Thursday, April 29, 2010

Epistemic Closure

A brilliant term coined by Julian Sanchez, used to describe what seems to be the fact that American conservatives get their information and facts from themselves, rather than listening to the broader discourse.

Here, my favorite IR blogger discusses it.

It truly is unfortunate that the American Right has decided to embrace epistemic closure. There is no doubt a lot of very important opinions coming from the right, especially when it comes to financial issues that need to be heard. The argument that the healthcare bill is incredibly expensive is a rational, even integral one. Instead, the news was inundated with reports of Obama being a Socialist, Nazi etc., insane claims that don't exactly take a scholar on the matter to decipher. David Frum seems to be one of the only voices expressing such contempt for a Right, gone wrong. Many countries (I'm thinking the UK and Canada) suffer from a convergence of ideologies, so that it is almost impossible to parse some of the differences between parties. The US has taken quite the opposite stance. I believe that both approaches are flawed. Democracy flourishes with debate, as long as rationality might find a way through the chaos. If two sides are able to engage in some form of dialectic, or a conversation leading towards a greater understanding, everyone might profit. A complete convergence or divergence of ideas cannot be the best we can offer. Utopian in thinking, perhaps, but something we might strive for.

Born Free

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

The video is clearly controversial. I am not that into it, other than the fact that places like YouTube have banned it. I just have a sinking feeling that such massive internet-based, privately owned social media are becoming giant international social norm makers. Why should this video be banned? because it makes people feel uncomfortable? Well any half-witted human being can see that there are reasons why it does. 1984, Huckleberry Fin, Apocalypse Now etc. all made its audiences uncomfortable, but were equally all masterpieces that have changed our perception of the world. Yes redheaded people are singled out in this video, but it is the ludicrous nature of this act that would be the clear point of the video, in an evocation of Martin Niemoller's lucid commentary on Nazi Germany:

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

and by that time no one was left to speak up."

-in essence, telling us, the viewer, to speak up.

In the name of freedom of expression, free from hate, full of passion, outrage and careful reflection, here is "Born Free" by MIA.

Monday, April 26, 2010

IR Phone Home - Inter-Galactic Relations

In reaction to Stephen Hawking's Claim that Contacting Aliens has dangerous potential, mostly due to the fact that these beings might be like ourselves, and in search of resources having exhausted their own Planet's, Daniel Drezner delves into some Inter-galactic relations analysis:

"1) In space, does anybody understand the security dilemma? In international relations, there is at least full information about who the other actors are and where they are located. Clearly, we lack this kind of information about the known universe.

What Hawking is suggesting, however, is that efforts to collect such information would in and of themselves be dangerous, because they would announce our presence to others. He might be right. But shoiuldn't that risk be weighed against the cost of possessing a less robust early warning system? Isn't it in Earth's interests to enhance its intelligence-gathering activities?

2) Carried to its logical extreme, isn't Hawking making an argument for rapidly exhausting our natural resources? If Hawking is correct, then the sooner we run out of whatever might be valuable to aliens, the less interest we are to them. Of course, this does beg the question of which resources aliens would consider to be valuable. If aliens crave either sea water or bulls**t, then the human race as we know it is seriously screwed.

3) Why would aliens go after the inhabited planets? Ceteris paribus, I'm assuming that aliens would prefer to strip-mine an uninhabited planet abundant with natural resources than an inhabited one. Three hundred planets have already been discovered in the Milky Way, and there are "likely many billions." Even rapacious aliens might try some of them first before looking at Earth, since we are mostly harmless.

There is a counterargument, of course. Over at Hit & Run, Tim Cavanaugh tries to assuage fears of aliens by observing, "Why would a race of superintelligent jellyfish or blue whales even take notice of us, let alone want to conquer us?" This cuts both ways, however. If those jellyfish fail to notice us but notice our abundant amounts of salinated water, they could decide to come without a care in the world for the bipedal inhabitants of Earth.

4) How do we know that some human aren't already trying to contact aliens? Stephen Walt and others assume that the presence of aliens would cause humans to form a natural balancing coalition. I'm not so sure. My research into other apocalyptic scenarios suggests that some humans -- that's right, I'm looking at you, Switzerland! -- would bandwagon with the aliens. Indeed, for all we know, some humans are already trying to welcome their future alien overlords. Which begs the question -- wouldn't Hawking's isolationist policy allow the quislings to monopolize the galactic message emanating from Earth?

5) What about preventive action against the microbials? Hawking admits that most forms of extreterrestrial life will likely exist as micro-organisms. Which is swell, except that, if you believe those crazy scientist types, then humans also started off as little microbes. But if Hawking is correct about the motivations of any alien that would seek out strange new worlds, then we are missing a golden opportunity to wipe out any and (nearly) all extraterrestrial threats at the preventive stage. Perhapsw we should nuke all these emergent microbial life forms from orbit -- it's the only way to be sure. "

Read the whole thing HERE.

Lastly, speaking of Inter-galactic relations and empires... Here is a galactic empire state of mind:

"Galactic Empire State of Mind" Wall Video from Pheasant Plucker on Vimeo.

Click HERE for the finalized version of it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Burbs, for spring

Love Burberry. This is a pretty sick idea. "April Showers collection"

Check it. Click picture for link.

Also click here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just Blowing in the Wind

William and the Windmill from Randy Risling on Vimeo.

Was on TED a while ago... This is a well-shot version telling you something similar. William is a Home-Grown engineer who has created windmills from junk to pump water and create electricity for his village.

Afghan Scenarios

This site has some really cool visualizations of information. Here, they chart Afghan Scenarios. Click here:Afghan Scenarios for a hi-def version of the above picture.

Volcanos vs. Space-time Continuum

As an Icelandic Volcano reduces the Western European Space-Time Continuum to around 1900 standards, the environmental impact is another thing to consider. Here, at "Information is Beautiful" they have created a diagram contrasting CO2 emissions of the Volcano vs. the potential release of CO2 were flights not grounded in Europe (which accounts for approximately 30% of world air-travel). Pretty interesting. They keep updating the chart as information becomes available. Click HERE for the actual website.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nice Medium

The Medium Really is the Message here.

Solidarité from La Boite Concept on Vimeo.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Reverse Graffiti

This artest removes dirt to create graffiti.