My round-up of causes for optimism, discussions of optimism/pessimism gap, and debunkings of optimism/pessimism, as noticed this week in the media.
* Johan Norberg’s Sweden: Lessons for America? film is now online at YouTube, in full. “The one-hour documentary follows Norberg on a journey through the history of Sweden’s economic rise, from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the most prosperous.”
* The World Health Organisation has announced that the human disease rubella has been eliminated from Australia. A huge nationwide vaccination effort has brought cases down to just eight this year, and there’s now a strong set of surveillance measures in place.
* Norway will spend $47bn to build a 680-mile coastal highway. Not built yet and I’m always sceptical about boosting the car-culture, but it’s ambitious and is likely to be great news for tourism, connecting up the country, and general trade and economic growth.
* The world’s largest neuromorphic supercomputer, designed and built in Britain to work in the same way a human brain does, has been fitted with its landmark one-millionth processor core. It is being switched on for the first time this week.
* Radio Free Europe interviews Steven Pinker, “It May Not Seem Like It, But The World Is Getting Better”… “[Nihilism and hopelessness] is a consequence of journalism as it is now practiced. And conscientious, responsible journalists, I believe, should take a look at the views of the world that they have been inadvertently spreading.”
* The lead article “Zombie Statistics” in the latest edition of Reason magazine (December 2018) discusses how hard it can be to remove obviously dubious ‘statistics’ from what currently passes for public debate. Such as… “the most widespread statistic [of the anti-plastics / anti-oil campaigners], that Americans use 500 million plastic straws per day. Turns out that figure came from a nonscientific phone survey conducted by a 9-year-old boy. (Yes, really.)”. Several other ‘pseudo-statistics’ for currently trendy leftist ’causes’ receive a similarly pithy debunking. Regrettably, though, in the same issue their Science Correspondent uncritically swallows this week’s highly questionable “60% decline in world animal populations” news report.
* British doctor Theodore Dalrymple upbraids leftist intellectuals for glorifying urban ugliness (while, of course, declining to live among it)… “Rationalizing Ugliness: The modern intellectual screens reality through fashionable opinion”.
* The American Enterprise Institute fisks an anti-capitalism edition of Teen Vogue, “Ending poverty by ‘ending capitalism’ is absolute nonsense.”
* A new multi-decadal study of over 700 Pacific islands has found that no islands with people on them are shrinking. The study of… “709 islands, reveals that no atoll lost land area and that 88.6% of islands were either stable or increased in area, while only 11.4% contracted.” The study was funded by the French National Research Agency and the French Ministry of Environment, Energy and Oceans (MEEM).
* A new U.S. Department of Energy study finds that greenhouse-warming computer models cannot account for what plants do at night and during the non-growing season. At all. All around the world. That’s kind of a big factor to overlook.
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