Monday, May 19, 2014

Parrot Conservation: The Kakapo

Kakapo by Shane McInnes
The Kakapo is what happens when there is no predation and nature gets creative. It is the world's only flightless and nocturnal parrot and found only in New Zealand. Unlike other parrots it can store fat, may have a natural longevity of 100 years and apparently smells like fruit.

When population control is left to nature, the intricacy is astonishing. The female lays only a few eggs and only when triggered by the production of large crops, the "mast year", of the rimu tree species. The solitary male then produces booming sounds and hikes for miles to find the equally solitary female.

Once estimated at over 200000, the Kakapo came close to extinction several decades ago, through the imported predation of cats and dogs. Conservation measures have been successful and the number has increased from 40 to over 100. Something this comical and special has to be kept alive.

Kakapos are also impossibly friendly:





Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Utopia 101 Possible Solutions

What would a Utopian community look like?

In great moments of human civilization we have already achieved advancements that have greatly improved lives. We have sanitation, vaccines to prevent disabling conditions,  toilets and showers. We have saved species from extinction, created the internet and 3d printers and discovered planets that may one day be habitable. The list is of what we managed to create is long. If we could keep that type of momentum going and do not keep reverting to old habits, we could create the same for the majority of the population and deal with climate change, poverty, hunger etc.

If I had any power to move us forward the list might look something like this:

1. Support the younger generation again by rewarding those with novel and creative ideas with access to free education and retreats to communicate their ideas.

2. After the current building boom of "quick , dirty and unliveable", we need to start building better again. Deeper structures and better insulation that can withstand climate change.

3. Companies that do great work should be fostered and rewarded. Autonomy of their employees will likely see a return.

4. Better city planning would see a return to accessible shopping and self-reliance in case of emergency. The loss of electricity is likely in our future, we should have alternatives in place.

5. More individuality. Greater tolerance toward those who may be a little different, but just as valuable.

6. Taxes are important. So is governance. But for too long our earnings have been disappearing without reaching anyone, but those who need it the least. Completely new systems will have to be created. How this will be accomplished,  I have no idea. A start might be coalition governments without career politicians at the table.

7. Transportation to deal with climate change and fuel economy. The combustion engine is almost as inefficient as it was 40 years ago. Magnets may provide one solution. Amphibian vehicles to deal with any flooding. (I am actually serious about this one). We are going to need them. Prototypes of flying cars are out there somewhere, but may create 3 dimensional traffic jams.

8. While we need to respect cultural differences, we also need to realize that we are one species, not "races" and that the basic wants and needs are almost universally the same.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Utopia 101

What would a utopian global community look like?

That is a question I have been asking myself my entire life.  The complexity of such an answer would require a book length discourse and a planet size computer.  Potentially, if the internet continues to evolve, we might have the latter.

One of the benefits of watching animals is to realize that we have been behaving as no more than "just another animal", despite our remarkable ability to envision, build and create.

As a species we are stuck in an endless continuum of immaturity-we build, we acquire, we destroy and abandon those around us. Money continues to be poured into wars and their expensive toys, greed rules many of us and we fight for territories, wealth and status. It is irrelevant whether those social structures are ruled by oligarchs or feudalists or whatever new name we apply to them, the outcome is the same; the majority suffers. In one form or another this has been the case throughout human history.

But. We could evolve. Create new systems, avail ourselves of technology to make our lives less complicated, prevent illness rather than treat it for decades, improve both the quality and quantity of our lives and so on.

One option would be to have a Google like approach to science and innovation.   Private or public companies that would take care of the mundanities of life and allow the thinkers and creators to come up with solutions in a playful think tank type of environment on their own schedule.

This is the type of wishful thinking that has always existed, but it is in many ways the internet and social media that may be used to move us dreamers forward.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Avian Intelligence


Thanks to a documentary, I learned that Ravens travel and live with extended family.  It is strange to think that sitting in the branches above us are dark winged cousins, aunts and grandparents.

I watched behavior that is mostly incomprehensible.  Twigs are selected, stripped with beak and talon (I did not know they could do that), and then discarded. It reminds me of woodworkers, who are not happy with their work.

On rooftops they hide food under shingles. Clever. They seem to prefer wealthier areas, possibly because the roofs are better maintained.  They take rainshowers with joy. Sentinels sit on peaks and warn others of threats; or they could just be discussing the weather.  Shift change involves preening of the one who is leaving. You don't see that in the human world.

I was surprised when I watched a lone raven prevent a significantly larger falcon from gaining altitude with a startling display of speed and maneuverability. It flew above the falcon, anticipating the falcon's moves, preventing it from getting sufficient lift for its larger wingspan.

They watch us. They watch me watch them. And they think. They are the true eyes in the sky. We search for intelligent life in other solar systems, but cannot communicate with the intelligent life around us.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Blame Coffee For My Impertinence


I was walking, enjoying the crisp winter air and a sinfully good latte, when a woman approached me eager to hand me a flyer.  Usually, I shake my head politely and silently regret the waste of paper; but this time I was under the influence of COFFEE, so I stopped to listen.

In a very self assured tone she declared: "The final judgement is coming, the signs are here, the world is coming to an end."

*sip* I had finally met one of those nice folks on the Internet. 

"When exactly is that going to happen," I asked.

"The date cannot be known, but  very soon", she claimed.

"Within the next 60 years?"

"It is not known."

"Shouldn't we do something about it other than wait to be saved? End violence, poverty, greed and war..."

"We have been ruled by the devil for 6000 years. He is very powerful. He was put in charge of this world."

Hmmh. "If the devil is in charge then that would mean that this is actually HELL. How the frack did I end up here???!?"

I left while she deeply contemplated this novel concept. They do make great coffee in hell though.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

International Women's Day


March 8 is international women's day. A day that serves to remind society that women's day actually needs to exist.

I consider myself an equalist and I believe that a world governed by men and women in equal ratio would actually finally move society into a healthier era.

Here I do not refer to the women that have climbed the male dominated ladder.  I am talking about highly capable individuals, who just happen to be female, but have a less ruthless or risk taking approach toward the environment and our common future.

That we as a species do not allow women to contribute their knowledge and experience to our global community is archaic. Empathy is valuable and women, whether due to nature, nurture or society are generally more empathic and may be able to envision better longterm solutions.

I would not want to live in a world solely led by women, anymore than I want to continue to experience one led by powerungry men. Maybe one day we will celebrate a good person's day, regardless of their gender.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The End Of Privacy. The Beginning Of Transparency.

It is becoming abundantly clear that our personal privacy has come to an end. Not through the information we willingly share in social media,  but in the information that is gathered about us. From our Web history to the GPS in our cars, targeted advertising, or searches; the list of our digital footprints is vast.

Nor is there any way to avoid using digital technology or do anything about the information gathered without our knowledge or consent. Big companies are simply too powerful to engage in privacy lawsuits.  Applicable digital privacy laws are not in place and are unlikely to catch up to the development of digital technology,  which surpasses our understanding of it.

Many are not aware that digital information is transmitted at 1/3 of the speed of light or that the stock market for example,  is virtually out of the hands of humans; many trades occur through computer algorithms, also known as microtrading or high frequency trading.

Another significant problem is that much of our most sensitive information (medical, financial) entered about us is handled far beyond the comprehension and training of those put in charge to store and protect it. Especially problematic is when the information entered relies on verbal communication or is entered incorrectly,  whether through human error or for unethical personal gain.

The revelation about the NSA should not have come as a surprise to anyone.  Technology is only as good or evil as the intent of those who use it. As it develops and we become increasingly globally connected, the speed of new technology advances faster than anyone can keep up with.

I do not foresee a Borg-like totalitarian system of control that so many are frightened of, but a more transparent future in the digital age. Ideally,  NSA like watchdogs will develop that will actually benefit the majority and monitor verbal and digital communication to help prevent crimes against humanity.