Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk from disease and starvation than at this very moment. On March 10, Stephen O’Brien, undersecretary general of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs, informed the Security Council that 20 million people in three African countries—Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan—as well as in Yemen were likely to die if not provided with emergency food and medical aid. “We are at a critical point in history,” he declared. “Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN.” Without coordinated international action, he added, “people will simply starve to death [or] suffer and die from disease.”
Category Archives: Uncategorized
Can machines think – and, if so, can they think critically about race and gender? Recent reports have shown that machine-learning systems are picking up racist and sexist ideas embedded in the language patterns they are fed by human engineers. The idea that machines can be as bigoted as people is an uncomfortable one for anyone who still believes in the moral purity of the digital future, but there’s nothing new or complicated about it. “Machine learning” is a fancy way of saying “finding patterns in data”. Of course, as Lydia Nicholas, senior researcher at the innovation thinktank Nesta, explains, all this data “has to have been collected in the past, and since society changes, you can end up with patterns that reflect the past. If those patterns are used to make decisions that affect people’s lives you end up with unacceptable discrimination.”
In 2016, something extraordinary happened in the politics of diverse countries around the world. With surprising speed and simultaneity, a new generation of populist leaders emerged from the margins of nominally democratic nations to win power. In doing so, they gave voice, often in virulent fashion, to public concerns about the social costs of globalization.Even in societies as disparate as the affluent United States and the impoverished Philippines, similarly violent strains of populist rhetoric carried two unlikely candidates from the political margins to the presidency. On opposite sides of the Pacific, these outsider campaigns were framed by lurid calls for violence and even murder.As his insurgent crusade gained momentum, billionaire Donald Trump moved beyond his repeated promises to fight Islamic terror with torture and brutal bombing by also advocating the murder of women and children. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he told Fox News. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”
The waters off the Hawaiian island of Oahu are visited each winter by migrating marine mammals such as humpback whales. All year round they are home to much smaller animals that form vast reefs: corals. Intricate pink structures stand out amid contortions of vegetable-green ones; dark-striped fish flit among them and turtles hover above. Corals lay down limestone skeletons of different shapes and sizes: branching types like small trees; ground-huggers spreading squat.The colours that lure snorkelling and scuba-driving tourists are produced by single-celled algae that grow symbiotically in corals’ tissue. These use carbon dioxide respired by their host to make oxygen and carbohydrates through photosynthesis, giving corals most of the energy they need to form their skeletons. But this delicate balance is threatened by humans, both in the short term and over the coming years.
If women can’t win, everyone loses. That, at least, is the conclusion of several new studies into how gender attitudes are changing. One team of academics from Wharton, looking into how men and women negotiate, observed that since Donald Trump’s election there had been a marked “increase in men acting more aggressively toward women”. In lab sessions, young men were more inclined than previously to fight young women for a small amount of money that had to be split between them – and the net result was that everyone went home poorer.This sounds like a neat modern morality tale, as do most psychological studies into sex and behaviour – at least the ones that get press attention. We tend to interpret such studies as we want to see them, which makes this sort of research only slightly more useful than reading palms or animal entrails – albeit a lot less fun, because after generations of painstaking psychological research, the one thing academics have conclusively proven is that students are endlessly willing to humiliate themselves for beer money.
There is immense concern about economic inequality, both among the scholarly community and in the general public, and many insist that equality is an important social goal. However, when people are asked about the ideal distribution of wealth in their country, they actually prefer unequal societies. We suggest that these two phenomena can be reconciled by noticing that, despite appearances to the contrary, there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality itself. Rather, they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness. Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality. Both psychological research and decisions by policymakers would benefit from more clearly distinguishing inequality from unfairness.
According to Ubuntu philosophy, which has its origins in ancient Africa, a newborn baby is not a person. People are born without ‘ena’, or selfhood, and instead must acquire it through interactions and experiences over time. So the ‘self’/‘other’ distinction that’s axiomatic in Western philosophy is much blurrier in Ubuntu thought. As the Kenyan-born philosopher John Mbiti put it in African Religions and Philosophy (1975): ‘I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.’We know from everyday experience that a person is partly forged in the crucible of community. Relationships inform self-understanding. Who I am depends on many ‘others’: my family, my friends, my culture, my work colleagues. The self I take grocery shopping, say, differs in her actions and behaviours from the self that talks to my PhD supervisor. Even my most private and personal reflections are entangled with the perspectives and voices of different people, be it those who agree with me, those who criticise, or those who praise me.
Sunday evening saw the conclusion of Big Little Lies, HBO’s wonderful seven-episode limited series that wasted no time sweeping up scores of captivated viewers. What could have been a tiresome outing—a group of affluent, caterwauling helicopter moms grappling with scandal in the ranks—proved to be a deeply felt, expertly paced puzzle that only grew more compelling with each hour-long installment. Last night, the show ended with a degree of feminist catharsis that feels uncommon in an era defined by political drudgery.
People who care about truth and facts are up against a lot of challenges these days, from fake news to filter bubbles. But there’s another big problem we can’t ignore: The rise of the pseudo-experts who dominate our airwaves and social networks, offering opinions on subjects they know little to nothing about.To understand the issue, consider the old toothpaste slogan: “Four out of five dentists recommend Colgate.” If you take this claim at face value, it makes sense. Why not survey dentists about toothpaste? They are, after all, in charge of dental care and your overall oral health.
India has a rich and deep scientific and civilisational heritage of biodiversity, agroecology and ayurveda, which has sustained us for centuries. We have understood that the web of life is a food web.All that is born is born of anna (food) indeed. Whatever exists on Earth is born of anna, and in the end merges into anna. Anna indeed is the first born amongst all beings; that is why anna is called sarvausadha, the medicine that relieves the bodily discomforts of all.In the last few decades, our agriculture, food and health systems are being devastated by the assault of reductionist science, and industrial food systems based on toxic chemicals, combined with globalisation and free trade.Industrialisation and globalisation of food systems is driven by chemical and pharmaceutical corporations, leading to an agrarian crisis, erosion of biodiversity in agriculture, increase in toxics in our food, the promotion of fast food and junk food and a disease epidemic. The agrochemical industry and agribusiness, the junk food industry and the pharmaceutical industry profit while the nation gets sicker and poorer.
Source: Keep food diverse. It’s healthy