552 - When Macbeth Met Hamlet: a Scandinavian Scotland?
To be or not to be Scandinavian, that might be the question soon enough for Scotland, if it decides to become independent. For the time being, Scotland is still a part of the United Kingdom, as it has been since the Acts of Union in 1707. But with the Scottish National Party firmly ensconced in Holyrood , a referendum on independence is on the horizon - by 2015 at the latest.
Even though both sides have recently rowed over how binding such a referendum would be, it is hard to see how the British government of David Cameron  could deny Alex Salmond’s Scottish one the fruits of a clear victory for the Yes camp. Opinion polls show no Scottish majority (yet) for independence - the closest ones falter at around 38% - but Cameron’s ham-fisted handling of the referendum row surely must have added a few votes to Salmond’s cause.
So what happens if they win?
Well - this map suggests that Scotland could go Scandinavian, first and foremost by the sheer power of Gestalt psychology. Our brain seeks out wholeness from the sensory fragments it constantly processes, so a bunch of territories shaded in the same hue of blue: they must belong together.
It’s a trick that worked well for the British Empire at its height. The pink swathes on this world map contrast with the monochrome white of the rest of the world’s land mass, and what’s more: they contrast together. Rather than just seem really, really far away from each other, Australia and Canada seem to balance each other out, each equally pink on their opposite sides of the world .
But a Scandinavian Scotland has more going for it than this blue on this map, and our wired-for-holism  brains. There’s also geographic proximity, shared access to the same body of water, and the resultant multitude of historical links between Scotland on the one side, and Iceland, Norway and Denmark on the other. (There’s been less interaction with the slightly more distant Swedes and Finns). Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands, is closer to Bergen in Norway than to its capital Edinburgh. It’s also the location of Up Helly Aa, an annual fire festival to mark the end of Yuletide that has a distinctly Viking-y feel to it .
This map was taken from the Copenhagen Post, an English-language Danish newspaper . The accompanying article mentions a few more similarities: both Scotland and Scandinavia harvest fish and renewable energy from the sea, both sides of the North Sea share some vocabulary (Scots call their children bairns, Norwegians and Swedes call them barn, Danes børn), and both have an outlook infused by similar brands of anti-hierarchical Lutheranism. Significantly for a small nation considering independence: Scotland, Norway and Denmark all have about 5 million inhabitants. Small numbers don’t seem to be an impediment to successful statehood.
But the main attraction for a Scotland savaged by assaults on its social institutions: the fabled Scandinavian welfare state, with its state-funded cradle-to-grave care system. What’s remarkable is less that this system is under pressure and being privatised in Scandinavia itself, than the fact that it holds such sway over the Scottish imagination at all. Perhaps it’s that Lutheran connection. Or maybe it’s just another way for the Scots to distinguish themselves from the Tories, who hold sway in England .
One final, crucial advantage of a Scandinavian over a British Scotland: it would no longer be in the Far North of the UK, but in the Southwest of the Scandinavia. The place would not have to move an inch, but it would sound less cold, dark and at the end of everything . Scotland’s new orientation could finally allow it to ditch some of the negative stereotypes that have been dogging it for far too long. It would no longer be colder, emptier and darker than England. It could be as socially sophisticated and as technologically advanced as Denmark or Norway.
Will Scotland ever become so Nordic that Macbeth will be called the Scandinavian play? For as powerful as the pull towards independence might seem, another holistic paradigm is at work: the political division of islands is most often seen as a bad thing, something to either be prevented (e.g. Sri Lanka) or to be overcome (e.g. Cyprus). To quote the Bard himself:
“If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow, and which will not,
 The Edinburgh neighbourhood that is the location of - and hence a metonym for - the Scottish Parliament. It was reconstituted following a succesful referendum in 1999 on political devolution for Scotland from Westminster (another metonym, this time for the London area in which the British Parliament is located).
 A very Scottish name - but then the English have complained for centuries that they’ve been governed by Scots. Gordon Brown, the previous PM, was born, elected and lives in Scotland. Tony Blair, Brown’s predecessor, was born in Edinburgh of partly Scottish stock, and spent part of his childhood in Glasgow. Says Francis Urquhart, the (fictional) prime minister in the tv series To Play the King (1993), to his king: “My family came south with James I. We were defenders of the English throne before your family was ever heard of. It is to preserve the ideal of a constitutional monarchy that I now demand your abdication.”
 The pink-holistic view of the British Empire is a powerful one, even when most of it is gone: ‘The Last Pink Bits’ is a 1997 book by Harry Ritchie, examining what remains of the Empire map.
 Some would say that Scotland’s favourite kind of holism is alco-holism. This blog of course does not endorse such stereotyping.
 Young men, mostly dressed up in horned helmets, carry torches through the streets of Lerwick, tossing them in a longboat, which eventually goes up in flames. Sounds ancient, but originates in the 1880s. Most recent edition: 31 January 2012. More info at the Up Helly Aa website.
 Only 15 out of 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament are Conservative. Labour has 37 MSPs. The SNP (69 MSPs) is nationalist, but left-leaning.
 The standard British expression to describe the length and breadth of the land is: from John O’Groats to Land’s End. The latter is the extreme southwest of the British landmass. The former is the northeastern extremity of mainland Scotland.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Matthew Yglesias and moderator Charles Duhigg explore the idea on Big Think Live.
Is immigration key to bolstering the American economy? Could having one billion Americans secure the US's position as the global superpower?
A strange weakness in the Earth's protective magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.
- "The South Atlantic Anomaly" in the Earth's magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.
- The information was gathered by the ESA's Swarm Constellation mission satellites.
- The changes may indicate the coming reversal of the North and South Poles.
Is the Magnetic Field Reversing?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e3e0b16dac3b05dab808a4ddf04d198b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/51usJ74pPP8?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
Would you ever have sex with a robot?
- In 2016, "Harmony", the world's first AI sex robot was designed by a tech firm called Realbotix.
- According to 2020 survey data, more than one in five Americans (22 percent) say they would consider having sex with a robot. This is an increase from a survey conducted in 2017.
- Robots (and robotic tech) already play a vital role in speeding up manufacturing, packaging, and processing across various industries.
From homemade dildos to Harmony, the AI sex robot<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3f7451615568e74c6a839f04329c9902"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-cN8sJz50Ng?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><em>"...amid an economic crisis, with restaurants and retailers closing their doors and larger companies laying off and furloughing employees, the sex tech industry is booming."</em><br></p><p>A Bustle <a href="https://www.bustle.com/wellness/the-sex-tech-industry-is-booming-amid-economic-crisis-22819801" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">article</a> published in April 2020, weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, explored the drastic boost in the sex tech industry. According to the research, <a href="https://www.dameproducts.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dame Products</a> (a popular sex toy retailer) experienced a 30 percent increase in sales between the months of February to April, and popular sexual wellness brand <a href="https://unboundbabes.com/?utm_source=%7Bsource%7D&utm_medium=%7Bmedium%7D&utm_keyword=unbound%20babes&utm_matchtype=e&device=c&utm_campaign=%7Bcampaign%7D&utm_adgroup=%7Badgroup%7D&gclid=CjwKCAjw1v_0BRAkEiwALFkj5qYbdEwANUjCdRkCeVZ2HZzHjcGmpYbsOXYcMcNneLc2nySvrbaalBoChEsQAvD_BwE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Unbound</a> reported selling twice as many toys as normal in this period.</p><p>While the new coronavirus was crashing the economy in other ways, the sex tech industry was one of the few that actually saw improvements, likely due to people all over the world being advised, encouraged, and in some instances forced to stay at home.</p><p>Something similar happened in 2008, <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2010/08/23/the-great-recession-is-a-turn-on-for-the-sex-toy-industry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during the recession</a>: the sex toy industry was one of the only industries at the time that didn't gravely suffer. </p><p><strong>The evolution of sex tech from stone dildos to artificial intelligence.</strong></p><p><a href="https://sofiagray.com/what-is-the-history-of-sex-toys-from-stone-to-silicone-and-beyond/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The history of sex toys</a> is quite interesting. A 28,000-year-old siltstone dildo was uncovered in Germany in 2005. Luxury bronze dildos have also been found in China that are at least 2,000 years old.</p><p>Aside from various materials being shaped into dildos, there has always been an interest in how to advance sex technology, even before it involved actual technology at all.</p><ul><li>The 1700s: Steam-powered vibrators (such as the Manipulator).</li><li>The 1800s—1900s: The invention of the first electric vibrator (the Pulsoson) and "beauty tools" being used for sexual satisfaction (such as the Polar Cub massager)</li><li>The 1920s—1940s: The introduction of hand-held massagers (the Andis Vibrator) and compact devices (such as the Oster Stim-U-Lax)</li><li>The 1940s—1960s: Japan introduced the "Cadillac of Vibrators" (The Hitachi Magic Wand), which eventually made it's way to America.</li><li>1965: The invention of silicone, which most modern sex toys are made of.</li><li>The 1980s—1990s: The invention of the rabbit-style vibrator, made more popular with one of the first showings of a sex toy on television ("Sex and the City"). </li><li>The 2000s: Visual porn website Pornhub launched and sex toys became increasingly popular. Erotic literature also became more common and popular, with "50 Shades of Grey" and others like it. </li><li>The 2010s and beyond: Sex toys and technology start to blend, and the world's first internet-controlled sex toy was launched in 2010 by Lovense.</li></ul><p>In 2016, "Harmony", <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cN8sJz50Ng" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the world's first AI sex robot</a> was designed by a tech firm called Realbotix. </p>
From television shows to real-life applications, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more popular in all areas of human life.
Credit: Willyam Bradberry on Shutterstock<p>In 2020, more than one in five Americans (22 percent) say they would consider having sex with a robot. <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/science/articles-reports/2020/03/19/2020-both-men-and-women-are-more-likely-consider-h" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">YouGov conducted a study</a> in February 2020 that compared results from a similar study from 2017.<br></p><p>According to the results, 6 percent more people in 2020 are comfortable with the idea of having sex with a robot than in 2017.</p><p>YouGov points out that the increase in consideration is particularly significant among American adults between the ages of 18-34 years old. Additionally, how people feel about having sex with a robot has also changed. In 2020, 27 percent of Americans said they would consider it cheating if they had a partner who had sex with a robot during the relationship, compared to the 32 percent reported in 2017.</p><p><strong>"If you had a partner who had sex with a robot, would you consider it cheating?"</strong></p><p>The results from this interesting study also reveal that many people (42 percent) believe having sex with a robot is safer than having sex with a human stranger.</p><p>Robots (and robotic tech) already play a vital role in speeding up manufacturing, packaging, and processing across various industries. From television shows to real-life applications, artificial intelligence is becoming more and more popular in all areas of human life.</p><p>According to YouGov, "a <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-12/amazon-plans-high-end-echo-ramps-up-work-on-alexa-home-robot" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a> report outlining Amazon's plans for an Alexa-powered robot that follows and helps you around the home may redefine how these machines service humans in the near future." </p>