Tag Archives: Earth

The Apocalypticon ~ Doomsday Clock, angry religious left, less GOP women, Tech A-holes, China, surveillance, Earth, asteroids, pollution, climate change profits, skills not degrees


Close to midnight — Last year brought the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’s famed Doomsday Clock as close as it’s ever been to midnight. This year’s update will test if you’re a glass half full or empty person: the clock is at the same daunting precipice it was last year thanks to the “two simultaneous existential threats” of climate change and nuclear war, as well as growing concern over efforts to debase truth and information warfare. [That’s three existential threats if you ask me. Also, if it actually strikes midnight, we presumably won’t be here to notice.]
Trump provokes religious left — Nearly 40 years after some prominent evangelical Christians organised a Moral Majority movement to promote a conservative political agenda, a comparable effort by liberal religious leaders is coalescing in support of immigrant rights, universal health care, LGBTQ rights and racial justice. [Oh my God, the terrible threats of peace, love and understanding! What would Jesus do?]
Republicans, meanwhile, face a gender crisis — New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik is deeply worried about her party. “We are facing a crisis level of Republican women in Congress,” Stefanik said, noting there are only 13 Republican women in the US House, down from 23 last session. [Maybe GOP means ‘Guys of Power’?] “Women candidates typically come out of a cohort of college-educated women. And there are far fewer college educated women identifying as Republicans these days,” Christine Matthews, a GOP pollster, told NPR after the event. [Funny, that.]

But wait, we also have the Tech A-holes: Facebook and genocide — Facebook, a tech company the United Nations said has been literally complicit in genocide, has a new feature that’s being rolled out this week. And there’s a very good chance that it’s going to be abused, no matter what assurances the company provides. [I deleted mine. Couldn’t feel better.]
Facebook to amalgamate messaging apps — Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, plans to integrate the social network’s messaging services WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger to assert his control over the company’s sprawling divisions at a time when its business has been battered by scandals. [Yeah, great …]
Google wants to limit the abilities of workers to organise — Google’s employees have captured international attention in recent months through high-profile protests of workplace policies. So Google has been quietly urging the US government to narrow legal protection for workers organising online.
Seriously, it’s time to take control of your online profile!
Meanwhile, US tech companies sell their surveillance services to dictators — The intermingling of privately sold technology and authoritarian regimes is hardly an outlier.

But none of that gets China off the hook — Is China really using Huawei to hack the world’s communications? UK Wired thinks it’s not that easy to tell.
Debtor proximity alerts — China is gearing up to launch a social credit system in 2020, giving all citizens an identity number that will be linked to a permanent record. Like a financial score, everything from paying back loans to behaviour on public transport will be included. One aspect of this social credit system is a new app in the northern province of Hebei that warns you when a debtor is close. [Find My Unfriends …]

The planet Earth — According to a survey of asteroid craters at least 10 kms (6.2 miles) wide, the number of asteroids slamming into Earth has nearly tripled since the dinosaurs first roamed.
CO2 will be going up even more — The level of climate-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is forecast to rise by a near-record amount in 2019, according to the British Met Office.
Not just plastic polluting the ocean: noise, too — That’s right: ship-mounted seismic guns firing at the ocean floor to find more oil.
Pofiting from climate change — Despite capitalism playing a huge role in the problem of climate change, companies remain committed to the system and are already planning on how to profit from our misery. [Honestly, read and weep! As a species, we really can be nauseating.]

Is there any good news? A little. According to the CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty, it’s important that tech companies focus on hiring people with valuable skills, not just people with college degrees. [And guess what? They’ll have way less debt, so may be generally less anxious.]

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The Apocalypticon ~ Doomsday clock, sensorium, tech, Earth, aliens,


It’s two minutes to midnight. And that’s really bad news if you’re a fan of planet Earth. The so-called Doomsday Clock, a symbol of how close the world is to total annihilation, has been moved 30 seconds closer to midnight.
The last time it was at two minutes to midnight was when the United States and the Soviet Union both conducted hydrogen bomb tests way back in 1953. [Can’t think why …. sh, don’t say ‘Trump’, Damn, it!]
Speaking of, then, why aren’t there more smart Americans? Americans are wondering, having just, presumably, caught up with the rest of the world. To emphasise the point, perhaps, the US has dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled. The Governor of Hawaii didn’t correct that false missile alert sooner because … he didn’t know his Twitter password.
President Trump took to Twitter [its brevity matches his attention span] to announce he has signed a six-year renewal of a powerful government surveillance tool. Worried? Of course not. The US National Security Agency maintains a page on its website that outlines its mission statement. Earlier this month, the agency made a discreet change: it removed ‘honesty’ as its top priority. [That, combined with the current President, is the slippery slope that leads to Fascism, folks.]

How’re your sensors? Watch out for transduction attacks, which spoof data by exploiting the physics of sensors. Seriously, it’s a thing. Or might be soon, anyway.
While we’re talking about tech, YouTube was recently caught displaying ads that covertly leach off visitors’ CPUs and electricity to generate digital currency on behalf of anonymous attackers.
Using machine learning and AI to swap celebrities’ faces onto porn performers’, resulting in fake celebrity porn seamless enough to be mistaken for the real thing. Early victims include Daisy Ridley, Gal Gadot, Scarlett Johansson and Taylor Swift. [So can they swap Keannu Reeves’ face with that of an actor?]
Facebook said it could offer no assurance that social media was on balance good for democracy. [And we can all remember when it was good for democracy? But hey, it still makes a sh_t-ton of money, so it doesn’t matter.]

Breaking up is hard to do — If you want to get an idea of how quickly sentiment has shifted against US tech giants, check out NYU professor Scott Galloway: “After spending the majority of the last two years of my life really trying to understand them and the relationship of the ecosystem, I’ve become 100% convinced that it’s time to break these companies up.” It’s an audacious claim from anyone, even more startling coming from someone who has been such a close and bullish observer of these tech giants. Yet for Galloway, it is clear that the four companies have simply become too big, and too powerful. [The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse indeed.]
And Kim Dotcom, the founder of file-sharing site Megaupload, is suing the New Zealand government for billions of dollars in damages over his arrest in 2012. The internet entrepreneur is fighting extradition to the US to stand trial for copyright infringement and fraud. Dotcom says an invalid arrest warrant negated all charges against him. [John Key, you’re the one who should be fronting for this.]

(Image from Which)

Life on Earth and all that — Yes we could cool the Earth artificially, but we really really shouldn’t. When we see a large cat capturing its prey on the African savannah, we’re literally watching millions of years of evolution in action. This could disappear almost overnight in the ‘cooling the Earth artificially’ scenario. But Australian birds of prey have been spreading bush fires. Seems crazy, but apparently not.
In New Zealand, ‘gene drive’ may be used to wipe out imported predators[Surely, that means people?] But genetically-targeted poison might be the easier option.
Plastic is still a huge problem, but we don’t seem to be taking it seriously yet. A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries (Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar) are heavily contaminated with plastic. It clings to the coral, especially branching coral. And where it clings, it sickens or kills.

But hey, people don’t just ignore the Earth’s feelings — Remember those World War II shipwrecks that mysteriously vanished from the bottom of the Java Sea? When they were found to be missing in 2016, it was heavily suspected that illegal salvagers exploded the ships and then looted them for metal. According to new reports, those metal scavengers also brought up substantial remains of Dutch and British sailors – and then unceremoniously dumped them into mass graves.

I found an alien! (Is this the right number?) Faced with some six-eyed slime-being rooting through your trash, or a spacecraft idling above your backyard, who exactly would you think to call? And what would whoever you called do, when you called them?

Finally, some good news — Scientists have been investigating the impact of violent video games on behavior for more than two decades, and the results are still being debated. In a 2015 resolution on games, the American Psychological Association reported that multiple studies found a link between violent game exposure and aggressive behavior, though critics at the time questioned the findings. Now, a new study published by researchers at the University of York in the journal Computers in Human Behavior further challenges the connection.
{Hoorah! Once more into the breech, then …]