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.

Nine years

As three mighty gods walked together on the strand, they found two trees and lifted them, and shaped them into humans. Odin breathed into them life and spirit, Hœnir gave them sense and sensation, and Loki gave them warmth and good hue. They then provided them with clothing and named them: the man was named Askr, and the woman was named Embla, and from them sprang the race of humans who dwell within Midgard.

– Norse creation story, taken from Gylfaginning and Voluspa

On this day, nine years ago, I began to follow through with my decision to stop abusing the breath of life given by Odin – I decided to stop smoking. It was not the first time I tried to quit; but I was determined to make it the last time. Thus far, it has been just that; and I am thankful to have had what I consider a second chance at enjoying and honoring the life I was granted.

Return of the wayward raven

My surgery is behind me, and I am home from the hospital. I appreciate the well-wishes I’ve received along the way, and although holding my arm in any position for a longer stretch of time is not a pleasant experience, I can honestly say I’ve endured worse than this. As such, my surgeon stressed often enough that I need to relax my shoulder more often than I need to stress it for right now; which means I will continue to keep my posting and commenting somewhat brief (such a horrible word!), but hopefully not as sparse as I have been these past few weeks.

Essentially, while still not able to soar or do aerial acrobatics, this raven is at least back to extended hopping … and will be flying again in short order!

Upcoming downtime

Not my typical type of post, but my day today has also not been very typical ….

I got news that an appointment as been made for a shoulder operation this month. I’ve been having problems with it for a while, have tried just about everything else I can think of to correct it; but I’m still rubbing bone against sinew, and have been trying to make my way with the ridiculous limitation that I’m not allowed to raise my arms above shoulder level for a while. It’s this problem that has discouraged me from backpacking this summer. According to the doctor, a few months after the surgery, my shoulder should have full function, with no limitations. If that’s the case, I may see what I might do to plan my backpacking pilgrimage for next summer. Anyway, the surgery is planned for the 24th, and I’m supposed to get back home from the hospital in three to four days afterward … those will be days that I would be highly surprised to find myself anywhere on the Internet.

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A service for the dead

In my life, I have attended a number of funerals; and I have also officiated at funerals. A perspective I quickly gained was that funerals were not so much for the deceased as they were for the living. A person I held in great respect told me this, shortly before he died; and the sentiment stayed with me. With time, this perspective shifted, somewhat, to a point where I would say that a funeral is for the deceased primarily to the extent that they would wish to know there would be a point for their loved ones to come together to say good-bye, and to be comforted by one another – it is a rite of passage that can bring healing as well as closure, one I think most of us would wish those who survive us to be able to go through without any undue burden. Beyond this, I still believe that funerals are a service for the living. In modern Western society, however (going with the example with which I’m most familiar), I feel like we are often doing a great disservice to the dead and their survivors ….

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Better late than never, now – but never would have been better, to begin with

I read a short article on Reuters, about a study done by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, that shows an alarming correlation between well density in areas where fracking is taking place, and an increase in hospitalization rates. Perhaps, when enough of these kinds of studies show a strong enough correlation, the practice might be stopped. Perhaps. I’m also reminded of how, once upon a time, people smoked cigarettes like crazy; and only started to complain about how something should be done once enough studies correlated smoking with various diseases … as if the idea of inhaling smoke, tar and other poisons into the lungs being an unhealthy practice wasn’t a no-brainer before these studies came out.

We are raping the Earth, as it is. Our dependency on fossil fuels is wreaking havoc and chaos with our atmosphere, and is the root of more than one war in our history. Fracking is a way of squeezing just a little more blood out of the rocks, taking what our Earth would rather not yield. This practice is already known to stimulate seismic activity – wreaking havoc with the land we live upon, so we can sustain a habit that wreaks havoc with the air we breathe. The direct risks of other forms of environmental pollution are documented, even if they are contested by proponents of the practice (this is similar to the documented signals of global warming, that are also contested by similar groups of people).

I’m glad that people are studying the effects, and documenting their findings. I’m glad that this keeps the dialogue open, rather than allowing corporations and governments to simply sweep the arguments against this practice under the rug. What saddens me is that so many people in positions of power and influence seem to wait until more people get hurt before they make the kinds of decisions that should have been common sense, no-brainers in the first place. At the very best, this practice is nothing more than a bit of plaster, covering the deeper crack in our society that is represented by our continued dependence on fossil fuels. We are standing in a grave of our own making, asking for a more sophisticated shovel when we should be climbing the ladder of renewable energy with dedicated vigor.