George does it again, and inspires me. This great man should receive a Nobel Prize.
A major means of humanity’s attack on nature is overfishing. The worst attack on land-based nature is agriculture — we do need to feed those eight billion humans, somehow.
Suppose we could provide abundant food without torturing and killing animals, releasing terrible chemicals into the environment, using fossil carbon (agriculture is powered by dieseline), covering 70% of the planet with unnatural landscapes. Imagine all the beauty and wonder that could return if we could rewild much of Earth.
The technology is available, now, and it has been well tried in many fields. It is the basis of producing age-old traditional foods, and modern medicines, and various substances needed in industry.
There are now eight billion of us on Spaceship Earth (and counting), and although it’s only a relatively small proportion of the total, a great many of our fellow travellers are undergoing tremendous suffering while the rest of us turn a blind eye to their plight. If only we could think beyond arbitrary geographic and archaic national boundaries, and consider all the other 8,000,000,000-1 humans as our relatives. Mitakuye Oyasin. We need more than just ‘us’ to warrant calling ourselves ‘civilized’. We need a ‘united us‘.
On the turning away From the pale and downtrodden And the words they say Which we won’t understand Don’t accept that what’s happening Is just a case of others suffering Or you’ll find that you’re joining in The turning away
It’s a sin that somehow Light is changing to shadow And casting its shroud Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown Driven on by a heart of stone We could find that we’re all alone In the dream of the proud
On the wings of the night As the daytime is stirring Where the speechless unite In a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange Mesmerized as they light the flame Feel the new wind of change On the wings of the night
No more turning away From the weak and the weary No more turning away From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share It’s not enough just to stand and stare Is it only a dream that there’ll be No more turning away
Pink Floyd, ‘On The Turning Away’
Please help fight Somalia’s climate famine
In Somalia, 7 million people are in danger of starving – and half of all children are severely malnourished. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed and parents are being forced to make impossible decisions about who to feed.
The country is being devastated by the worst drought in 40 years. Without rain, nothing grows anymore – and aid isn’t arriving fast enough.
Somali doctors and aid workers are racing the clock – but another starving child is admitted to hospital every single minute. Resources are running out, and doctors are terrified.
The last famine here killed 250,000 people. We cannot let it happen again.
Avaaz has 70 million members, and if we each give just a bit, we can make a real difference. Together we’d fund lifesaving medical care and food packages for thousands of people – and power a massive campaign, pushing governments to unlock urgent aid and slash the carbon pollution that’s forcing millions into catastrophe.
Let’s join together in an epic global effort to stop children starving on the climate frontlines.
In recent years I’ve come to fear marketing speak. Phrases such as ‘innovative software initiative’ send chills down my back and tend to make me break out in a cold sweat.
Back in January I posted about the upcoming retirement of Windows 8.1, and announced that I intended to migrate to a Unix-based OS. Further consideration, prompted largely by the comment thread that post elicited, persuaded me against going down that road. The main reason is that my employer uses Windows, and, working from home, I need to be able to interface with their systems. There’s also the reality that the learning curve to make the switch from Windows 8.1 to 10 will be less steep than grappling with an OS with which I have only a passing familiarity.
As the old saying goes, “The first hit’s free.”
So, instead, I bought a Windows 10 installation disk a few months ago, and that has been taunting me from my desk ever since. (I bought it from eBuyer.com; yes, it would have been – slightly – cheaper to get it direct from micro$haft, but they only offer a download installation and I like to have disks available against the day that a hardware failure forces a PC replacement.)
As 10Jan2023 looms ever closer, the time has come to bite this bullet. I’ve been assured that the software switch itself should be seamless, but there will be a fair amount of struggling with the latest round of ‘enhancements to the user experience’; of that I have no doubt.
Long story short: I may be offline for a while. We’ll see. Wish me luck?
Having been a ‘pendant’ (by the above definition) for many years, I’ve gotten into the habit of questioning my own preconceptions about yIn ‘u’ Hoch je (Life, the Universe, and Everything). Colour me pretentious, but I actually believe that this is a Good Thing, especially in this (anti-)social media dominated era, where misinformation and disinformation foster bad memes and ‘FAKE NEWS!!!!1’. Being constantly on guard for the possibility that one’s view of reality could be wrong is, surely, a useful attitude. Training an open mind is, I believe, the route to wisdom.
One of the persuasive arguments I discovered was that human activity during the day kicks up pollutants into the atmosphere, so that, come evening, the Sun’s light is scattered more. This atmospheric dirt settles overnight, so the morning and evening skies can appear different.
And one thing I found particularly fascinating was that we can perceive a difference because of how our eyes work.
I was, however, unable to come up with a definitive answer.
Here’s an extract from one article this search revealed:
According to atmospheric physicists David Lynch and William Livingston, the answer is “yes, and no.”
All “twilight phenomena” are symmetric on opposite sides of midnight, and occur in reverse order between sunset and sunrise, the authors note in “Color and Light in Nature” (Cambridge University Press, 2001). That means there’s no inherent, natural cause of a major optical difference between them. However, two human factors break their symmetry.
The first is in our heads. “At sunset, our eyes are daylight adapted and may even be a bit weary from the day’s toil,” Lynch and Livingston write. “As the light fades, we cannot adapt as fast as the sky darkens. Some hues may be lost or perceived in a manner peculiar to sunset. At sunrise, however, the night’s darkness has left us with very acute night vision and every faint, minor change in the sky’s color is evident.” In short, you may perceive more colors at dawn than at dusk. [Red-Green & Blue-Yellow: The Stunning Colors You Can’t See]
Human activities also drive a divergence between them. “At sunset the sky is full of pollutants and wind-borne particles,” the authors write. “During the night, winds die down, smog-producing urban activity eases and the atmosphere cleanses itself. The dawn is clearer than any other time of day.”
If there is a difference between the appearance of skies near dawn and dusk due to the increase of pollution in the air during the day (and I don’t doubt that), then, surely, this effect will be greater in urban areas, due to smog.
Couple that with the concept of ‘normality’: it’s a natural tendency to believe that what experience teaches each of us to expect (in all manner of things) is ‘normal’ for everyone else, too. So, if you live in an urban area, you’ll be used to this greater dawn/ dusk sky difference effect… and perhaps come to believe that this is the same everywhere, and for everyone. Although I grew up in ‘The Smoke’ (London), for the last two decades I’ve lived in a rural area, where there’s never any smog. As I write this, the Sun is going down, and the sky seems to me just as blue as it was this morning.
So, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Goldie should both consider that this particular photograph is ‘definitely’ a morning one and find it hard to understand why I can’t see that. He’s absolutely right that this photo was shot in the morning: I got that straight from the horse’s mouth.
But being right about this image doesn’t mean that it’s always possible to tell a rising Sun from a setting one in every case; there are too many variables. Thanks to Goldie, I’m now better prepared to guess this of a similar photo, but I hope that I will always refrain from stating my opinion with certainty.
Perhaps it’s evening: Contemplating reflections Of the shadow of the day More tasks ticked off (Yet the list is longer) Time to rest.
But then again:
Perhaps it’s morning: The inherent promise Of a nascent dawn Beckoning excitement (No time to tarry) Time to move!
As with so many things, It depends how you look at it.
Is the Sun going down? Is the Sun coming up? The true answer is “neither” As it’s just an illusion; A matter of perspective.
With no Sun there’s no shadow, No meadow, No trees.
The Sun gives us life.
@lacharpenta, I thank you again for your kind permission to use this wonderful image.
Things are pretty hectic Chez Wibble at present. As I had nothing prepared for this week, I scanned my drafts and finished off this one based on the post prompt I offered back in March. (That got a less than stellar response, but, no worries).
Following on from last week’s wibblette, my intent with this one is to try to persuade you to consider using tools other than the ones that you probably use because everyone else does (apologies if that’s not the case). There are alternatives to ‘googling’ for your information – although I do have to admit that ‘duckduckgoing’ is unlikely to ever make it into any dictionary.
But before I attempt to do that, allow me to digress a little….
There’s a sucker born every minute
Once upon a time, back when Windows 3.1 came out, the improvement over MS-DOS led me to consider Microsoft the best thing since sliced bread. I devoted myself to learning as much as I could about this marvellous new OS. I even (shock, horror!) RTFM. And I sang its praises, encouraging others to use it – and I helped them out enthusiastically when they ran into trouble. I wasn’t just a fan, I was a fanatic. To this day (naturally), Microsoft never acknowledged me, and thousands like me, for either my loyalty or my advocacy (of Win3.1 and variants since); it never rewarded my salesmanship and endless hours of unpaid product support on its behalf.
I was a naïve fool. These days, I no longer hold the word ‘microsoft’ in such high esteem; it no longer even warrants even the initial capital. And as for the once-richest-man-on-the-planet Bill Gates: well, don’t get me started.
When the Internet began to rise in popularity, microsoft dismissed it as a fad (not long afterwards, of course, they did a complete U-turn and announced that they were going to ‘own’ it). Here in the UK at that time, a company called ‘Demon Internet’ arose. I was in thrall to its ‘tenner-a-month’ connection ideal. I spent a lot of time providing the company with error reports and feedback. I did my best to convince my friends to sign up to it; and I willingly helped those folks when they had trouble… again, all unpaid. (Are you beginning to spot a theme, here?)
When the company’s co-founder, Cliff Stanford, sold the company in 1998 for £66 million, I thought, “Oi! Where’s my share of that?”
Along came the Google search engine. I soon grokked that it was streets ahead of its competition (such widgets as Infoseek, Ask Jeeves, Altavista, WebCrawler, Lycos and their ilk). The biggest advantage I saw in Google was its focus on pure search: whereas all its competitors had blinking, flashy, irritating adverts on their pages slowing things down to a crawl, Google’s search engine loaded quickly because it had none of that baggage. Also, Google’s slogan ‘Don’t be evil’ appealed to me. And so, I promoted it to all my friends… again, totally unacknowledged, unthanked, and, of course, unpaid.
Fast forward to the present. Google reinvented itself as ‘Alphabet’ in 2015, and subsequently quietly sidelined the ‘Don’t be evil’ motto. Personally, I think they just removed the “Don’t,” having succumbed to the evil inherent in the pursuit of money.
There’s a sucker born every minute, and once upon a time that sucker was me. I like to think that I’m wiser now, even though some say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. I wouldn’t know about that, having never been a dog. And, besides, I’m more of a cat person anyway.
All this taught me valuable lessons, such as:
Advocates are Rarely Rewarded.
All Upgrades include a Deleterious Dose of Downsides.
Echo chambers, filter bubbles and FAKE NEWS!!!!1
When you have a notion that most people near you consider crazy, such as, oh, I don’t know, ‘the Earth is flat’, or maybe ‘the lunar landings were faked’, it’s wise to keep schtum if you don’t want to be ridiculed. Pre-Internet, it was pretty hard to find folks willing to listen without laughing you out of court, so such lunatic memes gained little traction.
In the Internet era, however, it’s quite easy to hook up with like-minded others and bounce barmy ideas around. In your new-found echo chamber the zaniest hypothesis can all too easily blossom into a fully-fledged belief, and before you can say “the moon is made of green cheese” you and your inner circle of allies have gone forth and multiplied, spreading falsehoods and misinformation willy-nilly.
And then along come AI algorithms cultivated by avaricious megacorporations such as Google (sorry, ‘Alphabet’) and Facebook (sorry, ‘Meta’) that grow fat on producing almost nothing at all.†
When you go to Google and type in ‘climate change is’ you’re going to see different results depending on where you live and the particular things that Google knows about your interests. That’s not by accident; that’s a design technique.
Google’s search engine learns your preferences and offers you results accordingly. If it ‘knows’ you enjoy shopping for shoes then it’s primed to offer you, er, ‘shoppy’ and ‘shoey’ results. And if (for instance) it has you flagged as a flat-Earther and you go looking for evidence for that, it will merrily offer you exactly what you’re looking for whether it’s based on scientific fact or the musings of some misguided fool (I almost added ‘like me’ there, but thought better of it). Your preconceptions get reinforced by such filter bubbles, and the natural tendency is to go looking for more, dismissing any information that contradicts your worldview on the way.
From here it’s “one small step for mankind” (to misuse a phrase) and a single letter change, to turn misinformation into disinformation. There are those who seek to pervert information to their own ends, and we are blindly handing them the keys to the kingdom.
For far too many, money – and its acquisition – is akin to a religion. Money means power. Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The powerful already have a firm grasp on the global purse strings – and they are tightening the screws.
Though it may already be too late, the only way out I can see is for each and every one of us to place more value on our own data privacy. We can sit back on our laurels and be seduced by the dark side, or we can choose other paths, such as those offered by tools like Signal (an excellent alternative to FacebookMeta’s WhatsApp), Proton (emails in envelopes? who’d’a thunk it?), Sync (cloud storage that’s secure, encrypted, unlike Big Tech’s offerings) and search engines such as DuckDuckGo that promise not to track you.
And, yes, I’m not blind to the fact that here I am pumping a pulpit yet again, advocating others’ widgets. Even those who make a big song and dance about their highly ethical pro-privacy stance might at some point change tack. But I do like to think that forewarned is forearmed, and doing nothing at all about the problem is, for me at least, not an option.
† … unless you, like most of today’s crop of economists, consider consumerism a worthwhile pursuit, and ‘economic growth’ a noble addition to humanity’s aspirations. (In case you hadn’t already guessed: I do not consider trashing our home planet to make the wealthy even more so anything but reprehensible.) Software development doesn’t come cheap, I admit: it needs smart minds, resources, and plenty of time (especially if you want to do it right). But once you’ve written the code, making copies costs bugger all. The trick is to persuade the punters to cough up the dosh to pay back that initial investment (and then some, naturally). And then again. And again. And… well, you get the picture. Having built a megacorporation, you have to find some way to keep the lights on.
Google and Facebook track you, learn how you think, and seek to manipulate you in pursuit of the Great God Profit. In Netflix’s documentary ‘The Social Dilemma‘, some of the designers of social [sic] media systems openly admit as much – and express serious misgivings about their involvement.
I was using the World Wide Web before either Google or Facebook arrived on the scene. Whenever I registered on a new site, I did so using an email & password combination, at the time using my ‘One Ring‘ system to generate unique passwords for each one.
I got into the habit of doing that. When Google and Facebook began offering the option of logging in to sites using their credentials, I did consider it briefly as it offered greater convenience. However, I decided to continue with my original plan, as I suspected that these corporations probably had an ulterior motive. Anything ‘free’ is worth what you pay for it. TANSTAAFL.
Fast forward to now, and I’m so very glad that I decided not to be seduced. Those businesses have become megacorporations, ‘Big Tech’, and they earn their billions by manipulating us all. My lack of connection to their systems means that they can’t ‘learn me’ as well as they can someone who has chosen to effectively allow them access to information about what they do and where and when they do it.
Back in February last year, I deleted my faecesbook account. That in itself was (unsurprisingly) not as easy to do as it should have been – and I still have doubts that they have actually deleted the data they held on me; I suspect that they probably consider all those particular bits and bytes to be ‘their property’. (I’ve no doubt that the click-thru ‘agreement’ I clicked though without reading when I first registered years ago said as much, or if it didn’t then it was amended at some point – using the ‘we reserve the right to alter this agreement whenever we choose’ clause – so that it does now.)
Others are doing likewise; Paul Handover of Learning from Dogs, for instance. I urge you to check out Paul’s recent post ‘Goodbye to Facebook‘, which features an illuminating TED talk by Carole Cadwalladr entitled ‘Facebook’s role in Brexit – and the threat to democracy‘. Governments around the world seem unable, or unwilling, to rein in Big Tech’s influence. It seems to me that the only way to curb its power is for others to quit, in droves… but it too few see the chaos it’s creating, let alone recognise the danger of allowing that to continue.
Had I got into the habit of logging in to other sites using my Facebook login credentials, deleting my account there would have effectively locked me out of those, albeit temporarily. I’m glad that wasn’t a factor for me. Perhaps that’s something that makes those who think about leaving faecesbook pause? If that’s the case for you, then it might be wise to consider setting up separate email & password access to those systems you feel you can’t live without, in preparation for kicking fakebook into touch.
And then there’s the ubiquitous Google, whose subtle impact is reflected in the fact that its name has become a synonym for ‘search’. However, I’ll wibble a little about that next week, because as the old joke goes:
Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.
Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’ (transcript)
When you go to Google and type in ‘climate change is’, you’re going to see different results depending on where you live and the particular things that Google knows about your interests. That’s not by accident; that’s a design technique.
What I want people to know is that everything they’re doing online is being watched, is being tracked; every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded. A lot of people think Google’s just a search box, and Facebook’s just a place to see what my friends are doing. What they don’t realize is there’s entire teams of engineers whose job is to use your psychology against you.
“I was the co-inventor of the Facebook ‘like’ button.”
“I was the president of Pinterest.”
There were meaningful changes happening around the world because of these platforms. I think we were naïve about the flip side of that coin.
We get rewarded by ‘hearts’, ‘likes’, ‘thumbs up’, and we conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth.
A whole generation is more anxious, more depressed.
I always felt like fundamentally it was the force for good. I don’t know if I feel that way anymore.
Facebook discovered that they were able to affect real world behaviour and emotions without ever triggering the user’s awareness. They are completely clueless.
Fake news spreads six times faster than true news. We’re being bombarded with rumours.
If everyone’s entitled to their own facts, there’s really no need for people to come together – in fact, there’s really no need for people to interact.
We have less control over who we are and what we really believe.
If you want to control the population of your country, there has never been a tool as effective as Facebook.
We built these things and we have a responsibility to change it. The intention could be: how do we make the world better? If technology creates mass chaos, loneliness, more polarization, more election hacking, more inability to focus on the real issues, we’re toast.
This is checkmate on humanity.
The Social Dilemma | Official Trailer | Netflix
The transcript above was made with the help of Sonix, which did most of the donkey work for a tiny fee (I did have to spend some time tidying it up). Note that I do not have the copyright owner’s permission to publish this transcript here. I’ve investigated the copyright rules regarding transcriptions (more about that here), and one thing I’ve learned is that it’s no defence to make a disclaimer like “these aren’t my words, no copyright infringement intended.” However, I offer the transcription here as a service to society (especially the deaf community). I do hope the copyright owner won’t object. And I hope that you find this video as interesting as I did.