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.
* India no longer houses the world’s largest number of extreme poor. As you might imagine, the announcement was greeted with a global yawn.
* The first “global-scale assessment of the occurrence of sandy beaches and rates of shoreline change”. Published in Nature, the research found that… “28% are accreting [i.e.: are growing] and 48% are stable”. Only 24% of sandy beaches are eroding at significant rates, despite the natural and gradual rate of sea-level rise.
* An initial real-world test of automated gene-tech mosquito eradication is a success in Australia. “80 percent of the target mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, was suppressed along Queensland’s Cassowary Coast.”
* The privacy-invading ‘Snooper’s Charter’ has been ruled ‘unlawful’ in UK. The government now claims it will respond by scaling back the laws. But, given the scale of the Brexit betrayal here, few will now trust our current UK government about anything.
* The National Review magazine lets an intern review Steven Pinker’s optimistic new book Enlightenment Now. “Mostly Correct” is the verdict. It follows an earlier and rather sniffy review-article on the book, in a March issue of National Review. The New Zealand Herald‘s “We don’t know how lucky we are…” review is rather more gushing about Enlightenment Now, and also about Hans Rosling’s Factfulness… “Best of all, New Zealand has it better than nearly anyone. What a time to be alive. I’m really enjoying freaking out less after reading these books.”
* The Heartland Institute reviews the new book The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos (2018), “A Captivating Chronicle of the New Space Trailblazers”.
* Wireless charging of electric vehicles now possible through concrete. Just add graphene, of course. Although is seems that heat is an unwelcome by-product of the transfer, at least until further refinements are made.
* Many of the fishery schools in the Philippines are located in remote places with intermittent Internet connection and power, and the field-trips are even wilder. The nation’s tax-payers do provide print libraries, but now the undergraduates also have access to 64Gb of core research in a self-powering digital box. Which looks suitably waterproof.
* Five books to cheer you up this summer, via MoneyWeek. All good picks. Note that Changing Places is much better as a book than as the TV series adaptation.
* Economist and speaker Tom Woods made a zinger of a speech, and now has it online as a podcast. It’s his opening keynote at the recent Mises University program, titled “Socialists and Other Ingrates”. He goes through many of the economic reasons for rational optimism, while usefully pointing out the utter ingratitude for progress which appears to be ingrained in the leftist stance and worldview. He then goes on to settle some scores with what sound to me like some agent provocateurs within the American libertarian movement, though that scene is beyond my ken and interest. Anyway, the core 20-minute bit you want is from 6:20 minutes to 26:30 minutes. (Direct .MP3 link)
* While Tom Woods opens the attack on Ingratitude (see above), the libertarian Atlas Society launches an Anti-Envy Campaign.
* Now being successfully tested in Canada, ‘BlackFly’, a flying car prototype. It’s a one-man low-power electric ultralight, and “the range with reserve is expected to be 25 miles in the USA and over 40 for the rest of the world”. Looks sweet, appears to work as intended, and seems set to get regulatory approval somewhere in the world. Somewhere like the Australian outback, at a guess? But I doubt we’ll ever see them widespread though, because of the potential for mis-use by terrorists. Unless… they can be made into autonomous taxis and made totally un-hijackable.
* Some optimism, debunked. “Don’t hold your breath for allergy-free cats” says the MIT Technology Review magazine. Aww…