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If Something Is Going To Destroy Humanity, It’s Going To Be One Of These Catastrophes

“Global catastrophes—events that wipe out at least 10% of the world population—obviously don’t happen very often. But they have happened in the past; the plague in the 14th century, for example, killed as much as 17% of the global population. More recently, the Spanish flu in 1918 killed between 50 to 100 million people—not quite an official catastrophe by this definition, but still as much as 5% of the people in the world.

That was before modern medicine. Today, though, we face even more potential risks. A new report, Global Catastrophic Risk 2016, outlines exactly what might go wrong—and what we might do to prevent it.”

‘Antibiotic apocalypse’: Drug resistance to kill 10mn in EU & US by 2050, study warns

Antibiotics are failing us – fast. England’s chief medical officer has issued a dire warning as 50,000 people a year across the EU and US succumb to untreatable infections. It comes with a comprehensive report suggesting 10 million deaths by 2050.

According to Dame Sally Davies, England’s top physician, tens of thousands across both continents are suffering from conditions perfectly treatable only a short while back. The threat, she says, is comparable to terrorism.

Davies has pioneered the UK’s foray into antimicrobial resistance (AMR) strategies, and is considered a leading global voice in the matter. Her warning comes in a report by economist Lord Jim O’Neill, who has been commissioned by the government to conduct a survey of the problem and its possible solutions. The product is the result of a two-year study.

Our Future is Here — And It’s Gothic

Writer and futurist Madeline Ashby believes that the fears and trepidations we face in the modern world are paving the way for a comeback in Gothic art and literature.

Ashby’s “Our Gothic Future,” a recent blog post on her site, talks about the ways in which the tropes of “the Gothic” (as academics call it) are even more resonant today than they were in their inception, particularly in the realm of secrets. She directs our attention to Gothic art’s preoccupation with the unknown:

Like the twenty-first century surveillance apparatus, the Gothic mode is preoccupied with that which is unseen. Hidden feelings, hidden histories, hidden staircases. Unspoken truths, secret plans, desires which dare not speak their own name. Gothic literature finds evidence of power or emotion sublimated “three hops” from the source. Rochester asks Jane to marry him, and lightning strikes a tree. Jane is sad, and the rain begins. It’s an inventory of emotional meta-data as evidenced by pathetic fallacy, presentiments of doom, inexplicable fevers, and twisted ankles.

Highlighting this trend, Ashby goes on to discuss a story that she wrote for the Institute for the Future’s anthology for the Age of Networked Matter project, and how practically all of the authors for the project had written horror stories–haunted house stories, to be exact–without consulting each other. She believes the reason why is clear: “Because the haunted house is how we will understand our homes, once the Internet takes over all our domestic touchpoints.”

Is ‘Dark Tourism’ OK?

Tourists posting photos of themselves giving the thumbs up in Auschwitz, for example, or smiling from a rusted-out bumper car in Pripyat, the Ukrainian city that was evacuated after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.

The offending images are seen and blasted around to social media circles. Disparaging comments are made and the shares continue, rippling out to create a full-blown meme about travelers’ growing predilection for “dark tourism.”

The truth is, visiting places associated with death and suffering has been popular a lot longer than the selfie stick.

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How a gay European sociology professor’s political career explains Donald Trump

“Donald Trump isn’t like any politician America has seen lately. But European politics experts argue that his rise was eerily presaged by the assassinated Dutch demagogue Pim Fortuyn.

At first blush, Fortuyn may seem an odd choice as a Trump ancestor: Fortuyn was a gay sociology professor, about as far from Trump in background as you can imagine.

But both Fortuyn and Trump rose to prominence out of nowhere, almost exclusively by emphasizing anti-immigrant sentiment. Both men bucked the existing political establishment, and both proposed banning Muslims from entering the country.

[…] Unless Trump actually wins the presidency, this is the only way his candidacy could be anything but a novelty in 20 years. He’ll need a more cogent ideology, as well as people willing to dedicate their professional lives to implementing it.

It’s not obvious that he’s building that kind of philosophy or infrastructure. It’s not obvious that he’s interested in building that kind of philosophy or infrastructure.

But if Trump puts his mind to it, and actually attempts to create something out of the anger wave he’s riding, things could end differently. The Trump campaign, ridiculous and incoherent as it seems right now, could be the beginning of something genuinely new: an American right-wing populist movement that draws on the same discontent that’s currently roiling Europe.

Pim Fortuyn is dead. But what he represented may very well live on.”

The Scientists Who Simulate The End Of The World

“September 11 transformed the global economy, the way wars are fought, and how the United States keep tabs on citizens. But it also revealed just how complex our world had quickly become in the years leading up to the attack. So complex, in fact, that in the months that followed, the government mandated a project to understand it.

The National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center, or NISAC, was officially founded in 1999 as a collaboration between two national laboratories, Sandia and Los Alamos, managed by the Department of Energy. Three years later, NISAC’s mission—to model the behavior of fuel supply lines, the electrical grid, food supply chains, and other national infrastructure—was suddenly a matter of critical national import. “It was really 9/11 that focused the country’s attention on the vulnerability of domestic infrastructure,” says Lori Parrott, program manager at NISAC. Being able to simulate how an attack or disaster would affect those systems was no longer a rhetorical exercise, it was a reality.”

Welcome to the new feudalism – with Silicon Valley as our overlords

“Are we facing another tech bubble? Or, to put it in Silicon Valley speak, are most unicorn startups born zombies?

How you answer these questions depends, by and large, on where you stand on the overall health of the global economy. Some, like the prominent venture capitalist Peter Thiel, argue that virtually everything else – from publicly traded companies to houses to government bonds – is already overvalued. The options, then, are not many: either stick with liquid but low-return products such as cash – or go for illiquid but potentially extremely lucrative investments in tech startups.

If true, this is good news for Thiel and his peers, especially at a time of negative interest rates. And for the rest of us? Well, we are probably doomed.

For several months now, Alphaville, the excellent finance blog of the Financial Times – not your typical bastion of technophobia and capitalism-bashing – has been raising concerns about Silicon Valley’s effect on the rest of the economy. Its writers insist that, for all the highfalutin talk about radical transparency, the data-intensive business model adopted by leading tech firms actually distorts how markets operate, depriving them of essential information needed for the efficient allocation of resources.

How so? Since data – the fuel of advertising markets – is the source of their profits, tech firms are happy to offer, at highly subsidised rates, services and goods that yield even more data. Ultimately there is no limit as to what kind of goods and services those could be: they might have started with browsing and social networking, but they are as happy to track us exercise, eat, drive or even make love: for them, it’s all just data – and data means cash.”

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This 14-Minute Film About A Boy With A Camera For A Face Puts Modern Reality In Focus

‘”The Boy with a Camera for a Face” is a strange, timely, multi award-winning short film that has just been released on Vimeo for all to see. It is very much worth your time, all 14 minutes of it. Filmmaker Spencer Brown‘s parable is about our obsessive interest in other people’s lives, our insatiable urge to document every moment that happens to us, and the distorting effects of doing so. And it’s a lot less dour than Arcade Fire’s last album, which touched on similar themes.

Narrated nursery rhyme-style, the film opens with the (no doubt extremely painful) birth of our aperture-eyed hero and goes right into his early life. There are clever, surreal touches at every turn, such as the parents having to change the boy’s video tape every night, rather than a diaper. (What does that say about what’s being recorded?) The sight of a proud papa hugging his camera should resonate with anyone who feels oddly amputated upon leaving the house without a phone. It’s already a Ray Kurzweilian nightmare/fantasy before the kid even hits puberty.”

 

 

The Scientists Who Simulate The End Of The World

“September 11 transformed the global economy, the way wars are fought, and how the United States keep tabs on citizens. But it also revealed just how complex our world had quickly become in the years leading up to the attack. So complex, in fact, that in the months that followed, the government mandated a project to understand it.

The National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center, or NISAC, was officially founded in 1999 as a collaboration between two national laboratories, Sandia and Los Alamos, managed by the Department of Energy. Three years later, NISAC’s mission—to model the behavior of fuel supply lines, the electrical grid, food supply chains, and other national infrastructure—was suddenly a matter of critical national import. “It was really 9/11 that focused the country’s attention on the vulnerability of domestic infrastructure,” says Lori Parrott, program manager at NISAC. Being able to simulate how an attack or disaster would affect those systems was no longer a rhetorical exercise, it was a reality.”

 

We are missing our chance to stop the sixth mass extinction

“The immense challenge of climate change has caused myopia among a lot of politicians, sending them into a self-destructive state of denial. More quietly, though, that immensity has triggered another kind of myopia, this one among conservationists. In focusing on the staggering planetary impacts of greenhouse emissions, they are losing sight of the other ways that human beings lay a heavy hand on the planet. In particular, they are paying too little attention to the true causes of (and potential solutions to) the loss of species around the world – a massive die-off often referred to as ‘the sixth extinction’.”

Which cities are most at risk to fragility?

“Cities are remarkable natural experiments. Many of them generate tremendous prosperity and progress. Others fail to lift off. All of them are exposed to risks of fragility to greater and lesser degree but the intensity of their vulnerability varies. Notwithstanding the remarkable resilience of their residents cities such as Kinshasa or Mogadishu are stretched far beyond their carrying capacity. They are not alone: many cities in low- and middle-income countries are reaching a breaking point. Even mature megacities like London, New York, and Tokyo are susceptible to fragility.

What makes a city fragile? Fragility emerges when the social contract binding municipal institutions and residents comes unstuck. When city authorities are unable or unwilling to deliver basic services to citizens (or when they explicitly oppress local residents), people lose confidence in their government. In such situations, parallel forms of power — from street gangs to violent extremists — emerge to fill the gap. City fragility does not occur in a vacuum. It is exacerbated by certain risk factors — the speed of urbanization, income and social inequality, youth unemployment, criminal violence, poor access to key services, and lack of resilience to climate threats.

So which cities are most at risk to fragility? This simple question is not easy to answer. Part of the reason is that there is virtually no global repository of data on cities. We know surprisingly little about the world’s 55,000 or so cities and settlements. Another challenge is that fragility is hard to detect. Ostensibly “stable” cities can exhibit destabilizing characteristics at the neighborhood level. In cities like Brussels, Paris or Stockholm there are pockets of fragility concentrated in poorer marginal neighborhoods like Molenbeek, Bondy or Malmo. Where there is social disorganization, there is often above-average crime and chronic vulnerability to radicalization and extremism.”

On Extinction and Capitalism

“UNLESS YOU’VE DELIBERATELY ignored the accelerating drumbeat of headlines, reports, and nonfiction books that have appeared over the past decade, you’re at least vaguely aware that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet, in which 25 to 40 percent of all species are expected to disappear by 2050. Because extinction is generally a silent, invisible process, we are rarely forced to confront its inherent tragedy and the potentially vast ecological ripples of even a single species’ eradication. When we do, we wonder how we can possibly intervene, individually or collectively. While conservation efforts have widespread support and can boast a few modest (and temporary) victories, they have been overwhelmed by the ongoing wave of anthropogenic annihilation.

Which leads to the question that Ashley Dawson’s slim and forceful book, Extinction: A Radical History, aims to answer: how can we stem the tide? By identifying capitalism as the primary culprit, and placing the current mass extinction in the context of ongoing struggles for social and environmental justice, Dawson points the way toward appropriate forms of conservation for an era of devastating loss.”

Zika, ISIS e Trump – Os três são a versão século XXI de antigos fenômenos: as epidemias, o terrorismo e a demagogia

“Não poderiam ser mais diferentes. O zika é um vírus, o Estado Islâmico é um grupo terrorista e Trump… é Trump. Mas os três surpreenderam o mundo. E acabam tendo mais em comum do que parece à primeira vista. São a versão século XXI de antigos fenômenos: as epidemias, o terrorismo e a demagogia.

A epidemia de zika começou em 2015, o ISIS (acrônimo em inglês do Estado Islâmico) nasceu em 2014 e Donald Trump anunciou sua candidatura à presidência dos Estados Unidos em 2015.

Não obstante, nenhum dos três é novo. O vírus do zika foi identificado pela primeira vez em 1947, quando foi encontrado em um macaco em uma selva na Uganda. Os líderes do ISIS têm uma longa trajetória em outras organizações terroristas islâmicas. E já em 1987 Donald Trump anunciou aos meios de comunicação que pensava em ser candidato à presidência dos Estados Unidos. Esse plano não foi adiante, mas em 2000 Trump participou como candidato presidencial das eleições primárias do Partido Reformista.

Por mais que sempre tenha havido epidemias, terroristas e demagogos, suas manifestações recentes pegaram o mundo de surpresa. E sem respostas para confrontar seus efeitos nefastos.”

Yeasayer Transcends Time and Space on ‘Amen & Goodbye’

“There are few bands that can evolve as effortlessly as trio of art rock Brooklynites, Yeasayer. On their fourth LP, Amen & Goodbye, they don’t just reconcile the worldbeat freak rock of All Hour Cymbals, psychedelic pop of Odd Blood, and brooding, dark electronica of Fragrant World, but manage to transcend time and space itself with a mélange of biblical allusions, futuristic sound, and countless other seemingly disparate stylistic and thematic juxtapositions.”

 

 

Why a “modern” can’t understand the risks we face

“These assumptions make modern humans particularly susceptible to becoming captives of the bell curve. Our understanding of risk is mediated by a misleading picture of regularity in the physical world and in human society. Moderns believe that nearly all risks–and certainly the nontrivial ones relating to our survival as species–can be easily calculated and managed.

The truth about risk is actually much more disturbing. The generator of events in the universe is hidden from us humans. We see the results and make up theories about the causes and the processes. Some theories work well such as those relating to the prediction of the orbits of planets, for example. But, others have a challenged track record. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith remarking on his own profession once said: “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

The idea that the study of human psychology, sociology and economics would yield theories as powerful as those we have for predicting the orbits of planets has long since been abandoned (except by economists, it seems). Humans remain quite unpredictable. And, the trends in the societies in which we live are all the more difficult to perceive and forecast since there are so many people interacting with each other using our worldwide communications and logistics system, each pursuing their individual aims.”

The scientist who first warned us about climate change says it’s way worse than we thought

“The rewards of being right about climate change are bittersweet.

James Hansen should know this better than most — he warned of this whole thing before Congress in 1988, when he was director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies. At the time, the world was experiencing its warmest five-month run since we started recording temperatures 130 years earlier.

Hansen said, “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”’

Two Strategies for Surviving the Coming Mass Extinction

“The next Great Dying is coming. In fact, it’s definitely already here.

The last time our planet saw a dying-off of global proportions was approximately 250 million years ago, and most of the life on Earth was wiped out for good. Plants, land and marine vertebrates, and invertebrates were all devastated. Scientists call this incident the Permian-Triassic extinction event.

Right now, we’re witnessing the sixth mass extinction that Earth has ever known. But this time, it’s not the devastating impact of an asteroid, violent volcanism, or the deep-freeze of an ice-age that’s purging the planet of its life forms. It’s us.

So what is any intelligent, enterprising animal to do when faced with the potential demise of its own species and most of those around it? Prepare.

A new study published in Scientific Reports may help us to predict how the further deterioration of environments and natural resources, due to the effects of climate change, will physiologically impact modern species, possibly even humans.”

Google’s new media apocalypse: How the search giant wants to accelerate the end of the age of websites

“Google is experimenting with a new feature that allows marketers, media companies, politicians and other organizations [to] publish content directly to Google and have it appear instantly in search results.

The search giant said it began testing the feature in January and has since opened it up to a range of small businesses, media companies and political candidates.

Fox News has worked with Google to post content related to political debates, for example, while People.com published posts related to the Oscars in February. Earlier this week, HBO published “news” articles related to fictitious characters in its popular show “Silicon Valley” to promote the season 3 premiere.

Google has built a Web-based interface through which posts can be formatted and uploaded directly to its systems. The posts can be up to 14,400 characters in length and can include links and up to 10 images or videos. The pages also include options to share them via Twitter, Facebook or email.”

The Pain You Feel is Capitalism Dying

“It can be very confusing to know that you won’t find a decent job, pay off student loans or put in a down payment on a house in the next few years — even though you may have graduated from a top-tier university or secured glowing references from all those unpaid internships that got you to where you are today.

Even if you are lucky enough to have all of this going for you, you’ll still be one among hundreds of applicants for every job you apply for. And you’ll still watch as the world becomes more unequal, with fewer paid opportunities to do what you feel called to do in your work or for your life path.

What’s more, you won’t find much help from your friends because most (if not all) of them are going through the same thing. This is a painful and difficult time that is impacting all of us at once.

There will be people who tell you it’s your fault. That you aren’t trying hard enough. But those people are culprits in perpetuating a great lie of this period in history. The standard assumptions for how to be successful in life a few decades ago simply do not apply anymore. The guilt and shame you feel is the mental disease of late-stage capitalism. Embrace this truth and set yourself free.”

Tor and VPN users will be target of government hacks under new spying rule

“An update to the innocuous-sounding Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure could soon grant powers to judges across the US to issue search warrants for law enforcement to remotely access devices that are using privacy tools.

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure sets the rules for criminal prosecutions and this change would see a sweeping expansion of law enforcement’s ability to engage in remote surveillance to gather evidence, with zero public debate on the new powers.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) says that Tor and VPN users, as well as people who reject location tracking by apps on their smartphone, could all be targeted for remote access, seizure or copying of data.

The new rule, which has just left the Supreme Court and is headed to Congress, could also end up targeting people who have been a victim of malware as it seeks to find the source of potentially harmful botnets.”

The New Mind Manipulators

“Your mind is being controlled by distant strangers who don’t have your best interests at heart. If that sounds like a paranoid fantasy, brace yourself and read on. These are the findings of a series of scientific studies that show how a few dominant institutions have the power to affect how you feel, how you act, and even how you vote – without you ever knowing about it.

Deliberate mind manipulation of the masses is, by itself, nothing new. Nearly a hundred years ago, our global mania for consumption was unleashed by the malevolent brilliance of Edward Bernays, known as the “father of public relations.” Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and used his uncle’s insights into the subconscious to develop his new methods of mind control, designed to create the modern American consumer.”

Singer: cresce no Brasil a inclinação da classe média pelo fascismo

“Citando pesquisa Datafolha de abril deste ano, o cientista político André Singer destaca que vem crescendo no Brasil a inclinação da classe média pelo fascismo. Ele lembra a preferência do eleitorado pelo deputado Jair Bolsonaro (PSC-RJ), em quarto lugar na pesquisa. “Nada menos que 20% dos entrevistados com renda acima de 10 salários mínimos familiares mensais declararam adesão a ele”, afirma Singer.

O colunista lembra ainda o polêmico voto de Bolsonaro pela admissibilidade do processo de impeachment na Câmara dos Deputados no último domingo 17. “A fala propositadamente radical do deputado Jair Bolsonaro (PSC-RJ), ao enaltecer famoso torturador, dialoga com o conservadorismo difuso em setores da sociedade”, diz.”

Rick Owens Fall 2016

“2015 was the hottest year on record. The future of the planet is on the ballot in the U.S., where the denial of climate science is practically built into the Republican platform. And if you believe Elizabeth Kolbert—and by the way, you probably should: Her book The Sixth Extinction won the Pulitzer for General Non-Fiction last year—we’re in the midst of a man-made mass extinction. Are you worried? Rick Owens is. Backstage today at his show, which he named Mastodon, Owens spoke of his uneasiness about environmental change. “Mastodons don’t exist anymore, as we won’t,” he said. “Maybe there’s an acceptance level we should look for.”’

 

 

The rise of the right: Right-wing populism in the U.S. and Europe

“In this episode of “Intersections,” scholars Constanze Stelzenmüller, the Robert Bosch senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe and E.J. Dionne, Jr., a senior fellow in Governance Studies discuss how economic grievances and political fragmentation are fueling the rise of right-wing political movements in the United States and Europe.”

‘Fukushima, vidas contaminadas’, uma reportagem em realidade virtual

“Esta é a primeira grande reportagem em realidade virtual de um meio de comunicação em espanhol, inaugurada pelo novo canal do EL PAÍS. Em 11 de março de 2011, um terremoto cujo epicentro estava a 130 quilômetros da costa matou milhares de pessoas e mudou a história do Japão para sempre. O país voltou a conhecer um dos seus grandes demônios: o pesadelo nuclear. O acidente da central nuclear de Fukushima causou a evacuação de 100.000 pessoas e uma situação de emergência só comparável à das bombas atômicas da Segunda Guerra Mundial. Cinco anos depois, milhares de japoneses ainda estão vivendo em barracões sob a ameaça da radiação.”

Is this the end of the West as we know it?

“Trump has advocated torture, mass deportation, religious discrimination. He brags that he “would not care that much” whether Ukraine were admitted to NATO; he has no interest in NATO and its security guarantees. Of Europe, he has written that “their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually.” In any case, he prefers the company of dictators to that of other democrats. “You can make deals with those people,” he said of Russia. “I would have a great relationship with [Vladimir] Putin.”

Not only is Trump uninterested in America’s alliances, he would be incapable of sustaining them. In practice, both military and economic unions require not the skills of a shady property magnate who “makes deals” but boring negotiations, unsatisfying compromises and, sometimes, the sacrifice of one’s own national preferences for the greater good. In an era when foreign policy debate has in most Western countries disappeared altogether, replaced by the reality TV of political entertainment, all of these things are much harder to explain and justify to a public that isn’t remotely interested.”

The rise of American authoritarianism

“Trump embodies the classic authoritarian leadership style: simple, powerful, and punitive

These Americans with authoritarian views, they found, were sorting into the GOP, driving polarization. But they were also creating a divide within the party, at first latent, between traditional Republican voters and this group whose views were simultaneously less orthodox and, often, more extreme.

Over time, Hetherington and Weiler had predicted, that sorting would become more and more pronounced. And so it was all but inevitable that, eventually, authoritarians would gain enough power within the GOP to make themselves heard.

At the time, even Hetherington and Weiler did not realize the explosive implications: that their theory, when followed to its natural conclusion, predicted a looming and dramatic transformation of American politics. But looking back now, the ramifications of their research seem disturbingly clear.

Authoritarians are thought to express much deeper fears than the rest of the electorate, to seek the imposition of order where they perceive dangerous change, and to desire a strong leader who will defeat those fears with force. They would thus seek a candidate who promised these things. And the extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms.

A candidate like Donald Trump.”

Live and let die: did Michel Foucault predict Europe’s refugee crisis?

“In March 1976, philosopher Michel Foucault described the advent of a new logic of government, specific to Western liberal societies. He called it biopolitics. States were becoming obsessed with the health and wellbeing of their populations.

And sure enough, 40 years later, Western states rarely have been more busy promoting healthy food, banning tobacco, regulating alcohol, organising breast cancer checks, or churning out information on the risk probabilities of this or that disease.

Foucault never claimed this was a bad trend – it saves lives after all. But he did warn that paying so much attention to the health and wealth of one population necessitates the exclusion of those who are not entitled to – and are perceived to endanger – this health maximisation programme.

Biopolitics is therefore the politics of live and let die. The more a state focuses on its own population, the more it creates the conditions of possibility for others to die, “exposing people to death, increasing the risk of death for some people”’

Will Inequality Turn Entire Cities Into Ghettos?

“It’s a charged word, ghetto, no matter where in its linguistic history you focus. It once referred to areas of cities where Jews were confined and restricted because they weren’t Christian. Today, according to Merriam-Webster, a ghetto is “a part of a city in which members of a particular group or race live usually in poor conditions.”

It is time to recognize that “particular group” is a malleable term. The residents of a ghetto are the “other,” the ones who aren’t the same as the mainstream or majority. But one person’s mainstream is another’s other, and the mechanisms to keep people out of sight have changed. No longer does someone lock a gate at night. Instead, economic pressures and market forces fence people in. Once that meant by neighborhood. Today, it has turned into entire cities becoming unwelcoming based on income inequality.”

Human Extinction Isn’t That Unlikely

“Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions.

These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters—but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. And according to a new report from the U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation, they’re much more likely than we might think.

In its annual report on “global catastrophic risk,” the nonprofit debuted a startling statistic: Across the span of their lives, the average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.

Partly that’s because the average person will probably not die in an automobile accident. Every year, one in 9,395 people die in a crash; that translates to about a 0.01 percent chance per year. But that chance compounds over the course of a lifetime. At life-long scales, one in 120 Americans die in an accident.”

Ours will be remembered as the era of plastics

“Historians may soon be looking back at the 20th and early 21st centuries as the time of computers and the internet, bold ventures into space and the splitting of the atom. But what will scholars in the distant future find worthy of note? If there’s anyone around with a penchant for paleontology hundreds of thousands of years from now, a surprise awaits in the stratigraphic layers containing the remains of our time.

Anyone digging into the earth would find a sudden, explosive increase in a new kind of material – plastic. Once underground, plastic will fossilise well, leaving a distinct signature. And there’s plenty of it. Until the 20th century, plastic was virtually nonexistent. Since then, humans have created 5 billion tons. The palaeontologist Jan Zalasiewicz has calculated that if it were all converted into cling wrap, there would be enough to wrap the globe.

Until about 20 years ago, Zalasiewicz said, the idea that people could permanently change the planet was considered nonsense. Human beings were too puny and the planet too vast.

“The scale of geological processes such as mountain building and volcanic eruptions have been held to be much greater than anything humans can rustle up,” he said. But over the last several decades, he added, it’s become clear that human-generated effects “can be big on a geological scale and can be more or less permanent.”‘

External Interior, inside-out perspective

“Transparency has become a relevant and ambiguous value, on one side revealing the hidden complexity of machines we’re surrounded by, and on the other side directly exposing human bodies to surveillance and/or exhibitionism. This ambivalent nature of transparency is conceptually embedded in “External Interior” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. It’s an “inside-out disco ball” brilliantly lighted, “made with 1600 one-way mirrors mounted on a transparent acrylic sphere.” Its technical texture provides it with a unique property: the visitors placing their head inside the ball can experience a tessellated vision of themselves, similar to that insects’ compound eyes can see. But simultaneously people in the same space can see the head from the outside. Reminding some seventies science fiction aesthetics, this technically brilliant work is providing supernaturally enhanced vision questioning everybody’s position and values of the temporary social space it creates.”

 

 

The World is Over

“It’s noon, Thursday, Eastern Daylight Time, and every human being on Earth has just vanished in one huge and completely unselective rapture. Had there been any warning, people might have parked their cars on the roadside or landed their planes, but no, so immediately the world’s roads become flaming wreckage-strewn ribbons, while crashed jets punctuate the landscape with fireballs. To witness the scene around, say, a freeway circling Dallas, Texas, one would have the impression of a landscape on which 10,000 black tethers have been lashed to the sky.

And then things go quiet, at least for a few minutes – the quietest few minutes the planet has known for centuries, but this doesn’t last long, as everything has been left running. Dams continue to generate electric current, and gas pipes continue to deliver gas and fuel rods remain inserted in their cores. Gas stoves, heating systems, security lasers and Bunsen burners cause houses, businesses, prisons and hotel rooms the world over to burst into flames, followed by oil wells and forests and, most critically, nuclear power stations, beginning with less sophisticated and undermaintained models in the former Soviet Union, as well as those on the Asian subcontinent. The smoke they produce is certainly thick, but the isotopes they release into the jet stream and air sheds is in levels inconceivable to even the most nuclear-paranoid. By midnight, most of the Northern Hemisphere is shrouded in a black, acrid curtain, and sunlight will from now on reach the surface in patches. The Southern Hemisphere fares slightly better in an On the Beach sort of way, but the mist of angry isotopes from the north begins arriving around the 24-hour mark.”

 

RELATED LINKS:

Solarpunks

An Inconvenient Truth: the evolution of ‘climate emergency’

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