from the world's big
Techno-Anarchy: Peaceful or Violent?
An excellent article by Bill Wasik in Wired UK discusses the role technology and connectivity play in the creation of unruly mobs (as opposed to the peaceful protests seen widely during the Arab Spring). Common lore holds that the use of the Blackberry Messenger (BBM) by rioters in London in the summer of 2011 accelerated mob behavior and helped the mob coordinate its violent looting. London mayor Boris Johnson was incredulous that BBM had not been shut down, calling it a tool that "weaponizes" mobile phones. In the article, Wasik crticially examines this theory by further examining the link between the technology and the behavior of the mob. When a mob has turned ugly, did the technology do more than just organize the crowd? Did it in fact bring out the base animal instincts in man?
The London riots began in protest of the killing of a 29 year old man by police during an arrest. However, the protests soon turned violent and took on a life of their own, degenerating into looting across Britain, causing millions of pounds of damage. Their use of Blackberry Messenger (BBM) allowed them to move in a coordinated fashion, quickly assembling and disassembling before police could corner and suppress them affectively (see news clip below). Wasik explains that the crowd might have been acting senselessly to the outside observer, but to each of them they were following a coherent ideology, logically following instructions and warnings that appeared on their phones. They were organized and in their connectedness and access to information, they found confidence and power. As Wasik writes, “A crowd’s power is amplified by the fact that its members can never really get separated. A crowd that’s always connected can never really be dispersed. It’s always still out there.” Such a crowd moves like a disciplined army unit even though it is dynamic and seems to move in and out like a flash (hence the term flash mob).
This view is supported by researchers like Clifford Stot of the University of Liverpool. Drawing on the pioneering work of Nobel prize winner Elias Canetti and his landmark Crowds and Power, Stot and other social psychologists believe that members of an unruly crowd find a common identity and act in a disciplined manner (even though the crowd as a whole appears completely chaotic). This theory runs counter to the traditional belief that violent crowds are a collection of individuals who are behaving recklessly because their anonymity in the throng encourages them to shed the imposed morals of human society. In fact, they act in the name of their evolving common identity and can become violent if the leadership and purpose change.
2011 witnessed many protests around the world, some violent and others peaceful. Technology clearly helps facilitate both types, its primary benefit being its organizing power and in allowing for crowds to exist even when they are not physically together.
Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?
Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.