American Elephants

Findings About Fatness and the Future are Frivilous! by The Elephant's Child

This may be closely related to the previous post about managing information. You should probably file this is the circular file. From CBS:

“A recent study conducted by scientists in London found that the obese persons of the world are paying an increasingly large role in the rate at which the planet’s finite resources are used.”  Um, climate scientists? Geologists? Agronomists? Diet doctors? Who knows. What kind of study? “Research was conducted.” Not promising.

Increasing population fatness could have the same implications for world food energy demands as an extra half a billion people living on the earth,” the study concluded.

Research was conducted based on the theory that the body mass of a population should be factored into the amount of energy it burns, in addition to the number of people residing in a certain region.

Though obesity touches all corners of the Earth, it was found that Americans were especially weighing down the planet. …

“Although the concept of biomass is rarely applied to the human species, the ecological implications of increasing body mass are significant and ought to be taken into account when evaluating future trends and planning for future resource challenges,” the study found. ”Tackling population fatness may be critical to world food security and ecological sustainability.”

I think this probably goes in the same file as the report of Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) who was concerned about increasing population on one side of an island presenting the danger that it might tip over and capsize.

Malthus lives! Too many fat people may deplete the food resources of the planet. Mass starvation. Must control population. Eliminate fat people. Force all McDonalds’ out of business. Mayor Bloomberg can be in charge.

Too Much Information! Too Much Information! by The Elephant's Child

This has been called “the Information Age,” but that is a misnomer. Think of it this way. Prior to Gutenberg, who came up with the printing press in around 1440, information came in the form of what people said to each other and in material written by scribes. Books written by scribes were not available to ordinary people, who couldn’t read anyway. I suspect our imaginings of their conversations are completely false.

Skimming through centuries you get more efficient presses, eventually powered presses; and books, newspapers and pamphlets becoming more common. Somewhere in there was a town crier. Printed materials had to be carried from one town to another by horseback or wagon. Information was s-l-o-w. Signal flags, mirrors, telegraph, telephone and radio, and of course improved means of transportation — fast clipper ships, and then steam, and railroads. It meant a faster flow of information and more information in the flow.

Think of the subtle changes with the first intercontinental radio transmission, and the Atlantic cable. Our knowledge of Europe, once dependent on the length of time it took a ship to cross the Atlantic suddenly became instantaneous. No wonder Lindberg’s flight was such a big deal. That happened within living memory, in 1927.

Add TV, computers, and cell phones — all going worldwide. We have learned how to use the new inventions as they come along, but our ability to manage the flow of words, pictures, graphs, studies has not even begun to keep up with the technology.

I’m not sure that what we are taught has changed all that much from what we might have learned in 1930. There are changes. The schools no longer think basic math is so important because kids will always have a calculator available, and cursive writing is no longer necessary because all you need is to learn keyboarding. Our young people will be in big trouble if there is an EMP-burst.

But that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about training in managing the flow. How do you categorize, decide what is important, learn what is true and how to discard the false and silly? Where do you learn how to find accurate information?

Those we once regarded as authority figures have lost their claim to our attention. The media, in general, has abdicated their job as watchdog of the government. Their task has subtly shifted from reporting the news to one of changing the world in their preferred direction. They are partisan and willing to slant the  news, cover-up, and report that which suits their prejudices. But this is true for teachers, professors, clergy, and politicians as well. Our schools are failing to turn out educated children, ditto our universities. Libraries are changing, not always for the better.

Internet use began in 1995 —only 17 years ago, and everything is changing at a speed unimaginable. Huge desktops to tablets to — implants? When radio first came upon the scene they thought it would be a great learning experience. News and symphonies; that’s what they thought television would be too — and that worked out well. So we don’t know where we’re going, but it would be nice if we were getting more intelligent because of it, and I’m not sure that’s the case. I’m not at all sure we’re not getting dumber.

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