Fukushima

I read this story today, about efforts to bring residents back to, and rebuild the town of Namie, near the site of the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant. Although I can understand the mayor’s fervent wish and motivation to bring people back to his town, what I don’t understand is why this is still being considered when radiation levels in some areas are still generating ‘hot spots,’ and dismantling of the Fukushima plant is still not far along (estimates, according to this article, are that it will take another 40 years). Continue reading

AI

Artificial Intelligence  – this article from Reuters, describing Elon Musk’s claim that we will soon have to implant technology into our brains just to keep up with the output of AI-enhanced computers of the near future, opens a philosophical side to the topic by asking whether or not augmenting our brains with computers will have an impact on our sense of humanity. I think this is a good question to ask, and I think it’s a discussion that needs to happen at all levels.

First, although I grew up with plenty of science-fiction, I’d like to clarify that I have very little fear of robot monsters prowling through time and space, subjugating life on our planet. I fear the human monsters of politics, economics and outright madness. Who commands the most money and influence will obviously command access to the better technologies; and will thus command a massive advantage over those who do not. Looking at the world today, I see a tendency to do this already, I worry over the potential to enhance it with the kind of AI Musk imagines for us. Flaws in any system, intentional or not, are to be expected – I’m wary of implanting something in my brain that might pick up a virus from an unfriendly group, government, corporation, or even a simple madman with time on his hands and a point to prove.

I think the Reuters article asks a valid question. My answer is that I do not believe AI itself will affect our sense of humanity. I believe instead that it will simply amplify our ability to act upon whatever sense of humanity we already possess. Looking at the world today, I can see where this could be both blessing and curse. Let us hope that our common senses of humanity and good-naturedness somehow evolve faster than AI technologies.

Torn

I recently read about the United States officially having its own national mammal. While I am happy that this guarantees some measure of protection for the bison (the winner of this pageant), I still find the concept somewhat strange and disappointing. For starters, while I understand the selection of an animal to symbolize a nation, I think going after a favorite mammal opens to the door to needing to select a national fish, reptile, bug, etc. I wonder whether or not this is an effective way to spend government time / taxpayer money? Some might say it’s valuable because it lends protection to the animals chosen; but I would suggest instead that it makes it harder for animals who don’t get selected. I think animals that are endangered or threatened should qualify for protection without having to be a national favorite.

Then there is the choice of the bison, itself. This is an animal that was nearly hunted slaughtered to extinction, all as a means of trying to ‘subdue’ the Plains Indians who were trying to fight for their existence. People became American heroes based on the numbers of animals they shot (often from the luxury of a train car) and left lying out to rot. An entire species of animal was selected for extermination, for the simple hope that it would break the back of a people’s resistance to subjugation and the loss of their lifestyle. Using the logic that went into selecting a national mammal, perhaps the United States should have instead opted for a national people and then chosen the Indians – they are also endangered, the reservations in many cases represent some of the most atrocious living conditions in the entire nation, diabetes and other illnesses having reached epidemic proportions among them, many can’t even speak their own languages properly or remember the entirety of their ancestral ways. They are ‘native’ to the Americas, as well – maybe not as native as bald eagles or American buffalo, but I think 16,000 years qualifies as native enough. Oh, but wait, people are mammals, too – and the national mammal designation has already been taken – so I guess the Indians will have to go on without this degree of protection.

I am happy for the bison – I think the American buffalo is an amazing animal and I think what happened to the great herds a little over a hundred years ago was a shameful thing. I am happy to know that they are (at least in isolated, carefully managed places) making a comeback. Now that bison have this status / designation, I certainly wouldn’t try to take that away from them. But I think there are other animals in America that need the same level of protection and chance at strengthening their populations. Grizzly bears are an example that comes to mind, along with a few wolf species – and here is a list with more. I think, as I said, that it’s important to protect an animal (or plant) from extinction; but I think this can be done without proclaiming national favorite this, or national favorite that. Protection of a species should of course include the protection of said species’ natural habitat. Habitat protection might go further toward helping the environment in general; which helps us all. National mammal status seems to me to be a sort of token action.

Edited to add: It would seem the US also now has its own national beer.

Getting my game face on

As I sat down to lunch – anyone who knows me understands that I consider any meal with fried potatoes to be a very sacred affair – the telephone rang. The number of the caller wasn’t known to me; but I reluctantly put down my first bite of fried potatoes and picked up the phone anyway.

Good day, is this Stormwise? Mr. Stormwise, I am calling on behalf of blah-blah energy company and would like to talk to you about your electricity bill. How much are you currently paying for your electricity? ….. Continue reading

Planner = Tarot card case

I have, since the beginning of this year, been attempting to learn how to contemplate / understand / read tarot cards. When I first started out with my new deck (I am learning with the Wildwood deck), I was using a fringed leather bag I made so long ago I’d not care to try to guess (if I wasn’t still a Boy Scout when I made it, then I made it not long after getting out). The bag is still in great shape, and it held the cards without a problem; but where I now live, people don’t look at a man with a fringed leather bag and think, “cool Native craftsmanship.” Granted, I’m not a great fan of living my life by what others think … but I’m also aware that what stands out is sometimes marked for theft or damage, and I didn’t want to take the risk of that happening either to the bag or to ‘my’ tarot deck; and I wanted to be able to carry the cards with me while out and about. I started designing new bags and cases that I could put together, but wasn’t really satisfied with anything I came up with.

About a week ago, while doing some spring cleaning, I ran across a leather day planner in a cabinet …

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Shooting of ‘LaVoy’ Finicum

From where I live, the coverage of the armed protest / occupation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in Oregon, USA, has not been a high priority – I’ve had to rely on what I can find online myself; and I’m not certain how much of this has been biased one way or the other. What has drawn my attention, along with just how long this dispute between the federal government and ranchers has been going on, is the shooting of Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum by government authorities. I think it was clear from the outset that, with an armed protest against the government, someone would wind up getting shot – I am relieved that the death toll did not climb any higher; and from what I have been able to read, it seems like this is due to efforts on both sides to prevent a Waco, TX, sort of incident. Continue reading

Flying ant day

Odd, that the first flying ant day of this year should come on the heels of the blue moon event last night; but today saw the ground throughout my little city and even the beach crawling with winged ants. While I try to extend respect to all creatures, I will admit that ants are a group of creatures I am not overly fond of. For some reason, I’m able to smell them fairly well – the telltale smell of formic acid that many smell when ants get crushed, I smell long before then, and the smell is not a comfortable one for me; so I will avoid groups or concentrations of ants when possible. What many laud as a great quality of ants – their single-minded, or hive-minded approach to socialization and cooperation – as something that would be nice if humanity might learn from, I see as somewhat horrifying (I treasure individuality too much, I guess).

One might think that I might at least draw some satisfaction from the fact that when ants mate, the male ant, having played his part, invariably suffers his reproductive organ exploding inside his mate, which leads to his immediate death. But I do not draw satisfaction from this – rather, I see this expression of la petite mort as just another reason to let ants be ants, and leave them to it.

What I think is interesting about this day, though, has to do with the idea that a desired weather condition seems to be hardwired into the ant species, to cause so many ants to spontaneously leave their nests and start mating all over the sidewalks. I find this interesting because while modern scientists are still scratching their heads as to how this actually works, spiders have obviously figured out how to predict it – this morning, before the ants were all over the place, I noticed a much larger number of spider webs that seem to have just sprung up since yesterday (I will usually trust the hatching of baby spiders more than the actions of birds to predict rain). Thus it is not only a comfort to realize that we haven’t figured out and codified everything in our world, it is encouraging to know that other creatures are still a step or two ahead of us!