Celebrating Charles Darwin Day

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Tattoo inspired from Darwin’s notebook around July 1837 that showed his first sketch of an evolutionary tree.

Today people around the world celebrates the 204 Anniversary of Charles Darwin birth.  To me this day is special and I celebrate the life and work of this great man by sharing with you the WHY he is history’s most important thinker.

Throughout his life, Darwin’s work resulted in the most enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, ever contributed to the advancement of humanity.  Darwin gave us the research and opened the doors for human inquiry by founding the unifying theory of Biology: Evolution. He was the first to present convincing evidence of it and its major driving force – natural selection.

The general idea of evolution preceded Darwin, and he shied away from making the explicit and incendiary claim that even humans were evolved from other creatures. But his explanation of natural selection as a mechanism that made evolution plausibly able to explain the origin of species without reference to a creator up-ended the contemporary orthodoxy. It set a new course that no subsequent scientific work could ignore. And according to the eminent late evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, “Eliminating God from science made room for strictly scientific explanations of all natural phenomena; it gave rise to positivism; it produced a powerful intellectual and spiritual revolution, the effects of which have lasted to this day.”

Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr wanted to celebrate Darwin’s lifelong spirit of curiosity and bring the message to kids with their new graphic novel.
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Walmart’s Irrational “buy American” Campaign

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Walmart‘s latest push to Buy American and Hire Veterans is irrational.  In a world of interconnectedness in which products from pencils to airplanes are produced with parts and components made all over the world the “buy American” argument falls into pieces.

In today’s world mass consumption economy there is not a single product that can be claimed to be “national” or “unique” without ignoring the intertwined network of global production.  If your argument is “yes” there is such a thing as “100% national” or “100% American” then I will still be able of arguing against your position.  Why?  Because the economy of the United States of America is not only part but dependent on the global economy.

By 2012, only about 32 cents for every dollar of U.S. debt, or $4.6 trillion, was owned by the federal government in trust funds, for Social Security and other programs such as retirement accounts, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The largest portion of U.S. debt, 68 cents for every dollar or about $10 trillion, is owned by individual investors, corporations, state and local governments and, yes, even foreign governments such as China that hold Treasury bills, notes and bonds.

Foreign governments hold about 46 percent of all U.S. debt held by the public, more than $4.5 trillion. The largest foreign holder of U.S. debt is China, which owns more about $1.2 trillion in bills, notes and bonds, according to the Treasury.

In total, China owns about 8 percent of publicly held U.S. debt. Of all the holders of U.S. debt China is the third-largest, behind only the Social Security Trust Fund‘s holdings of nearly $3 trillion and the Federal Reserve‘s nearly $2 trillion holdings in Treasury investments, purchased as part of its quantitative easing program to boost the economy. (Data via: How Much U.S. Debt Does China Really Own?)

So, the next time you think you are “Buying American“, I invite you to reconsider how irrational such an argument is.

The Water We Eat: Scroll-Down Infographic Story on Water Usage

This made me think of all the readings I have done on Privatization of Water,

Vía information aesthetics

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The Water We Eat [angelamorelli.com] by information designer Angela Morelli is an infographic story that unfolds by the act of scrolling down the page.

It features various animated visual elements that move, appear, rotate, zoom or fall, to convey the meaning behind data retrieved from the Water Footprint Network as well as some of the reasoning explained in the book “Virtual Water: Tackling the Threat to Our Planet’s Most Precious Resource“.

More information about this piece can be found here. Via @JanWillemTulp.

Hayek’s Spontaneous Order Goes Global with Instagram

Instagram user diegotrial

Several months ago when I heard the news about Facebook paying $1 Billion for Instagram I thought ‘the world was going crazy’.  My first impression was to think that the ruling scale of values was mistaken.  That people was giving value to unimportant things while the rest of the world was still trying to manage to survive the day.  I couldn’t understand Why would a company pay such a huge amount of money for a software application for smartphones and iPhone that is only used for procrastination and doesn’t create any value for the world? Last week’s volcanic eruption of Fuego Volcano in Guatemala made me change my mind.

The entrepreneurs behind Instagram,  Kevin Systrom and Michel “Mike” Krieger, created an application that was not only user-friendly but that enabled users to share images from anywhere in the world immediately.  Such an application was created (maybe unintentionally) to become one of the fastest image reservoirs of instant news and global interconnection.  When Facebook bought this photo-sharing app and paid $1 Billion they had not only bought the access to an essential function in millions of smartphones around the world but also connected visually the planet as we had never seen before.  Last week’s event in Guatemala was the first time in my life when I could see through my phone in Denmark high quality images of events that were taking place in real-time more than 5,843 miles.  Indeed, Hayek’s ideas of how an spontaneous order works was going global!

“Spontaneous order is what happens when you leave people alone—when entrepreneurs… see the desires of people… and then provide for them. They respond to market signals, to prices. Prices tell them what’s needed and how urgently and where. And it’s infinitely better and more productive than relying on a handful of elites in some distant bureaucracy.” Leonard Reed

To say that the world is interconnected and interdependent means to say that we are able now able of bypassing normal newsbroadcasters around the world.  No longer will be that easy for anyone to control what  the world would see and what the world wouldn’t see (as critized when News corporations around the world have been used to show a biased reservoir of images and videos during the Gulf War, or in the war in Iraq to mention some examples).  Now, with access to photo-sharing applications such as Instagram the world not only has access to interconnection of real-time events but also has what Hayek explained as “a more efficient allocation of societal resources than any design could achieve.”  Instagram is one more societal tool that enables us to achieve the best of humanity if used for the right purposes.  Because of this reasons the founders of Instagram earned  that billion dollars and the world is wealthier today.

On Earth Day 2012

Yesterday, April 22 many people gathered to celebrate “Earth Day” in order to call for a stop of human action and creativity in the process of transforming our planet.  Fortunately, against these destructive minds and philosophy many men and women have been working to show why the transformation of the world is something good, positive and beneficial for all of us.

I invite you to watch this wonderful video titled “If I wanted America to fail”

Furthermore, I also invite you to read the essay written by Alex Epstein (Founder and Director of the Center for Industrial Progress) in which he elaborates why human transformation of Earth is the product of our success in being more efficient and productive.  Because as Epstein wonderfully elaborates,

“It is only through technology–transforming the world around us for human purposes–that we eventually lessened that load. Technology, by creating a human environment in which our goals are easier to accomplish, buys us time–time to enjoy ourselves as we please, or time to create more technologies that will buy us even more time by improving our environment even more.” Read his essay here

Article: Global Migration, 1846–1940 by Prof. Adam McKeown

via Flickr”]Port

Rudolph Vecoli introduced his edited volume A Century of European Migrations, 1830–1930 with the statement “[w]e need to move beyond the framework of the ‘Atlantic Migration’ . . . It [has] blinkered us to the global nature of [migration].”

And indeed, that is what Prof. Adam McKeown planned to demonstrate in the article “Global Migration, 1846–1940”.  The article is a great tool to understand the role that global interconnectedness, industrialization and increase in trade meant for the world. McKeown explains how was it that millions of migrants during the period of his study enabled for the population of America, Southeast Asia and Manchuria to increased more quickly than world population.

Read it:Global Migration 1846-1940. McKeown, Adam, Ph.D. Journal of World History, Volume 15, Number 2, June 2004, pp. 155-189 (Article)

Full Access HTML Version | Full Access PDF Version (421k)

Fight internet censorship and IP address blockades

A security line outside Google’s Beijing office. (AP/Andy Wong)

Is Internet a neutral zone? Is it a network that runs freely in any place of the world? Or is it controlled and regulated by governments and companies?

Sadly, it is not a free space in which people is able of doing whatever they rationally please. Internet is to a large degree a networked controlled and its globalizing effects are constantly been limited by the regulations and institutions of the countries from which we access it.  Specially in countries that have had a long history of citizen’s censorship and IP address controls.  CPJ‘s list of these countries that have managed to control the most it’s citizens freedom is #1 Iran, #2 Belarus, #3 Cuba, #4 Ethiopia, #5 Burma, #6 China, #7 Tunisia under Ben Ali, #8 Egypt under Mubarak (still continues being so), #9 Syria and #10 Russia.

Also, as noted in Wikipedia in 2006, Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), a Paris-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press, started publishing a list of “Enemies of the Internet”. The organization classifies a country as an enemy of the internet because “all of these countries mark themselves out not just for their capacity to censor news and information online but also for their almost systematic repression of Internet users.” In 2007 a second list of countries “Under Surveillance” (originally “Under Watch”) was added. Both lists are updated annually.

Enemies of the Internet:

Internet censorship by country

As mentioned by Danny O’Brien in CPJ, “The world’s worst online oppressors are using an array of tactics, some reflecting astonishing levels of sophistication, others reminiscent of old-school techniques. From China’s high-level malware attacks to Syria’s brute-force imprisonments, this may be only the dawn of online oppression.”

Now, the principle in discussion here is what can we do to act freely in the Web? First, there are some services that enable you to block the origin of your IP address (learn what an IP is at the end of the post) and to access many websites by hiding your country of origin; one private and free service is HMA! or How to Bypass Internet Censorship.  But the most important one’s are the following online agencies and organizations that are working to inform and educate internet users of their rights and obligations:

What is an IP address:

Every device connected to the public Internet is assigned a unique number known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address. IP addresses consist of four numbers separated by periods (also called a ‘dotted-quad’) and look something like 127.0.0.1.

Since these numbers are usually assigned to internet service providers within region-based blocks, an IP address can often be used to identify the region or country from which a computer is connecting to the Internet. An IP address can sometimes be used to show the user’s general location. vía: http://whatismyipaddress.com/