Most frightening stories:
- Fueled by supercharged sea temperatures, the 2017 hurricane season was a terrible, terrible season for hurricanes devastating coastal regions of the United States. One reason is that these storms not only were powerful and hit densely populated areas, but they set records for rapid intensification. Beyond all the human suffering, one thing I find disturbing is that I feel desensitized at this point when I think back to how I felt after Hurricane Katrina. The first major city destroyed is a shock, but later you get numb to it if you are not actually there. Then finally, a remote island territory is all but wiped out in what should be shocking fashion, and the public and government response is decidedly muted. This is what the age of climate change and weapons proliferation might be like, a long, slow process of shifting baselines where the unthinkable becomes thinkable over time.
- In a story that U.S. media didn’t seem to pick up, China seemed to make a statement in its official state-run media that it would defend North Korea in case of an unprovoked attack by the U.S. and its allies. John Bolton and Lindsey Graham made comments suggesting they think any number of Korean dead would be a price worth paying for an unprovoked U.S. attack. The Trump administration is openly using Nazi propaganda.
- During the Vietnam War the United States dropped approximately twice as many tons of bombs in Southeast Asia as the Allied forces combined used against both Germany and Japan in World War II. After the Cold War finally ended, Mikhail Gorbachev made some good suggestions for how to achieve a lasting peace. They were ignored. We may be witnessing the decline of the American Empire as a result.
Most hopeful stories:
- It’s possible that a universal basic income could save the U.S. government money by replacing less efficient assistance programs.
- There are also workable proposals for a U.S. single-payer health insurance program, although this one would somewhat obviously mean the government spending more money, which it would have to collect in taxes. People would come out ahead financially if the taxes were less than the premiums they are paying now, which doesn’t seem that hard, but of course this is politically tough given the incredibly effective propaganda the finance industry has used to kill the idea for the last 50 years.
- Utility-scale solar energy cost dropped 30% in one year.
Most interesting stories, that were not particularly frightening or hopeful, or perhaps were a mixture of both:
- The FDA has approved formal trials of Ecstasy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
- I learned that the OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook named “ten key emerging technology trends”: The Internet of Things, Big data analytics, Artificial intelligence, Neurotechnologies, Nano/microsatellites, Nanomaterials, Additive manufacturing / 3D printing, Advanced energy storage technologies, Synthetic biology, Blockchain
- In automation news, Tesla is testing automated truck platoons. And there’s a site that will try to predict whether robots will take your job.