1 – Can you control someone else mind?
2 – How on Earth can you find out that there is life in space?
3 – How can one city have two different levels of economic prosperity?
1 – Controlling someone through persuasion
A few months back, I found myself opening social media apps subconsciously. After a few minutes of mindless scrolling, I would realise that I had no reason to visit the app. At that point, I knew I crossed the limit and hence deleted the app from my phone. First of all, I am confounded on how I reached this state, and it turns out the answer is persuasive design as said in the documentary the social dilemma.
It turns out the carefully engineered algorithms that help run these apps have been developed with the principles from persuasive design. The algorithms, through subtle nudges, recommend what you must watch, listen, and read and consequently change your behaviour.
As it turns out, controlling someone else mind has now been proven possible, but the unintended consequences are worrisome. I resonated on so many levels of concerns that were enumerated in the social dilemma. With persuasive design widely prevalent, the bigger looming question we need to ask ourself is why do we want to use this piece of technology?
A good pandora box?
Although the negatives are surfacing, the school of thought is excellent as it can be used to persuade someone to make better habits such as reducing plastic use or carbon footprint. The timing of this documentary is perfect because, for the last 3 and a half months, I have been conducting a self-experiment on how to persuade myself to be more productive (in a healthy way). Watch this space for the blog!
2. Life on Venus
The flashing news in the world of astronomy this week is that scientist are one step closer in finding out whether Venus has or had lifeforms. The research team has discovered that Venus’ atmosphere has Phosphine (PH3). On Earth, this gas does not occur abiotically naturally. It is associated with lifeforms as it is found in swamps and in a Penguin’s gut. In simpler terms, PH3 can form either because of living things or in a lab. Because of this finding, scientists believe that the PH3 found on Venus must be because of a lifeform.
So the real question is how on Earth can you find what gas is on Venus’ atmosphere.
The answer is spectroscopy. When light (which is energy) passes through a gas, the electrons in atoms get charged up by absorbing some of the energy at a particular wavelength. However, to maintain equilibrium, the electrons can’t stay charged up all the time and hence would have to release the little amount of energy back at the same wavelength.
Using telescopes, scientists capture the wavelength of light that the electron releases. As different wavelengths produce different colours, scientists can observe different colour patterns from which they deduce the atoms and finally the gas.
3 How can one city have two different levels of economic prosperity?
For many years, economists deduced that a country ends up being poor due to a single or a combination of the three factors: geographic location, culture, and people. In short the three schools of thoughts generalise that countries in a hotter/humid place, or culture that has less trust, or leaders with poor management and vision end up being poor. However there is one city that is a true outlier and confounds many social scientists and economists.
If you have not heard about the city of Nogales, then you are bound for a treat. To start with, Nogales is a city that the United States and Mexico share. Although historically, it is the same city, the average citizen living on the US side is 7 times more prosperous than the average citizen living on the Mexican side.
The answer lies in politics and government institutions. The authors of the book, Why Nations Fail, argue that institutions can be categorised into two broad categories: extractive institutions and inclusive institutions. From the terms, you might have guessed which one succeeds.