Food for thought

MoneyWeek on How big data will feed the global population – however big it gets and Christian Science Monitor on The next food revolution: fish farming?.

Trade magazine Biofuels Digest has a somewhat grittier take on the subject, with a new five-part series Future Farm, Future Crop: Utopia or Dystopia?. It asks a more pointed question: will fickle American politicians abandon support for farming once the rural population vanishes (because of the aging demographics, and because cheap Indians and Africans will be tele-working the farm-bots / drones / Big Data interrogation)?

I think that’s what many ordinary people miss in the unproductive robots/jobs debate. Getting fast Internet access to the billions in India and Africa will potentially enable the people there to work inside our robots and drones. The low-level functions of a bot will be automated, in much the same way as a Google self-driving car, while the higher-level functions are simultaneously provided by a data-assisted remote human operator.



The Jewish Future

I guess the future looks less optimistic if you’re Israel, staring down the parabola of an Iranian nuclear missile and surrounded by irrationally hostile forces. But there is hope, even there, as is seen in 60,000 words in Commentary magazine which has 69 Jewish leaders and intellectuals think about “The Jewish Future”. Incidentally, Commentary magazine has some exemplary Web design and a nice line in covers…


The Jewish Journal has a short digest of Commentary, for those without the time to read something that’s the same length as a novel. Thankfully…

Podhoretz concludes with the project’s good news: “No one actually envisions the Jewish people’s end in an Iranian mushroom cloud.”

i24 also has a good summary.

I guess one possibility, given the rapid emptying of southern Italy of its population, would be to quite literally expand Israel into Europe. Just give southern Italy to Israel, at some point around 2050. Such an expansion could solve a whole lot of problems at once — including Israel’s booming birthrate which appears to be totally unsustainable in a tiny desert nation.

Until then, Israel could do a whole lot worse than to radically up their game on the Web, specifically in publishing open access academic ejournals in English. The nation has so much potential there, to influence and to educate the world and to project a ‘soft power’ that is congruent with their deserved status as both a tech and a military power. But what they offer at present is very poor, both in quantity and presentation.

Shocking news

Back in fashion, it seems: electro-therapy. The Boston Globe reports “Devices spark movement to treat disease with electricity”. Sounds cranky, up until one reads that…

“the National Institutes of Health will announce this autumn the first funding from its $248 million Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions, or SPARC, program, and the Pentagon’s blue-skies research arm, DARPA, will disclose recipients of its $80 million ElectRx initiative. … GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company, is investing $50 million in bioelectronic startups and $5 million more for basic research to, among other things, map the body’s neurons and show how they might affect chronic diseases”


Blockle ’em!

Corrupt officials, could the incorruptable blockchain stop them?

“If the current projects prove successful in diverse areas like diamond fraud and land registry ledgers, the question very quickly becomes one of how to create similar solutions in other areas — whether you are a government, an NGO, an industry like finance or an individual company.”

There needs to be a shorthand word for doing that, I’d say. Blockle might do. “We need to blockle these corrupt officials…”

Blu-ray of Tomorrowland – released

The movie Tomorrowland is officially released tomorrow, 13th October 2015. It’s released as a Blu-ray and as a Disney Movies Anywhere download with extra deleted scenes.

“The production design is glorious … a triumph of digital world-building.” — Time Out.

“This was the best movie of the decade … My conservative allies who panned this film got the whole point entirely backward.” — bestselling SF author and Nebula Award finalist John C. Wright.

Tomorrowland is a critical and cultural Rorschach test – tell me what you think of it, and your aesthetics are laid bare.” — cultural critic and art historian James Abbott.

“… enormous fun as it hurtles through space, time, and other dimensions” — The Guardian.

“… a critique of our cultural obsession with destruction and despair … an accessibly compelling philosophical discussion about the nature of self-fulfilling prophecies” — The Scotsman.

“… does something very few big studio summer movies do – it steps out there and says something.” — Sight on Sound.

“… a movie that dares to inspire” — The Verge.

“It’s been so long since I saw a film so lacking in cynicism, to the point that I’d forgotten what it felt like.” — The Register.

“There is no doubt that in years to come, audiences will revisit and claim it to be a cult classic … rarely is cinema this forward-thinking, immersive and immediate.” — HeyUGuys.

NASA report – Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration

Wired UK reports that “NASA unveils ambitious plan for human colony on Mars”

NASA has detailed its long-term plan for astronauts to research, explore and eventually live on Mars. Called Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration [PDF link], the report is NASA’s most detailed plan yet and spells out the incremental strategy necessary to develop and test essential technologies, explore human health implications and further understand what happens when we enter deep space for long periods of time.”

Picture: National Geographic Mars colonisation timeline graphic. Art by Stefan Morrell, based on NASA, Mars Society and CalTech content.