Friday, December 04, 2015

Friday Water Cooler

How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains (quantamagazine.org). Many interesting hypotheses here,  made possible by modern genomics. The "expensive tissue hypothesis" says that for the brain to grow, the gut has to shrink (and maybe muscles too), a development made possible by the advent of cooked foods. But this implies that the explosion in brain size in humans (starting roughly 3 million years ago) coincided with the invention of fire, which in turn would mean that controlled use of fire is possibly much older than anyone thinks.

Humans don't have the biggest brains, but they do have the most neurons per brain.
All because of the invention of fire?

The Incredible Shrinking Incomes of Young Americans (theatlantic.com). "The familiar bash brothers of globalization and technology (particularly information technology) have conspired to gut middle-class jobs by sending work abroad or replacing it with automation and software. A 2013 study by David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson found that although the computerization of certain tasks hasn't reduced employment, it has reduced the number of decent-paying, routine-heavy jobs. Cheaper jobs have replaced them, and overall pay has declined." Unfotunately, the genie is out of the bottle and there is no way, now, to de-globalize or de-technologize jobs. And the owner class isn't miraculously going to increase wages for no reason. Not when the going is good.

Incomes have gone down for 25-to-34-year-olds across almost all industries.

This is capitalism working as intended? Presidential candidates, please discuss. When you're done combing your hair.

Corruption Is as Bad in the U.S. as in Developing Countries (billmoyers.com). Bill Moyers didn't write this. (Rebecca Gordon did.) But that doesn't keep me from imagining Moyers with a scruffy beard, saying: "Stay angry, my friends..."

The Japanese art of self-preservation (damninteresting.com), also known as self-mummification.

One of the Largest Hacks Yet Exposes Data on Hundreds of Thousands of Kids (motherboard.vice.com). Be sure to see also When children are breached – inside the massive VTech hack (troyhunt.com).

634 Taser-Related Deaths in the United States Since 2001 (electronicvillage.blogspot.com). Pretty impressive for a "non-lethal" weapon. Taser apologists blame the victims, of course, or drugs, or preexisting conditions. Whatever. A better defense of Tasers would be to say that they probably keep police from actually shooting a certain number of people; which is sort of pathetic, like arguing that cigarettes are good because they help people keep weight off. The real problem is excessive use of force by police. The Taser is just one manifestation of that problem.

Confessions of a Terrorist Sympathizer (laprogressive.com). Read and understand this before self-righteously trashing it. If you don't understand where terrorism comes from, how can you ever expect to stop it?

Fed Watch:

Donald Trump May Not Be a Fascist, But He is Leading Us Merrily Down That Path (dneiwert.blogspot.com). Seattle-based investigative journalist David Neiwert does a good job, in 6,000 words, of explaining why Donald Trump is as close to a fascist as any U.S. presidential candidate ever. So why not just call him what he is?

Inequality isn't just unfair — it's making people sick (vox.com). "Again and again, Marmot finds, health isn't just determined by how much you exercise or what your genes dictate; it's influenced by your social environment." 
 "We’re all involved. All of us below the top have worse health than we would if we were at the top. The figures in Britain — which are not different from the U.S. — say that someone with middle income has eight fewer years of healthy life than if he were at the top."
Michael Marmot 
New Themes When Demographic-Driven Labor Shortages Become Consensus (csen.tumblr.com). Horrible title for a fine post speculating about near-term political/economic trends. Hope all his predictions are wrong.


Resilience Is Futile (economichardship.org), or how well-meaning nonprofits perpetuate poverty.

The world’s favorite fruit is slowly but surely being driven to extinction (qz.com). A chilling story about the coming bananapocalypse.

In 100 years, will anyone even know what this is?
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