## Here is a sampling of the best content I consumed this past month. Enjoy scratching your brain’s curiosity itch!

Mar 6 · 66 min read

Here is a sampling of the best content I consumed this past month. Your guide to thinking about the future with wisdom from the past, so you can navigate the present. We live in the greatest time Humanity has ever experienced. Let’s start acting like it!

Also published on my website: https://www.eclecticspacewalk.com/home/eclectic-spacewalk-february-2019

Also published on Minds.com:

https://www.minds.com/eclecticspacewalk/blog/eclectic-spacewalk-feb-2019-948040132129357824

• Books
• Audio books
• Top 15 Articles/Essays
• Podcasts
• TED Talks
• Videos
• Lectures/Debates
• Documentaries
• “Best of the Rest” Articles/Essay

# Top 15 Articles/Essays —

“Mathematical near misses show the power and playfulness of the human touch in mathematics. Johnson, Kaplan, and others made their discoveries by trial and error — by exploring, like biologists trudging through the rainforest to look for new species. But with mathematics it can be easier to search systematically. For instance, Jim McNeill, a mathematical hobbyist who collects near misses on his website, and Robert Webb, a computer programmer, have developed software for creating and studying polyhedra.

Near misses live in the murky boundary between idealistic, unyielding mathematics and our indulgent, practical senses. They invert the logic of approximation. Normally the real world is an imperfect shadow of the Platonic realm. The perfection of the underlying mathematics is lost under realizable conditions. But with near misses, the real world is the perfect shadow of an imperfect realm. An approximation is “a not-right estimate of a right answer,” Kaplan says, whereas “a near-miss is an exact representation of an almost-right answer.

In this way, near misses transform the mathematician’s and mathematical physicist’s relationship with the natural world. “I am grateful for the imperfections of the real world because it allows me to achieve a kind of quasi-perfection with objects that I know are intrinsically not perfect,” Kaplan says. “It allows me to overcome the limitations of mathematics because of the beautiful brokenness of reality.””

“For decades, rough calculations have suggested that cloud loss could significantly impact climate, but this concern remained speculative until the last few years, when observations and simulations of clouds improved to the point where researchers could amass convincing evidence.

Now, new findings reported today in the journal Nature Geoscience make the case that the effects of cloud loss are dramatic enough to explain ancient warming episodes like the PETM — and to precipitate future disaster. Climate physicists at the California Institute of Technology performed a state-of-the-art simulation of stratocumulus clouds, the low-lying, blankety kind that have by far the largest cooling effect on the planet. The simulation revealed a tipping point: a level of warming at which stratocumulus clouds break up altogether. The disappearance occurs when the concentration of CO2 in the simulated atmosphere reaches 1,200 parts per million — a level that fossil fuel burning could push us past in about a century, under “business-as-usual” emissions scenarios. In the simulation, when the tipping point is breached, Earth’s temperature soars 8 degrees Celsius, in addition to the 4 degrees of warming or more caused by the CO2 directly.

Once clouds go away, the simulated climate “goes over a cliff,” said Kerry Emanuel, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A leading authority on atmospheric physics, Emanuel called the new findings “very plausible,” though, as he noted, scientists must now make an effort to independently replicate the work.

To imagine 12 degrees of warming, think of crocodiles swimming in the Arctic and of the scorched, mostly lifeless equatorial regions during the PETM. If carbon emissions aren’t curbed quickly enough and the tipping point is breached, “that would be truly devastating climate change,” said Caltech’s Tapio Schneider, who performed the new simulation with Colleen Kaul and Kyle Pressel.

Huber said the stratocumulus tipping point helps explain the volatility that’s evident in the paleoclimate record. He thinks it might be one of many unknown instabilities in Earth’s climate. “Schneider and co-authors have cracked open Pandora’s box of potential climate surprises,” he said, adding that, as the mechanisms behind vanishing clouds become clear, “all of a sudden this enormous sensitivity that is apparent from past climates isn’t something that’s just in the past. It becomes a vision of the future.””

Only humans, however, have turned this craft into something unprecedented: a cumulative process of experiment and recombination that over mere hundreds of thousands of years harnessed phenomena such as fire to cook food, and ultimately smelt metal; as gravity into systems of levers, ramps, pulleys, wheels and counterweights; and mental processes into symbolic art, numeracy, and literacy.

It is this, above all, that marks humanity’s departure from the rest of life on Earth. Alone among species (at least until the crows have put in a million years more effort) humans can consciously improve and combine their creations over time — and in turn extend the boundaries of consciousness. It is through this process of recursive iteration that tools became technologies; and technology a world-altering force…

This brings us to the biggest question of all. Can we deflect the path of technology’s needs towards something like our own long-term interest, not to mention that of most other life on this planet? Not, I would argue, if we surrender to the seduction of thinking ourselves impotent or inconsequential — or technology’s future as a single, predetermined course.

Like our creations, we are minute in individual terms — yet of vast consequence collectively. It took the Earth 4.7 billion years to produce a human population of one billion; another 120 years to produce two billion; then less than a century to reach the seven-and-a-half billion humans currently alive, contemplating their future with all the tools of reason, wishfulness, knowledge and delusion that evolution and innovation have bequeathed.

This is what existence looks like at the sharp end of 4.7 billion years. We have less time than ever before — and more that we can accomplish.”

“There is no real way to separate humanity from its technology. Throughout history, technology has been adopted to both enhance and progress the human experience. And it has served another important purpose, too: technology has, in many cases, been created to preserve humanity. This is particularly true of communications technologies, from the printing press to the phonograph to the internet. Whether or not their creators realized it at their genesis, and despite the myriad functions they might go on to serve, fundamentally, they are a way for humanity to remember itself — for us to remind each other that we exist.

Maybe this is why these three recent advances in human-like artificial intelligence feel so unsettling. Unlike a simple recording, each one is more than just a copy of humans, or human communications. Instead, they are replications. That seemingly minor distinction is important. At the root of the idea of replication are its classical Latin ancestors, “re” (back, again) and “plicare” (to fold).

Before it was appropriated as a synonym for copy, replication, in its classic form, was about folding something back on itself. This gives us clarity on what’s really going on in with these new examples of A.I. A copy and its original can exist simultaneously and separately, and even if the original is lost, the copy is proof that it once existed. A replication, on the other hand, is a manipulation — a folding over — of the original to create a new form. Crucially, in the process, some facet of that original disappears. It’s part of what makes the uncanny valley such a profoundly unsettling space. Because what’s lost in each replication — of our human faces, of our human words, and of our human voices — is, well, humanity.

These new A.I. tools are not reminders that we exist; they are reminders that soon, in some fashion, we might not.

“A rather elegant solution to the prisoner’s dilemma was proposed years ago, after the initial thought experiment was conceived. The idea was to have players engage in repeated versions of the same game and have the payoffs of each game carry over into the next round. The rationale was simple: upon realizing the game would continue to be played, people would also realize it was in their best interest to cooperate. This is a pessimistic view of society, but it’s also an accurate one.

Humanity cooperates because historical precedent (read: repeated games) dictates doing so — with very few exceptions — is everyone’s dominant strategy.

When you play out the prisoner’s dilemma game in real life with the repeated games wrinkle added, the results are what you’d expect: People begin to cooperate. The problem with this solution is that while it works to inspire cooperation on a small scale, global cooperation is much harder.

We’re playing a rigged game, and every time we do, our pace of life accelerates, and the world moves faster.

This gets at why we make suboptimal decisions at a global scale: There isn’t yet a feasible way to facilitate repeated games between seven billion individuals. Even if there were, and we could all agree to only use time-saving utilities to relax for the rest of our lives, all it would take for the entire system to unravel would be one individual cheating on the agreement, optimizing, and working harder.

Given this impossibility of global coordination, we will continue to behave in our own self-interests. And we’ll continue to make suboptimal decisions. We’re playing a rigged game, and every time we do, our pace of life accelerates, and the world moves faster.

The acceleration of our collective pace of life is not a result of stupidity or irrationality; rather, it is a symptom of what is perfectly predicted by the prisoner’s dilemma at a global scale: Hyperrational individuals making hyperrational decisions on how to spend their time by launching into an inescapable arms race of productivity. Burnout is inevitable.

“The moral nature of usefulness becomes even clearer when we consider that our own desires are often in conflict. Someone may say he wants to have a decent sleep schedule, and yet his desire to watch another YouTube video about “deep state” conspiracy theories may get the better of him. Which of these two conflicting desires is the truer one? What is useful in this case, and what is good for him? Is he searching for conspiracy theories to find the facts of the matter, or to get the informational equivalent of a hit of cocaine? Which is more useful? What we wish for ourselves is often not what we do; the problem, it seemed to Walker Percy, is that modern man above all wants to know who he is and should be

Much of the politics of Silicon Valley is explained by this Promethean exchange: gifts of enlightenment and ease in exchange for some measure of awe, gratitude, and deference to the technocratic elite that manufactures them. Algorithmic utopianism is at once optimistic about human motives and desires and paternalistic about humans’ cognitive ability to achieve their stated preferences in a maximally rational way. Humans, in other words, are mostly good and well-intentioned but dumb and ignorant. We rely on poor intuitions and bad heuristics, but we can overcome them through tech-supplied information and cognitive adjustment. Silicon Valley wants to debug humanity, one default choice at a time…

Silicon Valley’s tech founders envisioned a world where information technology directly contributed to an increasingly democratic society, characterized by decentralization, a do-it-yourself attitude, and an independence of thought associated with both their brand of Sixties counterculture and a deeper American tradition. They and their successors, based on optimistic assumptions about human nature, built machines to maximize those naturally good human desires. But, to use a line from Bruno Latour, “technology is society made durable.” That is, to extend Latour’s point, technology stabilizes in concrete form what societies already find desirable.

The counterculture’s humanism has long been overthrown by dreams of maximizing satisfaction, metrics, profits, “knowledge,” and connection, a task now to be given over to the machines. The emerging soft authoritarianism in Silicon Valley’s designs to stoke our desires will go hand in hand with a hard authoritarianism that pushes these technologies toward their true ends.

“Similar to the challenge APT actors have posed to information and cyber security professionals, social media companies now face malign actors that can be labeled as Advanced Persistent Manipulators (APMs) on their platforms. (See Figure 1.) These APMs pursue their targets and seek their objectives persistently and will not be stopped by account shutdowns and platform timeouts. They use combinations of influence techniques and operate across the full spectrum of social media platforms, using the unique attributes of each to achieve their objectives. They have sufficient resources and talent to sustain their campaigns, and the most sophisticated and troublesome ones can create or acquire the most sophisticated technology. APMs can harness, aggregate, and nimbly parse user data and can recon new adaptive techniques to skirt account and content controls. Finally, they know and operate within terms of service, and they take advantage of free-speech provisions. Adaptive APM behavior will therefore continue to challenge the ability of social media platforms to thwart corrosive manipulation without harming their own business model

Finally, the erosion of user trust in social media platforms has further accelerated the “balkanization” of the Internet. Mobile phone audiences are increasingly partitioned by their usage of apps, and APMs will seek to move their audiences onto apps of their own design. It is far easier to enlist allies, distort reality, and incite fear if a manipulator can control a user’s information flow through an app. Simultaneously, apps provide APMs unlimited harvesting of the data, communications, and preferences of their users without violating the terms of service of the big social media companies.

The APM spectrum outlined here will evolve in the future, with more actor types emerging and methods being added. New objectives may emerge as well, but for now, tracking APMs via their objectives and methods will better inform social media companies and industry efforts to protect their platforms. This more holistic approach will offer a coherent intelligence-led understanding of the operating environment, comprehensive indicators, and warnings of APM activity. Recognizing the full spectrum of manipulators, rather than focusing on removing single actors from a single social media platform, will illuminate platform-wide policy changes that restore user trust and thwart the full range of current and future APMs.

Jilani asks me what I would have had Harris do instead: As a prosecutor, she can bring criminal charges, or do nothing. My answer is option B: Do nothing. Not that I think nobody should do anything. But I don’t think that the district attorney should do anything here. The criminal punishment system is so blunt and harmful in its effects that it should be reserved only for the most serious offenses, and anything that can be resolved outside it should be. If you are a prison abolitionist, as I am, you think we should “take prosecution off the table” most of the time as a response to a given social problem. To see why, imagine that you and I are discussing how we can persuade our friend Dennis to stop showing up late to union meetings. You suggest that we offer to give Dennis a ride, so that he won’t be able to blame the bus system. I suggest that we sit down and ask Dennis to level with us about why he’s late, and tell him why his presence matters. We can debate how to approach this. But imagine if a third person piped up and said: “I suggest that we give him a warning, and if Dennis is late to one more meeting, we show up to his house armed, drag him away in front of his children, and lock him in a cage for a week.” Person 3 would appear to lack basic humanity, and their suggestion would (hopefully) be dismissed out of hand. That’s true even if we believe this would objectively be an effective way of convincing Dennis to show up on time.

Prosecution may work, then, but it’s an extreme option. We might need it in the case of murder or physical abuse, but on the whole we need to think more creatively. In-school problems should rarely be dealt with through policing and the criminal courts. When it comes to truancy, it’s indeed a serious problem, but research on its causes suggests that “scaring parents” isn’t actually addressing any of the underlying issues bringing about this problem. What’s more, there are alternatives. New Britain, Connecticut managed to cut its elementary school truancy rate by more than half by partnering with a nonprofit called Attendance Works and staging interventions including “teachers calling parents; home visits by specially trained staff; and connecting families with anti-poverty services provided by the state and community nonprofits like the Boys and Girls Club.”

I want to address one more important question Jilani poses. He dismisses my concern that these prosecutions affect people who are mostly poor and/or Black/Latinx. After all, he says, if murders are committed disproportionately among low-income people, murder prosecutions will disproportionately be brought against the poor, but does that mean we shouldn’t bring them? But let me be clear about my point: it’s not that punishments that impact the poor can never be brought, it’s that because they harm the poor most of all, and when the underlying offenses are the result of poverty, we need to use them only as last resorts. Murder is an extreme harm, but even there, if we can reduce the factors that cause murder through successful violence prevention initiatives, we should do that rather than simply applying after-the-fact harsh punishments to deter. The existing system of mass incarceration, even if it is only punishing “guilty” people, is bad in part because instead of addressing the injustices and deprivation that produce the offenses, it simply locks “problem people” up. We don’t care enough about poor people to help them, or spend the vast amounts of money it would take to actually give people decent lives, so instead we adopt the “cost-effective” solution of throwing them behind bars when predictable behaviors occur.

Furthermore, if you don’t pay attention to the economics, if the only question you ask is “Well, did they do it?” then you miss the development of highly unjust systems of wealth extraction. Texas, for example, prosecutes hundreds of thousands of truancy cases, and fining the poor over absences has brought in colossal amounts of revenue:

The economics of truancy enforcement are boldly on display in Texas’ courts. From 2005 to 2009, truancy cases filed by public schools in the Lone Star state grew annually, from 85,000 to 120,000. Truancy courts are the traffic courts of public education, processing hundreds of parents and students daily in assembly-line fashion–even during summer months. The Dallas courts alone handle an average of 35,000 cases a year, and their revenue is eye-popping: just over \$2 million in FY 2009 and nearly \$1.8 million in FY 2011. Truancy court was founded in 2003 because the problem of unexcused absences was overwhelming the juvenile court system; now Dallas has five truancy courts, each with its own judge and staff.”

“For ultra-nationalists, this project means “taking back control” of their governments from foreigners. For the ultra-rich, it means eliminating the controls that international organizations and alliances have imposed on them individually and as a class: a world without the EU, or without the Global Magnitsky Act, is one in which the people who appeared in the Panama Papers can get even richer and expand their influence over an increasing share of the world’s governments and resources.

Thus what the media has treated as two separate news stories are actually manifestations of one big story, linking the shocks of the Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers, the Brexit vote, and the 2016 US election. It is a consummate irony that ultra-nationalism has been repackaged for voters as an effort to regain local control, protect national boundaries and reassert the dominance of local ethnic groups. What has been sold to working-class and middle-class voters as “a war for the little guy” is in practical terms the wishlist of the ultra-wealthy worldwide…

After interviewing 65 wealth managers in 18 countries, I learned that many individuals with enormous wealth and power deeply resent any institutions that limit their freedom or hold them accountable to obey the law. Thus, they form common cause with populist political movements, which attack the authority and legitimacy of policy professionals and politicians. In this effort, the ultra-rich weaken the actors empowered to impose restrictions on them, liberating themselves to make even more money by flouting regulations, tax obligations, trade embargoes and other inconveniences. The goal, as a Guardian columnist wrote presciently back in 2012, is to “free the rich from the constraints of democracy” — and that, sooner or later, has the ironic consequence of aligning global elites with authoritarian nationalists.

These wealthy individuals’ political inclinations may seem like relatively harmless self-interest, until you consider the power they have to realize their ambitions. Many of the wealth managers I spoke with warned of client ideologies and offshore mechanisms that were openly hostile to democracy and popular sovereignty. One Zurich-based practitioner specializing in individuals with \$50m or more in investable assets said that her clients saw themselves as “above nationality and laws”. Of their belief that any legal limitations placed on them were de facto illegitimate, she added: “It’s potentially very dangerous…

Yet even though the global network of offshore tax havens is a relatively recent tool for billionaires to advance their interests, the impulse driving the sponsors of populist movements is not. The novelist GK Chesterton had their number over a century ago, when he wrote: “The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea on his yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.

“Based on today’s BLS report for CPI price data through December, I’ve updated the chart above with price changes through 2018. During the most recent 21-year period from January 1998 to December 2018, the CPI for All Items increased by exactly 56.0% and the chart displays the relative price increases over that time period for 14 selected consumer goods and services, and for average hourly earnings (wages). Seven of those goods and services have increased more than average inflation, led by hospital services (+211%), college tuition (+183.8%), and college textbooks (+183.6%). Average wages have also increased more than average inflation since January 1998, by 80.2%, indicating an increase in real wages over the last several decades.

The other seven price series have declined since January 1998, led by TVs (-97%), toys (-74%), software (-68%) and cell phone service (-53%). The CPI series for new cars, household furnishings (furniture, appliances, window coverings, lamps, dishes, etc.) and clothing have remained relatively flat for the last 21 years while average prices have increased by 56% and wages increased 80.2%. Various observations that have been made about the huge divergence in price patterns over the last several decades include:

a. The greater (lower) the degree of government involvement in the provision of a good or service the greater (lower) the price increases (decreases) over time, e.g., hospital and medical costs, college tuition, childcare with both large degrees of government funding/regulation and large price increases vs. software, electronics, toys, cars and clothing with both relatively less government funding/regulation and falling prices. As somebody on Twitter commented:

Blue lines = prices subject to free market forces. Red lines = prices subject to regulatory capture by government. Food and drink is debatable either way. Conclusion: remind me why socialism is so great again.

b. Prices for manufactured goods (cars, clothing, appliances, furniture, electronic goods, toys) have experienced large price declines over time relative to overall inflation, wages, and prices for services (education, medical care, and childcare).

c. The greater the degree of international competition for tradeable goods, the greater the decline in prices over time, e.g., toys, clothing, TVs, appliances, furniture, footwear, etc.

““What happens is you have people at the very top being prioritized and people at the very bottom being prioritized, and everyone else is sort of squeezed out,” said John Dalrymple, who retired last year as deputy commissioner of the IRS. In 2017, EITC recipients were audited at twice the rate of taxpayers with income between \$200,000 and \$500,000. Only households with income above \$1 million were examined at significantly higher rates.

Put another way, as the IRS has dwindled in size and capability, audits of the poor have accounted for more of what it does. Last year, the IRS audited 381,000 recipients of the EITC. That was 36 percent of all audits the IRS conducted, up from 33 percent in 2011, when the budget cuts began…

Regardless of the precise error rate, the IRS acknowledges the primary cause of the problem is not fraud: It is the law itself. It is too complex, too easy for someone to think themselves eligible when they are not. The same child might be a “dependent,” for example, but not a “qualifying child” under the EITC, and the IRS’ instructions for claiming the credit run to 41 pages.

My third-year law students, they sit down and study this material, and sometimes they still don’t get it,” said Michelle Lyon Drumbl, a professor at Washington and Lee School of Law.

Since the 1990s, Republicans in Congress have focused on these improper payments as a major problem and harshly criticized the IRS for failing to stop them. In 2015, the Republican Congress passed, and President Barack Obama signed, a bill that required the IRS to hold EITC refunds until Feb. 15 each year. The purpose was to give the IRS more time to match tax returns with the corresponding W-2s to avoid misstatements of income. But it also meant people who are audited are more likely to see their refund held — instead of receiving the credit and then undergoing audit. That’s a crucial difference for low-income taxpayers.”

Many of the essays share the theme of how power asymmetries shape our contemporary economy. Many economists dismiss the role of power because they think it cannot be studied rigorously or belongs outside economics. As Naidu puts it in his essay, “under conditions of perfect competition and information, there is no scope for power.” But asymmetries between different groups abound: who has the upper hand in bargaining for wages and employment; who has market power and who gets to compete; who can move across borders and who is stuck at home; who can evade taxation and who cannot; who gets to set the agenda of trade agreements and who is excluded; who can vote and who is effectively disenfranchised. Some of these asymmetries are traditional political imbalances; others are power imbalances that naturally occur in the market due to informational asymmetries or barriers to entry.

Policies that counter such asymmetries make sense not only from a distributional standpoint but also for improving aggregate economic performance. The policy essays tackle these asymmetries frontally and suggest ways of rebalancing power for economic ends. Unions and wage boards can rein monopsony power in labor markets (Naidu and Dube); putting sand in the wheels of financial globalization can enhance the fiscal capacity of the state (Zucman); regulating private finance can prevent crises (Admati and Mian); giving labor a greater say in trade agreements can improve the design of trade agreements (Rodrik); and restricting campaign contributions and making it easier for poorer people to vote can increase the accountability of the political system (Kaplan).

But while these policy briefs range over a wide swathe of policy domains — social policy, taxation, labor markets, financial regulation, trade agreements, technology, and electoral rules — their coverage is certainly not exhaustive. Many important policy areas remain untouched or are mentioned only briefly, and we still have much work to do. These essays (with more promised) are intended as first cuts, rather than definitive statements: we offer them as evidence that economics produces relevant and imaginative policy ideas and an encouragement to other economists to contribute in the same vein. They are a proof-of-concept for the claim that economics can help build a society that is both fairer and does more to live up to its productive potential — that economics can serve inclusive prosperity.

2. Comprehensive Sex Education Decreases Sexual Problems

3. American Exceptionalism Is Absolute Nonsense

4. Adequate Mass Transit Is a Huge Convenience

5. The Bible Was Not Written by Billionaire Hedge Fund Managers

6. Learning a Second or Third Language Is a Plus, Not a Character Flaw

7. Union Membership Benefits the Economy

8. Paid Maternity Leave Is the Norm in Most Developed Countries

9. Distrust of Oligarchy Is a Positive”

What would a new Americanism and a new American history look like? They might look rather a lot like the composite nationalism imagined by Douglass and the clear-eyed histories written by Du Bois. They might take as their starting point the description of the American experiment and its challenges offered by Douglass in 1869:

A Government founded upon justice, and recognizing the equal rights of all men; claiming no higher authority for existence, or sanction for its laws, than nature, reason, and the regularly ascertained will of the people; steadily refusing to put its sword and purse in the service of any religious creed or family, is a standing offense to most of the Governments of the world, and to some narrow and bigoted people among ourselves.

At the close of the Cold War, some commentators concluded that the American experiment had ended in triumph, that the United States had become all the world. But the American experiment had not in fact ended. A nation founded on revolution and universal rights will forever struggle against chaos and the forces of particularism. A nation born in contradiction will forever fight over the meaning of its history. But that doesn’t mean history is meaningless, or that anyone can afford to sit out the fight.

“The history of the United States at the present time does not seek to answer any significant questions,” Degler told his audience some three decades ago. If American historians don’t start asking and answering those sorts of questions, other people will, he warned. They’ll echo Calhoun and Douglas and Father Coughlin. They’ll lament “American carnage.” They’ll call immigrants “animals” and other states “shithole countries.” They’ll adopt the slogan “America first.” They’ll say they can “make America great again.” They’ll call themselves “nationalists.” Their history will be a fiction. They will say that they alone love this country. They will be wrong.

Highlights

•A 100% renewable energy based system is analysed for the Americas for the year 2030.

•Interconnected Americas show slightly more benefit than North and South America.

•Long distance transmission lines cannot compete with energy storage technologies.

•Renewable energy variability can be resolved at a cost-effective manner.

•100% renewable energy systems are lower in cost than a business-as-usual scenario.

## “Best of the Rest” Articles/Essays at the bottom of the post:

A.I., America, Anti-Trust, Art, Blockchain, Books, Cannabis, Climate Change, Corporations, Courts, Data, Ecology/Environment, Economics, Education. Energy, Elections, Facebook, Food, Google, Government, Health, Healthcare, History, Housing, Human beings are incredible, Human beings are incredibly shitty, Immigration, the Internetz, Journalism, Law Enforcement, Lobbying is just legalized bribery, Media, Military Industrial Complex, Music, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Racism, Sociology, Space, Sports, Surveillance State, Tech Dystopia, Tech Utopia, Transportation, Work, Writing

# Podcasts & Shows —

”Deep dive on the criminal justice system.”

“Octavia Butler’s Dawn imagines a future where humans are a rung lower on the food chain than usual. And after nearly extinguishing itself in nuclear fire, humanity’s only hope is a mysterious alien species that has rescued them for specious reasons. It’s a story about oppression and identity, bolstered by Butler’s excellent world-building.”

“More on the ethics-related fragments of Epicurus and accounts by Martha Nussbaum and Tim O’Keefe. What would a purely therapeutic philosophy consist of? Does philosophy as pursuit of pleasure mean that you eschew political action or other substantial goals? Mark, Wes, and Dylan try to figure out which of our desires are vain and whether society is compatible with human happiness.”

”National Security Adviser John Bolton raised a yellow warning flag about American military intervention. Or, anyway, a yellow legal pad, which he carried into a White House press briefing conspicuously displaying a single provocative notation: “5,000 troops to Colombia.” Should the US invade Venezuela, it would be the latest in a long history of meddling in Latin American countries, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Haiti, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Grenada and Uruguay. According to Brown University Professor of International Relations Stephen Kinzer, author of Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, US-backed coups and invasions tend to follow a deceitful and dangerous pattern. He and Bob discuss how the press and the US government often exploit human rights abuses to provoke warmongering among the American people, and why short-term interventions often lead to long-term despair.”

“Soumaya Keynes and Chad Bown sit down with Kalina Manova (University College London) to talk about how corporate finance affects international trade. They discuss her research on how access to finance can be a source of comparative advantage, how the financial crisis of 2008–09 contributed to a collapse in global trade, as well as the role that multinational companies sometimes play to help emerging economies overcome poor local financial markets in order to engage in the global economy.”

“At Tuesday’s State of the Union, President Trump continued to call for a wall at the southern border. Meanwhile, some Democrats point to the real crisis: climate change. A look at the messaging of urgency and hope around the Green New Deal. And, a former mentor to Mark Zuckerberg lays out his deep criticisms of Facebook. Then, a Facebook employee makes the case for one potential solution. Plus, a new documentary about Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin, two New York City reporters, who helped turn column writing into an art form. 1. Kate Aronoff [@KateAronoff], contributing writer with The Intercept, on how Democrats are selling the urgent need to address climate change. Listen. 2. Roger McNamee [@Moonalice], author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, on the damage that Facebook has done. Listen. 3. Andy O’Connell [@facebook], manager of content distribution and algorithm policy at Facebook, on the network’s new “Supreme Court” for content moderation. Listen. 4. Jonathan Alter [@jonathanalter], filmmaker and journalist, on the legacy of two masterful newspaper columnists.”

“Jim Collins (jimcollins.com) is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick, and a Socratic advisor to leaders in the business and social sectors. He has authored or coauthored eight books that have together sold 10+ million copies worldwide, including Good to Great, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, Great by Choice, and his newest work, Turning the Flywheel.

Driven by a relentless curiosity, Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. In 1995, he founded a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

In 2017, Forbes selected Jim as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.

Jim is also an avid rock climber and has completed single-day ascents of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.”

“Everything we think about the world outside our immediate senses is shaped by information brought to us by other sources. In the case of what’s currently happening to the human race, we call that information “the news.” There is no such thing as “unfiltered” news — no matter how we get it, someone is deciding what information to convey and how to convey it. And the way that is happening is currently in a state of flux. Today’s guest, journalist Jessica Yellin, has seen the news business from the perspective of both the establishment and the upstart. Working for major news organizations, she witnessed the strange ways in which decisions about what to cover were made, including the constant focus on short-term profits. And now she is spearheading a new online effort to bring people news in a different way. We talk about what the news business is, what it should be, and where it is going.”

“Theranos, what seemed like one of the most ground breaking companies of the 21st century ended up being one of Silicon Valley’s greatest failures. How did Elizabeth Holmes manage to fool the world? In this video we find out the twisting rollercoaster of a story.”

“To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’ll take a look at relationships in the future, both the romantic and platonic friendships. We’ll see what options and challenges might lay in store as we have to tackle the rising effect of social media and online dating, as well as more advanced technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, cloning, and life extension.”

“The Dark Forest Theory is a proposed solution to the Fermi Paradox from Cixin Liu which suggests all alien civilizations remain intentionally quiet, hiding from SETI efforts and possible hostile civilizations. It also argues they may attack any civilization which does not remain silent, like us.”

“Tim Pool is an independent journalist. His work can currently be found at http://timcast.com and on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG74...”

“Andrew Yang is an American entrepreneur, the founder of Venture for America, and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.”

“Alex Berenson is a former reporter for The New York Times and the author of several thriller novels and a book on corporate financial filings. His new book “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence” is available now via Amazon. Dr. Michael Hart is the founder and medical director of Readytogo clinic, a medical cannabis clinic in London, Ontario, Canada.”

“Bill Ottman is an Internet entrepreneur and freedom of information activist based, and is also the CEO and co-founder of Minds. http://www.minds.com

“Johann Hari is a writer and journalist. His new book “Lost Connections” is available now.”

“Ioan Grillo is journalist who has spent the last 18 years reporting on the drug war in Mexico. His books “El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency” and “Gangster Warlords” are available now.”

“The UK could officially leave the European Union next month, which would be a huge change with hugely damaging consequences.”

“Steve Eisman was one of the few who predicted the 2008 financial crisis, and he made his name by foreseeing the collapse of subprime mortgage market. Michael Lewis portrays him as one of the heroes in the bestselling book The Big Short and Steve Carrell plays an outspoken version of him in the Oscar-winning movie of the same name. EFN:s Katrine Marçal meets Steve Eisman at Claridges hotel in London.”

# TED Talks —

“Farida Nabourema has dedicated her life to fighting the military regime in Togo, Africa’s oldest autocracy. She’s learned two truths along the way: no country is destined to be oppressed — and no country is immune to dictatorship. But how can you tell if you’re at risk before it happens? In a stirring talk, Nabourema shares the four key signs of a dictatorship, along with the secret to defiance for those living within an oppressive system.”

“The transistors that power the phone in your pocket are unimaginably small: you can fit more than 3,000 of them across the width of a human hair. But to keep up with innovations in fields like facial recognition and augmented reality, we need to pack even more computing power into our computer chips — and we’re running out of space. In this forward-thinking talk, technology developer Karl Skjonnemand introduces a radically new way to create chips. “This could be the dawn of a new era of molecular manufacturing,” Skjonnemand says.”

“In the US, the very same blood test can cost \$19 at one clinic and \$522 at another clinic just blocks away — and nobody knows the difference until they get a bill weeks later. Journalist Jeanne Pinder says it doesn’t have to be this way. She’s built a platform that crowdsources the true costs of medical procedures and makes the data public, revealing the secrets of health care pricing. Learn how knowing what stuff costs in advance could make us healthier, save us money — and help fix a broken system.”

“We know about our universe’s past: the Big Bang theory predicts that all matter, time and space began about 14 billion years ago. And we know about the present: scientists’ observations of galaxies tell us that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. But what about the future? Do we know how our universe is going to end? Venus Keus explores cosmologists’ three possible scenarios.”

# Videos —

Purl | Pixar SparkShorts

“Purl, directed by Kristen Lester and produced by Gillian Libbert-Duncan, features an earnest ball of yarn named Purl who gets a job in a fast-paced, high energy, bro-tastic start-up. Yarny hijinks ensue as she tries to fit in, but how far is she willing to go to get the acceptance she yearns for, and in the end, is it worth it?”

“NEW FILM: Our new short film (12 min) is finally out. Turn out the light, put your headphones and freedive with me around the world”

“Eric Whitacre’s “Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe” is a unique film and musical experience inspired by one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time: the Hubble Telescope’s Deep Field image.”

“Patagonia Films presents Treeline: A Story Written in Rings, available in full for the first time. Follow a group of skiers, snowboarders, scientists and healers to the birch forests of Japan, the red cedars of British Columbia and the bristlecones of Nevada, as they explore an ancient story written in rings. Watch the film, exclusively here starting January 27th.”

“Awesome steel forging process inside factory. You can see biggest forging hammer and press. And how it’s made steel. Watching these mega machines makes almost a hypnotic video.”

“”Erica is 23. She has a beautiful, neutral face and speaks with a synthesised voice. She has 20 degrees of freedom but can’t move her hands yet. Hiroshi Ishiguro is her ‘father’ and the bad boy of Japanese robotics. Together they will redefine what it means to be human and reveal that the future is closer than we might think. Dr Hiroshi Ishiguro and his colleague Dr Dylan Glas are interested in what makes a human. Erica is their latest creation — a semi-autonomous android, product of the most funded scientific project in Japan. However, these men regard themselves as artists more than scientists, and the Erica project is a philosophical one as much as technological one Erica is interviewed about her hope and dreams — to be able to leave her room and to be able to move her arms and legs. She likes to chat with visitors and has one of the most advanced speech synthesis systems yet developed. Can she be regarded as being alive or as a comparable being to ourselves? Will she help us to understand ourselves and our interactions as humans better? Erica and her creators are interviewed in the science fiction atmosphere of Ishiguro’s laboratory, and this film asks how we might form close relationships with robots in the future. Ishiguro thinks that for Japanese people especially, everything has a soul, whether human or not. If we don’t understand how human hearts, minds and personalities work, can we truly claim that humans have authenticity that machines don’t? Ishiguro and Glas want to release Erica and her fellow robots into human society. Soon, Erica may be an essential part of our everyday life, as one of the new children of humanity.”

“Get your Mars Base Poster here: https://standard.tv/collections/in-a-... Humans love to explore. Strangely enough even horrible places — like Mars. Let’s see how building a Mars base could work and how insanely nerve-wracking exactly it would be. Sources & Further Reading: https://sites.google.com/view/sources...

“It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: A Boeing 747 with an internal hanger loaded with 10 specially designed fighter jets. An on board crew to launch, recover, refuel and rearm the jets while in mid-flight. Sleeping quarters and a crew lounge to ensure that a squadron of 14 fighter pilots and 18 mission specialists stay rested. All of it hurtling forward at Mach 0.85, 35 thousand feet above sea-level. That’s asking a lot from a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. But a once classified feasible study prepared for the U.S. Air Force details how it could be done. An Airborne Aircraft Carrying Boeing 747 might have been an overly-ambitious, overly-complex and ham-handed idea from 1970s, but it wasn’t entirely out of left field. The U.S. Military had been experiment with the aerial aircraft carrier concepts for nearly half a century. In the early 1930s, two U.S. Navy airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon carried up to 5 planes stored inside an internal hangar bay. These airborne aircraft carriers enhanced the Navy’s seaborne scouting ability, and the airships’ onboard planes could be deployed for further scouting or defensive purposes. But both USS Akron and Macon were destroyed in weather related accidents not even 3 years after their introductions, helping to put an end to any future airship-based aircraft carriers. But the experiments continued in the 1940s, this time spurred on by a need to protect long-range intercontinental bombers. A seemingly sensible solution to extending escort fighter range was to have long-range bombers carry escort fighters onboard which could be deployed and recovered when needed. But the promising concept proved far more difficult in reality, with aircraft recovery being a particularly dangerous endeavor. Multiple docking methods were attempted, but only one version using a trapeze mechanism and a full-sized fighter ever saw limited service. By the mid-1950s, aerial refueling had proven itself to be a far more practical and safe solution to extending aircraft range. Yet, the Air Force reexamined the concept again in the early 1970s. This time, spurred on by perceived strategic vulnerabilities to conventional seaborne carriers and the new opportunities brought on the enormous Boeing 747 and Lockheed C-5. The feasibility study titled #747 #Boeing #FlyingAircraftCarrier Declassified ‘Investigation of a Micro-Fighter/Airborne Aircraft Carrier Concept’ can be found here: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltex...

“The laws of thermodynamics are cornerstones of physics — but one of them is more breakable than it appears.”

“Marshall McLuhan”

“At the beginning of 2019, determined volunteers launched the first single-family seastead into international waters. Facing many obstacles, including the biggest storm to hit Thailand in nearly 60 years, these volunteers were not deterred from becoming The First Seasteaders.”

“Amor Fati | The Stoic Anxiety Hack: https://youtu.be/aH7IhNF09E0 Is indifference a power? Voice, script, cuts by Einzelgänger.”

“Elon Musk is the founder, CEO, and lead designer of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; co-founder and CEO of Neuralink; co-founder of PayPal; and founder of the Boring Company. He is revolutionizing the auto industry, traffic, transportation, space travel, artificial intelligence and sustainable energy.”

“In this video we look at ancient wisdom and practical advice to help cultivate resilience, or the ability to emerge from the challenges of life stronger and wiser.”

“In the 2nd video of this series we explore Carl Jung’s ideas on how to recover from an anxiety disorder.

“All the key plays from Duke’s 23-point comeback at #16 Louisville… The comeback is the largest ever by a Duke team in the 2nd half under Coach K.”

“You don’t need a host to be Honest — It’s the 91st Academy Awards aka The Oscars (2019)!”

“””When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it” — Henry Ford””

“Newcomb’s Paradox has confounded philosophers, mathematicians, and game players for over 50 years. The problem is simple: You can take Box A, which contains \$1,000, *and* Box B, which contains either \$0 or \$1,000,000, or you can just take Box B. The right choice seems obvious — but there’s a catch. Before you play, an omniscient being has predicted whether you’d take both Box A and Box B or *only* Box B. If he’s predicted that you’ll take both, he’s put \$0 in Box B. If he predicts that you’ll only take Box B, he’s put \$1,000,000 inside. So… what do you do? I explore the two approaches to this problem, one based on the math of expected utility and the other based on a logical dominance principle. Newcomb’s Paradox raises questions about free will and determinism as it explores whether a problem with no solution might be easier than a problem with two perfectly valid contradictory solutions.”

“The premise of Groundhog Day is expertly constructed to drive natural, organic character change. In this video, we examine how Phil is designed to be a character that seems like he could never change, dissect how the premise of the story traps him in a world that will constantly attack his character flaw, and explore how the relentless nature of the premise ensures that the protagonist will have no choice but to transform.”

“What do Skrillex, David Bowie, Salt-N-Pepa and basically every drum and bass track have in common? They’ve all used the Amen break, a four-bar drum solo that has become the most sampled loop in music history. Recorded in 1969, the six second sample originates from the song “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons, a funk and soul group from Washington, D.C. For many years, the solo was buried deep in musical archives — that is until hip-hop pioneer Lou Flores, aka “Breakbeat Lou,” featured it on his compilation, “The Ultimate Breaks and Beats.” Once producers caught wind of the solo, it took off, going on to change music forever.”

“Whether Bo Burnham performs stand up, directs other comedians, or makes a movie, you always see new innovation in his lighting.”

# Lecture/Debate —

“The proposed Anthropocene Epoch is not an Anthropocentric Epoch, for the obvious reason that it highlights the fragility of the human species rather than human supremacy. This split between the Anthropocene and the Anthropocentric compels us to recognise an important philosophical distinction that is seldom acknowledged. Namely, the fact that humans are involved as ingredients in the creation of some entity does not entail that the entity has no autonomous reality apart from humans. The Anthropocene climate is generated by humans and independently mysterious to us, and the same holds for other fields that have been ‘anthropocene’ from the start: human society, art, economics.”

“Ten billion years ago, the universe was a busy place. The rate at which galaxies were forming stars was at an all-time high, supermassive black holes were consuming gas and stars like never before, and the universe itself was a lot smaller than it is today. The way in which galaxies evolved through this period had profound impacts on our present-day universe, but until recently, it’s been difficult to see these galaxies from this period due to their very large distances. With today’s advanced telescopes, we’ve been able to observe vast numbers of these ancient galaxies, and we’ve found that they look fundamentally different from nearby galaxies. I’ll discuss how galaxies have changed over the evolution of the universe and what it means for us today.”

“Jan.22 — A panel discussion at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on financial risks. The speakers are Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates co-chairman and founder, Fang Xinghai, China Securities Regulatory Commission vice-chairman, Axel Weber, UBS chairman, and Jin Keyu, London School of Economics professor. Maria Bartiromo, Fox Business Network anchor, moderates”

“”Fantasies of Capital: Alienation, Enjoyment, Psychoanalysis” — A Jnanapravaha Mumbai Conference (December 16–18, 2016) Day 2 / Session 3 — Slavoj Žižek, “The Real of the Capitalist Illusion” Abstract: Lacan begins the eleventh week of his seminar Les non-dupes errent (1973–4) with a straight question directed back at himself: “what was it that Lacan, who is here present, invented?” He answers the question “like that, to get things going: objet a.” Objet a has a long history in Lacan’s teaching, it precedes for decades Lacan’s systematic references to the analysis of commodities in Marx’s Capital. But it is undoubtedly this reference to Marx, especially to Marx’s notion of surplus-value /Mehrwert/, that enabled Lacan to deploy his »mature« notion of objet a as surplus-enjoyment (plus-de-jouir, Mehrlust): the predominant motif which permeates all Lacan’s references to Marx’s analysis of commodities is the structural homology between Marx’s surplus-value and what Lacan’s baptized surplus-enjoyment, the phenomenon called by Freud Lustgewinn, a “gain of pleasure,” which does not designate a simple stepping up of pleasure but the additional pleasure provided by the very formal detours in the subject’s effort to attain pleasure. The point of this homology is not to search in Marx for the origins of Lacan’s theory, but to explore how reading Marx’s critique of political economy through Lacan enables us to reactualize Marx, to conceive the structure of the self-propelling circulation of capital (“money which begets more money”) as the fundamental fantasy of capitalism, fantasy not in the sense of subjective illusion but in a much more radical sense of a fiction which structures our social reality itself.”

“From the Marxist standpoint, “Communism” refers to the multiple versions of our commons (the commons of nature, the commons of our biogenetic inheritance, the commons of our intellectual substance) which are all threatened by today’s global capitalism. Perhaps the most important version of our commons is the world-wide digital grid which more and more controls and regulates our lives. How can a new emancipatory movement fight for the public control of the digital commons? In preparing and executing the October Revolution, Trotsky showed us the way when he focused on the seizure of power over the technical and material base of a state (electricity, railways, phone, etc.). How can we apply this Trotsky’s insight to our contemporary predicament?”

“http://www.egs.edu Slavoj Žižek. Professor of Philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS. Saas-Fee, Switzerland. EGS, June 17th, 2018. Public open lecture for the students of the Division of Philosophy, Art & Critical Thought.”

# Documentary —

“Take an introductory look at the founding practices and propaganda surrounding the development and prohibition of psychedelic use in our society. http://bit.ly/Take_a_PsychedelicJourney When scientific study and ancient ritual point toward psychedelics as a tool for healing and awakening, why are these age-old plants regarded as harmful? In this ground-breaking original series, experts explore the history and use of psychedelic plants including political ambitions, the perceived shadow side and the proper environment to experience these substances. From the origins of Shamanism to the spiritual expression of modern awakenings, discover the role of sacred medicine as a gateway to expanded consciousness, and its continued influence on humanity. Watch the full series here: http://bit.ly/Take_a_PsychedelicJourney"

“In this extensive review of the work of Werner Herzog, I examine the philosophy beneath his unique approach to filmmaking, and explore the significance of the many stories he brought home from faraway lands.”

“”In 2012 the Chinese real estate market was booming, but only a few years later that dream is threatening to evaporate. This documentary film takes a look behind the Chinese real estate industry’s glamorous facade. It focuses on Yana, a young woman from the countryside who has come to Chongqing to live her own personal “Chinese Dream.” Attracted by the glamour and the fast money of the historic real estate boom, she and a friend founded a company that provides foreign actors for big PR events — often recruiting them on her journeys through Chongqing’s nightlife. The more international they looked, the more popular they were with Yana’s real estate clients. Yana gave her actors identities that were adapted to meet her clients’ preferences, and marketed them directly at industry fairs. The actors were booked for dance and music shows at house-opening events. Ability wasn’t important; all that mattered was their foreign appearance, adding an international touch to the apartments advertised. Now, just a few years later, the chronic overcapacity of China’s real estate companies is slowly making itself felt. As the cities become saturated, construction companies are moving into the countryside to throw up modern, international metropolises there in next to no time. But instead of lively housing estates, more and more of them are becoming ghost towns. The system’s facade is crumbling, buyers who feel cheated out of their money are protesting, and the real estate bubble is threatening to burst. When Yana realized why her actors were being booked, she was shocked and began to have doubts. In the end, she had no choice but to sell her stake in the company.””

Written by

## Eclectic Spacewalk

#### Your guide to thinking about the future with wisdom from the past, so you can navigate the present.

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