What’s behind the smile?

Yesterday, Sunday 27 April 2014, two popes made history together, being canonised together. A lot has been written about Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, and so this post focuses on Pope Francis, and specifically about a photo he took in August last year.

Selfie Pope Francis

Actually, here is a picture of the picture being taken.

Picture of Pope Francis selfie

Let me start by re-stating that I feel that every photo has “multi-dimensional space”, and that photos freeze a moment in time, but not what was happening. What was happening is a whole different thing, very different for every person in that moment, and also possibly many different things for each of them. All of this allows for perspectives which may be disentangled by you and me, the picture’s viewers.

The word selfie was Oxford dictionary’s word of the year in 2013, defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself” and so, strictly speaking the picture of the pope is not a selfie. Because he did not take it. But maybe it qualifies because he actively participated in it (posed for it). Has Pope Francis too been actively pursuing the development of his personality cult?

Do popes need, or should they develop one? A personality cult, that is? Many people still wonder whether, behind that lovely smile of Pope Francis, we will discover a conservative or a progressive leader. What happened yesterday can be a message from the pope, in as much as that selfie, which was published by the Vatican’s l’Osservatore Romano. In fact one might tend to question, as Time did: Public Service or Propaganda? No harm, if by building Pope Francis’s persona, the church can reinforce its own voice.

I feel that the church is very aware that, like every modern government, it needs to engage people. The church knows that its citizens are not only its followers but also the rest of the world. It is reassuring to note Pope Francis’s interest in interfaith dialogue for example – diluting divisions. Would the energy otherwise spent arguing differences, not be better committed to promoting the co-development of the twenty-first century.


Update: Upon feedback from readers, the original final argument regarding the environment will be developed further in a future post.


A Strategic Plan for United States Federal Cybersecurity R&D

It was back in April when I first read Obama’s plans for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, and as this had happened in the wake of Sony’s cybersecurity problems, I’d also blogged about it.

A couple of days ago the Whitehouse announced it’s new strategic plan for Federal Security R&D. It’s a roadmap and it takes the approach of prioritising research on all areas including policy and technology: understanding the deficiencies, developing solid scientific foundations, maximising the impact and accelerating adoption.

A post by the CTO and Cybersecurity Coordinator on the Whitehouse OSTP blog states:

“Given the magnitude and pervasiveness of cyberspace threats to our economy and national security, it is imperative that we fundamentally alter the dynamics in cybersecurity through the development of novel solutions and technologies.”

And that’s exactly the point. Cybersecurity is no longer just a concern for techies and hackers – it’s of economic and national security relevance for every country in the world. And the open invitation to researchers and innovators in the industry to come forward and participate in the acceleration of the transition to a more secure cyberspace is surely received very well.

Avatar presses a worthy message..

This week, I watched Avatar 3D.

I have definitely seen better 3D… what is amazing about the movie is its fantastic screenplay. Cameron’s creation of Pandora and the reincarnations of Earthly beings into real-life avatars, are truly fascinating. Pandora is the faraway planet where Man wants to mine Unobtanium. But, it is also the land of savage tribes and dangerous creatures. Doctor Max is behind the science of reincarnating humans into Avatars, and, in her words they are remotely controlled bodies […] grown from human DNA mixed with DNA from the natives”.

We see the Avatars for the first time: cyan blue creatures with long lemur-like tails. They are sleeping in acrylic tanks, waiting for the time to be released into the wild.

The Avatars are the mining company’s attempt to mix with the locals without putting humans into the undue risks of roaming around Pandora. Every Avatar has a human driver who slides into a machine that allows his nervous systems to be in tune with those of the Avatar and thus control it remotely. In this way, the main character – Jake is transformed into the divine savior of Pandora.

Pandora is an amazing ecosystem in itself. Mother goddess Eywa, takes care of maintaining the balance which has not yet been broken by a resource-thirsty human race. The natives can plug themselves into other creatures and a common transport protocol allows for the transmission of neuronic signals between them.

Maybe, if religions had not awarded Man the power to reign over nature, we may indeed not have had to humiliate ourselves with global summits to discuss how much exploitation would not be “too” harmful! Yet, not seeing beyond the smoke screen Luca Pellegrini, on the Radio Vaticana says (in Italian):

Pandora è il pianeta che strizza abilmente l’occhio a tutte quelle pseudo-dottrine che fanno dell’ecologia la religione del millennio. La natura non è più la creazione da difendere, ma la divinità da adorare, mentre la trascendenza si svuota materializzandosi in una pianta e nelle sue bianche liane che nutre gli spiriti diramandosi nella forma di un vero e proprio panteismo.

No translation I can make would be fateful enough to the original text, but the Radio Vaticana, which claims to be “the voice of the Pope and the Church in dialogue with the world” finds issue with the movie, because it promotes a pagan approach to the respect for nature. In my view, the story does not intend to promote any particular approach. Considering the success it has had in cinemas worldwide, I am hoping that it manages to instill in people the appreciation for living in harmony with nature that the global leaders cannot seem to agree about in too many global summits! [Stockholm, ’72][Rio, ’92][Kyoto ’97][Johannesburg 2002][Copenhagen 2009][Earth Summit 2012]

Ave Avatar!