Are “rights of way” key to better mega-cities? Plus science news!


My talk at TEDx San Diego-2013 — What’s Next? The Horizon of our Dreams —  is now posted for viewing by all.  It was very popular, but challenging for the smart audience, as I took them on a rapid tour of human history, society, evolution… and our galactic destiny… all in  12 minutes!

Rumors abound that Elon is dickering for Apple to buy or collaborate with Tesla Motors and — of course — create the “iCar.”

iCar-Tinkerers copySounds cool…

…though my only real comment is this illustration from my 2010 graphic novel about American industry called TINKERERS.



== Aggressive help to vitalize “mega-cities.” ==

Here is a fascinating article about the dilemma of megacities… and some innovative new, technological approaches that might help make them livable: Our Fragile Emerging Megacities: A Focus on Resilience, by Kevin C. Desouza.

Megacities-resilienceRiffing off of this piece, I have long believed that one key, seldom-mentioned aspect for saving megacities is the problem and opportunity of rights-of-way (RoW).  Any of these megacities could be vitalized by a process that — at first sight — will seem brutal, but that does not have to be.  It is the demolition of — and rebuilding upon — a 200 meter wide corridor extending from the port, to the urban center, then out to the industrial parks and airport and then countryside.

Within this razed band, every major, revitalizing service can then be inserted at very low cost, using simple trenching methods: utilities, sewer systems, water, underground metros and a grand boulevard.  There would also be room for new-innovative services like pneumatic tube delivery of goods, eliminating much of the truck traffic that clogs streets.

Atop the easily-trenched service corridors might not only be a grand boulevard but also farmers markets, booth-bazaars and a slim but beautiful urban park… that incidentally would allow cheap and trivial access to utilities for repair or upgrade, a terrible design problem in most legacy cities.  The land on both sides would skyrocket in usability and value, for more than a kilometer in both directions, a linear approach to urban development that worked so well along Wilshire Boulevard, in Los Angeles.

Rights-of-way-mega-citiesThe efficiency of this system would bring huge returns to investors, despite having to carefully allow for: (1) dealing with corrupt governments and (2) setting aside 1/3 ownership rights in the new commercial frontages to the original inhabitants who were uprooted.  Indeed, the biggest challenge, requiring great care, would be acting covertly in advance to secretly discover and document every person living along the RoW — even in slums and favelas — and vesting them in their shares before local elites get a chance to interfere or cheat… and then providing housing for the displaced until fill-in is completed.

Sorry, but I’ve been thinking about this for decades, developing  details, waiting for some “I want to change the world” billionaire to come to me for my list of ways to both re-shape tomorrow for the better… and get even richer doing it. This particular one would seem an opportunity of almost transcendent importance, requiring deep pockets and even deeper guts.

But some zillionaire could change the world, and get every penny back, ten-fold.

== About… us… ==

The Evolution of Fairness through Spite:  A study done by philosophers Patrick Forber of Tufts University and Rory Smead of Northwestern University, suggests fairness in societies evolves out of a fear of spite from others, rather than due to an increase in altruism.  Interesting how this resonates with both my short story “The Giving Plague” (free online) and this contrarian perspective on whether altruism might pervade the universe, as some fervently believe.

outrageIs this related?  A major study has found quite significant correlations between Internet trolling behavior and general personality nastiness.  Specifically, trolls score highly in personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

Internet trolls (who are frequently anonymous) have a polarizing effect on audiences, leading to politicization, rather than deeper understanding of scientific topics. This puts a strong incentive on the rest of us to explore potential alternatives to pure, accountability-free anonymity.  Proposals for sheltered pseudonymity are on the table, which could provide all the benefits of anonymity — freedom to explore and reduce inhibitions/fears — without making malignancy outcome-free.

Only a fraction of trolls self-identify — the focus of this study. But a majority believe that their passion is always and inherently justified, an indignant state that they return to, far too readily and frequently to be anything other than an epiphenomenon of addiction. See my article: An Open Letter to Researchers of Addiction, Brain Chemistry and Social Psychology.

Ah… but then there are the relatives of trolls… wargs.  War-fighters And Gossip Spreaders. They move in packs, leaving scorched earth. And they feel no need for anonymity.

== Space! and Tech==

A fatwa—an interpretation based on Quranic scripture—issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the United Arab Emirates, has declared that the Mars One endeavor, to hurry a mission to Mars by making it a one-way attempt at colonization, is too close to suicide to be permitted.

Mars-simulation-arcticHow will humans adapt to space — and cope with the stresses of continuous close contact in a space module? Support the IndieGogo campaign: A One-year Mars Simulation in the Canadian Arctic. Topics explored in Mary Roach’s book, Packing for Mars: The Curious Case of Life in the Void.

Penn State University chemists and engineers have, for the first time, placed tiny synthetic motors inside live human cells in a lab, propelled them with ultrasonic waves, and steered them magnetically.

Google is offering advice to Google-Glass users: don’t be glass-holes.

The Bluetooth Orb is a a Bluetooth finger ring with scrolling display, built in microphone, and the ability to transform between a ring and an earpiece. Early versions wowed audiences and electronics shows… then it vanished! (I have better things in mind, anyway.)

Frequency of random events on xkcd: mesmerizing!

Dangers of … sitting? Regardless of exercise, too much sedentary time is linked to major disability after age 60.

Mottled-transparency== Transparency News ==

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande will review plans to build up a trustworthy data protection network in Europe. The challenge is to avoid data passing through the U.S. after revelations of mass NSA spying in Germany and France.

Merkel has been one of the biggest supporters of greater data protection in Europe since the revelations that the U.S. tapped her phone emerged in a Der Spiegel news report in October — based on information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Hm… I am skeptical it’d work.  But variety is spice.

== Wonders ==

See pictures of swirling tornado-like forms which turned out to be thousands of fish in the midst of a reproductive courtship.

Really interesting… how wolves change rivers.

Human and dog brains both have dedicated ‘voice area.’

And finally… Compost-fueled cars: A hilarious send-up of TED talks, from the Onion!


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