The internet is a tracking and monitoring machine. We will ceaselessly self-track and be tracked. We’re expanding the data sphere to sci-fi levels and there’s no stopping it because too many of the benefits we covet derive from it. Our central choice now is whether this surveillance is a secret, one-way panopticon — or a mutual, transparent kind of ‘coveillance’ that involves watching the watchers…
How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.
Consider a person who has heard about a scientific discovery that deeply challenges her belief in divine creation—a new hominid, say, that confirms our evolutionary origins. What happens next, explains political scientist Charles Taber of Stony Brook University, is a subconscious negative response to the new information—and that response, in turn, guides the type of memories and associations formed in the conscious mind. “They retrieve thoughts that are consistent with their previous beliefs,” says Taber, “and that will lead them to build an argument and challenge what they’re hearing.”
In other words, when we think we’re reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing. Or to use an analogy offered by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt: We may think we’re being scientists, but we’re actually being lawyers (PDF). Our “reasoning” is a means to a predetermined end—winning our “case”—and is shot through with biases. They include “confirmation bias,” in which we give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs, and “disconfirmation bias,” in which we expend disproportionate energy trying to debunk or refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial.
That’s a lot of jargon, but we all understand these mechanisms when it comes to interpersonal relationships. If I don’t want to believe that my spouse is being unfaithful, or that my child is a bully, I can go to great lengths to explain away behavior that seems obvious to everybody else—everybody who isn’t too emotionally invested to accept it, anyway.
If current trends in global warming continue unmitigated, some of the world’s most well-known and historically significant cultural landmarks could be destroyed by rising global sea levels.
A new study examining the long-term effects of sea-level rise on the 720 spots around the world that have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites found that roughly 20 percent of them could be ruined if temperatures rise 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels over the next two millennia, said study lead author Ben Marzeion, an assistant professor at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
“I didn’t expect that so many of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites would be affected,” Marzeion told Live Science. “I knew that many of the sites are close to the sea, but I didn’t expect to have such high numbers. If you asked me when I started doing this, I would have said maybe 2 or 5 percent.”
The findings are also worrisome because the scenario imagined in the study - that is, a temperature increase of 5.4 degrees F (3 degrees C) above pre-industrial levels - is not much more extreme than current climate change projections, the researchers said.
Back at UMass-Amherst, my advisers asked me to create a sea-level rise vulnerability assessment of lighthouses along the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts. The idea was to create a method to integrate adaptation techniques into cultural heritage protection policies in New England. Pretty interesting concept. Especially since so much history and so many landmarks are located along coastlines. Instead, I did a study of the first tax-payer funded adaptation plan in the world in a tiny city in Denmark.
“I think that the internet is a very efficient outrage machine that is always willing to turn its ire toward anyone and anything. I hate seeing creators go through that because the act of standing up and saying you want to do something is an act that makes you vulnerable. The second that you’re vulnerable, it allows others the chance to attack. Way too many people take advantage of that and, ultimately, it has a discouraging and a chilling effect on others to even question their own ideas. That’s poisonous.”—Yancey Strickler Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler on Restaurants and Crowd-Sourced Funding - Eater Interviews - Eater National (via fred-wilson)
“A lot of the time climate change doesn’t really seem tangible,” said lead author Scott Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “But here are these common little backyard birds we all grew up with, and we’re seeing them moving northward on relatively short time scales.”
The birds moved so fast the scientists had to add an extra study site partway through their project in order to keep up.
In Pennsylvania, where the study was conducted, the hybrid zone is just 21 miles across on average. Hybrid chickadees have lower breeding success and survival than either of the pure species. This keeps the contact zone small and well defined, making it a convenient reference point for scientists aiming to track environmental changes.
“Hybridization is kind of a brick wall between these two species,” said Robert Curry, a professor of biology at Villanova University, who led the field component of the study. “Carolina Chickadees can’t blithely disperse north without running into black-caps and creating hybrids. That makes it possible to keep an eye on the hybrid zone and see exactly how the ranges are shifting.”
The researchers drew on field studies, genetic analyses, and crowdsourced bird sightings. The data was matched with winter temperatures observations, and the scientists also closely studied the birds’ DNA to pinpoint the distribution of the two species.
I like the idea that climate change will create new species through hybrids.
“The real story here that has been rattling around my brain the most is the story of innovation at the fringes beyond normalcy. Chris Dixon said when he made the investment in Coinbase that Bitcoin, “is one of the 5 best computer science ideas from the last forty years.” I agree. And, the idea that this brilliance came largely from one guy, acting in isolation, motivated largely by paranoia and distaste for existing financial infrastructure, is just wild. In this light the profile of Satoshi is the profile of an artist, or better yet, a maker. And like all makers, he is quirky, weird, one of the crazy ones.”—Andrew Parker (via fred-wilson)