Human Relationships To Animals & Information

   

“We are the smartest species on earth; why do we insist on being the dumbest, too?” Asks Henry Mance the chief features writer for the Financial Times, in his new book, How To Love Animals In A Human-Shaped World. That pertinent question comes after Mance has informed the reader:

“An abattoir is a disassembly line” 

“Zoos are imprisoned wildlife”

“Americans spend $100bn a year on their animal companions, which is double the USA overseas aid budget”

“We are quite happy to accept that some 1.5 billion pigs – mentally and socially complex creatures – will be killed this year around the world, but regard it as an outrage to slaughter a dog”

Stirring and thought-provoking statements, yet Henry Mance is a convivial guest and his book is anything but crusading in tone. We love animals, but does that make the animals’ lives any happier? With factory farms, climate change, and deforestation, this might be the worst time in history to be an animal. If we took animals’ experiences seriously, how could we eat, think and live differently? A one-time meant-eater, then vegetarian, now vegan, Henry takes on the darker aspects of how we treat animals with a smart wit. He covers an extraordinary amount of research and in-person observations in his book. As a talkshow guest, Henry Mance is a delightfully engaging raconteur.

One of the most peculiar and possibly unique features of humans is the vast amount of information we carry outside our biological selves. But in our rush to build the infrastructure for the 20 quintillion bits we create every day, we’ve failed to ask exactly why we’re expending ever-increasing amounts of energy, resources, and human effort to maintain all this data. Drawing on deep ideas and frontier thinking in evolutionary biology, computer science, information theory, and astrobiology, In The Ascent of Information Caleb Scharf argues that information is, in a very real sense, alive. All the data we create—all of our emails, tweets, selfies, A.I.-generated text, and funny cat videos—amounts to an aggregate life-form. It has goals and needs. It can control our behavior and influence our well-being. And it’s an organism that has evolved right alongside us. The Ascent of Information offers a humbling vision of a universe built of and for information. Scharf explores how our relationship with data will affect our ongoing evolution as a species. Understanding this relationship will be crucial to preventing our data from becoming more of a burden than an asset, and to preserving the possibility of a human future.

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