1. Synthetic Organisms to Sequester Carbon Dioxide
The time has past when we could ease our way out of climate change. Now we are being forced to get more creative and there are risks on all sides.
The inexorable rise of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and the steady increase in global temperatures raise the frightening prospect of significant change in Earth’s climate. Indeed, the evidence seems clear that our climate is altering rapidly.
So scientists and politicians the world over are looking for ways to halt or reverse these changes, a task that is fraught with difficulties in a world hooked on fossil fuels. One option increasingly discussed is terraforming—deliberately altering the environment in a way that cools the planet, perhaps by absorbing carbon dioxide or reflecting sunlight
To have an impact, these kinds of plans changes must have a global reach require engineering projects of previously unimaginable scale. That’s set bioengineers thinking that there might be an alternative option.
Instead of creating global engineering projects, why not create life forms that do a similar job instead. The big advantage of this approach is that organisms grow naturally and can spread across huge areas of the planet by the ordinary mechanisms of life. Thus the process of terraforming the landscape would occur with minimal human input. What could possibly go wrong?
2. 79 Theses on Technology. For Disputation.
So many prompts for good thinking and discussion in this. Pairs well with the ethical considerations of technology and New Clues from the Cluetrain Manifesto folks (who started out with 95 Theses).
A disputation is an old technology, a formal technique of debate and argument that took shape in medieval universities in Paris, Bologna, and Oxford in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In its most general form, a disputation consisted of a thesis, a counter-thesis, and a string of arguments, usually buttressed by citations of Aristotle, Augustine, or the Bible.
But disputations were not just formal arguments. They were public performances that trained university students in how to seek and argue for the truth. They made demands on students and masters alike. Truth was hard won; it was to be found in multiple, sometimes conflicting traditions; it required one to give and recognize arguments; and, perhaps above all, it demanded an epistemic humility, an acknowledgment that truth was something sought, not something produced.
It is, then, in this spirit that Jacobs offers, tongue firmly in cheek, his seventy-nine theses on technology and what it means to inhabit a world formed by it. They are pithy, witty, ponderous, and full of life…
So here they are (7 of 79):
- Everything begins with attention.
- It is vital to ask, “What must I pay attention to?”
- It is vital to ask, “What may I pay attention to?”
- It is vital to ask, “What must I refuse attention to?”
- To “pay” attention is not a metaphor: Attending to something is an economic exercise, an exchange with uncertain returns.
- Attention is not an infinitely renewable resource; but it is partially renewable, if well-invested and properly cared for.
- We should evaluate our investments of attention at least as carefully and critically as our investments of money.
3. The world’s first holographic protest held in Spain
I had always thought pico projectors would become a part of the protesters arsenal. I had not considered holograms. Well played.
A protest group pulled off an undeniably futuristic stunt this weekend in Spain: they sent thousands of holograms parading past the lower house of the country’s parliament.
The augmented reality protest was just the latest in activist groups’ campaign against a series of “citizen security” bills, which received final passage in March. The new laws criminalize some forms of protest, such as gathering in front of Parliament. And among highly restrictive digital provisions, the law makes taking or distributing “unauthorized” photographs of police a crime punishable with a 30,000 euro fine. All in, the laws would create 45 new infractions, mostly centered on cracking down on dissent.
The new measures will go into effect July 1, if they survives national and European legal challenges.
No Somos Delito, which translates as We Are Not Crime, has been protesting what they call the country’s “gag law,” and in that context, the hologram protest is more than the stunt it might first appear. Under conditions in which people cannot put their bodies into the streets, the ghostly virtual projections serve both as protest and as a reminder of the protests that cannot occur.
ABOUT once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.
When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.
A few years ago I realized that I wanted to be a bit more like those people. I realized that if I wanted to do that I was going to have to work harder to save my own soul. I was going to have to have the sort of moral adventures that produce that kind of goodness. I was going to have to be better at balancing my life.
It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?
We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.
But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.
So a few years ago I set out to discover how those deeply good people got that way. I didn’t know if I could follow their road to character (I’m a pundit, more or less paid to appear smarter and better than I really am). But I at least wanted to know what the road looked like.
I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments…
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” – Brene Brown
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