Dangerous Ideas
August 8, 2010 6:03 PM   Subscribe

Every day in August 2010, the chin-scratching blog Bigthink will post a "Dangerous Idea" supplied by one of its expert contributors. So far it has been suggested that we spike the water supply with lithium, darken the atmosphere to blot out the Sun, and leave lots of children behind.
posted by escabeche (37 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 


College is a ticket to higher wages, and to deprive people of that ticket seems unjust. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2009 a high school graduate earned a median wage of $626 per week while a college graduate earned $1,025 per week. More education, according to the report, translated to an increase in earnings. The report also showed a decrease in unemployment rates with each successive degree.
Or maybe it's just that we artificially inflate the value of a college degree--many of which are worth jack squat--and use it as an arbitrary hall pass. Smart, motivated people should get an education that maximizes their potential. People who go to Southern State School to party it up for four years on their parents' dime and get a degree in communications with a 2.5 probably haven't gotten any value out of college beyond what we artificially assign to their diploma.

(NOT FRAT-ist)
posted by resiny at 6:30 PM on August 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Some "Southern State" schools are pretty darn good institutions. Thank you very much.
posted by oddman at 6:38 PM on August 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


I am so very tired of people saying that their ideas are "dangerous". Your ideas are not dangerous. These peoples ideas are not dangerous.

Somewhere along the way "dangerous" went from meaning "bad for you" to meaning "hip and edgy". Sane people wouldn't recommend ideas that are bad for you. Pretentious people recommend ideas that are hip and edgy.

Look at these hipster kids over here! They listen to Cheesecore bands and dress like refugees from the 80's. They're so hip and edgy! They're so dangerous! Like, "Groovy", man. Look at this kid over here, he's got a shirt that says "I READ BANNED BOOKS". Ho-ho! Look at that kid! He reads banned fucking books*. He's got dangerous ideas. Dick Cheney is sitting up in his reanimation chamber right now thinking, "Jesu! That kid is reading Catcher in the Rye! What now for my PLANS?!?!"

Protip: if you're ideas don't land you in jail, they are probably not dangerous in and of themselves. These are not dangerous ideas. They are intended to improve the human race, not to harm it. They may end up being harmful, but they were not intended as such. They may end up being harmful upon execution, but they are not dangerous in and of themselves. They are not dangerous. THEY ARE NOT DANGEROUS. THEY ARE NOT DANGEROUS.

THEY

ARE

NOT

DANGER

OUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSssssssssssssssss

Other than that, great post.

*you don't read banned books, either. None of us do. The fact that an 80-year-old church lady named Matilda Gunderfunderunderson who hasn't had sex since the Eisenhower Administration got The Vagina Monologues removed from the Middle School library in Paducah, KY does not make it a banned book. An actual banned book is a book which is made illicit by the full force of the state security apparatus. You go to jail if you read or possess it. There are no books like that in the .U.S to my knowledge. (Although, Wikileaks may become a contender one of these days). Middle Schools should have copies of The Vagina Monologues, IMO, but it's silly to call it a "banned" book.
posted by Azazel Fel at 6:39 PM on August 8, 2010 [18 favorites]


darken the atmosphere to blot out the Sun, and leave lots of children behind.

Dangerous Ideas, or Asshole Ideas?
posted by rkent at 6:39 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can get a good education just about anywhere. But many schools capable of providing a good education are also uniquely capable of letting people utterly undeserving of a degree slide through.
posted by resiny at 6:40 PM on August 8, 2010


My shirt says "Sometimes I don't take things exactly literally."
posted by josher71 at 6:45 PM on August 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


You can get a good education just about anywhere. But many schools capable of providing a good education are also uniquely capable of letting people utterly undeserving of a degree slide through.

This. Now, have a drink.
posted by josher71 at 6:47 PM on August 8, 2010


Money magazine did a value of an education article once and followed a guy through college while they also followed the guy that went to a votech school. It was decades before the grad got rid of his debt and pulled past the votech guy.

We also have a fucked up system of what is worthwhile to pursue. I had a friend try to set up a Cisco Certification program in a high school. The kids would have taken their certification exams at the end of their senior year and gone right into the workforce. This was not allowed because it would have dissuaded them from going to college. It was equivalent to the shop kids of yore.

I learned a shitload in college. Very little of it was in a classroom.

Then again, I think my student loans make me bitter.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:48 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


We don't know who struck first, us or them. But we do know it was us that scorched the sky. At the time, they were dependent on solar power. It was believed they would be unable to survive without an energy source as abundant as the sun. Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:48 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Many somethings can't be uniquely capable of something.
posted by Babblesort at 6:49 PM on August 8, 2010


Blocking out the sun, pfft. Brainiac couldn't even get that made as a film. Totally weak plot. Now terraforming, there's a future in terraforming.
posted by shinybaum at 6:51 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a naturally occurring spring in Manitou Springs CO that has elevated amounts of lithium. And it is carbonated! And people seem chill, but it is hard to tell above the Colorado chillaxian background radiation.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:07 PM on August 8, 2010


We do need to value vocations more, it's absolutely true. The question is, at what point do we track students to the vocation? In other words, when do we say, "This guy can't learn math, so send him to the carpentry school..."

It's a serious question... I would have been screwed if I was tracked in high school; I never would have had the chance to become a teacher, which I love. It wasn't until college that I discovered a love of learning.
posted by Huck500 at 7:13 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"These peoples ideas are not dangerous."

Some of them are pretty dumb though. Like the idea that we can just leave the planet and hike off into space looking for another one. (Sorry, Mr. Hawking! I still like you!)

What would be the problem with actually solving the problems we've created (and some of the ones we haven't) on this planet? I'm pretty sure we've let ourselves be suckered into believing in all the science fiction we've read over the last 100 years.

On the other hand, we could conceivably learn to control our population, stop polluting the hell out of this planet, and get rid of all the nuclear weapons. I don't think that's ever been tried before, has it?
posted by sneebler at 7:16 PM on August 8, 2010


sneebler: On the other hand, we could conceivably learn to control our population, stop polluting the hell out of this planet, and get rid of all the nuclear weapons. I don't think that's ever been tried before, has it?

You've obviously been reading too much science fiction if you think that's plausible.
posted by localroger at 7:24 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Simpsons did it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:40 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The lithium thing seems particularly off-base. From what I remember from my college psych course, Lithium is a particularly hard medicine to dose correctly -- take too little, and it does nothing. Take too much, and it kills you. The margin between those to boundaries is quite small.

The side effects would also likely cause a number of deaths if you suddenly began treating the entire population.

It's not a dangerous idea. It's just a plan-old bad idea, up there with "Why don't we nuke ourselves?"
posted by schmod at 8:41 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe this would be a little worse, maybe a little better than what we have. But it won't make much difference. How do we know that? Why because we already had that and it wasn't appreciably better than current state of things.

I had a wacky idea about education: how about we have a crack force of really great teachers who would take a few students at a time (a small group like 2 teachers with 3 students or something along these lines) and work with them for a couple of weeks to a month. They won't be able to teach all that much but this isn't about accumulation of information. It's about enthusing a sort of a combination of curiosity, energy, confidence, learning habits, -- enough for students to continue on their own afterwards.

The way I remember school(s) is like this: a bored teacher droning along, tired and annoyed at us. On one hand you get this knowledge that is often interesting and surprising in and of itself, but on the other hand you get a one-two punch of boredom and anxiety about tests. What's most interesting is that even a good teacher doesn't make any difference, it's just a more exciting experience like watching a good movie but it's a spectator experience, it does not change the way students approach knowledge. The experience is far too diluted in a class of 30. I really think it has to be a combination of a far smaller class and a really good teacher, even if for a relatively short time; if either of these two things are missing, it's quite hopeless.
posted by rainy at 8:56 PM on August 8, 2010


cool, glad to see we found a way to connect this with hipsters
posted by p3on at 9:15 PM on August 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


We are in no more of a position to abandon earth than Stephen Hawking is to run a four minute mile.
posted by clarknova at 9:17 PM on August 8, 2010


Why We Should Reject This: ... meh.
posted by edguardo at 10:40 PM on August 8, 2010


College is a ticket to higher wages, and to deprive people of that ticket seems unjust.
University education for the purposes of higher wages is zero-sum1, if everyone has a Bachelors degree then it no longer plays any role in wages.

"This guy can't learn math, so send him to the carpentry school..."
You can't get into carpentry school if you can't do arithmetic, bricklaying school yes.
posted by atrazine at 12:16 AM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


First idea is to sell American citizenship. People, the migration process already costs a ton of money; it's not like any of the process is free. Argh.
posted by divabat at 12:41 AM on August 9, 2010


I can't believe that most people with sufficient funds couldn't buy American citizenship right now. Like that guy in INCEPTION who just needs to make a single phone call.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:48 AM on August 9, 2010


Obscure Reference,

You can't buy it, strictly speaking, but there are investor's visas which allow residency. All you need to do is invest $1M and create 10 jobs and you have a two year conditional residence visa which can be converted to a full permanent residence visa (Green card) after two years. From green card to citizenship is easy.
In fact, if you invest in a "Designated Area", you only have to invest $500,000.
posted by atrazine at 5:36 AM on August 9, 2010


The side effects would also likely cause a number of deaths if you suddenly began treating the entire population.

I'm pretty sure it's been suggested before (dosing the water with something to make people less crazy). The dosage they're talking about would be in microgram territory compared the the milligrams given to treat mania. Anyhoo, as I was reading it, I wondered what are the rates for obesity, hyperthyroidism and, diabetes were in areas where the lithium concentrations are higher. Did the studies take into account socio-economic factors? How was the data tabulated, correlated and assessed? I'll never know because the studies are behind a pay wall. So, I'm left with the sense that this is this just another case of trying to find the magic elixir that will make us all shiny happy people.
posted by squeak at 7:22 AM on August 9, 2010


This guy can't learn math, so send him to the carpentry school...

As was mentioned above, there's math in carpentry, quite a lot depending on what you're making. Any mechanical trade is going to require some of it if you want to get beyond grunt level; not to mention needing to figure out taxes and payroll and estimates.

Math really shouldn't be optional for functioning citizens. Students having trouble need assistance, not shunting off into the No Math track.

/rant
posted by emjaybee at 7:22 AM on August 9, 2010


The lithium thing seems particularly off-base. From what I remember from my college psych course, Lithium is a particularly hard medicine to dose correctly -- take too little, and it does nothing. Take too much, and it kills you. The margin between those to boundaries is quite small.

Except they're not basing it on traditional pharmacological effects, which you have been taught. They're basing it on population statistics from areas with naturally occurring lithium dosed water, where suicides and crime are significantly lower.

It's not actually a crazy idea from a scientific standpoint. It is somewhat "dangerous" from a human rights standpoint - is it ever okay to forcibly alter another's basic source of water, food, etc? - and that's the debate we should be having IMO. Support for the idea might be to the effect of "well the FDA has been vitaminizing much of our food (cereals, grains, milks) for decades and vitamins are essentially drugs, too".

Personally, I would like to see some kind of Brita filter that laces your water with lithium.
posted by tybeet at 7:38 AM on August 9, 2010


spike the water supply with lithium

As I was told by a wastewater treatment engineer who did her doctoral work on potable water she claimed that this was done during the race riots back in the 60's.

Some of the anti-fluoride people make claims about Fluoride having a mood-altering effect.

get rid of all the nuclear weapons. I don't think that's ever been tried before, has it?


Some legisltation passed back in the 60's said this was the US goal - be rid of the nukes by 2000. It seems that didn't happen, but I've not SEEN the nukes, nor am I personally aware of the recient use of 'em so perhaps they are gone and I wasn't told.

Lithium is a particularly hard medicine to dose correctly -- take too little, and it does nothing.

Like saltpeter in your military food?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:43 AM on August 9, 2010


There are no dangerous ideas, only dangerous actions. Otherwise we'd all be dead from mere contingency planning.
posted by PsychoKick at 8:54 AM on August 9, 2010


#8: Sell American Citizenship

Ctrl-F "roman" tells me this article is not worth reading.
posted by DU at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2010


The side effects would also likely cause a number of deaths if you suddenly began treating the entire population.

I'm pretty sure it's been suggested before (dosing the water with something to make people less crazy).


MIRANDA.
posted by misha at 10:28 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dosing the water supply was the premise of a Stephen King tale, so not so much a dangerous idea as one ripped off from a really bad short story collection.
posted by shinybaum at 11:02 AM on August 9, 2010


Misha, Miranda? I'm lost.
posted by squeak at 8:12 PM on August 9, 2010


University education for the purposes of higher wages is zero-sum, if everyone has a Bachelors degree then it no longer plays any role in wages

...assuming that these Bachelor degrees actually no confer no skills nor useful knowledge, and therefore have no effect on the value of the work graduates produce.
posted by magic curl at 6:14 AM on August 10, 2010


Sorry, squeak, Miranda is a reference from the movie Serenity, based on Joss Whedon's Firefly series.

If you don't mind SPOILERS___________________________________________________

In Joss Whedon's futuristic Western/Steampunk/Waif-Fu world, Reavers are the scourge of the multiverse. Insatiable killers, they rape, murder and devour their victims, in that order if you are lucky.

The powerful but morally corrupt Alliance has covered up the true origins of the Reavers by denying the existence of the perfectly habitable planet Miranda, insisting that all attempts at settlements there resulted in failure.

Actually, Miranda boasted a thriving Metropolis and a closely-guarded secret that could threaten the existence of the Alliance were it to become known. In an attempt to create the "perfect" colony of happy, passive and easily-led citizens, the Alliance scientists modified Miranda's water supply.

The experiment went too far and resulted in a schism among the populace in which the majority of the inhabitants grew so complacent they literally couldn't be bothered to go on breathing any longer and simply lay down and died.

The remaining minority, who showed some resistance to the drugged water supply, had the opposite reaction. Unable to ever rest, they became crazed, frenzied rapacious cannibals.

The Alliance had created the Reavers.

END SPOILERS__________________________________________________________________
posted by misha at 11:10 AM on August 10, 2010


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