Better or Worse?

Thought provoking:

While previously the public’s news consumption was shaped by powerful gatekeepers such as newspaper editors or the bosses of heavily regulated broadcast news channels, on their phones it is shaped more by the hands-off approach of companies such as Facebook. The social network has decided against taking a patrician approach of pushing straightforward reporting into newsfeeds alongside user-generated memes asking Was Enoch Powell Right?, or hyperpartisan posts spreading distorted information about Jeremy Corbyn.

With limited human involvement in choosing the news stories people are seeing, the researchers said the general public were being asked to take responsibility for their own news diet with the hope that they seek out accurate information without any intervention.

Revealing Reality’s analysis of the volunteers’ election news consumption concluded: “If everything that people are seeing is via social media – who is accountable? There is very little human intelligence or decision-making behind it, no attempt to give a balanced view. That seems to leave all responsibility on the reader.”

The end of Economic Man

Very interesting article by Paul Collier – Greed is dead. Humans aren’t the rational, selfish ‘Economic Man’ as economists like to assume we are and base their models on. We’re a collaborative, social, altruistic animal.

Thankfully, we now know that Economic Man is a travesty. Blueprint: The evolutionary origins of a good society by Nicholas Christakis is the latest study to affirm this. It shows why, through the forces of evolution, Homo sapiens emerged as a uniquely social species. Far from being evolutionarily inevitable, Economic Man was culled almost to extinction, surviving only as the highly deviant behaviour we call psychopathic. In hunter-gatherer societies, hunters do not “eat what they kill”: such behaviour would bring social ostracism, so the hunters share their catch. The theorems derived from Economic Man explain the conditions under which a society of psychopaths would be able to function. In most contexts, those conditions turn out to be fanciful: the efficient paradise depicted in economics textbooks has never existed, and never will. Instead, in well-functioning societies, humans construct and abide by a vast web of kindness and mutual obligations of which Economic Man would be incapable.

Friday Music

I like to wind up my work week with some music listening if possible. Ideally while being left to work on some code or config changes in peace. To aid with this, I have the headphones in, volume up and distractions are ignored as much as possible. Today, it’s been my metal playlist on Spotify. I’m tempted to go see Ozzy next summer.

The Great Pyramid Looked Really Great

Back in the day it probably looked absolutely amazing in it’s polished limestone facing:

” The current outer surface of the Great Pyramid at Giza is made of rough limestone blocks, colored a dark sandy brown from hundreds of years of pollution and weathering. But when it was first built, there was a smooth layer of fine white limestone on the outside of the structure, all cut to the same angle and polished to a shine so bright it almost glowed. “


Places to Stay: Amazing circular house in Spain

Holiday home of the week - Solo House II Spanish villa

This place looks amazing:

“Solo House II is built on top of a plateau, surrounded by trees, with views all the way to the sea. Its glass exterior walls offer panoramic views of the landscape from inside the circular house, while a sliding metal mesh façade can be moved to create dappled shade inside the villa – and privacy when closed.”

Designed by Belgian architects Kersten Geers and David Van Severen. Added to Delilah and my dream places to stay.

Dead Air

Air quality in New Delhi is now so bad that the basic advice is just to stay indoors and don’t ever go out. It’s catastrophic, a smoking, smog covered totem of what awaits the world as we continue merrily along our current path:

Year after year, the economic effects of the world’s current environmental path are bearing out in New Delhi. Flights are canceled and schools closed. Car owners are limited to driving only on certain days. Construction is stalled, and hospitals are flooded with disease, as they will be flooded with chronic effects in coming decades. People miss work, become disabled, and exit the workforce. They consume more medical care and rely on safety nets.

This is the economic future that the status quo invites. Even for the world’s wealthiest people, who may be able to guarantee their personal air and food supply, their stability will be contingent on the billions of people around the world who still have to go outside.

Interstellar Space

This is fascinating:

IN THE BLACKNESS of space billions of miles from home, NASA’s Voyager 2 marked a milestone of exploration, becoming just the second spacecraft ever to enter interstellar space in November 2018. Now, a day before the anniversary of that celestial exit, scientists have revealed what Voyager 2 saw as it crossed the threshold—and it’s giving humans new insight into some of the big mysteries of our solar system.

Amazing, over 40 years on the go and still working.

Modern Food

Industrial production of food has substantially changed what we eat. Our food has become higher quality, but in doing so it has also lost some of it’s benefits. Delilah recently sent me on a newsletter from pointing out that dirty is better – carrots covered in dirt last longer and are probably better for you (especially if they’re organic). The benefits of not being too clean are reasonably well known, but almost all food you get in a shop these days is well cleaned. I’m guessing because it lets you see what you’re buying, bruises and damaged veg can’t be hidden by mud. And I’d also say it’s to prevent short changing when goods are sold by weight – a 10Kg bag of spuds could become 8Kg of potato and 2Kg of mud and how can you tell?

So there are reasons for the cleanliness I guess, but it doesn’t detract from the benefits of the dirt, or what we’re losing through the standardisation and industrialisation of food making. So much has been changed to make food look better, last longer and be easier to prepare. Not that it’s all bad, the convenience is amazing, but it’s good to realise what we’re missing, and perhaps how we can improve things a little.

We bake our own bread when we get the time to do it, and this article (“Flour power: meet the bread heads baking a better loaf“) in the Guardian gave me some, well, food for thought, on where exactly our flour comes from and how good it is (not very).

The best thing since sliced bread turns out not to be sliced bread. Our supermarket loaf, which accounts for 80% of all the bread bought in the UK, is sweetish, soft and pappy. The ingredients listed on the plastic sleeve include added E-numbers, enzyme “improvers”, extra gluten, protein powders, fats, emulsifiers and preservatives. It is baked according to the Chorleywood process (named after the location of the lab where it was invented) developed in the 1960s for speed, from grain that has been milled between steel rollers, removing the germ where the oils and nutrients reside, and the bran husk where the fibre is, leaving only the endosperm, a pure starch so nutritionally void that by UK law vitamins must be added back into white flour.

Mechanised food factories demand ingredients that are standard, stable and easy to transport, and make products that are standard, stable and easy to transport. New wheats have been bred for high yields and high protein content that require inputs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. To increase efficiency, hedgerows and copses have been eliminated and farmland agglomerated into increasingly larger tracts of monoculture.

We should strive for a better balance, I’m trying to incorporate better quality flours into our homemade breads for starters. The ultra industrialised flour is pretty poor in comparison, although it has the benefit of being really cheap in comparison to high-quality organic flours.

Which brings home the fact that eating quality food made at home is the province of someone with not only money but time on their hands too. There’s no easy answer to food industrialisation and monocultures – the alternatives are expensive, but perhaps there’s a third way – a mix of both surely could be achieved at less cost to the environment while not making foods overly costly?