Five Reads: Can Tech Save the Climate?
What follows is our roundup of five of the most compelling stories discovered over the last few days. Look for this column every week in this space.
If you want more compelling and forward-thinking content, then check out the second big programming announcement for SXSW 2019, including a keynote presentation from Joesph Lubin of Ethereum as part of the new “Blockchain & Cryptocurrency” track. Meanwhile, the biggest content announcement of the season (with more than 500 sessions from the SXSW PanelPicker) is scheduled for Tuesday, October 16.
Otherwise, we encourage you to read early and read often!
Can Tech Save the Climate? Please?
This is a bummer. As if there weren’t enough to worry about already, now the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a terrifying report on the state of global warming. In short: we have only about 12 years to slash our emissions to avoid a hellish future of unprecedented international upheaval and disaster. In Wired, Matt Simon gets into the depressing details about the looming climate crisis, but also holds out a bit of hope, pointing out the ways in which U.S. cities are doing what the feds won’t do, and calling out a range of innovative new technologies — everything from elective cars to geo-engineering — that may save us all.
Learn more about innovative approaches cities are taking to tackle a wide range of challenges at the SXSW Cities, Government and Politics track.
Don’t Call these Disasters Natural
Yet another record-setting hurricane has slammed into the U.S. On CNN, John Sutter lays out a compelling case that we shouldn’t call the hurricanes Michael, Harvey and Maria “natural disasters.” “The phrase ‘natural disaster’ is an attempt to lay blame where blame really doesn’t rest,” said Kerry A. Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT and a global expert on hurricanes. Blame climate change and human unpreparedness and foolishness in choosing to live in coastal areas.
Freaking Out About the Internet of Things
In the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo writes that the digitization of just about everything is “not just possible but likely, and that now is the time to be freaking out about the dangers.” We’re moving unchecked and unmonitored into a future where there’s a computer inside everything from cars to door locks to contact lenses, sex toys, light bulbs, toothbrushes, and much, much more. “I’m not pessimistic generally, but it’s really hard not to be,” says Bruce Schneier, who spoke at SXSW in 2015 on Surveillance’s Threat To Liberty and who explores the threats posed by the internet of things in a new book, “Click Here to Kill Everybody.”
Are We Ready for Robosoldier?
Speaking of unsettling uses for computers, the Pentagon wants to equip soldiers with embedded brain technology so they can control robots using their thoughts. This isn’t the plot for the latest Paul Verhoeven film. In an Atlantic piece, Michael Joseph Gross exposes the work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s R&D department, which under the guise of researching the healing and enhancement of the human mind and body is studying how to enable future soldiers to control robots with their minds. What could go wrong? Oh maybe hackers could easily invade Pentagon weapons systems?
The Debut of Blockduino
Forbes reports on a new development coming out of this week’s San Francisco Blockchain Week, an 8-day blockchain conference: Blockduino, a hardware and software solution that brings the benefits of blockchain to machines. Marco Graziano (pictured above), the CEO and founder of Visible Energy, the startup behind the technology, calls it “Arduino for the blockchain.”
You’ll be able to keep up with all the latest and greatest developments in crypto-currency at the Blockchain track of SXSW 2019.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.