A Week in Germany

By Josiah Zintsmaster

The Reichstag building is now a historic sight in Berlin, you can visit the dome and enjoy a wonder view of the city.

The Reichstag building is now a historic sight in Berlin, you can visit the dome and enjoy a wonder view of the city.

Traveling internationally can be stressful — renewing your passport, getting through customs, sitting through a ridiculously long flight, and crossing your fingers while hoping nothing is getting lost on the plane are just some of the hassles travel brings. That being said, once you finally step out of the cramped plane and into a fresh, new culture, you suddenly realize how every single one of these stresses were worth it.

I recently flew over to Germany with my school for a short study abroad. The course dealt with the Holocaust, focusing on boarders both literally and metaphorically, structures of power, and how they all tie together and effect each other. We stayed in Meißen Germany for the majority of our trip, but also traveled around Eastern Germany and popped into Poland for a day. 

The class was fantastic, and, as any tourist would, we made time to go around and visit the main attractions. While I loved all of this, my favorite part of the trip was learning little things about the way others live. Throughout the trip, I noticed things off and on: like how coins are way more useful than paper money, or how the driving style in Germany is very different than ours (to say the least), and that the architecture is simply stunning. Nevertheless, it’s hard to let yourself see past the blatant differences when exclusively sticking to your travel group.

Luckily, our trip was the perfect mix of both structure and freedom. After seeing all of the major attractions as a group, we were given a few days to do as we pleased. I spent this time walking the town nearby (Meißen), trying to find the town’s hidden treasures, talking to locals, and just experiencing living in a new city.

I believe that seeing how locals live their day-to-day lives gives us the best insight and mindset to understanding foreign cultures. This is the time when you realize why travel is all worth it: understanding people’s way of life, making friends with locals who you’ll miss dearly on the flight back, and of course, eating all the incredible food that you will long to taste again. Although it may be stressful at first, take every chance to travel that you possibly can; however, when you do, please don’t stick solely to the itinerary. Let yourself embrace your surroundings and try to understand the culture’s way of life.

 

All photos by the author

Self-Driving Cars: A Moral Dilemma?

WAYMO

WAYMO

Self-driving cars are accelerating into our lives with no signs of stopping. After almost a decade of work, Google's own version of a smart car, Waymo, is already giving rides in Phoenix. This car can interpret hand signals from incoming cyclists riding their bikes, and can drive thousands of miles without human intervention. Now, the matter is getting cars like this onto the mass market while at the same time making them affordable—and safe.

Many believe there is some kind of moral dilemma when dealing with smart cars. Some online studies were done by researchers concerning how consumers feel about sharing the road with driverless cars. The participants agreed that from a moral standpoint, automated cars should be designed to protect the greatest number of people—"even if they must be programmed to kill their passengers to do so.”

However, the interesting part of this survey is that respondents said they would ultimately want to purchase a vehicle programmed to protect the passengers, even if it meant that pedestrians (any number) were not protected. This is the moral dilemma that is seen by the manufacturers of smart cars: How important are the people in the car compared to those outside of it?

Example of decisions a smart car would have to make (Image by Bonnefon, Shariff and Rahwan)

Example of decisions a smart car would have to make (Image by Bonnefon, Shariff and Rahwan)

These smart cars would have to learn how to avoid accidents, but would not be able to measure the costs of them. The main dilemma that was discussed in the survey was how to swerve when pedestrians are incoming. Would the car move one way into the pedestrian? Or would it sacrifice its potential passenger if it meant saving the pedestrian’s life? These ethical and moral issues are one of many problems plaguing the makers of self-driving cars. 

Another potential issue is the question of blame. If your self driving car causes an accident, who is to blame? The company who programmed the vehicle? The answer will certainly affect insurance companies and legal liability. 

According to the National Safety Council as many as 40,000 people died in traffic accidents in 2016, making it the deadliest year in almost a decade. In 90 percent of those accidents, human error was to blame. By removing the human element, self-driving cars could actually help prevent accidents. The technology has not yet been perfected, but how safe is safe enough when it comes to automated vehicles? 

If we wait for perfect, we’ll be waiting for a very, very long time.
— Mark Rosekind, Natoinal Highway Traffic Safety Admin.

Enjoy cutting edge technology? Check out:

Virtual Reality: Seeing Into the Future

Arrival: A Review

The film Arrival, which came out on November 11, 2016, is a must-see movie for science fiction enthusiasts. Receiving 8/10 stars on IMDb, this movie has a creative way of taking on a classic sci-fi theme: aliens arriving on Earth, and the worries and speculations that come with them. In Arrival, twelve spacecraft suddenly appear, each hovering over different, seemingly random locations. The movie follows linguistics professor Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, as she is given the task of learning how to communicate with the aliens.

The way director Denis Villeneuve creates the setting and theme of the movie is brilliant. As the movie progresses, you slowly learn that what you see in the opening shots of the film is not what you should assume as true. As the plot unfolds, the film comes full circle by the end and creates an “ah-ha” moment for the viewer. Encompassing the plot is the theme of communication, a simple concept becoming a tense topic of discussion with the added drama and pressure of the world unsure of what those in the spacecraft really want.

First meeting with the arrivals (Photo: Jan Thijs - © 2016 Paramount Pictures) 

First meeting with the arrivals (Photo: Jan Thijs - © 2016 Paramount Pictures) 

Another one of Arrival's strengths is that the use of CGI is not overdone. This is more of a drama than an action film, which is not something every sci-fi film can boast. It is a movie that makes you think, making you unable to predict what will happen next. With most scenes taking place in practical sets among human beings rather than digitally created creatures and worlds, the drama and the unpredictably feel even closer.

Arrival is a masterful telling of how we communicate and how being open and learning from others — in this case, aliens — can lead to enlightenment. The film's subplots — coping with loss, understanding the ways our actions affect the present and the future, and the mounting pressure the world's governments are under to uncover the reason for the aliens' arrival — expertly add to the intensity and thought-provoking nature of the film. Furthermore, these subplots only add to focus of the film and the problem that the characters are solving: how to communicate, whether it be with each other, or with the aliens.

Two thumbs up!

Enjoy science fiction? Find more on Netflix:

The Stream Team: Sci-Fi