Extinction Rebellion: When Activism Is Also Great Art


Environmental protesters, Extinction Rebellion, poured fake blood on the steps of the Trocadero, a Paris tourist landmark, in a stunt to highlight the accelerated loss of biodiversity on Earth. 

Artistic Activism is a practice aimed at generating measurable shifts in power. Activist art is about empowering individuals and communities and is generally situated in the public arena with artists working closely with a community to generate the art.

Extinction_SymbolOne example is Extinction Rebellion, a socio-political movement which uses nonviolent resistance. It was established in the United Kingdom with about one hundred academics signing a call to action in support in October 2018, and launched at the end of October. The campaign group (abbreviated as XR) has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements to protest against climate breakdownbiodiversity loss, and the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse. The aim of activist artists is to create art that is a form of political or social currency, actively addressing cultural power structures rather than representing them or simply describing them.

Art and activism do different work in the world. Activism, as the name implies, is the activity of challenging and changing power relations. There are many ways of doing activism and being an activist, but the common element is an activity targeted toward a discernible end. Simply put, the goal of activism is action to create an Effect. Art tends not to have such a clear target. It’s hard to say what art is for or against; its value often lies in providing us perspective and new ways to envision our world. Its effect is often subtle and hard to measure, and confusing or contradictory messages can be layered into the work. Good art always contains a surplus of meaning: something we can’t quite describe or put our finger on, but moves us nonetheless. Its goal, if we can even use that word, is to stimulate a feeling, move us emotionally, or alter our perception. Art, equally simply stated, is an expression that generates Affect.


As sightseers and police looked on, members of the Extinction Rebellion campaign group emptied canisters containing around 300 litres of red liquid on the famous esplanade across from the Eiffel Tower. Brandishing banners with the slogan: “Stop the sixth mass extinction”, the protesters then observed a few minutes’ silence before cleaning the steps.

At first glance these aims seem at odds with one another. Activism moves the material world, while Art moves the heart, body and soul. In fact, however, they are complimentary. Social change doesn’t just happen, it happens because people decide to make change. As any seasoned activist can tell you, people just don’t decide to change their mind and act accordingly, they are personally moved to do so by emotionally powerful stimuli. We’re moved by affective experiences to do physical actions that result in concrete effects: Affect leads to Effect.

“The evidence is crystal clear: Nature is in trouble. Therefore we are in trouble,” said Sandra Díaz, one of the co-chairs of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. A 40-page “Summary for Policy Makers” of the forthcoming full report (expected to exceed 1,500 pages) released May 6 in Paris.

The United Nations report warned that a million of Earth’s estimated eight million species are at risk of extinction. The bonds that hold nature together may be at risk of unraveling from deforestation, overfishing, development, and other human activities, the landmark United Nations report warned. Thanks to human pressures, one million species may be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth.

black and brown wooden table

Based on a review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources and compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, the global report is the first comprehensive look in 15 years at the state of the planet’s biodiversity. This report includes, for the first time, indigenous and local knowledge as well as scientific studies. The authors say they found overwhelming evidence that human activities are behind nature’s decline. They ranked the major drivers of species decline as land conversion, including deforestationoverfishingbush meat hunting and poaching; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species.

The tremendous variety of living species—at least 8.7 million, but possibly many more—that make up our “life-supporting safety net” provide our food, clean water, air, energy, and more, said Díaz, an ecologist at the National University of Cordoba in Argentina, in an interview. “Not only is our safety net shrinking, it’s becoming more threadbare and holes are appearing.”

photo of a tiger roaring

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Citing inspiration from grassroots movements such as OccupyGandhi’s independence movement, the suffragettesMartin Luther King and others in the civil rights movement, Extinction Rebellion aims to rally support worldwide around the urgency to tackle climate breakdown. A large number of activists in the movement have pledged to be arrested, and even to go to prison, similar to the mass arrest tactics of the Committee of 100 in 1961.

The Extinction Rebellion protest in Paris on Sunday. © AFP / Francois Guillot



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T-1000 Researchers Have Created A Programmable Shape-Shifting Liquid Metal


One of the most intelligent, imaginative and riveting sci-fi, action flicks to hit the screens ever, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a classic without equal. What’s even more surprising is that “T2” is a sequel of an already great film. Arguably one of the greatest sequels ever made, Terminator 2 builds itself upon a few key ideas that upend the audience’s expectations and work like gangbusters with industry-altering technological execution. Even though the Terminator 2 movie was made nearly 30 years ago, almost nothing about it feels dated. And now researchers at the University of Sussex and Swansea University have recently announced that they have applied electrical charges to manipulate liquid metal into 2D shapes. Though still in the early stages of development, the technology is reminiscent of the main antagonist of Terminator 2: Judgment Day- a T-1000 shapeshifting android. Chinese scientists say they have also developed a type of robot powered by liquid metal inspired by T-1000, the self-repairing, shape-shifting killer android from one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator films.

The T-1000 is described in Terminator 2 as being composed of liquid metal, or a mimetic polyalloy (nanorobotics) that it can manipulate to assume various forms. Aside from being able to camouflage itself by assuming the appearance of a nondescript object or take on the likeness of other humans that it terminates in pursuit of its goals, the T-1000’s shapeshifting abilities enable it to form its hands into stabbing blades, slip through physical openings by oozing its liquid form, and instantly reform itself from any physical damage. The T-1000 was created by the Terminator franchise’s main antagonist, Skynet, a machine artificial intelligence that directs its robotic creations against the Human Resistance in an all-out war.



Once again real world science is starting to catch up to Science Fiction. Researchers at the University of Sussex and Swansea University have applied electrical charges to manipulate liquid metal into 2D shapes such as letters and a heart. The team says the findings represent an “extremely promising” new class of materials that can be programmed to seamlessly change shape. This open up new possibilities in ‘soft robotics’ and shape-changing displays.

While the invention might bring to mind the film Terminator 2, in which the villain morphs out of a pool of liquid metal, the creation of 3D shapes is still some way off. More immediate applications could include reprogrammable circuit boards and conductive ink.

Yutaka Tokuda, the Research Associate working on this project at the University of Sussex, has said:

“This is a new class of programmable materials in a liquid state which can dynamically transform from a simple droplet shape to many other complex geometry in a controllable manner. While this work is in its early stages, the compelling evidence of detailed 2D control of liquid metals excites us to explore more potential applications in computer graphics, smart electronics, soft robotics and flexible displays.”

The electric fields used to shape the liquid are created by a computer, meaning that the position and shape of the liquid metal can be programmed and controlled dynamically.


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Sacred Geometry Taught in a Donald Duck Cartoon

Donald Duck gets taught about Pythagoras, sacred geometry, and the fibonacci sequence! Who would have thought that something like this Disney cartoon from 1959 even existed?

For centuries a belief in the geometric underpinnings of the cosmos persisted among artists, musicians and scientists. The belief that a god created the universe according to a geometric plan has ancient origins. Plutarch attributed the belief to Plato, writing that “Plato said god geometrizes continually” (Convivialium disputationum, liber 8,2). In modern times, the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss adapted this quote, saying “God arithmetizes”.

Donald in Mathmagic Land is a 27-minute educational film featuring the one and only Donald Duck. Released on June 26, 1959, it soon became the most popular educational film ever released by Disney. Walt Disney himself said, “The cartoon is a good medium to stimulate interest. We have recently explained mathematics in a film and in that way excited public interest in this very important subject.”

The video features a group described as a secret club of “Eggheads,” their symbolic emblem a pentagram. The Masonic implications here seem clear, but of course, there’s no way to know for sure. Many people have theorized that Disney was an avid member of the Free Masons, even being among the few to reach the highest level, the 33rd degree, which is believed to use ancient teachings of the occult.

These include sacred geometry and devil worshipping. Considering the many subliminal messages hidden in Disney movies and cartoons in general, this aspect of the video is sure to raise more questions than it answers.Perhaps the most obvious and perplexing subliminal message hidden in a Disney cartoon, featured in Ducktales, are the words, “Ask about Illuminati” written on the wall in the background of the scene. What can we make of this? Was Disney himself trying to tell us something, or was this the work of a sneaky cartoonist? We may never learn the answer.


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What Is Freedom Of Speech? A Genuinely Illuminating Exchange

 Cathy Newman  grills University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson on gender and equality

Freedom of speech is the right to say whatever you like about whatever you like, whenever you like, right? Wrong. Freedom of speech and the right to freedom of expression applies to ideas of all kinds including those that may be deeply offensive. But it comes with responsibilities and it can be legitimately restricted.  For example Channel 4 has been forced to call in “security specialists” after a combative interview with a controversial Canadian psychologist spawned a series of online abuse and threats directed at presenter Cathy Newman.  Ms Newman grilled University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who has attracted a following from the far-right, on gender and equality, including his claims that the pay gap between men and women cannot solely be attributed to gender. Prof Peterson also defended the interviewer, writing on Twitter: “If you’re threatening her, stop. Try to be civilised in your criticism. It was words. Words, people, words. Remember those?”

In a statement, a Channel 4 News spokesperson said: “Following her interview with Psychology Professor Jordan Peterson broadcast earlier this week, our presenter Cathy Newman has been the target of unwarranted and unacceptable misogynistic abuse and threats.

“As journalists in the public eye, our presenters expect criticism, but we will not tolerate this level of abuse towards our staff. We have taken immediate steps to ensure Cathy’s safety and security and continue to offer her our full support on this matter.”

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: what right does a white, middle-class, straight, cis male who turns 50 this week have to say anything about this? There are plenty of people who think that Peterson has no place on a mainstream news programme, or even in academic life. The far right, on the other hand, believes that Newman personifies an elitist media caste that is obstructing a great populist revolution. Both groups are ridiculous, and spectacularly ignorant of what constitutes a progressive civilisation.

Though it is unfair to pigeonhole two such intelligent people, the conversation between Peterson and Newman, distilled to its essentials, was an argument between classical liberal ideas and modern identity politics. Peterson made his case with reference to individual characteristics and attributes; Newman challenged him to consider the structural disadvantages facing, say, women in the workplace or transgender students.

The answer is: I say what I like, within the law, and so do you. It cannot be said too often that the first amendment to the United States constitution was adopted with the explicit purpose of protecting minority opinion. Though we have no such jurisprudential protection in Britain, and we – like most democratic societies – curtail speech that is libellous, incites imminent violence or whips up racial hatred, our inherited presumption in favour of free expression is more important than ever. A pluralistic, diverse society needs more free speech, not less. It needs fewer safe spaces and bans, and more civility and resilience.

Of all the delusions that grip our fractious era, one of the worst is the confident belief that greater restriction of speech will necessarily serve progressive ends. There is no logic in that whatsoever. Reforms can turn into chains of enslavement and we are seeing this come out of the Right-wing as well.  As Peterson warns, everyone finds something objectionable or upsetting. It would be a moment of maximum peril if the primary test applied to expression became its capacity to offend. Why assume that those setting the rules would necessarily support the powerless or the disenfranchised? The injunction “You can’t say that” leads just as plausibly to Margaret Atwood’s Gilead or to Oceania.

Even though there are good intentions involved, it’s the Liberals who think by enacting progressive and reform minded legislation to create further protections for women against violence and discrimination, the dangers exist, at the same time, in the further curtailment of all human rights.  Let’s be more thoughtful about what we wish for before we lunge forward with new reforms. It is an assault both intended and unintended on humanity. In a recent turn of events Canadian feminist author Margaret Atwood faced a social media backlash after voicing concerns about the #MeToo movement and calling for due process in the case of a former university professor accused of sexual misconduct. Atwood  states:

“In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated.”

You might not expect to hear this, but in certain circumstances free speech and freedom of expression can be restricted. Governments have an obligation to prohibit hate speech and incitement. And restrictions can also be justified if they protect specific public interest or the rights and reputations of others. Any restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of expression must be set out in laws that must in turn be clear and concise so everyone can understand them. People imposing the restrictions (whether they are governments, employers or anyone else) must be able to demonstrate the need for them, and they must be proportionate. All of this has to be backed up by safeguards to stop the abuse of these restrictions and incorporate a proper appeals process. However, restrictions that do not comply with all these conditions violate freedom of expression. Consider people put in prison solely for exercising their right to free speech to be prisoners of conscience.

To be a citizen is to engage, and the Newman-Peterson interview is a model of that engagement. Unless you believe that history has a self-evident direction – and it really doesn’t – you must accept that almost all progress is achieved by the hard grind of negotiation, tough debate and busy pluralism. The aphasia of “no-platform” and the bedlam of the digital mob add nothing to the mix. To quote the great African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates: let them talk.




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Babel – Light Installation by Tom Estes at The Shell Centre, London


Babel, Light installation by Tom Estes at The Shell Centre, London. 

Art is a very broad term and possibly one of its best virtues is its lack of precision, which means that it can mean basically anything. A lot of people are still arguing over what art actually is, and more specifically, what contemporary art does. An almost equally familiar discourse is considering if art should, or shouldn’t have a purpose, and that debate easily transforms into whether art can, and whether it should affect social change. There is a line of artists whose art presents itself as socially engaged. However, more often than not, this endeavor does not mean expressing the need to make the world a better place, but instead it focuses on very specific issues, observations and problems, and it takes many different forms, sometimes expecting from the viewer to be the active art-maker. So, even though there are some very representative artists, commonly associated with social practice, it seems hard to draw a line around the edges and say – this, here, is socially engaged art.

Socially engaged practice, also referred to as social practice or socially engaged art, can include any artform which involves people and communities in debate, collaboration or social interaction. This can often be organised as the result of an outreach or education program, but many independent artists also use it within their work. The term new genre public art, coined by Suzanne Lacy, is also a form of socially engaged practise.


Plans to redevelop the Shell Centre prompted many column inches when first proposed, thanks to the blocky, high-density designs in such a high-profile area.

The participatory element of socially engaged practice, is key, with the artworks created often holding equal or less importance to the collaborative act of creating them. As Tom Finkelpearl outlines in his book What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation, social practice is ‘art that’s socially engaged, where the social interaction is at some level the art.’ Socially engaged practice can be associated with activism because it often deals with political issues. Artists who work within this field will often spend much time integrating into the specific community which they wish to help, educate or simply share with. Of course there are worse character traits than sanctimony, after all, it’s really just good liberal instincts taken to overly pious extremes. But the urge to sit in self-righteous judgment on everyone else, to luxuriate in one’s own moral superiority, is so often what helps the Left make enemies out of potential friends. I’m no fan of Trump or the Conservatives. But you know what? It does seem that most are more interested in virtue signalling, being self-righteous and making tedious equivalents about Identity Politics in general. And it is all just fake, hypocritical and opportunistic rather than actually achieving anything.

Tom Estes’ art work entitled Babel blurs and distorts the lines of social engagement and instead exists to encourage conversation around current issues of material, physical or psychological limitations. It also raises questions of under what conditions the artist is the author of a collaborative, participatory artwork. Estes describes the work Babel as a way of creating a space for dialogues around the role of cultural identity and its relationship to a Hyper-consumerist Capitalist society. But he also asks us to, “re-think art as commodity and experience within an age of Public Relations, Propaganda and Fake News.”  Estes states:

“In a Hyper-Capitalist society people will do almost anything to alleviate their anxieties, accept any distraction. The internet on which you read this, television, booze, sex, pharmaceuticals are all part of our escape from a system designed to keep us unhappy and and always wanting more. People who are content don’t need to buy things to make themselves feel better. Words like social engagement, sustainability and community are frequently bandied about as buzz words, and their inclusion in the lexicon of corporate ideology implicates them as part of an establishment system which is in itself intended to be a form of short-duration entertainment. Some would argue that socially engaged art exacerbates social divides. As an artist I like to challenge and expose establishment art hypocrisy and paradoxes. In a sense what I am doing is using the same lexicon as the establishment in order to pervert it. I guess that might piss a lot of people off. But I don’t think the role of the artist is to be some kind of angel of mercy sent in by the establishment to help locals that feel disenfranchised. The artist should be one of the disenfranchised giving the establishment a good kicking”


Simon Jenkins — ever the critic of anything over three storeys —  described the scheme as ‘a visual wall of towers on a truly Stalinist scale’. The fight to overturn the scheme was dubbed the Battle of Waterloo.

“The kind of Liberal-Left people who are going in as artists and doing these socially engaged projects are often the same people who describe the people they are working with as ‘deplorables’. A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported – such as the fakery of Obama, Clinton and Tony Blair and their bogus progressive movements. Self absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signaled the demise of great collective movements. And Liberal ideas that once formed part of a radical worldview became increasingly expressed in individualist terms. And now we have found ourselves in a world lost to emotion, irrationality, and a weakening grasp on reality. Lies don’t faze us, and knowledge doesn’t impress us. We are post-truth, post-fact.”

To understand the work is to first of all understand the title as that is a crucial aspect of the artist’s engagement. The Tower of Babel (Hebrew: מִגְדַּל בָּבֶל‎, Migdal Bāḇēl) as told in Genesis 11:1-9 is an origin myth meant to explain why the world’s peoples speak different languages. According to the story, a united humanity in the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating eastward, came to the land of Shinar (שִׁנְעָר‬). There they agree to build a city and a tower tall enough to reach heaven. God, unhappy with their arrogant desire to build a tower to reach heaven, confounded their speech so that they could no longer understand each other, and scattered them around the world. Estes goes on to say:

“There is a long tradition of renaming -and thereby reclaiming- buildings in London. What is now officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge was first called The ‘Blade of Light. However it was renamed in popular culture as ‘The Wobbly Bridge‘ after pedestrians felt unexpected swaying motion. The bridge was closed later on opening day, and after two days of limited access, it was closed for almost two years while modifications were made to eliminate the motion. Another landmark building, 30 St Mary Axe (previously known as the Swiss Re Building) is informally known as The Gherkin in regards to its shape. So there is already a popular trend to renaming structures. Likewise I felt that the origin myth of Babel summed up something about our own time. As political polarization grows, the arguments we have with one another may be shifting our understanding of truth itself. People are becoming less able to communicate as a form of selfish me-ism takes hold while algorithms are creating information bubbles that separate us from people with different opinions. Meanwhile new towers are going up every day as a celebration to the glory of greed and money. The Clinton/Blair establishment has lulled us into believing the lie that as long as its politicians are paying lip service to Black Lives Matter and advocating gay marriage, that it’s acceptable for them to choke us all to death by helping big money increase wealth disparity, institutionalize the economy, shrink wages and make it a struggle to put food on the table. Meanwhile they are spending trillions of dollars slaughtering millions of people overseas in corporatist wars for oil. ‘Vote for me! Sure I’ll sell the countries infrastructure to my plutocrat owners and fight to protect them from tax loopholes while you work two jobs just so your kids can eat, but I’ll never assume your gender!’ At the same time you have institutions like the Tate artwashing and lending respectability to big oil companies like BP. Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth Murdoch was recently appointed to Arts Council England’s National Council. This is not only deeply troubling, given her close ties to the Murdoch corporate empire, but is also a glaring example of how nefarious the UK arts establishment has become. That is the fake left. That is the entirety of the establishment right now, and it’s what we need to be fighting.”

 Babel at The Shell Centre, 4 York Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7NW


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Should We Be Worried? Artist Tom Estes On Net Neutrality


Chosen by high profile judges from over 900 entries from around the globe, The AVBIV Selected Artists for 2017 at La Biennale di Venezia include Tom Estes’ Live Art Performance: The Anomaly

Tom Estes‘ Live Art performance, The Anomaly, plays on issues of censorship in the cybersphere. The performance is based on a scene from Cinema Paradiso in which a priest rings a bell in order that the projectionist cuts certain imags from films before public viewing. The costume is a fusion of characters from The Terminator and The Matrix and so is reflective of our on-going relationship to censorship and images on the web.


Tom Estes‘ Live Art performance, The Anomaly, plays on issues of censorship in the cybersphere

Many of us often see the Internet as impossible to control based on its very structure, as it gives everyone access to a democratic form of communication free of government control. The Great Firewall of China shows us that it isn’t quite that simple — the Internet has its bottlenecks where censorship can be instituted and technologies abused to aid in censorship. From China’s blocking and filtering system, Singapore’s class license system, and the United States’ government-private partnership model we are dealing with an ideological thing: a perfectly seamless machine for the centralization of power that negates any criticism.

In the Western World, Net neutrality is about everyone having access to the ‘same’ internet. That means internet service providers (ISPs) should not generally interfere with what you can see online. They can sell customers packages with different overall speeds. But they can’t change data speeds for certain websites, or block them altogether. Net neutrality laws are different in different countries. The US has had very strong regulations, which were enshrined under the Obama administration.

In America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  recently revealed plans to overturn the rules brought in under Obama. The FCC’s chairman, Ajit Pai, said the proposals would make the federal government “stop micromanaging the internet”. But there have been protests from many of the biggest web firms and outcry from thousands of consumers. More than half a million people have reportedly called Congress to register their objections. Facebook vice president Erin Egan said the FCC proposal fails to “ensure the internet remains open for everyone”. She said Facebook would “work with all stakeholders committed to this principle”. Likewise, Netflix has said the FCC plan “defies the will of millions of Americans”.

Net neutrality means ISPs have to follow strict regulations. And, without these, there might be more potential for them to make money. For instance, video streaming websites might pay them to prioritise their content. They could also charge consumers different prices, depending on the package they chose. Supporters of net neutrality say regulations help prevent a ‘two-tier’ internet – with some people getting a limited or slower service. Without neutrality, they say smaller web firms could struggle to compete against more established ones who have deals with ISPs. On the other hand, ISPs claim that regulations slow down innovation because it makes networks less profitable.

Obamacare for the internet. That was how, at the height of the 2014 primary season, the Republican presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz, referred to the net neutrality rules proposed by the Obama administration. Designed to safeguard equitable access to the internet, they were enacted the following year. But they suffered a significant, albeit expected, blow when the US telecoms regulator, chaired by a Trump appointee, voted to ditch them.

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should not be able to charge different content providers different prices for transmitting data to their consumers. Strong net neutrality rules would prevent a big company such as Netflix from paying an ISP to guarantee faster access to its content than its competitors, or offer unlimited data access to Netflix bundled in as part of a broadband or mobile contract.

Like any rational monopolist, these companies will exploit a lack of net neutrality to maintain their dominance to the detriment of consumers. Facebook has publicly come out in favour of net neutrality in the American public debate. But it is aggressively capitalising on the absence of net neutrality in the developing world, where it is seeking to quickly expand its eye-watering consumer reach encapsulated in the fact that a quarter of the world’s population now have a Facebook account. It has been pressuring mobile network providers to offer free access to a very limited slice of the internet, including Facebook, for consumers who cannot afford to pay for internet access, and without a hint of irony, self-labelling it “philanthropy”.

Internet service providers point to the fact that YouTube and Netflix between them consume half of internet bandwidth. How are they supposed to future-proof our broadband infrastructure if they can’t charge them for access to their customers? This argument is a sham. The fundamentally uncompetitive broadband market means any extra revenues are far more likely to be pocketed by shareholders than invested in improving the infrastructure. And consumers are anyway already paying considerably for that data through their broadband packages.

Laws are weaker in many countries, meaning ISPs can offer different packages and give preferential treatment to selected services. In New Zealand, for instance, mobile users can pay to exempt Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter from their monthly data limit. Other social media is not included and the data caps still apply. At the moment, not having net neutrality is most noticeable on mobile networks, rather than home broadband.

“That’s simply because most home broadband no longer has a data cap,” according to Professor Chris Marsden from the University of Sussex.

“The idea is that you provide specialised services for favoured applications,” he told FactCheck.

“At the moment, that’s about providing zero-rating stuff on mobiles, so it doesn’t reach your monthly limit. But in future, it could be about providing faster access for certain selected services, such as video, than what you get on your regular internet.”

The issue has been less controversial in the UK, partly because the ISP market is more competitive. One British politician has pointed out: “Unlike in the UK, in some parts of the US consumers have no choice which ISP they use because only one offers a service in their area.” That means – without net neutrality – some US consumers may have no choice but to accept whatever packages their ISP offers. In the UK, net neutrality rules are enshrined in EU law. But before this, all the major ISPs had already signed up to a voluntary Open Internet Code. This made promises such as not blocking services or damaging the services of competitors. Recent EU rules were more thorough and have received both praise and criticism. Joe McNamee, of the European Digital Rights, has said that Europe is “a global standard-setter in the defence of the open, competitive and neutral internet”. But Konstantinos Stylianou from the University of Leeds School of Law said it was “overkill”. And the former head of Ofcom has warned that “over-prescriptive and detailed legislation may deliver the opposite of the intended effect”.

So the fight for net neutrality must be seen in the context of an even bigger debate. Is the internet something to be ruled over by all-mighty private companies with little oversight from the state? Or do we recognise it as too fundamental to our security, to the way we communicate, and to our economy, to leave it vulnerable to the cowboy tactics so often deployed when the private sector spots an unregulated monopoly? The worldwide web’s founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, worries that “the system is failing”. He’s right. It’s time to finally treat his invention like the public utility it has definitively grown to become.

Estes performed The Anomaly at various sites around Venice from May 11th to 14th. Chosen by high profile judges from over 900 entries from around the globe, The AVBIV Selected Artists for this year at La Biennale di Venezia include Tom Estes’ Live Art Performance: The Anomaly. Documentation from Estes’ performance will also be on display at a champagne reception hosted by The Biennial Project at  ARTIsm3160

San marco 3160 Salizada Malipiero, 30124 Venice, Italy
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The Cryogenics Lab That Doesn’t See Death As The End Of Life


Image:  Live Art Performance by Tom Estes at Yami-Ichi (Black Market) at Tate Modern 

One Michigan cryogenics lab is promising people the chance at a longer life that extends even after they die. Though the practice is more fiction than science at this point, the hope is that in the future, cryo-preserved bodies will be revived when cures for diseases are found. Cryonics was first proposed in the 1960s by a Robert Ettinger, in a book called The Prospect of Immortality, which argued that death could, in fact, be a reversible process. Ettinger went on to found the Cryonics Institute in Michigan where he, his mother and his first and second wives all now reside in metal flasks kept at −196 °C.  Ettinger, a physics and math college professor who believed that  cooling a body to extreme temperatures would preserve it so that the dead could be revived later. Ettinger himself was placed in cryogenic stasis when he was declared legally dead in 2011.

While the concept has never become mainstream, the number of people choosing to sign up is steadily increasing year on year. There are now nearly 300 cryogenically frozen individuals in the US, another 50 in Russia, and a few thousand prospective candidates signed up.The central idea is simple: preserve the body in a pristine condition until such times as medicine has developed a cure for whatever brought about death in the first place – at which point the corpse is thawed and reanimated.

The world’s three major facilities – two in the US and KrioRus, a Russian centre on the outskirts of Moscow, differ slightly in price and ethos. Alcor has a reputation for celebrity clients, while KrioRus offers budget service, probably due to its communal approach to storage, with bodies sharing tanks with a menagerie of 20 or so pets (cats, dogs, birds) that owners have paid to preserve.

“We have big cryostats, each about 3 cubic metres. About seven bodies fit in,” says Danilo Medvedev, the company’s CEO. “They’re placed in sleeping bags. There’s no point in having separate metal containers. It would only make it more complicated.”

“My primary strategy for living through the 21st century and beyond is not to die,” Ray Kurzweil, the futurologist and Google engineer has said. But in the event that plan A doesn’t work out, he has opted to have his body cryogenically preserved at the world’s largest facility, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Calling someone ‘dead’ is merely medicine’s way of excusing itself from resuscitation problems it cannot fix today,” Alcor’s website states. The real question, though, is not whether medicine will advance – clearly it will – but whether the frozen bodies will be in a fit state to bring back to life.

About half of KrioRus’s 50 clients opted for entire body freezing, with the rest choosing to just preserve their heads. The bodies are placed vertically, with their heads at the bottom of the tank, where it is coldest, so the feet would thaw first in the case of a technical glitch.

The companies all use the same basic technology. First, the body is obtained as soon as possible after death, packed in ice and transported to the facility. Here the blood is drained and replaced with a mixture of anti-freeze and organ-preserving chemicals. This transforms the corpse into a glassy vitrified state, ready to be lowered into liquid nitrogen, at a temperature of -196C.

Alcor acknowledges that the process is tricky and that sometimes the brittle corpses, or patients as it refers to them, can fracture on immersion. Medvedev says “issues with hospitals and relatives” means that the freezing process is not begun in an optimal timeframe.

“The overall theory is extremely sound,” Medvedev says. “It’s not correct to say there haven’t been experiments.” His own team, he says, have shown that rats can be cooled to zero degrees and kept in suspended animation for several hours before being re-awoken. He cites another case, in which a rabbit brain was vitrified and then thawed, appearing structurally intact – although the brain was first set in a formaldehyde-like substance, that would rule out it ever functioning as a living organ in the futureWhile it used to be the stuff of science fiction, the technology behind the dream has advanced in recent years These examples, and clinical advances in storing sperm and egg cells, bear little relation to the technical challenge of trying to perfuse the entire human circulatory system, and, crucially, the brain, with anti-freeze without causing any damage.

This is where the science of cryonics really falls apart, according to Clive Coen, a professor of neuroscience at King’s College London. “The main problem is that [the brain] is a massively dense piece of tissue. The idea that you can infiltrate it with some kind of anti-freeze and it will protect the tissue is ridiculous.” Since the brain is so densely organised and so well shielded by the blood-brain barrier and the fatty myelin coating around neurons, the cocktail of cryonic chemicals would need to be vigorously pumped in to ensure every nook and cranny was infiltrated. “You’re dealing with an organ that is deliberately protecting itself from things coming in,” says Coen.

This means that achieving full vitrification is likely to lead to the exact kind of damage – membranes being ruptured, neuronal connections being lost – that the technique is designed to avoid. Coen argues that by the time the cryogenic support team arrives at the side of the patient’s hospital bed it may already be too late. “Within a few minutes of anoxia, your hippocampal neurons are dead. Gone,” he says, adding that global brain damage would be inevitable.

“Would you really want to wake up in 100 years’ time and be basically a cognitive vegetable and have your cancer fixed?” he asks. “These vulnerable people don’t realise they’re paying for something to be stored that is massively damaged.”

KrioRus charges $36,000 (£29,000) for whole body storage or $18,000 (£15,000) for just the head, and Medvedev says that after the running of the facility and its expansion is paid for, he’s not making much profit. By contrast, Alcor charges $200,000 (£162,000) for the full body and $80,000 (£65,000) for head-only preservation, and also offers the option of clients taking out a life insurance that will pay out to the company. Anders Sandberg, of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, has such a life insurance policy that, for £15 each month, will pay for his head to be frozen in the hope that the brain’s contents might be “downloaded” into a robotic agent in the future. He gives the freezing, thawing and reanimation process “maybe a 5% chance” of working. “The funny thing about cryonics is that they’re selling immortality, but very few people buy it,” he adds. Is this because people don’t actually want to live for ever, or because people think it’s nonsense? “I think it’s partially the nonsense part,” he says.

So, does cryogenics work? No one will know until the day comes that scientists feel prepared to revive those people who have elected to have their bodies preserved in the hope that one day they will have a second shot at life. People pay tens of thousands of dollars on this gamble, made riskier by the fact that, at this point, it is an inexact science. Not only do these optimistic people believe there will one day be a future where diseases are cured, but that someday there will be a way to revive the already dead. Of course, no human has ever been revived after being put in a cryogenic state, so guests of the Cryonics Institute are putting quite a bit on the line. Then again, they’re already dead.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/nov/18/the-cryonics-dilemma-will-deep-frozen-bodies-be-fit-for-new-life



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