Reasons for Technological Optimism (Bing Reel)

Peter Diamandis: People talk about technology being dehumanizing; one can flip it and say it’s extraordinarily humanizing.  The more we’re connected economically, culturally, the more that we are going to have peace on this planet.

Jeff Jarvis:  Technology is, in a sense, agnostic.  It can be used for good or bad.  It can prove things or it can make them worse.  It’s up to us as to how we use them.  I believe that the internet can be essentially humanizing.  If you look at, let’s say, Facebook, there is a lot of talk about privacy and technology and all this stuff.  I think that the real use of Facebook is very simple.  It’s sharing.  845 million people are on Facebook not because they’re drunk, not because they’re insane, but because they want to connect with other people and they can now, and they do so through sharing, which is essentially social and essentially generous.  

Jaron Lanier:  So it's a little bit like the Wizard of Oz.  We see the internet and we see some cloud service or some simulated personality or some algorithm that seems to be able to recommend music or dating partners or whatever, but it all is data that just comes from real people.  So if we don't learn to acknowledge that real people are actually creating the value online we're never going to learn how to create the information economy that can really create employment and self determination for people when the machines get really good.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: People have a fear factor of robots taking over the world.  It’s been the theme of many science fiction films including The Terminator. . . . Sky Net coming online and achieving consciousness . . . Okay.  Keep doing the movies.  They’re fun, but I live in the real world, and in the real world that’s simply not the robots we’re making and even if we did, they would just be really good computers of things and they’d give me access to information.  Actually, I already have access to information.  It’s on my smart phone a few fingertips away from all gathered knowledge of the human species on earth.  It’s called the internet.  I'm already there. 

Jonathan Harris: I think the next major evolutionary phase in humans is not going to be happening at the individual level with bodies; although there will be this sort of merging with machines soon, I think.  But I think we’re evolving into a kind of meta organism, which is the whole species on the planet connected through the Web, sharing information, sharing thoughts, sharing ideas, also sharing empathy and sharing emotions.  It’s almost like this ancient Buddhist idea of experiencing the suffering of all living beings, like we’re laying the plumbing for that to happen right now.  That's an incredibly interesting idea when you start to think about dealing with these big problems like poverty and global warming and overcrowding and all of this stuff. 

Jaron Lanier: We have to learn to acknowledge our own role.  We have to accept that the people are more important than the machines, not as a matter of hope, but as a matter of fact.

Jeff Jarvis: I'm an internet optimist.  I'm an optimist about humanity too.  Put the two together and yeah, I could probably go overboard, but I think that if we don’t imagine the best case of what can happen we’ll never build it.

Peter Diamandis: We have extraordinary companies, extraordinary philanthropists, extraordinary technologies . . . if we choose--it’s by no means a guarantee, but if we choose--we’ll be able to help every single person on this planet have their basic needs met, their energy, food, water, power, education, healthcare and to create a world of abundance--not a world of luxury, but a world of possibility. 

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

 

Jeff Jarvis, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Peter Diamandis, Jonathan Harris, and Jaron Lanier on a better technological future informed by the best of human nature.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

The history of using the Insurrection Act against Americans

Numerous U.S. Presidents invoked the Insurrection Act to to quell race and labor riots.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • U.S. Presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act on numerous occasions.
  • The controversial law gives the President some power to bring in troops to police the American people.
  • The Act has been used mainly to restore order following race and labor riots.
Keep reading Show less

Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

Image source: Shashank Sahay/unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

Facebook finally adds option to delete old posts in batches

Got any embarrassing old posts collecting dust on your profile? Facebook wants to help you delete them.

Facebook
Technology & Innovation
  • The feature is called Manage Activity, and it's currently available through mobile and Facebook Lite.
  • Manage Activity lets users sort old content by filters like date and posts involving specific people.
  • Some companies now use AI-powered background checking services that scrape social media profiles for problematic content.
Keep reading Show less