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The Davos oligarchs are right to fear the world they’ve made

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Seumas Milne writes at The Guardian:

The billionaires and corporate oligarchs meeting in Davos this week are getting worried about inequality. It might be hard to stomach that the overlords of a system that has delivered the widest global economic gulf in human history should be handwringing about the consequences of their own actions.

But even the architects of the crisis-ridden international economic order are starting to see the dangers. It’s not just the maverick hedge-funder George Soros, who likes to describe himself as a class traitor. Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive, frets about the “capitalist threat to capitalism”. Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, fears capitalism might indeed carry Marx’s “seeds of its own destruction” and warns that something needs to be done.

The scale of the crisis has been laid out for them by the charity Oxfam. Just 80 individuals now have the same net wealth as 3.5 billion people – half the entire global population.

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“Mobilize” Q&A Video + Free Screenings in VA and VT

Disinformation’s Mobilize will be screening for free in Arlington, Virginia and Norwich, Vermont on January 30th. Special thanks to all of the non-profit sponsors who put together these events. More details and information about screenings can be found on the official Mobilize website.

Back in December, the San Francisco Public Library hosted a free screening of Mobilize. Above is a video of the Q&A with the filmmakers including: director Kevin Kunze, CABTA’s Ellie Marks, UC Berkeley’s Joel Moskowitz, and EHT’s Lloyd Morgan.

If you can’t make it to the Vermont or Virginia screenings, Mobilize is available as a download, stream (below video), or as a DVD. Visit the product page for more information.

Mobilize from TDC Entertainment on Vimeo.

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‘Brain Drinks’ Might Make You Less Smart

neurosonicCognitive neuroscientist Christian Jarrett debunks the ambitious claims of Neuro “brain drinks” at Wired:

Like pretty much everyone else, drink companies are jumping on the neuroscience bandwagon. These widely available “brain branded” beverages make promises that should raise any skeptic’s eyebrows. Today I want to focus on NeuroSonic, which its manufacturers claim is carefully designed to “deliver sustained focus and revitalized energy”.

The curvy, colorful bottle depicts a human head with a sciencey waveform running through it, the strapline “mental performance in every bottle”, and on the back, the promise that you will “stay energized, focused, alert … with modern science’s greatest blend of natural mental performance enhancers. Get smart, DRINK NEURO.”

Founded by Bosnian émigré Sanela Diana Jenkins, NeuroSonic is just one of a portfolio of brain drinks offered by her company Neuro, with others promising to boost sleep, relaxation and other states of mind.

NeuroSonic’s “proprietary blend” includes caffeine and l-theanine (an amino acid found in green tea).

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Argentina’s Nisman Scandal and the Dark Side of Progress

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presidencia.gov.ar (CC BY 2.0)

Politics in Latin America is always a messy affair. And in the latest scandal to rock the region, the mess in question was a pool of blood left by Alberto Nisman, an Argentinian federal prosecutor found dead last Sunday in his Buenos Aires apartment. The day after his death, Nisman was scheduled to present key evidence in a case against the government of Argentina, led by president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

This was certainly a big deal within the country. Piggybacking off the protest slogan coined for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, protestors immediately took to the streets with “Yo soy Nisman” signs (which translates to “I am Nisman” – something tells me every high profile killing this year will now result in “I am [victim]” sloganeering). But though this story may seem easy to write off for audiences in the US and Europe as more needless violence by those backward folks in the “global south”, it really is a cautionary tale for any government who takes progressive ideas seriously – proof that sometimes, progress comes with a high price tag.… Read the rest

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Why Can’t the World’s Greatest Minds Solve the Mystery of Consciousness?

Consciousness. What is it? No one knows, but many intelligent people have tried to explain it. Here’s the Guardian‘s take (note, it’s a long, #longread):

One spring morning in Tucson, Arizona, in 1994, an unknown philosopher named David Chalmers got up to give a talk on consciousness, by which he meant the feeling of being inside your head, looking out – or, to use the kind of language that might give a neuroscientist an aneurysm, of having a soul. Though he didn’t realise it at the time, the young Australian academic was about to ignite a war between philosophers and scientists, by drawing attention to a central mystery of human life – perhaps the central mystery of human life – and revealing how embarrassingly far they were from solving it.

The scholars gathered at the University of Arizona – for what would later go down as a landmark conference on the subject – knew they were doing something edgy: in many quarters, consciousness was still taboo, too weird and new agey to take seriously, and some of the scientists in the audience were risking their reputations by attending.

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Linguist Claims that 90% of Languages Will Be Extinct in 100 years

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Sarah Griffiths writes at The Daily Mail:

Sci-fi visions of the future may focus on soaring skylines and flying cars, but the world in 100 years may not only look different, but sound different too.

While there are more than 6,000 languages spoken globally at present, less than 600 are likely to endure in 2115, and they could be simplified versions of what we recognise today, one linguist has claimed.

He told MailOnline that the advent of technologically-advanced translating tools will not be enough to save the diversity of Earth’s languages either.

Writing in a piece for The Wall Street Journal, Dr John McWhorter said that in a century from now there will be ‘vastly fewer languages,’ which will be less complicated than they are today – especially in the way they are spoken.

The American studies, philosophy and music expert at Columbia University, predicts that 90 per cent of languages will die out to leave around 600.

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Davos Says: 7 Reasons Why Elon Musk Is Wrong To Believe Intelligent Robots Will One Day Kill Us All

Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0)

Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0)

Jim Edwards writes at Business Insider:

A panel at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland has just completely dismantled the idea — currently trendy in the tech sector — that artificially intelligent robots, lacking morals, may one day independently decide to start killing humans.

The idea has been spread, somewhat tongue in cheek, by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has even suggested that the robots may even thwart any humans who try to escape them by blasting off to Mars.

AI research is advancing rapidly inside private companies right now like Facebook and Google. That R&D is mostly a secret, which is why people like to speculate about it. Plus, everyone loves the Terminator movies, in which killer AI robots are the main protagonists.

The panel was hosted by two UC Berkeley professors, Ken Goldberg (who studies robotics) and Alison Gopnik (who studies psychology).

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3D Printing and the Translation of Imagination – Free Radical Media Podcast

In this episode, Free Radical Media Technology Correspondent Atom Jaay re-joins the crew to discuss the newest developments in 3D printing and the Maker community. The conversation also turns to virtual reality technologies and the “translation of the imagination,” the process of creating new things in the virtual realm and translating them into actual objects. We discuss the potential of these technologies for radical social change, transformative culture, and new economic models. Join us and Atom for these and other topics in this fun, engaging conversation.

Atom Jaay can be reached on Twitter.

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