A recent and totally serious article in Foreign Policy asks us to consider whether Silicon Valley can save the world. Hasn't it already been saved? By hemp? Or by biofuels? No? Not even by Bono? Tired of hearing that question from supposedly serious media? Read on for ten things that, despite worshipful claims from various publications, definitely won't be saving us from ourselves.
It's well known that where drones can take the place of human soldiers, they can reduce potential casualties (well .. for their owners). Drones also have a softer side; they could be useful for delivering medicine and supplies to hard to reach corners of the world. But as Forbes points out, as the A.I. inside drones becomes more intelligent to manage increasingly complex tasks, drone strikes will offer a "plausible deniability to protect nations that created them. It will become difficult to say who sent that weapon, raising the potential for anonymous war." So basically, drones might save the world but they might also give us Skynet. Great.
Depending on who you talk to, mushrooms are known either for their cosmic powers or for being the things you pick off your pizza. But to Paul Stamets, mushrooms can be harnessed to defend against biological attack, clean up oil spills, or as pest control. Clearly these are not your mother's mushrooms. Stamet's claims sound utopian, but if they are correct, that's good news for humanity. But mushrooms will probably remain a more fertile topic for comedians and foodies, rather than the catalysts of a "back to nature" singularity.
3. Vladimir Putin:
To be fair, this one specifically deals with saving tigers, not the world. Still, the thought that the tiger, "Asia's most venerated beast," is going to be saved by a man who looks rather like a cat himself, has a certain symmetry about it, however implausible. But then again, Putin does come from a country where they ride bears for fun, so anything is possible.
4. Social Media:
Another favorite theme these days is the impact of social media. According to the news on any given day, social media is creating miracles: fomenting revolutions and bringing people closer together. Apparently, now it can also help the World Bank promote economic development, fight police corruption, and improve agricultural practices in the Third World ... assuming we all aren't too busy "liking" each other's statuses.
Who knew my sister's prom dresses had such potential? New York Times writer Elizabeth Rosenthal describes the need for the world's fashionistas to stop chasing the latest fads and buy more durable, less trendy fashions that will not soon be clogging up the landfills. The article cites a report from Cambridge University calling for more "sustainable clothing," a goal that presents an uphill battle in the ever-changing world of fashion. According to the report, the beauty ( ... ?) of polyester is that, although it takes more resources to manufacture than natural fibers, it can be laundered more easily, without the use of hot water and a tumble dryer.
6. Dennis Rodman:
Appropos of Dennis Rodman's recent trip to North Korea, some pundits have wondered if the cross-dressing NBA star can succeed where diplomacy has not. Buzz Bissinger, writing for the Daily Beast, wonders if Rodman has changed the world by hanging out with North Korea's "Lil' Kim." Bissinger praises Rodman for taking a stand, albeit a horrible one, and seems to equate Rodman's participation in the HBO show being filmed with political boldness, rather than an attempt to get back into the public eye. No comment was offered on Rodman's fashion choices for the visit by the recently self-revealed slave to fashion.
This one has become very common over the years, especially since the financial crisis. Everyone wants to understand the "China Model", how China will affect the markets, how China is feeling. The truth is China is far too busy with internal problems to worry about the rest of the world. Even in the face of its new prosperity, two-thirds of its people still live below the poverty line. China is also constantly dealing with instability. Even in good times, there were regular riots. And now its economy is slowing down. The bottom line: China isn't the savior you're looking for.
8. Millennials (And/Or Their Smartphones):
Smartphones have a wide variety of uses. But like most great inventions, like the internet, they get panned as being massive timewasters and distractions. But rather than just looking at cats playing piano or at Facebook, millennials are apparently also using their phones to coordinate ride shares and navigate public transportation, thus saving the planet while wasting time. It's called multitasking! Look into it.
9. Eating Insects:
Depending on who you are and the food alternatives available, a bug on your plate could be cause for either "eewwwww" or "yummmm." Over 2 billion people dine on insects and spiders worldwide, and a recent UN report wants to encourage the trend as a way to feed a growing world population sustainably. Considering the trouble most of us go to to eradicate creepy critters, one assumes it can't be too hard to cultivate them. And if you can get past the ick factor — a big "if" — you would be eating very healthy stuff; insects are high in protein and fiber, as well as certain minerals. Some of the UN experts suggested that insects should be thought of as the "shrimp of the land." One supposes that Red Lobster has nothing to fear.
10. ... and Rabbits:
In another effort to feed a hungry world, others offer up Thumper. Citing their lean protein and renowned reproductive efficiency, agriscientists are promoting big beefy bunnies as the other white meat. These scientists gather at places like the World Rabbit Congress (really) to compare notes on bunny husbandry. The fact that they can be raised without expensive grain makes them especially attractive to farmers in less affluent countries, and it's eco-friendly to boot.