This week we fill you in on why Yuval Noah Harari is worried we'll become ‘hacked humans’, a controversial new IDW University is founded, Chomsky talks about cancel culture, and we discuss gravitational waves, finding the next Earth and some incredible dinosaur eggs found in Argentina.
As always, let us know if you come across any interesting news – we love hearing from you.
Have a great week,
GRAVITATIONAL WAVE TSUNAMI
Astronomers have made an astounding 35 new detections of gravitational waves, a record haul since they were first discovered in 2015.
Scientists hope to observe more waves (and possibly other unknown objects and events) after the Advanced LIGO and Virgo detectors are upgraded and start observing again in August 2022.
In particular, they’re on the hunt for waves caused by supernova explosions, and single misshapen neutron stars.
MASSIVE NEW TELESCOPE PLANS
An updated report of The Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics was published after, you guessed it, ten years.
The Survey gives a current state of the field, identifies research priorities, and makes recommendations for the coming decade.
In the recent report, astronomers call for a whole suite of massive telescopes that will be able to peer into the atmosphere of planets beyond our solar system, listen to black holes ringing as they form, and look back in time to when galaxies first emerged.
Their loftiest goal is to create a multi-billion dollar telescope with a 6-metre dish that can see all types of light. With this, they hope to be able to find exoplanets!
You may know Yuval Noah Harari from his best-selling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
The history professor turned stellar author recently went on 60 Minutes in the US to talk not about our history, but our future. He predicts that we will soon have the power to re-engineer ourselves, whether that be through gene-editing tools like CRISPR, brain-computer interfaces like Neuralink, or perhaps we will create completely new, inorganic AI beings.
He also brings up the fact that we already live in a world where data is one of the most expensive resources on the planet. Companies pay billions to mine our data, and Yuval predicts that soon they will want more biometric info. We already wear devices that track our health markers, and while this data could produce amazing health care systems, it could also be used to our detriment, for example, higher health insurance premiums determined by AI systems.
Yuval worries we’re on the road to becoming ‘hacked humans’ – that these companies will know you better than you know yourself. He says they might even know you’re gay before you realise it, just based on your data. If this information were to be shared with highly oppressive governments, users could be persecuted before they get to know themselves.
He gives three key rules for safe surveillance:
- If you get someone’s data, it should only be used to their benefit.
- Data shouldn't be concentrated in one place,
- An increase in individual surveillance should be matched with an increase in surveillance of the groups using the data.
There's a controversial new university that everyone’s talking about.
It’s called the University of Austin, or UATX, but is colloquially known as the IDW (Intellectual Dark Web) University.
It was founded in response to what some see as increasing illiberalism on university campuses. The uni’s goal, put simply, is the pursuit of truth at all costs.
Academics such as Peter Boghossian and Kathleen Stock, who were effectively bullied out of their roles in academia due to their heterodox teaching, are the founding faculty fellows, along with the outspoken activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As you can see, the uni’s already associated with some big names, and already has support from Jon Haidt, Steve Pinker, Bari Weiss, Glenn Loury and Lex Fridman.
So far its been criticised for its inability to confer degrees, although it has plans to become accredited in the near future.
Another point to note is that it’s aiming to be a pretty old-school uni, with classes only offered in-person.
The goals of the uni are really commendable, and in many ways they align with what we’re doing at Think Inc. Academy: teaching students how to think, and not what to think, especially in our Critical Thinking and Politics as the New Religion courses.
We’re proud of our ability to do this through new forms of online education, and as a result, we have students from all over: Canada, Kenya, the UK, Spain and Brazil. You can't get that from a traditional uni.
Is UATX making the right move when it says it wants to emulate a traditional uni – the type that forced them out in the first place?
CHOMSKY VS YASCHA MOUNK
Yet again, Yascha Mounk’s podcast The Good Fight is producing some amazing content.
His most recent episode is with the legendary Noam Chomsky, and they have a pretty fiery debate about identity politics and whether it’s really something that only the Left participates in. They also talk about Critical Race Theory, Foucault, cancel culture and China.
Yascha and Chomksy don’t agree on much but they have a respectful and insightful conversation, and that’s what we’re all about at Think Inc.
Look at this amazing dinosaur egg found in Patagonia, Argentina.
Just recently palaeontologists found about 80 skeletons of dinosaurs of all different ages, and over 100 eggs – all of the early sauropod ancestor Mussaurus patagonicus.
This incredible fossilized egg dates to about 193 million years ago! It's the earliest evidence that dinosaurs traveled in herds and most likely stayed together throughout their lives.