Archive | July 12, 2013

What’s the Next Step in Human Evolution?

imagesColor-changing skins? Giant, unwieldy craniums? Lobotomized smart-phone junkies?

There was also a Daily Mail piece about how humans will eventually evolve beaks. Because why not?

Evolution is obviously a complex process. But it’s also a slow process. This means you can make claims about it and by the time it progresses to the point where you’re proved right or wrong, you’ll be long dead so it won’t matter.

So, in order to not miss a potential bandwagon, what could humans end up being like if current cultural trends and features remain relatively constant over the next few million years? Here are some possibilities.

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Google Plans Wearable Computer For Dogs

Hund der in den Computer schautCan you imagine your favorite mutt using its wearable computer to tell you to take it for a walk… NOW!?

You might not have to imagine it for much longer as Google moves beyond its Glass project, reports MIT Technology Review:

…[W]earable tech needn’t be just for people. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, visiting associate professor Melody Jackson, professor and Google Glass technical lead Thad Starner, and research scientist Clint Zeagler are working on a system called FIDO, which stands for “facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations.”

Jackson, who has been training assistance dogs for about 18 years, says FIDO is meant to make it easy for the animals to communicate clearly with their handlers (whether a disabled person or a police officer) by activating a sensor on their vest or collar to transmit a verbal command the handler can hear through an earpiece or see on a head-mounted display.

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Senators Propose Bill To Break Up Biggest Banks

elizabeth warrenElizabeth Warren for president? Reuters reports:

 A small bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced legislation that would break up Wall Street’s megabanks by separating traditional banking activity from riskier financial services.

The bill, called the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, has an uncertain future, but it shows some lawmakers’ frustration that banks have only continued to grow since the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, is one of the sponsors of the bill [along with] Republican Senator John McCain from Arizona, Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington, and Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine.

The legislation would bring back elements of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which divided commercial and investment banking, and was repealed in 1999. It would separate the operations of traditional banks with accounts backed by the FDIC from riskier activities such as investment banking, insurance, swaps and hedge funds.

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Eight Traits of the Disinformationalist

How-to-lie-deceive-spread

While data mining the internet I came across this goodie and thought I’d share.

via NLP.org

1) Avoidance ~ They never actually discuss issues head-on or provide constructive input, generally avoiding citation of references or credentials. Rather, they merely imply this, that, and the other. Virtually everything about their presentation implies their authority and expert knowledge in the matter without any further justification for credibility.

(2) Selectivity ~ They tend to pick and choose opponents carefully, either applying the hit-and-run approach against mere commentators supportive of opponents, or focusing heavier attacks on key opponents who are known to directly address issues. Should a commentator become argumentative with any success, the focus will shift to include the commentator as well.

(3) Coincidental ~ They tend to surface suddenly and somewhat coincidentally with a new controversial topic with no clear prior record of participation in general discussions in the particular public arena involved.

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Child Raising In Non-violent Cultures

Pic: Farragutful (CC)

Pic: Farragutful (CC)

Sarah McElroy writing in In Context #4: The Foundations of Peace, from 1983:

Some cultures on our planet are, or have been, basically non-aggressive, non-violent. That is, adult behavior includes few, if any, examples of war, homicide or intentional injury – physically or psychically – to other human beings. Cooperation, rather than competition, is the modus operandi, in contrast to our mainstream Western cultures. Why are there these differences? Is there anything useful we in the modern world can learn from these non-violent cultures?

There are perhaps many reasons for the varying expressions of violence in different cultures, from historic patterns to genetic propensities to economic influences. But whatever the predisposing factors are, there seem to also be some characteristic child rearing practices common to most of the known non-violent cultures. To illustrate this, I will draw on my own two years’ experience in East African villages and on the work of a number of other anthropologists contained in Ashley Montagu’s anthology, Learning Non-Aggression: The Experience of Non- Literate Societies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

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The Future Of Data Mining Your Health

data mining

In a few years, will corporations, employers, insurers and others track “diseased lists” of individuals whose social media, smartphone, and purchasing activity hints that they may have health problems? Via PandoDaily, Michael Carney writes:

According to a sales rep for a midwest data co-location and analytics startup who asked to remain anonymous, regional hospitals, insurers, and grocery retailers are already investigating ways to work together to translate consumer purchase data into health risk profiling insights.

Kevin Pledge, CEO of underwriting-technology consultancy Insight Decision Solutions told the Economist last year that he has forgone the use of supermarket loyalty-cards and begun paying cash for his burgers to avoid this very type of profiling. The same article mentions a life-settlements firm declining to purchase an insurance policy based on social media activity that contradicted the supposed poor health of the policy-holder.

As we document and share more of where we go, what we do, who we spend time with, what we eat, what we buy, how hard we exert ourselves, and so on, we create more data that companies can and will use to evaluate our worthiness – or lack thereof – for their products, services, and opportunities.

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What If You Could Learn Everything?

_ducation_en_l_an_2000

Can software save education, or will it give those in power more control? Knewton, an education technology startup appears to be selling the moon. What if they are not, and this is the beginning of bright future in public education?

via The Daily Beast

Imagine every student has a tireless personal tutor, an artificially intelligent and inexhaustible companion that magically knows everything, knows the student, and helps her learn what she needs to know. “‘You guys sound like you’re from the future,’” Jose Ferreira, the CEO of the education technology startup Knewton, says. “That’s the most common reaction we get from others in the industry.”

When I first met Ferreira four years ago, this kind of talk sounded like typical Silicon Valley bluster from another scruffy, boyish founder of a technology startup. Today, he can back up the kinds of breakthroughs he says his company can deliver: several million data points generated daily by each of 1 million students from elementary school through college, using Knewton’s “adaptive learning” technology to study math, reading, and other fundamentals.

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