Archive for December, 2004

How do we make sense of the horrible death and destruction visited upon South and Southeast Asia (and indeed, even Africa)?  Some may see the hand of a capricious God.  Others may ponder the impotence of humankind against the forces of nature.  For me, the real lesson is the persistence of underdevelopment in the world, and its profound affect on life opportunities.

If a similar-sized earthquake and tsunami had occurred near the U.S. coast, the death toll would have been only a tiny fraction of that in Asia.  Death, injury, and illness from the current earthquate and tsunamis in Asia have been multiplied  by a host of developmental factors, ranging from lack of warning systems, insufficient communication infrastructure, fragile housing structures, inadequate health care systems, and lack of modern water supply and distribution systems.

I hope that everyone reading this message who is able will reach deep into their pockets to make donations to disaster relief groups.  Beyond that, though, I hope we — and by we I refer both to the readers of this blog and the broader we of the human race — can commit ourselves more fully to understanding and reducing international poverty, social exclusion, and underdevelopment in 2005 and beyond.

May 2005 be a better year for the world, and may all of you reading this find peace and joy in the new year.

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Wikipedia on disaster

The Wikipedia–an open-source encyclopedia constantly updated by thousands of volunteers around the world–is proving to be one of the most thorough sources of information on the Indian Ocean earthquake and multiple tsunamis.

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I join with others around the world in expressing my deepest condolences to people in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Somalia, and elsewhere suffering the terrible tragedy of this past week’s tsunamis.  Knowing the pain of losing my own child, I am especially horrified to see so many children die around the world.

It is particularly difficult to fathom this tragedy knowing that the majority of the victims were killed hours after scientists first became aware of the earthquake and tsunamis, but that no system was in place to pass on the knowledge.  Another tragic lesson of the power of information and media — or lack of access to the same — in people’s lives.

Those of you who use Amazon can make a one-click donation to the American Red Cross for relief efforts. Or here’s a broader list of aid groups accepting donations for the victims of the tragedy.

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Here’s an article from the techno-pessimists and a book from the techno-optimists.  For a more realist perspective on the social and educational impact of technology, see Academic Gamers.

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Digital Divide Network

The Digital Divide Network has developed a new Website, with articles on topics such as How to Create a DDN Blog, What’s RSS and Why Should I Care About it?, A Quick and Easy Guide to Creative Commons Licenses, A Quick and Easy Guide to Creative Commons Licenses, and lots more.

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A Global Virtual Library?

Google is announcing that it will digitize the book collections from a number of major libraries, including Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, University of Michigan, and New York Public Library, and will eventually make all this material available for searching.  The process may take a decade but will be a step in the direction of a global virtual library.

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End of email era?

It’s common knowledge that most young people prefer instant messaging, text messaging, and other forms of instant communication to email.  Here’s a brief article about the phenomena in Korea.

See further discussion in Polyglot Conspiracy.

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