Peter Topolewski

Just When We’re Starting to See the Light…

Like most of the world that cares about these things, I haven’t thought much of Mark Zuckerberg’s multibillion dollar effort to build a Metaverse. It’s a potentially infinite universe (and thus a potentially infinite ad space) most have shown no interest in visiting. Its most striking design feature seems to lurk in Zuckerberg’s blind spot,…

Your Empathy Is Not the Problem

In a December 6th column in the NY Times, Nicholos Kristoff called on all of us—regular folks and political and military leaders alike—to value children in Israel and Gaza equally. Kristoff joined the Times as a reporter in 1984 and has spent his career shining a light on health, poverty, and gender issues too often…

The Word of Dog(matists)

In these sad and dangerous times—when if we’re not completely numbed to the tragedies of the world around us, then we’re reflexively reaching for our default (and too often shallow) responses—it’s tough to imagine anyone other than the privileged having the luxury of reading the works of David Hume. Or even about the works of…

Maybe We Have Evolution All Wrong

The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens recently hosted a show titled Because We Are Together by the artist Mikhail Karikis. Among his several works featured was Children of the Unquiet, a video installation realized in collaboration with children of former employees in the first geothermic power factory in the world built in 1904…

Baby Wants His Way

A quick survey of the feedback to the latest post from Silicon Valley maven Marc Andreessen indicates that, outside of his bubble, most have reacted with laughter. Saying silly things, which he does throughout, will elicit that kind of response. His Techno-Optimist Manifesto does deserve more than chuckles, if for no other reason than the…

Making Self the Product

Mark Zuckerberg recently took his metaverse playground to the next level. Sort of. Futurism nicely summarizes why the slick metamorphosis of his avatar, from a legless Lego-knockoff to a photorealistic rendering, was much closer to a one-off than a peek into the product’s future. There’s little chance, for example, that your webcam will produce anything…

On My Desk I Have a Dragonfly (Or How I Came to Love Technology)

We’re going back in time, over twenty years, to revisit a previously unpublished essay written in Dawang, a “town” of, at the time, ~110,000, located in the Shandong countryside, China. Dawang, 2002 On my desk I have a dragonfly. It is about 2.5 inches from head to tail. Its eyes and thorax are the color…

Help for the Gun Crazies

It happened again. We wrote about one massacre, oh, way back in 2017. The spikes in thoughts and prayers that follow every suicide and murder materialized again, predictably, but not one of those fervently uttered entreaties did squat for the families and friends of the deceased. And especially nothing for the ones with the bullet…

Tech Pounds on Our Humanity… If We Let It

In an essay I wrote six years ago(!), I highlighted Jeremy Rifkin’s idea that our empathic drives – sociability, attachment, companionship, affection, and belonging – help us deal with the reality we all face: life is short, fragile, and unique. Then, and since, I wondered how technology can and should help us boost and evolve…

Our Web of Meaning Is Still Ahead of Us

On April 22, 1970, over 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day. It was a big, proud series of events that precipitated, among other things, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Earth Day was also at least partially a reminder of our inclusion in and our responsibility to nature. I say reminder…

BC Park Grows, Everyone Wins

More than 100 people stepped up recently with donations totaling over $700,000 to buy 80 hectares of BC wilderness that will soon be added to the province’s massive Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. The land was a homestead settled by Ralph and Ethel Edwards before the park was created in 1938. The funds raised cover the purchase…

Your 2020 Oscar Winner(s)

The 2020 Oscar nominees are going to be announced on March 15th. I haven’t cared the Oscars since Gandhi beat E.T., but it’s been a tough year so I’m here to give a helping hand. The simple offer: skip the nominations and the ceremony, and go with these, the first ever Darwin’s Gong Show Oscar…

Get the Good News Where You Can

Good news can be hard to come by. Let’s take it where we can get it, shall we? Biden cancels the KeyStoneXL Pipeline – good riddance to this investment in backwardness Biden signs orders to roll back Trump’s environmental idiocy – now begins the great work to fix the best efforts of grifters and the…

Facebook’s Doomsday Fantasy

Facebook has never had a shortage of critics. Its faults are in its DNA by design, its seeming missteps made on purpose. But the detractors of the ad-hawking, privacy-invading, responsibility-shirking, misinformation-disseminating business are getting louder and more powerful. They include governments who want to split up the company. Adrienne LaFrance of The Atlantic is not…

Gen Z Emergency – The Book Review

Dr. Reese Halter, a champion on behalf of nature, has put in time during this hellish Covid-19 pandemic to do us a favor. He’s published a new book, Gen Z Emergency, to again highlight the danger our natural world is in and, perhaps most importantly, show us some of the now massive steps required to…

The Opportunity Remains

A twenty-five year fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’ve only recently come to appreciate one of director Stanley Kubrick’s themes: films are a way to enlighten audiences and can be a means to enlightenment. Don’t believe me? Check out the fascinating work that Rob Ager did to uncover the meaning of 2001’s most infamous…

The Gas Bag that Ate Our Attention

Trump, the gaudy (fill in the blank*) marketer elected out of hate via a system most Americans cannot describe, came into and will leave the White House a (________), (________), (________) man in need of mental healthcare, one who even his supporters of vaguely sound mind will struggle to find a single inspiring quote from,…

The Regurgitation Machine

To some, GPT-3 is a marvel. To others, it’s a faceplant. What’s the big deal? GPT-3 is an AI system that has ingested 45 terabytes of English text and, from that, “learned” to read and write. It’s the creation of OpenAI, an AI lab dedicated to making sure “artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity”.…

A Case for Empathy

I recently read an essay by Namwali Serpell, author of a new and widely acclaimed novel The Old Drift, called The Banality of Empathy. Her main issue: art doesn’t promote empathy. And even if it did, why would that be good? Serpell asks this because to her empathy means to “be” or “inhabit” or “consume”…

Will Vigilance Matter?

I’m a little late to the hit sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem. I’d heard of it years ago, but before I recently started reading the book I didn’t realize Barrack Obama had given it a thumbs up, or that Amazon had planned to spend a fortune to bring what has become a trilogy to the…

Tech Buys Into Tune Out

It’s the “attention economy” someone somewhere told us. Silicon Valley sure got the message. But more and more the major technology mavericks-turned-behemoths are buying into and growing the “distraction economy”. Google is the latest. On Tuesday this week the company that once preached “Don’t be evil” embraced “Just chill” when it revealed its gaming platform…

2+2 Now = Everything

This is not about fake news. That’s a separate realm. It’s where truth dies when the size and effort of the lie is enough to give it credence. This isn’t about relativism, though that’s very much alive. It’s thriving in Canada, where the governing party is tying itself in knots talking about my truth, his…

Free Solo is Genius on Film

Free Solo is the name of the National Geographic documentary about Alex Honnold’s years long effort to climb El Capitan without any ropes. It’s an ironic name because the endeavor came at a steep emotional cost to both Honnold’s relationships and film crew. And, since El Capitan is 3,000 feet high, Honnold ran the risk…

Love! Nature – the Book Review

I recently finished Love! Nature by conservation biologist Dr. Reese Halter. Here’s my review: read it. Love! Nature is a collection of more than 75 essays that provide a tour of the natural world. Reese’s eye and interest moves from oceans to mountaintops, desserts to rain forests, and covers the environments, bio-mechanics, evolution, habits, and…

That Didn’t Take Long

So, right after scientists got their hands on the gene editing tool called CRISPR-cas9 in 2015, the moral gymnastics began. Scientists faced the challenge of how to use — or more importantly how not to use — a new, powerful, and (ethically speaking) little understood technology. Well, some faced it. Others ignored it, as we knew…

The Stupidest Thing Uttered by a Smart Man

I don’t know Jeff Bezos. Never met him. Nevertheless, not long after his darling Amazon reached at $1 trillion valuation, I’m nominating one of his remarks for The Stupidest Thing Uttered by a Smart Guy. The list of candidates for this title is both endless and growing. But context helps Jeff’s case. Real earnings are…

image by Jennifer Adomeit

Our Home and Native Land

I came across, I don’t remember how, an interesting interactive map quite a few months ago. I didn’t fiddle with it much, but its premise has sort of been lingering in the rearward reaches of my consciousness ever since. After recently writing about our “convenient realities“, the map demanded attention. When it comes to Western…

This Is Why You Keep Practicing Piano!

I’ve loved The Doors so long it never occurred to me that some people don’t. I was mesmerized by the opening sounds of The End as it played in Apocalypse Now when I first saw it as a ten-year old. (I was too young to “get” a lot of the movie, but not too young…

Our Lazy Relationship with Reality

This week Roy Scranton — combat veteran, author, and Notre Dame professor — published what is in essence a manifesto explaining why, in the face of nearly-assured ecological doom, he chose life. It reminded me of Samuel Beckett’s closing to The Unnamable: “…where am I, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you…

Death and Dying, Life and Living

I have no clue how typical my Twitter feed is. It pulls in tweets from a swath of viewpoints, some famous and some social-media famous. Last week it filled up with tweets about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain: mourning their deaths, praising their talents, thanking them for their contributions, praising them for their grace during…