Weekend Thoughts - 12.12.15

Image  by  Hartwig HKD , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Hartwig HKD, 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 FBI is going to expand its system for tracking police-caused deaths by 2017—however it will still rely on local police departments to voluntarily provide this data, rather than make it mandatory. This has been something I have covered for several months on Think Wilder, and I'm happy to see that it is an issue that is getting more attention, even though it seems that local police departments will still decline the opportunity to provide this data to the FBI. This just means that pressure and incentives matter—law enforcement heads in favor of this new system will most likely lobby others to participate as well, and community interest will come into play too. If a local community truly cares about police conduct in its neighborhoods, it will encourage its local police department to pony up this data. I suppose that time will tell how successful this program expansion will be, but I do hope that in a few years' time we find ourselves in a position where we can reliably research how many police-caused deaths there have been nationwide.

2. The founder of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin has been identified solely by the pseudonym "Satoshi Nakamoto" for the past several years, but Gizmodo and Wired identified Australian man Craig Wright as the brain behind the operation. Australian police raided Wright's home this week to seize computer equipment in an effort to assess these claims. There is still plenty of speculation that this could be a hoax, but as someone who has followed news about Bitcoin for several years, it is fairly exciting to have some new material to read about it.

3. Have you ever been waiting on edge for days or weeks at a time for mail to arrive? Well, the United States Postal Service plans to roll out Informed Delivery, a service designed to email you pictures of your mail so that you know what to expect when you get home. At least for the time being, this will only include letter-sized mail, not packages. We'll have to see how well this works out as the USPS doesn't have a great track record when it comes to technological advances.

4. According to a study utilizing 280 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, lots of people are susceptible to believing pseudo-profound bullshit. The study simply required participants to rate randomly-generated statements on a scale of profundity from 1 to 5. The statements were constructed from the website Wisdom of Chopra, which is a site that scrubs the tweets of alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra, and uses them to construct the random sentences. The study claims that participants who rated random statements containing new-agey buzzwords as "profound" (therefore "being more receptive to bullshit") may lack critical thinking skills, exhibit lower cognitive abilities, are less reflective, more prone to conspiracy theories, more likely to subscribe to religion and belief in the paranormal, and more likely to be fans of alternative medicine. I'm not sure what to make of this study. It seems very anti-Chopra, which (in my experience) most scientific materialists are, there is a small sample size, and it is highly subjective. Take the results for what you will. My main goal in sharing this is to remind the community to be wary of buzzwords and question everything—even articles covering "scientific studies". (And yes, that means you should be wary of Think Wilder as well!)

5. In the wake of so many mass shootings that have happened this year, police in South Carolina unearthed one man's treasure trove including thousands of firearms and ammunition. This may have been the largest firearm seizure in history, and it's definitely worth taking a look at the pictures and videos in the linked article.

6. And finally, some humor for you this week: #GOPdildos is an effort to replace the guns in Republican's gun-toting photos with dildos. Enjoy.

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