Weekend Thoughts - 9.5.15

Image by mark6mauno, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Image by mark6mauno, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

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

1. An interesting take on AI in an article titled Will Artificial Intelligence get high? This is something I had never considered before, but it is an interesting concept to explore. I like this quote at the end: "So if there ever is an epic battle between the sentient machine and humanity, AI has already won; because we are starting to depend on it—and only because we designed it that way."

2. ATTN: 5 Charts That Prove the War on Drugs Is a Nightmare. Here are the main points:

  1. More federal prisoners are being given longer sentences than before the 1980s—average prison sentence for federal drug offenders rose 36% while sentences for all other offenders declined 3%.
  2. Sentences have become increasingly harsh for federal drug offenders—probation has virtually disappeared as a sanction for them.
  3. The war on drugs hasn't stopped people from using illicit substances—in fact, illegal drug use has increased.
  4. Federal law enforcement agencies have been targeting mostly low-level drug offenders—nearly half of those sentenced for drug crimes in 2009 were street-level dealers or below while suppliers and importers represented just 11%.
  5. Reduced sentences does not translate into higher recidivism rates.

I definitely suggest taking a look at the article and sharing it with your family, friends and open-minded colleagues.

3. In commemoration of today's holiday, Jury Rights Day, I wanted to share an article about how Denver is unconstitutionally harassing citizens that inform the public about the process of jury nullification. For those of you not in the know, jury nullification is a legal practice that gives the jury in a trial the right to acquit a defendant (even if the members of the jury may believe the defendant performed an illegal act), because they don't believe the defendant should be punished for it. This has proved to be a very powerful tactic in drug war reform, as juries can decide to simply not punish a defendant for a law that may have been broken, on the collective opinion that the law itself is unjust. The fact that Denver is attempting to prevent people from spreading information about jury nullification is upsetting and wrong. More people ought to know that they can have a huge impact when serving on juries, so please share the knowledge about this practice with your friends and family.

4. In a news story that reminded me of the stoner comedy Biodome, it seems that NASA has initiated a Mars isolation experiment on Earth by securing six people for one year inside a dome in Hawaii. The idea behind the experiment is to maintain a Mars-like environment with no animals and limited vegetation and keep the team in isolation to prepare them for living on Mars. The structure they are living in is 36 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall, and the crew is expected to eat foods like powdered cheese and canned tuna, only go outside if fully dressed in a space suit, and have extremely limited access to the Internet. I'm sure they won't be laughing nearly as much as Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin did in the movie.

5. A new study shows that long exposure to minute amounts (below the level permissible in U.S. water) of Monsanto's Roundup can lead to liver and kidney damage. The research looked at prolonged exposure to the herbicide and one of its key ingredients—glyphosate. Do these findings constitute more evidence that we should let our wildlife grow wilder?

6. This article on why drug tests are a massive scam really nails it. I've long been a ferocious opponent of the drug testing industry, and this article points out many of the reasons that I have come to that conclusion. Among some of the best tidbits from the article: the tests are easily beaten, they discriminate against drugs that are actually less harmful, they waste money for employers and provide a constant revenue stream for private corporations that administer them, and they don't deter drug use. In many cases employers end up losing their most qualified employees due to drug testing. Gifted and talented students are prevented from participating in extracurricular activities due to drug testing, and/or lose their access to federal aid for university. Did you know that 90% of positive drug tests are attributed to cannabis use, and that if you smoked a joint three Friday nights ago and remained completely sober since then, you would likely still test positive for cannabis use? Why is it acceptable for alcohol users to get completely blitzed in their free time with a drug that is far more harmful than cannabis, yet smokers are discriminated against through the unconstitutional practice of drug testing? If you have any doubts about the lack of merit concerning drug testing, I beg you to read this article.

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