Summary of “The New Language of Climate Change”

PHOENIX-Leading climate scientists and meteorologists are banking on a new strategy for talking about climate change: take the politics out of it.
Educating the public and policy makers about climate change at a time when elected leaders are doubling down on denials it is happening at all or that humans are responsible for it demands a new lexicon, conference attendees told me-one that can effectively narrate the overwhelming scientific evidence but not get sucked into the controversy fueled most prominently by President Donald Trump.
The hope is to convince the small but powerful minority that stands in the way of new policies to help mitigate climate change’s worst long-term effects-as well as the people who vote for them-that something needs to be done or their own livelihoods and health will be at stake.
Climate Matters is tracking climate trends in 244 cities-including a steadily hotter Phoenix.
Simpson attended the conference at the Phoenix Convention Center to outline his three-year effort to educate farmers about climate change in western Tennessee and eastern Kentucky, where at some dinner tables the term remains a political curse word.
Despite the Democratic takeover of the House, and a new commitment to try to pass climate change legislation, some leading Republican skeptics are still chairing major committees with jurisdiction over climate policy.
Now, some 600 broadcast meteorologists, out of an estimated 2,200 in the United States, are working with Climate Matters, founded in 2010, to craft new ways to communicate climate change to their viewers.
Gandy, who helped found Climate Matters, recounted a recent presentation he delivered at the Rotary Club in Columbia on the dangers of climate change and the need to take sweeping actions soon to confront it.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Music, Feeling, and Transcendence: Nick Cave on AI, Awe, and the Splendor of Our Human Limitations – Brain Pickings”

Her contemporary and admirer Walt Whitman considered music the profoundest expression of nature, while Nietzsche bellowed across the Atlantic that “Without music life would be a mistake.” But something curious and unnerving happens when, in the age of artificial intelligence, mathematics reaches its human-made algorithmic extensions into the realm of music – into the art Aldous Huxley believed grants us singular access to the “Blessedness lying at the heart of things” and philosopher Susanne Langer considered our foremost “Laboratory for feeling and time.” When music becomes a computational enterprise, do we attain more combinatorial truth or incur a grave existential mistake?
If we are feeling sad and want to feel happy we simply listen to our bespoke AI happy song and the job will be done.
It is perfectly conceivable that AI could produce a song as good as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” for example, and that it ticked all the boxes required to make us feel what a song like that should make us feel – in this case, excited and rebellious, let’s say.
It is also feasible that AI could produce a song that makes us feel these same feelings, but more intensely than any human songwriter could do.
Music has the ability to touch the celestial sphere with the tips of its fingers and the awe and wonder we feel is in the desperate temerity of the reach, not just the outcome.
If an AI were to ever sign a letter to a human being who cherishes its music with “Love, Nick,” would that not be a mere simulacrum of the human experience the word love connotes and of the sense of self with which we imbue our own names? Alan Turing laid the foundation for these perplexities with the central question of his famous Turing test – “Can machines think?” – but it is impossible to consider the implications for music without building upon Turing’s foundation to ask, “Can machines feel?” Cave’s insightful point comes down to the most compelling and as-yet poorly understood aspect of human consciousness – the subjective interiority of experience known as qualia.
It is most closely relayed to another consciousness through the language and poetics of art, which Ursula K. Le Guin well knew is our finest, sharpest “Tool for knowing who we are and what we want.” And if Susan Sontag was right, as I feel she was, in insisting that music is “The most wonderful, the most alive of all the arts,” then music would be the art least susceptible to machine creation.
Complement with German philosopher Josef Pieper on the hidden source of music’s singular power and Regina Spektor’s lovely reading of Mark Strand’s poem “The Everyday Enchantment of Music,” then go listen and feel to some AI-irreplicable Nick Cave.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Wonder Works”

These bodily symptoms point to three dimensions that might in fact be essential components of wonder.
In a similar spirit, Socrates said that philosophy begins in wonder: that wonder is what leads us to try to understand our world.
Wonder unites science and religion, two of the greatest human institutions.
Nowadays, we don’t think of museums as houses of curiosity, but they remain places of wonder.
Bringing these threads together, we can see that science, religion and art are unified in wonder.
An alternative possibility is that wonder is a natural by-product of more basic capacities, such as sensory attention, curiosity and respect, the last of which is crucial in social status hierarchies.
Extraordinary things trigger all three of these responses at once, evoking the state we call wonder.
If wonder is found in all human beings and higher primates, why do science, art and religion appear to be recent developments in the history of our species? Anatomically modern humans have been around for 200,000 years, yet the earliest evidence for religious rituals appears about 70,000 years ago, in the Kalahari Desert, and the oldest cave paintings are only 40,000 years old.

The orginal article.

Summary of “China and the Geopolitics of the Far Side of the Moon”

In recent years China’s space efforts have jumped to warp speed.
In 2018, China launched more rockets into orbit than any other country.
Read: Why it’s a bad idea to launch rockets over land.
The country is aiming to land a rover on Mars in early 2021 and, if successful, would become the second country after the United States to accomplish the feat.
China’s space accomplishments are as symbolic and strategic as the Apollo and Vostok programs were in the 1960s, especially now, when space agencies in Europe, Russia, India, and, most recently, the United States have put a big focus on lunar exploration.
“We are building China into a space giant,” Wu said.
For spacefaring nations, impressive feats, whether it’s landing on Mars or on the far side of the moon, will always be seen through the lens of the nation that managed to pull it off.
We choose to go to the back of the moon not because of the unique glory it brings, but because this difficult step of destiny is also a forward step for human civilization!

The orginal article.

Summary of “Alain de Botton on Love, Vulnerability, and the Psychological Paradox of the Sulk”

“Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp?” philosopher Martin Heidegger asked in his electrifying love letters to Hannah Arendt.
“Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves.” Still, nearly every anguishing aspect of love arises from the inescapable tension between this longing for transformative awakening and the sleepwalking selfhood of our habitual patterns.
The multiple sharp-edged facets of this question are what Alain de Botton explores in The Course of Love – a meditation on the beautiful, tragic tendernesses and fragilities of the human heart, at once unnerving and assuring in its psychological insightfulness.
A sequel of sorts to his 1993 novel On Love, the book is bold bending of form that fuses fiction and De Botton’s supreme forte, the essay – twined with the narrative thread of the romance between the two protagonists are astute observations at the meeting point of psychology and philosophy, spinning out from the particular problems of the couple to unravel broader insight into the universal complexities of the human heart.
As the book progresses, one gets the distinct and surprisingly pleasurable sense that De Botton has sculpted the love story around the robust armature of these philosophical meditations; that the essay is the raison d’être for the fiction.
In one of these contemplative interstitials, De Botton examines the paradoxical psychology of one of the most common and most puzzling phenomena between lovers: sulking.
The sulker may be six foot one and holding down adult employment, but the real message is poignantly retrogressive: “Deep inside, I remain an infant, and right now I need you to be my parent. I need you correctly to guess what is truly ailing me, as people did when I was a baby, when my ideas of love were first formed.”
Complement it with philosopher Erich Fromm on what is keeping us from mastering the art of loving, sociologist Eva Illouz on why love hurts, and Anna Dostoyevsky on the secret to a happy marriage, then revisit De Botton on the seven psychological functions of art and what philosophy is for.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Future According to the Author of Sapiens”

One of the most important forces in history is human stupidity.
Experiments are already under way to augment the human immune system with an inorganic, bionic system.
Almost all traffic accidents are because of humans making bad decisions.
That’s not impossible because human beings very often make terrible mistakes, even in the most important decisions of their lives.
Then the question is, “What is human life all about?” For thousands of years we have constructed this idea of human life as a drama of decision-making.
The liberal story is based on the ideal and the notion of free will, that the free will of individual humans is the ultimate source of authority in the world.
Yes, the way that Cambridge Analytica and all these companies and bots behaved is they hacked humans.
One of the most important forces in human history is human stupidity.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Much of the Internet Is Fake?”

How Much of the Internet Is Fake? In late November, the Justice Department unsealed indictments against eight people accused of fleecing advertisers of $36 million in two of the largest digital ad-fraud operations ever uncovered.
Views were faked by malware-infected computers with marvelously sophisticated techniques to imitate humans: bots “Faked clicks, mouse movements, and social network login information to masquerade as engaged human consumers.” Some were sent to browse the internet to gather tracking cookies from other websites, just as a human visitor would have done through regular behavior.
Fake people with fake cookies and fake social-media accounts, fake-moving their fake cursors, fake-clicking on fake websites – the fraudsters had essentially created a simulacrum of the internet, where the only real things were the ads.
How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot.
The “Fakeness” of the post-Inversion internet is less a calculable falsehood and more a particular quality of experience – the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not “Real” but is also undeniably not “Fake,” and indeed may be both at once, or in succession, as you turn it over in your head. Take something as seemingly simple as how we measure web traffic.
What would real human traffic look like? The Inversion gives rise to some odd philosophical quandaries: If a Russian troll using a Brazilian man’s photograph to masquerade as an American Trump supporter watches a video on Facebook, is that view “Real”? And not only do we have bots masquerading as humans and humans masquerading as other humans, but also sometimes humans masquerading as bots, pretending to be “Artificial-intelligence personal assistants,” like Facebook’s “M,” in order to help tech companies appear to possess cutting-edge AI. We even have whatever CGI Instagram influencer Lil Miquela is: a fake human with a real body, a fake face, and real influence.
Contrary to what you might expect, a world suffused with deepfakes and other artificially generated photographic images won’t be one in which “Fake” images are routinely believed to be real, but one in which “Real” images are routinely believed to be fake – simply because, in the wake of the Inversion, who’ll be able to tell the difference?
Otherwise we’ll all end up on the bot internet of fake people, fake clicks, fake sites, and fake computers, where the only real thing is the ads.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Empty Brain”

No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli.
Predictably, just a few years after the dawn of computer technology in the 1940s, the brain was said to operate like a computer, with the role of physical hardware played by the brain itself and our thoughts serving as software.
Although he acknowledged that little was actually known about the role the brain played in human reasoning and memory, he drew parallel after parallel between the components of the computing machines of the day and the components of the human brain.
A wealth of brain studies tells us that multiple and sometimes large areas of the brain are often involved in even the most mundane memory tasks.
Because neither ‘memory banks’ nor ‘representations’ of stimuli exist in the brain, and because all that is required for us to function in the world is for the brain to change in an orderly way as a result of our experiences, there is no reason to believe that any two of us are changed the same way by the same experience.
If you and I attend the same concert, the changes that occur in my brain when I listen to Beethoven’s 5th will almost certainly be completely different from the changes that occur in your brain.
Worse still, even if we had the ability to take a snapshot of all of the brain’s 86 billion neurons and then to simulate the state of those neurons in a computer, that vast pattern would mean nothing outside the body of the brain that produced it.
To understand even the basics of how the brain maintains the human intellect, we might need to know not just the current state of all 86 billion neurons and their 100 trillion interconnections, not just the varying strengths with which they are connected, and not just the states of more than 1,000 proteins that exist at each connection point, but how the moment-to-moment activity of the brain contributes to the integrity of the system.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What We Read Into Dinosaurs”

Their attraction to dinosaurs suggests that the giant creatures appeal to something innate, or at least very elemental, in the human psyche.
There are many picture books about dinosaurs, for children that are just learning to read, mechanical dinosaurs, and countless accessories sporting pictures of dinosaurs.
Accordingly, we will be better able to understand the significance of dinosaurs to the contemporary world if we do not think of science as monolithic, much less as a “Realm apart.” It would be more accurate to regard “Science” as a vast area of human endeavor, requiring not only researchers but philosophers, web designers, artists, teachers, journalists, museum professionals, and so on.
Within a very short time of their discovery in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, people had an emotional relationship with dinosaurs that was as complex, ambivalent, multifaceted, and in some ways intimate as our bond with just about any living animal, including the dog and the cat.
Early discoverers of dinosaurs such as Gideon Mantell greatly exaggerated their size, appealing to the public’s taste for both grandeur and novelty.
Since, even with highly sophisticated tools, it is possible to infer only so much information from bones and related objects, those who wish to reconstruct the appearance and habits of dinosaurs have plenty of scope for imagination.
Most popular representations of dinosaurs ignore even the limits imposed by paleontology, while often incorporating a few recent discoveries in order to appear up to date.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, dinosaurs were often used to represent big business, though their eventual demise could seem like a proletarian revolution.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humans”

December 10, 2018.Experts say the rise of artificial intelligence will make most people better off over the next decade, but many have concerns about how advances in AI will affect what it means to be human, to be productive and to exercise free will.
Digital life is augmenting human capacities and disrupting eons-old human activities.
The experts predicted networked artificial intelligence will amplify human effectiveness but also threaten human autonomy, agency and capabilities.
Bryan Johnson, founder and CEO of Kernel, a leading developer of advanced neural interfaces, and OS Fund, a venture capital firm, said, “I strongly believe the answer depends on whether we can shift our economic systems toward prioritizing radical human improvement and staunching the trend toward human irrelevance in the face of AI. I don’t mean just jobs; I mean true, existential irrelevance, which is the end result of not prioritizing human well-being and cognition.”
Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future, said, “Without significant changes in our political economy and data governance regimes [AI] is likely to create greater economic inequalities, more surveillance and more programmed and non-human-centric interactions. Every time we program our environments, we end up programming ourselves and our interactions. Humans have to become more standardized, removing serendipity and ambiguity from our interactions. And this ambiguity and complexity is what is the essence of being human.”
Michael M. Roberts, first president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and Internet Hall of Fame member, wrote, “The range of opportunities for intelligent agents to augment human intelligence is still virtually unlimited. The major issue is that the more convenient an agent is, the more it needs to know about you – preferences, timing, capacities, etc. – which creates a tradeoff of more help requires more intrusion. This is not a black-and-white issue – the shades of gray and associated remedies will be argued endlessly. The record to date is that convenience overwhelms privacy. I suspect that will continue.”
Danah boyd, a principal researcher for Microsoft and founder and president of the Data & Society Research Institute, said, “AI is a tool that will be used by humans for all sorts of purposes, including in the pursuit of power. There will be abuses of power that involve AI, just as there will be advances in science and humanitarian efforts that also involve AI. Unfortunately, there are certain trend lines that are likely to create massive instability. Take, for example, climate change and climate migration. This will further destabilize Europe and the U.S., and I expect that, in panic, we will see AI be used in harmful ways in light of other geopolitical crises.”
Batya Friedman, a human-computer interaction professor at the University of Washington’s Information School, wrote, “Our scientific and technological capacities have and will continue to far surpass our moral ones – that is our ability to use wisely and humanely the knowledge and tools that we develop. Automated warfare – when autonomous weapons kill human beings without human engagement – can lead to a lack of responsibility for taking the enemy’s life or even knowledge that an enemy’s life has been taken. At stake is nothing less than what sort of society we want to live in and how we experience our humanity.”

The orginal article.