FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT--
- A team of researchers has concluded that it may be possible to detect psychopathy in people's tweets with a "reasonably high degree of accuracy".
- An iPhone plug-in that can detect non-organic chemicals in food to verify or refute the “organic” label is in development.
- A reasonable prediction is that 50 billion machines connected by 2020 but only 10 billion or so are likely to be cellphones and tablet computers. The rest will be machines communicating with each other.
- Game Informer, a monthly video-game publication, has grown to become the third-largest magazine (in terms of subscribers) in the U.S., pushing Better Homes & Gardens down to fourth place.
by John L. Petersen
One of the problems with being a futurist is that what you are looking at (the future) is the product of an extremely complex, highly dynamical system that is intrinsically unpredictable. The idea therefore is to build coherent mental pictures of alternate, plausible possibilities – scenarios – that would be of particular interest if they in fact manifested. Then another issue emerges: how do you communicate these “possibilities”?
That said, it’s easy, even for some of us who best understand these principles, to lapse into language that really does sound like we’re trying to predict what’s literally going to happen. For me, at least, regardless of what I suggest is inbound . . . and regardless of how much corroborating evidence there is that suggests that this thing is REALLY going to happen, in the back of my mind I know that any number of things could (and probably will) show up that will change the current direction of life.
This fact is lost on a lot of people who read my things . . . including my wife. She keeps writing down the potential events that I talk about and notating on her iphone calendar the window of time that I mention – and then reminding me when that time arrives that what I mentioned didn’t happen. I try, of course, to remind her that the system is not linear (regardless of what I had said), and many significant people with lots of resources are trying very hard to maintain the status quo. I’ve watched, for instance, on a number of occasions when many sources predicted that the financial system would imminently implode and then it didn’t – because the Federal Reserve and Treasury threw more money into the system then anyone had ever seen done before.
So, the best ideas are intrinsically suspect . . . to some degree or another. This shows up in spades in reviews like the following: 1987 predictions of what 2012 will look like from science fiction writers. I’ve read a number of these compilations over the years and they’re always entertaining, to say the least.
I’ve put the whole article here because I think it is important for you to read this, and then think about how far off many of these very creative, out-of-the-box thinkers were in visualizing how the future would emerge.
Sci-Fi writers of the past predict life in 2012
By David Szondy
21:03 August 5, 2012
As part of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future award in 1987, a group of science fiction luminaries put together a text “time capsule” of their predictions about life in the far off year of 2012. Including such names as Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Algis Budrys and Frederik Pohl, it gives us an interesting glimpse into how those living in the age before smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi and on-demand streaming episodes of Community thought the future might turn out.
Written during the Cold War, many of the predictions reflect the anxiety of a time when universal nuclear armageddon was still a daily threat. In fact, Isaac Asimov began his prediction with what was a standard preamble of the time.
“Assuming we haven't destroyed ourselves in a nuclear war, there will be 8-10 billion of us on this planet – and widespread hunger.”
It’s some small comfort to know that the Earth today is neither a radioactive wasteland, nor is it yet as crowded as Asimov feared – although he wasn't far off. With most of us now living in cities, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the world's population hit seven billion in March of this year, (although the UN put the estimated date at September 2011). Unfortunately, he was on the money the latter prediction, with people in many parts of the world continuing to go hungry.
Meanwhile, Gregory Benford predicted that the population would never reach 10 billion, with negative consequences.
“There will have been major "diebacks" in overcrowded Third World countries, all across southern Asia and through Africa. This will be a major effect keeping population from reaching 10 billion.”
On the other hand, Benford was more optimistic regarding advances in manned spaceflight.
“Bases on the Moon, an expedition to Mars … all done. But the big news will be some problematical evidence for intelligent life elsewhere.”
It’s ironic that Benford's prediction of Moon bases and manned Mars expeditions happening 25 years in the future is still pretty close to how we see it today.
Algis Budrys submitted a dense prediction that revolved around a post peak-oil world.
“Because we will be in a trough between 20th-century resources and 21st-century needs, in 2012 all storable forms of energy will be expensive. Machines will be designed to use only minimal amounts of it.”
Cutting the power requirements of all manner of electronic devices – from light bulbs to supercomputers – has indeed become a major concern for manufacturers and consumers. Budrys believed the need to conserve energy would lead to an information-based society. This idea of an information society that is, in some ways, very like our own is echoed by Roger Zelazny in a sentence of herculean proportions.
“It is good to see that a cashless, checkless society has just about come to pass, that automation has transformed offices and robotics manufacturing in mainly beneficial ways, including telecommuting, that defense spending has finally slowed for a few of the right reasons, that population growth has also slowed and that biotechnology has transformed, agriculture and industry – all of this resulting in an older, slightly conservative, but longer-lived and healthier society possessed of more leisure and a wider range of educational and recreational options in which to enjoy it – and it is very good at last to see this much industry located off-planet, this many permanent space residents and increased exploration of the solar system.”
The world is certainly is going toward a cashless society, and biotechnology has seen huge advances in recent decades. Thanks to advances in medicine, populations in the developed world now live longer, healthier lives and population growth has indeed slowed in most developed countries. Defense spending has also declined (relatively speaking), but in response to financial pressures rather than a more conservative society.
Sadly, Zelazny's prediction of more leisure time hasn't eventuated. Instead of cutting working hours, technologies such as wireless Internet, smaller and more powerful laptops, tablets and smartphones now allow us to work anywhere and everywhere, so that work now encroaches on our so called leisure time more than ever before.
And while the whole space industry thing has yet to take off to the extent Zelazny predicted, recent developments from the private sector with commercial spaceflights set to launch in the near future and continuing exploration of the solar system, it appears he may only have been a little too optimistic in terms of time-frame.
However, Zelazny did hit the nail on the head with his foreseeing the e-book.
“I would like to take this opportunity to plug my new book, to be published in both computerized and printed versions in time for 2012 Christmas sales – but I've not yet decided on its proper title. Grandchildren of Amber sounds at this point a little clumsy, but may have to serve.”
Unfortunately, Zelazny died in 1995, but his books – including his popular The Chronicles of Amber series – are readily available in electronic format.
Jerry Pournelle missed the mark by not predicting that the Deep Blue computer would defeat world chess champion Garry Kasparov, but he did present this frightening prognostication – for writers, anyway.
“A computer will win the (John W.) Campbell (Jr.) and (L. Ron) Hubbard Awards.”
Tim Powers had an interesting take that is wrong on every count.
“Probate and copyright law will be entirely restructured by 2012 because people will be frozen at death, and there will be electronic means of consulting them. Many attorneys will specialize in advocacy for the dead.”
However, Russian media magnate Dmitry Itskov is attempting to make Powers' prediction a reality by 2045 with the "Avatar" Project.
A particularly interesting prediction comes from Frederik Pohl.
“(Y)ou live in a world at peace. Something like the World Court, as an arm of something like the United Nations, resolves international disputes, and has the power to enforce its decisions. For that reason, you live in a world almost without weaponry; and, because you therefore do not have to bear the crippling financial burden of paying for military establishments and hardware, all of you enjoy and average standard of living about equal to a contemporary millionaire's. Your health is generally superb. Your life expectancy is not much less than a century. The most unpleasant and debilitating jobs (heavy industry, mining, large-scale farming) are given over to machines; most work performed by human beings is in some sense creative. The exploration of space is picking up speed, both by manned colonization and robot probes, and by vast orbiting telescopes and other instruments. Deforestation, desertification and the destruction of arable land has been halted and even reversed. Pollution is controlled, and all the winds and the waters of the Earth are sweet again.”
Pohl goes on to call this an extremely improbable outcome, but he argues that if anyone is reading his predictions, that’s what happened. What’s interesting here is that some of what Pohl predicted did, to one degree or another, come to pass. Life expectancy is longer, standards of living did rise, robots are becoming more common in industry and agriculture, and the Hubble telescope and its successors are orbiting as you read this.
However, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which even the CIA missed predicting, made the whole U.N. running the world to avoid nuclear war thing moot. Meanwhile, the current situation in Syria and the ineffectiveness of the U.N. in dealing with it only illustrates how far off the mark he was in predicting a world at peace.
A prediction by Gene Wolfe sounds very familiar to any film-goer.
“Sports and televised dramas are the only commonly available recreations. The dramas are performed by computer-generated images indistinguishable (on screen) from living people. Scenery is provided by the same method. Although science fiction and fantasy characterize the majority of these dramas, they are not so identified.”
While we still have plenty of activities to partake in other than plonking ourselves down in front of the TV, – with technology even providing new ways to enjoy old ones – CGI characters, ubiquitous use of green screen and stories that are sci-fi, but not called that have all come to pass.
But of all the predictions, Gregory Benford’s is probably the most apt.
“I will be old, but not dead. Come by to see me, and bring a bottle.”
Benford is still alive and continues to write. He has a new novel coming out later this year, with more to follow.
About the Author
David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.
I hope you made it through the above article, because it makes very clear that it is easy to get captured by what you believe and see things through that lens and misinterpret what you are seeing. Let me give you a current example.
Greenland Ice Melt, Measured By NASA Satellites, Reaches Unprecedented Level
You should read this article. It talks about how satellite imagery has indicated that surface ice is now melting at a higher rate in Greenland than seen in recent times. It begins with this sentence: “Unprecedented melting of Greenland's ice sheet this month has stunned NASA scientists and has highlighted broader concerns that the region is losing a remarkable amount of ice overall.”
Other sites picked up the story and ran it under the headlines, “Unprecedented melting of Greenland's ice sheet this month has stunned NASA scientists”, “NASA WARNS 97 PERCENT OF GREENLAND ICE SHEET SURFACE MELTED IN FOUR DAYS!”, and “Nearly all of Greenland's ice sheet surface melts.”
Yes, there was a very hot spell that produced unusual melting on the surface, but the headlines (and the graphics) would have you believe that most of the ice sheet melted in four days, which was not the case.
It was predictable that some scientists would ascribe the melting to humans. The article quotes one: “Wagner said that ice is clearly thinning around the periphery, changing Greenland's overall ice mass, and he believes this is primarily due to warming ocean waters "eating away at the ice." He cautiously added, "It seems likely that's correlated with anthropogenic warming."”
I wonder though, if you read and thought about this comment buried two thirds of the way down in the article: “Goddard glaciologist Lora Koenig said that similar melting events occur about every 150 years, and this event is consistent with that schedule, citing the previous 1889 melt. But, she added, "if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome."”
Now wait. It’s happened before . . . on a regular cycle and it’s doing it again, right on time. I’m wondering what’s “unprecedented” about that and why scientists are “stunned” by something for which there is significant precedent. It doesn’t smell right to me – either they’re not very well informed or they’re not being really honest.
It turns out that that is also the conclusion that Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, has come to.
Commenting on a new study that suggests that CO2 is increasing and therefore threatening the world the article says: “Ecologist Dr. Moore pulled no punches in commenting on the new study: “These people are either completely naive about the relationship between CO2 and plants or they are making this up as a way of deflecting attention from the lack of warming for the past 15 years.” Moore is the author of the book, “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist,” in which he exposes the green movement and explains why he left the organization.”
Climate Depot went on to quote Moore: "Plants grow much faster when CO2 is higher, the optimum concentration is between 1500-2000 ppm so there is a long way to go before plants are happy. CO2 levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise despite plants absorbing more CO2. So what is the 'scientists' point? It is to obfuscate, confuse, and otherwise muddy the waters with disinformation.” Read whole article.
Lamentably, more and more scientists are coming to this conclusion.
“Climate Science” in Shambles: Real Scientists Battle UN Agenda
“Some of the preeminent scientists involved in promoting global-warming alarmism have been disgraced and discredited, after being caught in flagrante in unethical and illegal activities. Even before the 2009 “Climategate” e-mail scandal, many leading scientists who had earlier been true believers in man-made global warming (anthropogenic global warming, or AGW) had begun jumping ship and joining the AGW skeptic side. Since then, the defections have turned into a veritable flood, making this one of the great untold stories of the major establishment media, which continue to trumpet the alarmist propaganda.” Read more.
The author of this article is obviously trying to make a point, but I’m seeing many indications that suggest that the climate models and interpretation that support the notion that we are seeing global warming that is caused by humans is just plain wrong. There is no consistent, global data to support those proposals. Witness, for example, what has happened across the planet in the last couple of weeks.
Rare snowfall shocks much of South Africa
They had snow last week in South Africa. There was so much that it closed roads. It’s winter down there, but it never snows in South Africa, even in the winter.
Does that sound like global warming? I am reminded of the extraordinarily frigid winter in Europe in February that killed 650 people and thinking, “it looks like winters are getting colder and summers are getting warmer.” It’s as though the system is oscillating between increasing extremes. It is becoming unstable – and there’s good science now that suggests that after this present sunspot cycle it may shift to being globally much colder.
Aug. 7, 2012: A man slides down a hill after a rare snowfall in Johannesburg, South Africa. Read more: click here.
That notion of oscillation is supported by this having been the warmest July in the history of the U.S. while the Philippines has had so much rain that Manila is under water. Aberrant weather is everywhere.
By the way, if this pattern continues, we should see extraordinarily cold weather in the northern hemisphere this winter.
Few people look at the world like Tony Judge does. He sees patterns and relationships that almost everyone else misses. His recent assessment that uses climate change as an analogy for social change makes the point that the weather and climate are not the only trends that are unusual in the emerging world. This is really fascinating analysis. The graphics are also rather cool.
Mapping the social climate change engendering a perfect storm
“In a period characterized by a global crisis of crises, there is a case for exploring any means of articulating the set of those crises and the possibilities for their comprehension as a system. The following exercise identifies 30 trends which inhibit the capacity to engage effectively with those crises and which together constitute a dangerous system.” Read more.
Now this is interesting: Non-Human Consciousness Exists, Say Experts. Now What? It’s important because it represents a movement away from a human-centric perspective (remember the earlier report when a scientific group decided that dolphins and whales were consciousness and should be accorded “rights”?). But, it’s almost as though none of these guys ever had a dog or cat. It’s obvious to pet owners (of dogs and cats, at least), that they are very consciousness.
We Are the Patriots
Writer Gore Vidal died this past week. An extraordinary communicator, Vidal cut to the core in his commentary of current events. Here’s a great example from the past that certainly stands up today.
From the Archive: We Are the Patriots
by Gore Vidal
CD editor's note: The following essay appeared in the June 2, 2003 edition of The Nation magazine, and we reprint it today following news that Gore Vidal died yesterday at the age of 86:
Gore Vidal (1925-2012)
I belong to a minority that is now one of the smallest in the country and, with every day, grows smaller. I am a veteran of World War II. And I can recall thinking, when I got out of the Army in 1946, Well, that's that. We won. And those who come after us will never need do this again. Then came the two mad wars of imperial vanity--Korea and Vietnam. They were bitter for us, not to mention for the so-called enemy. Next we were enrolled in a perpetual war against what seemed to be the enemy-of-the-month club. This war kept major revenues going to military procurement and secret police, while withholding money from us, the taxpayers, with our petty concerns for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But no matter how corrupt our system became over the last century--and I lived through three-quarters of it--we still held on to the Constitution and, above all, to the Bill of Rights. No matter how bad things got, I never once believed that I would see a great part of the nation--of we the people, unconsulted and unrepresented in a matter of war and peace--demonstrating in such numbers against an arbitrary and secret government, preparing and conducting wars for us, or at least for an army recruited from the unemployed to fight in.
Sensibly, they now leave much of the fighting to the uneducated, to the excluded.
During Vietnam Bush fled to the Texas Air National Guard. Cheney, when asked why he avoided service in Vietnam, replied, "I had other priorities." Well, so did 12 million of us sixty years ago. Priorities that 290,000 were never able to fulfill.
So who's to blame? Us? Them? Well, we can safely blame certain oil and gas hustlers who have effectively hijacked the government from presidency to Congress to, most ominously, the judiciary. How did they do it? Curiously, the means have always been there. It took the higher greed and other interests to make this coup d'état work.
It was Benjamin Franklin, of all people, who saw our future most clearly back in 1787, when, as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, he read for the first time the proposed Constitution. He was old; he was dying; he was not well enough to speak but he had prepared a text that a friend read. It is so dark a statement that most school history books omit his key words.
Franklin urged the convention to accept the Constitution despite what he took to be its great faults, because it might, he said, provide good government in the short term. "There is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other." Think of Enron, Merrill Lynch, etc., of chads and butterfly ballots, of Scalia's son arguing before his unrecused father at the Supreme Court while unrecused Thomas sits silently by, his wife already at work for the approaching Bush Administration. Think, finally, of the electoral college, a piece of dubious, antidemocratic machinery that Franklin doubtless saw as a source of deepest corruption and subsequent mischief for the Republic, as happened not only in 1876 but in 2000.
Franklin's prophecy came true in December 2000, when the Supreme Court bulldozed its way through the Constitution in order to select as its President the loser in the election of that year. Despotism is now securely in the saddle. The old Republic is a shadow of itself, and we now stand in the glare of a nuclear world empire with a government that sees as its true enemy "we the people," deprived of our electoral franchise. War is the usual aim of despots, and serial warfare is what we are going to get unless--with help from well-wishers in new old Europe and from ourselves, awake at last--we can persuade this peculiar Administration that they are acting entirely on their vicious own, and against all our history.
The other night on CNN I brought the admirable Aaron Brown to a full stop, not, this time, with Franklin but with John Quincy Adams, who said in 1821, on the subject of our fighting to liberate Greece from Turkey, the United States "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy." If the United States took up all foreign affairs, "she might become the dictatress of the world. She would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit," her own soul.
Should we be allowed in 2004 to hold a presidential election here in the homeland, I suspect we shall realize that the only regime change that need concern our regained spirit--or soul--is in Washington.
President Adams is long since dead. And we have now been in the empire business since 1898: We had promised to give the Filipinos their independence from Spain. Then we changed our mind, killing some 200,000 of them in the process of Americanizing them.
A few years ago there was a significant exchange between then-General Colin Powell and then-statesperson Madeleine Albright. Like so many civilians, she was eager to use our troops against our enemies: What's the point of having all this military and not using it? He said, They are not toy soldiers. But in the interest of fighting Communism for so long, we did spend trillions of dollars, until we are now in danger of sinking beneath the weight of so much weaponry.
Therefore, I suppose it was inevitable that, sooner or later, a new generation would get the bright idea, Why not stop fooling around with diplomacy and treaties and coalitions and just use our military power to give orders to the rest of the world? A year or two ago, a pair of neoconservatives put forward this exact notion. I responded--in print--that if we did so, we would have perpetual war for perpetual peace. Which is not good for business. Then the Cheney-Bush junta seized power. Although primarily interested in oil reserves, they liked the idea of playing soldiers too.
Last September Congress received from the Administration a document called the National Security Strategy of the United States. As the historian Joseph Stromberg observed, "It must be read to be believed." The doctrine preaches the desirability of the United States becoming--to use Adams's words--dictatress of the world. It also assumes that the President and his lieutenants are morally entitled to govern the planet. It declares that our "best defense is a good offense." The doctrine of pre-emption is next declared: "As a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed." (Emphasis added.) Doubtless, General Ashcroft is now in Utah arresting every Mormon male before he can kidnap eight young girls for potential wives.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says that only Congress can declare war. But Congress surrendered that great power to the President in 1950 and has never taken it back.
As former Senator Alan Simpson said so cheerily on TV the other evening, "The Commander in Chief of the military will decide what the cause is. It won't be the American people." So in great matters we are not guided by law but by faith in the President, whose powerful Christian beliefs preach that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
In response to things not seen, the USA Patriot Act was rushed through Congress and signed forty-five days after 9/11. We are expected to believe that its carefully crafted 342 pages were written in that short time. Actually, it reads like a continuation of Clinton's post-Oklahoma City antiterrorist act. The Patriot Act makes it possible for government agents to break into anyone's home when they are away, conduct a search and keep the citizen indefinitely from finding out that a warrant was issued. They can oblige librarians to tell them what books anyone has withdrawn. If the librarian refuses, he or she can be criminally charged. They can also collect your credit reports and other sensitive information without judicial approval or the citizen's consent.
Finally, all this unconstitutional activity need not have the slightest connection with terrorism. Early in February, the Justice Department leaked Patriot Act II, known as the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, dated January 9, 2003. A Congress that did not properly debate the first act will doubtless be steamrolled by this lawless expansion.
Some provisions: If an American citizen has been accused of supporting an organization labeled as terrorist by the government, he can be deprived of his citizenship even if he had no idea the organization had a link to terrorists. Provision in Act II is also made for more searches and wiretaps without warrant as well as secret arrests (Section 201). In case a citizen tries to fight back in order to retain the citizenship he or she was born with, those federal agents who conduct illegal surveillance with the blessing of high Administration officials are immune from legal action. A native-born American deprived of citizenship would, presumably, be deported, just as, today, a foreign-born person can be deported. Also, according to a recent ruling of a federal court, this new power of the Attorney General is not susceptible to judicial review. Since the American who has had his citizenship taken away cannot, of course, get a passport, the thoughtful devisers of Domestic Security Enhancement authorize the Attorney General to deport him "to any country or region regardless of whether the country or region has a government." Difficult cases with no possible place to go can be held indefinitely.
Where under Patriot Act I only foreigners were denied due process of law as well as subject to arbitrary deportation, Patriot Act II now includes American citizens in the same category, thus eliminating in one great erasure the Bill of Rights.
Our greatest historian, Charles Beard, wrote in 1939:
The destiny of Europe and Asia has not been committed, under God, to the keeping of the United States; and only conceit, dreams of grandeur, vain imaginings, lust for power, or a desire to escape from our domestic perils and obligations could possibly make us suppose that Providence has appointed us his chosen people for the pacification of the earth.
Those Americans who refuse to plunge blindly into the maelstrom of European and Asiatic politics are not defeatist or neurotic. They are giving evidence of sanity, not cowardice, of adult thinking as distinguished from infantilism. They intend to preserve and defend the Republic. America is not to be Rome or Britain. It is to be America.
© 2012 The Nation
How a Gay Rights Maverick Helped Topple Iceland’s Government – (Nation of Change – August 7, 2012)
The latest development in Icelandic government has been a constitution written by the people of Iceland themselves. Any Icelandic citizen could run to be considered for a position at the drafting table. Furthermore, everyone in the country could monitor the writing of the new constitution and submit suggestions via Facebook and Twitter. A referendum to ratify the constitution will be held Oct. 10. This is actual democracy – creating a government of, by and for the people.
Twitter Analysis Can Be Used to Detect Psychopathy – (Wired – July 23, 2012)
A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has been studying whether it's possible to detect psychopathy in people's tweets. Results suggest that in certain contexts, personality prediction through social media can perform with a "reasonably high degree of accuracy". Computer scientists at Florida Atlantic University, the Online Privacy Foundation and Kaggle (a company that specializes in predictive modelling competitions) teamed up to see whether it was possible to identify the "Dark Triad" of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism through people's Twitter usage. Results of the study show that there are "a number of statistically significant correlations between an individual's darker personality traits and their Twitter activity", according to Florida Atlantic University's Randall Wald. The team believes that they could potentially use analytical tools to identify potential trouble makers at events such as far-right demonstrations. However, they have ethical, privacy and human rights concerns about using social media analysis to vet or label people according to personality types. The team also recognizes that there would be an inevitable issue with false positives on Twitter, so the technique shouldn't be used to find and target psychopaths. (Editor’s note: We wonder how this technique which could be broadened in scope considerably will, in fact, be used.)
Convergence of 30 Disabling Global Trends – (Laetus In Praesens – July 21, 2012)
The subtitle of this extensively researched white paper is “Mapping the Social Climate Change Engendering a Perfect Storm” which is a good description of the research. In a period characterized by a global crisis of crises, there is a case for exploring any means of articulating the set of those crises and the possibilities for their comprehension as a system. The following exercise identifies 30 trends which inhibit the capacity to engage effectively with those crises and which together constitute a dangerous system. The 30 trends are presented in a concise “checklist” for readers’ convenience.
Non-human Consciousness Exists – (Huffington Post – July 31, 2012)
Have you ever considered the consciousness, or unconsciousness, of your dog? A group of neuroscientists have been thinking on the subject pretty seriously, and it was announced recently that "humans are not the only conscious beings in the universe." Discussing the evidence that has amassed over the years, the experts reached a unanimous decision that animals—specifically mammals and birds—are in fact conscious beings. Through advancements in brain imaging techniques, the scientists concluded that animals show a sufficient degree of characteristics that indicate they are not as non-human as some had believed. The scientists determined that the key differences in human and animal brains, mainly found in the frontal cortex, do not play a role in the phenomenon we associate with consciousness. The decision does not in any sense define what consciousness is, which will be a debate that continues.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
The “Berlin Patient” Speaks Out on Being the First Person Cured of AIDS – (Nation of Change – July 30, 2012)
Timothy Ray Brown, known in the medical world as the "Berlin Patient", is the first person believed to have been cured of HIV. Living in Berlin at the time of his diagnosis, Brown was treated by a German doctor named Gero Hütter who devised an experimental treatment to cure both the HIV and the leukemia he had contracted 10 years later: a bone marrow transplant using cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation, known as CCR5-delta32. Scientists had known for a few years that people with this gene mutation had proved resistant to HIV. The treatment worked, making Brown the first person cured of AIDS since it was discovered over 30 years ago.
Researchers Develop Laser Technology to Fight Cancer – (University of Tennessee – July 23, 2012)
Researchers at the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee have developed a technology that goes on a “seek and destroy” mission for cancerous tumors. The technology uses a femtosecond laser, which means it pulses at speeds of one-quadrillionth of a second. The high speed enables the laser to focus in on a specific region to find and acutely map a tumor. Once the cancerous area is precisely targeted, only the intensity of the laser radiation needs to be turned up in order to irradiate, or burn off, the tumor. This method has the potential to be more exact than current methods and to be done as an outpatient procedure replacing intensive surgery. The technology can be especially useful in treating brain cancer.
Tooth Protection from the Sea – (Newcastle University – July 6, 2012)
A team of dentists and scientists from Newcastle University are developing a new product from a marine microbe to protect dentures, teeth and gums from bacteria in the mouth. They are using an enzyme isolated from a marine bacterium Bacillus licheniformis found on the surface of seaweed which they were originally researching for the purpose of cleaning the hulls of ships. When under threat, bacteria shield themselves in a slimy protective barrier. This slimy layer, known as a biofilm, is made up of bacteria held together by a web of extracellular DNA which adheres the bacteria to each other and to a solid surface – in this case in the plaque around the teeth and gums. The biofilm protects the bacteria from attack by brushing, chemicals or even antibiotics. But when the bacteria want to move on, they release an enzyme which breaks down the external DNA, breaking up the biofilm and releasing the bacteria from the web. The enzyme breaks up and removes the bacteria present in plaque and importantly, it can prevent the build up of plaque too.
3-D “Exoskeleton” Lets a Little Girl Lift Her Arms and Play – (Stratasys – no date)
2-year-old Emma wanted to play with blocks, but a condition called arthrogryposis (AMC) meant she couldn’t move her arms. So researchers at a Delaware hospital 3D printed a durable custom device with the tiny, lightweight custom parts she needed. Emma calls them her “magic arms.” AMC is a non-progressive condition that causes stiff joints and very underdeveloped muscles. Emma was born with her legs folded up by her ears, her shoulders turned in. At birth, she could only move her thumb. Doctors immediately performed surgery and casted Emma’s legs. At a Philadelphia conference for AMC families, her mother learned about the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), an assistive device made of hinged metal bars and resistance bands. It enables kids with underdeveloped arms to play, feed themselves and hug. Video clip of device in article.
Beverage Companies Pay Millions to Conserve Water – (Associated Press – August 8, 2012)
The biggest players in beverage sales — from Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. to Miller and MolsonCoors — as well as smaller, regional beverage companies list water as a risk in long-term plans. In 2006, 18 companies created an alliance called the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable to tackle water, energy and other issues that could affect the industry's growth. There is no total available for how much has been invested in water conservation projects in the past five years, but experts believe it's more than $500 million dollars. Thomas Lyon, a professor at the University of Michigan who researches connections between industry and the environment, said three factors have pushed beverage companies to conserve water: future markets in developing countries don't drink enough soft drinks, from their perspective; the impacts of climate change are starting to become more apparent; and some of the countries targeted for growth are the same ones experts believe will be most affected by climate change.
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three Simple Numbers - (Rolling Stone - July 19, 2012)
Here are some basic statistics about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers. The first of those is 2° Celsius.
Space Weather and the Coming Storm – (Yahoo – August 5, 2012)
Over the next two years, as the sun reaches a peak in its 10-year activity cycle, scientists say there is a heightened risk that a whopping solar storm could knock out the power grids, satellites and communications on which we all rely. "Governments are taking it very seriously," says Mike Hapgood, a space weather specialist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. "These things may be very rare but when they happen, the consequences can be catastrophic." Hapgood said that solar storms are increasingly being put on the national risk registers used for disaster planning, alongside other rare but devastating events like tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. The statistics support this, he said. There is a roughly 12 percent chance of a major solar storm every decade, making them a one-in-a-hundred-year event. The last major one was over 150 years ago.
Playing with Fire by Drilling a Multitude of Holes Using a Process Called ‘Hydroshearing’ – (Extinction Protocol – August 8, 2012)
Scientists are testing the idea of pumping water into the sides of a dormant volcano in Oregon at pressures great enough to evoke small earthquakes. Why? Apparently, the boiling bowels beneath our feet hold tremendous promise for geothermal energy. According to a report MIT submitted to the Department of Energy, two percent of the heat some six miles below the ground could provide 2,500 times as much energy as the country currently uses. By employing a technique called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), several million gallons of water are blasted at high pressures through artificial wells over 10,000 feet deep. When the water reaches the hot rocks, it returns to the surface through a second well as scalding hot water, where its heat can then be harvested for power. Backed by the DOE, Google and others, AltaRock Energy and Davenport Newberry Holdings have been exploring ways to tap geothermal energy from the Pacific Northwest volcano, and will put their knowledge to the test this summer at Oregon’s Newberry Volcano.
Rare Snowfall Stuns Residents of Johannesburg – (Extinction Protocol – August 9, 2012)
It snowed in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 7. South African Weather Service records show it has snowed there on only 22 other days in the last 103 years. The last snow fell there in June 2007. For the first time in recorded history, all 9 provinces received snow on the same day.
Talk to Me, One Machine Said to the Other – (New York Times – July 30, 2012)
Ocado, an online grocery store in England, prides itself on its delivery of refrigerated foods: When the company says the goods will arrive at a certain temperature, they do. Aided by microchip transmitters, heat sensors and a fast-growing form of wireless communication, the boast is a measurable fact. Inside each Ocado delivery van is a SIM-card module the size of a postage stamp that monitors the air temperature. The sensor sends data to a computer used by fleet managers back at headquarters near London every few minutes. The drone of low-density conversation between Ocado’s trucks and the company’s headquarters is one example of machine-to-machine communication, a stream of consciousness based on semiconductors that is poised to reinvigorate the mobile industry. Berg Insight, a research firm in Goteborg, Sweden, says the number of machine-to-machine devices using the world’s wireless networks reached 108 million in 2011 and will at least triple that by 2017. Ericsson, the leading maker of wireless network equipment, sees as many as 50 billion machines will be connected by 2020. Only 10 billion or so are likely to be cellphones and tablet computers. The rest will be machines, talking not to us, but to each other.
Surveillance City? Microsoft and NYPD Team Up – (CNet – August 8, 2012)
Microsoft and the New York Police Department have jointly developed a data aggregation and analysis system that allows officers to tap into live video camera feeds, 911 calls, mapped crime statistics, and license plate readers to fight crime. Based on Microsoft technologies, the Domain Awareness System will be available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, with the city of New York receiving 30% of the revenues. The Lower Manhattan Security Command Center serves as a hub for information from a variety of sources, including network of video cameras that are programmed to sound an alarm if there is an unattended package at the entrance to a building, as well as 600 radiation detectors and more than 100 license plate readers on police cars and at bridges, tunnels and streets. Video will be retained for 30 days, while metadata, license plate data for five years, and so-called "environmental data" collected by devices designed to detect hazards related to terrorist threats will be held indefinitely. Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told CNET he was worried about the possibility that the system would be abused by officers looking to track down the whereabouts of citizens without having to get a warrant. "It takes a lot of chutzpah for Microsoft and the NYPD to describe location data from license plate readers and surveillance cameras as 'public safety data.'
Fracking Technique That Uses No Water – (GizMag – July 31, 2012)
Hydraulic fracturing works by pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water down shafts to deep-lying shale beds. The water is pumped at pressures of up to 15,000 psi, which cracks the shale, forming fissures that allow any gas or oil trapped in it to flow freely. It’s opened up fields previously thought worthless that now promise to yield trillions of barrels of oil and far more natural gas. However, it has raised significant concerns about environmental safety. Depending on the method involved and the type of oil field, various other materials are added to the water used in fracking, such as sand, foaming agents, gels and friction reducers. The concern is that the water, which is pumped out after the process, may either leak these substances plus radioactive radon from the well directly into aquifer layers, or contaminate water supplies after pumping out. Chimera Energy had developed a process that eliminates any working liquid. First developed in China, this involves using hot gases rather than liquid to fracture the shale. This was originally intended for wells in arctic regions where water used in fracking freezes; Chimera Energy has developed it for general use.
Water-powered Car Hits Main Stream – (Pure Energy Systems – July 28, 2012)
According to the Times of India, Members of the Pakistani parliament, scientists, and students alike watched in awe as Waqar Ahmad, a Pakistani engineer, successfully demonstrated a working water powered car in Islamabad. With one liter of water, Ahmad claims that on a 1000 cc, a car could cover a distance of 40 km, or a motorbike could travel 150 km. Ahmad's system utilizes a hydrogen bonding technique with distilled water, creating hydrogen to power the vehicle. This is not the first time a water powered car has been proven to work. Over a year ago, Genepax, a Japanese company, unveiled a car that can run on river, rain or sea water, and even Japanese tea. An article states, "The key to the Genepax system is its membrane electrode assembly, which contains a material that’s capable of breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen." See also: Nanosheet Catalyst Discovered to Sustainably Split Hydrogen from Water
Plane Conversion Kit Lets a Glasair Aircraft Be Driven as a Trike – (GizMag – August 1, 2012)
There’s been a growing interest in “roadable aircraft” designed to be driven on the road or flown in the air. While an aircraft is being designed from scratch as a completely original vehicle, Trey Johnson and his team at Plane Driven have taken a different approach in creating a competing product. Their PD-2 kit can be added to an existing Glasair Sportsman GS-2 light aircraft, allowing it to be converted into a highway-capable motorized trike when needed. Needless to say, most people probably aren’t going to want to drive an airplane around town when doing things like getting groceries or taking the kids to swim class. Plane Driven instead sees the PD-2 as a means of getting to and from airports, or as a way of allowing pilots to complete trips on the highway when storms close in. It can reportedly travel over 200 road miles on one tank of conventional gas.
GMO Crops So Tough That Farmers Are Turning to Kevlar Tractor Tires – (AutoBlog – August 4, 2012)
As it turns out, corn genetically modified to stand tall and tough against pests is also wreaking havoc on tractor tires. Mark Newhall of Farm Show Magazine says that after the stalks are cut during harvest, the leftover stubs are like "having a field of little spears." So instead of tractor tires lasting the usual five to six years, they're getting chewed up after just one or two years. One tractor tire can cost thousands of dollars, and some tractors have as many as eight tires. How does a farmer deal with a genetically modified plant destroying the very thing his business rides on? With Kevlar, the same material used in bullet-proof vests. Although Kevlar-augmented tractor tires are more expensive, they should at least outlast their thin-skinned counterparts.
GMO-fed Hamsters Become Infertile, Have Stunted Growth – (Nation of Change – August 7, 2012)
Other than fertility problems, the GMO phenomenon has been noticed elsewhere—including in the United States. Farmers using GM feed have reported infertile pigs and cows. Other incidents involving GMOs include: Austrian researchers reporting 4th generation “Frankencorn”-fed mice totally infertile; thousands of dead sheep, buffalo, and goats in India after grazing on GM cottonseed; offspring of mother rats fed GM soy dead within three weeks and recorded smaller sizes; cooked GM soy with up to 7 times the amount of a soy allergen; organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, and changed enzyme levels; excessive cell growth in the stomach lining of GM-potato-fed rats, potentially leading to cancer; and GMO corn contributing to human obesity and organ disruption.
Farmer Puts Eye in the Sky – (Ag Weekly – November 22, 2007)
Robert Blair of Kendrick, Idaho used CropCam, a remote-controlled drone aircraft that takes detailed photos of his fields. CropCam is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that carries a high-resolution digital camera. He loads the plane into his pickup, assembles the drone, hooks up the GPS, auto-pilot and camera, and with a running toss the aircraft, takes to the blue skies above the Clearwater River. “The most common comment is, ‘Oh, look at the toy,’” Blair said. “Well, yeah, it looks like a toy—it is a remote-control toy—except that it’s a high-tech one with an auto pilot in it. We are using the same product the military and NASA are using.” Blair said he’s the first farmer in the United States using one of those drones in agriculture. The drone meticulously maps every foot of the wheat field with high-resolution digital photos that pinpoint trouble spots where Blair can add more water or fertilizer to increase yields and bring in more dollars. (Editor’s note: Although this article is five years old, it points to a use—and proliferation—of UAVs that we hadn’t seen before.)
iPhone Plug-in Tests If Your Food Is Really Organic – (Huffington Post – August 9, 2012)
The Lapka company is developing an iPhone plug-in that it claims can detect phony organic food. Sensors in the device measure humidity, temperature, radiation and, something called, "organicity," which apparently reveals how "organic" a food is. Currently in the prototype stage, the plastic and wood sensors plug into the iPhone's headphone jack. The device pokes a piece of food with a steel probe to check the nitrate concentration, a chemical component commonly used in fertilizers that are non-organic in nature. Lapka expects to release the device in December at a price of $220. (Editor’s note: it is not clear that the chemical analysis would be able to detect GMO foods which were grown under certified organic means. For a suggestion of the top GMO foods to avoid, see this article.)
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Goldman to Invest in City Jail Program, Profiting if Recidivism Falls Sharply – (New York Times – August 2, 2012)
Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program administered by MDRC (Manpower Research Demonstration Corporation), a non-profit social services provider overseeing a program housed at New York City’s Rikers Prison. The program is aimed at reducing the recidivism rate among male inmates aged 16 to 18 by 10% over the next four years. Mayor Bloomberg’s personal foundation—Bloomberg Philanthropies—has agreed to chip in another $7.2 million. If the program reduces recidivism by 10%, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million. If MDRC reduces recidivism by 20%, Goldman will make an additional $2.1 million. If recidivism does not drop by at least 10%, Goldman will lose as much as $2.4 million. The recidivism rate at Rikers currently stands at 66% and far outstrips the New York State average, which has hovered around 40% for the last decade. Currently, nearly 50% of young men released from Rikers reoffend within a year. Alicia Glen, head of Goldman Sachs’s Urban Investment Group, said the company was confident that the program would work and that Goldman was “confident that the city will identify enough savings that we’ll get a reasonable return on the investment.” (Editor’s Note: “Identify savings” or “reduce recidivism”? There is quite a difference. We could not find an article that specified the time frame or manner in which the drop would be calculated.)
Does Cybercrime Really Cost $1Trillion? – (Nation of Change – August 2, 2012)
Gen. Keith Alexander is the director of the National Security Agency and oversees U.S. Cyber Command, which means he leads the government’s effort to protect America from cyberattacks. Due to the nature of his job, he maintains a relatively low profile, so when he does speak, people listen closely. Alexander warned that cyberattacks are causing “the greatest transfer of wealth in history,” and he cited statistics from, among other sources, Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc., which both sell software to protect computers from hackers. Crediting Symantec, he said the theft of intellectual property costs American companies $250 billion a year. He also mentioned a McAfee estimate that the global cost of cybercrime is $1 trillion. A handful of media stories, blog posts and academic studies have previously expressed skepticism about these attention-getting estimates, but this has not stopped an array of government officials and politicians from continuing to publicly cite them as authoritative. Now, an examination of their origins by ProPublica has found new grounds to question the data and methods used to generate these numbers.
DNA Barcodes Leap Out of the Lab – (Register – August 9, 2012)
The South Australian government has backed the commercialization plans of a locally developed DNA barcoding technology to be launched internationally as a security and authentication tool. Biotech outfit GeneWorks claims its DNA barcoding invention, which can invisibly mark a range of valued items, is compatible with forensic analysis and legal applications, unlike technologies currently on the market. “The plan is to have, within a year, sufficient unique codes that will be able to be applied to all sorts of industries to tag and track items. This could be from fisheries to art to money or illegal drugs. It’s limitless really.” GeneWorks general manager Nik Psevdos.The GeneWorks technology can also be applied as a fixative spray which can physically tag intruders upon entering a security protected premise.
Japan Creates Prototype for World’s First Giant Boarding Armed Robot – (Extinction Protocol – August 13, 2012)
A massive robot that can carry a seated human pilot – and is armed with twin Gatling guns – has gone on show in Japan. Kuratas is described as the world’s first giant boarding robot, no doubt inspired by the ‘mechs’ of Japanese anime and manga comic book culture which features human controllers inside a walking vehicle. But Kuratas is different in that it offers two types of control system. The robot can be piloted directly or remotely by a user connected to a 3G device such as a laptop, tablet or Smartphone. Its twin six-barreled Gatling guns fire BB-sized pellets at the rate of 6,000 rounds per minute. The robot is huge – measuring four meters in height and weighing four tons. The cost for one of the custom-built machines is $1 million. Purchases have a choice of colors – including pink.
WikiLeaks in Latin America - (Nation of Change - August 3, 2012)
A year after thousands of cables on Latin America were first released by WikiLeaks, the revelations have had different results -- in two countries it led to the forced departure of the U.S. ambassador; in another it helped change the course of a presidential election. This entry is a 20 minute video clip of Peter Kornbluh exploring the impact of WikiLeaks across the region. Kornbluh is a senior analyst on Latin America at the National Security Archive.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
GameStop Magazine Growth Vaults It Past Better Homes & Gardens – (Bloomberg – August 8, 2012)
Game Informer, a video-game publication owned by GameStop Corp., increased its paid circulation more than any other U.S. magazine in the past year by tying subscriptions to discounts with the retailer. The monthly magazine’s circulation jumped 37% from a year earlier to 8.2 million copies as of June 30, pushing it past Better Homes & Gardens magazine to make it the third-largest magazine in the U.S., according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Game Informer trailed only the American Association of Retired Persons’ AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin in total circulation. Game Informer led in circulation for digital editions of magazines, with 1.2 million copies. That was up more than fivefold from a year earlier.
The Price May Drop for You Alone – (New York Times – August 9, 2012)
It used to be that with dedication and a good pair of scissors, one grocery shopper could get the same coupons — and cheap prices — as another. Now going to the grocery store is becoming a lot less egalitarian. Airlines, hotels and rental cars have offered variable prices for years. Those prices, however, are almost always based on capacity and timing, or are given to groups — seniors get one discount, frequent users another. Now grocers like Safeway and Kroger are going one step further, each offering differing methods to determine individualized prices. Hoping to improve razor-thin profit margins, they are creating specific offers and prices, based on shoppers’ behaviors, that could encourage them to spend more: a bigger box of Tide and bologna if the retailer’s data suggests a shopper has a large family, for example (and expensive bologna if the data indicates the shopper is not greatly price-conscious). The pricing model is expected to extend to other grocery chains — and over time could displace standardized price tags. Even though the use of personal shopping data might raise privacy concerns among some consumers, retailers are counting on most people accepting the trade-off if it means they get a better price for a product they want.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Nuclear: A Stepping Stone to Space Exploration - (World Nuclear News - July 27, 2012)
A new era of space exploration is dawning through the application of nuclear energy for rovers on Mars and the Moon, power generation at future bases on the surfaces of both and soon for rockets that enable interplanetary travel. NASA has reported the successful tests of power conversion and radiator systems for a nuclear power system it hopes to deploy on the Moon by 2020. Next year China is to launch a rover for the Moon powered by a nuclear battery, with a mission to take samples of the surface and survey beneath using radar. Most significant of all could be the Russian project for a 'megawatt-class' nuclear-powered rocket. In the 1960s, research into nuclear rockets saw prototypes use small fission reactors to heat and eject hydrogen to propel a craft forward. This came with a number of radiological complications that prevented further development. The idea being pursued now by Russia's Keldysh Research Center is to use a small gas-cooled fission reactor aboard the rocket to turn a turbine and generator set and thereby produce electricity for a plasma thruster. Keldysh chief Anatoly Koroteev said the specific thrust of such a system could be 20 times that of current chemical rockets, enabling heavier craft with greater capabilities to travel further and faster than ever before. According to Koroteev, the advent of nuclear-electric rocketry will be a step-change analogous to the introduction of the jet engine to aviation.
China to Attempt First Moon Landing – (Telegraph – July 31, 2012)
China’s third lunar probe will blast off in the second half of 2013, the state Xinhua news agency has reported. Other reports said it would land and transmit back a survey of the moon's surface. If successful, the landing would be China's first on the lunar surface and mark a new milestone in its space development. It is part of a project to orbit, land on and return from the moon, Xinhua said. China said in its last white paper on space it was working towards landing a man on the moon, although it has not given a time frame. Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
Social Security Not Good Deal It Once Was – (Newsday – August 5, 2012)
People retiring today are part of the first generation of workers who are likely to have paid more in Social Security taxes during their careers than they will receive in benefits after they retire. It's a historic shift that will only get worse for future retirees, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. If you retired in 1960, you could expect to get back seven times more in benefits than you paid in Social Security taxes -- more if you were a low-income worker -- as long as you lived to age 78 for men and 81 for women. As recently as 1985, workers at every income level could retire and expect to get more in benefits than they paid in Social Security taxes. Not anymore. A married couple retiring last year after both spouses earned average lifetime wages paid about $598,000 in Social Security taxes during their careers. They can expect to collect about $556,000 in benefits, if the man lives to 82 and the woman lives to 85, according to a 2011 study by the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. (Editor’s note: We suspect this analysis will eventually be revised—because the longevity has been notably under-estimated. The baby-boomers are going to live long enough that they will get their money back.)
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Professor on Quest for India's Hidden Inventors - (Associated Press - July 27, 2012)
For more than two decades, Professor Anil Gupta has scoured rural India for its hidden innovations, motivated by the belief that the most powerful ideas for fighting poverty and hardship won't come from corporate research labs, but from ordinary people struggling to survive. Gupta and his aides have uncovered more than 25,000 inventions, from the bicycle-mounted crop sprayer to the electric paintbrush that never needs to be dipped in a paint can. Many of the cheap, simple ideas he spreads for free from one poor village to another with the inventor's blessing. Some he is working to bring to market, ensuring the innovator gets the credit and the profit that will spur others to create as well. Many ideas are simply documented in his database waiting for some investor to spot their potential. He routinely dispenses tiny grants, either from a government fund or his own web of organizations, to help poor innovators finish their projects. The 59-year-old management professor with a thick graying beard reminiscent of an ascetic holy man says he gets no financial benefit from his finds, reveling instead, with almost childlike joy, in the process of discovery itself. Many finds focus on agriculture: a more productive strain of peppers, a makeshift seat that lets coconut harvesters rest high up in trees, a hollow spear that pierces a hole in a field and drops in a seed. And then there are some really strange eye-brow raisers.
Stone Spray Project – (Stone Spray Project – no date)
Stone Spray is an on-site 3-D robotic printer that creates architecture out of soil…and takes the concept of “printer” to a completely new place.
119 Billion Google Searches Now a Central Bank Tool – (Bloomberg – August 2, 2012)
Central banks stand at the forefront of the world’s hunt for new economic indicators, analyzing keyword counts for everything from aerobics classes to refrigerators -- reported by Google almost as soon as the queries take place -- to gauge consumer demand before official statistics are released. The Federal Reserve and the central banks of England, Italy, Spain and Chile have followed up with their own studies to see if search volumes track trends in the economies they oversee. At stake is the ability of the guardians to deploy nimbler policy responses. Google makes its data available one to three days after users perform searches. The U.S. Commerce Department typically publishes its monthly report on retail sales two weeks into the following month. To be sure, the research connecting economic forecasting with Google’s search counts -- totaling 119 billion worldwide in June, according to Internet research company ComScore Inc. -- is still in its early stages. Even the biggest proponents of the tool cite causes for reservation. The figures go back only to 2004, constraining comparisons with statistics that have a longer track record. And by limiting its sample to Internet users, the search volumes may not reflect the purchases of those who spend less time online: the elderly and the less affluent. Investors hoping for an edge in the markets also are canvassing the trove of data left behind by Internet users.
The Universe is Timeless; A Radical Theory of Spacetime – (Daily Galaxy – July 29, 2012)
Scientists at the Scientific Research Centre Bistra in Ptuj, Slovenia have theorized that the Newtonian idea of time as an absolute quantity that flows on its own, along with the idea that time is the fourth dimension of spacetime, are incorrect. They propose to replace these concepts of time with a view that corresponds more accurately to the physical world: time as a measure of the numerical order of change. This view doesn’t mean that time does not exist, but that time has more to do with space than with the idea of an absolute time. So while 4D spacetime is usually considered to consist of three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, the researchers’ view suggests that it’s more correct to imagine spacetime as four dimensions of space. In other words, the universe is “timeless”.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
Do You Want to Be Immortal? Really? – (Huffington Post – August 1, 2012)
According to Dr. Igor Vishev (b. 1933), a distinguished Russian scientist and philosopher, it is likely that there are people alive today who will never die. Just stop for a moment and think about that. Alive today. Never die. Vishev is convinced that medical technology is advancing so rapidly that sometime later in this century, Homo sapiens will become Homo immortalis. Genetic engineering, replacement of natural organs with artificial instruments, nanotechnology, and other developing technologies could now extend our lives well beyond today's assumed limits. He proposes that a 200-year-old person is a present possibility, and a person who could live at least as long as a 2,000-year-old redwood tree is certainly imaginable. Such longevity will be self-propelling. New discoveries during the 200-year (or 2,000-year) lifespan would make what Vishev calls "practical immortality" a fairly safe bet. Vishev's philosophy, which he calls "practical immortology," is an attempt to shift our entire culture and worldview from one based on the certainty of human mortality to one based on the prospect of human immortality. This shift requires radical new directions not only in science and technology but in economics, politics, morality, ecology, art -- everything. Not easy, of course, but he thinks it's possible. The important question now may not be whether remaking ourselves and our universe to eliminate limits to present life is possible, but whether it is desirable.
Swearing Hotline Launched for Angry Germans – (News Lite – July 29, 2012)
For workers in one German call center, being bombarded with verbal abuse all day is just another day at the office. That's because a swearing hotline has been launched for angry Germans to call up and blow off some steam by swearing at the call-centre worker on the other end. The team behind the "Schimpf-los" (swear away) line says they came up with the idea as a way of letting people release pent-up aggravation so they don't take it out on work colleagues, friends or family. The cost is 1.49 euros per minute.
JUST FOR FUN
Extraordinary Photographs – (Document the Truth – July 29, 2012)
Having passed the half-way point of the year, here is a collection of some of the more stunning photographs taken so far this year.
A FINAL QUOTE--
The mind of man is capable of anything - because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. - Joseph Conrad
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Ken Dabkowski, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Kurzweil AI, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, Abby Porter, Bobbie Rohn, SchwartzReport, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen