Recently perused articles

  • In light of the new NSA surveillance programs being unveiled (though not at all a surprise), The Atlantic has an analysis of threats to America’s livelihood — such as health issues and car accidents — which (also) not surprisingly pale in comparison to deaths from terrorism, which in no way has limited the post-9/11 culture of fear. Wouldn’t it make more sense to give up liberties to save the most lives possible, if we’re to give up liberties? Like, say, imposing taxes on sugary drinks that we’ll all have to shoulder the collective economic burden for once obesity and diabetes develops in those who chose to partake in unhealthy treats? No, that’d be too fascist and draconian. Better to just wiretap the entire fucking country.
  • Here’s an article from The Nation on Nietzsche’s apparent “children,” conservatives like Friedrich Hayek whose Austrian school of economics ideals shape the predominant  capitalist ideal today. Oh and here’s a dissent in Dissent that’s critical of the link between Nietzsche and neoliberal economics.
  • The New Yorker commemorates the 200th birthday of few people’s favorite (proto-)existentialist philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard:

Kierkegaard, the great Danish philosopher of subjectivity, would have been two hundred years old on May 5th, and, looking back, we can see that ironic, angst-ridden modern literature begins with him. Strindberg, Ibsen, Nietzsche, Kafka, Borges, Camus, Sartre, and Wittgenstein are among his heirs—and without him, where would Woody Allen be?

  • Apparently, neuroscientists led by Henry Markram are trying to build an exact replica of the human brain. The EU is betting $1.3 billion that he can. Here’s a chart from Wired on the computational power that’ll be required to do so:

    Source: Wired Magazine

  • Rounding up the bunch, another Atlantic piece on China’s economic growth. Is it sustainable? Do we even have to ask this question? When it it we ended the debate on whether “development” (in the building dams, buying cars, getting a new phone every 6 months way) is a good thing? Was there ever a debate? Who’s to say? (No; maybe; too early; not really; whomever).

Recently perused articles

  • A detailed article in Aeon on the coming of age of Chinese urban youth and the cultural values separating them from their prior generations. The generation gap can be bizarrely pronounced due to the older generations growing up under the harsh Maoist regime and being surrounded by famine and government-enforced cultural shifts, while the younger generation is in the process of being Westernized, which for the upper classes means embracing luxury goods and the other tenants of a post-subsistence, consumption based economy.
  • Keeping with the China theme, here’s a rather strange Vice article on China’s genetic engineering program, the goal of which is to engineer higher intelligence babies, leading to

embryo screening [that] will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially bump up every generation’s intelligence by five to 15 IQ points. Within a couple of generations, competing with the Chinese on an intellectual level will be like challenging Lena Dunham to a getting-naked-on-TV contest.

taking computing into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. In that infinitesimal neighborhood, common sense logic no longer seems to apply. A one can be a one, or it can be a one and a zero and everything in between — all at the same time.

  • Is social media leading to a narcissism epidemic? Wait, give me a minute, I need to update my profile picture.

How China’s Pollution Crisis Relates to Global Sustainability, and the Possibility of a Solution

Cancer villages. A major city’s water supply strewn with thousands of pig carcasses. These may sound like plot developments from some Hollywood environmental apocalypse thriller, but they’re real. China’s environmental problems have been front and center in the news media lately. The government actively denies most reports of environmental mayhem as air and water pollution skyrockets. China’s rapid expansion, rarely checked by government oversight (although granted government support), has resulted in a myriad of public-private enterprises, primarily in the area of industrial manufacturing, as anyone who has ever checked the “Made in” label on most any of their possessions knows. With more capital accruing, the Chinese can then themselves afford to spend money: on house and road construction and various goods of their own. When hundreds of millions of people move to the cities in the largest mass migration in history — with a population the size of the United States’ moving to cities in recent years — the construction efforts are amplified all the more, as are other associated environmental impacts.

This all comes as no surprise. What’s astounding is considering the rate at which the pollution will continue, and how the government will choose to deal with it remains anyone’s guess, although this New York Times article notes China’s new prime minister is acknowledging the pollution. And remember how in January particulate pollution in Beijing broke records, charting 755 out of a supposed maximum of 500?  As an example of how the environmental woes will only grow, forecasts say the number of passenger cars will more than triple to 400 million by 2030. Vehicles already account for almost a quarter of particulate emissions, and the rapidly expanding coal power industry takes the cake for double that. As the Chinese consumers themselves become more wealthy, they’ll start to consume their own country’s goods in greater numbers, providing hundreds of millions of new costumers for manufactured goods. 3.2 million people already die each year from air pollution; one wonders where that number will be at a decade from now.  Continue reading