When I was a kid and visited rock pools, I’d always look carefully, hoping to see an octopus in the wild. It never happened. This would have been the dream!
This article looks at conservation and animal distributions and suggests that, maybe, we’re trying to save animals in the wrong places. Perhaps where animals are now is only where they have been pushed by human expansion, rather than being the best places for them. It shows the complications of dealing things in the real world and how our desire for a “correct” world clashes with the reality that the world is always changing. Conservation is important but what are you conserving and when is your conservation harming more than its helping? These sort of questions are not limited to animals but are also applicable to humans. It’s difficult to say who belongs where because human history is a history of migration. Who is “supposed” to live where will change depending at what time you choose.
This time we’re doing two weeks together. Why? I got infected with covid and so all my plans and normal activities have completely gone out the window. It was not a particularly severe case though but it’s still been quite disruptive.
This week we’re starting off with an impressive picture of a snow leopard which was taken in Mongolia.
AI tools like chatGPT are pretty cool. But they are not exactly reliable and, even worse, it’s difficult to know how reliable they are. When you hear a person you don’t know, you can look into what they do or what qualifications they have. With AI, it’s giving you answers which are a mix of all sorts of information; some true, some false. In the following Twitter thread, you can learn how it can construct that false information.
I’ve seen this in quite a few places, it’s a piece arguing that PhD training needs to be reformed. Now I’m not saying that PhD training (or universities in general) are perfect, they’re not. There are many things that can be improved but I don’t think this article is on the right track. In my opinion, many of the sort of issues that the article talks about are neither failings of PhD nor university education but a failure of society and expectations. A degree at any level is not supposed to prepare people for jobs. It’s supposed to provide domain-specific knowledge while building general skills in critical thinking, research and learning. It’s up to employers to provide job-specific training. There is also a problem of credential inflation where even basic jobs now require a degree, no matter how unnecessary that is. Furthermore, while I fully agree that we should value PhD graduates and that they can help find solutions to various problems, I think framing that as a key role of PhD training is sorely misguided. I say that because we don’t need more solutions! Look at the biggest problem of today – global warming. We already have renewable energy options, we know how to build public transport, we know how to make food more sustainable, we know we can cut back on consumption. The problems are not scientific, they are political. There is no political will to make the necessary changes. Most other big problems, from Russia’s war in Ukraine, censorship, human rights, equality and so on, those are all political problems that we can, in principle, solve today.
In the early years of my blog, I occasionally did a “quicklinks” post which just included links to items of interest and a brief description. I didn’t do too many and that sort of short interaction was later taken over by Twitter. In an attempt to boost my activity, if not full-length posts, I thought I might try doing a weekly set of quicklinks that I’ve shared on Twitter. It will not necessarily include everything I see and share there but, hopefully, the most interesting and informative links.
The Royal Society reports that Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection, was born yesterday in 1823.
This is the companion piece to my short story, The Moralbiont. It will discuss some of the references and science from the story. If you have not read the story yet, I would highly advise reading it first.
The conversation between Olivia and her grandfather about his thesis supposedly being covered in cow skin is a reference to a question from the Voight-Kampff test. In the Blade Runner franchise, the Voight-Kampff test is administered to those suspected of being a replicant, a human-like android lacking empathy. By monitoring the physiological responses to questions about shocking or repellent situations, you are able to tell if the subject is a real human or a replicant. I have neither seen Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner film nor read the original novel by Philip K. Dick but I did play the 1997 video-game which is where I became aware of the question.
Like my briefcase? Department issue, baby hide. 100% genuine human baby hide.