Something for the weekend #28

My round-up of the week’s causes for optimism, discussions of optimism/pessimism gap, and debunkings of optimism/pessimism, as noticed in the media.

* “Space Junk Net Successfully Completes Capture Test” reports Popular Mechanics. “Deployed from the International Space Station [using] a vision based navigation including cameras and LiDAR, the net was able to quickly capture the runaway CubeSat.” CubeSats are really tiny satellites, and thus seem like a good ‘hard’ test target.

* “Most of us are wrong about how the world has changed” writes Max Roser, University of Oxford. “An accurate understanding of how global health and poverty are improving leaves no space for cynicism.”

* ‘Pakistan’s tree revolution’ becomes a global inspiration, and also a big vote-winner at elections. The new “government plans to plant over 10 billion trees” in five years, repairing decades of deforestation. While there’s congratulations from the World Economic Forum, and it seems that every organisation and company in the nation is now issuing press releases that they’re out planting trees on their land, one has to hope that the back-end long-term sustainability has also been baked in to the project. China will also help, providing a big new tree restoration campaign along the Indus River near Pakistan, which should reduce some of the downstream flood-water which washes away so many saplings.

* Meanwhile, in Africa, moves toward “Monitoring the ambitious land restoration commitments in Africa”. “Restoration [of land] requires more than the planting of trees […] Countries must enact polices, allocate budget to restoration implementation, track and learn from their progress.” Also needed may be more politically difficult reform of things like land tenure and farm security.

* Spiked! on “The myth of a climate crisis”… “The problem with the climate-crisis idea, as Pielke shows, is that most extreme weather data do not support it. This, explains Pielke, is not a fringe view; it is the consensus of climate science.” Also, “the data sets consistently show that economic and technological development mitigate the worst problems that climate has always caused. [for instance] the deaths caused by droughts have fallen by nearly 96 per cent, despite a nearly fourfold increase in population.”

* Nepal is on track to double its tiger population by 2022, according to the nation’s recent camera-trap surveys. The wider background is explained in an article at The Diplomat, “Nepal’s Success in Wildlife Conservation”.

* In Canada’s Banff National Park Banff bison are roaming wild and free for first time in 140 years. “These are not a captive display herd. These are wild bison”, and they’re breeding.

* Future of Jobs 2018 report from the World Economic Forum. Their best forecast for the next five years is that… “machines and algorithms in the workplace could create 133 million new roles in place of 75 million that will be displaced”. That’s a gain of 58 million new jobs, albeit probably not uniformly distributed or necessarily well-paid. Also, A.I. is deemed unlikely to impact creative areas such as art and illustration markets, despite the hype among creative marketeers. A.I. is probably also unlikely to impact content curation, given how dismal the taste-matching suggestion algorithms are on the likes of YouTube and Amazon. We may also see diminishing public acceptance of A.I. deployment due to politically-correct skewing of the algorithms — for instance, in recruitment there is no way that a ‘C.V. bot’ will simply be allowed to impartially pick the five most highly qualified candidates for interview.

* Early news of a new book by Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist), to be titled How Innovation Works: Serendipity, Energy and the Saving of Time. It will examine the history and theory of innovation, and compare this with evolution in animals and plants. The rights have been picked up by publishers and the title is set for publication in Spring 2020.

* A newly published book, Reimagining Our Tomorrows: Making Sure Your Future Doesn’t Suck. The cover makes it look a bit dippy at first glance, but it’s actually optimistic ‘sci-fi near-future storytelling meets futurism’, from a former writer for Disney Imagineering. Seems like a stimulating set of scenarios, judging by the contents page. But, as yet, no reviews.


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Something for the weekend #24

My round-up of the week’s causes for optimism, discussions of optimism/pessimism gap, and debunkings of optimism/pessimism, as noticed in the media.

* There’s a new free, open-access, searchable database that brings together many once-promising leads on new antibiotics from the past 50 years. Leads which have – for various reasons – stalled or been dropped. But which may now be worth another look.

* President Trump’s Presidential Message on Space Exploration Day.

* Dan Hannan: There’s a reason politics isn’t for optimists. Hannan usually talks a whole lot of sense, but here he enthusiastically cites the very questionable psychology paper I blogged about a few weeks ago.

* “Common Dolphins Back in the Adriatic” reports Croatia Week. “Decades after common dolphins disappeared from the Adriatic, in recent years large groups have been starting to appear again.”

* How Africa is winning the battle to save its mountain gorillas.

* A new academic forecast paper, “From Bottleneck to Breakthrough: Urbanization and the Future of Biodiversity Conservation”. On current trends… “conservation practice has the potential to transform itself from a discipline managing declines (‘bottleneck’) to a transformative movement of recovery (‘breakthrough’).”


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