Quote from the book “Soul Mountain” by Gao Xingjian. The protagonist is trying to find ancient forests and follows some biologists who are tracking and studying pandas. He asks what scientific value there is in trying to save the giant panda:

“It’s symbolic, it’s a sort of reassurance – people need to deceive themselves. We’re preoccupied with saving a species which no longer has the capacity for survival and yet on the other hand we’re charging ahead and destroying the very environment for the survival of the human species itself. Look at the Min River you came along on your way in here, the forests on both sides have been stripped bare. The Min River has turned into a black muddy river but the Yangtze is much worse yet they are going to block off the river and construct a dam in the Three Gorges! Of course it’s romantic to indulge in wild fantasy but the place lies on a geological fault and has many documented records of landslides throughout its history. Needless to say, blocking off the river and putting up a dam will destroy the entire ecology of the Yangtze River basin but if it leads to earthquakes the population of hundreds of millions living in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze will become fish and turtles! Of course no-one will listen to an old man like me, but when people assault nature like this nature inevitably takes revenge!” (p. 48)

The video series “Dissolving Realities” by digital artist Ruben Fro are disturbing, yet fascinating. Via @Kottke.

AT Spui25 in Amsterdam for the book launch of “Secrecy and Methods in Security Research”. The pannelists gave presentations about their chapters in the book and discussed how they deal with secrecy in research. One common idea that the authors in this book tackle is to see secrecy not as an obstancle, but as a way to understand an organisation. In this way secrecy becomes productive or a research object of itself.

As a long time ago player of the online role-playing game World of Warcraft I found this video about “5 Ways Classic WoW Has Changed” quite interesting. The game is quite old but has been recently re-released. The maker of this video goes into some of aspects on how even though it is mostly the same game, it is played in a drastically different form. The main difference I understand that there is a lot more knowledge sharing of how the game should be “played optimally”. Which has been made possible through the rise of for example live streaming, Youtube, etc.

With Classic WoW been out for a few months now, the game is played in a very different way than how it was played in the past! In this video I go over some of the ways gameplay has changed over the years!

Philosophy Overdose published this short clip of Michel Foucault discussing power in an interview with André Berten from 1981.

The “Institute of Human Obscolescence” is creating thought provoking speculative fiction artwork about changes in labour from advances in artificial intelligence and possible “human obscolescence”.

One project is called “biological labour” and envisages how bodies may produce elecricity for mining cryptocurrency:

A single human body at rest radiates 100 watts of excess heat. We created a body-suit that uses thermoelectric generators to harvest the temperature differential between the human body and ambient and converts it into usable electricity. The electricity generated is then fed to a computer that produces cryptocurrency.

Abacus, a unit of the South China Morning Post, published an article on how facial recognition technology is causing issues in China as people wear masks as a preventive measure against the new corona virus:

For hundreds of millions of people in China, the spread of the new coronavirus has caused abrupt changes to the smallest of habits – even a gesture that most in the country are used to by now: Looking into the camera for facial recognition.

Residents donning surgical face masks while venturing outside their homes or meeting strangers have found themselves in an unfamiliar conundrum. With their faces half-covered, some are unable to unlock their phones or use mobile payments with their faces.

Read the full article from abacus news.

Facebook made available a new tool this week which allows users to see which businesses have shared information from these users with Facebook. Although lucklily only one, I was suprised to see that one company shared a purchase with Facebook without me being aware. The Verge reported on the release.

As usual the tool is hidden somewhere in the settings: Settings —> Your Facebook Information —> Off-Facebook Activity.

Politico Europe reports on a controversy surrounding the use of food labels in Europe. A method developed in France that uses a “traffic light scheme” is being questioned by the Italian government. This “Nutri-Score” uses an algorithm to produce a score based on the types of nutrients. The coding scheme is gaining traction in several Member States. But according to the Italian government it gives some Italian gourmet food a bad score, and they are therefore proposing their own alternative which “resembles a charging light-blue battery” to classify food. Great example of standards in the making and ontological politics.

Read the full Politico.eu articles here and here.

Anthrpology News posted an article in relation to a call for papers on research about the 200th anniversary of the Monroe doctrine, a United States policy which opposed European colonialism in the Americas.

This inversion of the Monroe Doctrine signals a collapse of US imperialism and empire, not to mention the end of US national integrity conjoined to the ideological pronouncements (“fake news”) of America’s greatness. (…) The current situation calls for ethnographically grounded and historically framed investigations of the transformations and experience of empire, imperialism, national community, and neocolonialism, among other possible topics.

Two interesting articles from the Economist 1843 magazine:

Via Wikipedia I learned that on the 24th of January 1848 James W. Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, leading to the California Gold Rush. I decided to learn more about those years through the documentary “The West Episode 03: The Speck Of The Future 1848 - 1856”. Absolutely insane how this event spawned a migration of some many people from all over the world to California, with far-reaching effects on the wealth of this state and devastating effects on nature and original inhabitants.