Tag Archives: Society

Why the Greens should stop playing God

The state of the planet is forcing itself into the centre of the human mind. For increasing numbers of people, climate change is a palpable fact. Island communities and coastal cities are suffering the effects of rising sea levels, and all of us experience extreme weather and disjointed seasons.

Centre-ground politicians have accepted that some kind of action, more radical than any that has been implemented so far, has become urgently necessary. Everyone but the most stubborn climate denialists realises that an unprecedented change is taking place in the world that humans have inhabited throughout their history.

At the same time, as T.S. Eliot wrote in Four Quartets, “humankind cannot bear very much reality”, and thinking on the subject is increasingly delusional. A by-product of worldwide industrialisation based on fossil fuels, the shift that is underway was set in motion by human beings. It does not follow however that humans can stop it.

Why the Greens should stop playing God

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Posted by on August 9, 2019 in Reportages, Uncategorized


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Something is wrong on the internet

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Posted by on August 6, 2019 in Reportages


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Abolire il carcere, prove di utopia in Europa

Una mattina di qualche inverno fa, il freddo di Padova aveva seccato i terreni intorno al carcere Due palazzi e gelava il fiato di decine di persone davanti al suo ingresso. Erano giornalisti e familiari di detenuti, ed erano lì per partecipare a un convegno organizzato dall’associazione Ristretti orizzonti. Tra loro c’era una ragazza di diciotto anni. Piccola e magra, era contenta e nervosa per il padre, che doveva intervenire a uno degli incontri. Lui era in prigione da quando lei era nata. Lei non aveva mai mangiato un gelato con lui. Le chiesi qual era stata la cosa più complicata da gestire in tutti quegli anni. Ci pensò un po’ su, poi rispose: “All’inizio è stato il pensiero che mio padre fosse innocente, poi il dover fare i conti con i suoi sbagli, infine il giudizio degli altri. Per tutti sono solo la figlia di un ergastolano. Ho cominciato ad avere meno paura di questo giudizio quando ho capito che il carcere è uno specchio. Giudichiamo i detenuti e le loro famiglie, ma dimentichiamo che stiamo giudicando anche il nostro riflesso”.

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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in European Union


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Carmageddon: it’s killing urban life. We must reclaim our cities before it’s too late

What is the best way of wrecking a city? Pour cars into it. Heavy traffic, 50 years of research shows, breaks up communities, disrupts social life and crushes local cultures. Noise drowns out conversation and drives people indoors. Pollution makes streets inhospitable. Cars take up the space that might have been used for children to play, adults to meet, and local projects to grow.

Street life is treated as an impediment to traffic. In cities all over the world it has been cleared for cars. Stalls, hawkers, football and cricket games, old people playing dominoes, chess or pétanque: all must make way for the car. So much land is required for driving and parking that there is little left for human life. In cities like Barcelona that curb traffic, cars use about 25% of the urban area. In cities like Houston that don’t, they use 60%. The car eats the public space that could otherwise become parks, cycle lanes, markets and playgrounds.

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Posted by on July 17, 2019 in Uncategorized


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Man’s stressed friend: how your mental health can affect your dog

If you think your dog looks stressed out, it might be your own stress levels that are affecting your pet pooch.

A study published on Thursday in Nature’s Scientific Reports shows pet dogs may synchronise their stress levels with those of their owners.

More than just being “man’s best friend”, it appears our pet dogs may be mirroring our mental state too, and that can be bad for their health.

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Posted by on July 12, 2019 in Uncategorized


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Can we stop AI outsmarting humanity?

Fifty thousand years ago with the rise of Homo sapiens sapiens.

Ten thousand years ago with the invention of civilization.

Five hundred years ago with the invention of the printing press.

Fifty years ago with the invention of the computer.

In less than thirty years, it will end.

Jaan Tallinn stumbled across these words in 2007, in an online essay called Staring into the Singularity. The “it” was human civilisation. Humanity would cease to exist, predicted the essay’s author, with the emergence of superintelligence, or AI, that surpasses human-level intelligence in a broad array of areas.

Tallinn, an Estonia-born computer programmer, has a background in physics and a propensity to approach life like one big programming problem. In 2003, he co-founded Skype, developing the backend for the app. He cashed in his shares after eBay bought it two years later, and now he was casting about for something to do. Staring into the Singularity mashed up computer code, quantum physics and Calvin and Hobbes quotes. He was hooked.

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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Uncategorized


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Smart talking: are our devices threatening our privacy?

On 21 November 2015, James Bates had three friends over to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks play the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Bates, who lived in Bentonville, Arkansas, and his friends drank beer and did vodka shots as a tight football game unfolded. After the Razorbacks lost 51–50, one of the men went home; the others went out to Bates’s hot tub and continued to drink. Bates would later say that he went to bed around 1am and that the other two men – one of whom was named Victor Collins – planned to crash at his house for the night. When Bates got up the next morning, he didn’t see either of his friends. But when he opened his back door, he saw a body floating face-down in the hot tub. It was Collins.

A grim local affair, the death of Victor Collins would never have attracted international attention if it were not for a facet of the investigation that pitted the Bentonville authorities against one of the world’s most powerful companies – Amazon. Collins’ death triggered a broad debate about privacy in the voice-computing era, a discussion that makes the big tech companies squirm.

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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Uncategorized


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The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones, in its eighth and final season, is as big as television gets these days. More than 17 million people watched the season’s opening. Judging by the fan and critic reaction though, it seems that a substantial portion of those millions are loathing the season. Indeed, most of the reviews and fan discussions seem to be pondering where the acclaimed series went wrong, with many theories on exactly why it went downhill.

The show did indeed take a turn for the worse, but the reasons for that downturn go way deeper than the usual suspects that have been identified (new and inferior writers, shortened season, too many plot holes). It’s not that these are incorrect, but they’re just superficial shifts. In fact, the souring of Game of Thrones exposes a fundamental shortcoming of our storytelling culture in general: we don’t really know how to tell sociological stories.

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Posted by on May 28, 2019 in Uncategorized


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Jared Diamond: There’s a 49 Percent Chance the World As We Know It Will End by 2050

Jared Diamond’s new book, Upheaval, addresses itself to a world very obviously in crisis, and tries to lift some lessons for what do about it from the distant past. In that way, it’s not so different from all the other books that have made the UCLA geographer a sort of don of “big think” history and a perennial favorite of people like Steven Pinker and Bill Gates.

Diamond’s life as a public intellectual began with his 1991 book The Third Chimpanzee, a work of evolutionary psychology, but really took off with Guns, Germs, and Steel, published in 1997, which offered a three-word explanation for the rise of the West to the status of global empire in the modern era — and, even published right at the “end of history,” got no little flak from critics who saw in it both geographic determinism and what they might today call a whiff of Western supremacy. In 2005, he published Collapse, a series of case studies about what made ancient civilizations fall into disarray in the face of environmental challenges — a doorstopper that has become a kind of touchstone work for understanding the crisis of climate change today. In The World Until Yesterday, published in 2012, he asked what we can learn from traditional societies; and in his new book, he asks what we can learn from ones more like our own that have faced upheaval but nevertheless endured.

I obviously want to talk about your new book, but I thought it might be useful to start by asking you how you saw it in the context of your life’s work.
Sure. Here’s my answer, and I think you’ll find it banal and more disappointing than what you might have hoped for. People often ask me what’s the relation between your books and the answer is there is none. Really, each book is what I was most interested in and felt most at hand when I finished my previous book.

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Posted by on May 22, 2019 in Uncategorized


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Caster treated like Saartjie Baartman

Last week’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to uphold the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruling for female athletes with high testosterone to take hormone-suppressing drugs before competing puts a temporary end to Caster Semenya’s 10-year battle to be respected as a woman.

Ever since Semenya burst on to the global sporting scene as an 18-year-old when she won the 800m competition at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, she has been within the crosshairs of the white gaze. In the past decade, Semenya, who has hyperandrogenism, has faced public ridicule, discriminatory sex tests, sneers from competitors and sports commentators, leaks of medical information and invasion from a hostile media.

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Posted by on May 21, 2019 in Uncategorized


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