Walking a Straight Line — #113
Just because things are meaningful doesn't mean you should do them.
This week, it was made official that the climate non-profit Klimatkollen (where I sit on the board) received 1.25 million Euros from Google.org and the Google Impact Challenge to continue making local climate data more accessible and straightforward.
Apart from being proud of their work and my small personal contribution, I've learned another thing from this success ...
If you want to achieve something, your ability to focus and stay focused over time will determine your success.
Pick one thing and stick with it.
So many of us (including me) are too imprecise. We do a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And while everything we do might be more or less the same, all relevant and exciting, we won't achieve anything if we keep switching focus ever so slightly.
Staying on target is what pays off.
I don't think it's enough to find your WHY. You also need a HOW.
Greta Thunberg didn't build a global movement by protesting slightly different things every time. She had one message. She did one thing.
Klimatkollen set out to solve the lack of transparency on climate emission data. This is a crucial building block to the climate movement at large. They've been obsessively focused on that mission, even when it felt challenging or other ideas asked for attention, too.
And now, they can continue with better funding. Very well deserved!
As a bonus, it inspired me to define the WHY and HOW I should obsessively focus on from now on. The WHY and HOW that make up Better Odds.
I've always felt I knew what I was doing and why, yet I kept shifting the execution slightly. The new clarity immediately provided more focus — and confidence. It is hard to be confident if you don't know your WHY and HOW.
Do you know yours?
📍 Five Small Things
Listen — The Daily Episode What Adidas Knew About Kanye summarises The New York Times investigation by Megan Twohey, uncovering that Adidas tolerated misconduct by Kanye West for nearly a decade.
Non-fiction — Machine Readable Me: The Hidden Ways Tech Shapes our Identities considers how and why data gathered about us increasingly limits what we can and can't do in our lives and, crucially, the alternatives.
Tools — The Hyper Island Toolbox is a dream for any workshop facilitator or meeting host needing icebreakers.
App — Collaborating remotely reminded me how much I enjoy the Goodnotes app for taking notes with an Apple Pencil on an iPad. And how much easier it is to explain things when you can visualise what you mean.
Recreation — Need something to take your mind off the current state of the world? Start knitting with simple and fashionable patterns from Petite Knit.
🗞️ The News Section
China's Vision: Humanoid Robots at the Heart of Economic Growth by 2027
China plans to let humanoid robots, designed to resemble and imitate human actions, become a driving force of economic growth. Robots are expected to be adopted across many sectors, including healthcare, home services, agriculture, and logistics, to help reduce the impact of an ageing population.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in Beijing has outlined ambitious goals for their development. By 2025, China aims to mass-produce humanoid robots, emphasising the need for technological innovation, safe supply chains, and international competitiveness. And by 2027, China envisions humanoid robots as an essential engine of economic growth. MIIT believes that humanoid robots have the potential to be a disruptive innovation on par with computers, smartphones, and new energy vehicles, reshaping global industrial development. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, including large-language models, are critical for this development.
China's push for humanoid robots is part of its broader strategy to accelerate the development of its local robotics industry and enhance tech self-reliance, particularly facing competition from the United States.
But it is not only a geopolitical issue but also a demographical one. China faces a decline in birth rate, similar to the Global North, where population growth has stagnated. Given the anticipated shortage of human workers, China aims to rely on these robots as a workforce to sustain economic growth. This shift toward robotics reflects a broader belief that robots and autonomous machines can decouple economic growth from population growth, effectively transforming economies.
Israeli Police Use Blacklisted Chinese Surveillance Technology Capable of Ethnic Detection in Palestine
In the occupied Palestinian territories, notably in areas like Silwan in East Jerusalem, residents are living under intense surveillance. Israeli police have installed a network of cameras, significantly impacting the daily lives of Palestinians. This extensive surveillance system, detailed in the Amnesty International report "Automated Apartheid", published in May, is part of what the organisation describes as a system of apartheid against Palestinians.
Central to this surveillance network are cameras produced by Hikvision, a Chinese company blacklisted in the United States and identified as a security threat in the United Kingdom for its role in the repression of the Uyghur ethnic minority in China. The Amnesty report highlights the use of facial recognition and surveillance technology in the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem and Hebron, areas where Israeli settlers reside, in violation of international law. These technologies, operated by Israeli police and private settlers, are used to monitor and control the Palestinian population.
The situation escalated following the Hamas attacks on October 7, leading to increased violence against Palestinians and intensified raids by the Israeli army. Hikvision's involvement is controversial due to its marketing of facial-recognition features capable of ethnic detection, raising concerns about human rights abuses.
The surveillance cameras are potentially linked to Mabat 2000, an Israeli police-run facial-recognition network in East Jerusalem. This network has severely restricted the freedom of movement for Palestinians, affecting their access to essential services like work, education, and healthcare.
United Nations experts have expressed grave concerns about the risk of genocide faced by Palestinians in Gaza due to the Israeli army's actions. The pervasive surveillance network has not only impacted daily life but also played a role in the detention of Palestinians, as documented by Amnesty International's Digital Verification Corps. The use of these technologies in detaining individuals has been criticised for violating human rights.
TikTok Ends $2 Billion Creator Fund, Sparking Criticism Over Inadequate Creator Pay
In 2020, TikTok launched a $2 billion Creator Fund to support its content creators financially. The initiative was designed to distribute money to eligible users based on their share of the platform's overall views. However, the fund soon faced criticism from creators, including notable internet personality Hank Green, who argued that it favoured TikTok's financial interests over those of the creators. Many reported earning minimal income despite high viewership, with Green disclosing about 2.5 cents per 1,000 views.
In response to these concerns, TikTok introduced the Creativity Program, promising up to 20 times the earnings of the original fund. This new program set specific eligibility criteria, including a minimum follower count and video views. Despite these changes, TikTok will discontinue the Creator Fund in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. The platform confirmed the closure but did not provide further details or an end date. The future of global creator monetisation programs on TikTok remains uncertain.
Content creators are the backbone of platforms like TikTok, providing engaging and diverse content that draws in millions of users. These creators invest time and creativity into their content, significantly contributing to the platform's popularity and profitability. However, the financial rewards for their efforts often don't match the value they bring. The monetisation models of such platforms, including the now-discontinued Creator Fund, have frequently been criticised for inadequately compensating creators despite the substantial revenue these platforms generate from advertisers and user engagement.
Algospeak in Action: Watermelon Emoji Emerges as New Palestinian Solidarity Symbol
The watermelon emoji has emerged as a powerful symbol on social media, representing Palestinian resistance and protest, particularly amid the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. This unique form of digital activism responds to concerns about potential censorship on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Users have adopted the emoji – which shares the Palestinian flag's red, green, and black colours – in various contexts, from infographics to video captions, as a subtle yet poignant form of protest.
This digital symbol is part of a broader trend known as "algospeak," where internet users employ coded language or symbols to avoid content filters and censorship on sensitive topics. (The carrot emoji played a similar role during Covid-19 as a replacement for the word "vaccine".) The watermelon is a symbol deeply rooted in Palestinian culture and history. It has been a part of political artwork and protest for decades, gaining prominence as a political statement after the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.
The use of alternative symbols like the watermelon emoji has increased recently after legislative actions and bans related to the display of the Palestinian flag. Countries such as Israel, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States have all sought to limit the public display of Palestinian symbols.
As a result, the symbolism of the watermelon emoji now goes beyond a digital tactic to avoid platform filters. It serves as a broader political statement, embodying solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation and a collective voice against digital censorship.
📈 The Insights Section
Climate Crisis Fears Influence People's Decision To Have None or Fewer Children
Growing concerns about climate breakdown are increasingly influencing people's decisions regarding having children. A systematic review conducted by academics at University College London reveals that in 12 out of 13 studies, heightened fears of climate-related challenges are linked to desires for smaller families or choosing not to have children.
For some, the decision is rooted in a sense of moral responsibility. They question whether it's ethical to bring a child into a world facing an uncertain and potentially uninhabitable future due to climate issues. Others consider the ecological impact, including carbon emissions associated with raising children.
The study also highlights that worries about an uncertain future and the ecological strain of a growing global population play pivotal roles in shaping reproductive choices. Notably, these concerns are not uniform worldwide. In countries like Zambia and Ethiopia, people worry about their family's ability to exist and acquire resources, fearing that too many children would strain their capacity to provide for them.
Moreover, political reasons influence some individuals' decisions not to become parents. For example, some have shifted from traditional careers to full-time environmental activism, recognising that their commitments are incompatible with the responsibilities of raising children.
These findings offer insight into the complex factors that inform our personal decisions in the face of the climate crisis. While the study may inform public policy, it also underscores the diversity and complexity of reasons people give for their choices, which can vary significantly across different parts of the world.
UNESCO-Ipsos Survey Reveals 87% Fear Disinformation Impact on 2024 Elections
A survey by UNESCO and Ipsos across 16 countries focuses on the pervasive issues of online disinformation and hate speech. The survey was run in countries with upcoming general elections in 2024 and targeted internet users aged 18 and over, with a sample size of 500 individuals per country.
Some of the most relevant insights:
Looking towards the upcoming elections, 87% of respondents are concerned about the potential impact of disinformation.
Additionally, 78% frequently come across deliberately falsified information on social media.
Social media was the primary news source for 56% of respondents, overtaking traditional media like television, radio, and print. This trend is especially pronounced among younger people and in countries with lower Human Development Index (HDI) scores.
A substantial 85% of respondents expressed worry about the impact of disinformation on their fellow citizens. This concern escalates in countries with lower HDI, with 87% believing that disinformation has already significantly influenced their country's political life.
Approximately 67% of respondents report encountering hate speech online, predominantly on Facebook. The primary victims are often LGBT+ individuals and ethnic or racial minorities.
A commanding majority, between 88% and 90%, advocate for active measures from governments and social media platforms, particularly during elections.
Trust in information sources varies, with traditional media like television and radio enjoying more trust than social media. However, this trust is notably lower in more affluent countries.
Survey Reveals 79% of College Students Avoid Dating Apps, Prefer In-Person Connections
A recent Axios/Generation Lab survey focusing on college and graduate students across the United States has revealed a surprising trend: most young people are not using dating apps. The survey found that 79% of the respondents, encompassing students from various colleges and graduate schools, reported not using any dating apps, even infrequently.
Tinder emerged as the most popular app among the few who did use dating platforms, with 12% of the students using it at least monthly. This finding is particularly noteworthy given that college students are often considered a key demographic for dating apps. Companies like Tinder and Bumble have targeted this group through advertising and campus events.
However, the survey indicates a clear preference among college students for meeting potential partners in person rather than through digital means.
The survey also delved into what factors students consider essential in potential partners. A plurality of 37% of respondents prioritised beliefs over other aspects like professional goals or physical appearance. Additionally, the survey highlighted political views' impact on college students' dating preferences. According to another recent poll by Generation Lab, many students indicated they would be unwilling to date someone who voted differently from them in the 2020 presidential election.
Brazil's Amazon Deforestation Hits Lowest Level Since 2018, Down 22.3%, Still Far From 2030 Goal
In the 12 months leading up to July 2023, Brazil witnessed a significant environmental shift: deforestation in the Amazon rainforest decreased by 22.3%. This reduction brought the total area of the cleared jungle down to 9,001 square kilometres, a notable decrease from the 11,568 square kilometres removed in the previous year. This marked the lowest level of deforestation since 2018, the year before Jair Bolsonaro's presidency.
The Amazon, known as the world's largest rainforest and a critical component in the fight against climate change, saw this positive change under the leadership of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula, who assumed office earlier in the year, has been actively working to reverse the increased deforestation trend under Bolsonaro's administration. During Bolsonaro's tenure, deforestation rates had surged to a 15-year high, mainly due to policies favouring ranchers, land speculators, and miners.
Despite this progress, the current rate of deforestation is still nearly double the all-time low recorded in 2012. It also falls short of Lula's ambitious goal of achieving zero deforestation by 2030. However, the shift in policy under Lula's government, including heightened enforcement of environmental laws, signals a renewed commitment to environmental protection in Brazil.
The data, meticulously gathered by the Brazilian space research agency Inpe through its PRODES satellite monitoring program, is considered highly accurate. The annual deforestation figures are collected from August to July, a period chosen for its reduced cloud cover, which enhances the precision of satellite observations. This satellite data is a crucial tool in tracking and responding to environmental changes in the Amazon.
Thank you for reading. I hope you learned something new. ✨
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