#87 Around the world
“Geotagged iPhone photos are often some of my only clues that I have been somewhere or done something; I cherish them as proof that I, at one point, left my house.” (source)
In the tick tick tick of all-day breaking news, journalism has lost much of its art. Caity Weaver hasn’t. Her article I Lived the #VanLife. It wasn’t pretty had me laughing out loud and appreciating why I paid to read the NYT.
People much brighter than me have written about how smartphone photography changes our memories and how we live our lives. Like Weaver, I check the map in my iPhone’s Photos app regularly for clues of experiences I’ve lived. The other day, the search term “wine” helped me find that one bottle I knew I liked last “summer” near “Castricum.”
Now, Apple needs to figure out this externalized memory does not have to show up in Memories, the app’s automated curated videos. “Summer in Castricum – 2021” is rich enough without the photos of empty wine bottles, car park locations, receipts, and other things I prefer my iPhone remembers.
Many of my readers have read Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry For The Future. When I read about the current heatwave in India, I cannot help but be reminded of this book. As the joke about 1984 goes, science fiction is not supposed to be an instruction manual.
If you haven’t read it, read it! The book starts out in a heatwave in India with what is known as a ‘wet bulb event.’ A wet-bulb event occurs when temperature and humidity coincide to make it impossible for your body to cool itself. If the wet-bulb temperature exceeds 35 degrees Celsius, eventually, people will die. Unfortunately, the temperature and humidity in India are currently very close to wet bulb temperature. And it is not the only place at risk. (Here’s a tool to help you calculate the wet bulb temperature for your situation.)
Of course, I’ll not spoil what happens next. Or not too much. Because India wasn’t the only current affair that reminded me of the book.
One of the many initiatives The Ministry For The Future describes is the half-earth movement, which has been written about before by others, including Eduardo Wilson. The Dutch NGO/startup EarthToday that picked up on this idea got into some headwind this week for the generous rewards its founders can look forward to when they achieve success. A pity because they seemed to have used the good parts of The Ministry as a manual (including some of the technological ambitions in the book).
I do not want to have an opinion on the controversy. However, it reminded me of Dan Pallotta’s 2013 TED talk The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong. From the transcript:
“So in the for-profit sector, the more value you produce, the more money you can make. But we don’t like nonprofits to use money to incentivize people to produce more in social service. We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interestingly, we don’t have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money not helping other people. You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.”
What if a handful of people turn half the earth into a nature reserve? Would they deserve a reward? How does that reward relate to the reward we’ve given the guy that popularised EVs? How should it compare to the riches we’ve granted people that caused all the trouble in the first place by financing, trading, or burning fossil fuels?
Anyway, there was something else I wanted to write about. One of my few friends on Strava, Mike Murawski, recently ran a 100k run, and I cannot get it out of my head. I’ve been running all my life, yet distances like this are beyond my comprehension. It takes me up to four weeks to cover the same distance.
To make up for the feeling of insignificance, I decided to join the Brooks Earth Week Challenge to run 100 laps around the world. I got help from 161,088 other people. They want you to sign up for their newsletter to see if we were successful, but simple maths shows it’s been close. Imagine the earth is big enough it takes 1,610 people running a week-long relay to go around it just once!
As a moderate runner (20-25 km/week), I can expect to run around the world on my own only once in my life.
Thank you for reading and subscribing and forwarding and the occasional reply. I had some notes about memes, life expectancy, and the coast of Norway I didn’t get to write about this week. I may do so the next, but likely now. Until then, take care, and all the best,