Intermediate

Energy use of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) consumes a significant amount of energy, especially deep learning models, and in a few years it is expected that energy use will double. This energy consumption is due to the increasing demand for AI across various industries, which contributes to carbon emissions.

Efforts are being made to improve energy efficiency in AI, such as developing smaller models and optimizing algorithms. However, addressing the environmental impact of AI requires collaboration between tech companies, policymakers, and researchers to prioritize sustainability while advancing AI innovation.

Hayao Miyazaki wins an award

The Boy and the Heron won the Best Animated Film award. It beat Disney’s Elemental and Spider-Man Across the Spider-verse. The same film also won a Golden Globe. The film is about a boy who meets a talking heron during World War II, after his mother dies. The film is based on the life of Mr. Miyazaki, who also had to move because of the war.

In 2014, Mr. Miyazaki received a special Oscar for his storytelling. He said he was lucky to be able to make films with paper, pencil, and film. The Boy and the Heron took ten years to make because it was drawn by hand. Today most films are made electronically.

Microsoft invests in Japan AI

Microsoft is planning to put a lot of money, about 2.9 billion dollars, into Japan to make their computer systems better. They want to improve their Artificial Intelligence (AI) and build more data centers. These data centers are like big buildings where lots of computers are kept and they store all kinds of information.

By making their AI better and having more data centers, Microsoft hopes to provide better services to people and companies in Japan. This could mean faster and more reliable internet services, as well as better ways to use computers and technology. Microsoft wants to help Japan become more advanced in technology, and they think this investment will make a big difference.

Interest rates raised in Japan

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) raised its main interest rate from -0.1% to between 0% and 0.1%. In 2016, the BOJ made the rate less than zero to help Japan’s economy.

The decision to raise rates depended on big companies increasing their workers’ wages to deal with the higher cost of living. Recently, Japan’s biggest companies agreed to increase wages by 5.28%, the largest increase in over 30 years. Wages had not increased since the late 1990s as prices rose very slowly or even fell.

The BOJ said there won’t be more rate increases for now. With inflation slowing down, it’s likely that workers will ask for smaller wage increases next year.

Wage increase in Japan

Big companies in Japan are giving their workers the pay raises they asked for. Some companies are even giving more than what was asked. 

Suzuki, Toyota, and Honda, among others, agreed to give raises. Those in the retail and food service are also increasing wages. However, it's still not clear if small and midsize companies will follow suit.

Because wages were low, people were saving more and spending less. Now that many will be receiving a pay raise, it's expected that people will start spending more.

Japan's economy remains weak

Kobayashi Shinichiro from Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting thinks Japan's economy is still not doing well. People are trying to spend less money because prices are going up.

Kobayashi says, "For the economy to get better, people need to spend more money. For that to happen, companies need to pay their workers more. The results of the wage talks will decide a lot about how the economy will be in the future."

These talks ended recently. Before the talks, Kobayashi also said if companies pay more, prices might increase, causing more inflation. This could then change how the central bank manages money.

Manners around the world

It's important to treat people well. But how you do that can change from culture to culture. What's polite in one place might be rude in another. For instance, giving hugs is okay in America but not in China.

This infographic will help you learn about manners around the world so you can be polite in other cultures. Remember, even in the same country, manners can vary between places and people. So, it's a good idea to do some research before you travel or work with people from other countries. Otherwise, you might unintentionally be rude.

The English Farm - Global manners article

When you can't stop buying books

Reading books is a popular hobby as you can easily while away time or just fall asleep reading one. However, it's very easy to get into the habit of buying books you don't end up reading. Interesting enough, there's a term for such a habit: tsundoku. Tsundoku is a Japanese term for people who buy a lot of books they never get around to reading. 

The Japanese word doku means "reading", and it comes from tsumu which means "to pile up". So, tsundoku refers to the practice of piling up reading material.

Quite similarly, the term Bibliomania came into the picture when Thomas Frognall Dibdin's wrote a book with the very same title. Bibliomania comes from the Greek biblio, which refers to books, and mania, "madness".

Spending and saving money

Money is a tool we use to achieve a goal. Different people have different strategies for what to do with money.

Some spend everything on consumer goods or recreational activities, such as enjoying a meal in a restaurant or going to a cinema. Others are in a situation where they can’t save money at all. They have to live from paycheck to paycheck. Such people are said to be living hand-to-mouth.

Other people save money for a rainy day. They can keep their money at home or in a bank. Still, other people invest their money. They invest in safe places such as properties or precious metals, or stocks of large companies. Some invest in risky places such as cryptocurrencies. They hope to gain a large return on their investments.

Pet your stress away

Life can be stressful. The list of responsibilities seems endless as work, children, bills and so many other things demand our constant attention. As a result, it's very easy to get lost in the jungle of a long to-do-list and end up burning out. Fortunately, studies show that pets are a good source of comfort and stress relief. 

According to Jenna Stregowski, an expert in the field, pets can improve one's mood, reduce blood pressure and provide social support, among other benefits. For those who don't really like to exercise or just need some motivation, having a pet will give you a reason to exercise. Dogs, for example, have to walk regularly. This means dog owners can exercise while walking their pets, thereby promoting stress management.

Men artists: Naoki Onogawa

Tokyo-based artist Naoki Onogawa folds hundreds of tiny cranes (no bigger than a centimeter each) by hand, then attaches them to branching wire forms. The results look like bonsai trees—bonsai trees with birds for leaves.

Onogawa started making the sculptures after visiting the site of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. He felt terrified by our powerlessness over nature when he saw 1,000 paper cranes at the site of a ruined school building. Amazingly, he also felt "empowered by the power of life ... that shined so brightly in the aftermath" of the disaster. This inspired him to create his own art with origami cranes.

The most spoken languages worldwide

There are over 7,000 languages in the world. However, some languages are spoken by a very large number of people.

Over a billion people speak English—mainly people living in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other former English colonies. Another billion speak Mandarin. Mandarin is mostly spoken in China.

Nearly 620,000,000 people speak Hindi. It is a language found mostly in South Asian countries such as India.

Over 530,000,000 people speak Spanish, mostly in Spain and Latin America. French and Arabic are spoken by more than 400,000,000 people. French is spoken in France, Canada and France’s old colonies around the world. Arabic speakers mostly live in the Middle East and North Africa.

How people approach deadlines

According to The New Yorker, as the last day to complete a task approaches, people respond to the pressure differently. Some, perhaps well-adjusted and diligent people, jump in, figuring that the anxiety of an unpaid bill or an unfinished project is far more painful than the difficulty of sticking to a sensible schedule. However, others live in denial until the last minute, when they bolt to the end, vowing that they’ll do it all differently next time. And still others dismiss deadlines altogether, believing them to be at best imaginary and at worst contrary to creativity.

The true power of a passport

Most organizations, such as the widely recognized Henley Passport Index, believe the strongest passports are the ones that allow their citizens to enter more countries without a visa. They rank Singapore as the most powerful passport in 2023 because it provides easy access to 194 countries.

But is this the best way to decide how strong a passport is? Global Citizen Solutions has developed a more detailed but slightly different approach. The Global Passport Index analyzes how desirable a country passport is, considering the following:

A Korean Disney princess

Julian Riew is a Korean-American singer and songwriter, and she studies theater at Harvard. Like many children, she was influenced by Disney princesses while growing up.

In recent years, Disney has made conscious efforts to become more inclusive. Racial and ethnic representation have gained presence in their movies lately. However, Julia felt no Disney princess looked like her so she set herself up for a challenge: to create a Disney-inspired Korean princess.

Watch her interview about her musical featuring Korean-American heritage and have a discussion with your teacher: https://www.youtube.com/embed/QpaSVUKQlXg

Visuals: Alcohol by country

Different cultures have different relationships with alcohol. For instance, Italians tend to drink a lot of wine but have a very low level of alcoholism, as they usually drink a couple of glasses with lunch and dinner. However, Russians are known for drinking copious amounts of vodka, and nearly 15% of deaths in Russia are related to alcohol consumption.

In the East, South Koreans are known for signing business deals in bars and then drinking with each other under the table, while Vietnamese love their Bia Hoi (beer halls), where they spend most of their evenings drinking beer after beer with their friends.

Artist Takashi Murakami and AI

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami has always taken risks with his art. He blends traditional and contemporary styles to create wildly colorful pop art. He is often compared to Andy Warhol, the famous American pop artist.

Murakami has always embraced new technologies, like NFTs and cryptocurrency. So he isn't afraid of AI-generated art. But he does see the harmful effect it might have on artists. In his words:

AI will certainly do damage to technical trades, but I don’t think it will be able to block our ideas. The wackiest ideas, those that even AI cannot generate, will become even more valuable.

The evolution of video games

Video games have changed a lot in the last 30 years. In the 1990s, Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers looked very high-tech.

In 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was released. It was the first game where a player could explore a limited 3D map. The engine also allowed the player to have different experiences. For example, the enemies acted differently every time you played the same map.

Visuals: Obesity around the world

Obesity is a growing problem around the world.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. BMI is used to determine whether you are in a healthy weight range for your height. For instance, a person who is 180cm (5ft 11in) and 97kg (213lb) has a BMI of 29.7. 

The rate of obesity varies greatly around the world. Please have a look at the map below and discuss what you see with your teacher.