Back to School August 2018 Hiroshima, Japan

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One of the most severe mudslides caused the highway to collapse into a pile of mud on top of the commuter train line below.

Schools in Japan typically operate on a trimester system, so it’s not the start of a new school year, but it is the end of summer vacation. August is when, according to Shinto tradition, the dead return en masse to the world of the living. But these imperialist ghosts are also joined in August in Hiroshima by the ghosts of the victims of the atomic bombs. The number of living hibakusha (atomic bomb victims) are declining along with the population of this country, which has suffered the slow burn of neo-liberalism since the 1980s Nakasone government.

The public high school where I work has only about 600 students now, compared to 1200 a quarter century ago. And the future of public schools here does not look good. In a picture typical of any system you might find globally where the government has been completely captured by capital, public infrastructure is allowed to crumble while school curriculum is reduced to the churn of human resources to feed the corporate machine.

As a more disturbing illustration of the damage global capital is doing to my local school district, I present the case of the landslides, and flooding which left some of the more mountainous areas outside of Hiroshima in chaos and cut some communities off almost completely from the rest of the country. As you can see in the video I’ve included, the main highway connecting Kure, the suburb where I live, to Hiroshima, where my school is located, has collapsed and what used to be the railway line below, is buried under several meters of mud and rock. At the beginning of the summer, my home, like many thousands of my neighbors’ homes, was without running water. We relied on military supply stations for drinking water and even laundry and bathing facilities

In short, this was my first direct experience with the extreme environmental harm wrought by global climate change. Like the levees in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, the drainage systems, roads and river bridges in our community just couldn’t withstand the onslaught of a super-storm. To hold capitalism responsible for such disasters doesn’t mean that I believe Sony or Mazda or Tepco or Ratheon or Amazon somehow ordered up this storm. It just means that these companies have too long held the human and environmental costs of their enterprises at arms-length as externalities or liabilities.

When the trains start running again, and as my commute time returns to normal in the next few weeks, I intend to teach about the connections between these seemingly disparate phenomena: mudslides, atomic bombs, and decaying schools.

Computer Go player ‘AlphaGo’ defeats pro in even game for first time – challenges Lee Sedol next

Source: Computer Go player ‘AlphaGo’ defeats pro in even game for first time – challenges Lee Sedol next and Nature

Big news in gaming– a Google-affiliated company has apparently designed the strongest Go-playing computer yet.  It’s already beaten a top European professional, but the program may need some tweaking before it can beat Korea’s Lee Sedol, probably the best living human Go-player.  This AI goes beyond raw computing power, and seems to have accessed an ability that at least approximates what many professional players refer to as aesthetic judgements of game positions.  Fascinating!