Predicting the present

From Harvard Business Review:

I don’t think that science fiction writers predict the future. Science fiction has always been about the present, even when it’s dressed in futuristic trappings. We write stories that try to address the effect of technology on society and vice versa. Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, was not predicting that in the future we would all build men out of corpses and animate them with lightning. Her point was that we might become technology’s servants rather than its masters. She wasn’t really being predictive. She was worrying about the present.

Random links

Cleaning a Dirty Sponge Only Helps Its Worst Bacteria, Study Says
To quote a researcher cited on bacterial levels in sponges: "That’s the same density of bacteria you can find in human stool samples ... There are probably no other places on earth with such high bacterial densities."
Do They Stay or Do They Go? The Switching Decisions of Individuals Who Enter Gender Atypical College Majors
"Men who enter a female-dominated major are significantly more likely to switch majors than their male peers in other majors. By contrast, women in male-dominated fields are not more likely to switch fields compared to their female peers in other fields."
Science editor-in-chief sounds alarm over falling public trust (article is from approximately a year ago)
"policy issues should be informed by science, but they are separate questions"

Heineken's "Worlds Apart"

It seems to me that this is sometimes seemingly almost the only way that a lot of difficult topics can be discussed in this day and age:

Random links

Can You Short the Apocalypse?
"If you think a nuclear war is likely, and you sell your stocks, what do you buy? It’s pointless to buy other assets like bonds–the bond markets probably won’t exist. You could buy land but who will enforce your property right? Even cash might be useless following a nuclear war. Maybe some gold coins and canned goods would be useful but you may not be around to enjoy them. If the apocalypse really is coming your best bet is to cash out and spend it all now. But really how much fun would that be? Sure, you could have a great week of hookers and coke but I suspect a lot of people might prefer the cheaper option of a walk in the forest. ... You can’t short the apocalypse. As a result, I am not much comforted by the fact that markets appear steady in the face of apocalyptic risk."
Most Scientific Research Data From the 1990s Is Lost Forever
"most raw data from scientific papers published twenty years ago is unobtainable - either because authors have since changed their contact information and can't be reached or because the data was stored using outdated technology, like floppy disks."
Pathological Altruism
"Oakley defines pathological altruism as 'altruism in which attempts to promote the welfare of others instead result in unanticipated harm.' A crucial qualification is that while the altruistic actor fails to anticipate the harm, 'an external observer would conclude [that it] was reasonably foreseeable.' ... An understanding that altruism can produce great evil as well as good is crucial to the defense of human freedom and dignity."


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