Tag Archives | Humanity

The big threats to humanity: it’s time to start talking about solutions

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Alessandro R Demaio, Harvard University

When it comes to our biggest Global Health challenges, it’s easy to get bogged down in focusing only on the problems. How many millions die each year, or the economic cost of disease, the social toll of neglected health issues or the exponential increase in communities affected.

Amira_a / Flickr

Defining the problem is essential, but endless discussion focused solely on the challenges can be dangerous. ‘Doomsday talk’ leads us down a path of feeling overwhelmed, numbed and paralysed; a path where we avoid discussing the issue altogether; a path that leads to inaction and eventually (and most dangerously), political and social apathy.

In 2014, we are in desperate need for a change in focus; a new rhetoric. A shift from talking about the problems facing humanity, to beginning a discussion about solutions.… Read the rest

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Matthew Calarco: Animal Rights Beyond Anthropocentrism

calarcoTraditional contemporary animal rights issues are mostly founded on an assumption that we have solid definitions of what constitutes a “human” and what constitutes an “animal”. What if our definitions of these terms are called into question? What does the animal rights issue look like if we construct our ideas about humanity and animality in different ways? Are our lines dividing humanity and animality solidly drawn, or can they bleed and bend, perhaps be drawn in completely different ways?

Philosophy professor and author of Zoographies Matthew Calarco approaches animal rights from a standpoint of continental philosophy: if our definitions of what a “human” is and what an “animal” is are not firmly set, then our consideration of animal rights, if not all of ethics, can enter entirely different areas the current dialog excludes.

via On Human-Nonhuman Relations:

1) Why do you think is important to employ continental philosophy for the animal question?

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Humans Evolving Faster According to Expert

Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way…071210_evolution_hmed2p.hmedium

Humans are evolving at an increasing rate, thanks to medical advances and a larger population, Pobiner said at the “Future Is Here,” a two-day conference celebrating the future of humans, the planet, life beyond Earth and deep space, hosted by Smithsonian Magazine. But just as humans are continuing to evolve, human parasites are evolving, too.

“I invite you to look into the eyes of our ancient relatives,” Pobiner said. “Why did most human ancestors go extinct, while homo sapiens survived? The answer has a lot to do with human brains.” [Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]

The human brain represents only about 2 percent of the body’s weight, but consumes 20 percent of its energy. The biggest evolutionary changes have occurred in the neocortex, the brain’s outer wrapping that processes abstract thinking, long-term planning, empathy and language, Pobiner said.

via Human Evolution ‘Definitely Not’ Over, Expert Says | LiveScience.… Read the rest

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The Library of Alexandria and the Martyrdom of Hypatia

hypatia_2via chycho

I first heard about the Library of Alexandria when I was in high school. Unfortunately, being a captive of our current education system I really wasn’t given the opportunity to ponder the implications of the creation of the largest library - at the time - known in human existence or its eventual destruction. I was herded into the next classroom and forced to change my train of thought to whatever subject matter was at hand.

I had intended to look up the history of Alexandria further when I had more time, but youth being what it is, I never got around to it, not until I was reminded to do so through Carl Sagan’s thirteen-part television masterpiece “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”.

“It covered a wide range of scientific subjects including the origin of life and a perspective of our place in the universe…. The series was first broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service in 1980, and was the most widely watched series in the history of American public television until [1990]….

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Bill Nye, Brian Greene, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lawrence Krauss on the Limitations of Mathematics

MATHEMATICS-INVENTED-OR-DISCOVERED-facebookvia chycho
Math lovers and aficionados will find the following discourse both entertaining and informative.

Below you will find the video and partial transcript of Arizona State University’s Origins Project’s Q&A segment from their ‘The Storytelling of Science’ panel discussion, featuring “well-known science educator Bill Nye, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, theoretical physicist Brian Greene, Science Friday’s Ira Flatow, popular science fiction writer Neal Stephenson, executive director of the World Science Festival Tracy Day, and Origins Project director Lawrence Krauss.”

The first question asked of the panel was:

Q: “If you could give us all a one word piece of advice for our own science storytelling, what would it be?”

Bill Nye was the first to reply with, “Algebra, learn algebra.” Neil deGrasse Tyson follows with, ‘Ambition’. Lawrence Krauss with, ‘Passion’. Neal Stephenson with, ‘Empathize’. Richard Dawkins states that since empathize has already been taken, he will choose ‘Poetry’.

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What Will Humanity Look Like In 100,000 Years?

look like in 10,000 years

Obviously, this rendering is largely speculation, but I agree that humanity will likely spend the foreseeable future trying to turn ourselves into anime characters. Via the New York Daily News:

In 100,000 years, people might have larger heads and sideways-blinking oversized Disney eyes that glow green with cat-like night vision. At least, that is what two researchers say could happen in “one possible timeline.”

Artist Nickolay Lamm teamed up with computational geneticist Alan Kwan to envision a future where zygotic genome engineering technology develops to the point where humans will be able to control their own evolution.

This ability, the team says, could result in more facial features that humans find intrinsically attractive: strong lines, straight nose, intense eyes and perfect symmetry. Kwan thinks that the human head might expand to accommodate a larger brain.

But perhaps their most remarkable conjecture is that future humans could start to blink sideways like owls to “protect from cosmic ray effects,” they added.

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Could Humanity Have Descended From Aquatic Apes?

aquatic apesAre we all on team aqua ape? The admittedly far-fetched theory posits that certain key traits hint that humanity’s ape ancestors spent significant time in the water. Complete Genomics writes:

A controversial theory that humans evolved from amphibious apes has won new support. The aquatic ape theory, whose supporters include David Attenborough, suggests that apes emerged from the water, lost their fur, started to walk upright and then developed big brains.

While it has been treated with scorn by some scientists since it first emerged 50 years ago, it is backed by a committed group of academics, including Sir David. The group will hold a major London conference next week.

One of the organizers, Peter Rhys Evans told the Observer that humans are very different from other apes, as we lack fur, walk upright, have big brains and subcutaneous fat and have a descended larynx – which is common among aquatic animals.

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Images Which Will Be Found By Aliens Billions Of Years From Now

More on MIT artist in residence Trevor Paglen’s previously discussed Last Pictures project, which involves sending a satellite into permanent “graveyard orbit” whose cargo is a “nano-etched silicon disc” which will not deteriorate for billions of years. The disc will contain a hundred images to be seen by beings of the distant future, offering a window into the existence of humanity and planet Earth. Via Wired, the images selected for immortality are rather macabre, including:

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Did the Earliest Human Relatives Originate in Asia and Not Africa?

Reports Jennifer Viegas in Discovery News:
The ancestors of humans, apes and monkeys evolved first in Asia before moving on to Africa, suggests a new fossil find from Myanmar. Remains of a newly found primate, Afrasia djijidae, show this monkey-like animal lived 37 million years ago and was a likely ancestor of anthropoids — the group including humans, apes and monkeys. "Many people have heard about the 'Out of Africa' story of human origins and human evolution," said Christopher Beard, a Carnegie Museum of Natural History vertebrate paleontologist who co-authored a study about the fossil find in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Our paper is the logical precursor to that, because we are showing how the anthropoid ancestors of humans made their way 'Into Africa' in the first place."...
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Human Societies Starting to Resemble Ant Colonies

Ants“The similarities offer a look at just how ever-growing human societies could collapse,” as Jennifer Viegas writes in Discovery News:

The human population is growing at such a staggering rate that we are organizing ourselves more like ant supercolonies, with new research finding that we have more in common now with some ants than we do with our closest living animal kingdom relatives.

The new study, published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, points out that both humans and ants (termites, too) live in societies that may consist of up to a million plus members.

“As a result, modern humans have more in common with some ants than we do with our closest relatives the chimpanzees,” Mark Moffett, author of the study, told Discovery News. “With a maximum size of about 100, no chimpanzee group has to deal with issues of public health, infrastructure, distribution of goods and services, market economies, mass transit problems, assembly lines and complex teamwork, agriculture and animal domestication, warfare and slavery.”…

Read More: Discovery News

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