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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Arctic Warming: Not Just Another Natural Cycle This Time

In late October 2013, research was published on the average summer temperatures over time in the Canadian Arctic. The scientists found from analyzing deep ice samples and moss only recently freed from the grip of ice that the average temperatures in the twentieth century were the highest going back at least 44,000 years to 120,000 years. The most significant warming did not begin until the 1970s and is particularly striking in the 1992-2012 period. The most significant implication of the study is that the argument that we are merely seeing another natural cycle underway can finally be put on ice.
"The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is," Gifford Miller, one of the study’s scientists, said. "This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."[1] Particularly striking is the phrase, “outside of any kind of known natural variability.” We are in unchartered waters made possible only by melting glaciers. In other words, we could really get blind-sided.
To get some perspective on how long the moss had been encased in ice, our species reached Australia approximately 45,000 years ago. Another 25,000 years earlier (50,000 years after 120,000 years ago!), homo sapiens underwent a cognitive revolution, which resulted in the “fictive mind.” The sapiens brain had via development from natural selection become capable of apriori imaginary realities or ideas. Story-telling in the hunter-gatherer bands (i.e., small groups) no longer be bound to observable (i.e., empirical) phenomenon. After the agricultural revolution based on permanent settlements in place of the nomadic life of the hunter-gatherer, the imaginary ideas of the fictive mind would enable homo sapiens to get past the lack of any “hard-wiring”(via thousands of years of natural selection) enabling members of the species to live in close proximity with many strangers. Larger, more complex social living groups (e.g., cities, kingdoms, and eventually even empires) could be formed and maintained through inter-subjective imaginary ideas.
Perhaps then the question is whether the human fictive mind will be able to harness enough coordinated effort and invention to compensate for the non-natural roller-coaster ride in the twenty-first century.    

[1] Douglas Main, “Arctic Temperatures Reach Highest Levels in 44,000 Years, Study Finds,” The Huffington Post, October 24, 2013.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Has Facebook Been Too Invasive?

A general or basic distrust of business can show through in charges that a particular company has just gone down an unethical path on the road to perdition. In such cases, the societal concern is not only applied to what a company is doing publically; the fear is also that a subterranean activity is also going on, which is unethical. The generalized distrust finds fertile ground in the dark recesses that are possible in private enterprise. For example, government regulators as well as some ethicists raised concerns about Facebook’s face-recognition feature when it came out. Specifically, the concern was not so much regarding the feature's stated purpose, but, rather, any other uses of the technology that the company was not divulging.

The full essay is at "Taking the Face Off Facebook."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Leadership Funds: A Congressional Conflict of Interest

Congressional leadership funds constitute a loop-hole by which members of Congress can more easily use donations for personal expenses including vacations. To count on those very same members to turn off the sugar-water that they themselves enjoy is perhaps the epitome of naivety. A solution to a systemic conflict of interest cannot come out of the parties themselves, but must be from an exogenous or outside force. In this essay, I depict the conflict of interest and suggest places we might look to eliminate the conflict of interest.

The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.