Last week’s “how to talk about books you have not read” suggestion generated interesting feedback. Some thought it was funny while others found it naive in a “post truth” context. And some asked why I chose that book now. I read it a while back and liked it because I come from a culture where quoting a book can be used to assert power in a conversation. I picked it up again recently as I saw all these celebrities arguing that reading books was THE thing to do. Leaders, say presidents, read books to find ideas and inspirations. Big investors, say some of the biggest, read books to get richer. Philanthropists, new and more seasoned, just read books. Etc. Then I came across Lorraine Berry’s historical review of bibliomania where she argues that “Bibliomania [is] now a bragging right”. That brought me back to Bayard, for a breather.
This morning I sat for a couple of hours at a geospatial data show-and-tell. I did not understand all the acronyms but saw some pretty cool tools to better understand infrastructure, settlements and population dynamics. Google earth engine was one. Click on timelapse and select an area to see changes from the 1980ies to now. Looking at the Aral Sea is really depressing. Looking at Dalian’s urbanization is fascinating. The googler told us that earth engine was used to better target health service delivery (eg bed net campaigns). Internet.org was another one. This is the Facebook initiative to connect the most remote areas to the internet. A first step to do this was to map these areas. They used satellite data and worked in 35 countries. The data they collected confirmed that more than half of the world population lives in cities and it also showed that 99% live within 55 km of a city. The discussion was also super interesting. A lot of talk about definitions (what is “urban”?) and about which data are reliable (versus official). A passionate exchange about open access data where the rep from the Gates Foundation recalled that grants will now be conditional on data and knowledge being published in open access journals. As we also heard from the recent World Data Forum: geospatial-for-social-good is trending.
Evan Osnos’ “Doomsday prep for the super-rich” explores a trend not much talked about. We follow how the 1% gets richer than the rest of the population. We track the 1% increasingly giving back through philanthropy. This article is about a growing portion of the 1% embracing survivalism. They are making back up plans to protect themselves and their family from disasters like an earthquake, a global pandemic or a political breakdown. Their two main strategies are (i) buying airstrips and farms in New Zealand and (ii) buying condos in nuclear-proofed bunkers. It’s all about escaping as fast as possible.
My graph this week is from Benedict Evans’ “Mobile is eating the world” updated presentation. As the Iphone is celebrating its 10th anniversary, the world is half way to being fully connected. And 2.5 billion people have smartphones. Yes: 2.5 billion. The rest of the presentation is great if you have not seen an earlier version.
My quote this week is from an anonymous British civil servant in “Civil servants warned office cake culture could be a public health hazard”: “I get it. When you’re writing a submission with a tight deadline and may not have time to eat, it’s easy to put an extra sugar in your tea or grab a chocolate bar from the vending machine for that energy boost. I know – I’ve done it. And don’t forget mid-week cake, ‘back from travel’ treats and birthday doughnuts ‘in the usual place’.” You’ve been warned.