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View Tom Turner's blog posts
09 June 2009, 11:08 AM

Biking in to work the other day I heard an underwriting pitch from IBM, touting its new campaign, or slogan, or website, call it what you will, for "A Smarter Planet." Oh boy. Now we’re going to teach the planet new tricks, show it where evolution has fallen short.

Don’t you guys get it? It’s not the planet that lacks smarts, it’s the human race. We should learn from natural systems, pattern human society on systems that work, are sustainable and don’t foul their own nests. (Semirelevant aside: Paul Hawken just gave a lovely commencement speech  to a group of graduates in Portland. Among many interesting things he said was, Do you realize that humans are the only species on the planet that do not have full employment? Worth pondering. The whole speech is quite wonderful and uplifting in fact.)

So I went to the IBM site for the smarter planet and it’s not as bad as I feared.

In fact, it’s about making various human endeavors—health care, transportation, and so on smarter, and who can argue with that? Chock full of graphs and charts, very slick. One thing caught my eye. It says that it costs eight times as much to have a person renew her driver’s license in person as it does for her to do it on-line. And that reminded me of another snippet  from this morning’s deluge of news: Governor Arnold, desperate to keep California from going broke, says we can save $300-some million by doing away with textbooks in the public schools and moving the books on-line. Something deeply disturbing about that.

The entire population, just about, got educated with real books. If they're well made they last a long time and they can be made with recycled paper. The idea of forcing kids--who already spend way too much time staring into the screens on their TVs, phones, ipods, video games--to do all their reading on illuminated screens just seems wrong, and I bet there are health effects we haven't even thought of yet.

What's deeply disturbing about getting a load off students' backs - literally! - by eliminating big heavy textbooks laden with tree killing paper?

Does recycled paper kill trees?.....

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