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Germany, Nationalism and the NFL

A far-right party has just entered the German parliament. It is a frightening indicator that even a nation that has put people through – and gone itself through – terrible suffering at the hands of such ideology is not safe from a wave of worldwide nationalism that threatens to do great harm to our society in the near future. In the meantime, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean the very same nationalism is mocking sportsmen’s civic attitude. I’m referring here to Trump’s comments about National (American) Football League players who kneel during the singing of the national anthem in protest of the racial segregation in their country.

To call somebody that has gone through grueling physical trials to reach the pinnacle of a sport a “son of a bitch” is the lowest I’ve seen Trump sink since taking office. This is why for me this is even more important than the predictable election result of a German right-wing party. Regardless of Trump’s policies, as president of the United States he is also a trend-setter, especially in countries within the USA’s sphere of influence (which is not limited to NATO countries).

Shenzen

Behind China’s Success

Like pretty much everybody that is up to date with current events, I’ve been following China’s rise as a high-tech superpower with great interest. The article touches on some very important points concerning innovation while showing some interesting statistics about one of China’s innovation hubs, Shenzhen.

But there’s more than patent applications that will power China’s success. The country’s social system is more competitive than many of its Western adversaries. Many Westerners (including me) would have ethical qualms in toying with genetically engineered human embryos. I’m quite sure that China is willing to go further and faster with such experiments. It is quite possible that this is an even greater game-changer than our so-called efforts into artificial “intelligence”.

Smartphones & Tablets

Smartphones, Tablets and How Social Media Hijacks Our Minds

It’s no news that the use of smartphones and tablets has been found to be detrimental for the usual brain development of children. Recent studies, however, have shown that the exaggerated use of smartphones is causing damage in adults too. One of the most serious effects of smartphone abuse is social retardation, which has grave repercussions across a wide spectrum of behaviors.

But wait, there’s more. The “hardware” side of the problem is further compounded by the software that we use. According to Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, our minds are being hijacked by social media (and other similar online products).

The smartphone is not only made to capture our attention, but also to encourage changes in how our brain works (neuroplasticity plays a huge role in this). As a result of these changes, our attention is easier to capture and once baited, it can be manipulated so that it doesn’t escape the trap. It wouldn’t be so bad if our attention and time would be invested in something useful, but many times this is not the case.

Giving Mars A Rest

Let’s Give Mars a Rest

I am happy to announce that there is a fair to good possibility that seeding life on Mars may be much more difficult than previously thought. In a recent study, an extensive analysis of the chemical elements present on the planet’s surface (especially in the regolith^) has shown that Martian soil might very well be outright poisonous for life.

So why am I happy because of this “bad news”? Because it’s not bad at all. I believe that given the current state of our society and civilization, Mars is too costly and too early an investment to make. Mars is not going to be easy to colonize in the next decades. Before we go about colonizing Mars, I believe we should do our homework. And I’m not talking only about the technology to shield us from the radiation in space, but also about our own society. A species that is still governed by what I can only call “uncontrolled survivalistic behavior” is not ready for the responsibility of being the shepherd of a new ecosystem.

Reddit Place - A Birth Of Art

A Birth of Art

More than a bit of time has passed since April Fools’ Day 2017, but this year there was at least one fantastic initiative that has to be remembered. Reddit launched an amazing 3 day experiment it called Place. You can see it and read all about it in this excellent article.

Stuff like this fills me with hope for the future of humanity. We’ve made it a long way and we sure can make it much further than this. What I see in Reddit’s Place is a snapshot of the Internet’s intellectual health, which I consider to be extremely important for our future. Things seem to be not as bad as I thought and this is wonderful.

That Pepsi Commercial

That Pepsi Commercial

I am saddened by the fact that Pepsi took a noble message and a beautiful story only to ruin everything by having a script and implementation so utterly disrespectful towards minorities, women and social classes. Pepsi wants to say “we should look beyond social classes”, but instead highlights the ugly differences that exist between the privileged and the other 99%. The commercial is also a rather sad mix of cliché and kitsch.

Bottom line? It’s bad taste. Just like Pepsi and the rest of the canned sugar industry.

A Dark Side Of Software

A Dark Side of Software

Lying and cheating to get a competitive edge is nothing new and certainly not limited to human beings. But Earth has plenty of resources and there’s no serious threat to our existence in sight (other than ourselves, of course). Because companies affect so many beings, cheating has serious effects.

Thanks to software, never before has cheating had so many ways of staying hidden through complexity and obscurity. Thankfully, some people still have a conscience and this is how we found out about the way Uber, Volkswagen and probably many other companies have stayed above the law and ruined the lives of countless people.