13 July 2008

Recommended Readings 080713 ~ On Risk, Kids, Rehab, Toys, Competition, Hybrids, Rights, Robots, Animals, Co-Existence, Cruelty, Jeddah Boyz & Girlz...

A bunch of interesting stand-alone items this week...
  • Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein writes in the Sunday Globe IDEAS section about Throwing precaution to the wind: Why the 'safe' choice can be dangerous about the influential but incoherent and even risky Precautionary Principle. (Anyone curious about digging into this further might want to read about the Proactionary Principle, the opposition to Precautionary.)
  • Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent to the Times, writes Children need risk to thrive as adults, says Dragons’ Den judge Simon Woodroffe, asserting that the "obsessive “safety-first” culture in schools will rob Britain of the next generation of entrepreneurs just when the country needs them most..."
  • Mark Baard in the Globe's Personal Tech section writes of a great collaboration -- Brown, RISD students create toys for kids with cerebral palsy -- part of the Toys and Technology for Rehabilitation program in Providence, RI.
  • Nearly two years ago, Professor Seymour Papert was traumatically brain-injured while visiting Vietnam. Linda Matchan in the Globe writes In Search of a Beautiful Mind about Seymour's vital struggle to recover. (It sickens and disgusts me that MIT "has refused to help pay for his home care" so I too am contributing to the Seymour Papert Recovery Fund and furthermore hope his case helps contribute to our understanding of neurorehabilitation and neurotherapeutics more generally.)
  • Gerrit Wiesman writes in the FT Entrepreneurship column on Bike power without pedals about the Mertens' business Kokua and their prime-product, Like-a-Bike, a pedal-less two-wheeler for toddlers. Theirs was such a great idea that everyone copied it, something simultaneously flattering and economically deadly.
  • Rhys Blakely in the Times writes from Bombay, India that the Mobile phone rings end of letter writers, another story of competitive pressures squeezing out the vintage trades. Or at least some such trades, since India's professional ear cleaners still find work.
  • Given the hype about hybrid autos, it's certainly a rude shock when customers discover, as Jonathan Soble and Bernand Simon write in the FT, that Patience is a virtue when Prius battery supply chains go flat. It seems ramping up manufacturing capacity is at least as difficult as accurately forecasting demand.
  • WIRED has a nice set of articles about The Petabyte Age, in which massive numbers of sensors, processors, data bits, and networks make everything we do massively different.
  • Donald McNeil Jr of the NYTimes surveys the implications and consequences When Human Rights Extend to Nonhumans. Inquires he: "Should apes be treated like people? Which apes? Which people?"
  • Curiously enough, Adam Liptak, also of the NYTimes, covers the latest analysis of whether McCain is even eligible to be elected President. It would seem that the rights of "natural-born citizenship" do not extend to those with the misfortune of being born outside of the USA. Could Obama actually win solely by virtue of this legal technicality?! Seems to me the Supreme Court will have enough on its hands deciding which human rights should be extended to fellow humans, nevermind monkeys.
  • Technovelgy inquires: Do People Prefer Humanoid Robots? Short answer: Yes.
  • BBC inquires: Does Baby Panda Prefer Panda or Cat Mother? Short answer: Cat.
  • It's amazing to read that Holocaust siblings meet after 66 years. Matthew Chance of CNN writes their story of separation and now finally reunion. Watch for yourself their great joy! (And a salute to the tireless volunteer Red Cross wonder-workers who sleuth these families together!)
  • Across another line of separation, BBC shares with us the Third Letters between Anav Silverman, a young Israeli woman who works in Sderot and Mona Yousef, a young Palestinian woman living in northern Gaza. May such personal links accumulate into ever larger and stronger and more vibrant bridges between peoples who may well discover they need not be separated.
  • The Economist writes that Iranian Ahmad Batebi need be Silent No More about his suffering under the cruel and unwise regime back home.
  • Across the Gulf in Saudi Arabia, in the meantime, the BBC's Crispin Thorold interviews the Jeddah Boyz, as you too can see in Saudi drivers pimp their rides. There aren't any Jeddah Girlz, however, because even though Saudi women want right to drive, they live in the only country on Planet Earth which prohibits it.

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