What I'm Reading (Apr. 15)

Google Maps and privacy, mRNA vaccines - an overnight + 40 years sensation, can plants solve our CO2 problem, the cost of subscription services.

One of the reasons there are concerns about privacy on the Net is that much of our data can be cross-reference, and what we thought was anonymous becomes attached to our names. Here is a great example involves our tech villain du jour, Google.

“Annually, we get the American Community Survey (ACS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While it conveys a slew of statistics, the problem is a time lag that could exceed two years. Because our government tends to use people rather than technology for gathering data, what we learn can be out-of-date. Instead, scholars from four U.S. universities demonstrated how Street View from Google Maps could provide data much more quickly.”

From EconLife, What Your Car Says About You and Your Neighborhood

“Like so many breakthroughs, this apparent overnight success was many decades in the making. More than 40 years had passed between the 1970s, when a Hungarian scientist pioneered early mRNA research, and the day the first authorized mRNA vaccine was administered in the United States, on December 14, 2020. In the interim, the idea’s long road to viability nearly destroyed several careers and almost bankrupted several companies.

The dream of mRNA persevered in part because its core principle was tantalizingly simple, even beautiful: The world’s most powerful drug factory might be inside all of us.”

Now that many of us have a bit of outside mRNA courtesy of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, perhaps we should look at this overnight, 40 years in the making technology. From The Atlantic, How mRNA Technology Could Change the World

“Geologic evidence indicates that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels plummeted more than 80 percent over 800,000 years, sharply ratcheting down Earth’s thermostat. Prior to the inferred “Azolla Event,” most of the globe was lush and tropical. Afterward, the Arctic cooled by nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the poles froze, and our planet entered a lurching cycle of ice ages that continue to this day. 

The Azolla Event was an environmental catastrophe for life in the Eocene epoch. Today, though, it is a source of inspiration…”

Could plants bury the rising tide of CO2? From Nautil.us, How to Bury Carbon? Let Plants Do the Dirty Work

I am increasingly irritated by software subscriptions. Once, a long time ago, I could purchase Microsoft’s Word and use it till I wanted an upgrade. Today, it is subscription only – improving Microsoft’s cash flow but increasing my costs. I am even more angry at Adobe. Someone is giving voice to my concerns.

“Capitalism has long been criticized for its relentless emphasis on consumerism and marketing, and the combined effect of both on a general dumbing-down of society. Yet capitalism has unquestionably provided consumers with choice. Some even go so far as to say that choice is the bedrock of capitalism. As political economist Terry Hathaway put it: “Choice facilitates freedom and, as such, has been one of the central appeals of contemporary neoliberal capitalism; without choice, you cannot be free.” 

Today, however, choice is fast becoming an empty mantra as consumers face the iron law of compatibility. Forced to “opt in,” users submit to a relentless schedule of upgrades and updates among the ever-proliferating gadgets and technologies that bring us so much while governing our lives more and more.”


From The Hedgehog Review, The Compatibility Trap, When Opting in Means Forfeiting Choice