Russell “Rusty” L. Schweickart, an astronaut who piloted the Apollo 9 lunar module and helped pave the way for man’s first steps on the moon, gave a speech June 8 during a ceremony dedicating a Sabre jet display with his former tail number in his honor. He used the opportunity to talk about his career and man’s relationship with the universe.
Schweickart was an Air Force pilot, flying in the 101st Tactical Fighter Squadron in the 1960s before he was selected as an astronaut. And the F-86H Sabre display at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts will celebrate his service in the cockpit as well as that of thousands of other pilots.
But Schweickart’s career didn’t end in jet planes. He would go on to ride rockets in space and would spend more than 10 days, 241 hours, in the final frontier on Apollo 9, the first manned flight of the lunar module. During that first manned flight of the module, it was Schweickart who was at the controls.
Schweickart also tested a space suit in a 46-minute spacewalk, the same suit design that Apollo 11 astronauts would wear on the moon’s surface.
(Bill Anders, Apollo 8)
During his speech at the jet dedication, available in the video embedded above, Schweickart takes the opportunity to talk about the importance of the space program and mankind’s connection to the technology it creates. One of the moments he highlights is the capture of the “Earthrise” photo by Apollo 8.
Apollo 8 astronauts testing the Lunar Orbiter had captured extensive footage of the craters on the moon and then, during a rotation, captured a photo of the Earth rising over the moon’s surface. It was lit by the sun, and the blue of the oceans were marbled by the white of the clouds and provided a stark contrast to the black of space and the grey of the moon.
The first modern American hot dog and its iconic bun all started with a pushcart on Coney Island in 1867. Charles Feltman, a German baker, was just looking for a way to avoid the cost of plates and cutlery but his ingenuity would pave the way for the classic American frankfurter.
Feltman’s — a veteran owned and operated company — has a strong connection to the history of New York. Michael Quinn, Feltman’s of Coney Island owner, lost his brother Jimmy, who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He understands loss — both the kind of loss when a loved one is ripped away and the kind a community shares when rocked by tragedy.
It’s the kind of loss Americans — and people all across the world — are feeling now.
Feltman’s of Coney Island Memorial Day Video Tribute
The words from the video ring true. “Every night at 7 in New York City and beyond, Americans have been banging on pots from their porches, applauding through windows, and screaming from rooftops in appreciation of our essential workers. We haven’t felt such appreciation, such unity, such loss since firefighters raised an American flag over Ground Zero.”
Feltman’s is keeping patriotism alive by supporting the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors with proceeds from all online sales. TAPS is a nonprofit Veterans Service Organization that provides comfort and resources to all those grieving the death of a military loved one.
They’re also rallying the troops to honor the collective loss felt by Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. In their Memorial Day 2020 video, Feltman’s and TAPS connect the loss felt by Gold Star Families to the grief caused by COVID-19.
Michael Quinn (Feltman’s of Coney Island)
“Some of us made it home and some of us didn’t. We lost brothers we shared blood with and lost brothers we spilled blood with. On good days, we remember our brothers with a smile and on bad days it’s hard to not feel alone.”
During a time when the medical field is struggling to treat patients infected with the deadly and evolving threat, it’s hard for Americans to find information they can trust. In the video, however, we are reminded of what remains true and important: the virus is deadly and it is our essential workers who are on the front lines.
“This Memorial Day weekend, we will remember our brothers. We will remember our friends. But we will also remember the 70,000 families who lost loved ones to COVID-19. While we pray the worst days are behind us, we know as Gold Star Families, the hardest days are still ahead for them.”
From the graves of fallen service members to masked nurses in hospitals to images of Americans enduring at home, the video reminds us all to come together — just as we did after 9/11.
“This Memorial Day, we’ll enjoy spending time with our families and friends safely, but at 7 p.m., we will go out on our porches, we will peer out our windows, we will bang on our pots and pans, we’ll applaud, we’ll scream from the rooftops for all of these families to hear, and to collectively send a message: You are not alone.”
It’s finally here — the point in which playing Call of Duty might actually become relevant to your military career. In the extra weird era of “Zoom soldiers,” virtual training (to no one’s surprise) isn’t as great as it likely sounded when some general in the Pentagon thought it up (sorry, sir). Get soldiers together over their computer screens and execute training as usual. What could go wrong? Well, a lot actually.
Congratulations, you have been selected to lead today’s attack on a Taliban stronghold. You are in charge of a 40-man infantry platoon and have at your disposal the most lethal and casualty-producing weapons available to the U.S. Army. Ready? Oh, one more thing: The Taliban stronghold is imaginary and your platoon is ten of your peers linked up over computers. Welcome to combat training in the Zoom era.
Everyone’s a super soldier
You are handed a map with your location and the location of the enemy and after planning, start your movement. Cue the unrealistic battlefield conditions and superhuman feats by you and the enemy. Do you have a 5-click movement to the objective? Too easy, you can “walk” that in two minutes over Zoom for “time constraints.” Need to call for air support? They arrive within 15 seconds tops and damn, your grid is on point.
Cadre are unsurprisingly biased
Recocking sucked before but reaches a whole new level of stupid in a virtual training lane. Unfortunately for you, the guy running the Zoom room is being a really d-bag today and all 20 rounds you fired on your pre-planned targets were misses. Instead of safety violations or hitting the wrong building, getting a pass depends on who’s feeling bored AF in their pajamas this morning.
There’s a mute button for that
The best thing ever just happened to safety briefs, newly promoted monologues from Sergeant Smith, and all the other pointless crap you had to listen attentively to before…a mute button. Is there anything more satisfying than muting your superior while playing COD on silent under the desk? I think not.
No one’s looking this put-together every morning anymore.
What grooming standards
We’re not saying it’s true, but grooming accountability may or may not be as easy as a few outfit changes after you finally get around to shaving. No fresh haircut? Sorry, my camera function isn’t working today for the call.
Dang, my internet broke
Have you ever had to face the wrath of showing up late, oversleeping or just plain forgetting? Virtually, there’s an excuse for that. Due to “unforeseen” circumstances, that 7 am phone call I missed was because of the Wi-Fi going down. Definitely not because I overslept, no way.
When did PT become a group fitness class?
“PT is the most important part of every soldier’s day” – Every CSM in history. Oh, you thought COVID19 would let you slack off a little on working out? Well you thought wrong. Your Platoon Sergeant has made it very clear you will still execute PT every day and you have to show proof of doing the exercises. Better be ready to both hold your phone for video and do push-ups at the same time. You haven’t experienced true horror until you hear the words “the bend and reach” over a Zoom call and realize it’s not a joke.
Contrary to popular belief, a decent percentage of the human population has known definitely the Earth was roughly spherical for over two thousand years. Hardly impressive, as noted in our BrainFood Show podcast, bees also use this fact in their own absurdly fascinating navigation and in communicating directions to other bees.
As for humans, we took a little longer to realize this, with Pythagoras (6th century B.C.) generally credited with being the first known person to have suggested a spherical Earth, though the idea didn’t exactly catch on at this point. Aristotle (4th century B.C.) agreed and supported the hypothesis with observations such as that the southern constellations rise higher in the sky when a person travels south. He also noted that during a lunar eclipse the Earth’s shadow is round. Much more definitively, the 3rd century BC head librarian at the Library of Alexandria, Eratosthenes, built on their ideas and managed to calculate the circumference of the Earth with remarkable accuracy. How? He simply used the knowledge that at noon on the Summer Solstice there was a well in Syene where the sun shown directly down to the bottom, with no shadow. Thus, at noon on Summer Solstice he used a rod to measure the angle of the shadow made in Alexandria and found it to be about 7 degrees or about 1/50th of a circle. With this information, he now just needed to know the exact distance between Syene and Alexandria to get the circumference of the Earth (about 50 times the distance between Syene and Alexandria). He hired a survey crew, known as bematists, to measure the distance, which they found to be about 5,000 stadia. He then concluded the Earth must be about 250,000 stadia around. Depending on which stadion measurement he was using, his figure was either just 1% too small or 16% too large. Many scholars think it likely that he was using the Egyptian stadion (157.5 m), being in Egypt at the time, which would make his estimate roughly 1% too small.
Moving on to the so called Dark Ages in which Christianity supposedly squashed such outlandish ideas as a spherical Earth, the truth is actually the opposite. In Christian medieval Europe, 7th century Catholic monk and scholar Bede produced an influential treatise that included a discussion of the spherical nature of the world. This work, The Reckoning of Time, was copied and distributed to clerics across the Carolingian empire. Later, in the 1300s, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy also describes the Earth as a sphere and again nobody seemed to have a problem with this.
Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Michelino’s fresco.
The Catholics and later other branches of Christianity weren’t the only religious sects that seemed to have its clergy and scholars almost universally think the world was spherical. The Islamic world also concurred. As historian Jeffrey Burton Russell sums up,
With extraordinary few exceptions, no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.
Beyond the academics of the Western world, even the most empty headed sailor knew the Earth was spherical simply by the fact that ships disappear over the horizon with the bottom first and then the mast the last to be sighted. A similar effect is observed when spotting land from a ship. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize the sea’s surface must curve continually.
Despite this, there really still is a tiny percentage of the populace of the developed world who believe the world is flat.
You might at this point be wondering just how many? While internet comment threads make it seem as if the percentage is large, the reality is probably drastically less. (Comment trolls gonna troll.)
As for some numbers, according to a 2018 poll run by the massive market research firm YouGov, the 8,215 responses which were chosen to have a high probability of accurately representing the wider adult populace, showed,
84% of respondents said they have always believed the world is round
5% stated “I always thought the world is round, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”,
2% stated “I always thought the world is flat, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”
and 2% went with “I have always believed the world is flat”.
The remaining 7% stated “Other/not sure”.
While the good people at YouGov certainly know their stuff with respect to getting accurate data that represents the wider populace, we were curious as to what a larger sample of our own audience would reveal, though with the caveat that a general internet poll can sometimes be notoriously inaccurate. But for the curious and for whatever it’s worth, our poll asking more or less the same questions received over 72,000 votes. What were the results? Approximately
96% of respondents stated they “firmly believe the world is round”,
1% went with “I used to firmly believe the world is round, but now have doubts”
1% voted for “I firmly believe the world is flat”
0% stated “I used to firmly believe the world is flat, but now have doubts”
1% noted “I am not sure what I believe on this issue.”
These numbers seem surprisingly reasonable for an online poll when compared to something a little more rigorously implemented like the YouGov poll. While our numbers skew more towards Round Earthers, this is perhaps to be expected given we know definitively that our audience skews towards being much more educated than the general populace.
And just because we were curious about the many, many online trolls who, as stated, it’s our pet hypothesis are actually making it seem like there are a lot more Flat Earthers than there actually are, we did a follow up poll which got 54,000 votes. For whatever it’s worth, in this one, approximately
9% of respondents stated “I believe the world is round, but sometimes say online it’s flat”
2% stated “I believe the world is flat and advocate this position online”
The remaining 89% stated “Neither applies to me.”
(And, yes, we know those numbers don’t add up to exactly 100% in either case, but YouTube’s polling system rounds to the whole number, so here we are.)
Those numbers out of the way, this finally brings us to who started the relatively modern Flat Earth movement and how on God’s oblate spheroid Earth this movement is actually growing in an era where nearly all human knowledge is almost literally at everyone’s fingertips?
The genesis of the modern Flat Earth Society started in the mid-19th century thanks to one Samuel Rowbotham of London, England. Dropping out of school at the tender age of 9, Rowbotham would eventually become convinced, or at least claimed he was, that not only was the Earth flat, but that everything we see in the heavens is actually only a few thousand miles from the Earth- stars and all. While his ideas were absurd for an incredible number of reasons, even given the technology and scientific knowledge of his era, what Rowbatham had going for him was he was reportedly incredibly quick on his feet in debates and an extremely charismatic speaker, able to twist the words of even the best academics. It didn’t matter if he was actually right or not, only that he was better at convincing laypeople than the academics he regularly debated, or at least good at creating reasonable doubt. As noted by a contemporary article published in the Leeds Times,
One thing he did demonstrate was that scientific dabblers unused to platform advocacy are unable to cope with a man, a charlatan if you will (but clever and thoroughly up in his theory), thoroughly alive to the weakness of his opponents.
Besides making a small fortune public speaking, he also wrote various works including a book aptly titled Earth Not a Globe. Rowbotham ultimately created the Zetetic Society, which, besides advocating for a flat Earth, also advocated that only facts one could prove themselves could be accepted as true. On the side, Rowbotham also began going by “Dr. Samuel Birley” and making money selling people on cure-alls and life extenders of his own invention, among other such activities.
While by the early 20th century the society he started had gradually faded into even more obscurity than it already was at its peak during Rowbotham’s lifetime, all was not lost. The truth cannot be killed so easily! In 1956 when mankind was on the verge of putting a satellite in orbit, Samuel Shenton of Dover, UK, came across the former works of the Universal Zetetic Society, the successor to Rowbotham’s, and was hooked. He then established the International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS) which adopted some of the ideas of the Zetetic Society before it, most notably, as you might have guessed from their new name, that the Earth is flat.
A “flat-Earth” map drawn by Orlando Ferguson in 1893.
Of course, his timing wasn’t exactly ideal given the launch of Sputnik in 1957 which, beyond being in orbit, put out a signal that anyone with a little know-how could track, very clearly demonstrating the spherical nature of the Earth.
This didn’t phase him in the slightest, however. He simply noted that satellites circled over the disc of the world and that, “Would sailing round the Isle of Wight prove that it were spherical? It is just the same for those satellites.”
When pictures of the Earth were taken from space clearly showing the planet’s spherical nature, the man who strongly advocated trusting what you can see with your own eyes stated, “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.”
When astronauts came back still believing the Earth wasn’t flat, he went with the catch-all explanation for any conspiracy theory when no other suitable explanation can be thought up- “It’s a deception of the public and it isn’t right.”
Despite the giant, roughly spherical mound of evidence staring the members right in the face, including the variety easily confirmed by anyone with a modicum of knowledge in physics, the society did not die completely, though by 1972 had dropped from a peak of about 3,000 members down to around 100 spanning the globe.
That same year Shenton died and Californian Charles Johnson more or less took over the remnants, creating the International Flat Earth Research Society of America. Johnson also advocated that there was a global conspiracy with regards to the very flat Earth, not just today, but spanning millennia. To quote him, this was a conspiracy that “Moses, Columbus, and FDR all fought” against. Beyond that Columbus most definitely thought that the Earth was roughly spherical, simply misjudging its circumference, we’re guessing Moses didn’t have to fight anyone on this one as the Ancient Egyptians firmly believed in the concept of a flat Earth, as did seemingly the Hebrews around the time he supposedly lived.
A close-up view of the Babylonian map of the World. This partially broken clay tablet contains both cuneiform inscriptions and a unique map of the Mesopotamian world. Probably from Sippar, Mesopotamia, Iraq. 700-500 BCE.
So what exactly do the world’s governments and countless scientists and high school physics students throughout human history have to gain by convincing people the world is spherical instead of flat? Well, Johnson advocated that this is a tool used by scientists to get rid of religion. Of course, as noted, Christian scholars throughout history on the whole advocated for the very spherical Earth and we’re not aware of any major religious denomination the world over today that goes with the flat Earth model, so no apparent conflict… But, hey, we guess Eratosthenes must have really had it in for those Ancient Egyptian and Greek gods…
In any event, despite Johnson’s less than compelling arguments, over time this new society actually gained followers up to a peak of about 3,500 members under his leadership. Disaster struck, however, when a fire at headquarters destroyed some of the records of membership in 1997. Ultimately Johnson himself passed away in 2001 and the society was temporarily just as dead.
All was not lost, however, as there is no medium greater than the Internet at giving humans ability to discover the truth in anything for themselves… if we weren’t all so lazy and our monkey brains not so chock full of cognitive biases.
And so it was that in 2004, one Daniel Shenton created a discussion forum home for the mostly dead Flat Earth Society and by 2009 a new wiki website was created in its place, with the society slowly growing from there to apparently around 500 members to date. There are also many Flat Earth pages and channels on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sometimes exceeding 100K members or subscribers of a given page, channel, or profile, for whatever that’s worth.
In the latest incarnation of the society, as with their forebears, the modern group strongly advocates for only accepting that which you can see with your own eyes and prove with your own efforts. As they note on their website,
The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the Sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what’s called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes’ method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.
As for the model of the Earth they go with, while there is some dissension among the ranks over exact details, the current belief advocated by the Flat Earth Society is that the the Earth is disc shaped. The North Pole lies at the center of this disc and there is an ice wall surrounding the outer most parts of the Earth that keeps the oceans contained. This wall is nearly impossible to reach owing to the fact that NASA is closely guarding it, ensuring no one ever gets close enough to see it for themselves. NASA also is extremely active in generating satellite photos of the Earth and generating other data all meant to keep people believing in a spherical Earth. Seemingly the Google Earth team must be in on it too, clearly abandoning the company’s long held unofficial mantra of “Don’t be evil.”
As evidence of this conspiracy and how far reaching it is, they also point out on their website that the United Nations emblem strongly resembles the Flat Earth Society’s view of what the Earth actually looks like.
(We guess clearly showing the logo design team, led by industrial designer Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, in 1945, didn’t get the memo that the true shape of the Earth was supposed to be a secret. You had one job Lundquist!!!
To be fair, however, when his team designed it, it was originally just supposed to be used on the badges at the United Nations Charter signing conference, so only for people who already knew the Earth was flat… Fun fact, Lundquist did, however, make up for the screw up by later designing the classic blue and white Q-tip box.)
In any event, you might at this point be wondering how the Flat Earth Society believes commercial airlines and ships the world over continue to seemingly travel in one direction and manage to circle the globe. Well, this is because these ships and planes are literally circling. They state, “circumnavigation is performed by moving in a great circle around the North Pole.”
As for how the ship and plane captains don’t seem to be aware of this, in modern times it’s because GPS devices and autopilots are designed in software to simply make it seem like the craft is circling a globe and not continually turning slightly. Of course, it’s not clear how they account for people tricking themselves when navigating before or without GPS, which has only been ubiquitous for a couple decades or so.
There’s also the fact that fuel burn on these ships and airplanes are carefully calculated, particularly important for planes where weight and balance is always an essential consideration if one doesn’t want to die a fiery death. Thus, if they were really traveling in the way the Flat Earthers claim, the fuel requirements would be different, sometimes vastly so. (No surprise here that Big Oil must be involved…)
As for, you know, the whole day and night thing, this is explained on their website “The sun moves in circles around the North Pole. When it is over your head, it’s day. When it’s not, it’s night. The light of the sun is confined to a limited area and its light acts like a spotlight upon the earth… The apparent effect of the sun rising and setting is…a perspective effect.”
The Sun, as seen from low Earth orbit overlooking the International Space Station.
How exactly the light from the Sun only works as a spotlight isn’t clear. It’s also not clear how the phases of the Moon and lunar and solar eclipses work given this spotlight model and given they believe the Sun is always above the Earth…
Moving on — as for the many people who claim to be able to see the curvature of the Earth when on high altitude commercial flights, well, the Flat Earth Society, who advocated trusting your own senses over what anyone tells you. tells these people, to quote, “Quite simply you cannot… the windows on commercial aircraft are small and heavily curved. Even if they flew high enough for a person to see curvature, it would still not be visible to passengers.”
As for the issue of someone with even a half way decent telescope being able to see the spherical nature of other planets in the solar system, including them spinning away, the Flat Earth Society claims,
Planets are orbiting astronomical objects. The Earth is not a planet by definition, as it sits at the center of our solar system above which the planets and the Sun revolve. The earths uniqueness, fundamental differences and centrality makes any comparison to other nearby celestial bodies insufficient – Like comparing basketballs to the court on which they bounce.
As for how gravity works in the flat Earth model, it turns out that, “The earth is constantly accelerating up at a rate of 32 feet per second squared (or 9.8 meters per second squared). This constant acceleration causes what you think of as gravity. Imagine sitting in a car that never stops speeding up. You will be forever pushed into your seat. The earth works much the same way. It is constantly accelerating upwards being pushed by a universal accelerator (UA) known as dark energy or aetheric wind.”
You may have spotted a problem with this explanation given the whole issue of eventually exceeding the speed of light. In fact, if constant acceleration at 9.8 meters per second squared, it would only take about a year for the Earth to reach the speed of light.
Well, they’ve got you covered, explaining: “Due to special relativity, this is not the case. At this point, many readers will question the validity of any answer which uses advanced, intimidating-sounding physics terms to explain a position. However, it is true. The relevant equation is v/c = tanh (at/c). One will find that in this equation, tanh(at/c) can never exceed or equal 1. This means that velocity can never reach the speed of light, regardless of how long one accelerates for and the rate of the acceleration.”
Anyway, as to what lies below the Earth, this is heavily disputed among Flat Earthers. But it doesn’t really matter as you can’t get there anyway. You see, to quote Flat Earther Robbie Davidson in an interview with Forbes, “We don’t believe anything can fall off the edge, because a big portion of the flat earth community believes that we’re in a dome, like a snow globe. So the sun, moon and stars are all inside. It’s very high but all contained inside. So there’s no way to actually fall off of the earth.”
Given it only takes a modicum of effort to disprove pretty much everything said on their website and prove definitively for one’s self that the Earth is roughly spherical without needing to trust any scientist or government, you might think the Flat Earthers just aren’t trying. Well, you’re kind of right, but there are exceptions! Case in point — limo driver Mike Hughes who managed to raise about ,000 thanks to a Flat Earth fundraiser. Why? To build a rocket to reach the heavens with to once and for all prove the Earth was flat.
Reportedly the final hilariously fitting steam powered rocket and launch platform cost around ,000 and took about ten years to build. With it, Hughes managed to achieve an altitude of almost 1,900 feet, which while kind of impressive for an amateur built home made rocket that could carry a human, was nonetheless not able to achieve his objective of getting him to space.
If only it was possible to build more powerful rockets… Or if there existed a balloon designed to be able to soar into the heavens with some sort of device on board that could capture and store what it sees through an eye like apparatus… Or, stick with us here people, if a human going along for the ride was a requirement to show NASA hadn’t tampered with this futuristic visual capture device, some sort of bird-like machine that could carry humans above 1,900 feet…
All joking and head scratching aside, it’s always important to note that many of the core psychological quirks that see Flat Earthers intractably convinced the Earth is flat in the face of all evidence to the contrary exist in all of us. Monkey brain gonna monkey. We further all have many beliefs we firmly cling to just as tenuously supported by our level of knowledge on a subject, though thankfully for most of us the absurdity isn’t quite so easy to spot, allowing us to safely continue to think of ourselves as superior to mere mortals with alternate ideas…
In the end, we all firmly believe many things that aren’t true at all and no amount of evidence could ever convince any of us to change our minds on some of these things. Food for thought.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The European Commission has just published a white paper setting out guidelines for artificial intelligence. They hope to ‘address the risks associated with certain uses of this new technology,’ including concerns around privacy and human dignity.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is finalizing its own rules on the ethical use of artificial intelligence, following a draft of the rules published in October. Like the European Commission, the Department of Defense is determined to keep people in the loop: ‘Human beings should… remain responsible for the development, deployment, use and outcomes of DoD AI systems,’ they say.
The root of the fear is this: whereas earlier technological advances affected just our actions, artificial intelligence is replacing our thoughts. Labor-saving devices are morphing into a decision-making machine, and they operate in a moral vacuum.
Until now, the tough calls have fallen to programmers who write algorithms. Although the point of AI is that machines learn for themselves, the course they choose is set from the start by people who write the code.
The stakes become enormous with the sort of automated decisions in defense the Pentagon is considering. And as long as the West’s main adversaries – Russia and China – are speeding forward with artificial intelligence, NATO countries have to stay ahead. Jack Shanahan, the Pentagon’s AI chief, has said that the US is locked ‘In a contest for the character of the international order in the digital age.’
While both the Pentagon and the European Commission are right to be alarmed at the profound ethical dimension to artificial intelligence, they are wrong to presume AI raises new ethical problems. It doesn’t – it just repaints old ones in technicolor. These problems have never been properly solved, and probably never will be.
Consider just these three of the most worrisome dilemmas Artificial Intelligence is said to create.
If forced to choose, should a car driven by AI technology kill a pregnant woman or the two kids? The dilemma is no different when there’s a human at the wheel.
When our enemy has automated their battlefield machines so they can deploy them more quickly, should we do the same to keep up? This one pre-dates the First World War.
In fact, all the problems which haunt artificial intelligence coders today can be traced back to conundrums, which vexed the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The 23 centuries since he died have seen attempts to solve them, and some progress, but we still lack a definite answer to the fundamental question, ‘What should we do?’ Neither today’s European Commission paper nor the emerging Pentagon proposals will take us closer to a solution.
Some in the tech world – especially those who have cracked previously uncrackable problems before – are hoping money and brains will lead to a solution. After all, the determined genius of Newton and Einstein solved physics. Why can’t a little investment solve ethics in the same way?
The answer is that ethics is, at heart, a different sort of problem.
When we humans make decisions, we instinctively locate right and wrong in several places at once: in the motives behind the choice, in the type of action we do, and in the consequences, we bring about. Only if you focus on just a single place in the decision-making process – just on consequences, say – then you can rank and compare every option, but inevitably you will miss something out.
So, if an AI system was certain what to do when good deeds lead to a bad outcome, or when bad motives help people out, we should be very wary: it would be offering moral clarity when really there wasn’t any.
It is just conceivable that AI, rather than being a cause of moral problems, could help solve them. By using big data to anticipate the future and by helping us work out what would happen if everybody followed certain rules, artificial intelligence makes rule- and consequence-based ethics much easier. Applied thoughtfully, AI could help answer some tricky moral quandaries. In a few years, the best ethical advice may even come from an app on our phones.
Both the European Commission and Pentagon approach leave that possibility open.
It wouldn’t mean the profound ethical problems raised by artificial ethics had been solved, though. They will never be solved – because they do not have a single, certain solution.
Whether you believe Okinawa is a realdeployment or not, it’s a great place to get sent for six months. We get it; a lot of us infantry Marines who joined in the post-9/11 era did so for one thing — to see some action — and getting sent to Okinawa means we aren’t going to. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a Debbie Downer about it.
Okinawa, Japan, is a key piece of real estate for the United States Military, which is why we saw it necessary to fight over it back in 1945. It’s close to places like the Korean peninsula, and offers us an easy launching point if things ever get hot. But aside from the strategy, it’s actually a great place to spend six months of your life — if your command will allow you to enjoy it, that is.
Here’s why Okinawa is a great deployment.
There’s a lot to do
The United States has had a military presence on the island for a long time now, which means one thing: plenty of tattoo parlors and local watering holes for one to enjoy on the weekends. Aside from that, you can go diving, fishing; hell, you can even play tourist for a day and check out some of the local attractions.
Remember the battle that took place on the island back in 1945? Well, you might get the opportunity to tour some of the major points of friction and see where your Marine ancestors spilled some blood. If you’re into history, which you should be, this is an awesome thing to do.
The mess halls are awesome
If there’s one thing you’ll remember about Okinawa, it’ll probably be that the on-base dining facilities were fantastic. There are people who are stationed there long-term, and having great food available helps keep everyone happy.
You’re being paid to be there
Wait — you’re complaining that you’re on an all-expenses-paid trip to an island in Asia? Seriously? Your command straight-up told you that you’re going there because the DOD saw it fit to send you there. This means that tons of taxpayer money went into paying for your plane (or boat) ride, your lodging, and your food.
Oh, yeah, and you’re still getting paid while you’re there.
You’re not stuck stateside
There are Marines in the Corps who spend their entire career without ever leaving the country. Who joins to do that? Would you rather be doing that? Probably not.
Sure, it’s not Afghanistan or Iraq, but it’s better than never getting out.
In case you didn’t know, the former Secretary of Defense, Chaos Actual, Gen. James Mattis (ret.) wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal and it’s just ahead of his memoir covering how he learned leadership from his time as a young buck Lt to his time leading the Pentagon.
Of course, Mattis makes a very in-depth analysis into why America’s allies are vital and some insight into his resignation last December – but he also makes a case against the tribalistic political-sphere that seemed to envelope 2019. He’s always remained apolitical, despite sitting in the Trump cabinet. The petty squabbling and BS just distracts from the mission.
I know reading lists were sort of his thing – and it’d be kind of awkward for him to put his own book on his own reading list for people to buy and read. So just assume it’s on there since I don’t think he’s even updated it since he was last in the office.
Anyways, here are some memes to get your extended weekend started while I shamelessly give an unsponsored plug for the Patron Saint of Chaos’ new book.
A few years ago, there was a viral Facebook post about a woman getting a haircut before Memorial Day weekend. She had lost her husband in a Navy helicopter crash months prior. He died on deployment, never having met their youngest son. So, when the smiling receptionist wished her a “Happy Memorial Day” after she had buried her spouse, the words cut extra deep.
Before you tag every veteran and service member on Facebook and wish them a Happy Memorial Day, remember that, in this community, Memorial Day means something much, much bigger than the start of summer. The day feels fraught with memories of those we’ve lost, mixed with gratitude for the times we’ve had.
While it is true that every day is Memorial Day for the families of the fallen, they aren’t asking that you stay inside and wallow.
But we do owe it to them to pause. Reflect. Remember. Honor.
Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson, who lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson, in Afghanistan in 2013, said, “I get upset when people scold others for enjoying the weekend or having BBQs. What do you think our service members did before they died? Mike sure did enjoy his family and friends. What better way to honor them than to be surrounded by family and friends living. But we are also so grateful for your pause and reflection as you celebrate our heroes and the lives that they lived.”
Krista Anderson and her sons pose for a photo in 2014.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Butler)
Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different holidays with unique purposes — and unique ways to honor each.
How to honor Veterans Day
Veterans Day is the day to tag all your people, posting photos with your brother in uniform or the selfie with your bestie before he or she deployed. Veterans Day celebrates the living who served our country. Offer veterans a discount at your business. Call your favorite vet on the phone and thank him or her for their service. Attend a parade. Celebrate a veteran.
How to honor Memorial Day
Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms — men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.
The United States Marine Band on Memorial Day.
(Photo by Spc. Cody W. Torkelson)
You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance.
It seems so urgent. You receive a call saying your deployed or traveling military member has lost their ID, needs cash, and has asked this trustworthy person to contact you. While you may recognize this to be along the lines of the Nigerian-prince-asking-for-money email, some other scams that hurt military families may be more difficult to spot.
Military members are often young and financially inexperienced, have reliable income, and frequently move around, a combination which may make them and their families seem like easy targets to scammers, especially since it might take them some time to notice an irregularity in a bill or credit report.
Can you spot a would-be scammer? Here are a few to watch out for, as you protect your loved ones, your personal information, and your wallet.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)
1. Scams Preying on Deployed Families
What it is: Scammers contact the spouse or parents of a deployed service member and pretend to be someone in authority, claiming the military member has been injured/lost their wallet/is held up somewhere traveling. Using the fear that families already feel about their loved one or lack of knowledge about military processes, the scammer hopes family members will give up personal information to “prove who they are” or even cash.
Why it matters/what to do: The military won’t ever contact family members via phone or email asking for personal information or money. Military members won’t need cash from their families to travel to or return from deployment. Don’t let fear compel you to share your personal information with strangers.
2. Rental Scams
What it is: You’re due to PCS in a few months and have decided to start looking at homes online. You come across what seems like the perfect house for your family–a rental decorated with that farmhouse style that would meet Joanna Gaines’ approval, with four bedrooms, amazing upgrades, new appliances, and in the school district you’ve been hoping for…all with amazingly low rent! The kicker? The landlord pushes for a security deposit or money to hold the property before you or a representative can even view the home in person, because “it’s going to go fast.” And you need to send that money, like yesterday. “Hurry!” they press, “I’ve already got someone else looking at it!”
Why it matters/what to do: This sense of false urgency should be a red flag. While it could be legit, it’s possible the person listing the property simply copied it from another listing, isn’t the actual property manager, and is using the compressed military move timetable to try to make a quick, dishonest buck.
Stick with reputable sites or trusted referrals. Better yet, wait until you arrive to tour the home yourself. If that’s impossible, see if you have a friend in the area who can Facetime you while touring the home or hire a MILLIE Scout to do the legwork (the company hires military spouses just for this purpose!). Get more details about online rental scams.
3. Tickets or High-Priced Items at a “Too Good to Be True” Discount
What it is: Crooks hide behind all the goodwill and discounts offered to military by many businesses around Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Putting ads on Craiglist or other sites, sellers offer “great deals” for active duty on everything from tickets for professional sporting events to home goods. The seller, of course, requires money to be wired first to hold the item at this phenomenal price (seeing a pattern here?) and then when the item is to be picked up or transferred, disappears.
Why it matters/what to do: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stick to well-known business and sites when you see military or veteran deals around holidays, especially for big ticket items like cars or in demand concert or event tickets.
(Photo by Jeff Drongowski)
4. Scams Targeting Extended Family
What it is: Along the lines of the scams targeting deployed family members, this one preys on elderly relatives of service members. One scammer contacted a soldier’s 84-year-old grandmother and asked her to wire money in order to assist him, with the caller claiming that her grandson had lost his ID card on his way home from Iraq and couldn’t get home without her help. Thankfully, she realized the request was not legitimate.
Why it matters/what to do: The military doesn’t require funds from family members to transfer wounded back home (another scam) or help with getting ID cards or other belongings. There’s a system in place that would not involve contacting the member’s spouse, parents, grandparents, or anyone else for money. Educated your elderly relatives about how the military handles emergencies and advise them to call authorities if they are contacted by a scammer or suspicious person.
What it is: Recently, I noticed a Facebook friend request from a high ranking service member I’m friends with, who I know is not on social media. I let him know and quickly deleted and reported it, since the photo showed him in uniform in his official photo. His comment about the situation was sad, “It happens all the time.”
Help protect your identity and those of people you know. Monitor your own social media for obvious duplicate accounts and let friends know if you see a duplicate account of theirs. Use identity theft protection and credit monitoring from reputable providers such as Lifelock or Experian to get real-time notifications of data breaches.
A New Meaning to the Phrase “Trust but Verify”
A couple of good rules to follow: never send money to an unknown entity, no matter how urgently they appeal, and never share your personal information over the phone or by email, even to an “official” sounding person. Family members, double check with the military member’s unit if you receive an urgent call regarding their situation.
As long as there have been phones and the internet, there have been people bent on using it for harm. While it can seem like a losing battle, staying vigilant about your personal information and trusting your gut will go a long way towards protecting yourself. Changing passwords frequently, monitoring your accounts regularly, putting a security freeze on your credit reports to prevent unwanted access to your information, and even not listing your birthdate on social media are some simple ways to thwart the scammers. Deployed members can put an ‘active duty alert’ on their accounts, which will notify businesses to take extra steps before offering credit in their name. For more ideas to protect yourself, see Consumer Report’s “Protect Your Identity.”
If you’ve been the victim of a scam or need to report suspicious activity, get more information from:
The military loves to boast that we “own the night.” That’s mostly because we don’t sleep, but it’s also because we have night vision goggles. If you weren’t a grunt, then your night vision was probably halfway decent. If you were a grunt, then your night vision was probably as effective as putting a green piece of plastic on the end of an empty paper towel roll.
So, if you ask one of us what it’s like to use NVGs, you’ll likely get an unexpected response: It sucks.
You might be asking yourself, “but aren’t you guys supposed to get awesome gear?” Yeah, sure. But no one wants to pay for it.
So, they give us what they are willing to pay for, and that’s why we get a set of AN/PVS-14s. A monocular (for the ASVAB waivers out there, that means it has one lens) device that, for one reason or another, doesn’t want to work how or when you’d like it to.
Marines will talk sh*t about them all day, but these complaints surface most often:
Not the sun, though. The moon is the best.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
They work best with natural light
This may not seem like a big deal — until you realize that a triple canopy jungle or a cloudy night sky are going to ruin any chance at having functional night vision. If you’re a grunt, the night sky is always cloudy and if you have to break the tree line, which you probably should, your NVGs are going to lose most of their ability.
Un-even weight distribution
Strapping that bad boy to your helmet is like taking a big rock and taping it to the side. It feels awkward and can throw you slightly off balance, which can be especially sh*tty as you’re trying to leap over ditches in the middle of the night.
They flood the hell out of your eye.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
Unnatural light sources suck
If you have both eyes open (which you should) while you’re wearing these bad boys and you come across a glow stick or flashlight, your eyes’ sensitivity to light will be vastly different.
Your field of vision is severely reduced
If you’re peering into the night with both eyes open, you’ll see (hopefully) clearly with one eye, while the other is basically blind. Like we said before, it’s like looking through an empty paper towel tube — which doesn’t afford the best field of view.
Also, your command will give you 0 batteries.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anne K. Henry)
They eat batteries
Not literally — not like that guy in your platoon from Nebraska (you know the one). But when you go out with the NVGs, you are required to carry spare batteries, which just means tacking on a few more, precious ounces to your load.
“You can’t get a product. You are not going to get a product for months.” That’s what Brian Edwards, a medical supplier in California, has been telling dozens of people per day when they call searching for critical medical supplies that, before this year, they took for granted would be in stock.
The Chinese government’s mismanagement of the novel coronavirus not only spread the virus worldwide, it shut down many supply chains that the U.S. and other countries had become accustomed to; indeed, that the U.S. deeply relied upon. As we consider how our post-pandemic country will look, we should be careful to avoid a repeat of these mistakes.
U.S. dependence on Chinese manufacturing was no accident. The Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” strategy to consolidate manufacturing supply chains and impose itself as the world’s preeminent source of high-value manufactured goods has been well-known for years. While we have neglected to safeguard our industrial base, Beijing was aggressively subsidizing its country’s manufacturing plants and creating supply chains that maximized its economic and geopolitical leverage.
Some of my colleagues and I have worked the White House and the Department of Defense in the last two years to restrict purchases of Chinese-manufactured critical materials for use in U.S. military systems, and the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies have taken the first steps to stop Huawei and related entities from dominating next-generation communications hardware. But the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates that a broader approach is needed.
The U.S. government should develop better, near-real-time insight into supply chains. Occasional reviews of individual supply chains create blind spots that major crises will reach unexpectedly. With the tools that are out there, it should be easier than ever for the government and its critical suppliers to share data to provide resiliency and security.
The government also needs to take the lead in maintaining and expanding critical American supply capabilities. It will be crucial to prevent the pennies-on-the-dollar purchase of distressed American assets during or immediately after the pandemic by firms linked to the Chinese government. This includes many major Chinese firms (such as Huawei). The country that knowingly took steps that allowed the disease to spread worldwide should not be allowed to financially benefit from those decisions.
At the same time, the government should ensure that American businesses get the liquidity and capital they need to maintain and expand critical supply chains within the United States. This can be done through direct investment into manufacturing plants, but it could also be done by making purchase agreements and building national stockpiles of needed supplies. The much-discussed Defense Production Act allows the federal government to both expand and ensure manufacturing capabilities, and the id=”listicle-2645908630″ billion that Congress provided to the DPA program in the CARES Act should be promptly supplemented with the direction that the government identify gaps and fragile sectors of supply chains and build capacity to bulwark them against future crises.
Though the current focus is, deservedly, on China, we should not think that there are no other foreign countries that seek to identify, develop, and exploit critical gaps in U.S. supply chains. Russia has always been a leader in the production of critical defense materials and a known bad actor on the global stage. Indian companies are routinely cited by U.S. authorities for dumping materials in critical and noncritical sectors of the economy. As we have seen recently with everything from thermometers to toilet paper, though, the supply chains that we rely on for our normal lives can be stressed in any number of ways.
A strong national approach to securing our manufacturing base is a necessary step for security and prosperity. The federal government is the only entity both large enough and focused enough to lead this effort. Congress should, therefore, act quickly, as soon as the next stimulus bill, to establish a supply chain monitoring and investment framework that will get America back to work and provide for a cohesive and united future.
It’s one of the most persistent myths in the U.S. Military. I was even told it in basic training a mere 11 years ago, almost 90 years after the .50-caliber M2 was first designed. It goes like this: Weapons firing a .50-caliber round can be aimed at equipment, but not people. So, if you need to kill a person with a .50-cal., you have to aim at their load-bearing equipment (basically their suspenders).
Look at this. War crimes at night. What is wrong with troops today?
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Barney)
But, uh, really? The U.S. has and deploys a weapon in an anti-personnel role that can’t legally be fired at people? And we’ve just been hoodwinking everyone for a century?
That’s… surprising, if not unbelievable. That would require that every enemy in World War II never brought war crimes charges against the U.S. If you assume that the rule was put in place after World War II, when a lot of modern war crimes were defined, then you still have to assume that no one in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, or Afghanistan protested the illegal American actions.
And, even more odd, militaries brag about their top ranged sniper kills. Five of the top six longest-range kills, at least according to Wikipedia right now, were made with .50-cal. rounds (Number six was made by Carlos Hathcock with a machine gun, because he’s awesome). Since all of those snipers were targeting individuals, if you accept this premise, aren’t they war criminals?
Extremely accurate war crimes, huh, buddy?
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Conner Robbins)
Uncool, Wiki editors — do not list war crimes made by war heroes. Let the military justice system do its work without your amateur meddling…
The actual rules for weapons in combat ban specific categories of weapons, like poisonous gasses or plastic landmines, and weapons that cause more unnecessary suffering than they provide military advantage.
If that sounds vague, that’s because it is. Nations occasionally argue about what weapons cause unnecessary suffering, but the militaries involved would typically rather keep all their options open, and so combatants usually decide that any given weapon is fine.
Look at this guy and his belt-fed war crimes. Horrible.
(U.S. Army Spc. Deomontez Duncan)
Shotguns came under some serious contention in World War I. The U.S. brought them over the Atlantic to clear German trenches, and they were ridiculously effective. Germany complained that the weapons, which often left their troops either blown in half or with pellet-filled guts, caused unnecessary suffering. America just pointed out that Germany was already using poisonous gasses, and so they should screw off.
This is the target that the .50-cal. is best for. It can pierce light armor at decent ranges unlike 5.56mm or 7.62mm rounds. So, if you have a limited supply of the ammo, you want to hold it for the vehicles. The command is thought to have grown from simple ammo conservation to belief of a war crime.
But no, if it’s an enemy combatant, you can legally kill it with any weapon at your disposal, as long as you don’t damage civilian structures or intentionally cause undue suffering. You don’t need to aim a .50-cal at their suspenders, belt buckle, or buttons.
Promotions are an exciting event in a military career, and celebrating them comes standard. The question, however, comes in what type of celebration to expect — essentially, how big is too big? And what’s the “norm” for each rank and service branch?
Because everyone who gets promoted to a new rank is presumably doing so for the first time, there’s a steep learning curve. You can talk to others or attend services of those ahead of you in order to learn what’s expected by you as the service member.
Big or small, salute them all!
It doesn’t matter if you’re getting your first promotion or your 10th, it’s something to be excited about! Enjoy your achievement and bask in the progress of your career. Don’t overlook a promotion for it being “small,” but rather take time to pat yourself on the back.
This is a big deal; you’ve earned it!
Early career promotions
Consider that, earlier in one’s career, promotions will come faster. It’s easier to climb the ranks your first few years in. There’s nothing wrong with this, only to keep in mind that in years to come, promotions won’t come as easily, or as frequently.
It’s a good idea to communicate this to friends and family, too. So they aren’t expecting fast pay jumps … and to give them a better idea of how the military works. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep your loved ones in the know for a better communication process about your future.
Pinning and pomp and circumstance
No matter what rank you’re pinning, there will be some type of ceremony. Keep in mind that, depending on the circumstances, they could be a big deal, or something simple. For instance, if deployed, you might have a fast “here’s your new rank” get together. While, when stateside, you can invite loved ones and plan an actual event.
In general, you get to choose someone to pin (or velcro) on your new rank. Decide who you want this person to be, whether a family member, co-worker or someone else who’s made a profound influence in your life. Ask them in advance, and if they aren’t associated with the military, coach them on what/when to add said insignia.
Promotion ceremonies usually come with much tradition and history. These traditions will vary based on branch, unit and career path. Be sure to get in on the fun and play up whatever will take place. As a member of each branch, you’re likely to know what’s ahead and how the ceremony will play out.
For instance, army members might exchange coins, Marines will march in and out of their promotion stance, and so forth.
Reaching the big jumps
When reaching higher ranks, more is expected on promotion day, most notably a cake! Sources say, even at 8 a.m., a cake will be eaten, and showing up without one is simply not done.
Whether enlisted or an officer, upper ranking soldiers will host a reception to celebrate their big day, and the size of that reception often depends on the rank itself. In general, this is usually E7 or O4 and above, while E9 or O5/O6 will host an even larger celebratory event. Each branch will have its own nuances, so check with those in your unit, or scour the net for best practices with each upcoming promotion.
When a promotion sits ahead, consider the best way to celebrate. Not only to bask in your achievements but to follow within military traditions based on your achievement and branch.