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Elon Musk Is Convinced He's the Future. We Need to Look Beyond Him


Elon Musk Is Convinced He's the Future. We Need to Look Beyond Him


AUGUST 8, 2022 7:00 AM EDT

Paris Marx is a Canadian technology writer and host of the Tech Won’t Save Us podcast. Paris is also the author of Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation.


In crafting his future visions, Musk draws on the libertarian tendencies of Robert Heinlein and a technocratic longtermism inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, not to mention the dreams of Nazi-turned-NASA rocket engineer Wernher von Braun. Future visions cribbed from the pages of science fiction—often of the dystopian variety—and reshaped to fit the desires of the richest man in the world don’t serve the broader public. But there are other authors who provide very different answers to the questions of technology and the future.

In 1985, Ursula K. Le Guin took aim at this “imperialistic kind” of science fiction that inspires Musk, in which “space and the future are synonymous: they are a place we are going to get to, invade, colonize, exploit, and suburbanize.” The renowned novelist explained that science fiction is not actually about the future; it’s about us and our thoughts and our dreams. But when we get confused about that, “we succumb to wishful thinking and escapism, and our science fiction gets megalomania and thinks that instead of being fiction it’s prediction.”

That’s exactly where we find ourselves now: having our future dictated by powerful people who seek to recreate the space colonies or dystopian virtual reality worlds they read about as kids without considering the consequences. Kim Stanley Robinson, whose Mars trilogy helped inspire some of the recent interest in colonizing the red planet, has called Musk’s plan “the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his backyard” and one that’s dangerously distracting us from the real problems we face here on Earth.

For Le Guin, part of the problem is how we tell the human story: as one where a singular hero aggressively pushes it toward resolution, whether it’s the hunter with their bow or the Great Man driving society forward. It also infects our conception of technology, positioning it as “a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph”—or as a call to “build”—rather than “the active human interface with the material world” and the more mundane technologies we rely on every day.

Make no mistake: there is a need for people to think about the future and what a better one looks like, especially as we face serious challenges like the climate crisis. But we also need to question the idea of “progress” being sold to us and who it ultimately benefits. The tech industry enjoys casting itself as our savior, delivering empowerment and convenience, but along with it has come an unprecedented expansion of surveillance, an erosion of workers’ rights, and the empowerment of white nationalist and fascist groups.

For years, Elon Musk sold us fantasies to distract from the reality of the future he’s trying to build, and to get people to accept his growing belligerence. What we really need right now is not more cars, colonization dreams, and technokings, but a collective project to improve the lives of billions of people around the world while taking on the immediate challenges we face regardless of whether it generates corporate profits. That’s something Elon Musk can never deliver.

Science is making it possible to 'hear' nature. It does more talking than we knew


Science is making it possible to ‘hear’ nature. It does more talking than we knew

With digital bioacoustics, scientists can eavesdrop on the natural world – and they’re learning some astonishing things

Wed 30 Nov 2022 02.16 EST

Scientists have recently made some remarkable discoveries about non-human sounds. With the aid of digital bioacoustics – tiny, portable digital recorders similar to those found in your smartphone – researchers are documenting the universal importance of sound to life on Earth.

As scientists eavesdrop on nature, they are learning some astonishing things. Many species that we once thought to be mute actually make noise – lots of it, in some cases. For example, research by Camila Ferrara at Brazil’s Wildlife Conservation Society has demonstrated that Amazonian sea turtles make more than 200 distinct sounds. Ferrara’s research showed that turtle hatchlings even make sounds while still in their eggs, before they hatch, to coordinate the moment of their birth. Ferrara’s acoustic research also revealed that mother turtles wait nearby in the river, calling to their babies to guide them to safety, away from predators: the first scientific evidence of parental care in turtles, which were previously thought to simply abandon their eggs.

Acoustic tuning is also widespread in nature. Coral and fish larvae find their way back home by imprinting on the unique sounds made by the reef where they were born. Moths have developed echolocation-jamming capabilities to hide themselves from bat sonar. Flowers and vines have evolved leaves to reflect echolocation back to bats, as if they were luring their pollinators with a bright acoustic flashlight. In response to the buzz of bees, flowers flood themselves with nectar. Plants respond to some sound frequencies by growing faster; and some species – including tomatoes, tobacco and corn seedlings – even make noise, although well above our hearing range.

As we grapple with these future-oriented questions, we should not forget about the pressing challenge of noise pollution, the reduction of which can have immediate, positive and significant impacts for non-humans and humans alike. Hushing the human cacophony is a major challenge of our time. Digital listening reveals that we have much more to learn about non-humans, and provides new ways to protect and conserve the environment. Perhaps one day we will invent a zoological version of Google Translate. But first we need to learn how to listen.

Karen Bakker is the director of the University of British Columbia’s Program on Water Governance and the author of The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants

Cleveland Clinic to bill up to $50 for MyChart messages


Cleveland Clinic to bill up to $50 for MyChart messages

(Also Chicago, Seattle)

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

Cleveland Clinic will begin to bill for Epic MyChart messages requiring a provider's clinical time and expertise beginning Nov. 17.

Patients have been able to send MyChart messages for free, and providers typically respond within three business days. But now the health system plans to bill for messages about medication changes, new symptoms, changes to long-term medical conditions, checkups on long-term conditions and requests to complete medical forms sent through MyChart, according to a news release from Cleveland Clinic.

Messages to schedule an appointment, get prescription refills and ask questions that could lead to an appointment will remain free. Patients can also give providers health updates without any extra charges.

Cleveland Clinic plans to bill for any interactions taking five or more minutes for providers to respond and will bill insurance companies. Medicare patients with secondary insurance will not have co-pays, but some Medicare beneficiaries may see a $3 to $8 fee.

Many privately insured patients will not have a copay, but if they have a deductible or their plan does not cover MyChart messaging, patients could be billed $33 to $50 per message.

Scientists Revive 'Zombie' Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost


Scientists Revive ‘Zombie’ Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost

Researchers documented 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant, frozen in thick ice, over tens of thousands of years.

November 26, 2022

As our world continues to warm up, vast areas of permafrost are rapidly melting, releasing material that's been trapped for up to a million years. This includes uncountable numbers of microbes that have been lying dormant for hundreds of millennia.

To study these emerging microbes, scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research have now revived a number of these "zombie viruses" from the Siberian permafrost, including one thought to be nearly 50,000 years old – a record age for a frozen virus returning to a state capable of infecting other organisms.

The team behind the study, led by microbiologist Jean-Marie, says these ancient viruses are potentially a significant threat to public health, and further study needs to be done to assess the danger that these infectious agents could pose as the permafrost melts.

The researchers warned it may just be the tip of the iceberg:


The Asian Hall of Fame honors its first Indigenous inductee


The Asian Hall of Fame honors its first Indigenous inductee

Virginia Cross, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe’s chairwoman for over four decades, was chosen for her devotion to economic and educational issues.

by Luna Reyna / November 23, 2022

On Nov. 18 the Asian Hall of Fame, a nonprofit focused on educating the public, promoting Asian excellence and charitable work for racial equity, chose their first Indigenous inductee, Virginia Cross, chairwoman of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. Cross was elected to the Muckleshoot council in 1980 and as chairwoman the following year, making her one of the longest-standing elected officials in Washington. Over the past four decades she has helped elevate the Muckleshoot and their efforts to properly steward their land, flourish economically and create further educational opportunities for their people.

“[Cross is] a real leader for the advancement of equity for women leaders in the United States,” said Hsieh. “She should be on a coin!”

When Cross was growing up on the reservation in Auburn in the 1950s, her community had no electricity, plumbing or running water. Today the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is one of the largest employers in King County and has donated more than $25 million to charities statewide. With the revenue from the casino and other investments Cross has influenced, the nation is now able to provide social services for the well-being of Muckleshoot citizens and contribute to the broader economy through charitable donations and employment. Cross received the Bill Kyle Memorial Award in recognition for these contributions from the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce in 2016.
Cross also served as the director of Indian education for the Auburn School District for 22 years, when she helped shape the relationship between local schools and the Muckleshoot by involving the nation’s leaders in school programming and encouraging district officials to learn more about the nation.

In 1973 she helped launch Native education programs in school districts in King and Pierce counties, hiring native educators to work in those schools to tutor students and address any other needs the kids may have had, from tutoring to social services. Cross believes that this may have been the first time these districts collaborated directly with Native students and educators. During this time, Cross also prioritized addressing Native graduation rates. She believed it was important to meet kids where they were at, and wanted to give kids who struggled to conform to the public school structure a chance to learn at their own pace.

“When I graduated from high school at Auburn, I was the only Muckleshoot that graduated that year,” Cross said.

So she helped create a program that provided cultural enrichment opportunities and advocacy for both students and their families, and pushed back the start time to 10 a.m. The program, named the Virginia Cross Native Education Center in her honor, was created over 25 years ago as a drop-out retrieval program for Native high schoolers. Today it provides students with educational support to meet high school graduation requirements as well as the emotional and social encouragement necessary for them to seek higher education opportunities.

For her work in education, Cross became the sixth person inducted into the Auburn High School Hall of Fame in 2012.


Pearl clutching Wray: FBI director 'very concerned' by reports of secret Chinese police stations in


FBI director ‘very concerned’ by reports of secret Chinese police stations in US

The United States is deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorised “police stations” in US cities to possibly pursue influence operations, FBI director Christopher Wray has said.

“I’m very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations,” Wray told a US Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee hearing, acknowledging the FBI’s investigative work on the issue but declining to give details.


Iran: protestors set fire to Khomeini ancestral home


Agence France-Press
November 18, 2022

Protesters in Iran have set on fire the ancestral home of the Islamic republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini two months into the anti-regime protest movement, images showed on Friday.


'You'll rarely find a climate denier in east Africa'


‘You’ll rarely find a climate denier in east Africa’

Caroline Kimeu
Thu 17 Nov 2022 01.00 EST


In west Africa too, a friend of mine scoffed at the idea of anyone denying climate change while living on the continent: “What would anyone in Nigeria gain from denying climate change?” he asked . The country has been hit by its worst floods in more than a decade, killing more than 600 people and displacing at least 1.4 million. But why hasn’t it received more international interest? The prevailing sense, he said, is that Africa is “no stranger to tragedy”, and somehow this latest incident was no different.

Every week, I see at least one story on how the drought in the north of Kenya is pushing millions of people towards starvation, and it is a devastating story to cover. The situation there mirrors what’s happening in much of the Horn of Africa, which is facing its worst drought in decades. Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo have all faced deadly flooding this year, displacing thousands. The situation is far worse in south Sudan, where last month, record rains flooded two-thirds of the country.


(Sidenote: No Africa forum…?)

109 Republicans Voted Against Bill to Ban Sexual Assault NDAs


109 Republicans Voted Against Bill to Ban Sexual Assault NDAs

The newly passed Speak Out Act "empowers survivors of sexual assault and harassment to speak openly about their experiences and pursue the justice they deserve," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

November 17, 2022

The House on Wednesday passed bipartisan legislation that prohibits employers from using pre-dispute non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or non-disparagement clauses to silence survivors of workplace sexual assault and harassment.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the Speak Out Act, which had already been approved in the Senate by unanimous consent, as soon as it reaches his desk.

But 109 Republicans voted against protecting the rights of employees to share their stories and pursue justice without fear of retribution for violating NDAs signed prior to instances of sexual misconduct.


'The sheriff who went rogue': Alex Villanueva's scandal-plagued tenure ends in LA


‘The sheriff who went rogue’: Alex Villanueva’s scandal-plagued tenure ends in LA


Villanueva has been accused of engaging in the same kind of cover-ups as his predecessors; while the county’s inspector general has recently identified dozens of current deputies believed to be members of officer “cliques” and gangs, which are known for encouraging brutality, Villanueva has defied subpoenas to testify on the issue and issued legal threats aiming to prevent officials from using the term “deputy gang”. He told the Guardian this year that the gangs were “a problem of perception, not reality”, and that he didn’t want to comply with “political subpoenas”.

A whistleblower also claimed Villanueva had personally directed a cover-up of an incident in which jail guards knelt on the head of a handcuffed man. The sheriff dismissed the allegations in the lawsuit and described former staffers suing him and the department as “disgruntled employees”.

In September, armed sheriff’s deputies raided the home of the county supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who serves on a sheriff’s oversight committee and has been a vocal critic. LASD said it was investigating a county contract and potential bribery, and seized Kuehl’s phone and personal computer, but the LA district attorney’s office said it was not involved in the search and had also investigated the claims last year and found no cause for charges.

The LA Times editorial board called the incident an indication of “just how unhinged” Villanueva had become, saying he was “LA’s loosest cannon and pettiest cop” and that his deputies “must choose whether to follow his crazy directives or defy him and sacrifice their jobs”. Villanueva said he had recused himself from the case but then gave a TV interview (while sitting in a bar) defending the investigation and further attacking Kuehl.

More background

The Murderous Police Gangs of Los Angeles

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