Watch The World Grow Older*, In 4 GIFs : Planet Money : NPR

Japan may be the poster child, but the US isn’t far behind.

Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon

Comments from a respected family member who shall remain anonymous (sent to me via e-mail directly):

Interesting and misleading. (As I’ve come to expect from NPR.)

Been watching population growth charts like the last one since 1960, when the Council of Rome (a UNESCO-sponsored think tank) predicted world population would top 20 billion by now and that there would be wide-spread death, disease and destruction.

It didn’t happen because the birth rates of the worst offenders, China and India have fallen dramatically. (By draconian measures in China’s case.) And because the Green Revolution resulted in improved crop yields worldwide.

What really happens is that, even in countries trying to maintain higher birthrates for religious or cultural reasons, birth rates plummet one generation after death rates rise. If nothing else, even poor, uneducated women manage to have fewer pregnancies. (Poor and uneducated they may be; stupid they’re not.)

That one generation lag is the real problem: no one believes it until they see it. But once they believe it, populations are higher than they should be for sustainability.

Then the problem is that the increasingly integrated world economy is increasingly vulnerable to disruption … by just about anything: war, over-production one year, rumors or war, etc.

Movie Review: Robot & Frank (2012)

Robot & Frank (2012)

3 out of 5 stars

I saw a preview for this indie drama recently, either at the theatre or on another DVD, so I added it to my Netflix queue.

The story intrigued me by having an aging jewel thief, suffering from dementia, pass on the tricks of his trade to the domestic robot his son purchased as a home-health aide.  High-tech parental neglect? Hard to say, since Frank refused to be shuffled off to the near-future nursing home (called a Brain Center).  As expected, Frank also despised the robot foisted upon him by his son, going so far as to pit his daughter, the epitome of the idealist activist, against his son in a human v. robot philosophical battle.  Meanwhile, Robot (Frank never deigns to name it) slowly grows on Frank.

You won’t find any evidence of Asimov’s Three Laws in Robot’s programming.  His primary directive is to take care of Frank, helping him stay on a regular schedule, eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and take up a hobby, like gardening, to stimulate his brain and fight off the ravages of the dementia.  Frank scoffs at grubbing in the dirt, but eventually shows Robot how to pick a lock, using his old cat burglar lock pick set.  Frank even questions Robot about his ethics, showing that Robot can lie and has no qualms about stealing.  That was all the excuse Frank needed to plan their first job and return to his favorite past-time.

One (or two) of the funniest scenes involve children harassing Robot outside the library while Frank visits with the librarian and checks out more books.  Franks runs off the kids and advises Robot that next time he should say ‘Self-destruct sequence initiated’ and start counting down from ten.  Robot puts this to good use later, only using it against more gullible adults.  I chuckled both times.

All of this plays out against the backdrop of his family:  His son who is torn between visiting and caring for his father and spending time with his own family; his globe-trotting daughter traveling the third world in pursuit of her next research grant; and his forgotten ex-wife, played charmingly by Susan Sarandon, as the nearly superfluous local librarian.  Frank Langella’s performance as, um, Frank, also shined.  True to form, Robot did as programmed, no matter how much Frank or the audience hoped it might surpass or overcame said programming.  Or did it?  Check the garden, under the tomatoes.