Sunday, April 23, 2017

Moral and historical responsibilites

The Artdog Quotes of the Week:

Today I present a study in contrasts.


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks for the global community on this one. United States leadership still persists in questioning the science to a greater extent than any other major nation. Including, unfortunately, this guy:


IMAGES: Many thanks to the World Economic Forum for the Ban Ki-moon quote (check the linked page for more good ones), and to Business Insider, CNN and Bill Nye for the quote graphic from the regrettable orange person. Unfortunately, Bill's solution failed to be implemented effectively.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Water stress

The Artdog Images of Interest

Three major signals of climate change's onset are increased rates and ferocity of fires, deepening drought, and increasingly violent storms. Today's image focuses on drought.

A woman in India still can get a little water from her well, but she's one of 300 million affected in the country during 2016. 
As my Images of Interest series in February emphasized, the United Nations has identified access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water as a basic human right. Yet as drought gets entrenched in regions, this basic human need is not being met. India is one of those areas, but as the map below shows, it is far from alone in its plight.


A serious issue in India is the continued heavy water use by multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Pepsico, without recharging the water tables (as required by law). This is despite the "worst drought in living memory" and dramatic drops in local water tables near their bottling facilities.

The 2015 level of California's Lake Oroville at the height of the recent drought was pretty impressive-looking, but as we know, once the drought broke the lake refilled to overflowing. More troublesome and long-lasting was the hit the aquifers took

Plunging levels of surface water or snowpack during times of drought are often dramatic (see California's Lake Oroville, above). Longer-lasting damage is done, however, when aquifers are depleted and not recharged. What has been happening in India is not an isolated case of industrial short-sightedness. Aquifer depletion is a problem in California, the US Great Plains, Australia, China, Africa, and all over the world. Few people are paying much attention to it yet, but it's a ticking time bomb we all should be working NOW to defuse.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Global Research for the photo of the Indian woman by her well, to the World Resources Institute for the Water Stress map, and to PBS NewsHour for the 2015 photo of Lake Oroville. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Odd politics

The Artdog Quote of the Week:


Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a good point here, as usual. Problem is, E=mc2  doesn’t threaten certain industries' corporate profits. The climate change "controversy" stems from the same root cause (and had been promoted by some of the exact same people) as the "controversy" over whether smoking causes lung cancer (brace yourself: it does!).

IMAGE: Many thanks to the Climate Reality Project (check out their website!) for this image, and many other resources. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fires gone wild

The Artdog Images of Interest

Three major signals of climate change's onset are increased rates and ferocity of fires, deepening drought, and increasingly violent storms. Today's image focuses on fire.

Firefighters worked for days to control wildfires around Mecklenberg County, NC in November 2016. I hope this photographer didn't get singed, taking this behind-the-burning brush photo! Unfortunately, I couldn't locate a photographer's credit
This North Carolina fire was only one of hundreds (it's surprising, how difficult it seemed to be, to find a definitive total) that burned in the US in 2016. An interactive map of 2016 wildfires in California shows general locations by date range.

Total number of fires may be down, but total acres burned have doubled in 30 years.

A study released last October (2016) concluded that "human-caused climate change is responsible for nearly doubling the number of acres burned in western United States wildfires during the last 30 years," according to Bill Gabbert, of the Wildfire Today website.

IMAGE: Many thanks to WSOC-TV Channel 9 in North Carolina for the dramatic fire photo, and to Wildfire Today for the chart, compiled by Bill Gabbert, showing acres burned.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

To automate, or not to automate? The uncanny valley

A Glimpse of the Future
My mid-week post for the past two weeks has addressed a disruptive technology of major importance in the current global job situation: automation for greater productivity.

Robots and automated processes have already moved well beyond doing only what robotics expert Ryan Calo called "the three D's: dangerous, dirty, and dull." 

Last Wednesday I examined some of the ways robots and automation are replacing some types of traditionally minimum-wage or low-wage jobs, sometimes in appropriate ways, but other times in what some (including me) might consider needless, or less reasonable, ways.


Today I'd like to move up the social ladder a bit, because it's not only blue-collar jobs that proponents of automation or robotics are proposing to pre-empt. 

According to the research I've done for this series, doctors, nurseslawyers, financial advisorswriters, teachers, and child-care workers are also in the cross-hairs. At this rate, nobody can afford to get too smug. If professions requiring higher-level thinking and analysis are in danger from automation, NO job is safe. 

Is that actually a real threat, though? Won't there be at some point an "uncanny valley" effect? The uncanny valley is a problem in both animation and robotics. If you make something look or act extremely realistic--but just short of indistinguishable from the real thing--people react with revulsion. It strikes them as creepy

The Uncanny Valley can be a scary place!

Could the uncanny valley save white-collar jobs? Well, maybe. The verdict is still out. There's evidence that once people become accustomed to the almost-real look, they find it less repulsive. In other words, don't count on it. 

The end result SHOULD lie in whether the automation actually does a more satisfactory job than a competent human could. Meanwhile, this is a great source of thought experiments for science fiction writers, futurists, technological ethicists, and many others.


I've gotta say though, I find it interesting I haven't yet seen any proposals that AIs should take over research chairs in the field of robotics research.

But think about it. Once we've reached the singularity, is there any career they'd find more interesting?

I'd bet not.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Before it's News for the "looking to the future" graphic, and to G Financial Services Marketing for the "ranks of white-collar robots" illustration. I'm grateful to PandaStrike for the illustrated Uncanny Valley graph, and to HR Zone for the robot photo.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tribulation

The Artdog Quote of the Week:


Does anybody else miss President Barack Obama the way I do? As usual, he's making good sense, here. Also as usual, a lot of people haven't/aren't/refuse to listen. Gonna be a squeaker, if it isn't already too late, I fear.

IMAGE: Many thanks to TodayInSci for this image.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Who needs weather satellites, anyway?

The Artdog Images of Interest:

In early March, the Trump Administration proposed to cut almost a quarter of the budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's weather satellite program, despite global dependence upon them (by both corporations and government) for accurate weather forecasting.

There seems little point to that, until one remembers that satellite photos make it harder to deny climate change. How so? Consider these photos:

This is a famous lake . . . famous for shrinking. These two photos are striking, but 2011 was a while ago. Check this more-recent update.

Yes, this is the controversial "snows of Kilimanjaro" photo. No, it's not idiotically simple; they do fluctuate, but the consensus is in, nonetheless--we're headed warmer.

Yes, polar bears can swim--but for how far? NOTE: they don't hunt prey while swimming.
Clearly there's a problem shaping up for all Arctic ecosystems when the ice recedes that much. Read an article about how diminishing sea ice is affecting European weather, as well.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Eureka Alert! the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and NASA Earth Observatory, for the 1998-vs.-2011 photos of Iran's Lake Urmia, to PatFalvey's website (an article by Hannah Devlin) for the "snows of Kilimanjaro" photo, and to Weather and Climate @ Reading for the Arctic Sea Ice comparisons.