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Notes to the New Improved 1984

The subjects of the previous blog are complex and warrant further explanation. A friend of mine and I have had a lively discussion on several issues I brought up in that blog.  With his permission, I have decided to publish some of his comments with slight edits.

Let us start from this comment:

"You lumped Internet, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple (FAGMA) into one lot. This is not entirely accurate. These companies have different business models and different degrees of abuse. You also did not include Twitter, Netflix, eBay, and a myriad of companies that probably are more intrusive than, say, Apple or Microsoft."

Here is my reasoning. I have used annual revenues of the FAGMA oligopoly and other companies to compare their relative sizes. FAGMA dominates their respective markets so much so that all other runners up simply do not compare. Twitter is tiny (2018 revenue of $3 billion); and Netflix (2018 revenue of $14 billion) only deals in movies, however bad th…
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The New Improved 1984

Many people ask me how can I be happy writing and thinking about so many sad and desperate things? Well, let me explain. Happiness is the fleeting rush of dopamine I feel seeing my little grandson, my wife or children.  As good as it might feel, it comes and goes. Think, please, about the happiness you purchase by sharing with your "friends" on Facebook a picture of a new pair of pink sneakers. Or think of the happiness you bring to your partner by giving her/him a bouquet of roses on the Valentine day.

You probably never pay attention to over a billion roses which are imported that day for your bouquet.  They are flown refrigerated on transport flights from Columbia, Ecuador and Mexico.  Once these cold roses land in Miami, they are rushed to other refrigerated planes and trucks, so that you can get them from a store refrigerator anywhere in the US.  The energy cost of your bouquet is absolutely ginormous, but it is worth another minute or two of dopamine rush. Or is it?

Yo…

Crazy

Here is what David Attenborough, the most trusted person in the U.K. and a great naturalist, told the space aliens that descended in 1500 private jets on Davos:

"I am quite literally from another age, I was born during the Holocene - the 12,000 [year] period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations. That led to trade in ideas and goods, and made us the globally connected species we are today.

In the space of my lifetime, all that has changed. The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans."
He added:
"[The economic] growth is going to come to an end, either suddenly or in a controlled way. Anyone who thinks you can have infinite growth in finite circumstances is either a madman or an economist." (The Guardian, 01/21/2019)

This is precisely what I have been saying, writing and teaching for the la…

A Requiem for the Beautiful Earth

First, let me remind you that a pessimist is an optimist who shed his delusions and denial, and educated himself. Please keep this in mind, if you continue reading. If you don't, that's fine too. You will remain in your blissful bubble of denial and ignorance, which are the dominant genetic traits of most denizens of the fossil superorganism. Please understand that many democratically elected governments know very well about your truth aversion and are making best use of it.

Imagine now that your favorite airline offers a vacation package to a world-class city like the one shown below. That city is Beijing. China is the rising economic superpower that will collapse rather immediately, because there is not enough of the environment left to protect her 1.4 billion people from disease and death. But before China collapses, she will suck dry most of the world that remains. The brutal global competition for resources may precipitate a war between China and US.

By the way, a famous …

A brief story of the human future

Here at KAUST, we had three good rains in the last ten days. I just finished my 18 km bike ride and inhaled the vibrant shades of green of all leaves and the efervescent colors of flowers. The mangroves along the coast are growing vigorously, and today they were a bouquet of seledines reflected by the crystal clear water. It is peace where I live. Things could not be better.


Why then am I so worried? First this legal disclaimer: I am no Tralfamadorian.  I do not have the ability to experience reality in four dimensions; cannot access past, present, and future; and am unable to perceive any instant of time at will. Tralfamadorians are able to see the entire timeline of the universe, they know the exact time and place of the universe's annihilation caused by an unfortunate Tralfamadorian experiment, but are powerless to prevent the inevitable. Because they believe that when a living being dies, she continues to live in other times and places, their well-known response to death is, &…

All is well on our planet Earth, isn't it?

Please don't act with surprise when I say this: The global climate change is real; global warming is accelerating, especially in the northern hemisphere; and the positive feedbacks that will further exacerbate human condition are kicking in with vengeance.  I am stating the scientifically obvious, but I have not made it clear yet just how bad this climate change will be for us humans. For millennia, we have relied on the "free" environmental services that are going away.  These life-giving services are clean air to breathe, fertile soil, mild temperatures, healthy forests and savannas, healthy rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, sufficient rain, full aquifers, clean drinking water, and ample snowpacks.  When you are in China, in the Middle East, or in Central Valley in California, most or all of these services are either damaged or gone.

Let's fast forward to a recent article under this promising title: Climate report understates threat. This article was written by Dr.…