From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Two months in, Porter Ranch [California] gas leak compared to BP Gulf oil spill: More than 1,800 families have been relocated by the gas company and more than 1,000 remain on a waiting list. Some say they can’t remember a displacement of residents this large since the Northridge earthquake in 1994, when 20,000 people were left homeless. Two local elementary schools have been impacted, with nearly 2,000 schoolchildren and staff slated to be moved to other schools in January. Enough methane gas is being released to fill the Empire State building each day, state officials have said, and the concern has even reached the Federal Aviation Administration, which issued temporary flight restrictions over the area for small aircraft and helicopters. [more inside]
FINLAND: New Government Commits to a Basic Income Experiment - "The Finnish government of Juha Sipilä is considering a pilot project that would give everyone of working age a basic income."[1,2,3] (via) [more inside]
Let Us Face the Future - "All parties pay lip service to the idea of jobs for all. All parties are ready to promise to achieve that end by keeping up the national purchasing power and controlling changes in the national expenditure through Government action. Where agreement ceases is in the degree of control of private industry that is necessary to achieve the desired end. In hard fact, the success of a full employment programme will certainly turn upon the firmness and success with which the Government fits into that programme the investment and development policies of private as well as public industry." [more inside]
In his new book Ciphers, German photographer Christopher Gielen (previously) reveals haunting images of our endlessly repetitive development through aerial views of American urban sprawl. [more inside]
As hopes for the future of multilateral action on the environment are fading, the draft negotiating text of "The future we want", the Rio+20 declaration was leaked, showing where the US delegation was seeking to remove any and all references to equity.
With capitalism in crisis, can it be sustained or is it altogether outdated? As Umair Haque asks though, perhaps a better question is: "are organizations and markets making decisions that help make people, communities, and society better off in the long run, by allocating their scarce resources to the most productive uses?" [more inside]
Moving beyond GDP for an information-based society - If indeed[1,2] "A 'Quantum Leap' in Governance" is needed then, as part of the solution, we might start looking past GDP[5,6] and perhaps more toward "betterness instead of business, pursue awesomeness instead of innovation — and maximize good, instead of quarterly profits..." [more inside]
Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal, long nicknamed the "Lavender Lake" for its copious oil slicks, has gained a new title : Superfund Site. New Yorkers respond with really cool photography. While some developers bow out in light of the recent news, other area developers, hoping for a speedy cleanup of the industrial waste and, uh ... other things ... vow to continue their plans to revitalize the formerly-industrial corridor.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development, aka "Earth Summit II," will start soon in Johannesburg, ten years after the Rio Earth Summit. Have things improved at all in the last ten years? While there are some reasons to be optimistic, the data isn't cheerful. Our climate is growing unstable; tens of millions are dying or likely to die, and hundreds of millions more likely to be made refugees, because of environmental pollution and degraded ecosystems; and half the plants and animals on the planet seem headed for extinction over the next century. In short, things are grim. What steps, big or small, are you taking to do your part for the environment?