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Category Archives: Futurist

‘Where Do We Go from Here?’: On the Future of Arab Futurism – Palestine Chronicle

Posted: March 9, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Still image from Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour's 'A Space Exodus'. (Photo: File)

By Benay Blend

The title quote is taken from Martin Luther Kings Speech in 1967 on August 16, 1967, at the Eleventh Annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. Summing up past achievements, he noted that the movement had caused the walls of segregation to tumble down, a victory that he felt had to come before other gains.

He understood, however, that the struggle was far from over, so at this watershed moment he asked, how the movement might address restructuring the whole of American society.

In the era of coronavirus, Trumps Deal of the Century, and general uncertainty about the future of humanity, the present feels increasingly dystopic. How then do Palestinian practitioners of science fiction, such as the filmmaker and writer Larissa Sansour, continue to view this genre as a vehicle for creating an alternative future? How can society be restructured in the future, as King many years ago suggested when the present seems so bleak?

I contextualize Middle Eastern politics in futuristic settings, Sansour explains, an effort on her part, perhaps, to foster hope that there will indeed be a Palestinian future. Best known for her science fiction films and installations, Sansour most recently presented her video Heirloom at the Venice Biennale in May 2019. Less well-known but equally interesting was her graphic novel co-written with the Israeli artist Oreet Ashery. In The Novel of Nonel and Vovel (2009), the authors created their respective alter egos based on repeated typos of the term novel in their initial skyping.

Arab Futurism, writes the scholar Lama Suleiman, is the idea of actually revising the past in a way that is more imaginative. Consistent with that genre, The Novel concerns itself with what has not yet happened, a literary effort that is in full flight from the almost unbearable reality of the Occupation. Although Sansour does not identify as an Arab Futurist, Perwana Nazif relates that the way in which her work resonates with those who have marginalized backgrounds places it within the boundaries of the field.

For Palestinian writers, there was a break in time after Al-Nakba, the 1948 catastrophe, and since then, Palestinians have been severed from the land. Because of these ruptures, many hold tightly to the past while longing for an imagined time that is yet to come.

Sometimes leaving behind her persona to use present tense, Vovel admonished her cohort: Im sorry, Nonel, but that refers to my ex-persona only. Stop clinging to the past, woman, thereby suggesting new avenues to use historical trauma as a springboard towards a liberated future.

Reclaiming agency by imagining a future Palestine, an idea which is particularly urgent post-Trumps Deal of the Century, the pair spend much of the book fantasizing about destroying the Occupation. Their dreams become reality when they learn that the real puppet master is Dharq Djumper, ruler of the Fifth Planet, and a villain who wants to turn earth into an intergalactic vegetable garden divested of human beings. Along with a hive of feminist purple ninjas, the duo plot to destroy the evil villain.

Much like the iconic image of 20-year-old Aed Abu Amro, seen swinging a slingshot over his head, the pair destroy the gaseous planet by flinging a bomb from their giant slingshot transported on their backs. Implying that the consequences of the Occupation will continue long after liberation, Vovel notes that it was more like a saturated pre-credit to a 007 flick than a full-blown epic.

Nonel replies that every ending is a new beginning and besides, she continues, it would seem wrong to believe that they had managed to solve an old dilemma by dressing up in capes and tight suits (168). Though simplified by taking the conflict out of its present arena where it seems impossible to solve, the authors understand that peace will bring about a complex reconstructive process that could last for years.

Flash forward to Sansours installation Heirloom for the Danish Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennial. At its center is its short film In Vitro, set in a post-apocalyptic bunker in Bethlehem. In this film two survivors of an ecological disasterDunia (Hiam Abbass), a dying fighter, and Alia (Maisa Abd Elhadi), her progeny and clone, discuss the past and future.

Its about a group of scientists who managed to escape the surface of the Earth, just days before the apocalypse, and they recreated civilization in a bunker underneath the city of Bethlehem, raising a whole generation that has never seen the face of the Earth and has only experienced life in that bunker, Sansour explains.

An exchange between them plays upon the dualities of past and present, nation-states and the illusions upon which they are built. Asserts Sansour, The dialogue oscillates between questions of inherited trauma and historical narrative to personal and collective memories:

Alia: I dont believe in ghosts. Were not rebuilding the past.

Dunia: Theres no need to. The past is still there, as intact as ever.

Alia: Maybe your past is, the only past I know is here. Everything else is just fairy tales.

Dunia: Entire nations are built on fairy tales.

Influenced by Ingmar Bermans 1966 film Persona, Sansours current work has none of the whimsicality of her graphic novel. As Nat Muller, curator of Heirloom explains, her work has shifted from absurdist, an effort to resist portraying Palestinians as either victim or terrorist, to dystopian, perhaps more in tune with the times. Moreover, while she still focuses on the Middle East, it is no longer only about the Palestinian situation.

Perhaps a hint of that lies in The Novel, when Nonel and Vovel find out that it is really a third party controlling the entire world, not Israel or the United States. Her current work more clearly deals with the universal, locality that she claims centers the argument to a specific place but makes it stronger when applied to a wider debate.

As Sansour notes, What is happening in the Middle East right now is central to many of the worlds problems and should concern all of us.

This perspective is particularly relevant as solidarity between Indigenous struggles because increasingly important today. For example, in an article Solidarity Between Palestinians and Indigenous Activists Has Deep Roots, Marian Kawas explores the history of reciprocal support between Palestinians and Indigenous movements on Turtle Island.

It all goes back to colonialism, says Sansour, and how to deal with that. Its not just the problem of Palestinians, she continues, but really the burden of the entire world, especially the colonizing powers. In the end, it goes back to the hope which Futurism of any sort provides.

As Nat Muller claims, science fiction in the work of Sansour becomes a vehicle in which imaginaries and future scenarios can be challenged and tested, and in which individual narratives and personal experiences intertwine with collective ones; it becomes a place and time in which remembrance and forgetfulness compete, and where the past, the present, and even the future, might be dispossessed. Nevertheless, it is also is a realm of possibility, of alternative world-making, if not radical alterity.

In the words of my friend Rima Najjar on post-Super Tuesday 2020: Dashed hopes last night, but getting over it. After all, we Palestinians teach life, Sir. And, all is not lost.

Benay Blend earned her doctorate in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words: Situated Knowledge in the Works of Palestinian and Native American Writers. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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Scientists Say Ancient Earth Was Completely Covered in Water – Futurism

Posted: at 1:41 pm

Waterworld

Scientists at Iowa State and the University of Coloradosay theyve found compelling new evidence that the ancient Earth was an unbroken expanse of water, without a single continent. Yes: Waterworld.

The research, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, examined ancient samples of sea floor found in Australia and found chemical clues that Earth used to be a completely blue planet a discovery, the scientists say, that could have deep implications for the history of life itself.

The key finding, Iowa State geoscientist Benjamin Johnson told Live Science, was that back when the Earth was a young 1.5 billion years old, its ocean was swimming with the isotope oxygen-18.

Nowadays, he said, continental land masses suck much of the oxygen-18 out of the water. And in this ancient sample, he observed an abundance of it. So an abundance of oxygen-18 in the ancient ocean, the theory goes, implies a Waterworld scenario.

Intriguingly, Johnson says, the discovery could shift the parameters around the origin of life on Earth.

There are two major camps for the origin of life: hydrothermal vents and ponds on land, Johnson told Live Science. If our work is accurate, it means the number of environments on land for life to emerge and evolve was really small or absent until sometime after 3.2 billion years ago.

READ MORE: 1.5 billion-year-old Earth had water everywhere, but not one continent, study suggests [Live Science]

More on ancient Earth: Is There an Ancient Earth Trapped in Earths Interior? Yes, Say Harvard Scientists

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CRISPR Scientists Hack Patient’s Genes in Bid to Cure Blindness – Futurism

Posted: at 1:41 pm

For the first time, doctors have attempted to cure blindness by gene-hacking a patientwith CRISPR technology.

A team from Oregon Health & Science Institute injected three droplets of fluid that delivered the CRISPR DNA fragments directly into a patients eyeball, The Associated Press reports, in hopes that it will reverse a rare genetic condition called Leber congenital amaurosis, which causes blindness early in childhood.

We literally have the potential to take people who are essentially blind and make them see, Charles Albright, chief scientific officer of Editas Medicine, told the AP. Editas is one of the biotech companies that actually developed the treatment. We think it could open up a whole new set of medicines to go in and change your DNA.

While some genetic conditions can be treated with conventional gene therapy, which would replace the entire mutated gene rather than editing it, patients with Leber congenital amaurosis were out of luck. The gene associated with the disease is too large to replace, so doctors turned to CRISPR in a bid to edit out the faulty mutation.

Once the cell is edited, its permanent and that cell will persist hopefully for the life of the patient, Eric Pierce, a doctor at Massachusetts Eye and Ear who worked on the project, told the AP.

It will take about a month for doctors to know whether this first experiment worked, the AP reports. If it does, the team has plans to gene-hack 18 more patients kids and adults with the condition.

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Q&A: James Hamblin, MD on Why You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus – Futurism

Posted: at 1:41 pm

BACK IN FEBRUARY, James Hamblin preventive medicine M.D., published book author, staff writer for The Atlantic published a story about the COVID-19 outbreak that claimed, right in the headline:

Youre Likely to Get the Coronavirus.

Got your attention yet?

Those words sounded off-putting and extreme two weeks ago now, they just seem wildly prescient. We caught up with Hamblin on Wednesday morning to learn more about how the story came together, whats happened since, how hes dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak in his personal life, and finally, what we can possibly expect in the coming weeks. In the two days between our call and this storys publication, 5,405 more cases were confirmed.

[Because its this is a lengthy read, weve got links here for those who want to revisit it: On The Headline, On Preparedness, On What We Dont Know.]

Futurism: Jim, heres what the people want to know: As a preventive medicine doctor, lecturer on public health at Yale, and someone who writes about this shit, youre more sanitary than the rest of us.

James Hamblin: Presumably.

Presumably! So: Lets presume you already wash your hands as much as the rest of us should, and definitely touch your face less than we do. But as COVID-19 progresses, are you doing anything differently? Whether its hyper-increased use of hand sanitizer, or not going out to restaurants and bars? Have you changed anything about your life?

No.

No?

I mean, apart from barely sleeping and just thinking about this constantly.

That tracks.

Thats the only thing that changed for me.

Like everyone else in New York, I go out to restaurants. I go to bars. I get delivery. Service industry workers dont have the economic security or paid sick leave to call in if they get the sniffles. In the places those people work, there are countless potential transmission points for a virus some people dont even know they have. Do I need to start thinking about changing my habits dramatically?

[Sighs] I dont know. This could last quite a while, and we cant have all our small businesses going out of business, which is happening in China. By force. Thats where the economics could be really, really bad. Especially here in Brooklyn where restaurants operate on razor-thin margins. A small number of people who decide they dont want to eat out or go to the coffee shop will have a big effect. You dont have to, or want to, shut down the whole society.

What about, say, getting a haircut? Or whatever it is

Yeah, Im not gonna be able to advise on that. If we have shutdowns, hopefully well have some uniformity in guidance. Ideally, with really good tracking and testing, we can get an evidence-based assessment that says, okay, weve proven that a two-week citywide recommended stay-at-home is proven to be effective when caseloads have reached this level. As it is, I think theres going to be a lot of guessing games, so I dont know how evidence-based anyone can really be.

Oh, well, thats dark.

Well, the World Health Organization is praising Chinas response. And yes: if you shut down all travel, cancel all schools, close public transportation, and tell everyone to stay home? Yes, you will have fewer cases. But as with all health issues, what is realistic? And whats effective? You cant just be like: Everyone eats only salad all the time, and always sleeps eight hours a night. You need to balance it with the way life can actually be, right?

And China, for all their success, is a vastly different culture from ours, especially when it comes to municipal responses. To anything.

As a population, they saw it as a war in a way we just wont.

We wont. Which leaves us ill-equipped in so many ways

We have a much more individualistic approach to health. And that is always ideologically opposed to the way infectious diseases work.

You cant beat them as an individual.

When you talk about vaccine policy, and you talk about infectious disease, the ideology is just clear that health is not an individual endeavor. We are in this together. Vaccines dont work unless populations coordinate them.

Gotta be honest: I wanna go get shitfaced tonight, at a bar, with other New Yorkers. Will I die?

Im still going out to restaurants and bars, but I dont want to be recommending one way or another to people. Look: I know the answer here is not to close down everything at the same time, because we cant do what China did. And even they had thousands of deaths.

Asking for a friend: Lets say I just started dating someone, things are good, were four dates in. Brass tacks, here. If COVID-19 becomes endemic, does what constitutes safe sex now involve hand sanitizer?

[Exhausted] I have no idea.

But come on! Its worth asking, right?

No, no, it is. It falls into a similar level of: If a place is being hit especially hard, and resources are tight, or there are suggestions or a widespread order towards staying at home, yeah, you might not want to go have a lot of new contact with people you dont normally. But if this is someone you know, well, it would still be a higher-risk scenario than normal.

So basically these people should find each other before everyone infects everyone else, barricade themselves in an apartment with several bottles of Ciroc, a couple bags of coffee, a case of instant ramen, a half-ounce of weed, and wait this thing out?

I mean, maybe? I would wish you the best of luck.

I think what people (or what Im) looking for more than anything is a way to exert control over this situation. Are there measures past washing ones hands using sanitary paper to open and close doors, using tissue to touch a subway pole, and so on can these things actually mitigate risk?

Even if the effect is small, and it doesnt affect that many people, what we want to do is slow the spread. So small things across the population might add up, but theres no guarantees stuff like that will matter.

But theyre certainly better than most people throwing up their hands and saying fuckit, well be germy, it doesnt matter.

I think so, yeah. Better in terms of slowing transmission.

To that end, lets get into your story. When we saw it drop on February 24, this coronavirus story was not what it is now. My reflexive reaction was: Holy shit, that headline, no way thats true, but your story is looking more and more prescient as we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and watch its inexorable spread. The U.S. went from 53 to 260 confirmed cases in thirteen days, even with quarantine efforts. Globally, we went from 80,087 confirmed cases on February 24 to 101,781 on March 6. But I gotta ask: Were you concerned at all about the implications however true of publishing a headline like that?

Yeah. We were watching pretty quickly after publication how people were responding to the headline. If it felt like there was panic, or that somehow the story wasnt clear, then we were going to immediately revisit it. And we also made sure that in the sub-headline, there was a clear temporizing measure.

The sub-headline was: Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.

Right. If you interpret the term coronavirus to mean severe illness, then yeah, its super scary. And thats how a lot of people were interpreting coronavirus, at the time. The story is saying most people are not that sick. But it is a pretty blunt statement, as the fact of the matter.

How was the reaction for you, personally?

Good, mostly. There were a couple people, certainly, who were like that should probably be changed, the headline is too scary for people to handle. But nobody assumed people were going to read the headline, read the story, and still think the headline should change. If people were scrolling through their social feeds, and didnt click, they would potentially be scared, and yeah I dont want that, but

Classic Internet. People: Read past the headline, please. For the love of god.

Yeah, I know. When youre in the medical profession, being blunt is important. Being factual. But you cant not say things because you think oh, people cant handle hearing this. I dont know a more clear way to state that premise, which has panned out in a way that while not everyone many, many people who understand whats happening right now agree that this virus is causing a pandemic that will have serious repercussions.

Right. Likely as the operative term there. Not definitely. Not probably. Not possibly. But likely. Which was canny. Its broadly specific, concretely nuanced: You are likely going to catch the novel coronavirus.

[Laughs] Yeah, I thought about that one for a while.

How did this story start for you?

As a story about vaccines, with a headline about vaccines. And then I started to report it out.

Famous last words.

I talked to the epidemiologist, and then the vaccine people, who were just, like: No. Theres not gonna be a vaccine for quite a long time.

Oh, god.

Yeah. I talked to them about how people will be trying to develop the vaccine for years from now, which presumes this isnt just some isolated little thing. Were going to be putting all that money into this vaccine.

And so that let me work backwards. Which is when I started asking: How long is this gonna play out? How wide is this going to be? And why? Why is this global coalition trying to build a vaccine around something thats supposedly just in China (and maybe a couple other countries)?

It became clear that it was a much bigger problem. And wasnt being covered in that way yet.

It feels like a true sense of urgency and adult-like seriousness as the situation has called for is only just beginning just now! In March! Months after this started spreading! How do you feel, as a professional journalist and a medical professional, about the way media coverage for this has been handled?

So: I think there was a little bit of bias going in to the COVID-19 story coming from a lot of veteran science journalists who having covered Ebola and SARS saw stories get reactions that turned out to be heavily-loaded with racism and general attempts to use the moment to shut down borders, profile foreigners, and so on. The general stance of a lot of people who covered those previous stories was like: No.

No, as in, no, we wont give into what this could result in? You think there was a reluctance from journalists to buy into COVID-19s impact?

There was initial skepticism. To shutting down air travel with China, for example, as a sort of perceived political gesture. But that shutdown seems now to have been a prudent move social distancing and travel restrictions are the core principle of containment in public health.

Howd you end up on the correct side of this story one of serious concern two weeks before much of the rest of the world caught up?

I was in a unique position. Ive been talking to a lot of people in and around this story for quite a while. I was seeing more uncertainty than Im used to among the truly smart doctors and scientists, who usually have a clear take on where things are going, and how they should or would likely progress.

And from there?

I was trying to understand, first: What is the diseases progression? How much is it spreading? And how would people know when to go to a doctor? Then: What is the countrys level of preparedness for this?

And I couldnt get good answers to all these questions.

And I still quite cant.

Uhh.

Right. I started to get worried, and yeah, theres not a benefit to anyone panicking, but there are people who are not taking this seriously. And that clearly has been from the top-down administrative downplaying of the moment.

To say weve been in a unique political climate for the last four years would be understating the case, but, gotta say, I didnt think a self-professed germaphobe who proudly wields fear like a cudgel would be downplaying a potential pandemic. Yet here we are. And the media has largely, until very recently, followed suit.

Again, that was probably from preexisting issues. Weve been saved from these kinds of things in America Ebola, MERS, et al except for influenza. And we have this sort of American exceptionalism, in the sense of thinking our healthcare system is better than it is when, in fact, were very vulnerable.

Is that what worries you the most about whats happening in America, right now?

Im concerned about the preparedness of any healthcare system.

How so?

We have market forces which dictate that most hospitals try to operate around 90 percent capacity at all times because its not profitable to have a bunch of empty beds. At times when you have a surge of patients, typically, you can transfer people. If theres a natural disaster or a big fire or something, well airlift people out of New York or New Jersey to Connecticut, and those hospitals can use their extra capacity to help out.

But when you have something that hits in a bunch of places, all at once, thats infectious, and you dont necessarily want to transfer patients and possibly the infection to another hospital beyond capacity?

Yeah, thats what Im really worried about. Thats what Im looking into, now.

Shit.

Im not saying thats going to happen! Everyone hopes thats not going to happen.

But the right approach seems to be (as ever) hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

I dont think people are panicking and doing anything harmful. Im not telling you to not leave your house or something. Yet. I mean, there might be moments when we need to. But the Presidential administration and local health departments and hospitals are behind the ball. Theyre behind the ball on testing. Im hoping that everyone is preparing for these surges in a way that will not be wasted.

Lets get into why COVID-19 is such a distinct threat. My impression is: While not as deadly as other terrifying viruses like SARS or MERS, what makes this one such an insane outlier is simply the way asymptomatic people people who look completely, totally fine can be spreading around something with a 1-3 percent morbidity rate totally unbeknownst to them and us. Those other ones, they spread through people who were quite obviously symptomatic, yeah?

Yeah, or they just didnt spread as well there are different aerosolization numbers about how much each of these spreads from any given person. And each of these viruses have different infectious windows, and COVID-19 seems to have a long one.

SARS and MERS werent so infectious (or as infectious as this) for multiple different reasons. And the people who had them got very sick, and just werent out in the community. A virus ideally wants you to be out there spreading it for as long as you can. A virus doesnt want to have you laid up in bed or are dead. This sort of novel virus happens usually when its transferred from animals to humans it doesnt make sense for these viruses or for us to work this way. You know, most of the microbes we live with are totally symbiotic and helpful and or neutral. And when something starts to kill us like this, and be as transmissible as it is, its just a kind of a perfect storm.

A perfect storm, aided by the fact its not getting as much attention from the public as it should.

Well, this isnt getting the attention it deserves all at once because the fatality rate sticks in peoples minds. You know, as in: Oh, if its less than 2 percent, or 1 percent, then my odds personally are pretty good.

Right. Like Trump said, COVID-19 doesnt disintegrate you, so its not as bad. As though being disintegrated is somehow the low bar.

Yeah, youre not bleeding from your eyes, and many of these symptoms are symptoms most people have had before or have been through. But in aggregate, there are hundreds of thousands of deaths every year from the flu. And this looks to be very much its own thing. No one wants to put numbers on this, because they could turn out to be very wrong. But this is a similar creature to that. And were working hard to treat and contain it now, and identify it in a way that we just kind of dont with the flu. People are much more complacent about the flu than weve been with this. So theres hope that they wont go that far but it is a virus that has the capacity to.

In its most extreme presentations, what differentiates COVID-19 from something like MERS?

I dont know if Im qualified to answer that. Theres a lot of varying information, and things are turning out to be wrong, and a lot of its coming from China. And, you know, they initially said it was not transmissible human-to-human. And then they said: Oh, a little bit.

Got that one wrong.

Yeah. And even the W.H.O. just doubled their fatality rate that theyre reporting basically from less than 2 percent to 3.4 percent. And that is not what Im hearing from other smart people who think its probably much lower, but we just arent testing wide enough to know. So, theres just a lot of variables right now. Exact breakdowns of mild versus severe mild, moderate, and severe cases. Men versus women. These are all questions we have some idea of, but theres not enough information yet.

So, that hits a nerve. When you read about something like the story about the doctor in Wuhan, the whistleblower, a 33 year-old, dying from a COVID-19 infection, you start to become very, very concerned. Because, correct me if Im wrong, but a 33 year-old doctor is the profile of an otherwise healthy, not-so-at-risk patient.

Right. And thats what scares people. Thats what sends people into panic mode, and thats what happened with H1N1, which was actually one of the lightest flu years weve had in recent history. We were getting lots of news alerts about H1N1 because of precisely that. It was taking people who were in the prime of life, and healthy. Its a fascinating principle in infectious diseases. We get upset when they get people who are not supposed to die. When you have an 80 year-old person with chronic pulmonary disease who gets pneumonia, no one is extremely shocked. Its when the high school quarterback dies, where despite aggressive medical care, and everything was done right, when people start thinking: Oh, wait, that doesnt seem right. And that happened with H1N1. So it doesnt actually have to kill a lot of healthy young people for there to be quite a great amount of panic.

If two healthy-looking people contract COVID-19, is there any kind of genetic predisposition or will we learn of one that might put one of these people more at risk than the other?

Yeah, I dont know about that.

So, basically, its a crapshoot among healthy people?

I mean, look: The immune system is complex, and reacts in weird ways. Theres lots of different variables that go into any one persons immune response.

Going out and trying to buy so-called immunity boosters turmeric, Emergen-C those things arent going to help, right? Not because theyre snake oil, but because its a crapshoot, anyway, right?

No. A vaccine would help.

Yeah.

Immune response is a balance. If its too strong, you get autoimmune diseases that hurt you. And if you dont have an immune system, you get killed by the pathogen thats infecting you. You want a balance of something thats just accurately identifying what needs to be eradicated from the body, and doing it, and not doing much more. All the symptoms that youre feeling runny nose, and fever, and cough are the bodys immune system trying to eradicate this. You want that stuff to be happening because it means youre fighting it off. But you could also die from too strong of an immune reaction. The things that you understand to affect your baseline immune system are always going to be in play. Stress, and sleeping, and eating well: Nobodys suggesting that these are things anyone should be doing uniquely now.

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Elon Musk: New Self-Driving Features Will Come Out This Month – Futurism

Posted: at 1:41 pm

No Hands!

According to a tweet by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the electric car company is going to release more [Full Self-Driving] features later this month.

While Musk hasnt confirmed what these features will turn out to be, we can make some educated guesses and it might even be thelong-awaited City Autopilot feature.

Teslasalready have an intelligent lane-keep assist and cruise control as part of their included Autopilot package. Full Self-Driving Capability (FSD), however, comes at a steep $7,000 extra and allows the car to get on and off highways, change lanes, parallel park, and even navigate parking lots autonomously.

Despite its name, the FSD package does not currently allow Tesla vehicles to completely take care of driving. Human drivers still have to keep their hands on the steering wheel with eyes on the road.

As such, the name has rubbed some lawmakers the wrong way. Last year, EU regulators required Tesla to roll back some Autopilot features.

So whats next? Tesla has been promising automatic driving on city streets since February 2019, as Electrek points out. This means Tesla vehicles could learn how to read traffic lights and stop signs and navigate around built-up areas, not just highways.

The carmaker even promised the city streets feature to be coming later this year, according to Electrek except that was 2019.

READ MORE: Tesla to release more self-driving features in March city street autopilot? [Electrek]

More on Tesla: Tesla Computer Hardware Stuns Competitors: We Cannot Do It

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New Theory Could Explain Exoplanets With "Density of Cotton Candy" – Futurism

Posted: at 1:41 pm

Perplexing Puffs

If you were dreaming of moons made of cheese and cotton candy exoplanets, you may have to dream a little harder. Super-puffs, a strange class of exoplanets whose oblong appearance suggested they must have the density of cotton candy to exist, may have a slightly more complicated reality. New calculations, published late February inThe Astronomical Journal, suggest the shape of such planets could be explained if they actually had rings.

In our solar system, all gas and ice giant planets, like Saturn, have rings. But finding ringed exoplanets in other solar systems has proven surprisingly difficult. Measuring exoplanets radii is done in transit that is, when a planet crosses in front of its star relative to Earth, the path dims the light of its star enough to be measured.

We started to wonder, if you were to look back at us from a distant world, would you recognize Saturn as a ringed planet, or would it appear to be a puffy planet to an alien astronomer? Shreyas Vissapragada, a researcher from the California Institute of Technology asked in a press release.

To test the theory, Vissapragada and team simulated what a ringed exoplanet would like in in transit to an astronomer at a distance, and how the material of the rings would affect its appearance. Their work determined the presence of rocky rings could explain some strange super-puffs, but not all of them. Unfortunately, following up on their simulations will require waiting for the launch of NASAs heavily delayed James Web Telescope, assuming it launches next year.

READ MORE:What if mysterious cotton candy planets actually sport rings? [Phys.org]

More on Super-puffs: These Rare Exoplanets Have the Density of Cotton Candy

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Anti-Coke Lawsuit: "Plastic Is Set to Outweigh Fish in the Ocean" – Futurism

Posted: at 1:41 pm

Environmental group Earth Island Institute filed a lawsuit in California last week against Coke, Pepsi, Nestl, and a number of other plastic polluters for knowingly misleading the public about how much of their produced plastic is being recycled (and landing in the ocean instead), VICE reports.

These companies should bear the responsibility for choking our ecosystem with plastic, said David Phillips, executive director of Earth Island Institute, in a statement sent to The Guardian. They know very well that this stuff is not being recycled, even though they are telling people on the labels that it is recyclable and making people feel like its being taken care of.

At this rate, plastic is set to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050, the complaint reads, as quoted by VICE. The complaint also alleges that the ten companies named in the suit are guilty of engaging in a decades-long campaign to deflect blame for the plastic pollution crisis to consumers.

This is the first suit of its kind, Phillips said in a statement. These companies are going to have to reveal how much theyve known about how little of this stuff is being recycled.

According to 2017 numbers, the US only recycled roughly nine percent of all produced plastic with the rest ending up in incinerators (about 12 percent), or the landfill.

And that was before China, formerly Americas largest importer of recycling materials, banned most types of plastic imports in 2018. The ban is causing recycling programs across the globe to stall and landfills to pile up.

Beverage companies shot back saying that they were already working on a solution, of course:

Americas beverage companies are already taking action to address the issue by reducing our use of new plastic, investing to increase the collection of our bottles [], and collaborating with legislators and third-party experts to achieve meaningful policy resolutions, read a statement by an American Beverage Association spokesman, as quoted by Bloomberg.

READ MORE: Coke and Pepsi sued for creating a plastic pollution nuisance [The Guardian]

More on plastic: China Announces Plan to Ban Single-Use Plastics

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The importance of lifelong learning in the future of work – Fast Company

Posted: at 1:41 pm

Picture yourself at a college graduation day, with a fresh cohort of students about to set sail for new horizons. What are they thinking while they throw their caps into the air? What is it with this thin sheet of paper that makes it so precious? Its not only the proof of acquired knowledge but plays into the reputation game of where you were trained. Being a graduate from Harvard Law School carries that extra glitz, doesnt it? Yet take a closer look, and youll see that the diploma is the perfect ending to the modern tragedy of education.

Why? Because universities and curricula are designed along the three unities of French classical tragedy: time, action, and place. Students meet at the university campus (unity of place) for classes (unity of action) during their 20s (unity of time). This classical model has traditionally produced prestigious universities, but it is now challenged by the digitalization of societywhich allows everybody who is connected to the internet to access learningand by the need to acquire skills in step with a fast-changing world. Universities must realize that learning in your 20s wont be enough. If technological diffusion and implementation develop faster, workers will have to constantly refresh their skills.

The university model needs to evolve. It must equip students with the right skills and knowledge to compete in a world where value will be derived largely from human interaction and the ability to invent and interpret things that machines cannot, as the English futurist Richard Watson puts it. By teaching foundational knowledge and up-to-date skills, universities will provide students with the future-proof skills of lifelong learning, not just get them job-ready.

Some universities already play a critical role in lifelong learning as they want to keep the value of their diplomas. This new role comes with a huge set of challenges, and needs largely to be invented. One way to start this transformation process could be to go beyond the five-year diploma model to adapt curricula to lifelong learning. We call this model the lifelong passport.

The bachelors degree could be your passport to lifelong learning. For the first few years, students would learn to learn and get endowed with reasoning skills that remain with them for the rest of their lives. For instance, physics allows you to observe and rationalize the world, but also to integrate observations into models and, sometimes, models into theories or laws that can be used to make predictions. Mathematics is the language used to formulate the laws of physics or economy, and to make rigorous computations that turn into predictions. These two disciplines naturally form the foundational pillars of education in technical universities.

Recent advances in computational methods and data science push us into rethinking science and engineering. Computers increasingly become principal actors in leveraging data to formulate questions, which requires radically new ways of reasoning. Therefore, a new discipline blending computer science, programming, statistics, and machine learning should be added to the traditional foundational topics of mathematics and physics. These three pillars would allow you to keep learning complex technical subjects all your life because numeracy is the foundation upon which everything else is eventually built.

According to this new model, the Master of Science (MSc) would become the first stamp in the lifelong learning journey. The MSc curriculum should prepare students for their professional careers by allowing them to focus on acquiring practical skills through projects.

Those projects are then intertwined with fast-paced technical modules learned on-the-fly and at will depending on the nature of the project. If, for instance, your project is developing an integrated circuit, you will have to take a module on advanced concepts in microelectronics. The most critical skills will be developed before the project even starts, in the form of boot camps, while the rest can be fostered in tandem with the project, putting them to immediate use and thus providing a rich learning context.

In addition to technical capabilities, the very nature of projects develops transversal, social, and entrepreneurial skills, such as design thinking, initiative taking, team leading, activity reporting, or resource planning. Not only will those skills be de facto integrated into the curriculum but they will be very important to have in the future because they are difficult to automate.

In short, the new MSc diploma becomes a portfolio of accomplished projects and a list of technical skills learned in modules. This portfolio is open-ended and must be updated throughout life, as technologies and their applications change faster than ever.

After the MSc diploma is earned, there would be many more stamps of lifelong learning over the years. If universities decide to engage in this learning model, they will have to cope with many organizational challenges that might shake their unity of place and action. First, the number of students would be unpredictable. If all of a universitys alumni were to become students again, cohorts would be much bigger than they are now, and it could become unsustainable for the campus in terms of both size and resources. Second, freshly graduated students would mix with professionally experienced ones. This would change the classroom dynamics, perhaps for the best. Project-based learning with a heterogeneous team reflects the reality of the professional world and could therefore be a better preparation for it.

Sound like science fiction? In many countries, part-time studying is not exceptional: on average across OECD countries, part-time students in 2016 represented 20% of enrollment in tertiary education. In many countries, this share is higher and can exceed 40% in Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden.

If lifelong learning were to become a priority and the new norm, diplomas, just like passports, could be revalidated periodically. A time-determined revalidation would ease administration for everybody. Universities as well as employers and employees would know when they have to retrain. For instance, graduates from the year 2000 would have to come back in 2005.

This could fix the main organizational challenges for the university, but not for the learners, due to lack of time, family obligations, or funds. Here, online learning might be an option because it allows you to save your travel time, but it has its limits. So far, none of the major employers associated with online learning platforms such as Coursera and Udacity has committed to hire or even interview graduates of their new online programs.

Even if time were not an issue, who will pay for lifelong learning? Thats the eternal debate: should it be the learners responsibility, that of his employer, or of the state? For example, in Massachusetts, the healthcare professions require continuing education credits, which are carefully evidenced and documented. Yet the same states lawyers dont require continuing legal education, although most lawyers do participate in it informally. One explanation is that technology is less of factor in law than it is in healthcare.

Europe has many scenarios, but the French and Swiss ones are interesting to compare. In France, every individual has a right to lifelong learning organized via a personal learning account called compte personnel de formation that is credited as you work. In Switzerland, lifelong learning is a personal responsibility and not a government one. However, employers and the state encourage continuing education either by funding parts of it or by allowing employees to attend it. A report on the future of work for the McKinsey Global Institute found that 89% of companies in Switzerland in 2015 supported further training courses, and 44% of all those employed by companies with at least 10 employees took part in training courses.

Universities have a fundamental role to play in this journey, and higher education is in for a change, similar to that experienced by the French classical theatre model in the 19th century. In 1830, Victor Hugo proposed a Romantic tragedy, Hernani, that would overturn the three unities. To ensure that the censors would not prohibit his play, Hugo assembled a romantic army by gathering enough of a crowd for the opening night. Not only was Hernani allowed but it had 100 performances, breaking the monopoly of the old model. Just like classical theatre, the old university model produced talent and value for society. We are not advocating its abolition but rather calling for the adaptation of its characteristics to meet the needs of today.

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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This Futuristic Tire Concept Regrows Its Tread by Popping a Pill – Futurism

Posted: at 1:41 pm

ReCharge

Tire maker Goodyear debuted a futuristic tire concept on Tuesday, called ReCharge, that has the ability to regrow its tread using a special liquid compound capsule.

Since the Geneva Motor Show was cancelled this year due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we get to watch the flashy announcement video and read the press release from the comfort of our own homes.

The capsule think of it as a Tide Pod for your car tire contains a special reloadable and biodegradable tread compound that enables the tire to grow more tread.

Just to be clear, it doesnt exist yet. But if Goodyear were to actually build it, the material would be made from a biological material with fibres inspired by [] spider silk, according to the statement.

Goodyear envisions different pods for different road conditions, skipping the tedious chore of swapping your all-seasons for a set of winter tires. And theres another bonus: youd never experience downtime related to punctures.

Did we mention the pods would use artificial intelligence to create a perfect pod to suit the drivers exact needs?

Its far from the first wacky concept dreamed up by the company. Last year, Goodyear invented a wheel that can double as a flying car propeller, and in 2018, it dreamed up a moss-filled tire that aims to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

But for now, of course, these are all just concepts.

READ MORE: Goodyear ReCharge concept tire regrows tread by taking a pill [CNET]

More on Goodyear: Goodyears New Concept Tire Doubles as a Flying Car Propeller

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Economist: Springfield is ‘on the cusp.’ Here’s what it needs to do to take the next step. – News-Leader

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 1:10 am

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Nationally recognized futurist and economist Rebecca Ryan delivers the keynote speech during the Springfield Business Development Corporation's 2020 Annual Meeting at the University Plaza Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.(Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)

The way economist and futurist Rebecca Ryan sees it, Springfield is on the cusp of greatness.

When Ryan was here 10 years ago to help establish a network of young professionals, downtown wasn't yet the booming place it is now. The airport has sincegrown and changed.

But the city is still short of where it wants to be perhaps "stuck" like the rest of the country in a time of great uncertainty and upheaval.

Ryan said like the seasons, the United States goes through phases of prosperity, growth, stagnation and revolution.

This time, like during the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Great Depression, Americans are facing a "winter" period that will make way for spring.

In a Friday speech before the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce's development arm, Ryan encouraged attendees to prepareby looking toward the horizon.

A large crowd filled the University Plaza Convention Center to hear nationally recognized futurist and economist Rebecca Ryan deliver the keynote speech during the Springfield Business Development Corporation's 2020 Annual Meeting on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.(Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)

"During these winter periods is where great change can happen," she said. "When spring comes again, the competition is going to get even fiercer."

In order to make way for that future, Ryan referenced the city's comprehensive planning effort, during which the community is talking about what it'd like to see happen in the next 20 years.

During these winter periods is where great change can happen. When spring comes again, the competition is going to get even fiercer.

She noted that the city hopedto craft a more cohesive image and beautify the streets in its last visioning effort 20 years ago and didn't get it done.

State of the State: Here are four things that stood out in Gov. Parson's speech

Hundreds of Springfieldians said they'd still like to see the city create a "brand" for itself.

Ryan suggested they look toward Milwaukee.

TheMilwaukee Art Museum hired a Spanish architect and in 2001completed a building with a moveable sunscreen that unfolds each day like wings and is designed to serve as a symbol and mimic the "culture of Lake Michigan," according to the art museum's website.

The building has become an icon for the city, and Ryan said it was a bold and forward-thinking vision that made it a reality.

She also suggested residents look toward Henry Ford when they talk about quality-of-life and housing issues.

Nationally recognized futurist and economist Rebecca Ryan delivers the keynote speech during the Springfield Business Development Corporation's 2020 Annual Meeting at the University Plaza Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.(Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)

When he started manufacturing his famous Model T in the 1900s, Ford paid his employees $5 a day the equivalent of just over $16 an hour today.

Ryan said that sort of pay structure, which allowed his employees to afford a Model T themselves, encouraged other employers to follow suit and resulted in a robust middle class for decades.

In Springfield's case, Ryan said the city should focus on building a place that works for its residents, whether that comes through public transportation, making public spaces more friendly for interaction or creating a sense of place.

Missouri rep: Thousands of kids taken off Medicaid were likely eligible for benefits

But in order to make those big, bold changes, Ryan told attendees they should expect resistance.

Nationally recognized futurist and economist Rebecca Ryan moves through the crowd as she delivers the keynote speech during the Springfield Business Development Corporation's 2020 Annual Meeting at the University Plaza Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.(Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)

In the Civil War, she said, Union soldiers had to combat the opposition of Confederate soldiers, who wanted to maintain the status quo and continued slavery.

Ryan said in order to truly create change, people should lean into those difficulties and help bring others along for the ride if they can.

"Greatness never comes out of the voice of fear," she said.

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