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Franklin Foer on the existential threat of big tech

“These machines shape the way we view reality. We’re not just merging with machines, but with the companies that run these machines—who run these machines for profit. And here’s the existential threat… these technologies will change what it means to be human. Once we take this leap, it will be very hard to reverse course.”

Six science-fiction authors parse the implications of our unhinged era

From Nature: Science fiction is increasingly in the here and now. With technological change cranked up to warp speed and day-to-day life smacking of dystopia, where does science fiction go? Has mainstream fiction taken up the baton? Six prominent American science fiction writers reflect on what the genre has to offer about our common future.

Charles Eisenstein: Opposition to GMOs is neither unscientific nor immoral

The pro-and anti-GMO positions will remain irreconcilably polarized as long as larger questions remain unexamined. What’s at stake here is much more than a choice about GMOs. It is a choice between two very different systems of food production, two visions of society, and two fundamentally different ways to relate to plants, animals, and soil.

Energy, money and technology – From the lens of the Superorganism

In this keynote address delivered at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the Post Carbon Institute’s Nate Hagens discusses how our lives will be influenced by how we react to the coming era of harder to extract and more costly fossil fuels that will be combined with cleaner but less concentrated energy types.

Tribute: Vladimir Vernadsky on the Biosphere and the Noösphere

Russian geochemist Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (1863-1945), founder of biogeochemistry, also laid the foundations for the ‘Gaia hypothesis’ with his idea that life is a geological force that can change Earth’s landforms, climate, even the contents of its atmosphere. “What Darwin did for life through time, Vernadsky did for life through space on a geological scale”.

J.M. Korhonen: I’m no longer advocating for clean energy; here’s why

We’re not going to get a decarbonized energy system by 2050. We’re going to fail the climate targets, probably by a large margin, and I suspect that a warming of about 3 degrees centigrade is going to be almost inevitable. It’s perfectly possible that self-amplifying feedback mechanisms under way will amplify this change even more.

Melvin Kranzberg’s Six Laws of Technology, a metaphor, and a story

Michael Sacasas writes: Melvin Kranzberg was a professor of the history of technology and the founding editor of the journal Technology and Culture. Here are Kranzberg’s Laws of Technology — “a series of truisms,” according to him, “deriving from a longtime immersion in the study of the development of technology and its interactions with sociocultural change.”

Slaughterbots: How autonomous weapons endanger our future

From CNet/Future of Life Institute: Autonomous weapons use Artificial Intelligence to select and engage targets without human intervention. Now, a think tank backed by scientist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk, among others, offers a graphic warning against machines that decide whom to kill. This fictional video underscores how seriously these experts view the issue.

Why we can no longer shrink from the most urgent conversation on the planet

Richard Heinberg writes: Many problems are converging at once because society is a complex system, and the challenges we have been discussing are aspects of a systemic crisis. A useful way to frame an integrated understanding of the 21st century survival challenge is this: we humans have overshot Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for our species.

Shriya Mohan: The Aadhaar of all things

From The Hindu: From a severely critical stand against Aadhaar in 2014, the Modi-led BJP in power has made a sharp U-turn to bulldoze its way into having every Indian scanned, tagged and labelled. As the Supreme Court begins hearing of petitions that challenge Aadhaar, a timeline of the country’s chequered date with the project.

Why the Bitcoin frenzy heralds a massive financial meltdown

From WSWS/Automatic Earth: Bitcoin has been hailed as the currency of the future; and dismissed as a bubble at best, or a tool for organised crime at worst. But one thing is clear; its soaring demand is a direct result of a broken global financial system trusted by nobody and on the verge of breakdown.

Koodankulam: The world’s most expensive pieces of useless machinery

Nityanand Jayaraman writes in Dianuke.org: We do not need four more nuclear plants in Koodankulam. The need of the hour is to shut down the existing two risky units and to prosecute the ministers, technocrats and bureaucrats who led the nation up the garden path and wasted more than Rs. 35,000 crores of our money.

The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: ‘There is reason for hope’

From The Guardian: A series of fast-moving global megatrends, spurred by trillion-dollar investments, indicates that humanity might be able to avert the worst impacts of global warming. From those already at full steam, including renewable energy, to those just emerging, such as plant-based alternatives to meat, global trends show that greenhouse-gas emissions can be halted.

Coal vs Renewables: An open letter to India’s chief economic advisor

With the national energy policy about to be finalised, a recent lecture by Dr. Arvind Subramanian, India’s chief economic advisor, revealed the government’s thinking on the question of coal vis-a-vis renewable energy. This rejoinder by an energy expert flags crucial issues and suggests alternatives that are vastly more healthier for the country and the planet.

The Indian Oil project that could turn a Kerala village into a deathtrap

From The Wire: An Indian Oil Terminal, which can store up to 15,400 metric tons of cooking gas, is scheduled to be built in Vypeen, Kochi, which is among the world’s most densely populated islands. Will Kerala’s Communist Patrty-led government allow this high risk project to come up, defying all common sense and public opinion?

33 years since Bhopal: No justice, no closure, and similar disasters in the making

From Down to Earth: Thousands dead and more than a million victimised for life. Justice has remained a distant dream, and the promise of adequate compensation and rehabilitation is yet to be fulfilled. Meanwhile, several Bhopal-like disasters are in the making, across the country. Have we learned anything at all from the world’s worst-ever industrial

Easter Island: A sustainable society falsely blamed for its own demise

Catrine Jarman writes: Recently, the Easter Islands have become the ultimate parable for humankind’s selfishness; a moral tale of the dangers of environmental destruction. But 60 years of archaeological research and recent genetic data shows that this dark tale of ecocide and Malthusian collapse has more to do with Western ignorance and prejudice than facts.

A second warning to humanity, from the world’s scientists

Mankind is facing the existential threat of runaway consumption of limited resources by a rapidly growing population, says a new, dire “warning to humanity” written by 15,000 scientists from 184 countries.The message updates an original warning sent 25 years ago. The experts say the picture now is far, far worse than it was in 1992.

Former regulatory chief: India must freeze all plans for nuclear expansion

In a significant article in The Citizen, Dr A.Gopalakrishnan, the former Chairman of the India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, writes: An overall evaluation of the status of the Indian civilian nuclear power sector, and the government’s uncertain future plans, do cause a great deal of concern for the welfare of the country and the safety

Illegal GMOs and the criminal plan to alter the genetic core of India’s food system

Colin Todhunter writes: Despite four high level government reports that have advised against adopting Genetically Modified crops in India, there are alarming reports of GM okra, soyabean & brinjal being cultivated illegally in thousands of acres. The industry’s strategy is to flood the country with illegal GMOs so that there’s nothing you can do about it.

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