Make your own free website on Tripod.com

URBANICITY.info

WE'RE IN A POPULATION BLOWOUT. BUT HUMANS ARE INGENIOUS SURVIVALISTS AND WILL MANAGE. YES?

WELCOME TO URBANICITY
SENSING URBANITY
LISTENING FOR WORDS
VIEWING IMAGES OF MYSTERY
LOVING MUSIC
READING FOR LIVING
CELEBRATING THE MIND
TRAVELING TO EXPLORE
SEARCHING THE FUTURE
MAKING A DIFFERENCE

censusgraph.jpg

History is no guide to the uncertain future
of ten+ billion people sharing the planet.
The impact of our species is creating a new
geologic epoch. How will our descendants
deal with such unprecedented realities?

Agriculture can destroy our planet.

Nitrogen - Atomic #7, is suspect number one. It is overused in fertilizer. Its compounds cascade through the environment, altering our world in unwelcome ways. It washes into our waterways and escapes into the air to release dangerous greenhouse gases.

The fertilizer industry forces nitrogen into hydrogen and natural gas to create compounds that plants crave. But how much is too much? The use of factory nitrogen now exceeds a hundred million tons a year.

More than half of the nitrogen found in our bodies, muscles, and organ tissues comes directly from factory production.

Wildlife, ground water, lakes, and estuaries are contaminated with toxic algae– contributing to global warming.

Human survival depends on nitrogen for corn, wheat, and rice in amounts that nature alone cannot provide. With seven billion people needing nitrogen-rich protein the future looks bleak.

If our species is to survive, it’s past time to rein in the hugely-profitable fertilizer industry and adapt to growing our food with fewer chemicals.

go to Koch Nitrogen

                                                                                          

A third of the world's food depends on bees-- but they are disappearing at an alarming and accelerating rate.  Learn more at:

www.morethanhoneyfilm

"If bees were to disappear from the globe, mankind would only have four years to live."
- Albert Einstein.

                                                    
 
 

Straddling the future:
 
"This is a different world that we're living in. We are a transformed globe. There's no question about that. China is sitting out there-- and India, and Brazil.
 
"Information technology has made it a smaller planet-- and there are a lot more people. And we have to find a way that we can move forward together."
 
- Tom Brokaw

                                                                  

upwithchrishayes.jpg

Chris Hayes offered smart political commentary on his weekend program "Up with Chris Hayes" on MSNBC.  His new gig is in prime time and called "All In." Guests  continue to offer deep expertise and are  well-spoken and on point.  Hayes  delivers carefully-crafted essays on a timely, relevant issue. Here is an example: his thoughts on conflicting opinions about climate change.

more Chris Hayes on Climate Change

                                                                               

larrypage.jpg
Google's Larry Page

Larry Page, CEO of Google and co-inventor of the search engine that put world info at the tip of our fingers– is a wildly ambitious guy. Always dissatisfied with the pace of Google's progress, he operates at what he calls "10+." Not happy with ten percent hikes, he aspires to a thousand percent product advancements.

"You can’t just tweak code," he says. "You have to re-think problems entirely and explore the edges of possibility." And when he’s doing that he’s having fun.

At the University of Michigan, Page was in the LeaderShape program which taught a healthy regard for the impossible. It notched up expectations and fueled imaginations. In grad school at Stanford he latched on to the moon shot "ten-plus thesis" which makes sci-fi real and part of our lives. He’s been there, done that– and is always on the prowl for the next "10+."

go to Fortune Magazine on Page

                                                                               

Will there be a second chance for planet earth?
 
We're quickly approaching a state shift in the earth's biosphere.
 
Lead author for the paper on 'the shift'  in Nature Journal of Science, is Anthony Barnosky, Ph.D. at Cal Berkeley.
 
He hopes there will be a second chance for our planet, saying "Earth will reach a tipping point as we put more and more pressure on our life-support system, crops, fisheries, and clean water-- all the diversity of species that enable us to be here.
 
 Our planet could be plunged into unchartered territory from which there is no return." But he is a scientist who rejects despair. "My bottom lines is that I want the world in 50 to 100 years to be at least as it is now for my children and their children.
 
"It's not too late to change course. We are a clever species. We have the solutions to these kinds of problems in our grasp."
 
What are we waiting for?

                                                                  

globalmoneycp.jpg

Will we ever have a global currency?

Coins and banknotes of a place are one of the few remaining touch-points of national identity left in our increasingly digital world.
 
Stock exchanges are consolidating. European countries adopted the Euro, and neighboring Turkey, Poland, and the Czech Republic would like to join up.
 
The currencies of smaller countries seem less relevant-- even detrimental to global economic expansion. Oceania uses the Australian dollar. It would do better with a regional currency. The trend is  toward greater uniformity. Ecuador, El Salvador, and Panama have already adopted the U.S. dollar.
 
In the 1940's John Maynard Keynes threw out the idea of a supernational currency called the Bancor. The idea parallels the multi-national language of Esperanto-- a common tongue for all. Supporters of Esperanto believe it could someday reduce internatinal miscommunication and promote world peace.
 
In a Pew Research Center suvey, 40 percent of Americans expect to see a shift to a global currency some day. These ideas, as well as cashless societies,  are explored in David Wolamn's book "The End of Money."
 

                                                 

lightbulbcp.jpg
Out-dated bulb.

Energy efficiency: the backlash effect:

We’re kidding ourselves if we think that buying highly efficient and low-energy products affects global warming. So says David Owen, author of ‘The Conundrum’. He argues that high efficiency makes matters worse because we use too much of it.

Consider coal: British economist William Stanley Javons wrote "The Coal Question" in 1865. He noted that making energy cheaper and more efficient spurred it use. When steam engines became more efficient, the use of coal for steam production expanded. Cheaper energy spurred the manufacturing of more steam engines.

Consider cars: As engines have become more efficient, consumers demand cars loaded with more electrical features. The demand for air conditioning soared when it became more efficient. Consider lighting: The huge advances in lighting and bulbs has driven up the number of things we light up (even sneakers).

"There’s almost nothing you can do that doesn’t require power," says Owen. But Owen has plenty of prestigious detractors. Americans spend relatively little on energy– about 9 percent of the GDP– and spends the savings on other things.

The bottom line is this– buy a lot of low-energy light bulbs. Just don’t turn them all on at the same time. Greater efficiencies require greater awareness of the downside in wasted energy.

                                                            

The nation that leads in supercomputing has got the edge.

japansccp.jpg
Japan's K-computer

chinaspcp.jpg
China's Tianhe1A

usasccp.jpg
America's BlueGene/L

The U.S. used to have the fastest computers. Now we rank 12th.
 
"BlueGene/L" at Lawrence Livermore National Lab has been surpassed by China's "Tianhe-1A," (using U.S. technology) which can do 2.5 quaudrillion operations per second-- five times faster than ours.
 
China's surge is a 'Sputnik' moment for industrialists, scientists and leaders who are well aware of America's vulnerability in the 'world power' competition.
 
Since the 'Tianhe-1A' was unveiled in 2011, Japan has surged ahead with its 'K Computer,' now the fastest in the world-- four times more powerful as China's behemoth. Our military doesn't like to play 'catchup.' Bruce Goodwin, head of the Lawrence Livermore weapons program, says "If we don't win this race we're screwed." Ooops.

go to Lawrence Livermore

                                                    

Are we Oversharing?
facebooklogo.jpg

Facebook user population has topped 700 million users. Aggregated in one place they would form the world’s third-largest country.

On the web since 2004, it’s the creation of Mark Zuckerberg for users to come together, share their lives, and make emotional investments with each other. The phenomenon has ramped up ‘personal openness’ to the point of a major cultural shift in human communications.

When the 'Beacon' program was interjected, users were prompted to share more, divulge more, so more info can be collected on users’ and their ‘friends’ online purchases for third-party sites to aid target advertising.

When users protested perceived ‘deceptions,’ CEO Zuckerberg apologized and re-tweeked the site. But the Electronic Privacy Information Center  (EPIC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Members want privacy settings– and they want to know where their personal data is going. They’re unsettled seeing the array of default privacy settings come and go.

With the latest default, even non-Facebook people get peeks into the user’s lives. And then there are the photos. Facebook has about 50 billion unique images in it’s ‘library’ and collects about a billion more photos every week.

Members need to keep a watchful eye on the company’s insatiable appetite for collecting more user lives in order to boost ad revenue.

The site scans member’s address books, sucks up our identities, and trolls feelings and buying preferences and inclinations– which translate into more targeted ad placements.

Facebook's revenue comes from advertising-- and it has led the way with  targeted web ads  based upon specific interests of its members. Every ‘click’ is a data point for advertisers. Adding ‘clicks’ to friends adds data points to the member’s page. If a user buys movie tickets on Fandango, Facebook spreads the news. With the continuous news feed about ‘friend’s’ activities there is more third-party info for ad placement.

With such a huge membership, Facebook has managed to appear on many hundreds of major sites, New York Times, Huffington Post, Salon, etc. The little "F" click endorsement will transfer content onto user’s page. A new ploy is placing "I like" clicks all over the web.

The company’s aim is to get members ‘hooked’ on the site. I wants to be indispensable to user’s lives. Since 70 percent of users live outside the U.S.A., Facebook has offices in major cities worldwide and the site is translated into 70 languages. Headquarters is in Palo Alto, where CEO Zuckerberg, now a 27-year-old billionaire runs the show and speaks with pride of his company as the source of bringing the people of the world together to share their thoughts and emotional status.

In his mind the surge of personal sharing and mingling of attitudes and mindsets fosters empathy and breaks down barriers that lead to conflict and wars.  In that view, loss of privacy may be a worthwhile price to pay for peace.

go to Electronic Privacy Info Center

zuckerberginbarcp.jpg
Mark Zuckerberg, 'goint about his business.' Photo: Martin Schoeller. Click to enlarge.

go to Martin Schoeller's portraits of Zuckerberg and his executive team, for Time Magazine.

Good read: "The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World," by David Kirkpatrick.

more from Kirkpatrick on how Zuckerberg changed the world

zuckerbergatcomputercp.jpg
Mark at work, preparing for a public stock offering.

                                                

Life is too short to dwell on the inconsequential.
 
'There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past.'
- George Carlin.
 
'I never think of the future-- it comes soon enough.'
- Albert Einstein.
 
'I am captivated more by dreams of the future than be the history of the past.
- Thomas Jefferson
 
'Tomorrow is just a future yesterday.'
- Craig Ferguson
 
'I would feel optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent lesss time proving that he can outwit nature-- and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.'
- E.B. White
 
'I believe the future is only the past again, entered through another gate.'
- Arthur Wing Pinero

                                                          

Back to the future.
 
Computer scientist Danny Hills, in 1996:
 
"Today, on the Internet the main event is the Web. A lot of people think that the Web is the Internet, and they're missing something. The Internet is a brand-new fertile ground where things can grow, and the Web is the first thing that grew there. But the stuff growing there is in a very primitive form. The Web is the old media incorporated into the new medium. It both adds something to the Internet and takes something away. Many people sense this, but don't want to think about it because the change is too profound."
 

                                                       

It's about time.
New world order emerged from the G-20 summit -- a discussion of key issues in the global economy-- and new elevated status for India, China, and Brazil.

go to the G20

                                               

What is the future of capitalism?
 
The BBC series "Aftershock" is a comprehensive account of the global economic collapse-- and predicts that the market crisis will happen again. Start with "The Day That Lehman Died."

go to "Aftershock"

                                               

When will the world's economy recover?
 
The International Monetary Fund  (IMF) says the worst global recession since WW2 shows signs of a sluggish recovery.
 
The G-20 is represented by 19 countries; the 20th is the European Central Bank.

go to the G-20

go to the IMF

                                                

obamasblackberry.jpg
Barack Obama with his BlackBerry.
At last--
a president engaged in technology.
 
President Obama is a strong proponent of internet neutrality, broadband expansion, diversity of media outlets, and investment in technology research. Wireless communication upgrades are a big part of his stimulus package. In short, he hopes to broadband the economy.
 
He wants to unleash the wireless spectrum and deploy next-generation broadband penetration and internet access. For starters, he wants the FCC to redefine 'broadband,' which is currently at an astonishing low level of 200 kbps.
 
His choice fot FCC chairman, Julious Genachowski, is on the same wave-length, having drafted Obama's media policy agenda. As former chief counsel to FCC chairman Reed Hundt, and a progressive platform, he should be a strong advocate for the public interest.
 

                                                

stevenchudarrenhauckcp.jpg
Dr. Steven Chu. Photo: Darren Hauck.

"The climate change problem is at least equal in magnitude to World War II." - Steven Chu, Energy Secretary and Nobel prize winner for physics.

go to U.S. Department of Energy

                                               

While bio-technologists make gigantic leaps, public decision-makers dread colossal pitfalls.

powerwalkingcp.jpg

Power walking plus.
 
The "knee brace" this guy is wearing can harvest as much as 13 watts of power from the energy of his strides-- enough to charge 30 phones simultaneously.
 
Energy is all around us, and in us. Using biomechanical energy we can generate our own electricity to power our cell phones and PDAs.
 
At Simon Fraser University, in Canada, scientists were looking for alternatives to electrical outlets for charging. Studying the human gait, they noticed that at the end of a walking stride, a person must actually exert energy to slow the leg.
 
When the brace's generator is engaged, it helps slow the leg for the wearer, capturing energy in much the same way that a hybrid car harvests power from braking.
 
                                                    

bing.jpg
Microsoft calls "Bing" a decision engine, whereas it's an overwrought, geeky search tool cluttered with groups, blog comments, and ads. Silverlight is required to access its archives. Bing replaces the clunky "Live Search," which failed to ding Google. The new version may go the way of the company's Edsel-like "Bob." Decide for yourself.

go to Bing and decide

                                                       

Values shape institutions. In turn, institutions propagate values. This cycle ran smoothly in the industrial age. In our post-industrial age, institututions are failing, values are crumbling, and society is rife with dysfunctions and disconnects. This is the gist of Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s latest book, the breathlessly enthusiastic "Revolutionary Wealth."

Here is a snippet from Alvin Toffler’s remarks on C-Span’s author interview program ‘After Words.’

"America is decadent. At the same time, it’s post-decadent. We’re initiating new ways of getting along together. We're inventing new relationships in business, politics, and so on. The consequence is that we're totally torn. Many of the values we learned as kids are being attacked or ignored. There are extreme attempts to experiment with new modes of doing things. Some are wonderful; some are criminal. We don’t know how it will all shake out.

"Every organization– a church, business, or bowling group– reflects some values in the community– and propagate those values as well. The malfunction of institutions is leading to the breakdown of long-held values. People don’t know what to believe and what to think.

"We can’t have new technology without changes in culture, society, values, and every other dimension of life. And we can’t have changes in value systems without affecting technology and the ways politics and business are constructed-- they’re all interrelated.

"In our books, Heidi and I try to synthesize all this to help the reader see how he or she fits into and contributes to a new civilization around the world in which we will become dramatically richer."

                                

Note from archaeologist William Rathje:
 
Myth: we must save the earth.
 
Frankly, the earth doesn't need to be saved. Nature doesn't give a hoot if human beings are here or not.
 
The planet has survived cataclysmic and catastrophic changes for millions upon millions of years. Over that time, it is widely believed, 99-percent of all species have come and gone while the planet has remained.
 
Saving the environment is really about saving OUR environment. It's about making it safe for ourselves, our children, and the world as we know it.
 
If  we saw the issue as saving ourselves, there would be a  much greater motivation and commitment to actually do it.
 

 
                                       
 
"If we knew what we were doing we wouldn't call it reSEARCH."
- Albert Einstein

                                             

Who's optimistic?

Science is fundamentally optimistic. Science figures out how things work and thus can make them work better. Much of the news is either good news or news that can be made good, thanks to ever deepening knowledge and ever more efficient and powerful tools and techniques. Science, on its frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever better put.

"Big, deep, and ambitious questions-- breathtaking in scope. Keep watching the World Question Center." (New Scientist).

"Fantastically stimulating. It's like crack cocaine of the thinking world. Once you start, you can't stop thinking about that question." (BBC)

The farther backward you can look the farther to the future you can see.
 
                                
 

Most Useful Websites
 
We all want to get the most out of our internet connectivity. The magazine PC WORLD found 47 winners of the most useful sites for 2007. They also found the best widgets-- those small desktop applications that pull data from web sites-- and mashups, which combine two sites for a better result. Check it out.

                                    

2008 Digital-Life-Design Conference in Munich covered a wide swath on innovation, science, and culture:

Did you know that the U.S.
is fiber-optic deficient?
 
We rank 16th in the world in broadband penetration.
Yes, we are poky for sure.
 
For example-- U.S. consumers pay nearly twice as much as the Japanese for connections that are 20 times as slow. That's because Japan built its "information super highway." Our giant media industries said they would build ours-- but they didn't. It never happened. Why?

radiocollectioncp.jpg
Let many voices be heard.
 
The public airwaves should serve the public. Alternatives to corporate media that air a diversity of opinions enrich our democracy and culture.
 
Many "empty spaces" on the radio dial are available for citizen-driven media. Full-power radio stations are clogged by Clear Channel. But communities large and small can acquire licenses for low-power stations. Grassroots groups from Alaska to Arkansas have countered media consolidation, one frequency at a time. Learn more.

                                           

Words of vision:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
 
Hate multiplies hate; violence multiplies violence. And toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.
 
The chain reaction of evil, hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars, must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the darkness of annihilation.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

ruggedlaptop.jpg
First "One laptop per child" prototype

From the MIT Media Lab comes a working prototype of a rugged $100 laptop computer that can display years worth of textbooks and wirelessly connect children in poor countries with the rest of the world.
 
It's the result of the "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC) project, begun in January, 2005. They're still working to get the most for the least. One option is a hand-pull generator. The goal is to net ten minutes of power for every minute of pulling.
 
OLPC is also considering a treadle-pedal, and is figuring out how to harvest power from keystrokes or using fly-wheels that produce power when a user carries the laptop.
 
Designed for young children in tough environments, it's water and dust resisting, with a rubber bumper and a sheet of transparent plastic over the display. The screen is readable in sunlight, and power is saved by using LEDs  instead of flourescent backlights.
 
Instead of a hard drive it uses solid-state memory. The Linux-based operating system and power-saving chips is a study in economy. Thailand will test 500 units this year, with an eye to buying a million. Argentina, Brazil, and Nigeria are waiting in line.
 
                            

J. Bradford DeLong, an econmist at UC Berkeley,  notes that global income per person grew nearly tenfold during the 20th century.  No other century comes close. In the 19th century, it merely trebled.
 
These stats are a fair reflection of the speed with which the world has been changing for the last 200 years, even if they tell only part of the story of economic and social change.
 
We live in revolutionary times, but so did our parents, and their parents-- indeed, the last ten generations.
 
They handled it, and so will we.
 
                                              

Economic revolutions.
 
Robert J. Gordon of Northwestern University contrasts the Internet to five truly revolutionary technologies: electricity, the internal-combustion engine, bulk chemical processing, information technologies such as the telephone and the telegraph, and indoor plumbing. These clusters of innovation set a high benchmark for anyone claiming that change is about to accelerate today.
 
History also tells us that new technologies often outpace social and organizational change but have little effect until society catches up.
 
Paul A. David, economic historian at Stanford, has shown how much had to bend or break before electrification became economically significant.
 
There was a huge shock to the labor market in the 30 years following Edison's illumination of the streets of New York, and a reorganization of American factories encompassing everything from architecture to employment contracts. We can draw lessons from these stories for today's communications technologies.
 
 
 
 

androidcp.jpg
Android mimics P.K. Dick's facial features and expressions.

The Bot is covered in a polymer called Frubber that looks and moves like human skin. It has 36 'servomotors' to mimic facial expressions. Motion-tracking machine vision allows 'him' eye contact with passersby, and speech softwares enables complex conversations.

                                                

"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia."
- Charles Schultz

scifyinseattle.jpg
New Sci-Fi museum in Seattle.

more on "Sci-Fi in Seattle"

                                                   

Breaking news about Googlezon!
from the Museum of Media History
 
Last year, journalists Matt Thompson and Robin Sloan put together a nifty little flash show called "EPIC 2014," produced by their fictional "Museum of Media History." They posed some not-implausible notions on the amalgamation of news in our digital future. Their provocative mock documentary is now updated as "EPIC 2015." 
 
Check it out to get their sly slant on things.

dnaman.jpg
Illustration, Scientific American January 2006 cover.

In less than a decade, DNA readings will be fast, cheap and widely accessible. This will revolutionize research and bring about an era of truly personalized medicine.
 
Genome-reading equipment will be radically miniaturized to sequence millions of molecules simultaneously. Low-cost sequencing will raise new questions about how abundant personal genetic information is best used-- and by whom. Will it be available for misuse by insurers, employers, law-enforcement agents, friends, neighbors, commercial interests or criminals?
 
"No one can predict what living in an era of personal genomics will be like until the waters are tested. That is why my colleagues and I recently launched the Personal Genome Project (PGP).
 
"It's a natural next step after the Human Genome Project. We hope to explore possible rewards and risks of personal genomics by recruiting volunteers to make their own genome and phonome data openly available to public scrutiny."
 
- George M. Church
 
                            

Before looking ahead, know history.
an interview with Victor Davis Hanson:

If circumstance stripped away the thin veneer of social constructs, constrictions, and constraints– of what would be capable? What if it came down to ‘kill or be killed?’ How would we act if under imminent threat of death on the battlefront? Would hidden demons emerge? Are we a species of warmongers? Is it just human nature?

Victor Davis Hanson, in his new (16th) book "A War Like No Other," about the Peloponnesian War, sees parallels between that war, the world wars of the 20th century, and the war with Iraq. A Professor of History at Stanford University, he has spent his life studying the results of human behavior and has concluded that human nature hasn’t changed a bit since the beginning of recorded history.

Here are some of his comments during a freewheeling interview with C-SPAN from the Stanford Campus.

"Until man’s nature changes you have to assume there are people who are not 'products of the enlightenment.’ By that I mean that you can’t reason with men like Osama Bin Laden or Slobodan Milosevic or Alexander the Great as you could with an angry editor or a college dean. They don’t read memos. And so society is threatened by them, with the specter of everything from gas to torture to beheading.

On our 'therapeutic culture’:

"By the term I mean the optimism that grew up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries– the notion that with better government or better education or increased affluence that we could remove certain pathological elements of human nature. Whether it was the United Nations, League of Nations, or World Court of The Hague– all of this idealism might be able to overt and avoid repeating the terrors of our past. Not true. We can look to our past, to history, and learn from our mistakes, but that doesn’t alter our natures.

"Human nature is a constant. It’s almost like water. We can’t change it. Each generation can change the quantity of the essence (pump more water or restrain it) but we shouldn’t think that we’ve altered the rules of the game.

"It’s important that we be aware of "presentism," the notion that we in this nation in the year 2005 are unique, smarter, better, or more humane than the people of Greece. We’re simply not.

"The tragic view, going back to the Greeks, is that human nature is set. It’s fixed– and we’d do better to accept that and try to create structures that have been with us for 2500 years such as deterrents to war. We can assume there will always be a Hussein or Hitler in our midst. We need to be ready for that– rather than think that with more education or more money or counseling or with more understanding and empathy we can temper their behavior.

"Almost everything that we see today, whether it’s the kidnaping of diplomats, suicide bombers, cutting off people’s limbs, dirty wars, worries about biological warfare– all of that took place in the Peloponnesian War-- and these problems were discussed, analyzed, and addressed by the people of that time.

"All the Bin Ladens have precedents in history. What the historian tries to do is bring these issues to create a paradigm so we can learn from the past. We bring forth the evidence and hope to evoke a discussion.

Hansen is optimistic about the future.

"If you can create enough deterrence to war and convince would-be enemies that it’s going to be a very dangerous thing to attack Europe or the United States, then I think we can have peace. Statesmen have to make it clear that there is a line that cannot be crossed. Churchill tried to do this– in vain-- before WW2. But after that at least we got the idea that the United States was not going to disarm– even though that goes against the ‘therapeutic culture.'

"I'm optimistic because at this time in civilization we have more democracies than we’ve ever had before-- in Asia, Africa, Turkey, Israel, and Afghanistan– reform in Lebanon and elections (albeit corrupt) in Egypt. We’re starting to see that people in the Middle East are not very different from us. They are attempting to create a democratic consensus. We now have about 160 democracies. Full-fledged democracies don’t attack each other. So perhaps we’ll be on the same page. Democracies can adjudicate their differences and vent."

 

go to Professor Hansons website: Private Papers

                                        

lakewinnipegiceburg.jpg

While climate change is the most formidable challenge of our time-- most politicians remain eerily silent. It appears to be the elephant in the room that is not noticed. Congressman Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, has had passed the only climate-related bill to date.
 
Although our generation is creating irreversible changes in the earth's climate-- ones that will exacerbate into near futility for centuries to come, you'd never know it watching the U.S. Congress ignore this most egregious global problem. It's almost a mantra that if you don't confront its seriousness, it will go away. Or maybe it's assumed that the world's creator will fix it for us with an ultimate miracle.
 
Truth is that the cold is getting colder, the hot is getting hotter, the dry is getting drier, and the wet is getting wetter.
 
Cities and states are more attuned to the crisis. Mayors, Governors, scientists, and civic leaders are alarmed. Here are two examples:
 
"There have been a series of extreme weather incidents. That's not a political statement; it's a factual statement. Anyone who says there's not a dramatic change in weather is denying reality."
- Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, and former mayor of New York City: "In just 14 months two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods-- something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable."
 
Below you'll find some links to excellent sites on climate change.

                                                                       

asimovcp.jpg
Writer Isaac Asimov.

"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."
- Isaac Asimov

                                                       

Wired Magazine editors have come up with 7 'massive ideas" that can change the world.
 
1. Make airplanes rechargeable.
2. Fuel the planet with Micro-machines.
3. Spray Wi-Fi spots on everything.
4. Turn deserts into power plants.
5. Put digital displays in your eyes.
6. Declare war on incoming asteroids.
7. Build skyscrapers out of diamonds.

                                                                  

Here’s a ‘heads up’ from Fareed Zakaria:

Yes, these are tough times, but I'm less gloomy than most.

Remember the fears after the financial crisis began in late 2007? In the following year economic production fell as much as it did in the first year of the Great Depression. Equity prices and global trade actually fell more. Yet no global depression followed.

Or remember the period after 9/11 when most experts predicted that we had entered an age of terrorism. In fact al-Qaeda has been battered over the past decade. Why?

In both those cases human beings responded to the crisis. Governments around the world cooperated and acted. When we look at our problems– economic slowdowns, debt, terrorism, climate change– keep in mind that these problems are real,  just as our human reaction and response to them will  be real.

We’re living in an age of astonishing progress. The world is at peace. The number of people who have died as a result of war, civil war, and terrorism is down 50% from the 1990's– and 75% down from the preceding decades of the cold war.

This political stability has allowed the creation of a single global economic system in which countries around the world are participating and flourishing.

Even in this period of slow growth, the global economy as a whole will grow 10-20% faster this year than it did a decade ago– and 60% faster than it did two decades ago– and five times as fast as it did three decades ago.

The United Nations estimates that poverty has been reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years. Much of that reduction has taken place in the last 30 years. The average Chinese person, for example, is ten times richer than he or she was 50 years ago– and lives 25 years longer.

Life expectancy throughout the world has risen dramatically. We gain five hours of life expectancy every day– without even exercising.

Through recession and recovery, technology continues to gallop ahead, touching new fields. Consider that today’s new smart phone has more computing power than the Apollo Space Capsule– or that the human genome, for example, is now being sequenced at a pace faster than anyone imagined possible.

A third industrial revolution involving material science and customization of manufacturing is yet in its infancy and all those fields are beginning to intersect to produce new opportunities that we can’t  yet foresee.

In almost all of our successes, one feature stands out: cooperation. Whether in the global financial crisis, or against al-Qaeda, or in fighting cancer– when we come together and put aside petty differences, the results are astounding.

I’m not urging complacency— far from it. We should worry about the terrible problems we face. But in so focusing our energies, talents, and attention we will help solve those problems. Let’s get started.

go to Fareed Zakaria on GPS

                                                                

Creative Destruction?
 
When economist Milton Friedman was asked about this he said: "Human wants and needs are infinite, and so there will always be new industries; there will always be new professions. This is the great sweep of economic history.
 
"When the vast majority of the workforce was in agriculture, it was impossible to imagine what all those people would do if they didn't have agricultural jobs.
 
"Then a hundred years later the vast majority of the workforce was in industrial jobs, and we were similarly blind. It was impossible to imagine what workers would do without those jobs.
 
"Now the majority are in information jobs. If the computers get smart enough, then what?  I'll tell you: The 'then what' is whatever we invent next."

                                                                     

The Edge challenges leading thinkers to name their favorite explanation. Go take a stab at it.

edge2007.jpg

Edge Question for 2013:
 
What should we be worried about?
 

go to "The Edge" Annual Question

more Edge Questions from previous years

go to the Edge at the Guardian Newspaper

                                                  

artificialcountingcp.jpg

Artificial Intelligence is getting intuitive.

The next stage of AI is teaching computers to teach themselves. AI pioneers have already simulated the parietel cortex of the brain.

Computers are learning new stuff with the neural networks and can now make 'educated guesses' and estimates.

These more sophisticated 'brains' have a retina-like layer that fires up when it 'sees' images. Without being taught how to count, they can make 'guesstimates' of the number of objects they perceive.

go to Wireframe

go to Wiki

                                                        

Riding the Wave.

"Creative production is remaking civilization."So says internet guru Clay Shirky in his book "Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age."

Here’s the gist: since the post-war boom, we've been transformed from passive consumers to active collaborators. In a newly connected world, we've stored up a surfeit of intellect and unused energy that Shirky calls "cognitive surplus."

With the surge of  interactive media our surplus abundance is  returning us to a spirit of collaboration that was the norm until the early 20th century.

Shirky believes that this new openness will spur a dramatic rise in innovation and increased transparency that will boost productivity and transform the ways we live. 

Our daily lives will be improved as we learn to exploit our goodwill and free time as never before.

Clay Shirky teaches at NYU and researches the interrelated effects of our social and technological networks. He writes about open source software, web economics, and social computing. He cites Wikipedia and Ushahid, among others, as examples of sharing and connectivity.

go to Clay Shirky videos

                                                 

Al Gore writes of truths and consequences that are far more than inconvenient.

ourchoicealgoreoffice.jpg

As 'impact information' on climate change advances, the outcomes of inaction pose evermore dire consequences.
 
When will we truly grasp the import of the most drastic predicament for humans in the 21st century?
 
Will we take upon us the responsibility for the welfare of those who come after us?

"If we just took the benefits of all the work and sacrifices of previous generations and fully exploited them in our lifetime-- and then gave the back of our hand to those who come after us-- it would be the most immoral act of any generation that has ever lived."
- Al Gore

"This is a moral issue. The scientific community is saying to everyone in the world that we can't continue to put 90 million tons of the global warming pollution into the atmosphere every day without risking an unprecedented catastrophe that could threaten the future of human civilization."
- Al Gore

Saving our planet is still a reality within reach... but the clock is ticking.
 
Al Gore's "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis" is erudite, reasoned, and authoritive.
 
It's also densely packed,exhaustive, and may be TMI for most readers. It's like ten books in one. His target audience appears to be lawmakers and business leaders who are in the position to initiate laws, policies, and global treaties. He has pored his heart and knowledge into this treatise for human survival on planet earth. Let's hope that decision-makers take him seriously and act on the information.
 
Gore's two questions:
 
"Not too many years from now, a new generation will look back at us in this hour of choosing and ask one of two questions.
 
"Either they will ask 'What were you thinking? Didn't you see the entire North Polar ice cap melting before your eyes? Did you not care?'
 
"Or they wil ask instead, 'How did you find the moral courage to rise up and solve a crisis so many said was impossible to solve?'
 
"We must choose which of these questions we want to answer, and we must give our answer now-- not in words, but in actions."
 

more on "Our Choice"

go to Repower America

                                             

newstarscp.jpg
Massive stellar grouping of young stars.

Stars waiting to happen.
 
The blue color is light from the hottest, most massive stars. The green color is from the glow of oxygen. The red is from fluorescing hydrogen. Together they sculpt a gasous terrain.
 
This grouping, called R-136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Milky Way Galaxy.
 
Many of the diamond-like ice blue stars are among the most massive stars known. Several are 100 times more massive than our sun. In a few million years, they will pop off like a string of firecrackers, as supernovas. And when the winds hit dense walls of gas, shocks will generate new waves of star births.
 
The  image is from Hubble's wide camera 3, spanning about a hundred light-years. The nebula is close enough to earth that the camera can resolve individual stars. With such detail, astronomers can discern the star's birth and evolution in time.
 
 

go to Hubble Photo Gallery

                                                      

And 100 years ago today....
 
Knowledge of past centuries help us ponder the possibilities of the next. We are the preamble. Specific dates in history are interesting references in conversation or in framing a speech. On the website 'Today in History' you can plug in any day-- December 24th for instance, and see the myriad activities that happened in previous years. It's worth a look.

go to 'Today in History'

                                                    

MADE IN CHINA
 
Thoughts of a savvy techie after visiting the million-employee Foxconn plant in Shenzhen which churns out iPhones, iPads, and all the rest...
 
"I know the planet cannot bear my lifestyle multiplied by 7 billion individuals.
 
"I believe this understanding is shared, if only subconsciously, by almost everyone in the Western World.
 
"When that thin, taut cord that connects our consumption to the nameless millions who make our lifestyle possible snaps-- even for a moment-- the gulf we find ouselves peering into-- a yawning, endless future of emptiness on a squandered planet-- becomes too much to bear."
 
- Joel Johnson, editor of Gizmodo.com

go to Gizmodo

                                           

goleman.jpg
Dan Goleman, Ph.D. Photo: Paul Shoul

Dan Goleman was a science editor at the New York Times before his book "Emotional Intelligence" soared to best seller lists in 1996. After that came "Social Intelligence," which he calls the interpersonal side (our social WiFi) of emotional intelligence.

His newest is "Ecological Intelligence," an urgent plea for ‘radical transparency’ of the environmental impacts of all the stuff we buy, consume, and throw out.

He urges consumers to know the hidden impacts of their purchases and says "What we buy can change everything." And the smugness of "going green" with a trendy bleached cotton tote bag doesn't do it.

He delves into manufacturing, commerce, and industry and explores information science and neuro-economics. He immerses himself in the emerging field of industrial ecology, analyzing electronic tagging, CO2 emissions from every industrial process and the flow of global phosphorous.

Conclusions? Most of us slip into a grand self-deception regarding our individual net effect on the planet. We are collective victims of a sleight of hand– helplessly unaware of the true impacts and provenance of our purchases.

We need to know the "hidden connections between our human activity and nature’s systems– and the subtle complexities of their intersections."

Everything we buy has an ecological history. Each of us could shape a more positive future if we had solid information about the toxicity, energy use, chemicals, social impacts involved in creating, transporting, storing and ultimately disposing of the goods we buy.

We all "add up," and our decisions, large and small have huge consequences. We should be aware of invisible threats to our own health and that of our extended world. We would then raise demand for environmentally safe merchandise.

Goleman’s book is full of detective work and "aha" moments. He learns about "LCA"– the Life Cycle Analysis of products, showing ramifications that are usually out of sight and out of mind. He shows how disparate items such as toys, shampoo, and paper deplete natural resources and increase chemical pollution and global warming.

He knows that we can’t consume our way out of our global dilemma, says our collective efforts as aware, knowledgeable consumers could lessen the problem and perhaps forestall the damage.

What's your ecological intelligence? What's your toxicity rating? Find our at these sites:

go to the Good Guide of ecological consumerism

go to Dan Goleman

go to Bill Moyers' interview with Goleman

                                                  

oneworldmap.jpg
Geology is falling into place.

The earth is coming together.
 

Geologists from different countries have long battled the problem of disparate definitions, standards, and interpretation of data. So the ultimate ‘rockers’ in 94 nations (and counting) have initiated a dynamic digital geological map and common programming language to be used internationally.  It’s the online cooperative venture of the International Union of Geological Sciences. "One Geology" is the 'united nations' for earth scientists.

go to One Geology

                                                    

vanjonesrichardhume.jpg
Van Jones is spearheading a green economy.

In "The Green Collar Economy," Van Jones links the solutions for poverty, the energy crisis, and global warming.

With imminent ecological catastrophe, huge divides between poverty and wealth, and an economy in a precipitous dive– Jones has a detailed roadmap to solve this triple threat by re-imagining FDR’s New Deal as a Green New Deal. He calls this the third wave of environmentalism: the investment wave.

His book is a rallying call to save the planet, reduce our dependency on budget-busting fossil fuels, and create millions of new jobs in America. We can start by investing in buses, light rail cars, and mass-transit projects.

Tens of thousand of heros will be needed for the third wave to succeed. And it will require government to be a smart, supportive, and reliable partner (neither a 'nanny' or 'bully) to Americans at every level.

Jones shows how solutions for the survivability of our planet are also the best solutions for our sustained health and economic well-being.

In Van's latest book, "Rebuild the Dream," he shares his thoughts about working in the Obams White House, creating jobs, helping debt-burdened students and public employees that are "being thrown under the bus."

go to Van Jones

                                                       

Department of Conventional Wisdom:

Things are getting worse faster than we can lower our standards.

Future tense? And how!

                                                     

Our Aging Problem:
 
In 2012 the world's population will top 7 billion. Developed countries will have to face the ramifications of a sharp decline in the ratio of working-age adults to the elderly.

'Transparency' for Citizens of the Internet
 
In May 2009, the Obama administration launched Data.gov. Its purpose is to increase public access to high-value, machine -readable data generated by the Executive Branch and all federal agencies.
 
The site encourages programmers and others to make new applications and mashups based on the data. However, you don't need programming expertise to obtain information. If you need to do complex searches, there's a tutorial to get you started.
 
Discover. Participate. Engage.

                                                 

kermitcp.jpg
Kermit, copyright: Jim Hensen.

"It's not easy being green. But I think it's what I want to be."

go to Living Green

                                 

The BRICS's are coming!
 
Get used to it.
The emerging nation's of Brazil, Rissia, India, and China are now thought to have the oomph to overtake the total gross domestic product of the G8 nations by 2027. Coming soon: a radically different global economy.

angelamerkelmarkusschreiber.jpg
G8 leader Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Europe's biggest economy. Photo: Markus Schreiber.
g8llogo.jpg

                                                        

"Foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology-- on facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice. We must use smart power--  the full range of tools at our disposal: diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural-- picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy."
- Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State

Agreement on rocky times:

(Age, in millions of years)

Holocene: now to 0.012

Pleistocene: to 2.6

Neogene: to 23

Paleogene: to 65

Cretaceous: to 145

Jurassic: to 200

Triassic: to 251

Permian: to 299

Carboniferous: to 359

Devonian: to 416

Silurian: to 444

Ordovician: to 488

Cambrian: to 542

Proterozoic: to 2,500

Archean: to 4,000

That's all folks. 4 billion years.

freemandyson.jpg

Dyson thinks ‘bright.”

 

Freeman Dyson's work in quantum electrodymanics brought him renown. Non-scientists know him as a gifted writer on  nuclear weapons, immortality, and extraterrestrial intelligence. Like Carl Sagan, he has the knack for making the obtuse not just palatable but fascinating.

 

In his new essays, “A Many-Colored Glass,” he admires human attempts to understanding the world. He sees no conflict between science and religion. But for him religion is more about people than belief: “human theology is based on our own value system and our knowledge of good and evil as we experience it.”

 

Dyson is a broad-spectrum, equivocal thinker. He finds global warming a serious but exaggerated problem—and essentially a political question.

 

“It’s amazing how little we know—most pronouncements are wrong. There’s no reason to be scared. Glaciers fall into the ocean as a natural cyclical process.” After seeing decades of scientific hits and flops (too many of the later), Dyson, with a chuckle, enjoys bucking the flow of conventional wisdom.

 

As for oil dependency, he thinks the problem will be gone in 50 years—that we’ll produce liquid fuels without digging up the ground. He celebrates the internet as a means to spread ‘bright’ science to people the world over.

 

Dyson predicts do-it-yourself biotech, though he’s disturbed that moral maturity lags so far behind our technological capabilities. “Genetic engineering raises serious problems of ethics and equity. We have the power to use it for good or evil. It’s a question of balance. There’s a dark side and a bright side.”

 

"We’ll have a toe-hold on the best of everything by 2060. "

- Freeman Dyson

 

more on Freeman Dyson

go to Freeman Dyson

                                             

Are you wired up?
 
Wired Magazine sponsors Nextfest-- a showcase of global innovation. Of current interest is next-generation healthcare and sustainable design products like eco-veneers. Technology exhibits like flying cars and boats, personal deep-flight submarines, hypersonic sound beams and, of course, humanoid robotics, round out the program. And then there's the glove equipped with sensors that translate 200 signs of American Sign Language into electronic text and speech.

go to Nextfest

go to Wired Magazine

                                                     

What will be the biggest breakthrough in the next 50 years? What's your take? Have your say on New Scientist:

                                                  

The Way of the World
 
From the opening of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind's prologue to "The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism."
 
"From the dawn of time, human beings have been attentive to signs of distinction-- the approach of a tribe with a different manner or dress, posture or skin color. The swift sizing-up of friend or foe, and acting upon it-- upon suspicion-- was often a matter of survival. Those faculties became finely tuned over thousands of years.
 
Now, in a world of vivid, colliding images and technology’s bequest of awesomely powerful weapons, we struggle to leap forward, to reshape instinct enough to reach across the divides of us and them, peak and valley. And to do it in time.
 
That shared effort is, at the very least, a starting point for a working definition of “hearts and minds struggle,” that smooth, slippery phrase on the lips of people across the world.
 
Its definitions are often self-interested and oddly narrow, but they nearly always rest on a fundamental two-part question: Can disparate people ever truly understand one another, and is such understanding necessary for them to coexist? There’s considerable dispute over the matter.
 
Some knowledgeable observers say that bringing diverse peoples together mostly serves to exacerbate distinctions and fuel divisiveness, something we can little afford in an era of such unleashed destructive capability. They point to countless bitter conflicts along borders, and within them, and recommend tall fences.
 
Others contend that the world is steadily becoming borderless and blended, and that such conflict-- the friction caused by the conjunction of opposites-- must be endured, and mastered, on the way to discovering shared interest and common purpose."
 
 

go to Ron Suskind

                                                    

connectivitycp.jpg

How fast do you connect?

What's the speed of your internet connection? Probably not as speedy as you think. In the U.S. we are far, far away from the "information super-highway." Canadians connect twice as fast. Icelanders connect three times as fast. And in Japan internet connections are 43 times faster than ours--and they get it at less than half the price we pay. Our fiber-optic system was never delivered as promised. As a result we are in the slow lane, ranking 16th among the world's nations.

It just takes a moment to test your "kbps download and upload speeds." You may be surprised that you’re not as fast as you thought you were. Let your representative in Congress know that you're not going to take this lying down! America was supposed to be a leader in the internet-- so why are we flunking out?

go to Connectivity Speed Test

                                          

fourmapscp.jpg
Many "takes" on the world. Click to enlarge.
So many ways to see the world.
 
Worldmapper turns statistics into forms, shapes and colors. Countries expand or contract according to their share of wealth or trade or population, but retain their familiar national boundary shapes and are scientifically precise. A glance may lead to insights not readily gleaned from text data-- and could help to predict the next big ideas and innovations. Above, clockwise from top left--  the Worldmapper on research & development spending, royalties and liciense fee exports, women in agriculture, and total children.

go to Worldmapper

                                                   

You'll find answers to your science questions on Eric Weisstein's website. It's "Science World," a Wolfram Research project:

                                                  

nationalcongresscp.jpg
Brasilia is ringed by South America's worst slums.
Will it just be the super-rich and everyone else?
More billionaires. More poverty. Power and greed win on all counts. Sorry, but we're out of bootstraps.  When do we fall into  into the chasm?

americanwaycp.jpg
Have we made much progress?

Social Darwinism with price tags.

In "Inequality Matters," a collection of papers from a NYU conference, the recurring thesis is that the welfare state has been turned on its head. Once, the well-off were taxed to assist society’s less fortunate. Today, the flow has reversed direction.

Millions of workers face layoffs or settle for lower-paying jobs. They lose health coverage and watch pensions evaporate. Millions are born to stay poor. Indeed, the central fact of our time is the income gap- a growing divide with poisonous consequences.

When Forbes magazine began its "400 Richest" in 1982, you could make the list with $200 million-- in current dollars. Now it takes at least $900 million. In 1982, shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig led with $4 billion– today’s chicken feed. Last year Bill Gates led the pack with $51 billion. Of course it’s easier to become a billionaire in an era of hedge funds and leveraged buyouts. IRS records show more than 200 thousand families make at least 3 million a year– but that’s doesn’t tell the story, for much high-bracket income is sheltered.

"Class Matters," a series in the New York Times, hints at a downward future: social mobility in decine for those on the bottom rung of the ladder- many more Americans with lower living standards as adults than as children. Life in America is increasingly unequal and unjust. So far there are no convincing ways to reverse the trend.

We must find them.

                                                  
 
 
 
 

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
- Helen Keller

                                                  

It's not too late to change how we live.

Historians estimate that world population in the mid-18th century was about half a billion. Less than three centuries later we’re at 7 billion. So for every person living then there are 12 of us now.

The rise in human population crept along slowly for millennia; only recently has it soared. Predictions are 9 billion by the year 2035 and 10 billion by 2050.

The French demographer Herve Le Bras says "From the beginning, demography has been steeped in talk of the apocalypse."

In "The Population Bomb" (1968) biologist Paul Ehhrich predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve and that it was too late to do anything about it.

Thomas Malthus set off unchecked alarmism with his "Essay on the Principle of Population" in 1798. He formulated the ‘iron law’ by which unchecked growth leads to famine.

Later he wrote that disaster has an upside. It gets us off our duffs. "Humans," he wrote, "are inert, sluggish and averse from labor unless compelled by necessity.

"But extraordinary situations generally create minds adequate to grapple with the difficulties in which they are involved."

Joel E. Cohen, professor of population at Rockefeller University, wrote "How Many of Us Can the Earth Support?." His conclusion: "It’s unanswerable in the present state of knowledge."

What will become of our species? That depends, in part, on changes in poverty, health care, education, fertility, fossil fuels, and consumption.

The World Bank predicts that more than a billion people in the developing world will belong to the global middle class in 2030-- up from just 400 million in 2005.

That’s encouraging– but it won’t happen if they’re eating meat and driving gasoline-powered cars at the same rate as Americans do now. For this to happen, everyone must reduce their carbon footprint.

The Population Association of America meets yearly. In 2010 the global population explosion wasn’t even on the agenda. "The problem has become a bit passe," says Le Bras. Demographers are confident that the second half of this century will mark the end of growth– will level out, or even fall.

Overpopulation isn’t the big deal it’s made out to be. The planet’s current population could fit into the state of Texas– if settled as densely as New York City. If in 2045 there are 9 billion of us, our aggregated density would be about half that of France today.

Fixating on population numbers is not the best way to confront the future. The real problems that needs solving are poverty, the lack of infrastructure, and precarious sustainability.

People in low-income countries strive to feed and house themselves and move out of poverty. If they do it the same way we have in the U.S, they’ll clear forests, burn coal and oil, use fertilizers and pesticides, and continue to degrade the natural resources of Earth.

Already water tables have been falling, soil eroding, glaciers melting, and fish stocks vanishing. Global warming and continued degradation of our natural resources are the real problems that needs solving.

Numbers are vastly less important than quality when it comes to human life. It's imperative that we protect the diversity of the natural systems upon which all life depends.

go to United Nations Population Forecasts

go to U.N. Population Fund

go to the Population Clock

go to 7 Billion Stories

go to Worldwatch Institute

go to International Census Data

go to Population Association

go to Joel Cohen interview

libraryinfoseattledeskcp.jpg

Overloaded.
There are now 750 thousand apps for the iPhone.

                                                     

What is the future of food? How must our menus be altered?
 
Global demand for food exceeds yeilds.  We eat genetically modified crops, meat, fish, and dairy. And when we consume a Big Mac, we are responsible for producing almost five pounds of greenhouse gases. Will be smarten up before disaster?

futurefood1.jpg

Wise up on food.

go to future food multimedia and zoom

foodfightscorncp.jpg
Monetary prices have caught up with the true costs of cheap food and grocery bill are spiking around the world.
 
While the U.S. grapples with obesity and associated diseases, developing countries struggle with malnutrition.
Meanwhile Earth's degredation accelerates.
 
                                                     
 
 
To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, get them together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.

                                                      

President's Stimulus Bill included $7.2 billion in broadband funding.

National Telecomm and Information Admin.(NTIA)  got $4.7 billion to give grants to improve broadband deployment in unserved and under-served areas. The rest went to fund the Broadband Data Improvement Act to expand public computer center capacity in libraries and community colleges-- and to the Rural Utilities Service, which works to connect rural Americans to broadband.

The bill stipulated that the FCC must submit a report to Congress containing a national broadband plan detailing the most effective ways to ensure broadband access for all Americans. As White House spokesmen say, "It's not the puzzle--but just a piece of the puzzle." But a good start.

Americans need affordable high speed internet. It's always a pleasure to go to Europe and enjoy fiber-optic computer connections. There's no excuse for us to go without.

go to Speed Matters

go to Free Press

                                                   

Wolfram's Alpha is a formidable engine of knowledge. Some say it will outdo Google. Some call it the anti-Google.
 
Alpha is the first step in Stephen Wolfram's ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable to anyone.

wolframalphadebutcp.jpg
The launch of Alpha.

more on Wolfram/Alpha

go to Wolfram Research

                                                       

Runaway consumerism:

Will  waste escalate until we're buried in trash and out of resources? One artist sticks it in our face with eloquent imagery.

chrisjordanpiccp.jpg
Photo Artist Chris Jordan

From Chris Jordan:
 
"Exploring around our country’s shipping ports and industrial yards, where the accumulated detritus of our consumption is exposed to view like eroded layers in the Grand Canyon, I find evidence of a slow-motion apocalypse in progress. I am appalled by these scenes, and yet also drawn into them with awe and fascination.
 
The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for me its consistent feature is a staggering complexity.

"The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality.
Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits. 

My hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry.
It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake. "

cellphoneschrisjordancp.jpg
Detail of "Cellphones" by Chris Jordan. Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge. Above: a sea of cellphones. Below: Chris Jordan depicts 8 million toothpicks, each representing a tree harvested in the U.S. every month to make paper for mail order catalogs.

chrisjordantoothpickscp.jpg
"Toothpicks," Chris Jordan. Click to enlarge.

go to Chris Jordan

go to The Digital Journalist for more photos and Q&A with Chris Jordan

                                       

kevinkelly2cp.jpg
Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine.
Sharing.
Cooperation.
Collaboration.
Collectivism.
 
Sound familiar?
"Wikipedia, Flickr, and Twitter aren't just revolutions in online social media. They're the vanguard of a cultural movement. Forget about state ownership and five-year plans.
 
A global collectivist society is coming-- and this time you're going to like it." - Kevin Kelly, 'Senior Maverick' at Wired magazine, from The New Socialism.
 
Check 'Cool Tools:"

go to Kevin Kelly

                                                   

ernstlafemmecp.jpg

Are we brave enough for our new world? 
 
 In 1923, when Max Ernst painted La Femme Chancelante, the Harding White House was riddled with scandals, the German mark was worthless, Tokyo was levelled in an earthquake, and the earth was round.

                                                    

We're endangered, as always. Extinction of species continues, as always.
 
Of the estimated 50 billion species that have existed on our planet, more than 99 percent are gone, kaput.
As it's said, "all of life today amounts to little more than a rounding error.'

                                                  

Broadband matters.
 
The digital divide isn't just about relagating people to slow e-mail. It's about thwarting our civic engagement, pre-empting our cultural participation, limiting our resources, and stifling democratic action.

netcablescp.jpg

SAVE THE INTERNET

Do you take your connectivity for granted? Do you assume you’ll always be able to surf the net with the freedom you now enjoy?  Sorry, but wrong on all counts. Keeping our democracy requires that we fight continuously for our freedoms.

Consider cable TV. Your provider decides what you see and what you pay. Cable and phone behemoths want the internet to go the same way. Mega-media companies are dying to get their hands on the Internet to create "special" services and costs for toll roads and speed lanes, leaving non-payers with jambs, red-lights, and speed bumps.

Consider electricity. You don’t have to ask the electric company if you must use a Hoover or Dyson vacuum cleaner-- because any electric appliance will work. In other words, the electric supply is neutral.

The Internet has spawned a profound revolution of individual freedom by being 'neutral.' You can pull up your own web site as quickly as Amazon’s. It’s a level playing field– and we must keep it that way. Congress, consumer and public interest groups, and the FCC call it Net Neutrality.

The guiding principle of Net Neutrality is that phone and cable companies, whose wires connect you to the Internet, can’t slow down or interfere with the content or services you’re downloading.

During congressional debates in 2006, a huge coalition joined to save the Internet: consumer groups, small business, and bloggers, along with the Christian Coalition, Feminist Majority, American Library Association, Gun Owners of America, the ACLU, MoveOn.org, and the Parents Television Council. That’s just for starters.

This is an extraordinary moment in the history of media. There are grave threats and real prospects for reform. Stay vigilant. Let’s ensure a media system that supports our rights to free speech and diverse opinions-- online and off.

Help keep Net Neutrality and join the fight for Internet freedom. Find out more at Save the Internet, and the Free Press-- the largest national media reform organization in the United States.

More links of interest:

                                                   

sunmeltingsnow.jpg
Arctic ice meltdown.
Alarm bells are clanging.
 
Climate change scientists find global warming "unequivocal." The United Nations Panel on Climate Change issued its 2007 assessment report which concludes that humans are the main driver of the rise of the earth's temperature and have caused so much damage to the atmosphere that the menace will last for thousands of years. The big rise began in 1950. Isn't that the year we began bulding our interstate highway system?
 
(some scientists say that humans started global warming many centuries ago-- by cutting down forests and farming in marsh grass, among other things...)

go to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

go to The United Nations

go to EPA assessment report

go to glossary of climate change terms

The sun's brightnesss rises and falls on time scales of about a hundred-thousand years-- in time with the earth's ice ages.

droughtscp.jpg
Future of floods and droughts?

branchesonbeachcp.jpg
Sea Change.
Altered Oceans is a Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the crisis in the seas from The Los Angeles Times. A dire portent for our descendants.

go to Altered Oceans

                                        

Meanwhile, at DAVOS ...
 
The trendy "World Economic Forum" in Davos, Switzerland, was upbeat and reinforced Obama's call on nation's leaders to seize the duties of collaboration and enter a new era of global financial responsibility.
 
Go to the Davos link to find more prognosticions from the cognosenti:

go to World Economic Forum at Davos 2011

go to Davos in depth

go to Global Risks and Uncertaincies - BBC

                                                      

go to the NRDC

                                                

More Voices:

"I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission.
 
We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially."
- E. B. White
"Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth."
- Albert Schweitzer
"The 'control of nature' is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.
 
The concepts and practices of applied entomology for the most part date from the Stone Age of science. It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons, and that in turning them against the insects it has also turned them against the earth."
- Rachel Carson, in "Silent Spring."
Marine biologist Rachel Carson wrote "The Sea Around Us" and "The Edge of the Sea."
 
After writing "Silent Spring" in 1962, she died of cancer at the age of 57. At the end, she wrote "The beauty of the living world I was trying to save has always been uppermost in my mind-- that, and anger at the senseless, brutish things that were being done. Now I can believe I have at least helped a little."
"Rachel Carson was ahead of us in understanding the devastating effects everywhere of still-rocketing population growth combined with consumption of natural resources, the thinning of the ozone layer, global warming, the collapse of marine fisheries, and less directly through foreign trade, the decimation of tropical forests and mass extinction of species.
 
She would regret, I am sure, the sorry example the United States sets with its enormous per-capita appropriation of productive land around the world for its consumption-- ten times that of developing countries."
- Edward O. Wilson, in afterword to 2002 edition of "Silent Spring."

"Time is a winged bus that is only one stop behind. You have to embrace it. The worst thing is to not enjoy the present because you're scared of the future."
- Alan Cumming, actor.

earthinorbitcp.jpg
Predicting Climate Change
 
There is broad scientific consensus that our planet will probably warm during the coming century. The Climate Prediction Project, in league with the BBC, is conducting a hugely ambitious attempt to document these changes. Using BOING software supported at UC Berkeley, all aspects are being calculated. You can help by loaning power from your PC to help them reach the unprecedented magnitude of power necessary for the experiment to succeed. Learn more.

go to Climate Prediction

go to BBC Climate Change Challenge

more on climate change - good links

We're leaving our carbon footprints on the world:
 
Whether at work, home, or on vacation, we all contribute to global warming. Check out this carbon index.
 
Average daily U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, per capita, i.e. one of 300 million population:
122 pounds
Average  for each person worldwide:
24 pounds
 
Average pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per person in the U.S. each day by:
  • Driving a motor vehicle: 22
  • Flying in airplane: 3.3
  • Using home air-conditioning: 3.9
  • Using electric clothes dryer: 3.9

Calculate your own carbon dioxide "footprint" on the Sierra Club website at:

The earth needs a good lawyer.

"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."
- Francis Bacon

                                         

Nascent fields leap forward.

Recent research, discoveries, and applications will change business, medicine, culture, and touch our lives. Here are some new things just around the corner.

Nanomedicine can revolutionize the treatment of virtually any disease, including early symptoms from a bioterror attack. Digging deeper into the micro-level, with more molecular finesse, doctors will "get into" inflammatory cells and change them.

Cancer therapies may be the first to benefit. Drugs can be delivered to a neighborhood of cancer cells in nano-scale capsules. Individual cells can then ingest the nanoparticles and be transformed.

The sequencing of the human genome set the stage for explaining human genetics. Now researchers are engaged in Epigenetics. They are beginning to figure out which of the 20,000+ human genes are active in any one cell at a given moment. Studying the workings of chemical interference is the next step and gives hope for speedier diagnoses of disease.

Diffusion Tensor Imaging is an advanced brain-imaging method that can help doctors understand schizophrenia and other psychiatric diseases. Until now the brains of sufferers of mental disease have looked pretty much like a "normal" brain. With DTI, radiologists will use specific radio frequencies and magnetic field gradient pulses to track the movement of water molecules in the brain, which shows the differences.

Microelectronic researchers are reinventing the way we will use our computers and tech toys by developing Stretchable Silicon.

We’re now in the process of going from rigid to flexible. Smart credit cards already carry bendable microchips– but the silicon can only stretch in one direction. By changing the strip’s geometry, devices could be pliable enough to be rolled up like a newspaper or T-shirt.

Chips with stretched elastic bonded to the silicon ribbon like a wafer will be more resilient. Bendable is good, say the experts, but stretchable is better.Comparative Interactomics is a new language in systems biology. It’s the mapping of interactions between genes, RNA, metabolites, and proteins.

Scientists are beginning to study the circuitry of the interactomes of different species. This will help them better understand how drugs work in the body. Such unique biological information will classify what happens in the pathways of cells. With models of cellular circuitry it may be possible to predict the action of drugs before human trials.

All our laptops, cell phones, BlackBerrys, and communication gadgets are sharing a finite and increasingly crowded amount of radio spectrum. We’re headed into wireless traffic jams and need to find ways to exploit unused parts of the spectrum This effort is called Cognitive Radio.

New-found radio frequencies will add some speed lanes to our information highway. This can lead to sensoring networks that monitor nursing home patients, office temperatures, moisture in cornfields, and radio frequency ID tags that track merchandise. It’s the new "wild west" of spectrum exploration.

Most of us visit websites using multiple IDs and passwords for online retailers and banks. This Balkanization of online ID-verifying systems is cumbersome, time-consuming; it invites fraud and erodes confidence in the Internet. Universal Authentication will change all that. UA would allow users to hop securely from one site to another after signing on just once.

Microsoft is working on its Passport system. Liberty Alliance, a consortium of 150+ companies and institutions, is dedicated to creating an open-standard system with shared IDs and authentications. Among the group is AOL, Bank of America, IBM, and Fidelity Investments. The Shibboleth UA project is already being used and tested at Brown University. By next year, with an inter-operable system, web surfers could start accessing multiple sights with a single log in.

Nano-Biomechanics measures minute mechanical forces acting on and within our cells. Cell researchers are now at the stage of a piconewton– a trillionth of a newton (unit of force). With this much finer view they can see how diseased cells differ from healthy ones. They can measure the mechanical differences between healthy and infected red blood cells. "Nano-bio" will enable better health treatments.

Can all our wireless gadgets get along?

Today our devices use different radio standards with different microsecond timing. Pervasive Wireless researches are designing ways to link mobile, radio-equipped computers to configurations that can change on the fly.

With evermore networked devices, they are making cognitive radio boxes that can be programmed to employ a wide variety of standards, e.g. RFIC, WiFi and cellular phone protocols. Standardization will make pervasive computing really take off, reduce friction in our daily lives, save time, and boost human productivity.

                                                    

Leveling the Playing Field:
worldisflat.jpg
The Wealth of (yet more) Nations in a post-Columbian world:
No longer trapped in national cocoons or behind society's walls, brainpower is the engine that fuels the global economy in the 21st century. Intellectual work can be transmitted to intellectual wokers anywhere on earth.
How flat is Tom Friedman's world?
 
In "Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman's son Biff cries "Pop. I'm a dime a dozen and so are you." In our newly "flattened" world the skills of Willy and Biff are deemed fungible-- easily digitized and tranferred to lower-wage locations around the globe.
 
Jet Blue Airways 'homesources" its reservation agents with 100 housewives who live in Utah. The corporate tech metropolis of Bangladore, in south central India, is home to 245 thousand Indians who answer phone calls from U.S. customers.
 
But it's more than that. Cisco, Intel, IBM, etal, have filed over a thousand applications with the U.S. Patent Office from their Bangladore branches. Much of this advanced tech that we'll see in a year or two was conceived and incubated by Indian engineers.
 
Also, a large, educated talent pool of Indians serve as remote executive assistants to U.S. bigwigs. Need a PowerPoint presentation prepared overnight? No problem. Because of the time change, Indians work while U.S. execs sleep.
 
In 2003 China replaced Mexico as the 'number two' exporter to the U.S. (after Canada). Its exports have a huge reach. In Egypt, fawanis, the special lanterns that children carry during the holy month of Ramadan, was a several-hundred-year-old Egyptian industry. Now they're made in China.
 
Outsourcing is but a small piece of the economic revolution that is levelling the playing field. U.S. workers in the future will have to be highly specialized, adaptable, and able to leverage their skills to survive. They must constantly acquire high-demand knowledge. There will be no room for mediocracy as there was in the past. They'll have to run faster to stay in place.
 
When, where, and why did this new world burst into view? Friedman traces it to "11-9," November 9, 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. After that, captives of the Soviet empire were liberated, the balance of power across the world tipped toward advocating democracy and free-market oriented governance.
 
The second "flattener" arrived in 1995, the year that Netscape went public and the world's personal computers became interconnected in the Windows revolution. Friedman traces 10 of these benchmarks that have quickly evolved into our world of wireless communication.
 
Friedman is cogent and convincing in setting a framework that describes the tumultuous changes of the last few years-- and he's the perfect point man to do so. Besides being a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, he's the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times,  well-traveled, and in touch with friends, colleagues, and contacts in major countries.
 
Best of all, he writes from curiousity. He takes the reader along on his urgent quest to figure out how the new order is shifting the big picture.  He  translates complex forein policy and economic issues into an understandable and fascinating story.
 
Friedman's anecdote-filled  book is a 'trip'  from place to place, from question to revelation. Along the way he finds "aha!" moments that make sense out of the bewildering global scene unfolding before us.
 

go to Friedman's columns and video of "Tom's Journal" on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer

                                             

sydmeadinoffice.jpg
Syd Mead in his office
Futurist concept designer Syd Mead was in the 21st century back in the 1960's, and, at age 72, he's still at it, sketchbook in hand. Syd did Blade Runner, which continues to influence sci-fi movies-- and just finished Mission: Impossible III. Running forward, he's at work on new theme parks, anime, video games, and feature films. Early on, he did concept cars at Ford's Advanced Styling Center (think Falcon Futura). He designed magnetic pre-programmed learning capsules and 3D home entertainment systems for Philips Electronics. His work is still a gauge for measuring the contours of things to come, and his book "Sentinel" is a cool, visual resource. Despite his visions of tomorrow, his craft is of the 'old school.' He says "Everything is still painted by hand. I'm analog."

go to Syd Mead

go to more Syd Mead imagery

                                                 

internetfree.jpg
Save the Internet

                                                    

Your dreams can't come true unless you wake up.

                                                  

Superb links

Photos:
Freeman Dyson.
Searing sun in arctic snowscape.
National Congress, Brasilia. The great capital is ringed by South America's worst slums.
Oil painting, "La Femme Chancelante, Max Ernst, 1923; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

Remain curious.