Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 4, 2020

in rsslog •  7 months ago  (edited)

Unexplained drones in the night-time skies over Colorado and Nebraska; Homeowners call police on their robotic vacuum; A TED talk argues that co-conspirators are useful when challenging the status quo; Discussing the impact of Internet permanence on the young; and a Steem essay reporting on the potential use of LSD for Alzheimer's treatment

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  1. ‘It’s Creepy’: Unexplained Drones Are Swarming by Night Over Colorado - Authorities in Colorado and Nebraska have been overwhelmed since Christmas Eve with reports of drones flying over people's properties at night. The devices have wing spans up to 6 feet and may be completely legal, but the FCC and other state and federal agencies are investigating. A local sheriff is advising residents to call police instead of shooting the drones down, although a witness asserts that they fly to high to be shot, anyway. One possibility is that the droves are part of a regional mapping project, but it's difficult to explain why that's being done at night time. Sightings typically occur between 6pm and midnight local time. -h/t Bruce Schneier

  2. Roomba mistaken for a burglar by spooked homeowners - Things that go "bump" in the night. The family had purchased the Roomba, robotic vacuum, just two days before waking to unfamiliar noises in the middle of the night and calling police to report an intruder. When police arrived and searched the house, they discovered that the device had started vacuuming and gotten itself stuck on the stairs. The noise that alarmed the home owners was its repeated bumping against the walls as it tried to free itself and resume vacuuming. -h/t Communications of the ACM

  3. To challenge the status quo, find a "co-conspirator" - This TED talk was posted in September of 2019 and came across the RSS feed on January 2, 2020. Ipsita Dasgupta discusses the need to have a co-conspirator when pursuing unconventional solutions. According to Dasgupta, qualities of a good co-conspirator include unconventional thinking and a willingness to bend - or even break - the rules, and a willingness to stand beside someone who is challenging norms. As an example, she points to her female workers in India, who implemented "Bring your mother-in-law to work" day. By turning mother-in-laws into allies - or co-conspirators, it made it easier for women to succeed in India's male-dominated society. Another example that she gives is a senior executive who pulled a team aside and gave them insights into the corporate atmosphere before a presentation to executive management. She says that this mentoring helped her team members to advance their careers and also helped to steer the business in an unconventional direction. A final example is a store-owner who started staying open later to keep the lights on and make sure that Dasgupta's mother made it home safely from public transportation each day. When other local store-owners noticed the later hours, they followed suit, and the neighborhood soon became safer for everyone. Her talk closes as follows: "So what I'd like to ask of all of you today is that you look around and find the people that inspire you to co-conspire. I promise you that your empathy and your courage will change someone's life and may even change the world."

  4. Why an internet that never forgets is especially bad for young people - I have often remarked that I'm glad there was no Internet when I was a teenager. This article addresses the permanence of online history from two different angles. First is the obvious impact on the individual when our mistakes are no longer transient, but instead subject to scrutiny for years or decades to come. Second, it also suggests that society may lose part of its ability for transformation and social change. Somewhere around a billion photos per day are uploaded to Facebook, and the younger generation is the most surveilled in history, and it's unclear how much of that data is being shared with law enforcement. In a world where mistakes are remembered and revisited, where people are subjected to constant monitoring and tracking, and where indiscreet remarks can result in disproportionate response, the article suggests that teens and tweens are having their personalities, identities, political positions and identities calcified at increasingly young ages. When that happens, society's ability to experiment, evolve, and improve may be constrained. This is another in the MIT Technology Review series on youth and technology that was previously covered in 1, 2 and 3.

  5. STEEM LSD Microdosing To Treat Alzheimer's - According to @kralizec, citing research by Charles D. Nichols, a number of recent studies have shown that psychedelic drugs may have helpful effects for nervous system problems that are associated with chronic inflammation. In particular, the psychedelics boost nervous system activity, and psilocybin has been given "breakthrough status" by the FDA for treatment of depression and similar conditions. Now, the latest research involved delivering micro-doses of LSD to 48 volunteers in the UK. When used recreationally, the average dose of LSD is 100-200 micrograms (μg). This trial gave doses of 0, 6.5, 13, or 26 μg in an evaluation for safety. Participants who received 26 μg reported drug-like sensations, so the researchers concluded that a maximum dose of 13 μg is recommended. Since this study only evaluated for safety, it remains to be seen if the treatment regime will be helpful for treating Alzheimer's disease. (A 10% beneficiary has been applied to this post for @kralizec.)

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It is difficult to parse how such deep and broad 'permanent records' of the follies of youth will change them and society. I know my own life would be transformed by such a ball and chain in ways both good and bad. The fact is the change is not going to be reversed, and that surveillance we are all under is expanding in depth and breadth.

I predicted this long ago, and explained to my sons (whom I homeschooled) that they needed to keep their good opinions of themselves always in mind. Just as what they saw could never be unseen, what they did could never be undone. If they only ever acted from strong ethical and moral positions, they would never regret their actions later, and no one could hold their pasts against them.

As you would guess, they undertook this with varying succes, which is to say vastly improving on my own performance.

Fortunately for me, the passions of youth are spent in old men, and no longer impel them to the follies of the bold. It is notable that this will only increase going forward. Ever more private and intimate details are going to be collected and retained forever as time goes on and more clever people seek ways to profit from surveillance.

In this environment, adhering to sound moral principles could not be more highly recommended, and I accordingly provide this aphorism: 'Be always sure you are right, then go ahead.'--Davy Crockett


I predicted this long ago, and explained to my sons (whom I homeschooled) that they needed to keep their good opinions of themselves always in mind. Just as what they saw could never be unseen, what they did could never be undone. If they only ever acted from strong ethical and moral positions, they would never regret their actions later, and no one could hold their pasts against them.

Two things I've been telling my son since he was like 5 years old -- so long that I'm sure he's sick of it: (i) If two people know something, it's not a secret; and (ii) Never put anything on the Internet that you don't want your mother to see on the front page of the newspaper.

But of course, these cautions are exactly the sort of behavior changes that can also inhibit the free flow of ideas.

Like it or not, I think you're right that it's a one-way progression.


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