Show notes from the WHO Radio Wise Guys - January 30, 2010
Key components to longer life: Eating a low-meat diet and being active with friends
We have to learn how to do two things at once: Extend human lifespans and improve the quality of life throughout that lifespan -- well into old age. The objection a lot of people have to living an exceptionally long time is that they don't want to be old and infirm. Take away the infirmities we too often associate with old age, and what's the problem with aiming to live for a century or more? In fact, it would be a vast improvement in the human condition if we could live longer and be healthier throughout that lifespan -- children would have more loving caretakers (grandparents, great-grandparents, and even great-great grandparents) and society would benefit from the application of their accumulated wisdom. After all, if we spend about 20 years getting educated well enough to become productive members of society, then the longer we can be productive, the better the rate of return on educational investment. Not everyone, of course, will want to continue contributing to the economy after an arbitrary retirement date, but we really only need for a few geniuses to keep producing well into old age for the entire world to benefit. Norman Borlaug was still working to save lives from hunger into his 90s, and Galileo was still inventing in his 70s.
Innovation trumps regulation
Bill Gates has issued a clarion call for more innovation in the energy sector, noting that there's only so much that present technology will allow us to do either to reduce energy waste or to produce more without creating environmental harm. That's why we need inducement prizes to encourage significant new innovation. Higher taxes and more burdensome regulations might suppress some of the energy waste that we presently overlook, but they don't really concentrate the incentives sufficiently to compel people to come up with the great new ideas we urgently need. Gates has taken the interesting step of investing in geoengineering research as a sort of stopgap measure -- just in case it turns out that climate change is more severe than expected or happens faster than we anticipate. But the need for better energy production and storage would be important with or without the threat of global warming, so it's in our best interest to accelerate the development of new ideas in that field.
Home video of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster rediscovered
(Video) The video itself doesn't do much, other than to show us a different angle of a sad event we've all seen before. But what's especially interesting is that the content is now migrating to the Internet. Home videos that once sat in basements are now finding their way onto the Internet for immediate worldwide distribution. Surely there are many treasures hidden in vast untapped storehouses of information -- libraries full of unread books, for instance, and archives of all sorts that have been bound by the physical limitations of whatever medium upon which they're stored. The great challenge now, aside from finding ways to digitize all of that old content and put it online, is finding out how to make that content searchable. Google seems to be trying myriad ways to make a variety of content formats searchable -- their automatic voicemail transcription in Google Voice is undoubtedly an effort to build a voice-to-text engine that can translate old audio recordings to searchable text, just as Google Books is one of the largest-ever experiments in optical character recognition.
Are Americans losing our "infuriating but reassuring" sense of self-confidence?
President Obama is smart enough to reject populism
It can only be hoped that his temporary turn to the lazy old tactic of populism will be reversed before it can do much damage
Flooding will be virtually inevitable in Iowa this year