Hack Off

Of course, 2013: The Year of Surveillance. Stories of hacking, spying and cheeky PRISM operations became so abundant that most people no longer give a toss to whether they’re being watched or not. Naturally, this raises the question of whether we should care.

Obviously, this loss of freedom means that our fates are literally at the fingertips of the government – a quick check on the database, a swift seek for approval, and we could have a drone sent first-class to our doorstep in a matter of minutes. But that’s taking it a bit to the extreme, surely? The worst most of us will get from this recent surge in public snooping technology is an advert for some conveniently suited takeaway place on our Facebook sidebar, or an e-mail about an upholsterer for that broken chair that you’ve been Googling all day long. I’m sorry to admit it, but out of the 7Billion+ people on this planet, you’re not going to always be at the centre of attention. And it’s unlikely to be a governmental uprising and overthrowing of the common people any time soon. So, yeah: if I were you, I’d stop worrying. 

Really, I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

Our O-So-Real Trip to Mars….

For those who are not aware, “Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023.” Sounds great, eh? But if you read up further, the true colours of the 21st century start to show. This mission won’t be funded by the government, nor even private investors; it will be funded by selling broadcasting rights for a reality TV show.

Of course, I can’t say whether this is a bad thing: perhaps the show will be an honest, pure representation about life on board the module. On the other hand, even if it is just a frenzy of bitching and gossip, maybe it will at least generate some interest in space travel.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly shown signs of going the down the “honest ‘n’ pure” path just yet: on the websites, visitors are recommended to rate applicants based on a few basic facts, a video introduction and a sentence or two of written explanation – much like an X-Factor style vote-off.

I can say one thing for certain: George Orwell would have been far from excited if he heard that 75 years after he wrote his famous novel, “1984”, we would be documenting the first human exploration (and possibly colonization) of Mars in the form of a reality TV show.

But who knows what good or bad Mars One might bring us?

Until then,

Big Brother is watching you.

Search engines, tax avoiders and charity support.

I have one question: How on earth have I never heard of Everyclick.com?

Everyclick.com is the answer to everything bad on this earth (or at least the moral dillema of using Google after the tax-avoidance epidemic) – simply put, it is a search engine which donates 50% of its revenue to your chosen charity when you open links found via its browser. It is supported by many well-known and established charities and is recognised for its reliablity. I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to sell this but…well, I’m trying to sell this. What better than to go from a corporate, money-hungry beast-of-a-browser, to one which lets you raise money without changing your daily routine?

I’ll admit here that the search engine isn’t quite as well-designed as Google, but it is certainly worth taking that tiny sacrafice.

Excited rant over.

Social media

Ah the wonders of the modern world, I think as I simultaneously blog on WordPress and scroll through my Facebook news feed, listening to a science show on YouTube whilst flicking back and forth to my Twitter page.

Social media is…exciting. I certainly get a rush out of being able to read blogs about the very same things that are on my mind, or learn The Science of Hangovers (http://goo.gl/Ubvs4) in under three-and-a-half minutes. It’s hard to imagine a life without Facebook to make arrangements and keep up with friends, or without Twitter to read Atheist rants, yet the enjoyment of finding something brilliant still remains with me everyday.

Social media is more than a tool. It consists of millions of people’s buzzing minds, connecting and relating to each other through the tap of a few keys. Sure, half of it is taken up with clips of cats falling into toilets backwards, but even that is an incredible feat of human design.

It’s like a waterhole for the thirsty brains, which never dries up. We take in all this information but there is still a world of knowledge out there, waiting to be watched or read or blogged. There are things you didn’t even know you loved, waiting to be discovered. And you can see from events such as the Arab Spring, the 2011 English Riots and, more recently, the uncovering of the horrors in Turkey, that social media has an incomparable effect on the modern world – whether it be for the better or for the worse.

Tolerance: When is enough enough?

I found out today that a dear, dear friend of mine is strongly against gay marriage and homosexuality. Why? “Because it says it in the Bible”

This got me thinking – I was disappointed and enraged by her view and I think that it is an awful excuse for being so prejudiced and injust. However, I have spent all my life trying to be tolerant to other people’s opinions and, like many others, was taught that you had to respect religious beliefs.

But how far can tolerance go?

This view isn’t just as simple as what happens after you die, or who did what thousands of years ago, it potentially lowers the quality and happiness of somebody’s life. When is enough enough?

You don’t exist.

I was brought to the attention of a YouTube video by Vsauce about the mind and, among other things, a term familiar to some called Solipsism. This, he explained, is an idea in which only your mind exists and without it everything around you – the trees, the stars, other people – would never live independently. There has been nothing before you, nor will there be anything after.

This idea links nicely into my most recent post, and it really made me think hard. Could this theory be correct? Why not? It puzzled me as a child to think that you could be asleep, dead or possibly even mentally ill and just have created an elaborate place around yourself, in which your friends and family were just characters from the mind. Or perhaps a dream? One of those dreams in which years seem to past, yet you wake to find it has been only 5 minutes.

Then I came to think that if so, now what? Pinching, slapping, screaming clearly won’t work because we’ve all done that throughout our lives. And should anything actually be done about it? Is there any good in us knowing the truth? Obviously, if us humans thought like that then science, philosophy, geography, and almost every other subject would never have come about and life would be pretty dull. Still, this is certainly a question with no possible answer, because if we did know the answer would we still know the question? Bahh, It’s starting to sound a bit too much like Douglas Adams now and my brain is all tangled again.

I think it’s time to stop.

It’s just life.

It scares me sometimes to think about other people’s lives. The fact that they can think in a completely different way, see different things, have different opinions. Of course, it all sounds incredibly self-centred and self-absorbed, but if I were to be honest, the thing I find the most weird is that about 99.99999% of the population have no idea who I am or that I exist. In the same way I have no idea that they exist. They are only a number or a stereotype formed in my mind, living on a different world to me with a different “I”, “Me” and “Mine”. Their world revolves around them. Your world revolves around you. My world revolves around me.

I know, I know, some people would argue that charity workers or doctors or nurses or whatever live to help others. But why? So that they can get a kick out of it? So that they can feel like a good person? So that they can know they‘ve done something worthwhile or interesting? Nobody ever truly lives (or dies) for someone else.

And I guess that’s not a bad thing. It’s natural and rational and it’s never going to change. It’s just life.