Goa Burning!

Goa Tourism has a serious problem and it is in the air!

I go to Goa very frequently. Several times a year and have been doing that for the last 25 years.

Goa has changed a lot in this time. The Russian and North Indian tourists have greatly changed the character of Goa. Some people dislike it but most don’t mind. I am indifferent.

However, the biggest risk to Goan tourism in my view is its garbage burning problem.

Almost everywhere in Goa, people burn garbage everyday at street corners and other places.

The acrid smell of the smoke from burning garbage is everywhere in the evenings.

This is not just a problem of pollution by particulate matter. Because the garbage includes plastics, there are toxic dioxins as well.

Goa must clamp down heavily on this problem and increase the effectiveness of its waste collection infrastructure. Else it risks chasing away health conscious tourists.

The anti-vaccine movements will fail

Unless there is an alternative to vaccines, a technology breakthrough that is not on the horizon, the anti-vaccine movements in various countries are doomed to fail. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/health-48682113/immunisation-why-we-do-it-and-how-herd-immunity-works

The diseases are coming back and with their increase, communities worldwide will not risk their lives or the lives of their children. Loss of herd immunity will also threaten the vaccinated population with disease.

People who refuse to vaccinate their children risk being socially isolated. Their children will not be able to attend mainstream schools or colleges. Eventually, the few who hold out may even be restricted to quarantined areas.

Theirs is a battle that they are destined to lose. But at what cost? When?

Photos – credits to Hyttalo Souza and Lucas Vasques on Unsplash

The way to unclog and unpollute Indian cities

The desire to run profitable public transport services in Indian cities is silly and irresponsible.

The whole idea that good quality and adequate public transport must be profitable may be fine in the USA 

But it is certainly not fine in India. Look at this report from Bangalore – https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/air-conditioned-volvo-buses-may-soon-disappear-from-bengaluru-roads/article28150458.ece

Our city roads are clogged with crawling traffic and our air is too polluted to breathe. And a large section of our urban population can not afford unsubsidised, air conditioned, public transport.

Not only do we require enormous new investments in quality public transport infrastructure in our cities, our public transport must be heavily subsidised and must not look for profitability.

With good quality public transport made available, the cities will have a case to heavily tax private vehicle ownership like in Europe or Singapore. This will not only pay part of the subsidy but also reduce traffic density on our roads.

Another problem in our country is that government owned city bus transport services have failed to deliver quality services. It is a far better idea to allow private operators to freely operate and regulate them for quality and price. And target subsidies at low income citizens so that they can afford the tickets.

How do we avert the pandemic risk from human engineered viruses

The ability to genetically engineer viruses and bacteria is rapidly becoming commonplace and it’s already within the reach of a bio technologist in any garage laboratory.

This is no longer something only companies or labs with massive resources and infrastructure can do.

However, as Rob Reid mentions in his Ted talk, within a couple of decades, it’s going to be possible for anyone to create a human engineered virus or bacteria. It will no longer require someone with a biotech background and will not even need a lab.

Here is the link to Rob’s talk –  https://www.ted.com/talks/rob_reid_how_synthetic_biology_could_wipe_out_humanity_and_how_we_can_stop_it

Rob also mentions some approaches that we must adopt and explore right away, to avert catastrophe.

Now anyone can create “deep fakes” for practically no cost.

Whether it is fake videos or speeches by political leaders or other.

In India, a lot of people on social media are generally gullible and easily believe shoddily prepared fake news forwards from friends and others. We have seen this abundantly in the last Lok Sabha elections.

How will deep fake videos which are sophisticated and indistinguishable from real videos going to impact us?

India must prepare to protect its citizens from such misinformation.

I wonder what is the solution. Maybe to only trust news from certified, leading news sources? After all, they can’t print fake information as they can be held liable.

Here is a link to tech that demonstrates the problem –

https://www.technologyreview.com/f/613645/ai-fake-news-deepfakes-misinformation-united-nations/