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How many existential crises can one world take?
Last year, global warming shifted from a distant thunder to a run-for-your-lives house fire. Alberta readers take note. This year, AI shifted from a semi-literate teen to the predator next door, coming for our jobs, our kids and our brains.
But there is an upside to the end of the world. It will take some time for oblivion to arrive, and before it does, we can bliss out on a third existential event: the coming together of robotic technology and artificial intelligence.
I’d like you to meet my new friend Ameca. She’s…well, see for yourself. She may sound a little fey today. But give her and her fellow humanoid robots a few months and they’ll have advanced the way global warming and AI did, with us barely paying attention and then suddenly they’re moving in to the spare bedroom.
1. It’s commencement season. And here’s Bill Gates, one of Harvard’s most famous drop-outs, addressing the students of Northern Arizona University on 5 things I wish I heard at the graduation I never had.
2. Two things for a clearer life. The first is an app that shows if you were to dig a hole through the earth from where you’re standing right now, where you’d end up. The second is a new service that will take away all your books, the ones cluttering up your space and mind, because “every book deserves a second chance.” Or, you could give up reading books altogether.
3. Can’t hear well? You could be losing your mind. There’s a connection between deafness and declining brain function. Another reason to get your hearing tested.
4. We need more dialectical justice. Especially in Toronto, the world’s most diverse city. I don’t mean “dialectical” as in “materialism”, but as in “dialect”, that is to say, the accent you speak in. If you’re in a courtroom and you can’t speak English or French, a translator will be found for you. But what if you can speak English perfectly, but your dialect is so strong that it’s misinterpreted? That’s where the problems start. As this article says: “Some forms of English are more equal than others.”
5. The US has 100 times as many gun deaths as Britain and with 4% of the world’s population, it has 44% of gun suicides. We’re used to comparisons of America’s gun slaughter to our own home and native land. But Fareed Zakaria compares the US to Great Britain, and calls out the false narrative of “It’s a mental health problem.” It isn’t.
6. The circus is in town. We all need a shot of Cirque du Soleil, and their latest show, Kooza, is now under the big top in Toronto until June 18th. We took our then 7-year-old grand-daughter a few years back and now she’s “doing silks”. Who says circuses don’t teach life-lessons?
7. “You’re not powerless. Contact us in a safe way”. The CIA is actively recruiting Russian spies – on Russian social media. They’re learning from their FBI counterparts who used Facebook to recruit Russian spies in Washington.
8. What’s the biggest, carless city? Tokyo, which also makes it eerily quiet for a place with 37 million people, and highly functional as well. This can’t be a coincidence.
9. Your IQ isn’t 160. In fact, the whole business of equating high IQ to genius is bad science, which may be why it makes great myth. After all, Einstein failed the entrance exams at Zurich Polytechnic.
10. Sex in the symphony. Skin in the opera. During a concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic last month, a woman in the audience had a full-throated orgasm which was heavily reported on. Also, if you’re between 16 and 80, you can volunteer to be ‘naked’ in Wagner’s Das Rheingold at La Monnaie Opera House in Brussels.