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The scoop: Just like coronavirus, digital media has reached its third wave. Millions of mostly conservative users are flocking to alternative media outlets like Parler and Rumble. Is it a trend or something more?
Some talking points for turkey dinner:
- Access to the internet, specifically social media, is closer to public utility than privilege.
- Tech media giants have evolved from startups to multinational corporations. They have matured well beyond the Silicon Valley VC golden child status-hood.
- Decentralized, federated social networks seem like the natural next phase for post-modern media. Will it be this year, this decade, or never?
What's next? We'll have to wait and see if major platforms like Twitter and Facebook actually see a decline in users. Right now, they seem too big to fail. Parler was the most downloaded app for most of this month. Time will tell if that's more than just a passing trend.
Dig deeper → 2 min.
Why are wildfires detrimental to our environment?
- Burn millions of acres of forests each year; trees are critical to (1) absorbing greenhouse gases to lessen the effects of climate change and (2) preserving biodiversity.
- Kill and displace wildlife.
- Disrupt water cycles and soil fertility.
- Endanger lives and livelihood of local communities.
How are drones being used to fight wildfires?
- Provide real-time support on the ground for firefighters to improve safety.
- Map weather patterns to prevent spreading of the fire to mitigate environmental destruction.
What are the benefits of a drone compared to a traditional aircraft?
- Safer since you don’t need a pilot to operate it.
- More versatile since a drone can fly in poor conditions and hard to reach spaces.
- More accurate by using GPS and imaging technologies to generate a “smart map.”
More recently, the use of drones for fire prevention in the U.S. has been gaining support from the federal government. Regulatory hurdles are starting to lessen. Plus, the civil-use of drones is now more widely accepted.
Drones are becoming a key technological advancement in fighting wildfires. They can not only protect our communities, but they can also mitigate the environmental impact caused by fires.
Dig deeper → 4 min
What is vertical farming? Indoor agriculture (like greenhouses) using vertical space to optimize crop production in a controlled environment
- Minimized pests and pesticides
- Greater precision and control over water and nutrients, less waste
- More food produced per acre of land, more sustainable for our planet in the long run
- Reduced distribution supply chains delivering fresher produce to customers at greater speed
- Higher costs
- Deep know-how and expertise required
- Limited number of crops can be grown profitably (leafy greens vs. strawberries that require more sunlight and thus more electricity)
Why vertical farming? The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted food supply chains around the world. The shift to remote work increased office space vacancies... creating an opportunity to redesign spaces. Now is a good time to rethink ways to feed a growing population, especially in urban cities. We need to better adapt to supply and demand shocks.
A touch on Big Tech Algorithmic or machine-learning solutions are applied to the biggest challenge in agriculture: optimization. Artificial intelligence (AI) helps minimize food waste by figuring out the right amount of energy, water, and nutrients required to produce food.
Bottom line With increased pressure on supply chains around the globe, rethinking traditional farming and redirecting efforts toward vertical farming (and AI) will address food security challenges and reduce waste in the future.
Dig deeper → 4 min
The scoop Tech companies can use AI to compose new songs using existing datasets of music. This poses a serious threat to musicians and artists. Let's talk about it.
About the tech
- AIVA Technologies, based in Luxembourg, created an AI that composes music for movies, commercials, games and TV shows.
- OpenAI’s Jukebox allows users to generate genre-specific music. You can look up an artist and select a genre. Theoretically, it would fuse that artist with a Mississippi the selected genre.
- Holograms tours are becoming increasingly popular. Eventually, using AI composition tools and hologram tech, deceased artists will be able to tour new music... and it will be hard to tell the difference from a standard pop concert.
- VOCALOID is a voice synthesizing software that allows users to create 'virtual pop stars'. They are already widely popular in Asia.
- Other voice synthesizing tools allow users to imitate famous voices and spit out whatever output you'd like. Copyright law hasn't caught up to this deepfake dystopian reality, so feel free to go make Jay-Z say whatever you want.
Humans > robots ... for now At least for the foreseeable future, AI is incapable of creating music without mimicking an existing data set that originated from human innovation. Similar to the way AIVA pitched their product, Artificial Intelligence can be used to help the artist speed-up and maximize the composition process. It should be treated as a tool, not a replacement.
Zoom out There will always be a place for bipedal fleshbags in the arts. With or without AI in music. Why? Because the consumers of creation are also fleshbags, and we want to be wowed and wooed by the hairy, smelly creatures that feel and squeal just like we do.
What does this have to do with sustainability? Supporting a pro-human future (in the face of tech) is a critical component of a sustainable future. We need to develop new technologies in a way that prioritizes happiness and harmony over production and profit.
Dig deeper → 9 min
What's happening Neuralink, a neural tech company owned by Elon Musk, is hosting a public event this Friday, August 28th. The event will feature a live demo of the innovative new technology.
What is Neuralink? The four by four millimeter chip sits in a sealed cylinder where it is inserted in the back of your head. Made up of 1,024 electrodes, the N1 works with your brain's neurons to solve neurological mysteries.
Musk believes the micro-chip will be able to solve any neurological disorder from Parkinson's to Alzheimer's.
Why it matters The technological prospects of solving neurological mysteries is fascinating and worthy of covering.
This emerging new era in the human timeline will make or break the human future, and quite possibly the natural world.
Some talking points
- Philosophical questions: Humans are flawed. That makes us human. If Neuralink makes our brains perfect, free of mistakes and failures, what does that world look like?
- Hacking: Technology is advancing faster than laws and regulations. Legal and compliance frameworks just can’t keep up. How can we safely stop hackers from entering our brains?
- Global inequality: When Neuralink inevitably matures into a product for convenience rather than desperation, rich kids who can afford neural chips will advance even faster beyond less-privileged peers.
Bottom line When do we take it 'too far'? Will we ever?
Let's learn the lessons of our past, and put reasonable pressure on innovative new technologies before they get too big to fail. That way we can ensure that the innovation is serving the best interest and will of the people, rather than exacerbating our greatest problems.
Dig deeper → 5 min
What's the situation? A stricken ship has leaked over 1,000 tons of oil over the coast of Mauritius. Experts fear that the ship may soon break in half, which could have devastating effects on the surrounding environment.
How did it happen? It is believed that harsh weather conditions caused the leak.
Who caused it? The cracked vessel, MV Wakashio, is operated by the Japanese Mitsui OSK Lines.
More facts The spill occurred near two environmentally protected marine ecosystems, as well as the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve. There are also mangrove plantations and well-known beaches nearby.
Threatened birds, captive fruit bats, and thousands of plants were removed from a nearby island, Ile aux Aigrettes by conservation activists.
Using technology to mitigate spills Human error is the leading cause for maritime accidents.
By integrating AI into the complicated world of global transportation, we can reduce and possibly even eliminate the risks associated with long-distance, heavy-duty shipping routes.
- Use predictive analysis to prevent spills
- Expedite response-time
- Mitigate risks for clean-up efforts
Bottom line Using AI in shipping and clean-ups lessens the risk of future spills, and reduces the impact of existing disasters.
Dig deeper → 5 min
The short answer The rollout of the 5G cellular network requires A LOT of energy. In the United States, much of that energy comes from natural gas and fossil fuels. Higher demand for energy = more gas & oil = more environmental issues.
What we know 5G emits high-frequency (millimeter waves) between 30Ghz and 300Ghz and requires antennas to be in close proximity. Due to the lack of far-reaching signals, 5G will not replace 4G LTE completely. 5G, for now at least, will serve as a complementary tool to its predecessor. This means more radiation in the air and atmosphere.
Big picture 5G requires exponentially more towers and more energy than 4G in order to function properly. This means more radiation, that we don’t understand the long-term consequences of, and more gas and oil consumption, which we do understand the consequences of.
Why it matters It boils down to four words: your health + environmental impact. Research varies widely on the subject from A-Okay to Doomsday.
Some experts point to the fact that 5G EMF radiation is non-iodizing, meaning it does not carry enough energy to iodize atoms or molecules, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer recently stated that there is still a potential risk to humans for this kind of exposure.
While there is still uncertainty on the degree to which 5G radiation can impact health, the fact remains that it has an effect. What is not uncertain, however, is the massive amounts of natural resources needed to power this far-reaching network. We should be hesitant to make our homes, businesses and cities ‘smart’ at the cost of future generations.
If you are concerned, consider the following steps:
- Protect yourself by limiting exposure to 5G-enabled devices when possible.
- Sign a petition to delay the deployment of the 5G wireless network until institutions understand and enact regulations in accordance with the potential health hazards and environmental impact.
Dig deeper → 5 min
Big picture EF Schumacher warned us that Small is Beautiful. We ignored his message. Schumacher was a German-British Statistician and Economist who believed in a human-scale, decentralized approach to technological development.
In his book, Schumacher discusses the principles of Buddhist economics and addresses how modern economic thinking causes much of the emotional distress we experience in our 21st-century lives. Yes, the book published in 1973, but it is more relevant today than it was in its time.
Why it matters Our wealth has increased across the board, but we are no happier as a species. Positive human relationships, shared emotion, fulfilling purpose — these are the tenants of a progressive society.
Drones, phones, face ID, and VR are band-aid solutions for a dispirited population. Schumacher was a visionary. He saw the society's downward path and tried putting it to a halt.
Bottom line Let’s learn the lessons of our past and present through Small is Beautiful. We can start building cities with that appreciation for nature in mind. Not for some Romantic hippie-induced utopia, but for the sake of the rational economic mind.
Dig deeper → 7 min