There are two visions of what education can provide, as a service: it can provide the opportunity for integral cultivation of the full human self, with the aim of yielding productive, conscientious citizens of a dynamic, free society; or, it can produce workers to take their place in a faceless workforce, where individual rights are subsumed in the thrust of the major forces that govern society.
For most of our history, we have understood the value of citizenship-focused education, a humanizing process whereby the individual is introduced to higher-order critical thinking and the ability to formulate and pursue knowledge in new and unique ways, but the trend toward standardization and processization of our educational system has shifted the focus away from the humanizing effects of education and toward the idea of an able workforce.
Continue reading “Critical Thinking, Humanities Needed for Widespread Educational Success”
Climate change means “global warming”, so how can severe winter storms and excessively cold breezes be evidence of a warming climate? The key is in the word “global”: the warming of the overall global average temperature need not manifest in all places at all times as warmer weather. Throughout the history of human civilization, the Earth’s climate has remained relatively stable, due to optimal global average temperatures; as global average temperatures slip outside that optimal range, the warmer air makes the interaction between climate systems more inconsistent and more severe.
So, while monsoons are failing across Africa and southern Asia, and major rivers are starting to run dry for part of the year, failing to reach the sea, in northern climate bands, storms are getting to be more severe and winter weather is hitting harder. This is because climate bands themselves are blurring, becoming less rigid, less reliable, and so in traditionally temperate climate zones, arctic and tropical air are coming together more often than before, both demonstrating and exacerbating the ongoing destabilization of major climate patterns.
Continue reading “Climate Destabilization & Cold Winter Weather”
‘Psychic numbing‘ is a relatively new term, assigned to the phenomenon which shows people tend to feel less urgent compassion, and tend to give less, when the suffering in question is shown to be more systemic and more pervasive, or affecting larger numbers of people. Some psychologists believe it is linked to our intuitive sense that if one suffers alone, the suffering is worse, but if one is accompanied, there might be some security in numbers, not just emotionally, but practically.
The individual does not actually suffer less, but somehow, human beings —across cultures, ages groups and regions— appear to have an almost inborn tendency to convince themselves that the one who suffers with others is somehow safer. This is, of course, rarely true. While yes, a young boy might survive because his older sister goes without food, two young children in a population beset with pervasive, persistent scarcity or political disorder, may be at significantly heightened risk of violence, or even enslavement.
Continue reading “‘Psychic Numbing’: Why does mass suffering induce mass indifference?”
Today is the Day of the Book, in part spurred by the urge to recognize two of the great progenitors of modern literature, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, who both died on 23 April 1616, at least according to the official history. Their work and the various arts that go into making books, as such, are celebrated around the world as staples of modern global civilization and the human element of culture.
But the book is more than those sweeping historical energies; it is a concrete, observable register of intent and of meaning, which carries evidence of our humanity forward and informs and improves future worlds. The book, bound pages imprinted with text in one form or another, is one of the oldest continuously used and still highly relevant technologies, and for good reason.
Paper is both a simple and a complicated tool, requiring large amounts of industry and energy to produce, yet is produced in massive quantities and seems endlessly available. Staining it in a way that allows a visual rendering of a given code (a language and its preferred alphabet) allows us to create a record of ideas and thought patterns that holds up remarkably well against time and can be accessed with no technology aside from our own senses and knowledge of the code in question. Continue reading “In Defense of the Book, in All its Forms”
Motivating social action through social media was the subject of one of the morning sessions on Day 1 of the 12-day 54th annual Commission on the Status of Women, at the UN headquarters in New York. A panel of pioneering and accomplished women, from diverse fields of research, activism, and enterprise, offered a far-reaching exploration of the ways in which new media can help to effect change and improve the situation of women, around the world. Outreach, social networking, and informational access, were integral to the morning session’s discussion.
As social networking technologies have evolved, they have become not just user-friendly in the extreme, but have created a global forum through which individuals and communities, organizations and governments, can work to build connectivity among people, and share information in a way that promotes opportunity, liberty and stability for women in even remote corners of the world. Social networking tools decentralize the flow of information, allowing for a more flexible, dynamic application of global communications platforms, handing the control of access and information to the people who seek or require it.
Continue reading “CSW54: New Media, Social Action & Women’s Economic Security”
Malaria is one of the 21st century’s great plagues. It is responsible for anywhere from 1 to 3 million deaths per year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to eradicate the disease are mounting: in the year 2000, just 3% of children under 5, in sub-Saharan Africa, slept with mosquito nets; by 2008, that figure had risen to 56%. Aid groups now project that aggressive preventive measures can protect 100% of the population by the end of 2010 and reduce the number of deaths to near zero by 2015.
Doing so requires an aggressive and coordinated effort by governments across the region, in concert with world health experts, the UN’s WHO, aid organizations and local communities. Malaria, originally named “the bad air” because it was thought to be airborne, is actually a water and blood-borne disease, transmitted by a particular variety of mosquito. The scarcity of safe drinking water across much of the region leads to ill-advised practices like leaving whatever standing water one can find at hand for human consumption.
Continue reading “Malaria Kills Millions Every Year in Africa”
TheHotSpring.com :: Is the very thing we demand of our computers the thing that will make them intolerant of our humanity, if and when they awaken to an artificial intelligence? One of the fundamental problems in achieving a state of computational agility and independence that would allow us to say a synthetic entity has acquired ‘artificial intelligence’ is the problem of autonomy. If we give real autonomy to artificially intelligent machines, can we trust them to cooperate with us, in the ways we, as human beings prefer?
This is an ethical question as well as a practical one. There are real ethical risks inherent in creating devices, or even independently mobile entities, that use their own store of learned intelligence and independent decision-making to interact with or make decisions that affect the conditions of human life. Consigning human well-being or liberties to a system that privileges artificial intelligence for the sake of expediency of one kind or another might reduce the range of free choice available to human individuals.
Continue reading “Artificial Intelligence: Will It Understand or Reject Our Human Qualities?”
Access to the internet must be a basic human right, across the globe, for a number of reasons. First of all, legitimate, transparent democratic processes of government require in today’s world that information flow freely and that citizens be empowered to share information and to find information, according to their choices and their needs.
Socio-economic barriers to such free flow of information are just another kind of information control that establishes dangerous demographic stratification into privileged and marginalized groups. Governments across the world are using web filtering technologies to censor the information available to their citizens and crack down on dissent.
Continue reading “Internet Access Must Be a Human Right”
Overfishing has depleted fish-stocks the world over. Subsidies and lack of enforcement of sustainability measures drive the fishing industry to deplete the very stocks on which its existence depends, while climate interference and global contamination are leaving oceans so hypoxic (oxygen deprived) they cannot support marine life. At least 405 such ‘dead zones’ have been identified across the globe.
According to a NASA report, hypoxia is so extreme in some areas, that total anoxia (zero oxygen availability) can be found, allowing for no animal life to exist. In the Mississippi River delta, feeding into the Gulf of Mexico, it is thought that agricultural waste is creating a glut of nutrients for phytoplankton, which leaves excess organic matter for bottom-dwelling bacteria to feed on.
Continue reading “Sustainable Use of the Oceans: Overfishing + Pollution ‘Dead Zones’ Depleting Ocean Life (discussion)”
Creative writing is part of the work of any writer. Finding the best way to put two words, then three, then four and ten, together, is the basic metabolic process of creating any text. And it requires a vision and an application of that vision. Publishing models determine which texts are made available to a wide audience, and by what means. New media, like this social network, are providing new opportunities, but the crossover between print and digital media will provide bold new opportunities for making the best new ideas available to the people who can do the most with them.
Continue reading “New Publishing Models to Speed Best Ideas to Application (discussion forum)”