#47: Resistance is Futile

Ton of new subscribers this week, so welcome, lemmings! Just to reiterate - we're here, every day, every week, until the sun explodes (see below), helping you cut through the bullshit to find The News Most Relevant to Our Survival As A Species

We're trying to fight the good fight against the tsunami of #notimportantnews and #fakenews, and sometimes, sure, we get  passionate and maybe a tiny bit inflammatory around these parts, but if it isn't clear enough already -- we can't just fight with facts. We gotta play to your humanity, to your emotions and feeeeeelings, your passions and frustrations -- the good news and the bad news. Storytelling, sentiment: that's what's gonna turn the tide.

Finally: congrats and thanks to everyone who marched for science last week. Don't forget about the climate march this weekend. Keep. It. Up. We can't take our foot off the pedal.

On to the news!

1. Today's episode of "call your congressperson" is brought to you by this dumpster fire: new state laws could enable public schools to gently massage the facts around climate change. - Vice

"Senate Bill 393 in Oklahoma, for example, would permit teachers to paint established science on both evolution and climate change as “controversial.” 

Since its initial proposal in early February, the bill passed out of the Senate and into the House, where it circumvented the House Education Committee and now heads for a full House vote.

A bill similar to Oklahoma’s is currently working its way through the Texas Legislature. And Florida has two bills pending aimed at letting local residents object to the use of certain instructional materials, such as textbooks that teach human-induced climate change, in public schools.

Some states are passing resolutions, which have a less direct influence but send strong signals about where the state Legislature stands on climate change. In February, Indiana successfully passed its Senate resolutionsupporting teachers “who choose to teach a diverse curriculum,” giving climate denial and creationism the chance to enter classrooms. A similar “academic freedom” resolution has already made its way through the Alabama House. Finally, Idaho locked in a legally binding Senate resolution in March that deletes material about climate change and human impact on the environment from the state’s science standards."

+ MY NOTES: If you need me I'll be building a venn diagram of how these fucking states are already being impacted by climate change.

2. So here's the thing about all this super cool machine learning and neural networks operating your face identification, autonomous car driving, MRI reading, etc. Once they get started learning, we don't really have any goddamn idea how it works. It's truly an alien intelligence. - Backchannel

"We thought knowledge was about finding the order hidden in the chaos. We thought it was about simplifying the world. It looks like we were wrong. Knowing the world may require giving up on understanding it.

 The results from this increasingly sophisticated branch of computer science can be deep learning that produces outcomes based on so many different variables under so many different conditions being transformed by so many layers of neural networks that humans simply cannot comprehend the model the computer has built for itself.

As Christof Koch writes in Scientific American, AlphaGo’s intelligence is in the weights of all those billions of connections among its simulated neurons. It creates a model that enables it to make decisions, but that model is ineffably complex and conditional. Nothing emerges from this mass of contingencies, except victory against humans.

If knowing has always entailed being able to explain and justify our true beliefs — Plato’s notion, which has persisted for over two thousand years — what are we to make of a new type of knowledge, in which that task of justification is not just difficult or daunting but impossible?"

+ MY NOTES: Are you comfortable with the tradeoff? (I am! For now. #skynet)

3. Despite what our fearless leader and the US auto companies say, electric cars are coming and coming big. Says who? Says THE OIL INDUSTRY. - Bloomberg

"Electric cars are coming fast -- and that’s not just the opinion of carmakers anymore. Total SA, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, is now saying EVs may constitute almost a third of new-car sales by the end of the next decade.

The surge in battery powered vehicles will cause demand for oil-based fuels to peak in the 2030s, Total Chief Energy Economist Joel Couse said at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conference in New York on Tuesday. EVs will make up 15 percent to 30 percent of new vehicles by 2030, after which fuel “demand will flatten out,” Couse said. “Maybe even decline.”"

+ MY NOTES: Denial is the first step, Donald

4. Meanwhile, China's happy to take the electric lead/money, so looking forward to everyone complaining about that in 10 years - WIRED

"Announcing a new car in one place or another is a mostly symbolic choice, but the Shanghai show’s emphasis on zero-emissions indicates an industry-wide shift in focus. Over the past decade, the US—home to Tesla, Chevy (maker of the Volt and Bolt), and a major market for Nissan’s Leaf—has played the electric frontrunner. That’s mostly thanks to regulations that demand automakers produce zero-emission vehicles alongside their profit-generating, gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups.

Now that the Trump Administration is working to shred those environmentally-focused rules, the auto industry seems to be swinging its attention east. “We are convinced China will become the leading market for electromobility,” Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess told Reuters at the Shanghai show."

+ MY NOTES: no notes.

5. Can we fight climate change with trees and grass? Partially! - MIT

"In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announcedthat plants would have to be a major part of the world’s efforts to capture CO2. The idea would be to have trees and grasses suck up CO2as they grow, then burn or process them into fuels to generate power while capturing any CO2 produced along the way. This process is known as “bioenergy plus carbon capture and storage,” or BECCS.

But as we’ve reported in the past, there’s no guarantee that this kind of intervention will work. First, the processes in the system are unproven at scale—particularly the carbon sequestration phase. Second, the whole vision of using BECCS makes some assumptions that remain unproven, like how much energy it takes to grow the plants (especially non-food crops) in the first place, and the impact of dedicating land to trees and grasses that could otherwise be in demand for food production.

We might be about to get some answers, though. As the Times reports, the U.K.’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy has just launched a $10 million initiative to help investigate how effective BECCS could be. A series of projects will investigate whether it's a sustainable approach to locking away CO2 at all. The projects will also try to identify the best ways to increase carbon storage in plant life and soils, and determine whether food and energy biomass can be grown effectively alongside one another."

+ MY NOTES: Lost in the "we have to stop polluting now and in the future" language is "we already made a huge mess and we gotta clean this shit up before mom gets home now now now now". Wanna help? Donate to this kid. He's awesome.


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