21st Century Crushes
The 21st century crush will be defined by screenshotted conversations sent to our best friends, catfishing, and a computer screen of security, which might become the only way two individuals feel comfortable communicating.
The inability of text to demonstrate emotion will make the effective communication of sarcasm very difficult, and we will start to rely on emojis and text lingo to bridge that gap lol :P Continue reading
A shoutout to my long-distance friends
I live in Atlanta, and here I have friends that I can touch and feel.
But I live in Atlanta, and you live on the other side of the country; I see you a few times every year.
As a senior in high school, I’m going to see some of my best friends once more before we’re all whisked off to college, and I don’t know what to do about it.
With my friends here, personal interaction is best. If you’ve got the ability to see people that you care about, why would you leave it up to technology to do the job? It’s lame, it’s lazy, and it’s a poor example of friendship.
But with the friends dispersed all over the country, technology is all I have. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, as well as texting and Snapchat are wonderful technological developments that have connected us all in unprecedented ways, giving the saying “it’s a small world” a whole new meaning. Continue reading
I returned home after driving like a madman through a torrential rainstorm. Apparently, the weather had taken out a power line, and our entire neighborhood had lost power. At this time, it was still light outside. The air inside the house still retained some of its air conditioned effect, so the muggyness was bearable. The refrigerator had just recently lost its cool, so the food was still fresh. This power outage didn’t seem to be so devastating until I checked my phone.
…and I couldn’t charge it. Nor could I charge my computer, which was down to its last hour or so on reserve battery. Nor could I turn on the TV, or access the internet, which meant that I couldn’t do my homework.
So I went to Barnes and Nobles and sat in the freezing cold, overly air conditioned building for a few hours, tying up the loose ends of my homework. I didn’t think much about the power outage, because I assumed that it would eventually come back on, to my earliest convenience. But it didn’t. By the time I arrived home past 10 PM, it was pitch dark outside. Driving through the woods was eerie, as all of the houses on our street seemed to have lost power as well. No street lights, just the headlights of our car making their way through dense fog, shadows abound.
Our house was pitch dark. My mom lit candles.
Finally, the reality set in. I started to panic. I think it may have been the darkness.
Yes, it must have been the darkness. I could not see, and walking around in my house and opening a door would not change the fact that I could see nothing.
What is it about electricity and power that dominates our lives? It governs our lives; I have come to be almost entirely dependent on it. Without it, I feel limited. I feel my phone’s battery slowly waning, and without internet, I feel disconnected from all of reality.
I grabbed a flashlight, and brought a candle to my room. I was actually prepared to shower by candlelight – forced intimacy with the darkness.
Is this panic that I felt normal? Is it healthy? My parents didn’t seem to mind at all. Driving through the pitch dark and seeing the silhouettes of all the houses without electricity, I imagined that no one was overly upset, aside from maybe the small kids who were still afraid of the dark.
Today, I was powerless.
I remember once when I was really young, probably still in elementary school. It was right around this time of year, except it was a dry storm that took out a power line. The power went out later in the evening, as the sun was just setting. The cars were parked in the garage, and since my sister and I complained of the heat, my dad had to manually open the garage door so we could drive around and grab ice cream, maybe. So we did. We may even have gone to Barnes and Nobles just for kicks, since both my sister and I were fiction addicts at the time. Perhaps a trend is emerging?
When we got back, there was still no power. It was unbearably hot, and the humidity never failed to remind me of it with every drop of sweat.
The power outage lasted hours. It’s hard for a twenty-first century child to fall asleep without the comfort of her AC; needless to say, I was up long after my sister had drifted off. At 2 AM, I complained to my father. He came and sat with me in my room, and tried to explain the phenomenon to me, alleviating the severity of the whole situation. We perched on my bed for a few moments, him pointing at some power box that was visible from my window. Somehow, the street lights were still on.
Then, a miracle occurred. A truck drove down the street, and stopped at the power box. I began excitedly tugging on my dad’s arm, and we watched in anticipation as people in hard hats tinkered with the box. All of the sudden, there was a buzz. The familiar sound of the AC, the whirs and beeps as clocks and ovens reset. The audible sound of comfort.
Maybe the grownups remained calm because they haven’t developed as strong of a reliance on power. My generation has grown up knowing internet and cellphones and TV and refrigerators.
I am genuinely curious as to what was going through the minds of the first people to experience the first power outage. Rage? Fear? Scenes of apocalypse?
Would it have seemed like the reversal of progress? That, after years of development of electricity by people like Edison and Tesla, it would disappear as easily as that?
In my spare time, I’ll look for accounts.
But the fact that I’m writing this and publishing it through the internet obviously means that the power came back on. (It did, just a few moments before I was about to step into the shower. When this happened, I whooped and ran out into the hallway, suddenly powerful)
Five people I don’t want to become
The overly obsessive with looks
When looks come to dominate everything else that I prioritize in life, I know that something is wrong. I never want to be so concerned with my outward appearance that my focus on this inevitably trades off with the quality of my inward appearance. I’ve said it before, and I shall say it again: these features are fleeting. You look great today, but shit happens: accidents, acne, puberty, and life. So if my bathroom were to ever be crowded with only bottles and sprays and combs and brushes and q-tips, someone slap me please.
The funniest is watching people grasp onto their fading beauty with desperate fingers, because the struggle represents his or her inability to accept an inevitable fate. I really do believe in the idea that the more makeup you cake on, the more you have to hide on the inside. The more you curl or straighten your hair, the more limp it is the next day. We are draining the life out of our bodies to try to fit unrealistic visions of beauty! I want to age gracefully.
The perpetually tired
I understand that part of being a high schooler is waking up grouchy and exhausted, but I desperately want some mornings when I’m genuinely happy to wake up. I want there to not always be days where laziness takes over and priorities are dropped without a thought. Whenever I go many days without proper sleep (like here at debate camp), the disastrous side effects snowball and overwhelm me; a crash is always imminent. I can’t stay awake and I’m forced to down cups of coffee and tea, and the acid from both corrodes my teeth. On the other hand, I’m normally not late or overly-jittery when I get a proper night of sleep.
I don’t want to become obsessed with technology, but I fear that I may be very far down this path already. I spend hours on my computer and my phone; of course, some of this time can be attributed to debate, but I definitely spend more time than is healthy. Additionally, I don’t feel comfortable if I don’t have access to it. I live off of wifi.
I would never allow myself to stay indoors all day and to develop eye, ear, and back problems because of both the overuse and misuse of technology, because none of those issues gives me a reason to live life…
The pure adult
I never want to lose some aspect of my childhood. I feel inspiration and nostalgia from flipping through old photos, and I experience pure happiness when I am confronted with something from my past – a TV show, a novel, or a journal. I don’t want to lose myself in the pressures of getting a job or starting a family or paying bills, and I want to preserve the beautiful period of my life that I appreciated so much.
The one who loses sight of the big picture
My friend once calmed me down about something stupid by playing the game of five. Will some issue matter in 5 days, months, and years? Personal crises virtually disappear when you remember that you have a life that spans more than the 4 years in high school, and that this too shall pass.
Friends are super important. Some you meet early in your life, and some you meet towards the close of a chapter, but what really matters is who stays in your life. People will inevitably leave. Those who stay are those who matter, and I never want to forget these people for others who just come and go. Those who come and go erupt into your life with a bang and leave just as suddenly, and at the end of the day, you will want someone to come and sit down with you in a cafe and talk about life, no pressure.
Specifically, this entails not letting others dictate your life. Your parents, your friends, your significant others and their opinions are not static, and neither are you. But when it comes to making big life decisions, it’s really important to realize that your big picture encompasses just you. If you take life just step by step and don’t create a least a general plan for what you want to make of yourself, then you’ve got nothing to look forward to and no framework to follow; the decisions and epiphanies that you make and experience today affect the person you will be tomorrow, as it pertains to education and occupation.
fb iz so kewl
Chances are, unless there is something remotely interesting or special about your birthday (it’s on Christmas, it’s the same as mine, my sister’s, something like that), I won’t know that it is your birthday and I won’t wish you a happy one.
What happened? Why don’t I take the time to learn people’s birthdays and engrave them into my mind anymore, like I tried to do with all of my friends in elementary school? I’d rather not waste my time trying to memorize insignificant pieces of information that can easily be found on the internet, specifically, Facebook.
That’s right, Facebook has made our social lives 100x more relevant to our lives; it has its perks, but it definitely comes with its detriments as well.
The perks of being a Facebooker:
1. We’ve found a way to keep track of all our friends, no matter how far or close they reside to you. With the exception of my Chinese relatives in mainland China, the rest of my family – sorry, the technologically-capable portion – is now on Facebook, and I can keep up with them! Same goes for friends, some of which live in France, Spain, and all over the country.
2. It’s a universal thing. Not everyone has a Gmail, not everyone has a Twitter, and almost no one has an active Myspace account anymore. Admit this to someone, and you’re probably going to find people that will admit the same.
Admit that you don’t have a Facebook, and people will question your internet access. So few youngsters don’t have a Facebook nowadays that those who don’t are often left out of the loop. At least, it certainly feels like that when people will ask if you got their party notification or the meeting update, which forced you to embarrass yourself by showing up to a cancelled meeting or missing the party of the year.
3. It’s a useful way to find out things about people that you otherwise would not have known. I suppose I wouldn’t have asked the girl in my English class about her hobbies and found out that she is indeed a successful gymnast, and I wouldn’t have known that the guy I met at summer camp next year also has a fervor for drawing.
The disadvantages of being on Facebook:
1. Depending on how liberal you are with your privacy settings and how old you were when you created an account, there may be infinite chances to embarrass you lurking on this double-edged social media website. I can’t express how comical it is to scroll back to 2009 when I posted statuses like this (legit, this is one of my old statuses):
eating a banana n my bday is soooon
In addition to this, there are dozens of awkward puberty pics and “thought-provoking” videos to mercilessly tease me for.
2. It’s very misleading:
Obviously most people aren’t going to post negative or embarassing things about themselves; in fact, some people are so restrictive with what they allow on their wall/timeline that we get a narrow perception of who they really are. We all know someone who posts heavily edited pictures of themselves or creates statuses that seem to embody a personality so completely different from who they are that their Facebook might be more than inadequate at depicting who they are. Especially when people post pictures, basing your overall opinion of someone on visuals can be detrimental in so many ways.
People have a tendency to feel bad about themselves (their physical appearance) when they see these beautiful pictures on Facebook, to which I say just this: you’re not going to post pictures of your average self; instead, you’re going to go to some obscure field or hipster-looking alleyway in the middle of nowhere with a high-quality camera, taking dozens of pictures until you find one that looks effortless yet somehow flawless. It’s misleading, yo.
3. It’s a waste of time. I can’t tell you how many hours of my life have been wasted stalking people I don’t know or DO know on Facebook, only to receive a blow to my own self esteem, only to have amassed no useful knowledge in the end. There’s a fine line between interest and addiction, and I have definitely fallen over to the side of addiction, scrolling through infinity for no apparent reason. It’s a distraction and a horrible habit that I’ve had since 7th grade.
In the end, I’ve got 3 reasons for why Facebook can be beneficial and detrimental, so I shall settle this debate the way I do most issues, especially ones that pertain to technology/the Internet:
Facebook is good, but only in rations. Overdose, and suffer the consequences. Fall prey to addiction, and find out just exactly what negative repercussions have sequestered themselves onto the habitual action of periodically checking your Facebook.
The way that Facebook impacts my life, I would say that personally, I should reduce my exposure to it and its influence on me, but I could also say that I’m already in the process of rehabilitation since my rigorous routine here at debate camp has already heavily limited how much time I can spend on Facebook everyday.
– prompted by the Weekly Writing Challenge
SONG OF THE DAY:
The Pessimistic Fate of Future Generations
In 50 years, the world will be in chaos.
The nuclear taboo will have be broken, and nuclear weapons will have destroyed the planet. We will finally have suffered the consequences of not taking nuclear threats seriously.
Countries will acquire bio weapons and wreak chemical terror on others. And if scientists are incompetent enough to not know how to create chemical weapons, cyber terrorists will hack our databases and intentionally start conflicts that escalate.
We’re going to run out of space as the population of the world outpaces the space available. It won’t be immediate, but we won’t think anything of it until disaster strikes and the damage is irreversible. By that time, we’ll have stripped all of the green off of the land, and the planet will be a mix of blue and brown. But the blue will be more abundant than the brown; our resource consumption and our CO2 emissions will finally catch up to us, and the resulting climate change will not directly cause extinction, but will cause a rise in sea levels, exacerbating the issue of overpopulation.
We’re going to run out of effective antibiotics, and all of the bacteria will become resistant, eventually allowing a deadly, widespread disease outbreak.
And the polar bears? They’re gonna die. So are all of the tigers and elephants that we’ve been poaching for generations, and overall biodiversity will plummet, and the zoos will be empty soon enough.
Not as though people will want to go to the zoo though. The skies will turn more and more gray and the gas mask industry will prosper, but the overall quality of life will go down. Air pollution won’t kill us all, but we won’t be happy. We won’t have a blue sky to gaze at, and we’ll see fewer stars to wish upon.
Technology? Well, we’re going to develop so many new types of technologies in the coming years that will eventually take over the role of humans. Vending machines replace vendors, and factories and mass production replace handmade goods. While this may be good when you initially think about it, what happens to all of those jobs? My thought is that eventually every role today that requires a person will eventually be replaced by a robot, and that the only new job will be as mechanics and engineers, to fix the robots when they fail, and to create new robots that will fix broken robots.
Increased communication through technology will cause an inability to speak to others in person without feeling extremely awkward, and eventually people will never leave their houses. I mean, why would they need to? You can shop online now. Food delivery is such a commonality, and windows and natural light is overrated anyways.
Computers will be cheaper. People will be less inclined to get out of their chairs and go outside to exercise.
The media will continue to infect our minds with arbitrary and flawed perceptions of beauty. We as a society will become more insecure, prone to suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
In 50 years, we won’t know what an apple is. Everything that we eat will come in the form of a vitamin or supplement and everything will be mass-produced and modified by science because our crops are struggling so badly. The quality of meat will decrease, animal abuse will skyrocket, and even the most exclusive and high-class restaurants will serve subpar food.
The people will revert to savagery. We won’t have anything else to do.
And all of those dreams you’ve had as a kid? They won’t exist anymore.
President? The government will revert to anarchy because they won’t be able to solve problems well enough, and the people will mutiny and overthrow the bureaucracy.
Astronaut? Well, space tourism will be such a plausible concept in the next few years that if you’ve got the money and time, you can fly to Mars or a nearby comet for fun. While the role of astronauts won’t become obsolete, the wonder and mystery and prestige that you initially thought to be associated with being an astronaut will cease to exist; you’ll just be one of those people.
And if none of these manages to throw our planet drastically off of its balance, we’ll probably face extinction from threat from a large asteroid slamming into Earth.
*Note: this is a creative writing prompt; I don’t necessarily agree with everything said above.
The Human Rights Crisis in North Korea – Why Should You Care?
Note to readers: I am not North Korean. I’m not even South Korean. I’m Chinese. Cool? Okay cool.
A summary about the status quo of North Korea
North Korea is commonly believed to have the most oppressive dictatorship on the planet. If you question government legitimacy, you will be denied every basic right, and will either be sent to a prison camp or publicly executed. You are not allowed to leave the country without permission from the state.
These prison camps? They’ve been around for five times as long as Nazi camps and twice as long as Soviet camps. There are often no reasonable justifications for being sent to one of these camps; you might be sent simply because you are related to someone who committed a political crime.
The government has attempted to create an information blockade – no radios, no Internet access, no international calls. North Korea has been isolated from the rest of the world for decades.
The people are starving – the agricultural policies are sub par, the climate conditions are brutal, and food imports are limited. Malnutrition is a commonplace.
The refugee crisis
People leave North Korea for a myriad of reasons. They might be desperate for food, medicine, or money. They might hear from outsiders about the world that exists outside of North Korea – they might want to experience it for themselves. They will want to escape economic hardship, political and religious persecution, and the lack of basic, fundamental freedoms.
A scanty number of those who attempt to escape to China will actually make it. Over half of the women who succeed will become prostitutes. Those who get caught? Beatings, torture, prison camps, or execution. Take. Your. Pick.
Hope for the future?
A quote from the LiNK website that answers this question perfectly:
“North Korea is changing. Significant grassroots changes have been happening since the late 1990s, driven by the people themselves, and these developments and trends have the potential to lead, eventually, to a radically transformed and better North Korea.
However, there has not been enough focus on these changes happening at the people-level, and the issue of North Korea is not associated with dynamism or change. This is because, traditionally, the focus of the international community has been on the level of international politics and nuclear weapons.
If the world knew of the dynamism and resilience of the North Korean people in the face of extraordinary challenges, and could see that underneath this Cold War style stalemate, there is a far more interesting story of hope for change, we believe many more people would be motivated to help the North Korean people.”
What exactly is going on that we need to so badly encourage?
After a devastating famine, the North Korean people established illegal markets to obtain food. These markets are primarily female-dominated, and the regime has failed to break up these illegal activities. Simply put, “the markets are here to stay.”
There’s also more communication with the outside world. These illegal markets have triggered food imports from China, a country that is significantly more democratized and liberated than North Korea. Through these activities, the citizens realize that neighboring countries are very, very much advanced.
Even if trade with China were to stop, a leap in access to outside information has truly impacted the mentality of the North Korean people. We’ve got phones, TV’s, radios, and foreign media to help them learn about the reality of the outside world.
“All signs are that this ‘education in reality’ will only continue, and will further empower the North Korean people to push for the change they want inside the country.”
That means that the people are growing increasingly suspicious of the government. No longer are they completely oblivious and brainwashed about reality; there has been less tattletaling on people who are questioning regime legitimacy.
“Ultimately this could result in the emergence of a growing civil space for the people, who are breaking off from the state not just at an individual level but increasingly at a community level.”
And like all social movements, no matter where they originate, the driving force behind this sort of progressive change is young people. I’m talking, people in their 20s and 30s, who have not yet accepted the traditional ideologies of the past, who have not yet condoned the omniscient supremacy. These are the people who will be the make-or-break factors in the push for change.
We don’t want your pity
I don’t want you (the reader) to fall prey to compassion fatigue. I know that we see desolate pictures of North Koreans suffering very often. At first, it seems like something to pity, something that you, as an ethical human being, should do something about. But then you see pictures of starving African children, and then women in the Middle East who have been raped, as well as homeless children in upstate New York, and then you hesitate to take action. The media constantly bombards us with images that attempt to call us to action, to make a change, raise awareness, or donate money to some cause. The result of this is compassion fatigue, when we can no longer put up with all these ethical obligations. Only then do funny memes get created and the idea which originally was intended to arouse guilt and compassion starts to mock the subject of the photos, which backfires on the point of these images.
I don’t intend this to happen with this post. The point of my writing about this is not to evoke pity in you. It is to shed light on the flawed lens through which we have been observing North Korea as a regime, a country, a military power, a nation led by a “madman,” and as a group of individuals – citizens that are starting to squirm under the oppression of a tyrannical ruler. We shouldn’t just realize the difference and feel bad about their unfortunate situation. Rather, we should raise awareness. Some sort of revolution/governmental overthrow might happen, and the success of such a movement largely depends on the support that the North Korean citizens could potentially receive from the outside world. We need to know about the humans rights crisis. We need to something about it. But this post is just the first of many others, to shed light on the inequality in North Korea, and to demonstrate how we might do something about it. This first post was just to illustrate what exactly is happening right now.
(quotes are from the LiNK website, linked above)
The Risk Calculus of Large Asteroid Collisions
Hi readers! This is a formal essay I wrote for my sophomore English project at school. It’s a pleasant deviation from what I normally post on this blog; there are parenthetical citations and a bibliography included.
At even the suggestion of an asteroid hurtling towards earth that will wipe out all living creatures, people tend to giggle, a serious miscalculation of the nature of the threat of an asteroid collision. In reality, we, as the dominant species of earth, have become much more susceptible to “existential risks” than ever before. Yet, no one has stepped up; no one has brainstormed any sort of international framework for mitigating these threats. Biologically biased, we cannot calculate the severity of the collision because we have not experienced it in our lifetime, and so we have not become aware of the probability and magnitude of consequences like bioterrorism, resource depletion, unstable government transitions, and of course, asteroid collisions. Therefore, activities like policy debate or just research and rationalization can educate us so that we can accurately weigh such risks. In the case of a menacing NEO – Near Earth Object – not only does civilization today face a dire threat, but future generations do as well. While people generally disregard the risk of an asteroid collision, it indeed exists as the greatest natural disaster threat that humanity faces, mainly because of the public distortion of the threat, lack of government action, and the existential risk that it poses.
Initially, the media plays the biggest role of explaining the public’s ignorance of the risks of asteroids. Hollywood glamorizes an NEO impact, either portraying it as a measly threat that a heroic figure can easily fight off, or an event that only happens in the movies (National Academies of the United States 96). Thus, the public assumes that the government will protect them in the instance of an asteroid collision, but the government often does not have other nations’ interests at heart; it has not invested money or time to defend another country, rather, it assumes that another government will step up to defend the world (National Academies of the United States 27). The status quo reveals that the government has not sufficiently funded appropriate programs, actually cutting off funding for research and detection at the Arecibo Center – a key component in the detection of perilous asteroids – to a total of two million dollars each year, compared to the seventy four billion dollars that a program like the F-22 raptor fighting aircraft receives (NASA; Axe).
Equally important, the government only has three potentially feasible options for deflecting NEO’s. First, the nuclear reactor, a method of nuclear pulse propulsion, would explode on the surface of an asteroid, changing its momentum (National Academies of the United States 4). However, unstable rogue states such as North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan would easily perceive any sort of nuclear technology as an offensive measure from the United States. Easily provoked, they could potentially deploy their own offensive nuclear weapons, which would likely trigger a nuclear conflict, potentially snowballing into a nuclear war (David). In a second scenario, a kinetic impactor would send a heavy object like a spaceship to collide with the menacing asteroid, slowing down the velocity of the NEO. Finally, the gravitational tractor would land on the surface of the NEO and gravitationally oppose its direction, gradually slowing it down so that it would pass through Earth’s orbit after the Earth had already passed. However, none of these options will succeed; only the kinetic impactor has been tested, and the rest exist as solely hypothetical ideas (National Academies of the United States 4).
Furthermore, the most significant component for the success of an asteroid deflection remains early warning detection, acquired from an NEO detection telescope deployed specifically in a Venus orbit. Current day, earth orbiting telescopes have blind spots that prevent them from having one hundred percent accuracy; thus, with a telescope in a Venus orbit, the government could acquire decades of prior notice (Lu). In 1989, the NEO 4581 Asclepius missed Earth by only five hundred thousand miles, a comparatively small distance on the cosmic scale, which scientists discovered ten days after it had passed through Earth orbit. Had it collided with the earth, scientists predict it would have had the energy of twenty thousand hydrogen bombs (Marsden; United Press International).
Above all, the most important component of deciding the degree of risk remains existential risk calculation; Nick Bostrom – a philosopher of existential risk – defines it as “one [occurrence] where an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential” (Bostrom). Having never actually encountered an NEO that has caused extinction in our lifetime, humanity faces an especially large danger because of our ignorance and biological bias; we tend to overlook and underestimate the dangers of an NEO (Posner). In terms of an NEO collision, while the odds of such an occurrence remain extremely low, its aperiodic timeframe and nearly infinite magnitude of consequences indicates that a large asteroid collision poses the greatest existential risk to humanity (Matheny).
Moreover, the probability of an asteroid exists as the most underestimated component in the risk calculus of an NEO threat. As Gerritt Verschuur – a radio astronomist specializing in NEO’s – puts it, “What is most important is how we react to the idea that extinction is literally inevitable. We will ignore it until we actually discover an asteroid hurtling toward us that will cause extinction, because the easiest way to confront the idea of extinction is through denial”; he believes that the magnitude of destruction should guide risk calculus, as opposed to the likelihood of it happening, which the general public uses to weigh risk (Verschuur 158). The chances of an asteroid collision become complicated because of its aperiodicity and its inevitability; no empirical logic can predict when an NEO will strike or any reason as to why it would not ever hit again (Brownfield). To depict an example, the government invests billions more for counterterrorism, than for NEO detection and deflection, regardless of the fact that statistically, death by asteroid remains far more likely than death by terrorist attack (Plait).
Despite the dangers, the US has done nothing to prepare for a dangerous NEO. Multiple ideas have been proposed; first, the US should raise more awareness about the threat by conducting more research on the location of potentially dangerous NEO’s (Bostrom). Current systems have detected solely ninety percent of dangerous asteroids so far, but this does not suffice; an extinction-causing asteroid looms in the remaining ten percent (National Academies of the United States 1). Second, the National Research Council has suggested that the US cooperate to create a framework for international action, with other countries such as China and the European Union, who have advanced space development systems, capable of asteroid detection (Space Daily; Vieru). Also, the government should arrange a last resort option, if an NEO gets detected without sufficient early warning time; as of now, the government has only prepared underground evacuation bunkers, initially prepared for important government officials, but later expanded to house millions of refugees. Construction of these underground safe havens continues today, and started decades ago (Bostrom; Slavo). Moreover, for general existential threats such as nuclear weapons, the US should prepare a pre-emptive strike option for rogue countries that have been predicted by the government to use offensive technologies like nuclear weapons (Bostrom). Finally, the government should attempt to limit technological development of certain concepts that could lead to an existential risk catastrophe, such as international relations disputes, nuclear war, and nanotechnology, which has dual-use capabilities (Bostrom; Center for Responsible Nanotechnology).
In contrast, to relate my personal life to the topic of extinction-causing asteroids, my experience in debate has taught me much about policymaking and decision-making. We debate the pros and cons of a specific occurrence, rationalizing about the likelihood and how long it would take to occur, and how badly it would affect the world. Especially in the case of existential threats like asteroids, if a catastrophe could potentially curtail the possibility of future development, and if there exists even the slightest possibility of its occurrence, that disaster would have the greatest risk. The public, when presented with the idea of an extinction-causing asteroid collision, will offer up statistics about the probability of its occurrence; these only provide a metric of hope, suggesting denial of the threat. After two years of debating such consequences, I have come to believe that considering the intensity of the consequences of an existential danger should precede weighing the probability or the timeframe, because if we base our decisions primarily off of the likelihood, we tend to miss the big picture threat. Making decisions based on the magnitude of the consequence will improve the world’s wellbeing over the long term.
Likewise, the aftermath of an asteroid collision exists as another big factor that contributes to its huge existential risk. The heat released had the energy of one million Hiroshima bombs, vaporizing the ocean and incinerating the world’s land through global wildfires that raged on for days. The actual impact of the blow intensified natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, literally flattened forests, and projected debris into space, creating a dust cloud that blocked the rays of the sun, which brought temperatures plunging, causing an Ice Age that killed most of the remaining animals. After potentially hundreds of thousands of years, when the dust finally settled, the trivial number of survivors on earth faced acid rain and rapid global warming from the deadly ultraviolet rays that shone through the remains of the ozone layer, destroyed when the NEO tore through the atmosphere. From the dust and hazardous nitrous oxides released from these catastrophes, photosynthesis stopped completely, destroying food sources and resulting in mass famines (McGuire).
Furthermore, an asteroid poses an even greater danger to today’s civilization because of our dangerous capabilities; with nuclear technology but not yet adequate nuclear weapons detection systems, the panic and confusion resulting from an impact would surely cause countries like India or Iraq to miscalculate a collision as a nuclear attack, fueling conflict, potentially sparking a nuclear war (McGuire; David). The wildfires, acid rain, and termination of the process of photosynthesis would destroy crops, causing, as Bill McGuire describes it, “widespread disruption of the social and economic fabric of developed nations.” Because of large building structures, the hyper-tornadoes and stronger-than-ever earthquakes would become even deadlier. With limited options consisting of solely hypothetical, never-been-tested asteroid deflection ideas, the world would have to live in underground bunkers, which have not been built to house the entire planet’s population (Slavo).
More importantly, the NEO threat should be our first priority, because the consequences of extinction by asteroid would encompass those of other disasters, permanently stopping the development of humans, plants, and animals. With humans extinct, future species would not evolve with the brain capacity of humans to avoid threats such as anthropogenic global warming, or genetically engineered diseases (The Daily Galaxy). Without humans, Earth would not have the ability to fend off a natural existential catastrophe, such as a super nova, a super volcano, or possibly, another dangerous asteroid (Matheny).
Generally, any sort of existential risk could result in a plethora of catastrophes, be it a natural event like an asteroid, or a human-caused consequence. After any extinction-risking event – including an asteroid collision – takes place, we face dangers such as a loss of ethical sense after a revolution; confusion and nuclear war could cause a shift to a dystopian government, leading to transitions from capitalism, to an unstable state of government, like communism, or maybe even to cannibalism. The consequences of an accidental nuclear war caused by an asteroid collision could create human mutated super viruses or genetically engineered disease, easily obliterating the world, no matter how low the probability. Faced with the threat of resource depletion from crop failures, many governments depend so highly on resources for survival and economic preeminence; thus an asteroid could cause a chain reaction that would collapse economies and global trade systems (Bostrom).
Indeed, although it exists as the largest existential threat, humanity in today’s world cannot easily perceive the intensity of a large asteroid collision; the public faces psychological biases due to inadequate education, and the government does not take appropriate action to mitigate the impact (Bostrom; Posner). Only hypothetical ideas exist to effectively combat NEO’s, and the government does not invest enough in early warning or asteroid mitigation in general. However, the greatest factor in proving an asteroid as the greatest existential threat remains the aftermath of a collision, and what the damage would inflict on evolution, impacting future generations (Matheny). Therefore, given the severity of the aftermath of such an NEO disaster, today’s generation should first become educated, learning efficient decision-making and risk calculating, realizing that the aperiodicity and magnitude of consequences should guide their actions and opinions, and finally make the choice to prepare themselves adequately for an asteroid collision. Yet, despite the infinite dangers, the government has yet to conduct enough research, come up with a backup plan involving international action, or even become conscious of limiting development of potential existential threats. Through my personal experience in debate I have become aware of dangerous threats like asteroids, rationally assessing them. Education about such impacts will help to make the public and government more aware, which will hopefully lead to diminishing the risk of the greatest existential threat out there today.
Axe, David. “Buyer’s Remorse: How Much Has the F-22 Really Cost?” Wired.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/f-22-real-cost/>.
Bostrom, Nick. “Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards.” NickBostrom.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2012. <http://www.nickbostrom.com/existential/risks.html>.
Brownfield, Roger. “A Million Miles a Day.” Planetary Defense Conference. 26 Feb. 2004. AIAA. Web. 20 May 2012.
David, Leonard. “First Strike or Asteroid Impact? The Urgent Need to Know the Difference.” Cambridge Conference Correspondence. University of Georgia Library, n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/cc060702.html>.
“EcoAlert: NEO Shield –Early Warning of the Potential Threat to Earth from a Comet or Monster Asteroid.” The Daily Galaxy. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2012/01/ecoalert-neo-shield-early-warning-of-the-potential-threat-to-earth-from-a-monster-comet-or-asteroid.html>.
Lu, Edward T. “Stop the Killer Space Rocks.” Scientific American. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=stop-the-killer-rocks>.
Marsden, Brian G. “How the Asteroid Story Hit: An Astronomer Reveals How a Discovery Spun Out of Control.” Minor Planet Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/pressinfo/1997XF11Globe.html>.
Matheny, Jason Gaverick. “Ought We Worry About Human Extinction?” JGMatheny.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2012. <http://jgmatheny.org/extinctionethics.htm>.
McGuire, Bill. A Guide to the End of the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.
NASA. “NASA Support to Planetary Radar.” NASA. N.p., 27 Apr. 2010. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2010/04/27/NASAsupport_to_Planetary_Radar.pdf>.
National Academies of the United States. National Research Council. Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies. Washington, D. C. : National Academies Press, 2010. PDF file.
Plait, Phil. “Death By Meteorite.” Discover Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/10/13/death-by-meteorite/>.
Posner, Richard A. Catastrophe: Risk and Response. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Google Book Search. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=SDe59lXSrY8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false>.
“Russia And Europe May Join Forces To Protect Earth From Asteroids.” Space Daily. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Russia_And_Europe_May_Join_Forces_To_Protect_Earth_From_Asteroids_999.html>.
Slavo, Mac. “The US Government Is Prepping For Unlikely Events Like War, Catastrophic Collapse of Society, and Even Asteroids – Are You?” shftplan.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.shtfplan.com/emergency-preparedness/the-us-government-is-prepping-for-unlikely-events-like-war-catastrophic-collapse-of-society-and-even-asteroids-are-you_10262010>.
United Press International. “Asteroid’s Passing a ‘Close Call’ for Earth, NASA Says.” LA Times. N.p., 1989. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://articles.latimes.com/1989-04-20/news/mn-2278_1_asteroid-nasa-project-national-aeronautics>.
Verschuur, Gerrit L. Impact!: The Threat of Comets and Asteroids. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.
Vieru, Tudor. “ESA Space Assets Defense Program Gets Boost.” Softpedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://news.softpedia.com/news/ESA-Space-Assets-Defense-Program-Gets-Boost-206891.shtml>.
“What is Nanotechnology?” Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://crnano.org/whatis.htm>.
FOESO: Why We Need to Reflect
FOESO of this post right here.
In a society where everyone is encouraged to stand up for themselves and assert their opinions, many people will do just that. They will defy standards and rebel against what they think is unfair. But those who narrow-mindedly believe in such things do not acknowledge the essentiality of reflection.
There are many regrets of mine that primarily emerge from saying or doing the wrong things because what I say and do has not been thought out thoroughly. Passion is a double edged sword. Yes, we develop strong ambitions and determinations to overcome countless obstacles. Correct, when you find your passion, you never seem to tire of it.
But there’s a different form of passion that comes from getting riled up, in the heat of the moment. Moments build upon themselves and you get carried away. Before you realize it, you’ve said something completely untrue, or you’ve done something that you will not support at all the morning after.
Taking risks and saying things “before its too late” is overrated. First of all, is it ever really late? Unless it’s a strange situation where the absolutely last available train to a certain destination leaves the next morning, there’s never much of a deadline on any decision. At worst, you have a substantial portion of time before the decision must be made, so we should take our time in making that decision.
Secondly, is risk-taking a habit to promote or relegate? It might be something best to not encourage such a tendency; generally, when we state our opinions, other people are involved. The danger in blurting out whatever is floating around in your mind exists because these other people will immediately perceive you to be an unconditional supporter of your words and actions. They will hold you to what you say and do. To avoid uncomfortable confrontations and confusion and misinterpretation, it’s best to think about what you want before announcing it to others, unless they are a part of your reflection, in which case they should know that you’re just brainstorming aloud.
Reflection comes in many forms. A long car ride in the passenger seat, or the moments before you drift to sleep as you lie comfortably under the covers. It can be your savior in many situations. But it’s not just sitting idly in one position simply thinking about a situation. There’s group reflection, where you can ask other people to help you make a decision. There’s also research reflection, which is going through evidence of some sort (totally dependent on whatever you are reflecting about) to aid in coming to a conclusion.
So yes, I agree. We should fight for what we believe in. But reflection allows us to pinpoint exactly what we believe. How easily we can be swayed! A sad video of polar bears in the Arctic and people forced to flee their homes as a result of rising sea levels might convince you in ten minutes that climate change is a drastic, pressing issue that needs to be addressed immediately. But while a certain video might succeed in tugging on your heart strings, there still exists much literature about why climate change might even be a myth. In deciding whether or not something ought to be done about the impending global warming crisis, thorough research reflection would be required.
To live up to the title of educated voter, we cannot simply go with our gut feeling and immediately support that cause. We need to decide what our priorities and our opinions are first. The same applies to people who have a duty to a community.
What if Abraham Lincoln had been quickly swayed after visiting a plantation and seeing slave oppression? What if he had issued the Emancipation Proclamation that very night, only to wake up the next morning in a nation that had eagerly believed him, ready to break the established norms? What if he randomly decided that African Americans were inferior, and that the abolishment of slavery was a bad idea? Okay, bad example.
But my point is that we should solidify our opinions by mulling over it before we go announcing it to everyone. Do whatever you need to do to decide, just try to avoid making split second decisions.
Now I’ll refute the idea that technology is causing a disconnect in communication.
NO, THAT’S WRONG. The Play-doh analogy? (a reference to the previously linked FOESO) Technology has actually helped our ability to communicate. The quality of communication will only increase, and it will only yield positive outcomes. This is for 5 simple reasons:
1. Globalization – Facebook is offered in more than 60 countries, Twitter in over 15, etc and etc. Your message can reach people across the world, and can reach more than one person at a time. It used to be that word got around through word of mouth, and only spread as far as within a community.
2. Convenience – Who has the time to sit down and write an actual letter, let alone stand up and go meet someone personally? It’s easier to send texts and emails, and in the most extreme of cases, call someone using a phone. It has reduced the burden we used to have, and has made communication only easier.
3. Speed – Technology is instant. It no longer takes days to mail a letter across the country; the Pony Express has evolved into Fedex and UPS. Pen pals seem to be fading into the obscurity that is our past, but we should regard it with bitter sweetness; even as we lose a dear and long-practiced tradition, we will embrace a novel method of communication that will yield new traditions.
4. Bigger and more diverse audiences – You don’t have to indicate an interest to receive a message. We have the ability to broadcast to millions of people through the news, through Youtube accounts, and through WordPress posts. Whether it be a wanderer or a dedicated follower, the hits of any given blog will be very diverse, which means a greater quantity of communication is happening nowadays.
5. Ability to remix and build off of previous ideas – Yes, there are certain laws that prohibit certain actions that might not give credit to the creator of an idea or work. But a majority of the internet is free information. The internet is a culmination of ideas floating around, waiting for the correct mind to realize its truth, and to expound on the truth through words or music or art. Through the sharing of ideas, each person is no longer alone. We find something great and add on to it and make it even greater. As long as we have the decency to give credit to your source of inspiration, no one is ripped off; sadly, not everyone works that way. But then we’d have to ask ourselves if we prioritize the growth and development of thinking that allows for such optimistic changes in our society.
Even if we are not able to communicate like we did in the past, that’s not a bad thing. We’re advancing at rates unprecedented, but in a positive way. I see no major consequences not being able to pass notes physically, because as the other FOESO explicitly states, that is merely a thing of a past. We’re beginning to move onto bigger and better things.
FOESO: Let’s Be Bold and Speak Loudly
New segment/category on the blog: From One End of the Spectrum to the Other!
This is essentially where I will argue for both sides of an issue. I believe in what I write for both sides, but don’t forget why this blog is called Never Stationary…
Here’s one side of the spectrum, the other side will be coming soon!
A common misconception is that recent developments such as Facebook and Twitter have increased our quality of life and our ability to communicate with others. Yay, instant and global! Public and permanent! However, people who believe this blatant lie fail to recognize that it can actually replace the original ways that we communicate, which prove to be more valuable than these new social networking sites.
So let’s be bold and speak loudly, like we used to. Way back when we didn’t have Facebook for picture stalking and Tumblrs for ranting invisibly, we would write letters and potentially send emails to communicate with our long-distance friends, and we’d make phone calls and physically meet up the people that fortunately live near us.
Tumblrs are for spilling out feelings without communicating to other people directly what you are feeling, and Facebook is for stalking without the other person ever knowing. We scroll through statuses and pictures that we like and don’t physically thumbs-up them. I suffer from this problem too.
On WordPress, I can tell. Thanks to the Stats page on WordPress, I know how many views this site will get, and even how many views this particular blog post will receive. I know whether the site hit comes from Facebook or WordPress “Freshly Pressed” or from links on other blogs. There are a lot of lurkers on the internet that will stumble upon random sites like mine but not leave a trace, except contribute to the amount of views I get.
I’m young, and everyone seems to have a Facebook/Instagram/Twitter account. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrolled past pictures or quotes or tweets that make me giggle, smile, or re-evaluate the meaning of life, but about which I have done nothing. I’m not one to physically thumbs-up things on Facebook.
But it’s not fair! People who SHOULD be recognized don’t get recognized. Just as (excuse the horrible analogy) the structure of political parties allows it so that anything that the party advocates, followers often vote that way too, on social networking sites, too many people get likes, ping-backs, and retweets of what the post simply because that is the norm.
Do you even think that picture is pretty?
Not really, but look how many likes it already got. Everyone thinks her pictures are gorgeous.
That joke that you retweeted wasn’t even funny.
I know, but I always retweet his tweets…
I find that people nowadays generally have a harder time communicating with each other than ever before, because of the expansion of communication methods.
But, our ways of communicating have expanded! Doesn’t that indicate that we should be improving the ways that we keep in touch with other?
Think of our capability to communicate as a piece of Play-doh. There’s a finite amount available for each us, and we can either choose to keep it in a form with all the material is bunched together, and condensed into one solid mass. On the other hand, we also have the option of flattening it out and smearing it thinly across a table surface. The table represents the world, and our hand symbolizes the decisions that we make about how we communicate with others. We can keep it condensed in a ball form, or flattened like a sheet of paper, and we can certainly keep it somewhere in between. Each person has a different form of Play-doh than everyone else, which demonstrates how capable we are of communicating with people through technology. Indeed, in a complicated way, if we choose to extend our relationships across state border lines and oceans, we risk sacrificing the quality of communication that we used to have when technology was so much simpler. Simply put, recent technological developments such as mobile phones and the internet are beneficial in helping us reach others that don’t live close to us, but only to a point.
We don’t take risks anymore.
This problem relates partially to our usage of technology, but of course, there are also external factors that contribute to this issue.
We still don’t take as many risks as we used to. Do we even know what it is like to ride a bike to someone’s house in the middle of the night and pound on their door? When it cracks opens, do we know how to beg for forgiveness and spout a heartfelt list of reasons of why the person is absolutely the most splendid thing in our life? So that’s never happened to me but I’m just creating an example.
Do awkward, inexperienced tweens quietly admit to each other that they have a crush on each other in person, or do they do it by text nowadays? There’s something different about texting someone “I like u. do u like me?” It lacks the genuine suspense that comes from staring a person in a face as the words slip out. The person that has to respond if they like the other person can’t run away and has to respond fairly quickly. It is much easier to interpret what someone is feeling by looking at their face, not by analyzing whether or not there were 2 y’s in their “yeah” or whether they used a period or not.
When I was in junior high, I was fortunate enough to still pass notes the old-fashioned way, through folding them up and sneakily passing them in class. I was in the last generation to be able to live that experience. Adolescents are now almost entirely dependent on their phones. Some schools even offer laptops to their students, which means that people can also communicate through Gchat, Facebook chat and other social networking instant messaging systems.
Let’s play the “phone stack game.” When everyone arrives at some sort of gathering (a dinner perhaps?) everyone is required to stack their phones in the middle of the table, and the first person to cave and check their phone has to cover the check.
This game subtly forces people to make eye contact and maintain small talk that will eventually carry over into a real conversation. There’s no distracting ourselves from checking Facebook or Instagram or Tumblr or Twitter.
Ultimately, it upsets me how everyone (myself included) seems to be increasingly dependent and obsessed with technology. Not that these new forms of communication are entirely bad, but allowing them to replace authentic methods of communication poses great dangers to our ability to socialize and maintain contact with other people. The quality of our conversations are likely to plummet, and the likelihood of social awkwardness is sure to skyrocket.
Silence is golden, yada yada yada.
But now we live in a world that is saying less. We are speaking out less. Specifically, we aren’t saying what we want to say to others. We aren’t taking risks and blurting out things that we don’t want to hold in. But we hold them in anyways. And if we can’t hold them in, we’ll filter them into blogs and journals or we’ll go on Tumblr and pretend like the other people who use this site actually understand exactly what we’re going through, and we’ll distract ourselves from the problem at hand. We’ll ignore the fact that we aren’t saying what desperately needs to be said.
Yes, if there is a pressing global social issue at hand, we will speak out. Revolutionary changes like the Civil Rights Movement and the Egyptian Revolution succeed because social networking sites and global news publications help spread the word and depict images that can provoke anger and change, but I’m referring to a problem that exists on a more individual level.
So let’s be bold, and speak loudly. Let’s take more chances and put our pride on the line.
Let’s stop stalking party photos and directly ask someone how the party went.
I know there will be backlash and initial judgment, as young people have a tendency to alienate people who try to stand out. We’re not used to such direct communication, and will probably perceive it as confrontation of sort. It’s weird to like pictures and statuses of people we rarely interact with in real life, but that just demonstrates the severity of the situation, does it not?
But if we take the time to focus our attention on someone through a letter (physical…) or an email or a phone call as opposed to a text or a chat, it no longer seems careless and thoughtless. The action of contacting someone would then demonstrate a genuine interest.