Weekend Thoughts - 10.3.15

Image by  Hernán Piñera , courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Image by Hernán Piñera, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. The search for extraterrestrial life is one of my favorite topics. Scientists have been attempting to find water on Mars, and this week NASA announced that evidence for liquid water on Mars has been found. That's pretty big news, because that means there could be life on Mars, and the planet could support human life in the future. 

2. Some politicians have recently proposed that beneficiaries of the social welfare system should have their names published for all to see. An article from ATTN: proposes that the government also publish the names of companies who receive monies from the corporate welfare system (the top five are McDonald's, Olive Garden, the NFL, oil companies, and agricultural companies). After all, if people want to scrutinize impoverished citizens at the lower end of the economic scale who receive help, why not also scrutinize the privileged business folk at the top who are essentially doing the same thing? 

3. When skateboarding became emerged in the 1950s, the media was confused. Ratter put together an amusing collection of newspapers that just didn't the sport at all.

4. Something that I have long held as a personal hunch, it turns out that the FBI really does have the methods to spy on any Internet activity they want to, whether it is encrypted or not. Although they may not legally be able to do so, the organization has the means to hack devices and get past the levels of encryption that provide the infrastructure for technological innovations like the Dark Web. In addition, the FBI has been pushing for the ability to install spying malware directly into operating system updates, which the article covers in detail. They are already able to decrypt our communication, and I believe that side of the war has already been won. This is why I have been arguing for a movement toward two-way transparency, rather than an insistence on personal privacy.

5. Wired has its eyes set on the future horizon in its piece about platform blogging, which they have dubbed plogging. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are planning to release features that will allow their users to publish long-form posts on the platforms, essentially enabling the option to blog on a social media platform. The concept is interesting, and it may just work—there are fascinating things that everyone has to share with the world, and it is easier for the average Internet user to read content produced in a social media platform feed than to go directly to a blog or news website. The tradeoff here—from what I can see—is that the content would be published on the social media platform, so the writer wouldn't have control over it the same way she would if it was published on a personal website. We'll have to see if it kicks off. Maybe it's time for more people to start thinking about the possibility of creating long-form content for other people to read?

6. The concept of universal basic income has been a fascinating and inspiring idea to me for a while, and it turns out that offering money to citizens regardless of employment is an idea that is becoming increasingly accepted by both sides of the political divide. Could it be the end to poverty that we are looking for?

7. Would you like to eat less plastic? Maybe you should reduce or eliminate your consumption of fish, since a recent study found that one-in-four fish consumed contains plastic. In addition to taking this into consideration for your own health, don't forget about the health of your extended family—your pets!

8. This most likely doesn't come as a surprise to Think Wilder readers, but it turns out that DARE—the anti-drug "educational" program—was not effective. At all. I remember receiving DARE "education" classes during my elementary schooling in the 1990s, and they fed me with undeserved fear and paranoia about all drugs that remained unchecked until the mid 2000s, during my college years. It was at that time that I learned about amazing resources like Erowid, NORML, and MAPS by listening to the Psychedelic Salon podcast. Since then, I have learned that educating myself is more fruitful and valuable than anything the establishment could ever shove down my throat. I believe that the best education for children is to be honest about the potential dangers and the potential benefits that some drugs have to offer. Outright dishonesty and political propaganda does nothing but embed a feeling of distrust in our youth. They will eventually find out that, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, much of the anti-drug rhetoric that is taught in schools is false. And when that happens, it is possible that they will make bad decisions—which could have been prevented with accurate information—because they assume the entire message was false.

9. Finally, local readers may enjoy this brief history of cannabis legislation in North Carolina from 1977 to 2015.

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.