Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Left's New Majority

From AlterNet: "Something vital, exciting and underreported is happening across the United States: marginalised groups in the poorest communities are joining forces to improve their condition and win local electoral victories. This is the America of Latinos, African-Americans, religious progressives, union members, young people, and single women. Combined, these mostly progressive groups of the left constitute an actual and significant national majority. If the Democratic Party taps into this energy, it could help create the next social and political momentum in the United States and even win presidential elections. But typically, Democratic leadership does not work closely with these groups, their natural constituencies. This relationship has yet to become a reality."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Baghdad Year Zero

Baghdad Burning
In a September 2004 article for Harper's Magazine entitled "Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia", Naomi Klein argues that, contrary to popular belief and criticisms, the Bush Administration did have a clear plan for post-invasion Iraq, which was to build a fully unconstrained free market economy. She describes plans to allow foreigners to extract wealth from Iraq, and the methods used to achieve those goals.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

High-tech improves life for seniors

From CNN: "One day, people with Alzheimer's disease could have telephones that show them a picture of the caller and remind them who it is and when they last talked. They might walk across a floor with sensors that check their gait and sound an alarm if they fall. Others might relax on a bed that monitors their pulse and breathing. New technologies for seniors, supplementing conveniences like The Clapper and emergency warnings like Life Alert, are on display this week at the White House Conference on Aging.

The goal is to provide technologies that "help seniors and their families live happy and healthy in their own home," said Eric Dishman, chairman of the Center for Aging Services Technologies, or CAST, and general manager and global director of Intel Health Research and Innovation Group. "Technology already has transformed our lives from e-mail to MP3s and from online shopping to cell phones. Now, it's time for technology to transform the experience of aging," said Russell Bodoff, executive director of CAST."

We must do it for the Martians!

Founding Declaration of the Mars Society

The time has come for humanity to journey to Mars.

We're ready. Though Mars is distant, we are far better prepared today to send humans to Mars than we were to travel to the Moon at the commencement of the space age. Given the will, we could have our first teams on Mars within a decade.

The reasons for going to Mars are powerful.

We must go for the knowledge of Mars. Our robotic probes have revealed that Mars was once a warm and wet planet, suitable for hosting life's origin. But did it? A search for fossils on the Martian surface or microbes in groundwater below could provide the answer. If found, they would show that the origin of life is not unique to the Earth, and, by implication, reveal a universe that is filled with life and probably intelligence as well. From the point of view learning our true place in the universe, this would be the most important scientific enlightenment since Copernicus.

We must go for the knowledge of Earth. As we begin the twenty-first century, we have evidence that we are changing the Earth's atmosphere and environment in significant ways. It has become a critical matter for us better to understand all aspects of our environment. In this project, comparative planetology is a very powerful tool, a fact already shown by the role Venusian atmospheric studies played in our discovery of the potential threat of global warming by greenhouse gases. Mars, the planet most like Earth, will have even more to teach us about our home world. The knowledge we gain could be key to our survival.

We must go for the challenge. Civilizations, like people, thrive on challenge and decay without it. The time is past for human societies to use war as a driving stress for technological progress. As the world moves towards unity, we must join together, not in mutual passivity, but in common enterprise, facing outward to embrace a greater and nobler challenge than that which we previously posed to each other. Pioneering Mars will provide such a challenge. Furthermore, a cooperative international exploration of Mars would serve as an example of how the same joint-action could work on Earth in other ventures.

We must go for the youth. The spirit of youth demands adventure. A humans-to-Mars program would challenge young people everywhere to develop their minds to participate in the pioneering of a new world. If a Mars program were to inspire just a single extra percent of today's youth to scientific educations, the net result would be tens of millions more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and doctors. These people will make innovations that create new industries, find new medical cures, increase income, and benefit the world in innumerable ways to provide a return that will utterly dwarf the expenditures of the Mars program.

We must go for the opportunity. The settling of the Martian New World is an opportunity for a noble experiment in which humanity has another chance to shed old baggage and begin the world anew; carrying forward as much of the best of our heritage as possible and leaving the worst behind. Such chances do not come often, and are not to be disdained lightly.

We must go for our humanity. Human beings are more than merely another kind of animal, -we are life's messenger. Alone of the creatures of the Earth, we have the ability to continue the work of creation by bringing life to Mars, and Mars to life. In doing so, we shall make a profound statement as to the precious worth of the human race and every member of it.

We must go for the future. Mars is not just a scientific curiosity; it is a world with a surface area equal to all the continents of Earth combined, possessing all the elements that are needed to support not only life, but technological society. It is a New World, filled with history waiting to be made by a new and youthful branch of human civilization that is waiting to be born. We must go to Mars to make that potential a reality. We must go, not for us, but for a people who are yet to be. We must do it for the Martians.

Believing therefore that the exploration and settlement of Mars is one of the greatest human endeavors possible in our time, we have gathered to found this Mars Society, understanding that even the best ideas for human action are never inevitable, but must be planned, advocated, and achieved by hard work. We call upon all other individuals and organizations of like-minded people to join with us in furthering this great enterprise. No nobler cause has ever been. We shall not rest until it succeeds.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Nature AND Nurture

Behaviour geneticists and evolutionary psychologists - two of the strongest proponents of genetic influentialism - demonstrate in their research precisely how environments interact with heredity to shape behaviour and personality. This interactionism starts when genes code for biochemical reactions, which regulate physiological changes, which govern biological systems, which impact neurological actions, which induce psychological states, which cause behaviours; these behaviours, in turn, interact with the environment, which change the behaviours, which influence psychological states, which alter neurological actions, which transform biological systems, which modify physiological changes, which transfigure biochemical reactions. And all of this happens in a complex interactive feedback loop between genes and environment throughout development and into adulthood.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Changesurfer Radio: God, Robots and Instincts

Three new Changesurfer Radio programs from Dr. J:

How to Survive a Robot Uprising

Dr. J. chats with Daniel Wilson, a roboticist and author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, an introduction to the current strengths and weaknesses of the many types of robots. Listen or DownLoad

Basic Instinct

Dr. J. chats with behavioral neuroscientist Mark Blumberg, author of Basic Instinct: The Genesis of Behavior which discusses the interplay of genes, hormones and environment in creating behavior. He debunks the notion of selfish genes and some fundamental human nature. Listen or DownLoad

Knocking on Heaven's Door

Mark Oppenheimer, the editor of the New Haven Advocate, is the author of Knocking on Heaven's Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture and the forthcoming Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America. Listen or DownLoad