Ted Kaczynski, known to the FBI as the Unabomber, sent parcel bombs from his shack to those he deemed responsible for the promotion of the technological society he despises. Is it possible to read someone like Kaczynski and be convinced by the case he makes, even as you reject what he did with the knowledge?
Artificial intelligence could erase many practical advantages of democracy, and erode the ideals of liberty and equality. It will further concentrate power among a small elite if we don’t take steps to stop it. “We’re facing not just a technological crisis but a philosophical crisis,” says the author of ’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’.
From The Tyee: Ellul predicted the chaotic tyranny we pretend is the good life in technological society. Just as Marx deftly outlined how capitalism threw up new social classes, political institutions and economic powers in the 19th century, Ellul charted the ascent of technology and its impact on politics, society and economics in the 20th.
David A. Banks writes in The Baffler: Engineering has not strayed far from its military origins… Engineers are trained to “plug into chain-of-command decision making structures… In times like these it is important to remember that border walls, nuclear missiles, and surveillance systems do not work, and won’t even exist, without the cooperation of engineers.
“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.”
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.
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.
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”.
If you wanted to change a culture, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. ‘Schooling The World,’ a film by Carol Black, takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply troubling look at the role played by modern education in the destruction of the world’s last sustainable land based cultures.
Robert J. Burrowes writes: Just listing the types of rubbish generated by humans is a staggering task. Nevertheless, I will give you a reasonably comprehensive summary of the types of garbage being generated, the locations into which it’s being dumped and some indication of what’s being done about it and what you can do too.
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.
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.
This article is not about giving anyone a sponge bath. But it’s about cleaning up your family networks of purposeless cash lying around in those quarters which, if not salvaged and used for your personal learning and liberation, will invariably get squandered on some new discount racket at the mall-next-door or Ponzi schemes like bitcoins.
Carol Black writes: Some of our children, it turns out, are more like pigeons and squirrels, and some are more like bears. Some of them adapt to the institutional walls we put around them, some pace till their paws bleed. The bleeding of these children, if we listen, can tell us many stories about ourselves.
From Ecosocialist Horizons: The First Ecosocialist International is not just another gathering, nor another reunion of intellectuals to define ecosocialism. Neither is it a single organization with a seal, or with the omnipresent danger of becoming a bureaucracy. It’s simply a common program of struggle, with moments of encounter and exchange, which anyone may join.
James Kunstler writes: I watched Blade Runner 2049, the latest from Hollywood’s dream-shop. It was an excellent illustration of the over-investments in technology with diminishing returns that are dragging us into collapse and of the attendant techno-narcissism that afflicts the supposedly thinking class in this society, who absolutely don’t get what this collapse is about.
Kurt Cobb writes: We’ve created a world of low-maintenance objects which are low-maintenance merely because they are disposable… Philosophers bemoan our love of material things. But I believe that we modern, industrialized people don’t actually love material things. We wouldn’t treat material things the way we do if we truly loved and cared for them.
Hurricane Maria, which has devastated Puerto Rico, has left 97% the island’s population without power. Electricity is the essential pillar upon which the operations of all modern industrial societies depend. When electricity stops, pretty much everything else stops, as Puerto Rico demonstrates. Given an increasingly unstable climate, it’s a warning for everyone, writes Kurt Cobb.
Richard Heinberg writes: Over the past century-and-a-half, fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution, and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity. Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is only a symptom.