The Man With the Google Glasses

anthropology, individualism, society, surveillance, tyranny, atomised society, AR, google glasses, g

Seeing the world through the eyes of the Man in the Google Glasses, though, suggests a more political reason for pessimism. In his classic 1953 work, “The Quest for Community,” the sociologist Robert Nisbet argued that in eras of intense individualism and weak communal ties, the human need for belonging tends to empower central governments as never before. An atomized, rootless population is more likely to embrace authoritarian ideologies, and more likely to seek the protection of an omnicompetent state.

If organisms were flawless, I might perhaps have some sympathy for intelligent design. Study of living creatures, however,…

“If organisms were flawless, I might perhaps have some sympathy for intelligent design. Study of living creatures, however, reveals so many blunders that Darwin’s theory comes out as the clear winner: only the blind operation of evolution can explain these stupid quirks. A parallel argument can be used in psychology. Two competing explanations are always available for the way our behavior fits with our environment. The fit may arise from the effects of evolution on our genetic makeup, or it may come from learning. When behavior seems perfectly adapted, like reading in proficient adults, it is hard to separate nature from nurture. Here too, departures from perfection are particularly interesting. When a child makes a systematic mistake, or on the contrary, displays a competence that goes beyond what he may have learned, we have clear proof that he is relying on tinkered mental mechanisms inherited through evolution.”

Dehaene, Stanislas.Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention. New York: Viking, 2009. (viacarvalhais)

From a boy who loved NASA: How 49 heroes lost the right stuff and sullied their names over climate politics

NASA, science, polictics, denial, AGW, climate change

That’s the sort of hard-headedness that I used to love about NASA - the idea that humans, if they just kept plugging away, could figure stuff out - and that other humans - astronauts and test pilots - would stake their very lives on it. Not this hand-wringing by deniers that argue we can’t figure anything out, we can’t afford to do anything, it’s all a vast hoax, and we shouldn’t try. A far cry from the can-do of NASA. How could guys that once put their very lives in the hands of science be so dumb about it as they get old?

Academic publishing: Open sesame

vendor lockin, Elsevier, the economist, open access, academic publishing, publishing, openaccess, oa

PUBLISHING obscure academic journals is that rare thing in the media industry: a licence to print money. An annual subscription to Tetrahedron, a chemistry journal, will cost your university library $20,269; a year of the Journal of Mathematical Sciences will set you back $20,100. In 2011 Elsevier, the biggest academic-journal publisher, made a profit of £768m ($1.2 billion) on revenues of £2.1 billion. Such margins (37%, up from 36% in 2010) are possible because the journals’ content is largely provided free by researchers, and the academics who peer-review their papers are usually unpaid volunteers. The journals are then sold to the very universities that provide the free content and labour. For publicly funded research, the result is that the academics and taxpayers who were responsible for its creation have to pay to read it. This is not merely absurd and unjust; it also hampers education and research.

Will the techno-optimists save the world? - Paul Gilding

optimism bias, optimism, time, environment, technology, TED, techno-optimism, sustainability, climat

Driven by their optimism bias, people use the clearly huge opportunity of technology to reassure themselves we won’t face a crisis. They believe any serious limits in the system will be avoided because technology will intervene and we’ll adapt. There are two reasons I think this is wrong and may actually be dangerous. Firstly, while technology has huge potential to address the issues we face, without strong price signals and other government support, large-scale technology change takes a very long time. We see this today where, though there are many programs supporting clean technology around the world, it is taking a long time – many decades – for this technology to have scale impact. This is the second reason the techno-optimists view is wrong, the science says we simply don’t have a long time. In fact we’re completely out of time, with the evidence clear that the ecosystem limits have already been breached. This is no longer forecasts but rather the measurement of today’s reality.