People refuse to acknowledge climate change not because they are ignorant but because they do not believe it

micro-climate 

Are the people who refuse to accept climate change ill-informed?
[Via Ars Technica]

Polls relating to publicly controversial scientific issues often trigger a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from science advocates. When large proportions of a population seem poorly informed about evolution, climate change, or genetically modified foods, the usual response is to bemoan the state of science literacy. It can seem obvious that many people don’t understand the science of evolution, for example—or the scientific method, generally—and that opinions would change if only we could educate them.

Research has shown, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Ars has previously covered Yale Professor Dan Kahan’s research into what he calls “cultural cognition,” and the idea goes like this: public opinion on these topics is fundamentally tied to cultural identities rather than assessment of scientific evidence. In other words, rather than evaluate the science, people form opinions based on what they think people with a similar background believe.

That shouldn’t come as a shock, especially given the well-known political or religious divides apparent for climate change and evolution.

[More]

Cultural cognition * – “public opinion on these topics is fundamentally tied to cultural identities rather than assessment of scientific evidence. In other words, rather than evaluate the science, people form opinions based on what they think people with a similar background believe.”

How people answer polls about science like climate change tell us more about their cultural identity than whether they know the facts. They know the facts. They just chose not to believe them.

People are quite willing to ignore facts all the time. It can be a good thing. We ignore the fact that we will die in order to make living easier. 

It is what keeps a Cubs fan optimistic that this year they will win it all. 

This all fits into how human communities adapt to change. Most people will not change what they are doing unless told to by a community leader. They follow a hierarchical authoritarian model – they do not have to know everything as long as they can trust their leaders to tell them the right thing to do.

This approach can be very powerful when the leaders have a good idea of how to solve a relatively simply problem that affects small numbers of people. It can get things done quickly. At least at first.

It falls apart when dealing with complex problems affecting millions. Information flow slows. No single hierarchy can see the entire problem. No one authority can solve it.

Then the emperor is revealed to have no clothes. Those following an authoritarian model will continue to state he does have clothes on and they are beautiful.

Luckily humans also have another approach, one using distributed social networks to foster rapid information flow through the demos. It is through democratic processes in a distributed network that we can begin to deal with very complex problems.

We need to synthesize data across multiple communities to get a better picture of, say, the emperor. An adaptive, distributed approach will see that he is naked and take action accordingly.

A synthetic, distributed approach across multiple communities must be used to provide all the information needed. And turn that information into the knowledge needed to take action.

And that is why I continue to be disappointed in the inability of people, mainly conservatives, to provide their voices in solving this problem.

We need all our heads involved, including conservative minds.

But the inability to adapt cultural cognition, to continue to follow the clothes-less emperor, still seems to drive the minds of their leaders. It is closing their communities off more and more from an accurate view of the world around us.

Even as the military adapts. And insurance companies. Two communities grounded in hierarchical authority (anyone who has dealt with either knows this) that realise they need to adapt.

So it is possible to adapt. It makes one wonder what is preventing the political leaders who refuse to acknowledge climate change. Surely not national security. Nor deadly catastrophes.

*One of the things I enjoy with Ars – whenever they have a climate change post, you can guarantee there will be interesting comments, even from those who do not acknowledge the topic. Not necessarily nice or even intelligent but some interesting ones. Seven pages of comments! And I bet not one opinion changed. That is the cultural identity of those at this site. As it is at many websites who create their own cultures.

Bacteria that prevent obesity – can we get the FDA to fasttrack this?

Mycobacterium tuberculosis Bacteria, the Cause of TB 

Vanderbilt study shows therapeutic bacteria prevent obesity in mice
[Via EurekAlert! - Medicine and Health]

(Vanderbilt University Medical Center) A probiotic that prevents obesity could be on the horizon.Bacteria that produce a therapeutic compound in the gut inhibit weight gain, insulin resistance and other adverse effects of a high-fat diet in mice, Vanderbilt University investigators have discovered.

[More]

We will get there soon, I believe. Our understanding of how our microbiota affect our health is rapidly increasing.

So figuring our how to make this work will be really helpful.

New way to make water into steam from sunlight

Sponge Converts Sunlight Into Steam for Electricity
[Via Discovery News - Top Stories]

A completely new structure heats water and turns it into steam. Continue reading →

[More]

If this can be scaled up, it could find some real uses.

Making a better world = Separating Sheep from Goats

Ellis Island

The parable of the sheep and goats – to me, one of the defining Biblical passages describing the underlying principles of Christ’s teachings. (with the Sermon on the Mount being the other major one).

As I have written before:

Whether it is the New Commandment to love one another, the Second Great Commandment to love our neighbors, turning the other cheek in response to evil, or how to love one’s enemies, His teachings show a path that breaks cycles of violence that often reverberate during times of change and strife.

This parable catalogs some of the actions that can be taken by those following his teachings – the sheep. It details how they separate themselves by how they treat others.

Seeing a person in difficulty, having compassion and acting to remedy that difficulty is one of the defining teachings that Christ provided.

They are about how to treat other humans, how compassion is required. Empathy and sympathy are what constantly drive successful societies and simply slow down cultures doomed to failure.

Time for us all to be separated – so many goats and so few sheep. From Matthew 25:

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

In reality, few geniuses did it alone. Perhaps none.

Genius

[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

The End of ‘Genius‘.

[More]

Edison was wrong. Or at least the picture is. He was not a solitary genius working by himself, alone in the lab. He had the help of many, many others.

The perspiration did not come only from Edison. It came from over 200 researchers working on his ideas. The number should be 0.5% inspiration (his) and 99.5% perspiration (theirs).

One of the great debates between those who are of the Age of Reason and those of the Romantic: does genius come from the friction between individual drive and social requirements or does it come fully formed from the natural state of a solitary human?

Data supports the former view.

We all live in a social setting and almost all the things we call genius came about through discussions, debates and simple interactions in a community. Even if that community is a simple pair of people.

The idea of a solitary genius was  a construct of the romantics, an authoritarian group that arose as a reaction from the distributed democracy of the Age of Reason. The latter based itself on logical actions of the head – that Nature could be understood – giving us social changes embodied in things like the Declaration of Independence and the Industrial Revolution

The former based itself on the emotional affairs of the heart – that Nature could simply be observed, never understood – giving us artistic changes embodied in people such as Coleridge and Beethoven. The latter championed the connectedness of people, while the former championed the uniqueness of a solitary genius.

Recent research suggests the view of the romantic does not actually match reality; that every genius stood on the shoulders of giants; that social interaction drove and modified the results of a genius; that we often only know of genius because of the very same social interactions that romantics try to pretend are not there.

So why do we continue to support, if not actually require, a view that a single person can drive creativity by themselves, that they  can innovate alone?

I would suggest that we seek a balance – the fame of the individual against the anonymity of the group.. While we value the importance of community, we desire to be seen as more than a node in a network. Things move ahead because a small group (perhaps staring with a single person) change the way a community acts. It is the friction of the individual drives and the community needs that produce the best solutions.

A creative individual alone does nothing. A community without creativity  does nothing. A successful society requite both innovative individuals and communities that value innovation. They need both the head of Reason and the heart of Romantics.

In the end, though, we are social animals and everything needs to be seen through the prism of communities of humans.

As the article states: 

This is just one piece of an impressive body of research in social psychology and the new field of social neuroscience, which contends that individual agency often pales next to the imperatives of a collective.

Or, writing at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, from Thomas Done:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

[…]

If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: 

 We are all connected. No one does everything by themselves.

A treasure that exists only for one person has no value. What a genius provides must be valued by a community, otherwise it is no treasure.

 



Telling people how we will horribly mess things up probably won’t change anyone’s views

 Star Trek: Spock

How Western Civilization Ended, Circa 2014 |
[Via  Mother Jones]

You don’t know it yet. There’s no way that you could. But 400 years from now, a historian will write that the time in which you’re now living is the “Penumbral Age” of human history—meaning, the period when a dark shadow began to fall over us all. You’re living at the start of a new dark age, a new counter-Enlightenment. Why? Because too many of us living today, in the years just after the turn of the millennium, deny the science of climate change.

Such is the premise of a thought-provoking new work of “science-based fiction” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, two historians of science (Oreskes at Harvard, Conway at Caltech) best known for their classic 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. In a surprising move, they have now followed up that expose of the roots of modern science denialism with a work of “cli-fi,” or climate science fiction, entitled The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. [SPOILER ALERT: Much of the plot of this book will be revealed below!] In it, Oreskes and Conway write from the perspective of a historian, living in China (the country that fared the best in facing the ravages of climate change) in the year 2393. The historian seeks to analyze the biggest paradox imaginable: Why humans who saw the climate disaster coming, who were thoroughly and repeatedly warned, did nothing about it.

[More]

Dystopias like 1984 are popular because they show us what will happen if we stop doing something we are already doing  (like resist authoritarians). This one seems to be trying to show us what will happen if we keep doing what we are  already doing. 

Not really helpful, in my opinion. We need narratives that help us learn how to act successfully, not stories that show an Apocalypse. The most popular fiction recently have examined how people can fight against a dystopia, not just accept it.

Here they seem to just tell us  that everything we try to do will be a failure. Hard to get people energized to chance.

Scaring people accomplishes little and is actually the fundamental reason people will grab onto any competing narrative, no matter how many lies are part of the narrative. They simply stop hearing the truth because of fear.

The Original Star Trek is the most influential SF show of all time because it was optimistic, even while showing many continuing problems. It showed people how to act. 

Real science fiction authors have done a much better job.

The “outsourcing” of Chinese jobs to robots begins in earnest

Tesla Autobots 

10,000 robots to help assemble Apple’s iPhone 6; robots expected to impact low-skilled workers worldwide
[Via MacDailyNews]

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“Foxconn parent company Hon Hai is set to deploy an army of 10,000 assembly-line robots to help meet the demands of producing the highly anticipated iPhone 6,” Reilly Dowd reports for The Fiscal Times. “Hon Hai CEO Terry Gou revealed in a recent shareholder meeting that Apple would be the very first customer of Foxconn’s latest robots.”

“‘Robots are going to enhance and speed up the manufacturing process,’ said Tim Bajarin, CEO of market research firm Creative Strategies. ‘The really big issue here is that the demand for the iPhone continues to grow. It’s grown every quarter since it came out,’” Dowd reports. “From a business standpoint, it makes sense. ‘When you are dealing with creating millions of smart phones per month, efficiency is critical,’ said Bajarin in an interview. ‘Robotics gives you that level of efficiency, which in the end, is very important for the bottom line.’”

[More]

This is only 10,000. But they work 27/7 with no need to eat or take breaks. As the use of these expands, expect to see many of Foxconn’s 1.3 million employees be put out of work. No more relatively high-paying jobs  for people with limited technological skills (ie not programmers).

Many manufacturing jobs in the US were moved to China because human labor was cheaper. What happens when robotic labor destroys those jobs?

The average person willnot have many options for living a middle class life.

The perfect murder – using ultra-pure water

 Water Drop....,

Ultra-pure water can kill you
[Via Boing Boing]

David Rees, author of How to Sharpen Pencils and creator of the Get Your War On comic strip, learns how to make ultra-pure water. He learns that ultra pure water does not like to be pure. If you drink it, it will try to grab electrolytes from your blood.

[More]

Those of us who work with ultra-pure water know this but it would be a great to see this used in a murder mystery – watch the CSI guys figure out that the victim was killed by water ;-)

Foxconn preparing robots to replace people

FANUC Robot Assembly Demo

 

Foxconn prepares to replace workers with robots in iPhone 6 assembly process
[Via 9to5Mac]

Foxconn is preparing to enhance its assembly process with a new line of robots, the CEO of the iPhone manufacturer’s parent company said during a shareholder meeting. According to the executive, Apple will be the first company to reap the benefits of the new process, likely indicating that the iPhone 6 will be the first phone to be produced by the new machines.

Each of the planned 10,000 robots will cost the company between $20,000 and $25,000, and will be capable of churning out 300,000 smartphones on average. The machines, which are said to be in the final testing stages now, won’t be available for sale to other companies, according to CEO Terry Gou, as Foxconn will likely not have enough to meet its own needs.

Foxconn recently went on a hiring spree in preparation for the upcoming Apple smartphone, reportedly hiring as many as 100,000 new workers. There’s no word yet on how (or if) the decision to implement a mechanical solution on the assembly line will affect those jobs.

[More]

This has been coming on for some time. I expect in a few years, Foxconn will have far fewer human employees. Then what will all those people do?

On our way “marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century”

Stones

Clarence Darrow told us what happens when ignorance takes hold in a country.

If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools and next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Catholic and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one, you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers; tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

My nightmare:

First they subjugated women’s health concerns beneath men’s and I did nothing. Then they decided that women did not need insurance at all.

They mandated that companies could remove the homosexuals from their workplace. Along with the Blacks, Muslims and Mexicans. Then they allowed corporations to decide that a minority’s extracurricular activities could be totally monitored for apostasy. 

Then the stonings began.

The company has to destroy itself, in order to save itself

Mac Keyboard 

Apple: Lessons in Self-Destruction. Richard Gutjahr’s blog
[Via asymco]

My thanks to Richard Gutjahr for taking time to talk about self-disruption. I met Richard as the Master of Ceremonies at the Censhare FutureDays event in Munich. He interviewed me for his blog and posted the results as a video and sound file. Richard is a journalist (Berliner Tagesspiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and TV personality (news presenter for Rundschau night).

Horace and I have met at a conference in Germany a few weeks ago. During a break, we were talking about the future of Apple. Horace made a statement, which I found quite intriguing: In order to remain innovative, it is not enough to reinvent yourself again and again. Apple must be the one to destroy its own business.

Hour-long conversation including audio and video: Apple: Lessons in Self-Destruction.

[More]

“In order to remain innovative, it is not enough to reinvent yourself again and again. Apple must be the one to destroy its own business.”

That is what a 21st century company has to do. Google keeps re-inventing itself. Apple tries to destroy itself. The Mac destroyed the Apple II. The iPod destroyed the Mac. The iPhone destroyed the iPod.

What will destroy the iPhone?

(And by destroy, I don’t mean make vanish. Just toppled as the company’s lead money maker.)

Oklahoma has more earthquakes than California – due to fracking

RD-7P Flowing to Flare Boom

[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

Oil Wells Linked to Oklahoma’s Stunning Increase In Earthquakes.

[More]

Amazing. Will they have a major earthquake soon? Hard to say but it indicates the worrisome aspects of fracking, over and above environmental spills.

Maybe major earthquakes will get people to stop buring so many fossil fuels.

“Nice online store you got here. Be a shame for it to disappear from search rankings.”

DSCF0012 

Before Google penalized eBay’s search standing, eBay authored a study claiming Google Search ads are useless
[Via PandoDaily]

Before Google penalized eBay’s search standing, eBay authored a study claiming Google Search ads are useless

[More]

Two things: it appears that Google Ads provide little of value; and, it you point that out, Google appears to do the equivalent of ‘burning down the house’ in order require the use of ads, even if they provide no value. It changes its ranking algorithm to remove your links from the top searches.

Looks like buying Google Ads is more a form of tribute than a benefit. Google gets paid in order to keep an online company’s search rankings high. A zero-sum approach rather than a win-win.

So besides grabbing all our data to sell without recompense, Google requires tribute from online companies. More and more they are degrading the usefulness of their main purpose to exist – search. I routinely now get highly ranked pages that do not have my search terms anywhere on the page. Totally useless.

Perhaps time to check out Duck, Duck, Go.

A distributed democratic win in a football trademark case, using an authoritarian tool

 Lone Pine in a tree Farm

[Crossposted at SpreadingScience]

Washington Redskins trademark canceled by U.S. Patent Office - 
[Via chicagotribune.com]

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, an extremely rare move the office said it made because the name is offensive to Native Americans.

Trademarks that disparage or belittle other groups are not permited under federal law. The ruling Wednesday pertains to six different trademarks containing the word “Redskin.”

Native American groups have been fighting the football team, its owners and sponsors for decades to change the name.

[More]

The ability of a distributed  democratic approach to route around the damage of hierarchical authoritarians is one of its strength. Authoritarians can be very strong and focussed – their strength – which gives them early success against winds of change.

Like a a mighty tree, if the winds change rapidly, buffeting them hard from different directions, along with massive amounts of rain and a lightening bolt or two,, the oak tree will fall. 

One distributed way to shift the wind and deal with the Washington team is for people simply not go to the games.

But today, not only was there a shift in the wind but a lightening  bolt as well. And it did not use a tool of distributed democracy against the authoritarians.

It used one of hierarchical authoritarian’s own tools against itself – government bureaucracy. Not a mob with pitchforks and torches but a nice long legal document.

In America, our government is usually a direct reflection of how the people balance distributed democracy and hierarchical authority.

We as a society have made the decision that derogatory names cannot gain trademark protection. It has been incorporated into the authoritative power of the government.

That government – which can provide trademark protection – has now removed that protection from the Washington team, and the NFL. The ability of that trademark to generate large amounts of money for them is now pretty damaged. 

This is a very big lightening bolt. This will hit the relevant parties in the pocket book but does not take away their First Amendment rights. They can name themselves what ever they want.

But we, as a society  have determined that we will not protect that name with the authority of the government.

Sweet. 

Design a Mars Base, get a 3D printer.

marsbase

Want to design a Mars base for Nasa? Now’s your chance
[Via Ars Technica]

Would you like a 3D printer? Of course you would. Would you like to collaborate with Nasa? Please, we won’t insult you while waiting for an answer. MakerBot has launched a competition tailored for you then, in collaboration with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: MakerBot Mars Base Challenge. It wants you to deliver inspiration for a human base on Mars, considering future visitors will have to combat extreme temperatures, radiation spikes, dust storms and the whole you-can’t-breath-on-Mars thing. The brief provided is to design, with all these considerations in mind, “a utilitarian Mars base that can withstand the elements and maybe even make you feel at home, despite being 140 million miles away from Earth, on average”. And if you win, they’ll give you a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer.

[More]

Looks like fun. This is how you balance authoritarian hierarchies with distributed democracies in order to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems.

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