The cicadas are loud this year. Quite loud. At least they are where I live in Pudong. Their sound, which is almost indescribable – not a buzz, more a pulsating chatterous skeez – fills the air day and night. The high point came a couple weeks back when they set up a truly deafening, almost three-dimensional roar. They are trailing off now. Day by day the sound thins, like the tide going out leaving small islands here and there. Soon there won’t even be islands – just silence. Now there are are only a few left. You probably won’t even notice they’re gone, just like you barely noticed they were there. How can something so loud be so invisible?
I’ve lived in China for 18 years, but I didn’t start taking my health seriously until 2008, just after the Olympics. This had nothing to do with the Olympics, though, and everything to do with the fact that I suddenly found myself in my mid-30s, choked by the Beijing smog, and staring reality hard in the face.
Sometime in the early months of 2002, when I was trapped in a Montreal apartment by a wall of snow and lack of money, I wrote a story about artificial intelligence called Computer Kind. After recently reading this interesting–if excitable–blog post which lays a convincing case for real-deal AI coming on the scene in 2040 with a superintelligent form of it right around 2060, I revisited the story. I found that it’s relevant. Very relevant. And so here it is in its entirety.
It’s a good week to think about the environment and talk about the environment. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just a few days ago released a summary of the first part of its big climate report. The contents were not surprising: the earth, the air, the seas, the lakes everything is getting warmer, mainly due to carbon added to the atmosphere and most of that coming from human activities.