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PS: The Population Challenge

PS: The Population Challenge

When people think of the world’s “population problem,” they often focus on rapid demographic growth in parts of the developing world. But, globally, the population-growth rate is actually falling, and population is expected to plateau later this century. Though we cannot afford to ignore the fact that, according to United Nations estimates, there will be 2.4 billion more mouths to feed worldwide by mid-century, another population problem also merits serious attention: large pockets of demographic decline.

TG: Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

TG: Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

The four founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, cosmologist Martin Rees, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, economic theorist Sir Partha Desgupta and philosopher Huw Price, are in the business of “horizon scanning” – identifying low-probability-but-high-consequence events – and are concerned mainly with risks we have created ourselves – the consequences of being too clever for our own good. One prominent risk is that artificial intelligence (AI) will outcompete our own for predominance, ultimately allowing AI to relate to humans much as humans currently do to chimpanzees. There is also the risk of the deliberate or accidental release of a virus with a modified genome, the adoption of stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering, and the use of 3-D printers to create military-grade weapons.

NYT: ISIS Antiquities Sideline

NYT: ISIS Antiquities Sideline

The territorial gains made by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have provoked fears that archaeological sites in those countries are being attacked and looted. In extensive conversations with those working and living in areas currently under ISIS control, we learned that ISIS is indeed involved in the illicit antiquities trade, but in a way that is more complex and insidious than we expected.

MIT: Weaknesses of Big Data

MIT: Weaknesses of Big Data

Important information relating to economics, health and other things can be extracted from big data given the right tools. But exactly how this should be done accurately and reliably is still the subject of significant debate. Government agencies, companies and almost anyone willing to play with the numbers will be able to extract significant value from search query data in future. But considerable care is needed. Many an economic hangover has been caused by over-indulgence in unreliable data.

W: Liking Everything on Facebook

W: Liking Everything on Facebook

The like and the favorite are the new metrics of success—very literally. Not only are they ego-feeders for the stuff we put online as individuals, but advertisers track their campaigns on Facebook by how often they are liked. Liking is an economic act. I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages…

MJ: General Mills and Climate Change

MJ: General Mills and Climate Change

A few months ago, the international food manufacturing giant General Mills was branded a “clear laggard” by climate activists for not doing enough to cut its carbon footprint. Today, Oxfam International is claiming big victory: General Mills has released a new set of climate policies that Oxfam says makes it “the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets to cut emissions.”

NYT: Bee Colony Collapse

NYT: Bee Colony Collapse

Around the world, honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers: About one-third of hives collapse each year, a pattern going back a decade. For bees and the plants they pollinate this is a catastrophe. But in the midst of crisis can come learning. Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate, brought on by the increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society.

NYT: Drone War Without End

NYT: Drone War Without End

The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.

WW: A Hachette Job

WW: A Hachette Job

It is true that the big publishers buckling under Amazon’s thumb today are themselves tightly consolidated and have used their power in the past in ways that didn’t promote the best interest of writers and readers. But to champion as the antidote to their power an even bigger and consolidated power like Amazon ignores the lessons of the past – and sets up writers, publishers, and readers for fewer avenues and hence greater risks ahead.

IPS: What Piketty Forgot

IPS: What Piketty Forgot

Piketty is right that our political economy favors the growth of inequality, and that inequality in turn poisons our politics. But while we should aspire to create a society that shares its prosperity, we need to address a much bigger gap than the one between rich and poor. We need to address the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

WP: Pacific Marine Sanctuary

WP: Pacific Marine Sanctuary

President Obama on Tuesday will announce his intent to make a broad swath of the central Pacific Ocean off-limits to fishing, energy exploration and other activities. The proposal, slated to go into effect later this year after a comment period, could create the world’s largest marine sanctuary and double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected. The announcement is part of a broader push on maritime issues by an administration that has generally favored other environmental priorities. On Capitol Hill, some Republicans have sought to limit the administration’s ability to influence offshore activities, viewing it as another attempt by the president to test the limits of White House power.

AN: Social Death Penalty

AN: Social Death Penalty

  The Social Death Penalty: Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying In the wake of Elliot Rodger, questions about social rejection take on new urgency. By Lynn Stuart Parramore, June 2 2014. In recent years, bullying and harassment at work and in school have been grabbing headlines, creating greater awareness. But there’s a […]

TG: Children Mental Health Crisis

TG: Children Mental Health Crisis

In 2004, the first academic studies of trends in child and adolescent mental health began to report a worrying deterioration. The origins of this crisis – and it is a crisis – do not lie in massive overuse of the web, but elsewhere. But if things looked worrying in 2004, they look a darn sight worse today, 10 years later.

NYT: Writing About a Life of Ideas

NYT: Writing About a Life of Ideas

When an intellectual dies, there are no heaps of flowers or public mournings. The odd wistful editorial will be written in upmarket newspapers; colloquia organized in ivy-clad colleges. Few Americans will know, for instance, that Ronald Dworkin, a formidable figure in American liberal philosophy, died last year.

BBC: The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking

BBC: The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking

A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking – just for its own sake – and thinking. Wordsworth was a walker. Charles Dickens was a walker. Henry David Thoreau walked and walked and walked. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk? This is the era of the “smartphone map zombie” – people who only take occasional glances away from an electronic routefinder to avoid stepping in anything or being hit by a car. But you don’t have to be an author to see the value of walking. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking.

TN: US Death Row Innocents

TN: US Death Row Innocents

Deliberately conservative figure lays bare extent of possible miscarriages of justice suggesting that the innocence of more than 200 prisoners still in the system may never be recognized. At least 4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the US in the modern era are innocent, according to the first major study to attempt to calculate how often states get it wrong in their wielding of the ultimate punishment.The single largest group of innocent death row inmates are neither exonerated and released nor executed. Gross and his co-authors estimate that 36% of all those sentenced to death between 1973 and 2004 were taken off death row after doubts about their convictions were raised. Though innocent, they were then put on new sentences, usually life without parole, but no longer under the threat of execution, they are no longer treated as priorities within the criminal justice system and will most likely die in prison.

TN: Economic and Climate Justice

TN: Economic and Climate Justice

Anyone who is committed to the hard work of bringing deep structural change to our economic, social and political systems is now faced with scientific facts so immediate and so dire as to render a life’s work seemingly futile. The question, then, becomes how to escape that paralyzing sense of futility, and how to accelerate the sort of grassroots democratic mobilization we need if we’re to salvage any hope of a just and stable society.

DS: Central Banks’ Eroding Power

DS: Central Banks’ Eroding Power

Since the financial crisis, central banks have slashed interest rates, purchased vast quantities of sovereign bonds and bailed out banks. Now, though, their influence appears to be on the wane with measures producing paltry results. Do they still have control? Governments must exert tighter control over banks and financial institutions, but monetary policy experts also have a role to play. They shouldn’t just focus on the economy, but also pay attention to the financial cycle.

BBC: Millions Wasted on Tamiflu

BBC: Millions Wasted on Tamiflu

Hundreds of millions of pounds may have been wasted on a drug for flu that works no better than paracetamol, a landmark analysis has said. The Cochrane Collaboration claimed the drug did not prevent the spread of flu or reduce dangerous complications, and only slightly helped symptoms. The report is the result of a colossal fight for the previously hidden data into the effectiveness and side-effects of Tamiflu.

TG: Children’s Hyperactivity

TG: Children’s Hyperactivity

One of the world’s leading neuroscientists has suggested that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a real disease. Clinicians are too readily prescribing psychostimulants to children. Animal studies have raised concerns over the potential for damage to be done.

PS: Innovation Enigma

PS: Innovation Enigma

Around the world, there is enormous enthusiasm for the type of technological innovation symbolized by Silicon Valley. In this view, America’s ingenuity represents its true comparative advantage, which others strive to imitate. But there is a puzzle: it is difficult to detect the benefits of this innovation in GDP statistics.

NYT: Unhealthy Meat Market

NYT: Unhealthy Meat Market

Factory farming has devastating consequences to animals, human health, and the socio-economic wellbeing of rural America. It’s easy to criticize the current model of industrial agriculture, far harder to outline a viable alternative. A starting point is to recognize bluntly that our industrial food system is unhealthy.

Oxfam: Brand Reputation

Oxfam: Brand Reputation

When customers speak, businesses listen. It’s an old adage in business that Oxfam and its supporters tested to see if this would be true on issues of sustainability and human rights. First we asked the 3 biggest chocolate companies, Mars, Mondelez and Nestle to address the inequality and injustices that women cocoa farmers and workers faced in their cocoa supply chains.

YCCC: Limiting Global Warming

YCCC: Limiting Global Warming

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication presents their report on Americans’ Actions to Limit Global Warming. The report provides insight into public interest as regards governmental process and political action, and business activities and consumer action. It also sheds light on efforts to achieve greater domestic energy efficiency.

CP: On Academic Labor

CP: On Academic Labor

Noam Chomsky discusses issues related to the breakdown of our educational system, specifically he discusses hiring faculty off the tenure track, how higher education ought to be, “shared governance” and worker control, the alleged need for labor “flexibility”, the purpose of education, and the love of teaching.

AP: Feds Move to Save Bees

AP: Feds Move to Save Bees

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend three million dollars to help farmers and ranchers improve pastures in five Midwestern states to provide food for the nation’s struggling honeybees. Agricultural production has been threatened by a more than decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins due to habitat loss and pesticide use.

NYT: Apple’s Shopping List

NYT: Apple’s Shopping List

As fellow tech giants have reached billion-dollar deals in recent years to add significant new arms to their businesses, Apple has ventured down a different path. The company has avoided jaw-dropping takeovers in favor of a series of smaller deals, using the companies to buttress or fill a gap in products that already exist or are in development.

NC: Creating the World We Want

NC: Creating the World We Want

People often want to know what the movement for social and economic justice wants. Occupy Wall Street issued its Declaration of the Occupation of New York City which laid out a series of grievances. But, in addition to knowing what we oppose, we need to define what we stand for. If we do not like big finance capitalism, what will take the place of the current economy?

NC: Dangerous Ingredients

NC: Dangerous Ingredients

Putting aside GMOs for the moment, how many of the groceries sold at Walmart would never be stocked on Whole Foods shelves? The 78 ingredients on their blacklist end up comprising over 54% of all the foods sold in Walmart stores. What’s more, approximately 97% of the soft drinks/soda sold at Walmart contain ingredients that Whole Foods considers “unacceptable.”

AJA: Indonesia and Climate Change Deniers

AJA: Indonesia and Climate Change Deniers

Climate change may be the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction, and urgent global action is needed to combat it, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday, comparing those who deny its existence or question its causes to people who insist the earth is flat.

BBC: Crossing the Road Outlawed

BBC: Crossing the Road Outlawed

The idea of being fined for crossing the road at the wrong place can bemuse foreign visitors to the US, where the origins of so-called jaywalking lie in a propaganda campaign by the motor industry in the 1920s. The UK is among those countries where jaywalking is not an offence. But the rate of pedestrian deaths is half that of the US.

TN: Election Reformation

TN: Election Reformation

American presidential election campaigns are absurd. Absurdly expensive. Absurdly long. Absurdly structured. And absurdly narrow in the range of ideas and options offered to a nation with an absurdly low level of voter participation. If ever there was a time to rethink how this country chooses its chief executive, this is it.

TM: Terms and Conditions

TM: Terms and Conditions

You don’t really read the endless pages of terms and conditions connected to every website you visit or phone call that you make, but every day billion-dollar corporations are learning more about your interests, friends, family, finances and secrets precisely because of this, are selling the information to the highest bidder, and you agreed to all of it.

NYT: Is Atheism Irrational?

NYT: Is Atheism Irrational?

To believe in both materialism and evolution requires acceptance that your belief-producing faculties are not reliable, but that is to fall into a total skepticism, which leaves you with no reason to accept any of your beliefs. The only sensible course is to give up the claim leading to this conclusion: that both materialism and evolution are true.

WP: Guilt of the Gilded

WP: Guilt of the Gilded

The president may describe inequality as the result of impersonal forces — globalization, technology. But some senators — Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders — are starting to name names, to show how the rules have been rigged and who did the rigging.

TD: End of History?

TD: End of History?

Climate change exists on a time scale not congenial either to media time or to the individual lifetimes of our short-lived species. If the end of the world doesn’t fit well with “the news,” neither does denial. The idea of a futureless humanity is difficult to take in and that has undoubtedly played a role in suppressing the newsiness of climate change.

TD: Myth of Human Progress

TD: Myth of Human Progress

Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The ecosystem is at the same time disintegrating. We bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite—are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence.

PS: Global Economy 2014

PS: Global Economy 2014

At the dawn of a new year, the world is in the midst of several epic transitions. Economic growth patterns, the geopolitical landscape, the social contract that binds people together, and our planet’s ecosystem are all undergoing radical, simultaneous transformations, generating anxiety and, in many places, turmoil.

NYT: NSA Targets Children

NYT: NSA Targets Children

The turtle wearing a hat backward, baggy jeans and purple sunglasses looks just like other cartoon characters that marketers use to make products like cereal and toys appealing to children. But the reptile, known as T. Top, who says creating and breaking codes is really “kewl,” is pushing the benefits of the National Security Agency.

NYT: NSA Program is Illegal

NYT: NSA Program is Illegal

The Obama administration has portrayed the NSA’s bulk collection program as useful and lawful but an independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down. The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

DS: Disaster Centennial

DS: Disaster Centennial

It has now been 100 years since the outbreak of World War I, but the European catastrophe remains relevant today. As the Continent looks back this year, old wounds could once again be rubbed raw. More than 60 million soldiers from five continents participated in that orgy of violence. The absolute focus on national interests did not lead to happy times for any of the wartime enemies. In the era of NATO and integrated armed forces, hardly anyone can imagine a war between Europeans. Still, it is possible to sow discord in other ways in the 21st century. Historians of different stripes note with concern that the course of events in 1914 are not that different from what is happening in Europe today.

TG: Geo-Engineering is Insane

TG: Geo-Engineering is Insane

We are already engaged in a planet-wide experiment with consequences we can already tell are unpleasant for the future of humanity. So the hubris involved in thinking we can come up with a second planet-wide experiment that would exactly counteract the first experiment is delusional in the extreme.

BP: When Einstein Met Tagore

BP: When Einstein Met Tagore

On July 14, 1930, Albert Einstein welcomed into his home on the outskirts of Berlin the Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. The two proceeded to have one of the most stimulating, intellectually riveting conversations in history. The book, Science and the Indian Tradition: When Einstein Met Tagore, recounts the historic encounter, amidst a broader discussion of the intellectual renaissance that swept India in the early twentieth century, germinating a curious osmosis of Indian traditions and secular Western scientific doctrine. This excerpt from one of Einstein and Tagore’s conversations dances between previously examined definitions of science, beauty, consciousness, and philosophy in a masterful meditation on the most fundamental questions of human existence.

AN: Economic Exploitation

AN: Economic Exploitation

Reviewing a variety of political systems, Aristotle concluded that democracy was the best – or perhaps the least bad – form of government. But he recognized a flaw: The great mass of the poor could use their voting power to take the property of the rich, which would be unfair. Madison and Aristotle arrived at opposite solutions: Aristotle advised reducing inequality, by what we would regard as welfare state measures. Madison felt that the answer was to reduce democracy.

NYT: Pope’s Popular Voice

NYT: Pope’s Popular Voice

From 4,500 miles away at the Vatican, Pope Francis, who has captivated the world with a message of economic justice and tolerance, has become a presence in Washington’s policy debate. Francis’ denunciation of an “economy of exclusion” goes to the heart of the debate between the two parties over the role of government.

BBC: Perils of Belief

BBC: Perils of Belief

While human beings are willing to kill others for the sake of belief, they are ready to die for the same reason. No other species shows any sign of killing or dying for the sake of a mere idea. Some will say that’s because other species can’t formulate ideas or beliefs, but I think the answer lies elsewhere. The ability to form complex beliefs about the world has given us humans great power – at least over material things. But these more highly developed intellectual capacities also give us a clearer awareness of the fact that we are going to die. This can fill us with dread, and there are many who find relief in clinging to a belief for which they are ready to sacrifice their lives. Curiously, it may be fear of mortality that has led so many believers to embrace death.

PS: American Inequality

PS: American Inequality

Unless something goes unexpectedly wrong in 2014, the level of real per capita GDP in the United States will match and exceed its 2007 level. That is not good news. US output is now seven years – 14% – below the level that was reasonably expected back in 2007. If we combine the costs of idle workers and capital during the downturn and the harm done to the US economy’s future growth path, the losses reach 3.5-10 years of total output. That is a higher share of America’s productive capabilities than the Great Depression subtracted.

PD: Google Surveillance Problem

PD: Google Surveillance Problem

Private sector companies like Google run hi-tech spying operations that vacuum up private information and use it to compile detailed dossiers on hundreds of millions of people around the world — and that’s on top of their work colluding and contracting with government intelligence agencies. Silicon Valley runs on for-profit surveillance that dwarfs anything being run by the NSA.

NPR: Easter Island

NPR: Easter Island

Easter Island has been thought of as a clear example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources. Two anthropologists now think that may not be what happened, but their alternative view is hardly consoling. On Easter Island, people learned to live with less and forgot what it was like to have more. Maybe that will happen to us. A future in which we continuously degrade our planet, losing plant after plant, animal after animal, forgetting what we once enjoyed, adjusting to lesser circumstances, cannot be called “success.” To prevent an ecological crisis, we must become alarmed – that’s when we’ll act – but the new Easter Island story suggests that humans may never hit the alarm. There’s a lesson here and it’s not a happy one.

LL: Technology and Human Behaviour

LL: Technology and Human Behaviour

Since technology is created by humans, and built on, for example, economic or financial principles which have been derived by humans, we have the potential to over-estimate fatally the perfection of technology. Technology is only ever as good as the insight, experience and knowledge embedded in it. Wilful blindness can be embedded inside algorithms as algorithms contain assumptions. As they become more complex, being able to see what they assume and what they ignore becomes increasingly difficult.

BBC: Genetic Memory

BBC: Genetic Memory

Behaviour can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through a form of genetic memory, animal studies suggest. Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behaviour of subsequent generations.

FA: Banking Systems

FA: Banking Systems

The same kinds of politics that influence other aspects of society also help explain why some countries, such as the United States, suffer repeated banking crises, while others, such as Canada, avoid them altogether. A country does not choose its banking system; it gets the banking system it deserves, one consistent with the institutions that govern its distribution of political power.

AN: Market for Everything

AN: Market for Everything

The market is our liberation, say the advocates, unshackling us from arbitrary restraints and some other guy’s moral hangups. But hang on a second. Where exactly are we headed with this? It’s been quite a while since we’ve had much serious public discussion about what a market-based mentality costs us.

SA: Smartphones Killing Us

SA: Smartphones Killing Us

What permanent connectivity does to our minds is the subject of great debate. What it does to public space is less often acknowledged. Some restaurants, bars and coffee shops have banned smartphones and computers for their corrosive social effects. Anti-technology zoning for cognitive health to protect us from our own worst instincts is a more complex challenge.

FA: End of (Easy) Hypocrisy

FA: End of (Easy) Hypocrisy

One of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices — and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.

TE: Time is Not Money

TE: Time is Not Money

Dozens of psychological studies have shown that people primed to think about money before an experiment are more likely to lie, cheat and steal during the course of that experiment. Thinking about time, by contrast, makes people more honest than normal rather than less so and the more reflective they are the more honest they become.

NG: Wise Old Whooping Cranes

NG: Wise Old Whooping Cranes

People have pondered the question for centuries: How do migrating birds find their way between far-flung breeding and wintering grounds? Do they have some genetic GPS to steer them along time-honored routes? Or do they learn the way from parents or elders in the flocks? New research shows that, at least in the case of whooping cranes, the birds do learn the route from their older and more experienced companions—and all of them get better at navigating with age and experience. Detailed whooper migration data is a silver lining to a near-tragedy. America’s whooping cranes were within a whisper of extinction during the mid-20th century, when as few as 16 individuals survived. Only a large-scale, international captive breeding and conservation effort enabled the species to survive—and ultimately made this discovery possible.

TE: Unreliable Research

TE: Unreliable Research

The idea that there are a lot of uncorrected flaws in published studies may seem hard to square with the fact that almost all of them will have been through peer-review. This sort of scrutiny by disinterested experts is often said to make the scientific literature particularly reliable. In practice it is poor at detecting many types of error.

DS: Factory Farming

DS: Factory Farming

Germany slaughters 58 million pigs a year and has built an efficient meat industry second only to the US in pork exports. Its optimized breeding, feeding and killing system churns out wondrously cheap cutlets — but at a hidden cost to the environment and our health.

TE: The Next Frontier

TE: The Next Frontier

Mainstream economics divorces the short term from the long term. There may be big problems ahead but macroeconomists prefer to improvise today and worry about the future later. That approach also suits politicians, aligning the policy cycle with the electoral cycle. But it is not a recipe for producing robust, inclusive growth.

HP: Denmark Happiest on Earth

HP: Denmark Happiest on Earth

Last month, Denmark was crowned the happiest country in the world. The happiest countries have in common a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership. But also essential were three things over which individual citizens have a bit more control over: A sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.

GAO: Pesticide Registration Problems

GAO: Pesticide Registration Problems

EPA does not have a reliable system, such as an automated data system, to track key information related to conditional registrations of pesticides, including whether companies have submitted additional data within required time frames. As a result, pesticides with conditional registrations could be marketed for years without EPA’s receipt and review of these data.

DS: Europe Gone Wild

DS: Europe Gone Wild

A group of scientists led by Dutch conservation expert Frans Schepers has launched a unique experiment centered on the return of the large grazing animals and predators that populated the Continent long ago. The scientists expect the greatest possible diversity of species to develop around the spectacular mammals, including insects, vultures, toads and snakes — all the kinds of animals that were once forced out of their habitats by human activity.

NYT: Experience As It Once Was

NYT: Experience As It Once Was

I was going 115 miles per hour on a German autobahn when it occurred to me that one reason the German economy is doing so well is that people can get from one place to another so fast. The question of genuine, undiluted experience has been on my mind. Germans have a good word for something authentic: “echt.” We have an echt deficit these days. Everything seems filtered, monitored, marshaled, ameliorated, graded and app-ready — made into a kind of branded facsimile of experience for easier absorption. The thrill of the unexpected is lost. The modern world’s tech-giddy control and facilitation makes us stupid. We demand shortcuts, as if there are shortcuts to genuine experience. The state’s cameras are trained on streets where people’s gazes are trained on hand-held screens that map their movements — offering facsimiles of the experience they might have if they ever looked up.

MIT: Data Discrimination

MIT: Data Discrimination

Data analytics are being used to implement a subtle form of discrimination, while anonymous data sets can be mined to reveal health data and other private information. Principle Microsoft researcher, Kate Crawford, and a colleague propose a system of “due process” that would give people more legal rights to understand how data analytics are used in determinations made against them, such as denial of health insurance or a job.

TG: The Snowden Files

TG: The Snowden Files

Novelist John Lancaster, given access to the Snowden Files, discusses his impressions. At a moment of austerity and with a general sense that our state’s ability to guarantee prosperity for its citizens is in retreat, that same state is about to make the biggest advance ever in its security powers. Our spies and security services can, for the first time, monitor everything about us, and they can do so with a few clicks of a mouse and – to placate the lawyers – a drop-down menu of justifications. Looking at the GCHQ papers, it is clear that there is an ambition to get access to everything digital. And yet nobody, at least in Britain, seems to care. Snowden’s revelations are not just interesting or important but vital, because the state is about to get powers that no state has ever had, and we need to have a public debate about those powers and what their limits are to be.

IISS: Climate Change Denial

IISS: Climate Change Denial

Climate change caused by global warming is, arguably, a serious, even existential, threat to the world order and to the welfare of humanity. But over the last five or six years, public discourse has been driven less by policy needs and more by punditry.

HP: Tech is Killing Eye Contact

HP: Tech is Killing Eye Contact

As we spend more and more of our time staring at screens, there’s less time left over to look into people’s eyes. The growth of multitasking on mobile devices and remote working have normalized the experience of having conversations with little or no eye contact. These interactions aren’t just what previous generations would have considered rude, they’re also undermining our ability to connect with the people in our lives.

NYT: Not an End to Warming

NYT: Not an End to Warming

The pause in global warming is consistent with numerous prior pauses. When walking up stairs in a tall building, it is a mistake to interpret a landing as the end of the climb. The slow rate of warming of the recent past is consistent with the kind of variability that some of us predicted nearly a decade ago.

NoC: Beyond Homo Economicus

NoC: Beyond Homo Economicus

Humanity currently faces numerous global challenges, including climate change, resource depletion, financial crisis, deficient education, widespread poverty, and food insecurity. But, despite the devastating consequences implied by a failure to address these issues, we have not risen to the occasion.

Economist: Praise for Laziness

Economist: Praise for Laziness

There is a never-ending supply of business gurus telling us how we can, and must, do more. Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not too little but altogether too much busy-ness. All this “leaning in” is producing an epidemic of overwork, and has been producing negative returns for some time now. It is time to try the far more radical strategy of leaning back.

BBC: Turning to Farming

BBC: Turning to Farming

A small but – anecdotally – growing group of Americans are leaving the structure and security of an office job for the gruelling, yet rewarding work of earning money from the land. Some want to be a part of improving the food supply for themselves and their community; others are excited by the prospect of becoming self-sufficient, or simply working outdoors like their ancestors did.

AlterNet: Brink of Catastrophe

AlterNet: Brink of Catastrophe

The later twentieth and early twenty-first century may be noteworthy for two intertwined phenomena: computers and digital technology, which have decentralized power in some ways, while concentrating it in others, and the next phase in the development of nonviolent, direct-action, people-powered movements, the recent leaderless rebellions.

UN University: Gross Domestic Problem

UN University: Gross Domestic Problem

Lorenzo Fioramonti is a political scientist and specialist on governance issues who teaches at the University of Pretoria, where he directs the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation. GDP was developed in the late 1930s in the US to help governments tackle the Great Depression, and afterwards it was used to plan America’s involvement in the Second World War. GDP is a measure of economic output. It is a market measure. What does not have a price tag is not included in GDP. This leads to the exclusion of important elements of economic performance. It neglects, for instance, the depletion of natural resources used for economic growth, as these are provided free of charge by nature. Nor does it consider the costs associated with economic growth, which include social risks, environmental degradation and the like. What matters is not statistical efficiency but social relevance. We should measure what we want rather than wanting what we measure.

Jerry Mander: Globalization

Jerry Mander: Globalization

Mander draws attention to capitalism’s obsessive need to dominate and undermine democracy, as well as to diminish social and economic equity. Designed to operate free of morality, the system promotes permanent war as a key economic strategy. Worst of all, the problems of capitalism are intrinsic to the form.

AlterNet: Cooperative Economies

AlterNet: Cooperative Economies

Capitalism rests on a foundation of myths. First, capitalism somehow “invented” entrepreneurship; second, capitalism provides the only “market” economy; third, only capitalism is compatible with “self-reliance” and individual responsibility; fourth, capitalism is the model of “efficiency,” when in truth it generates enormous waste of all kinds; finally, there Is No Alternative. All of this is nonsense. The economy of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and its largest city, Bologna, is living proof.

Flavor Paper

Flavor Paper

Founded on the Oregon coast by a guy named Ted, this small handscreened wallpaper company flourished in the Age of Aquarius. Many years later, some young designers seeking striking wallcoverings discovered Ted’s greatness – just days before the designs and equipment were to be destroyed. Knowing what had to be done, these young designers headed west to save Ted’s legacy. Our Flavor Lab is now located in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn and is home to Flavor Paper’s design and screenprinting operations.

BBC: Human Extinction

BBC: Human Extinction

International policymakers must pay serious attention to the reality of species-obliterating risks. The stakes couldn’t be higher, there is a real gap between the speed of technological advance and our understanding of its implications. The significance of existential risk is not, currently, on people’s radars.

Anthony Kronman: Professor

Anthony Kronman: Professor

Anthony Kronman is Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School. A former Dean of Yale Law School, Professor Kronman teaches in the areas of contracts, bankruptcy, jurisprudence, social theory, and professional responsibility. He is the author of the book, “Education’s End”.

Neil Postman: Educator

Neil Postman: Educator

Neil Postman (1931-2003) was an American critic and educator. He authored seventeen books including: Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1992), and End of Education (1995).

Leonard Mlodinow: Physicist

Leonard Mlodinow: Physicist

Leonard Mlodinow is a professor of probability and random processes at CalTech. He authored “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior”, a startling and eye-opening examination of how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world.

Tim Jackson: Professor

Tim Jackson: Professor

Tim Jackson currently serves as the economics commissioner on the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission and is director of RESOLVE, an inter-disciplinary collaboration aiming to develop an understanding of the links between lifestyle, societal values and the environment.

NYT: Let’s Be Less Productive

NYT: Let’s Be Less Productive

Professor Tim Jackson argues for slowing down. He describes how our relentless drive for economic growth undermines not only our economic system, through encouraging behavior that gives rise to financial crises, but also our quality of life and the environment we live in.

Barry Schwartz: Professor

Barry Schwartz: Professor

Barry Schwartz is Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Action at Swarthmore College, and author of the books: The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life; The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less; The Battle for Human Nature: Science, Morality, and Modern Life.

Edward O. Wilson: Professor

Edward O. Wilson: Professor

Biologist Edward O. Wilson is University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, and author of the books: The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth; The Future of Life; and The Diversity of Life, which describes how man is in the process of causing the “sixth extinction”.

Daniel Kahneman: Professor

Daniel Kahneman: Professor

Daniel Kahneman is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus, and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus, at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, and author of the book, “Thinking Fast and Slow”.

Adam Curtis: Filmmaker

Adam Curtis: Filmmaker

Adam Curtis is a BAFTA-winning documentary filmmaker, whose work includes The Century of the Self, an award winning documentary film on how Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, and Edward Bernays influenced the way corporations and governments have analyzed and controlled ‬people.