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Friday, April 26, 2019

Telomeres don't fail me now

Thinking about writing a new song (w/ apologies to Little Feat), as I sit here in Baltimore still awaiting the egregiously late arrival of our moving van. Pondering the increasingly noticeable effects of the relentless stressors of the past few years (including this one).

I only think I'm still 18. 73 yr old Coot in Training. Who is this declining-muscle-tone, achy-breaky-back nascent geriatric staring back at me from the mirror? He looks like my late Pop.

Loving our new neighborhood, btw (the Baltimore city "Homeland" district). Everyone is so friendly.

More to come...

Monday, April 22, 2019

An #EarthDay reflection from Baltimore

Still waiting on our (late now on this end) moving truck, sleeping on an air mattress, hotspotting, sitting in fold-up camping chairs, and eating with plastic utensils. A laudatory Yelp review is increasingly unlikely.

I tweeted:

It's now up.

Read all of it carefully. Fine writing, astute, sobering reflections. Eventually none of us will escape the wrath of the unleashed Anthropocene, intractable dilettante denialisms notwithstanding.

See also Ron's excellent 2015 piece "The Sea Also Rises."

Relatedly, I'm well into Bill McKibbin's new book.

Thirty years ago Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about climate change. Now he broadens the warning: the entire human game, he suggests, has begun to play itself out.
Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature -- issued in dozens of languages and long regarded as a classic -- was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger is broader than that: even as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience. 
Falter tells the story of these converging trends and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control. And then, drawing on McKibben’s experience in building, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change, it offers some possible ways out of the trap. We’re at a bleak moment in human history -- and we’ll either confront that bleakness or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away.

Falter is a powerful and sobering call to arms, to save not only our planet but also our humanity.
Is it too early to start drinking? (He asks, Samuel Adams Summer Ale already in hand.)


Still no moving van. Unreal. But, yesterday I at least got WiFi hooked up so we can quit piling up those exorbitant Verizon hotspotting bandwidth overage charges.

Eyeball deep into Bill McKibbin's book. This gentle man and astute analytical writer (my analogy is "the James Taylor of environmental journalism") has had death threats over his findings and views? Shameful.

Remediation time is seriously abating, at an accelerating pace. None of us may survive the worst of what looms, should our rigid aggregate denialism continue. McKibben concludes,
…So, yes, we can wreck the Earth as we’ve known it, killing vast numbers of ourselves and wiping out entire swaths of other life—in fact, as we’ve seen, we’re doing that right now. But we can also not do that. We could instead put a solar panel on the top of every last one of those roofs that I described at the opening of this book, and if we do, then we will have started in a different direction. We can engineer our children, at least a little now and doubtless more in the future—or we can decide not to. We can build our replacements in the form of ever-smarter robots, and we can try to keep ourselves alive as digitally preserved consciousnesses—or we can accept with grace that each of us has a moment and a place.

I do not know that we will make these choices. I rather suspect we won’t—we are faltering now, and the human game has indeed begun to play itself out. That’s what the relentless rise in temperature tells us, and the fact that we increasingly spend our days staring glumly at the rectangle in our palm. But we could make those choices. We have the tools (nonviolence chief among them) to allow us to stand up to the powerful and the reckless, and we have the fundamental idea of human solidarity that we could take as our guide.

We are messy creatures, often selfish, prone to short-sightedness, susceptible to greed. In a Trumpian moment with racism and nationalism resurgent, you could argue that our disappearance would be no great loss. And yet, most of us, most of the time, are pretty wonderful: funny, kind. Another name for human solidarity is love, and when I think about our world in its present form, that is what overwhelms me. The human love that works to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, the love that comes together in defense of sea turtles and sea ice and of all else around us that is good.

The love that lets each of us see we’re not the most important thing on earth, and makes us okay with that. The love that welcomes us, imperfect, into the world and surrounds us when we die.

Even—especially—in its twilight, the human game is graceful and compelling.

McKibben, Bill. Falter (pp. 255-256). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
Taking it back to the top,
Thirty years ago, in 1989, I wrote the first book for a wide audience on climate change—or, as we called it then, the greenhouse effect. As the title indicates, The End of Nature was not a cheerful book, and sadly its gloom has been vindicated. My basic point was that humans had so altered the planet that not an inch was beyond our reach, an idea that scientists underlined a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene

This volume is bleak as well—in some ways bleaker, because more time has passed and we are deeper in the hole. It offers an account of how the climate crisis has progressed and of the new technological developments in fields such as artificial intelligence that also seem to me to threaten a human future. Put simply, between ecological destruction and technological hubris, the human experiment is now in question. The stakes feel very high, and the odds very long, and the trends very ominous. So, I have no doubt that there are other books that would offer readers a merrier literary experience. [ibid, pg. 1]
 The span between these excerpts is depressingly compelling. See also

Another scary read.

More to come...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Made it safely to Baltimore

What a trek. Eight days, seven nights, dogs and cats in tow in 2 cars. Car trouble and severe weather in OKC. Now we await our moving truck. Hotspotting briefly and episodically off my iPhone.

Lots of time in the car to think. Between NPR stations, classical music, country music, (a tad of hip-hop), Hannity and Limbaugh (ugh)--and lots of JEEEEE-sus..

Giving lots of thought to this:

apropos of a prior post.


More to come...

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Moving day

Truck comes today. KHIT will likely be dark for a week (leaving early Tuesday) as we traverse the country to Baltimore in convoy, dogs and cats in tow. Maybe I'll find time for updates enroute.

Yard signs in our new Baltimore neighborhood. Perfect.


Reviewed in Science Magazine:

…Topol describes the basics of so-called “deep” neural networks—“algorithms that permit software to train itself to perform tasks by processing multilayered networks of data”—by summarizing the kinds of problems for which these methods have been remarkably successful and reciting the litany of concerns arising from inscrutable decisions made by such networks (“baked in” biases, privacy issues, and the susceptibility of computer models to seemingly imperceptible changes to input data). “[They] still don't know exactly what features account for its success,” he writes about a Stanford computer program that matches the diagnostic success rate of dermatologists.

Most AI successes so far in health care have come from the application of image-interpretation methods in domains such as radiology, pathology, dermatology, and ophthalmology. Many of these strategies are restricted, for now, to the research literature, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a handful of such systems.

Techniques for assisting what Topol calls “clinicians without patterns”—medical professionals who make assessments and formulate plans by integrating heterogeneous data from a patient's records, medical literature, and talking with patients and their families—are at even earlier stages of development. These include digesting the medical literature in general internal medicine, diagnosing atrial fibrillation in cardiology, identifying the best available treatment in oncology, introducing precision robotics in surgery, and interpreting subtle cues from online communications in mental health (to which he devotes an entire chapter). Later chapters examine how AI could enhance the operations of the overall health system, aid in basic scientific discovery, and help bring nutrition and diet into consideration.

Last, Topol turns to his vision of how AI can provide a virtual medical assistant to clinicians and how these technologies can lead to the resurgence of the empathy-based care that Topol—and many others—miss in current health care. “AI can help achieve the gift of time with patients,” and that extra time can develop empathy, which “is not something machines can truly simulate.”…
I don't have time right now, but I'll get to it.Wonder what Seamus O'Mahony might think?


My moving truck is late, [bleep]. Now expected to arrive this evening. Not happy. Supposed to arrive yesterday.

Word of the day: "erisology." Interesting. The scholarly study of intractable disagreement. I have an interest there. Also, see my prior post "A 'Science of Deliberation'?"

More to come...

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The noise from wind turbines causes cancer?

So sayeth the 45th POTUS.

Who knew?
“If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value. And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay? Rerrrr rerrrr!”
Okeee-Dokeee then.