Astral Throb is the very best chilled synthwave sci-fi instrumental goodness, and is largely optimistic with it. Grab the complete playlist in MP3 from YouTube, with the free MakeHuman YouTube to MP3 Windows software. “Offworld” is a good starter.
My round-up of causes for optimism, discussions of the 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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Somewhat positive news today, on the ongoing slow breaking of the stranglehold of the establishment media in the UK. Ofcom (the UK broadcast regulator) has crunched three data sources and has reported that the number of podcast listeners in the UK was double in 2017, compared to what it was five years ago in 2012.
Good news, in terms of choice and intellectual diversity. Yet this growing market was still small compared to mass market broadcast radio and streaming music. Ofcom’s press release states that 6 million adults listen to talk podcasts each week, which equates to 11% of UK adults.
One area where a definite trend can be seen is among the under 35s in the UK, because the audience is so large and avid. There appears to be a strong trend among the youth toward decoupling from establishment radio, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. What Ofcom does spot is that the strongest market here is in youth comedy. Again, unsurprising, but I guess it’s useful to have that nailed down. And yet perhaps we shouldn’t assume that is all such comedy is edgy indie stuff being downloaded from the Wild Web, since a third of the supposed “podcast” content being counted by Ofcom is actually sourced from the BBC.
The same BBC output ‘skew’ probably also happens at the other end of the age spectrum. By the likes of the “In Our Time” .MP3 recording of the weekly programme, which must have huge numbers of listeners, and other similar programmes for older audiences.
Not quite such a positive story, then, when one starts to break it down. And definitely not a mass market breakthrough for most independent ‘talk radio’ podcasters, despite what the huge YouTube view counts and download counters may say for a few super-stars of podcasting.
But one has to suspect that heavy ‘talk podcast’ listeners — such as those interested in niche interests, lecture recordings, politics and current affairs — are being strongly under-counted by mainstream survey methods that are geared to identifying mass markets for advertisers. Under-counting seems highly likely in the Ofcom figures, due to Ofcom’s use of only three sources. All seem questionable in some way. ACast: I’ve never heard of them, and they appear to deal only in finding paywalled podcasts as a service to mass advertisers. Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR): geared to measuring broadcast radio audiences via self-selecting diarists and other partial means. They thus seem intrinsically likely to overlook those who have switched away from the establishment media. TouchPoints: is from the Chartered Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, and has a similar approach and thus similar problems. They seem focussed on data of interest to national advertisers, based on an infrequently-updated (every two years?) 6,000 user sample of media consumption patterns. Currently their last report was published 2017, and expected respondents to complete “a 7 day diary every 30 minutes”, questionnaires, and install a tracking app in smartphones and on tablets. All three sources thus seem rather likely to be skewed in various ways, and may find it especially difficult to engage those who have decoupled from broadcast.
To be really useful, these lumpy and aggregate figures for podcasting also need to be more finely mapped, and listening tracked on a larger and more inclusive scale. Larger datasets could then be usefully mapped onto factors such as intellectual ability (vocabulary might serve as simple proxy there), cultural tastes, and regional tastes.
An excellent Tom Woods Show, on the idea of autonomous Private Cities and how they might work. If you’ve begun to give the show a miss due to dry topics such as the Sherman Antitrust Act, FDA regulation, or Fractional Reserve Banking (I know I had), then this fascinating episode is an excellent corrective. The guest Titus Gebel is very cogent and succinct in presenting an outline of his ideas.
However, the guest’s mention of one prominent group of seasteaders and their progress is out of date. Their attempts to woo the government of French Polynesia appear to have abruptly failed. According to March 2018 reports in Business Insider someone misinformed the government there that the ‘steaders were just trying to set up a libertarian tax haven, and the locals annulled the deal they’d made. It’s a pity. But if the locals were going to be that screwy and unreliable, it’s probably best that the ‘steaders learned that before they even started building platforms out in the ocean.
Picture: Evolo skyscraper design challenge: the ‘Gerridae’ tidewater towers.
A new Seminar About Long-term Thinking, at the Long Now: Steven Pinker giving a long lecture on the themes of his new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Followed by audience questions with the venerable Stewart Brand.
In the Q&A there’s some moaning about Trump (who I seriously doubt is channelling the 1920s ideas of the likes of Ernst Junger, as is suggested by Pinker), but it’s easily chuckled at for credulously buying into the muddle-headed ‘Trump is Hitler’ stance of the far-left.
Discovered via the excellent new podcast search-engine Listen Notes, a lively 2013 interview in which two bright young men interview Matt Ridley on The Rational Optimist, for about 50 minutes minus the intro and advert.
Well, I was having a good long holiday from politics this summer, but I’ll make an exception for a one-hour Delingpole vs. Scruton podcast which has percolated through my filters. It’ll be interesting to hear if either, both rather naturally gloomy fellows in outlook, see any flashes of hope for the future.