventions that you probably haven’t heard about. In each case, there is enough information that, if you’re interested, you can search for more details. For example: Hundreds of millions of people, usually women, have to walk every day to get enough water for their basic needs and transport it home in buckets. The Hippo roller is a heavy-duty plastic barrel that can be flipped on its side and rolled home, via an attached handle, over rough terrain.
A New Hominid Species Has Been Found in a Philippine Cave, Fossils Suggest – (Science News – April 10, 2019)
Fossils with distinctive features indicate that the hominid species inhabited the island now known as Luzon at least 50,000 years ago. That species, which the scientists have dubbed Homo luzonensis, lived at the same time that controversial half-sized hominids named Homo floresiensis and nicknamed hobbits were roaming an Indonesian island to the south called Flores. In shape and size, some of the fossils match those of corresponding bones from other Homo species. “But if you take the whole combination of features for H. luzonensis, no other Homo species is similar,” says study coauthor and paleoanthropologist Florent Détroit of the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris. If the find holds up to further scientific scrutiny, it would add to recent fossil and DNA evidence indicating that several Homo lineages already occupied East Asia and Southeast Asian islands by the time Homo sapiens reached what’s now southern China between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago. The result: an increasingly complicated picture of hominid evolution in Asia.
Artificial Intelligence Has Found an Unknown ‘Ghost’ Ancestor in the Human Genome – (Science Alert – February 11, 2019)
Nobody knows who she was, just that she was different: a teenage girl from over 50,000 years ago of such strange uniqueness she looked to be a ‘hybrid’ ancestor to modern humans that scientists had never seen before. Only now, researchers have uncovered evidence she wasn’t alone. In a new study analyzing the complex mess of humanity’s prehistory, scientists have used artificial intelligence (AI) to identify an unknown human ancestor species that modern humans encountered – and shared dalliances with – on the long trek out of Africa millennia ago. As modern humans forged a path into the landmass of Eurasia, they forged some other things too – breeding with ancient and extinct hominids from other species. Up until recently, these occasional sexual partners were thought to include Neanderthals and Denisovans, the latter of which were unknown until 2010. But now a third extinct species from long ago has been isolated in Eurasian DNA, thanks to deep learning algorithms sifting through a complex mass of ancient and modern human genetic code. Using a statistical technique called Bayesian inference, the researchers found evidence of what they call a “third introgression” – a ‘ghost’ archaic population that modern humans interbred with during the African exodus. “This population is either related to the Neanderthal-Denisova clade or diverged early from the Denisova lineage,” the researchers write in their paper, meaning that it’s possible this third population in humanity’s sexual history was possibly a mix themselves of Neanderthals and Denisovans. In a sense, from the vantage point of deep learning, it’s a hypothetical corroboration of sorts of the teenage girl ‘hybrid fossil’ identified last year; although it’s early days, and the research projects themselves aren’t directly linked.
The Worst Disease Ever Recorded – (Atlantic – March 28, 2019)
Bd—Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in full—kills frogs and other amphibians by eating away at their skin and triggering fatal heart attacks. It’s often said that the fungus has caused the decline or extinction of 200 amphibian species, but that figure is almost two decades out-of-date. New figures, compiled by a team led by Ben Scheele from the Australian National University, are much worse. Scheele’s team estimates that the fungus has caused the decline of 501 amphibian species—about 6.5% of the known total. Of these, 90 have been wiped out entirely. Another 124 have fallen by more than 90%, and their odds of recovery are slim. Never in recorded history has a single disease burned down so much of the tree of life. “It rewrote our understanding of what disease could do to wildlife,” Scheele says. The scale of these losses can be hard to appreciate, especially if you think that a frog is a frog is a frog. But amphibians are ancient survivors that have been diversifying for 370 million years, and in just five decades, one disease has nearly decimated their ranks. Imagine if a new disease started wiping out 6.5 percent of all mammal species—that would be roughly everything with hooves and everything with flippers. The fungus hasn’t acted alone; humans have been its unwitting accomplice. A genetic study led by Matthew Fisher from Imperial College London suggested that Bd had originated somewhere in Asia. From there, one especially virulent and transmissible strain spread around the world in the early 20th century—a time when international trade was booming. Infected animals could have stowed away aboard ships, or been deliberately transported as food, pets, or pregnancy tests. The killer strain eventually spread to five other continents. In the new study, Scheele’s team compares the modern world to Pangaea—the single, epic supercontinent that existed at the dawn of the dinosaurs. It has long split up, but humans have effectively re-created it. For wildlife diseases, all the world is once again a single connected mass, easily traversed.
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
3D-printed Transparent Skull Provides a Window to the Brain – (Science Daily – April 4, 2019)
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a unique 3D-printed transparent skull implant for mice that provides an opportunity to watch activity of the entire brain surface in real time. The device allows fundamental brain research that could provide new insight for human brain conditions such as concussions, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers also plan to commercialize the device, which they call See-Shell. In the past, most scientists have looked at small regions of the brain and tried to understand it in detail. However, researchers are now finding that what happens in one part of the brain likely affects other parts of the brain at the same time. One of their first studies using the See-Shell device examines how mild concussions in one part of the brain affect other parts of the brain as it reorganizes structurally and functionally. Suhasa Kodandaramaiah, Ph.D., a co-author of the study, said that mouse brains are very similar in many respects to human brains, and this device opens the door for similar research on mice looking at degenerative brain diseases that affect humans such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. The technology allows the researchers to see global changes for the first time at an unprecedented time resolution. In a video produced using the device, changes in brightness of the mouse’s brain correspond to waxing and waning of neural activity. Subtle flashes are periods when the whole brain suddenly becomes active. The researchers are still trying to understand the reason for such global coordinated activity and what it means for behavior.
DNA and RNA May Have Existed Together Before Life Began on Earth – (Science Alert – April 4, 2019)
Before there was life, ribonucleic acid (RNA) ruled the primordial soup. Or so the story goes, according to what’s known as the RNA World hypothesis. But it seems we may have been too hasty in leaving out RNA’s more complex cousin, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Chemists from the UK and the US have shown how both molecules could have formed under conditions likely to have been present on ancient Earth. This discovery could force a rethink on leading models of life’s origins. Elaborating on an earlier study that demonstrated a method for building chains of nucleic acid in a pre-biotic environment, the team has shown how RNA could be converted into components of the DNA molecule in a few easy steps – without any need for enzymes. For nearly half a century, biologists have been gaining confidence in models that claim the chemical machinery making up the first cells had its roots in RNA-based chemical reactions. However, Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy from the US-based Scripps Research Institute, and his colleagues have suspected for some time that the RNA World story is a little more involved than it would first appear. For one thing, evolving pure RNA systems into DNA-based ones would probably require some sort of hand-over period where both molecules were performing similar templating tasks. Several years ago, the researchers showed that such hybrid molecules weren’t as stable as pure RNA and DNA strands. This raises an interesting question – why would delicate hybrid mixtures evolve from more robust RNA-based ones? One answer is that there was no pure RNA world to begin with, just a shaky mix of the two molecules competing for supremacy, until a pure DNA system won out.
A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy – (New York Times – April 6, 2019)
Last May, an elderly man was admitted to the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital for abdominal surgery. A blood test revealed that he was infected with a newly discovered germ as deadly as it was mysterious. Doctors swiftly isolated him in the intensive care unit. The germ, a fungus called Candida auris, preys on people with weakened immune systems, and it is quietly spreading across the globe. Over the last five years, it has hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical center to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa. Recently C. auris reached New York, New Jersey and Illinois, leading the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add it to a list of germs deemed “urgent threats.” The man at Mount Sinai died after 90 days in the hospital, but C. auris did not. Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it. C. auris is so tenacious, in part, because it is impervious to major antifungal medications, making it a new example of one of the world’s most intractable health threats: the rise of drug-resistant infections. For decades, public health experts have warned about the overuse of antibiotics. But lately, there has been an explosion of resistant fungi as well, adding a new and frightening dimension to a phenomenon that is undermining a pillar of modern medicine. Dr. Johanna Rhodes, an infectious disease expert at Imperial College London, notes, “We are driving this with the use of antifungicides on crops.”
Study Shows Dogs Can Accurately Sniff out Cancer in Blood – (Science Daily – April 8, 2019)
Dogs have smell receptors 10,000 times more accurate than humans’, making them highly sensitive to odors we can’t perceive. A new study has shown that dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 96.7% accuracy and normal samples 97.5 percent of the time. The results could lead to new cancer-screening approaches that are inexpensive and accurate without being invasive. “Although there is currently no cure for cancer, early detection offers the best hope of survival,” said Heather Junqueira, who is lead researcher at BioScentDx and performed the study. “A highly sensitive test for detecting cancer could potentially save thousands of lives and change the way the disease is treated.” For the new study, Junqueira and her colleagues used a form of clicker training to teach four beagles to distinguish between normal blood serum and samples from patients with malignant lung cancer. BioScentDx plans to use canine scent detection to develop a non-invasive way of screening for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. As a next step, the company launched a breast cancer study in November in which participants donate samples of their breath for screening by trained cancer-sniffing dogs. The researchers also plan to separate the samples into their chemical components and present these to the dogs to isolate the substances causing the odor that the dogs detect.
New York Bans Single-use Plastic Bags – (Nation of Change – April 2, 2019)
New York has become the second state to ban single-use plastic bags as part of a progressive budget that included the elimination of cash bail for most misdemeanors and non violent crimes among several other measures. The single-use plastic bag ban, which goes into effect in March 2020, gives business owners the option to offer consumers paper bags for five cents. The five cents charged would be divided with two cents going to a fund to help low-income consumers buy reusable bags and the other three cents going to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, EcoWatch reported. New York now joins California, who enacted a ban on plastic bags in 2016, but some exceptions come with the ban for “takeout, dry cleaning, bulk and deli items, newspapers and bags like garbage bags bought in bulk,” EcoWatch reported.
The Film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ Foretold a Real and Troubling Trend: The Ocean’s Water-circulation System Is Weakening – (Business Insider – March 25, 2019)
Although the concept of global warming driving a cooling trend seems counterintuitive, the Hollywood disaster flick didn’t necessarily get that wrong. An ocean current called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) that moves warm water from the equatorial tropics up to Europe and the north Atlantic. This influx of warmer water contributes to western Europe’s mild and temperate climate. In the movie, that current stops, causing an almost overnight ice age in Europe and North America. Those effects, and the speed at which they occur, were hyperbolized in the film for the sake of moviegoers, but the idea that Atlantic water circulation could shut down isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Such a shift has already started. According to a 2018 study, the circulation is the weakest it’s been in at least the past 1,600 years. Francesco Muschitiello’s research, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests there could be a cause-and-effect timeline of this slowing current. According to the new study’s model, changes in AMOC foretell major climate fluctuations that will happen some 400 years in the future. The findings show that changes in the strength of water circulation in the Atlantic do really precede abrupt climate changes — sort of the proverbial canary in the climate coal mine. The AMOC’s speed depends on a delicate balance of salt and fresh water. Salty water is dense, so it sinks easily. But as Greenland’s ice sheet and glaciers continue to melt, more fresh water is joining the AMOC. That melting is happening quickly: In 2012, Greenland lost more than 400 billion tons of ice, almost quadruple the loss in 2003. The addition of that fresh water makes the salty surface water lighter and less likely to sink, clogging up the circulation’s flow. To do their analysis, Muschitiello and his team looked at core samples drilled from the bottom of the Norwegian Sea, a lake in southern Scandinavia, and ice in Greenland. Their results showed that the AMOC started weakening 400 years before a major cold snap 13,000 years ago. The AMOC also began getting stronger about 400 years before an abrupt warming 11,000 years ago (during which temperatures climbed by 14 degrees Fahrenheit). The authors said that following those 400-year lags, abrupt warming or cooling took place over just a few decades or less. See also: Global Warming Hits London.
Hikers Forced to Clean Up Their Waste as Alaskan Glacier Sets to Dump Decades of Poo – (Science Alert – April 3, 2019)
Denali National Park in Alaska is home to North America’s highest peak, attracting long queues of humans who are keen to commune with nature. Unfortunately, nature’s call doesn’t always align with convenient amenities, and decades of toilet breaks have added up. Now hiking companies are making it their business to fix the peak’s poo problem. According to the National Park Service (NPS), six of the seven guide companies contracted to take tourists hiking up Denali’s trails have volunteered to enforce new waste management practices. In generations gone by, the occasional hikers daring to push their way up the icy terrain of Denali’s West Buttress climbing route each year would leave their excrement wherever they pleased. By the late 1970s park rangers needed to accommodate increasing numbers of climbers by digging latrines into the glacial ice near crowded stopping points, covering the 10 foot hole with a plywood outhouse. At the end of the climbing season, the outhouse would be taken down and the hole filled in, leaving a Morse code of poopsicles on a conveyer-belt slowly grinding its way towards the ocean. A whopping 66 metric tons of the stuff has accumulated in Kahiltna Glacier’s ice over the decades, and with it a trove of parasites, pathogens and two-ply paper destined for Alaska’s coast. National Park Service glaciologist Michael Loso is something of an expert on Dinali’s faecal issue. For years he’s been studying the slow crawl of tourist waste as it makes a 28 kilometre journey from snow-capped mountain to blue sea. Since those first toilets were dug nearly half a century ago, waste from the lowest camps could start appearing at the end of the glacier any year now. These days, every climber is handed a can on arrival and expected to use it. The lightweight toilet is good for around 12 uses and weighs up to 7 kilograms (about 15 pounds) when full. Now all but one of the park’s contracted hiking companies are stepping up of their own accord to make their clients carry all of their waste the entire way up and back down.
5G – The Big Picture – (Take Back Your Power – April 6, 2019)
In November of 2018, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized the rocket company SpaceX, to launch a fleet of 7,518 satellites to complete SpaceX’s ambitious scheme to provide global satellite broadband services to every corner of the Earth. Other companies, including Boeing, One Web and Spire Global are each launching their own smaller fleets, bringing the total number of projected new broadband satellites to around 20,000 – every one of them dedicated to irradiating the Earth at similar frequencies. The introduction of 5G will require millions of new mini mobile phone masts (also referred to as “base stations”) in cities throughout the world, all emitting radiation at frequencies and at power levels far higher than those to which we are presently subjected. These new masts are much smaller than the masts we currently see beside our motorways and on top of buildings. They will be discreetly attached to the side of shops and offices or secured to lampposts. The satellites are a necessary supplement to this land-based effort, for they will guarantee that rural areas, lakes, mountains, forests, oceans and wildernesses, where there are neither buildings nor lampposts, will all be incorporated into the new electronic infrastructure. Not one inch of the globe will be free of radiation. Given the scale of the project, it is surprising how few people are aware of the enormity of what is now just beginning to unfold all around us. In the national media, we do not hear voices questioning the wisdom, let alone the ethics, of geo-engineering a new global electromagnetic environment. The question we should ask is whether we want increasingly intense exposure of the natural environment and all living creatures, including ourselves, to more and more electromagnetic radiation. How likely is it that this does not entail any adverse health consequences, as both government and industry claim? If the electromagnetic waves that connect our smartphones to the Internet travel through brick, stone and cement, then what happens when these same waves encounter our bodies? The degree to which they are absorbed can be precisely measured in what is called the Specific Absorption Rate, expressed in Watts per kilogram of biological tissue. Do we really believe this could be completely harmless?
Radiation Concerns Halt Brussels 5G Development, for Now – (Brussels Times – April 1, 2019)
Plans for a pilot project to provide high-speed 5G wireless internet in Brussels have been halted due to fears for the health of citizens, according to reports. In July, the government concluded an agreement with three telecom operators to relax the strict radiation standards in Brussels. But according to the Region, it is now impossible to estimate the radiation from the antennas required for the service. “I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not,” said Environment minister Céline Fremault. “The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt,” she added. A pilot project is not feasible with the current radiation standards, and Fremault said that she does not intend to make an exception. The Brussels region has particularly strict radiation standards for telecom applications. The standard of 6 volts per metre has already led to problems in the past with providing fast mobile internet via 4G in the capital. See also: 5G Moratorium in Switzerland.
Facebook Still Tracks You after You Deactivate Account – (CNet – April 9, 2019)
Over the past year, the author of this piece writes, I’ve tried to minimize my presence on Facebook. I deleted a 10-year-old account and replaced it with a dummy account that I use as little as possible. I deleted the app from my phone. The Pew Research Center found that 42% of Americans have taken a break from the social network at some point during the last year. As of January, I started deactivating my dummy account every time I used it, rather than just log out. I couldn’t break up completely with Facebook because I needed it to sign up twice a week for a workshop. I thought the precautions would reduce how much data Facebook gathered about me. Turns out, I was wasting my time. Even when your account is deactivated, the social network continues collecting data about your online activities. All that data gets sent back to Facebook and is tied to your account while it’s in this state of limbo. Facebook says it only removes all of your data if you permanently delete your account. Facebook already tracks people online, even when they’re logged out or don’t have an account, through tools like the Facebook Pixel and plugins like the Share button on pages. The social network’s Share button is on 275 million web pages. It collects data allowing advertisers to see what kind of content you’re viewing. That’s why you’re likely to see ads for sports in your Facebook feed if you’ve been visiting a lot of sports websites. If you aren’t a member, the social network can identify you through your browsers and deliver ads using its Facebook Audience Network, the company detailed in 2016. The service uses your browsing habits to target ads as you surf the internet, just as it would if you were on Facebook. Even if you don’t have an account, Facebook is following you.
Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa – (Bloomberg – April 10, 2019)
Tens of millions of people use smart speakers and their voice software to play games, find music or trawl for trivia. Millions more are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that someone might be listening. Sometimes, someone is. Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people around the world to help improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices. The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands. In marketing materials Amazon says Alexa “lives in the cloud and is always getting smarter.” But like many software tools built to learn from experience, humans are doing some of the teaching. The team comprises a mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania. They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon’s Bucharest office. The modern facility bears no exterior sign advertising Amazon’s presence. The work is mostly mundane. Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word—or come across an amusing recording.
Google Offers Proof That Design Is Important with “A Space for Being” – (Dezeen – April 10, 2019)
Google has partnered with scientists on a Milan design week exhibition that shows how different aesthetic experiences can impact our health and wellbeing. Developed with scientists from John Hopkins University in the USA, A Space for Being features three rooms with subtly contrasting interiors. Each one has been designed using the principles of neuroaesthetics – a branch of science that explores how visual aesthetics can impact our brains and physiology. With varying lighting, sounds, scents and textures, the rooms are intended to stimulate visitors’ senses in different ways. All three spaces are intended to reflect everyday living spaces, such as lounges and dining rooms, to help people realize they have the power to improve their own wellbeing with simple changes in the home. The aim is to show how good design can have a positive or negative impact of mental wellbeing. Before entering the interactive rooms, visitors are equipped with a specially made wristband, developed by Google in partnership with the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University, led by Susan Magsamen. This uses four sensors to measure specific physical and physiological responses, such as heart rate and skin conductivity. After experiencing each of the three spaces, visitors are given a customized report informing them which space they felt “most comfortable” or “at ease” in, based on their real-time physiological responses. Article includes photos of the rooms.
Capturing Bacteria That Eat and Breathe Electricity – (Science News – March 5, 2019)
In the Heart Lake Geyser Basin area of Yellowstone National Park, the Washington State Univ. team found four pristine pools of hot water. They carefully left a few electrodes inserted into the edge of the water, hoping to coax little-known creatures out of hiding — bacteria that can eat and breathe electricity. After 32 days, the team returned to the hot springs to collect the submerged electrodes. “This was the first time such bacteria were collected in situ in an extreme environment like an alkaline hot spring,” said Abdelrhman Mohamed, adding that temperatures in the springs ranged from about 110 to nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit. These tiny creatures are not merely of academic interest. They may hold a key to solving some of the biggest challenges facing humanity — environmental pollution and sustainable energy. Such bacteria can “eat” pollution by converting toxic pollutants into less harmful substances and generating electricity in the process. “As these bacteria pass their electrons into metals or other solid surfaces, they can produce a stream of electricity that can be used for low-power applications,” said Haluk Beyenal, Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.
What We Aren’t Eating Is Killing Us, Global Study Finds – (CNN – April 3, 2019)
“In many countries, poor diet now causes more deaths than tobacco smoking and high blood pressure,” said Ashkan Afshin, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. And it’s not just that people are choosing unhealthy options such as red meat and sugary sodas. Just as critical, said Afshin, the lead author of a 27-year global diet analysis published in The Lancet, is the lack of healthy foods in our diets, along with high levels of salt. One in five deaths globally — that’s about 11 million people — in 2017 occurred because of too much sodium and a lack of whole grains, fruit and nuts and seeds, the study found, rather than from diets packed with trans fats, sugar-sweetened drinks and high levels of red and processed meats. The large study size means these findings are relevant to everyone, no matter where they live. In the analysis, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Afshin and his colleagues looked at 15 dietary risk factors and their impact on death and disability. More than half of all global diet-related deaths in 2017 were due to just three risk factors: eating too much salt, not enough whole grains and not enough fruit. Those risks held true regardless of socioeconomic level of most nations, Afshin said.
The Age of Robot Farmers – (New Yorker – April 8, 2019)
In the high season, Wish Farms, located near Plant City, Florida, picks, chills, and ships some twenty million strawberries—all handpicked by a seasonal workforce of six hundred and fifty farm laborers. Until recently, Wishnatzki has relied on cheap labor to get his berries picked—a fundamental of American agriculture, along with abundant land and water. In recent years, though, seasonal labor has become much more scarce, and more expensive—making it difficult for growers of apples, citrus, berries, lettuce, melons, and other handpicked produce-aisle items to harvest their crops. Years of attempts to crack down on illegal immigration, both at the state and the federal level, partly explain these chronic shortages. In 2011, for example, Georgia enacted a strict immigration law that targeted undocumented workers and their employers. Later that year, the state reportedly lost eleven thousand crop workers. To fill the gap, officials established a program whereby nonviolent offenders nearing the end of their prison terms could do paid farmwork. The program had few takers, and many prisoners and probationers who did try it walked off the job, because the work was so hard. Georgia farmers lost more than a hundred and twenty million dollars. The solution, Gary Wishnatzki, one of the owners of Wish Farrms, believes, is to make a robot that can pick strawberries. He and a business partner, Bob Pitzer, have been developing one for the past six years. With the latest iteration of their invention—known around the farm as Berry 5.1—they are getting close. A number of startups are also trying to build a strawberry-picking robot. Among them are a machine that has been developed at Utsunomiya University, in Japan, another by Dogtooth, in the U.K., and a third by Octinion, in Belgium. The Spanish company Agrobot is also testing one. There are prototypes of high-tech orange, grape, and apple harvesters in development as well. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article for its insights into the convergence of technology and the politics and economics of agriculture and of labor.)
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Mysterious Hackers Hid Their Swiss Army Spyware for 5 Years – (Wired – April 9, 2019)
It’s not every day that security researchers discover a new state-sponsored hacking group. Even rarer is the emergence of one whose spyware has 80 distinct components, capable of strange and unique cyberespionage tricks—and who’s kept those tricks under wraps for more than five years. In a talk at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit in Singapore, Kaspersky security researcher Alexey Shulmin revealed the security firm’s discovery of a new spyware framework—an adaptable, modular piece of software with a range of plugins for distinct espionage tasks—that it’s calling TajMahal. The TajMahal framework’s 80 modules, Shulmin says, comprise not only the typical keylogging and screengrabbing features of spyware, but also never-before-seen and obscure tricks. It can intercept documents in a printer queue, and keep track of “files of interest,” automatically stealing them if a USB drive is inserted into the infected machine. And that unique spyware toolkit, Kaspersky says, bears none of the fingerprints of any known nation-state hacker group. Kaspersky says it first detected the TajMahal spyware framework last fall, on only a single victim’s network: The embassy of a Central Asian country whose nationality and location Kaspersky declines to name. But given the software’s sophistication, Shulmin says TajMahal has likely been deployed elsewhere. “It seems highly unlikely that such a huge investment would be undertaken for only one victim,” he writes. “This suggests that there are either further victims not yet identified, or additional versions of this malware in the wild, or possibly both.”
Assange Has Been Arrested for US Extradition. The Time To Act Is Now. – (Caitlin Johnstone – April 11, 2019)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested and taken into custody by the London’s Metropolitan police, just as WikiLeaks warned days ago was about to happen. So there you have it: Extradited for journalism. In a blur, everything that Assange and WikiLeaks have been warning about for years has been proven correct, contrary to mountains of claims to the contrary by establishment loyalists everywhere. The Metropolitan police were let into the embassy by the Ecuadorian ambassador, his political asylum revoked under entirely false pretenses in gross violation of international law. Shame on Ecuador. Assange is an Australian citizen. As of this writing, the Australian government has still not interceded to protect its citizen. Shame on Australia. The US government is setting a precedent which, if carried out, will constitute a grave threat to press freedoms the world over and a greater leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia than the Patriot Act. Shame on America. Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson reports that his arrest is related to an extradition request from the United States, which the British government has until now refused to admit exists. The UK government is collaborating with the US government’s efforts to imprison a journalist for publishing evidence of US war crimes, just as it has collaborated with the US government in perpetrating war crimes. Shame on the UK. The precedent set by imprisoning a foreign journalist under the Espionage Act will enable the US government to arrest leak publishers anywhere in the world who expose its crimes. This will cripple our ability to hold the most powerful institution on the planet to account in any way. If you see anyone calling themselves a journalist but failing to oppose Assange’s extradition, you should call them out for the frauds that they are.
The Obvious Dirty Dealings Behind Julian Assange’s Arrest –(PhiBetaIota – April 15, 2019)
The US has been planning to have Julian Assange handed over for a longtime, that much is obvious. Mike Pence, the Vice President, was visiting Ecuador last year, notionally to discuss the Venezuela situation, and trade. But it was fairly obvious at the time, and even more so now, that they were discussing the details of Assange being handed over to UK authorities, and eventually extradited to the US. “Trade”, indeed. In terms of quid pro quo, the situation is clear-cut – in February, Ecuador got a $4.2 billion loan approved by the International Monetary Fund. Reuters reported that the country will also receive $6 billion in loans from multilateral institutions including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the CAF Andean development bank, according to President Moreno.
John Pilger – Assange Arrest a Warning from History (Zero Hedge – April 15, 2019)
This Zero Hedge article is by guest writer, journalist, and film maker, John Pilger. The glimpse of Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London on April 11,2019 is an emblem of the times. Might against right. Muscle against the law. Indecency against courage. Six policemen manhandled a sick journalist, his eyes wincing against his first natural light in almost seven years. That this outrage happened in the heart of London, in the land of Magna Carta, ought to shame and anger all who fear for “democratic” societies. Assange is a political refugee protected by international law, the recipient of asylum under a strict covenant to which Britain is a signatory. The United Nations made this clear in the legal ruling of its Working Party on Arbitrary Detention. Directed by the quasi-fascists in Trump’s Washington, in league with Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno, a Latin American Judas and liar seeking to disguise his rancid regime, the British elite abandoned its last imperial myth: that of fairness and justice. Imagine Tony Blair dragged from his multi-million pound Georgian home in Connaught Square, London, in handcuffs, for onward dispatch to the dock in The Hague. By the standard of Nuremberg, Blair’s “paramount crime” is the deaths of a million Iraqis. Assange’s crime is journalism: holding the rapacious to account, exposing their lies and empowering people all over the world with truth. The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilization.” The warning is explicit towards journalists. And even if journalists who published WikiLeaks’ leaks are not summoned by an American grand jury, the intimidation of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning will be enough. Real journalism is being criminalized by thugs in plain sight. Dissent has become an indulgence. (Editor’s note: If you would prefer instead to watch a video clip of John Pilger conveying the same general information, it can be found here.)
It Looks Like Wikileaks Has Dumped Everything – (Investment Watch – April 12, 2019)
Here’s a list of some what can be found in the link below: CIA active operations; Coca-cola getting cover after killing 10 kids; Offshore accounts from politician all over the world (find your country); Races crimes against White being cover all around the EU; Merkel avoiding taxes; FBI pedophile symbols; Bilderberg Meetings; Wikipedia Cabal; Chiquita Banana corruption in Colombia. Here is the link.
Increased in Levels of Fukushima-related Contamination in Alaskan Waters as Tokyo Reassures the World All is Well with 2020 Olympics – (Big Wobble – March 29, 2019)
In 2017, A study by the University of Hawaii at Mānoa revealed almost 50% of fish consumed on the islands of Hawai’i were contaminated with caesium 134 the radioactive finger-print of Fukushima. The report also showed that migrating organisms can transport the Fukushima-signature (caesium 134) over significant distances as they showed detectable 134Cs (6.3±1.5 Bq/kg) in Pacific bluefin tuna caught off the California coast only a year after the incident. Another study found caesium 134 in longfin tuna (Albacore) along the western coast of the US just one year after the Fukushima disaster. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be used as the perfect propaganda tool, as a symbol of hope and recovery, however, when the glitter and glam are peeled away, the reality is 300 tons of radioactive water is leaking daily into the Pacific and there is no known technology to fix it. To determine whether or not Olympic athletes might be affected by fallout emanating from the disaster site, Dr Marco Kaltofen and Arnie Gundersen were sponsored by Fairewinds Energy Education to look at Olympic venues during the fall of 2017. They took dirt and dust samples along the Olympic torch route as well as inside Fukushima’s Olympic stadium and as far away as Tokyo. When the Olympic torch route and Olympic stadium samples were tested, they found samples of dirt in Fukushima’s Olympic Baseball Stadium that were highly radioactive, registering 6,000 Bq/kg of Cesium, which is 3,000 times more radioactive than dirt in the US. They also found that the parking lot radiation levels were 50 times higher there than in the US.
Russia Wants to Cut Itself off from the Global Internet. Here’s What That Really Means – (Technology Review – March 11, 2019)
Russia is planning to attempt something no other country has tried before. It’s going to test whether it can disconnect from the rest of the world electronically while keeping the internet running for its citizens. This means it will have to reroute all its data internally, rather than relying on servers abroad. The test is key to a proposed “sovereign internet” law currently working its way through Russia’s government. It looks likely to be eventually voted through and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, though it has stalled in parliament for now. Pulling an iron curtain down over the internet is a simple idea, but it’s a fiendishly difficult technical challenge to get right. It is also going to be very expensive. Not only that, but it has already proved deeply unpopular with the general public. An estimated 15,000 people took to the streets in Moscow in March to protest the law, one of the biggest demonstrations in years. If the law passes, the new law will require the nation’s internet service providers (ISPs) to use only exchange points inside the country that are approved by Russia’s telecoms regulator, Roskomnadzor. These exchange points are where internet service providers connect with each other. It’s where their cabling meets at physical locations to exchange traffic. These locations are overseen by organizations known as internet exchange providers (IXPs). Russia’s largest IXP is in Moscow. MSK-IX, as this exchange point is known, is one of the world’s largest. It connects over 500 different ISPs and handles over 140 gigabits of throughput during peak hours on weekdays. There are six other internet exchange points in Russia, spanning most of its 11 time zones. Many ISPs also use exchanges that are physically located in neighboring countries or that are owned by foreign companies. These would now be off limits. If Russia is seeking inspiration, it need just look east. China has been terrifically successful in shaping the online experience for its citizens to its advantage. However, China decided to exert a high degree of control over the development of the internet while it was at a nascent stage.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
The Internet’s Endless Appetite for Death Video – (New York Times – March 24, 2019)
Referring to the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Facebook said publicly on March 16, “In the first 24 hours we removed 1.5 million videos of the attack globally, of which over 1.2 million were blocked at upload.” Behind those numbers lies a truth: People wanted to see this. People wanted to share this. Elsewhere online, other platforms were also scrambling. Reddit banned a community called WatchPeopleDie, which had been active for the last seven years and attracted more than 400 thousand subscribers, after some of its volunteer moderators, already under increased scrutiny, refused to take down copies of the Christchurch attack. Liveleak, a YouTube-style video site, compared the shooting video to the “glossy promo videos for ISIS” and said that it wouldn’t “indulge” the shooter by hosting his recording. Liveleak, however, was far more frank about its users’ desires. “We fully understand some people will be very unhappy with this decision.” Liveleak isn’t the sort of site where you just happen upon something horrific; horrific videos are what its users, dedicated or casual, come there to see. Its launch corresponded with the shutdown of its predecessor, Ogrish, on Halloween of 2006, at site that had, along with sites like Rotten.com and Stile Project, openly reveled in the prurience of what it was sharing. What were viewers getting out of videos of death? Of murder and massacre? Of car crashes, medical mishaps and workplace accidents? Experts almost universally advise against casting the consumption of violent footage as a fringe phenomenon. In a 2008 study of the Ogrish forums, Sue Tait, a professor formerly at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand, identified four different “spectatorial positions” for viewers. There were those for whom the suffering on display was a source of stimulation, for whom shock and horror amounted to a form of pleasure. There were viewers who expressed vulnerability, sadness or empathy. There were viewers who said they were watching to prepare themselves for something — a deployment, a difficult job — and thought they could usefully desensitize themselves. And finally, there were viewers who seemed to see what they were doing as necessary, as a courageous or somehow countercultural act — against the media, against censorship — or in the service of witnessing some sort of truth. (Editor’s note: This article is a good springboard for your consideration of the place, purpose for, and amount of violent content that you choose to have in your own life.)
Old, Online, and Fed on Lies: How an Aging Population Will Reshape the Internet – (BuzzFeed News – April 3, 2019)
Although many older Americans have, like the rest of us, embraced the tools and playthings of the technology industry, a growing body of research shows they have disproportionately fallen prey to the dangers of internet misinformation and risk being further polarized by their online habits. While that matters much to them, it’s also a massive challenge for society given the outsize role older generations play in civic life, and demographic changes that are increasing their power and influence. People 65 and older will soon make up the largest single age group in the United States, and will remain that way for decades to come, according to the US Census. This massive demographic shift is occurring when this age group is moving online and onto Facebook in droves, deeply struggling with digital literacy, and being targeted by a wide range of online bad actors who try to feed them fake news, infect their devices with malware, and steal their money in scams. Four recent studies found that older Americans are more likely to consume and share false online news than those in other age groups, even when controlling for factors such as partisanship. Other research has found that older Americans have a poor or inaccurate grasp of how algorithms play a role in selecting what information is shown to them on social media, are worse than younger people at differentiating between reported news and opinion, and are less likely to register the brand of a news site they consume information from. Kevin Munger, a political scientist who studies the online habits of older Americans and their effect on politics, painted a stark image of the reality for many older Americans and their relationship with the internet. “They’re alone, relatively wealthy, alienated, and stuck in places where they don’t know anybody and feel angry,” he said. “And they have access to the internet.”
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
There’s a Star in the Milky Way That ‘Shouldn’t Exist’, and It Just Got Even Stranger – (Science Alert – April 5, 2019)
In the halo of the Milky Way, a tiny, ancient star called J0023+0307 drifts about, minding its business. It’s very old indeed, which isn’t uncommon for stars in the halo – but it contains no detectable carbon, which is pretty weird. So weird that the astronomy team who found it even said the star “should not exist.” Now, they have found something else peculiar in J0023+0307. “This primitive star surprises us for its high lithium content, and its possible relation to the primordial lithium formed in the Big Bang,” said astronomer David Aguado of Cambridge University. When the Universe somehow came into being 13.8 billion years ago, only the very lightest elements were forged. That means hydrogen and helium, of course, as well as very small trace amounts of lithium and beryllium. In regular stars, at the temperature of 2.5 million Kelvin that is necessary for stellar hydrogen fusion, lithium is destroyed. Larger stars can retain lithium in their cooler outer atmospheres, but generally speaking, smaller stars don’t contain lithium at all. But metal-poor stars, such as J0023+0307, don’t burn as hot as later stars with higher metal content. This means that their lithium content is the lithium they started out with – so it’s possible that J0023+0307 contains lithium from Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and could shed light on that mysterious event.
How Did Astronomers Capture the First-Ever Close-Up of a Black Hole? – (Live Science – April 10, 2019)
A supermassive black hole sits at the center of galaxy Virgo A (also called Messier 87 or M87), and it’s so large — as wide as our entire solar system — that even 53 million light-years away, it looks as big in the sky as Sagittarius A*, the smaller but still-quite-supermassive black hole at the center of our own galaxy. This announcement is the first result from an effort that began in April 2017, involving every major radio telescope on Earth — collectively termed the Event Horizon Telescope. So, if these objects are so huge and the telescopes were already out there, why did scientists figure out how to image them only recently? And once they figured it out, why did it take two years to produce an image? To begin with, the new image doesn’t reveal the first light humans have detected from a black hole. (And the image is not made from light as we typically imagine it; the electromagnetic waves the telescope spotted are very long radio waves. If you were closer to the black hole, however, you would see a visible-light shadow as well.) What’s new here is that the Event Horizons Telescope imaged the shadow that the black hole creates against the surrounding, glowing matter of the object’s accretion disk (the hot matter falling quickly toward the black hole’s event horizon). That’s exciting to physicists because it confirms some important ideas about what that shadow should look like, which in turn confirms what scientists already believed about black holes. To image the shadow, astrophysicists had to detect those radio waves in unprecedented detail. No single radio telescope could do it. But physicists figured out how to network all of them, all around the Earth, together to act as one giant telescope, as Sheperd Doeleman, a Harvard University astrophysicist and director of the Event Horizon Telescope, said at a National Science Foundation news conference.
Americans Borrowed $88 Billion to Pay for Medical Bills Last Year – (USA Today– April 3, 2019)
Health care costs in the United States are generally measured as being the highest in the world. Last year, many Americans could not afford their health care costs and so borrowed $88 billion to pay for that portion they could not afford. According to a new West Health and Gallup poll, in a new report titled “The U.S. Healthcare Cost Crisis,” the $88 billion was borrowed in the year before the survey, which was done from January 14 to February 20. The poll was conducted via a random group of 3,537 adults over 18 living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Gallup reported that among the 36 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nation members, the United States had the highest health care costs in 2017. The total was $3.7 trillion nationwide, which translates to $10,739 per person. Another major personal financial concern among Americans is that 45% worry that a “major health care event” would leave them bankrupt, the West Health-Gallup survey found. Additionally, in the past year, 41% said they did not visit an emergency room due to cost. Fifteen million Americans “deferred” purchasing prescription drugs in the past year because of costs as well. Finally, 76% believe the problem will become worse because health care costs will rise more over the next two years. However, 48% of Americans think the quality of care in the United States is either the “best in the world” or “among the best.” Ironically, 76% of Americans say they pay too much compared to the quality of care they receive. Gallup points out, however, that this perception of quality is not true when measured against data collected by the OECD that indicate that America lags behind many of the other 36 nations in terms of health care outcomes. For example, the authors of the study pointed out that the United States is 31st out of 36 countries in terms of infant mortality.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
These Chinese Sanitation Workers Have to Wear Location-tracking Bracelets Now – (The Verge – April 6, 2019)
China has quite the reputation for monitoring its citizens, and various parts of the country are constantly figuring out new ways to use gadgets to that end — RFID chips in cars, facial recognition sunglasses, and location-tracking uniforms for students each made headlines in the past year. Now, you can add sanitation workers with GPS-equipped tracking bracelets to the list. As of April 3, sanitation workers in Nanjing, China’s Hexi district are being required to wear GPS-tracking smart bracelets to not only monitor their location at all times, but audibly prod them if they stopped moving for more than 20 minutes. Just one day later, the South China Morning Post reports, public pressure had mounted to the point that the local sanitation company decided to walk things back a bit — but only by removing the most obnoxious part of the system. Now, the bracelets will no longer say “please continue working” if a worker decides to stay in one place, but they’ll reportedly still track workers just the same.
Scientists Build a Machine to Generate Quantum Superposition of Possible Futures – (PhysOrg – April 9, 2019)
A team of researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Griffith University in Australia have constructed a prototype quantum device that can generate all possible futures in a simultaneous quantum superposition. Assistant Professor Mile Gu of NTU Singapore, who led development of the quantum algorithm that underpins the prototype, explains, “These possibilities grow exponentially as we go deeper into the future. For instance, even if we have only two possibilities to choose from each minute, in less than half an hour there are 14 million possible futures. In less than a day, the number exceeds the number of atoms in the universe.” What he and his research group realized, however, was that a quantum computer can examine all possible futures by placing them in a quantum superposition – similar to Schrödinger’s famous cat, which is simultaneously alive and dead. The machine has already demonstrated one application—measuring how much our bias towards a specific choice in the present impacts the future. “Our approach is to synthesize a quantum superposition of all possible futures for each bias.” explains Farzad Ghafari, a member of the experimental team, “By interfering these superpositions with each other, we can completely avoid looking at each possible future individually. In fact, many current artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms learn by seeing how small changes in their behavior can lead to different future outcomes, so our techniques may enable quantum enhanced AIs to learn the effect of their actions much more efficiently.”
Here’s How America Uses Its Land – (Bloomberg – July 31, 2018)
There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure. This article features a brilliant series of graphic displays.
The Forever Wars Go On without Me – (LobeLog – April 3, 2019)
I entered West Point in July 2001, a bygone era of (relative) peace, the moment, you might say, before the 9/11 storm broke. I leave an Army that remains remarkably engaged in global war, patrolling an increasingly militarized world. I’m one of the lucky ones. Leaving the madness of Army life with a modest pension and all of my limbs intact feels like a genuine escape. My experiences there transformed an insecure, aspiring dealer-in-violence into someone who might be as near as a former military man can get to a pacifist. And what the U.S. Army helped me become is someone who, in the end, I don’t mind gazing at in the mirror each morning. Should I thank the Army then? Maybe so, no matter the damage that institution did to my psyche and my conscience over the years. It’s hard, though, to thank a war machine that dealt so much death to so many civilians across significant parts of the planet for making me who I am. And no matter how much I told myself I was different, the truth is that I was complicit in so much of that for so long. So here’s my official goodbye to all that, to a military and a nation engaged in an Orwellian set of forever wars and to the professional foot soldiers who made so much of it all possible, while the remainder of the country worked, tweeted, shopped, and slept (in every sense of the word). (Editor’s note: We recommend this thoughtful essay.)
Would AI Be Better at Governing Than Politicians? – (World Economic Forum – March 29, 2019)
The Center for the Governance of Change at Spain’s IE University polled 2,500 adults in the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands in January. Perhaps most interestingly, a quarter of the respondents said they would prefer AI to guide decisions about governance of their country over politicians. “This mindset, which probably relates to the growing mistrust citizens feel towards governments and politicians, constitutes a significant questioning of the European model of representative democracy, since it challenges the very notion of popular sovereignty,” Diego Rubio, the executive director for IE’s Center for the Governance of Change, said in a statement. Around the world, citizens have expressed a growing disillusionment with democracy, and an increased skepticism that their voice has an impact on political decisions. But algorithmic decisions aren’t a problem-free solution: they can be embedded with the prejudice and bias of their programmers or manipulated to achieve specific outcomes, making the results as potentially problematic as the ones made by humans.
The Real Reason to be Afraid of Artificial Intelligence – (You Tube – December 7, 2017)
In this TED-X talk, Peter Haas, a robotics researcher afraid of robots, invites us into his world of understand where the threats of robots and artificial intelligence lie. Before we get to Sci-Fi robot death machines, there’s something right in front of us we need to confront – ourselves. Peter is the Associate Director of the Brown University Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative. He was the Co-Founder and COO of XactSense, a UAV manufacturer working on LIDAR mapping and autonomous navigation. Prior to XactSense, Peter received both TED and Echoing Green fellowships. He has been a speaker at TED Global, The World Bank, Harvard University and other venues. He holds a Philosophy B.A. from Yale. (Editor’s note: This is not about “killer” robots, but elements such as algorithmic bias of which the human users are unaware and therefore unable to correct or compensate for.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Mind Games: What Magic Reveals about How Our Brains Work – (Guardian – May 30, 2019)
Magic (slight of hand) deals with some of the most fundamental psychological and philosophical questions. What do you believe to be possible? What is consciousness? How much control do you have over your thoughts and your actions? Most magic tricks rely on exploiting surprising and powerful cognitive errors, and magicians have informally learned to understand psychological principles that push our cognitive processes to breaking point. By understanding these conjuring techniques and their underlying cognitive mechanisms, we can then gain valuable knowledge of how the mind works. Magicians and scientists have started to collaborate and are investigating cognitive processes that underpin magic to explore a wide range of psychological phenomena. Research on magic highlights that we are not only wrong about the amount we see, but also about the extent to which we can trust the things we see and remember. As we are learning more about the mind, it has become apparent that most of our experiences are an illusion. Of all of these illusions, understanding the illusion of free will may be most unsettling.
Complex Artifacts Don’t Prove Brilliance of Our Ancestors – (Science Daily – April 1, 2019)
Artifacts such as bows and arrows do not necessarily prove our ancestors had sophisticated reasoning and understanding of how these tools worked, new research suggests. Instead, such items could have emerged from an “accumulation of improvements made across generations” — with each generation understanding no more than the last. The new study, by the University of Exeter and the Catholic University of Lille, does not question humanity’s capacity for “enhanced causal reasoning” — but argues this did not necessarily drive the development of technologies such as bows, boats and houses. Researchers used “chains” of volunteers to tackle an engineering problem, with each volunteer able to learn from the last. Solutions improved with each “generation” — but those at the end of the chain had no more understanding of key concepts than their predecessors. “We tend to explain the existence of complex technologies by saying humans have big brains and superior causal reasoning abilities,” said Dr. Maxime Derex, of the University of Exeter and the Catholic University of Lille. “But — as our study shows — you don’t have to understand how something works in order to improve it.” Dr. Alex Mesoudi, of the University of Exeter, elaborated, “Our experiment indicates that one should be cautious when interpreting complex archaeological materials as evidence for sophisticated cognitive abilities such as reasoning, problem solving or planning, since these abilities are not the sole driver of technological sophistication.”
JUST FOR FUN
130-Year-Old Video Footage Lets You Explore Everyday Life in 1890s Paris – (MMOA – January 2, 2019)
At the turn of the 19th century, France experienced its Belle Époque. During this “beautiful age,” the country saw drastic advancements in art, culture, and technology. One particularly important invention that emerged at this time was the projected motion picture, which Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas and Louis Jean Lumière patented in 1895. With this new technology, the Lumière Brothers captured contemporary life in 19th-century Paris, culminating in priceless footage we can still see today. Shot between 1896 and 1900, this remarkable compilation takes viewers on a journey back in time. In six minutes, it showcases several sites around the French capital, including still-standing landmarks like Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Champs-Élysées, and the ten-year-old Eiffel Tower. In addition to featuring specific locations, it also offers glimpses of daily life.
A FINAL QUOTE
So often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events. And in today already walks tomorrow. – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen