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Sep 9, 2020

Towards a Global Consciousness

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, climatology, futurism, robotics/AI, sustainability

Collective Intelligence to Solve the MegaCrisis

William E. Halal, The TechCast Project, George Washington University


The coronavirus is a stark reminder of the devastating damage that could be inflicted by cyberattacks, superbugs, freak weather and a variety of other threats. These wild cards are in addition to the existential challenge posed by climate change, gross inequality, financial meltdowns, autocratic governments, terrorism and other massive problems collectively called the Global MegaCrisis.

I sense the world is so frightened by recent disasters that people are searching for new solutions. They seem ready to break from the past that is no longer working. Climate change is starting to bite, for instance, and there is a growing consensus that the status quo is no longer sustainable.

I have studied this dilemma for decades, and I think it can be best understood as a transition to the next stage of social evolution. The Knowledge Age that dominated the last two decades is fading into the past as AI automates knowledge, forcing us to move beyond knowledge and develop a global consciousness able to resolve the MegaCrisis.

Yes, I know this is a bold claim, but that is how the shift to a world of knowledge looked 40 years ago. When computers filled rooms, I recall telling people that we were entering a world of personal computers. The typical response was “Why would anyone want a personal computer?”

Just so, today’s post-factual era illustrates how the smart phone, social media, and autocrats like Trump have moved public attention beyond knowledge and into a world of values, emotions and beliefs. Now the challenge is to use these new powers of social media to shape a global consciousness, or face disaster. While this may seem impossible, that is always the case before major upheavals. Nobody thought the USSR would collapse up until its very end.

In fact, the Business Roundtable’s recent announcement that business should move beyond the bottom line to include the interests of all stakeholders is revolutionary. It has now been promulgated by the World Economic Forum and other influential bodies. The gravity of this change is such that business is now being told to help resolve the climate crisis. Larry Fink, who runs the biggest investment firm in the world (Black Rock), directed the companies he owns to help address climate costs in their operations; within days, many firms announced climate plans.

This historic shift in consciousness could make corporations models of cooperation for society at large. In short, I think the world is heading toward some type of historic shift in consciousness, a collective epiphany, a code of global ethics, a spiritual revolution, a political paradigm shift or a new mindset. Without a consciousness based on global unity, cooperation and other essential beliefs, there seems little hope. And with a shift to global consciousness, it all seems possible.


Toward a Global Consciousness

The governing ideas inherited from the industrial past are outdated and heading toward disaster. It is a collapse of today’s reigning “materialist” ideology of Capitalism, economic growth, money, power, self-interest, rationality, knowledge, etc. These values remain valid and useful, of course, but they are now badly limited. Prevailing practices in the US, as the most prominent example, are failing to address the climate crisis, low wage employee welfare, universal health care, women’s rights, political gridlock, aging infrastructure and other social issues that lie beyond sheer economics.

This could become a “Collapse of Capitalism” roughly equivalent to the “Collapse of Communism” in the 1990s, and it stems from the same fatal flaw – failure to adapt to a changing world. Communism could not meet the complex demands of the Information Revolution, and now Capitalism seems to be failing to adapt to a unified globe threatened by pandemics, climate change and the other threats making up the MegaCrisis.

The big question remaining is, “What should be the new vision, values, principles, and policies?” At the risk of appearing pedantic, I integrate what has been learned above and my forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge, to outline five principles of what I consider “global consciousness.”

1. Treat the planet and all life forms as sacred. The Fermi Paradox notes that no other civilizations have been detected after decades of SETI searching. This rarity of life reminds us what a miracle plant Earth really is, and that we are responsible for its well-being.

2. Govern the world as a unified whole. Nations remain the major players in this global order, but they should be lightly governed by some type of global institution like the UN and other international bodies. Individuals should continue to be loyal to their nations and local institutions, but they should also accept their role as global citizens.

3. Collaborate With All Stakeholders. Free enterprise is the basis of society, and the good news is that business is on the verge of becoming cooperative. The Business Roundtable announcement that all stakeholders should be treated equally with investors seems an historic breakthrough. This move to a quasi-democratic form of enterprise could set a new standard for collaborative behavior and human values throughout modern societies. One of the benefits from a tragedy like this crisis may be a loss of faith in the status quo and an urge to cooperate. I see it everywhere, and it is a blessing in disguise emerging out of chaos.

4. Embrace diversity as an asset. Rather than becoming a uniform pallid bureaucracy, a unified world should embrace the wondrous diversity of cultures and individuals. Working across such differences poses a challenge, naturally, but differences are also a source of new knowledge, talents and human energy.

5. Celebrate Community. Any society needs frequent opportunities to gather together in good spirit, enjoy differences and commonalities, and to simply celebrate the glory of life. The World Olympics Games, for instance, are special because they provide a rare feeling of global community. We could witness a flowering of celebratory events over the coming years to nourish the global soul.

Shaping Consciousness

This is only one small study, of course, but I hope it provokes thinking toward a widely held vision for planet Earth at a time of crisis. An historic change in consciousness is hardly done overnight, and the obstacles posed by the status quo are formidable. But the Information Revolution provides a powerful method for shaping consciousness by using the Internet and public media. Think of the explosion of ideas, hatred and forbidden desires released by billions of people blasting into loudspeakers like Facebook and Twitter. Anybody can use the media to shape public opinion instantly, for better or worse.

The task we face is to shape a unified consciousness out of this morass of differences to solve the global crises that loom ahead. Today’s threats to reason is challenging us to counter wrongheaded beliefs and to provide more attractive visions, such as the principles for global consciousness outlined here. I suggest the place to begin is by discussing these ideas as widely as possible, and to shape public opinion roughly along these lines.

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Sep 8, 2020

Plant protein discovery could reduce need for fertilizer

Posted by in categories: chemistry, climatology, nanotechnology, sustainability

Researchers have discovered how a protein in plant roots controls the uptake of minerals and water, a finding which could improve the tolerance of agricultural crops to climate change and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

The research, published in Current Biology, shows that members of the blue copper proteins family, the Uclacyanins are vital in the formation of Casparian strips. These strips are essential structures that control mineral nutrient and water use efficiencies by forming tight seals between cells in plants, blocking nutrients and water leaking between.

This is the first evidence showing the implications of this family in the biosynthesis of lignin, one of the most abundant organic polymers on earth. This study reveals that the required for Casparian strip lignin deposition is highly ordered by forming nano-domains which can have a huge impact on plant nutrition, a finding that could help in the development of crops that are efficient in taking in the nutrients they need.

Sep 2, 2020

Gravity wave insights from internet-beaming balloons

Posted by in categories: climatology, internet, physics

Giant balloons launched into the stratosphere to beam internet service to Earth have helped scientists measure tiny ripples in our upper atmosphere, uncovering patterns that could improve weather forecasts and climate models.

The ripples, known as waves or buoyancy waves, emerge when blobs of air are forced upward and then pulled down by gravity. Imagine a parcel of air that rushes over mountains, plunges toward cool valleys, shuttles across land and sea and ricochets off growing storms, bobbing up and down between layers of stable atmosphere in a great tug of war between buoyancy and gravity. A single wave can travel for thousands of miles, carrying momentum and heat along the way.

Although lesser known than —undulations in the fabric of space-time— are ubiquitous and powerful, said Stanford University atmospheric scientist Aditi Sheshadri, senior author of a new study detailing changes in high-frequency gravity waves across seasons and latitudes. They cause some of the turbulence felt on airplanes flying in and have a strong influence on how storms play out at ground level.

Aug 29, 2020

This Week At NASA

Posted by in categories: climatology, space

This week:

🚀 The first piece of NASA’s Orion Spacecraft #Artemis III pressure vessel arrived in New Orleans
👩🏿‍🚀 Astronaut Jeanette Epps is assigned to The Boeing Company’s Starliner crewed mission
🌀 Hurricane Laura observed from space.

Aug 26, 2020

60Fe deposition during the late Pleistocene and the Holocene echoes past supernova activity

Posted by in categories: climatology, cosmology, particle physics, space travel

Nearby supernova explosions shape the interstellar medium. Ejecta, containing fresh nucleosynthetic products, may traverse the solar system as a transient passage, or alternatively the solar system may traverse local clouds that may represent isolated remnants of supernova explosions. Such scenarios may modulate the galactic cosmic-ray flux intensity to which Earth is exposed. Varying conditions of the traversed interstellar medium could have impacts on climate and can be imprinted in the terrestrial geological record. Some radionuclides, such as 60 Fe, are not produced on Earth or within the solar system in significant quantities. Their existence in deep-sea sediments demonstrates recent production in close-by supernova explosions with a continued influx of 60 Fe until today.

Nuclides synthesized in massive stars are ejected into space via stellar winds and supernova explosions. The solar system (SS) moves through the interstellar medium and collects these nucleosynthesis products. One such product is 60 Fe, a radionuclide with a half-life of 2.6 My that is predominantly produced in massive stars and ejected in supernova explosions. Extraterrestrial 60 Fe has been found on Earth, suggesting close-by supernova explosions ∼2 to 3 and ∼6 Ma. Here, we report on the detection of a continuous interstellar 60 Fe influx on Earth over the past ∼33,000 y. This time period coincides with passage of our SS through such interstellar clouds, which have a significantly larger particle density compared to the local average interstellar medium embedding our SS for the past few million years. The interstellar 60 Fe was extracted from five deep-sea sediment samples and accelerator mass spectrometry was used for single-atom counting.

Aug 26, 2020

US announces $1 billion research push for AI and quantum computing

Posted by in categories: climatology, economics, government, military, quantum physics, robotics/AI, sustainability

It’s extremely difficult to make a fair comparison of US and Chinese spend on technology like AI as funding and research in this area is diffuse. Although China announced ambitious plans to become the world leader in AI by 2030, America still outspends the country in military funding (which increasingly includes AI research), while US tech companies like Google and Microsoft remain world leaders in artificial intelligence.

The Trump administration will likely present today’s news as a counterbalance to its dismal reputation for supporting scientific research. For four years in a row, government budgets have proposed broad cuts for federal research, including work in pressing subjects like climate change. Only the fields of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, with their overt links to military prowess and global geopolitics, have seen increased investment.

“It is absolutely imperative the United States continues to lead the world in AI and quantum,” said US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios ahead of today’s announcement, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The future of American economic prosperity and national security will be shaped by how we invest, research, develop and deploy these cutting edge technologies today.”

Continue reading “US announces $1 billion research push for AI and quantum computing” »

Aug 23, 2020

Tesla’s (TSLA) $2k value could be looked at as “low priced,” investor says

Posted by in categories: climatology, economics

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) has reached the $2,000 a share price point, but one investor says that its value could be looked at as “fairly low priced” in a year or two.

It’s hard to imagine that $2,000 for a share of an automaker’s stock could look like a bargain in the current economic climate. However, the CEO of AdvisorShares, Noah Hamman, thinks that TSLA’s price now could very well be looked at as a steal in a year or two.

“It’s possible a year or two from now we think that $2,000 a share was still fairly low priced, but who knows,” Hamman said to The First Trade, which is Yahoo Finance’s opening bell show.

Aug 22, 2020

The Biggest Frog that Ever Lived

Posted by in categories: climatology, materials

Untangling the origins of Beelzebufo — the giant frog that lived alongside the dinosaurs — turns out to be one of the most bedeviling problems in the history of amphibians.

Thank you to these paleoartists for allowing us to use their wonderful illustrations:
Ceri Thomas: http://alphynix.tumblr.com/
Nobu Tamura: https://spinops.blogspot.com/
Julio Lacerda: https://252mya.com/gallery/julio-lacerda

Continue reading “The Biggest Frog that Ever Lived” »

Aug 22, 2020

Southeast Asia Megadrought: Previously Unknown Mid-Holocene Event Led to Major Changes in Human Settlement

Posted by in category: climatology

Researchers link end of Green Sahara with Southeast Asia megadrought.

Physical evidence found in caves in Laos helps tell a story about a connection between the end of the Green Sahara — when once heavily vegetated Northern Africa became a hyper-arid landscape — and a previously unknown megadrought that crippled Southeast Asia 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.

In a paper published today in Nature Communications, scientists at the University of California, Irvine, the University of Pennsylvania, William Paterson University of New Jersey and other international institutions explain how this major climate transformation led to a shift in human settlement patterns in Southeast Asia, which is now inhabited by more than 600 million people.

Continue reading “Southeast Asia Megadrought: Previously Unknown Mid-Holocene Event Led to Major Changes in Human Settlement” »

Aug 21, 2020

Mounting Climate Impacts Threaten U.S. Nuclear Reactors

Posted by in categories: climatology, nuclear energy, sustainability

Soaring temperatures, intensified flood risks and heightened water stress will threaten 57 U.S. nuclear plants over the next 20 years, forcing operators to take additional resiliency measures, according to a new report.

“The consequences of climate change can affect every aspect of nuclear plant operations—from fuel handling and power and steam generation to maintenance, safety systems and waste processing,” said the analysis, which was published yesterday by Moody’s Investors Service.

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