We’ve Destroyed the Planet, Let’s Leave Something Beautiful Behind

We’re presently living in the anthropocene and it’s all our fault. The effects of industrialization will be felt for thousands of years to come and be evident millions of years from now (found in everything from fossil records to chemicals). There is a good chance that humanity will go extinct thanks to its own actions. You’re probably wondering where the good news is. It’s in art.

Paola Antonelli, a curator from MOMA, launched a project titled Broken Nature to address this future in the hopes it won’t happen; but if it does we will leave something beautiful behind for future life. She was recently interviewed by Fast Company about the project:

 There are two in completely different areas of the world: One is Futurefarmers by Amy Franceschini. She has a project called Seed Journey, in which a sailboat goes from Oslo to Istanbul, and it carries artists and bread bakers and activists and philosophers and carries wheat seeds that are indigenous to those different places. It’s about trying to bring back these original breeds of seeds and to also bring with them that tradition. It’s a beautiful journey by sea of biodiversity.

Another project is Totomoxtle in Mexico by Fernando Laposse. He uses the husks of corn to create new materials, and he does so by harnessing the craftsmanship of the people who grow corn breeds in different parts of Mexico. He’s also trying to help local populations revert to the indigenous breeds of corn that are maybe yielding less each year, because so much indigenous corn has been substituted by genetically modified breeds that yield more each year. Ultimately, it’s about empathy, and a love of the land and the communities.

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Let’s Rethink Punishment

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When someone breaks the law or acts out in a transgressive manner we often turn to punishment to correct their behaviour. We do this in families and as a society, but is it right? If take a moment to look at the roots of modern punishment we might conclude that it’s best to try something else.

One answer is that punishment evolved to promote the greater good and prevent tragedies of the commons. This is the altruistic approach. Yes, punishment might be costly for the punisher, but (so the theory goes) it generates downstream benefits for others – stabilising cooperation, enforcing just rules, deterring freeriders. Punishment is probably essential for maintaining and enforcing norms, laws and customs. Yet its origins appear to trace back to a time before robust human societies, perhaps even before we had language to articulate the rules. Recent research has identified contexts where dominant chimps seem to punish freeloaders. So perhaps punishment preceded the benefits it generates.

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Thinking of Your Partner can Reduce Stress

We all have moments of high stress in our lives, how we deal with the stress is up to us. One technique that could work for you is to think of your romantic partner. A recent study has shown that in a stressful situation people who were with, or thinking of, their partner demonstrated lower levels of stress. What a lovely thought.

Those who had their partner physically present in the room or who thought about their partner had a lower blood pressure response to the stress of the cold water than the participants in the control group, who were instructed to think about their day. Heart rate and heart rate variability did not vary between the three groups. 

The effect on blood pressure reactivity was just as powerful whether the partner was physically present or merely conjured mentally.

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GDPR Forces NYT to Serve Better Ads

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Online media companies were forced to rethink their advertiser policies last year because of the introduction of the GDPR. The New York Times decided to stop using ad services that tracked you across the web; exactly what the GDPR was designed to do. Most people claimed that because marketers can’t spy on you that media companies like the NYT will fail. The opposite has been proven true, revenues from advertising are up due to the fact that the NYT no longer uses these sketchy advertising services.

“The fact that we are no longer offering behavioral targeting options in Europe does not seem to be in the way of what advertisers want to do with us,” he said. “The desirability of a brand may be stronger than the targeting capabilities. We have not been impacted from a revenue standpoint, and, on the contrary, our digital advertising business continues to grow nicely.”


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Let’s Admit Intellectual Property is Nonsense

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Depending on your worldview Intellectual Property (IP) is either necessary or holds us back in terms of cultural (and economic ) development. IP applies to more than what you may think, it covers cartoons to medicine. What’s more, international trade has meant that the American approach to IP is spreading. This only favours the owners of existing IP while making it harder for new cultural works to exist. Thankfully this has been noticed by many thinkers and the conversation is changing.

The US Patent Act of 1870  and Copyright Act of 1976 treat patents and copyrights as kinds of property, therefore suggesting that intellectual property rights should be akin to tangible property rights: that is, ‘perpetual and exclusive’. But legal protections offered to intellectual property assets are utilitarian grants – they are neither perpetual nor exclusive. (Tangible property is said to be perpetual because it is yours till you dispose of it.) Their terms are limited and amenable to nonexclusive use. Patent law offers exceptions for experimental use, and prior-use rights for business methods; copyright law for fair use; trademark law for nominative use; trade secrets for reverse engineering and independent discovery.

Legal protections appropriate for tangible objects – as the drafters of the US Constitution were well aware – are a disaster in the realm of culture, which relies on a richly populated, open-for-borrowing-and-reuse public domain. It is here, where our culture is born and grows and is reproduced, that the term ‘intellectual property’ holds sway and does considerable mischief.



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