Dante, Zoonoses, Remedies, Smartphones, Luddism

A weekly selection of fine writing from Conked.

BY RAND LEEB-DU TOIT – 22 JANUARY 2021

Dante: Still Bringing Hope From Hell

Thomas O’Dwyer | 3 Quarks Daily | 18 JAN 2021

Dante Alighieri, who died 700 years ago this year, is well known in both Italy and the rest of the world. Like Shakespeare in England and Miguel de Cervantes in Spain, he will be celebrated as defining Italy's soul with events planned throughout the country. A year before his death, he completed what is considered his masterpiece - the Divine Comedy, split into three parts tracing a pilgrim's journey. Dante chose to write in Tuscan instead of Latin and established this dialect as "standard Italian, so he is regarded as the father of the lovely modern language," Musicians, artists, writers and even game producers have sourced this epic as their inspiration, showing Dante's enduring powers. (2,096 words)


From Chicago to Uganda, scientists track the wildlife diseases that could infect humans—or spark the next pandemic

Carlyn Kranking | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists|  19 JAN 2021

While we are focussed on the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists are looking at how we prevent other infectious diseases from occurring and spreading. A particular focus are animal populations with diseases that have the potential to pass to humans - pathogens known as zoonotic. This work is crucial when we consider the worst pandemics in history - including HIV/AIDS, Covid-19 and Ebola - came from wildlife to humans. Due to development and climate change, humans and animals are existing closer than ever before, leading to increased risks, especially as the Global Virome Project "estimates there are over 500,000 undiscovered zoonotic viruses." This article discusses some prevention strategies that could save lives in the future. (1,739 words)


‘Natural’ healing is metaphysically incoherent but valuable

Alan Jay Levinovitz | Aeon | 19 JAN 2021

Can natural remedies give us something that modern mainstream Western medicine is not able to? Embracing Chinese, Indian, Indigenous medicine, homoeopathy, chiropractic and the Hippocratic corpus, natural medicine is a melting pot of different systems, beliefs and approaches. In difficult times, many are willing to try natural remedies with a desire to address what can be done to heal and how to feel in control when, perhaps, "modern medical science offers little empowerment." People can seek out natural medicine in order to be heard, to be given time to tell their story, as that is a crucial part of healing. (2,600 words)


Should smartphone data be harnessed to track mental health?

Simon D’Alfonso | Aeon Psyche | 19 JAN 2021

While traditional mental health care requires self-reporting of symptoms, this article explains how analysing the daily digital footprint of a person could be a transformative tool in the future. While the approach requires strict approaches to data security, privacy concerns and clear consent on what could be shared, there are both clear and subtle ways to link smartphone habits and mental health. There is early evidence that depressed people visit fewer places and the GPS sensor could be used for that data. Reduced calls or text messages in one study were associated with a relapse in schizophrenia, and Bluetooth features could record offline social interactions, already known to be crucial for mental health. (1,287 words)


The Future Encyclopedia of Luddism

Miriam A. Cherry| The MIT Press Reader |  JAN 2021

These days we think of Luddites as those who dislike new technology, but the origin of the term is an early 19th-century movement of English textile workers against dangerous manufacturing machines, appalling safety and working conditions. They were not against technology or machines themselves, but the danger involved in factory practices, injuries to workers and wanted decent labor laws. This article is a fictionalised account dated 2500 on the assumption that the Luddites were successful and that they formulated a different approach between society and technology, factory ownership and workers, wages and the discontinuation of child labor. (3,470 words)


Afterthought:

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward” 

― Martin Luther King Jr.

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Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

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