Author Archives: Brent

Highway driving: a human era adventure

Self-driving cars have hit a bit of a speedbump since the fatality in Phoenix last year in which an SDC with a distracted human co-pilot failed to cope with a human jaywalker. Nevertheless, the imminence of SDC as well as the AI features already found in cars still nominally human-driven put in a different light […]

The Globe is wrong on nuclear power

The Boston Globe has recently been throwing its editorial weight behind nuclear power. It laments the scheduled closing of Pilgrim in June, claiming that the only serious response to climate change is nuclear power. In encouraging a renaissance in this moribund industry it joins the strange bedfellow of president Trump, who enthusiastically supports both nuclear […]

The Cape Cod National Seashore and our no-frills president

“National parks struggle to stay open,” went the headline of a recent story about effects of the federal government shutdown, which at this writing is close to the end of its third week. Trump has said that for all he cares, the shutdown can go o n for months, even years. Become the new normal, […]

Resisting the AI future?

What will become of us? How technology is changing what it means to be human” is the title of a recent issue of the New York Times Magazine. Something about the helplessness of that plaintive question says a lot about our situation when it comes to the computerization of life and AI (artificial intelligence). Two […]

If it can’t happen here, why not?

“It can’t happen here.” Since Trump was elected, we’ve heard this phrase a lot, with its ironic message of Oh yes it can. In fact it might be happening even as we speak. (And we, frogs in slowly heated water, have just gotten used to it.) So what’s the “it” that we’d like to think […]

The crazy-making premise of Veterans Day

The recent Veterans Day got more media notice than usual as the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, its earlier form, created to commemorate the ending of World War One. That war was demoted to just another world war from the “Great War” when it turned out not to be the “war to end all wars.” […]

Contradictions of our modern romance of the ocean

There was an emotional gathering at Newcomb Hollow beach in Welllfleet in October to celebrate the life of the young man killed by a shark. Part of it was a “paddle-out” of dozens of surfers to form a circle. It took some guts to go out there, I thought, well beyond warnings on the posted […]

The logic of not voting. And of voting.

For as long as I can remember, a theme of civic life has been the scandalously low voter turnout in national elections. On average 40% of eligible voters don’t vote in presidential elections, about 60% in off-years. A curious phenomenon, this failure to vote–to exercise the most basic right in what we think of as […]

The shark crisis: speciesism vs. ecological altruism

In response to the shark fatality crisis, Wellfleet’s selectboard scheduled what was called by some a Shark Town Meeting. It filled the elementary school gym to overflowing, maybe half again the number of attendees as at the Special Town Meeting earlier the same week. After preliminary statements from town officials and shark experts, the meeting […]

Contradictions of shark romance

“We all knew this day would come” ran the big front page headline about the fatal shark attack in Wellfleet. Well, actually, no, we didn’t. Six deaths annually worldwide on average (and first fatality in Massachusetts in 82 years) is pretty good odds Sure, those odds rise when you eliminate all the people who don’t […]