Articles: Narco Subs / Digital Afterlife / Mt. Everest

[Image: A seized semi-submersible used for transporting cocaine from Columbia to Mexico. Luca Zanetti / DER SPIEGEL]


The Colombian Coke Sub: Former Drug Smuggler Tells His Story

A post over this past summer about narco subs briefly addressed the manufacturing of semi and fully submersible water vessels constructed to transport huge amounts of cocaine and a few very uncomfortable crew members in an extremely dangerous situation. The Colombian Coke Sub story has a first-hand account of the kinds of living conditions inside of the boats and describes the constant anxiety which define the missions.

The cost of carrying these operations in relation to the profit earned when a transaction is successful is insane. Lucrative doesn’t even begin to adequately define the nature of this business. It’s also kind of amazing to think of these D.I.Y., hand-crafted subs sitting together somewhere on the ocean floor, a small colony of odd achievements in naval engineering designed specifically for the purpose of  transporting one particular substance.

“It costs about half a million dollars to build a submersible, but the market value of the cargo can be more than 100 times that. The drug smugglers often sink their boats once the delivery has been made. Dozens of the one-way vessels are believed to be lying on the sea floor off the Mexican coast.”


Cyberspace When You’re Dead

“…what we do online still feels somehow novel and ephemeral, although it really shouldn’t anymore.”


This is a wonderful, thought-provoking article about digital afterlife. The discussion is primarily centered around the complexities of storing information and the preservation, or elimination, of virtual identities and their output.

There a lot interesting ideas to take in in this article and a number of super interesting thinkers referenced in this article who are dealing with issues of death and identity in the digital age. I just ordered  David Eagleman’s Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives after  the author of the article described one of his post-death scenarios (which has now turned into a quite real enterprise) that included,  “an automated service that allowed its users to send messages after they die.”

I also have become excited about Gordon Bell, a computer engineer (another person worth reading further into) involved in the the MyLifeBits project, an experiment which, according to the projects website, attempts to:

“…record all of Bell’s communications with other people and machines, as well as the images he sees, the sounds he hears and the Web sites he visits–storing everything in a personal digital archive that is both searchable and secure.”


And as for as the most poignant part of the article, the author cites Margaret Wertheim:

Wertheim pointed out that cyberspace had become a new kind of place, where alternate (or at least carefully curated or burnished) identities could be forged, new forms of collectivity and connection explored, all outside the familiar boundaries of the physical world, like the body and geography. It’s not such a long journey to follow those assertions to the “view that man is defined not by the atoms of his body but by an information code,” as Wertheim wrote. “This is the belief that our essence lies not in our matter but in a pattern of data.” She called this idea the “cybersoul,” a “posited immortal self, this thing that can supposedly live on in the digital domain after our bodies die.”


Abandoned on Everst

[Image: One of many dead bodies littering the heights of Mt. Everest]


I originally saw the pictures from this article at GBNC and assumed that the images were somehow fake or staged. However, my intial suspicions were apparently unwarrented according to this post on A Sea of Lead, A Sky of Slate, a blog which seems to be quickly getting off the ground and heading in a pretty interesting direction.

Writing about the understood, yet never overstated dangers of climbing to the peak of Everest:

For every ten climbers who have ever reached the summit, the mountain has claimed one of them. In the 56 years since the first men in history reached the top, 216 people have died, and the grim reality of the horrific conditions of the Final Push is that 150 bodies have never been, and likely can never be, recovered. They are all still there, and located, almost without exception, in the Death Zone.


Unfortunately, there is an absence of references, citations, or links in the Everest post. The stunning, gruesome photographs are without credit. This is a little disappointing, especially for such interesting stories. It would be nice to have some idea of where the information being presented is derived from, not just in this particular post but throughout the entire blog. I think making this small effort would make the writing that much more engaging, rather than having it remain rather mysterious and uncorroborated.


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