Open Question: Is the ego a narrative fiction we create about ourselves?
Exactly what it says on the tin.
Open Question: Is a global apocalypse more likely to be a single catastrophic event or a continuous, long-duration multi-focal event?
The Bedouin Way of Life in Rub’ al Khali touches on one possible answer, the second.
Open Questions: Will agriculture by fundamentally transformed in the next decade? And if so, what are the likely health implications?
We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years. While arguments rage about plant- versus meat-based diets, new technologies will soon make them irrelevant. Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. This means multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories.”-George Monbiot, “Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet.” The Guardian. January 8, 2020.
“We are on the cusp of the deepest, fastest, most consequential disruption in food and agricultural production since the first domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago. This is primarily a protein disruption driven by economics. The cost of proteins will be five times cheaper by 2030 and 10 times cheaper by 2035 than existing animal proteins, before ultimately approaching the cost of sugar. They will also be superior in every key attribute – more nutritious, healthier, better tasting, and more convenient, with almost unimaginable variety. This means that, by 2030, modern food products will be higher quality and cost less than half as much to produce as the animal-derived products they replace.”-Catherine Tubb & Tony Seba, “Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030.” RethinkX. September 2019.
Open Question: What is a reasonable program for people to follow to develop a good level of fitness?
I’ve been thinking a bit about the 2018 Experiment: HIIT Burpee and Running Program. The challenge of that program was to met a minimal standard for health, which I define using the American Heart Association standards:
- 25 minutes of aerobic activity, 3 times a week
- moderate intensity muscle-building, 2 times a week
I prefer running for cardiovascular fitness. I have always wanted to run a sub-20 minute 5K. So, I was thinking that a speed program at the desired speed, 9.0 on a treadmill or 6:40/mile pace on Monday and Fridays, incrementing as the current level becomes easy.
- 0.25 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 4 to 12 reps
- 0.5 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 2 to 6 reps
- 0.75 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 2 to 4 reps
- 1 mile with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 1 to 3 reps
- 1.5 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 1 to 3 reps
- 2 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 1 to 2 reps
- 2.5 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 1 to 2 reps
- 3 miles at one rep.
On Tuesday & Thursdays, it’s an easy 4 miles. On Wednesday, it’s either a easy 6-10 miles, an easy 4 miler or a rest day, depending on how I’m feeling. I’m not sure how long this kind of program will take, but I think taking two years seems like an achievable time frame.
Moderate Intensity Muscle-Building
But, the burpee program I came up with was positively brutal. I wanted to avoid making the same mistake this time, and keeping this easy.
This year, I spent some time revisiting The Hacker’s Diet, and I think his idea of having a low-intensity, low-time commitment exercise regime that can be done daily and anywhere is a good one. I took his program, and modified it to include a stepped program that increases 7% from 10 up to ~200 of bends (hands over head, legs spread, touch toes and return), sit-ups (hands across chest), skydivers (one rep, 4-count, hands to head and legs), push-ups, scissors (one rep, 4-count), jump squats, planks (front, back, each side for X seconds and 20 second rest period in between each), and jumping jacks (one rep, 4-count).
Each exercise is done for one set. The first rung takes less than 15 minutes. It’s easy to start, but it has the potential to become seriously challenging as you progress.
Modified Hacker’s Diet Exercise Program
So, I’m going to give this a try next year, and I’ll report back on how it worked out.
Open Question: What does it mean to “pace yourself” in modern culture? Does it mean staying with something long enough, over time, to truly develop a relationship with the material and love it?
“There’s a willingness, there’s a faith, there’s a very, very magical alchemy that happens when somebody looks at something with enormous love and enormous passion—and it doesn’t matter what that material is. It can be a comic book page, it can be a silly story, and you don’t change it, but the way you look at it transforms it. Which is a very different exercise than postmodernism. Postmodernism or kitsch is me winking at you, saying ‘I know it’s silly, but I’m being ironic. I’m above the material.’ And for me, the transformative power of art is you are not above the material…
…I think it is amazing that I can travel with my iPad with thousands of movies. I think it is amazing that I can streamline thousands more. I think it is amazing that I can know what happened in far-flung countries, in one second. But it is up to us, as humans—one of our ethical tasks is to say, how am I going to pace myself? What am I focusing on? Because otherwise we live life in a blur. We’re texting and driving. So it is—media is not evil. The speed of media is not evil. What is toxic is that we don’t pace ourselves. That we’re not having dinner without texting; that we’re not capable of paying full attention to the moment we’re living. And that is true also of the cinematic discourse.”-Guillermo del Toro in an interview with Lauren Wilford, “Death is the Curator: An Interview with Guillermo del Toro.” Bright Wall / Dark Room. Issue 44. February 2017.
This whole interview is packed with wisdom and might change the way you think about culture, particularly film. Read it.
Open Question: Are smart phones primarily an information technology or a control technology?
“What the phone promises you psychologically is not content as such, but a space on the screen that is totally obedient to you. This translates into the illusion that the world, seen through the screen, will be equally obedient. I think any effort to try to understand smartphone addiction needs to grapple with the fact that it is much closer to a control technology than an information technology. Of course, it tells you useful things but what it offers you is navigation and control, the ability to make a fast-moving and confusing world obey you. One of the main contrasts in the book is between a view of the world that tries to represent it—the classically modern one of the seventeenth century for which the map would be a classic example—and a view of the world which brings it under control, which is a military ideal. Today, we often have no idea where we are going until we put a destination into our phone and follow the instructions. This navigation-based approach to the world originates from military technology and the need to bring the world under control.”–William Davies interview with Tobias Haberkorn, “Control Groups.” The Point Magazine. December 7, 2019.
Open Question: Does living alone position people for having a broader social support network?
“I don’t want to take care of anybody. I want to take care of me,’ said Nadell, who divorced her second husband two decades ago. ‘You want to be friends and get together, when I say it’s okay to get together? Fine. But to be in a relationship where I have to answer to somebody else? Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again.'”
As these solo dwellers age, the question becomes what happens when they grow frail and need someone to lean on. DePaulo argued that those who live alone often maintain broader networks of support than married couples do, pointing to a raft of international research. Partners who live separately for some portion of the week still tend to each other in sickness, and are well-positioned as caregivers because “we have our own place to recharge our batteries and avoid the all-too-frequent caretaker burnout,” said Hyman, 57, who has lived away from her partner for 20 years.”-Zosia Bielski, “The new reality of dating over 65: Men want to live together; women don’t.” The Globe And Mail. November 26, 2019.
“…women tend to learn language from their peers; men learn it from their mothers.”—Carolyn Wells, “The Adaptation of Language Evolution.” LongReads.com. November 25, 2019.
“Which I suppose calls the question: is it ever possible to really, really want to die when we have people we love here on earth?”—Courtney E. Martin, “Birth and Death in the Bathtub.” courtney.substack.com. November 16, 2019.