Interview: Harish Natarajan on Beating IBM Project Debater and Restoring Everyone’s Faith in Humanity…For Now
By Gemma JoyceFeb 15
Published August 17th 2017
–SCENE 1: “Discovery of the Manuscript”–
——(The year is 2019 and civilization on planet Earth exists no longer)
ENTER: Alien spaceship. The doors open, hissing.
——(The squad of heavily armored aliens clamber tentatively down from the smoking vessel. The leader signals to move forward and they begin to navigate the wasteland)
LEADER: (Indecipherable.) Subtitles read: “What the fuck was that?”
——(The leader follows the path of a three-headed cockroach as it scuttles clumsily over a piece of paper. They look closer, raising their protective masks to read the strange markings. Unearthing the sheet from the rubble, they raise it to the dull sun.)
LEADER: (Indecipherable.) Subtitles read: “It’s an excerpt from the Brandwatch Blog. The legend is true!”
——(The aliens hop and high-five. They have discovered what they came for. It is this blog post.)
At the beginning of each week, I sit down with our wonderful editor Natalie and we talk about what we plan to cover in the week ahead.
We’ll talk about what’s trending, what topics could resonate with our audience, what completely random thoughts have occurred to us over the weekend and, always, how we can use our data to save the world.
So, naturally, this week we decided to write a Nuclear War Survival Guide based on data generated using Brandwatch products. It’s definitely a trending topic.
How does one go about learning how to survive nuclear war using social data? We take a tongue-in-cheek look, because if you can’t laugh, what can you do?
Before we get going, we’d like to point out that the overall theme of this post is that we are all pretty under-prepared, and the tips you’ll find here if you’re genuinely reading this from a nuclear bunker will be sorely disappointing.
The average person is not prepared for nuclear war. Who might be? Survivalists!We used Brandwatch Audiences to find self-identified survivalists (people who have “survivalist” in their Twitter bio). The authors we found (1,700 in total) were predominantly male and seemed to be prepping for Zombie apocalypses more than nuclear wars, but we thought we’d see what they had to say anyway.
We exported a few hundred of the most influential accounts into Brandwatch Analytics to see what they might be sharing and discussing in regard to our bleak nuclear future.
To be fair, there wasn’t an enormous amount of conversation to work with here. There wasn’t so much talk of how to prepare for nuclear attack, more speculation about when one might occur.
In our first example tweet, @SurvivalPulse shares an article that uses excerpts from an interview between Alex Jones and Joel Skousen on how one might predict a nuclear war and when to evacuate large cities.
— Survival Pulse (@SurvivalPulse) August 14, 2017
The second is a brief news report shared by one of our survivalist influencers, in which the inside of an old nuclear war shelter is toured by reporter Tom Miller.
People in Sacramento used to be really worried about a nuclear attack. Here's a fallout shelter that's still standing. pic.twitter.com/9numo8TOnn
— Tom Miller (@TomMillerKXAN) August 12, 2017
So far, not so helpful, sadly.
If you hang out on Reddit you’ll know there’s a subreddit for nearly everything, so armed with our new Reddit data powers we went straight to r/Survival to look for tips on surviving nuclear armageddon.
However, far from discussing how to outrun the blast, their conversation for the last seven days has focused more on bodily excretions.
It turns out the subreddit is more focused on short term survival in the wilderness, not a full on nuclear winter.
But we did find this survival blog posted on the subreddit with some helpful nuggets on building up the food we’ll need to survive a disaster.
Basically, if we start stocking up now we’ll avoid the massive rush to get to the supermarket when threats become more intense.
With a little time and effort you can easily put up your first 30 day food supply and then start working on your longer term storage plans. Make a plan with a budget and stick to it and you will come through most emergencies just fine.
While stocking up on food is probably a good idea, we’re getting the sense that so far our quest to build a Nuclear War Surival Guide based on what people are talking about on the internet isn’t going very well…
So. the survivalists haven’t exactly helped us out too much, but what are the rest of the internet talking about when it comes to preparing?
We’re at the “how to survive a nuclear attack" phase of the Trump presidency. Fantastic. https://t.co/q7inEfmVMn
— Imani Gandy Corn 🎃 (@AngryBlackLady) August 9, 2017
Listening to how other people on the internet solve life’s problems isn’t always a good idea (e.g. people who make cheese on toast by turning their toaster sideways, or people who straighten their hair with irons meant for shirts), but what the hell – surely there’s some wisdom we can glean from the general population of people talking about preparing for nuclear war…right?
Perhaps one of these snippets of wisdom could be the difference between suffering and surviving.
It turns out that people really are getting serious about preparing for a nuclear attack.
Bomb shelter website sells out as US citizens prepare for nuclear war with North Korea https://t.co/8wzRBMgwYZ
— IBTimes UK (@IBTimesUK) August 11, 2017
Others are less hopeful.
Who wants to survive a nuclear blast? Do they think they'll just la de da out of the shelter like it was all just a really bad thunderstorm?
— robin m (@robindefoe1) August 14, 2017
We looked specifically at ways people were preparing and stockpiling, and found some surprising results.
Just chillin watching sum rick and morty preparing myself for impending nuclear war.
— Elijah (@souljaxelijah) August 15, 2017
— Srikiran C. Rai (@SrikiranRai) August 14, 2017
Preparing for a nuclear Trumpocalypse. pic.twitter.com/5lHrcWd5ox
— ᗩᑎᑎᗩᗷᕮᒪ (@coffeephant) August 11, 2017
Preparing for the nuclear winter by stocking up on garden salsa sun chips and finally backing up my computer
— SP2D2 (@optimistickie) August 10, 2017
All solid advice.
More interesting, in terms of actually getting some survival tips, was to look in the top shared links. Here are a couple of potentially useful ones:
In these more serious guides to survival, one can pick up tips on how to hide, what to prepare, where to go to the bathroom in your new cramped shelter and when to leave it.
The Racked article is very specific, about how you should absolutely not use conditioner in your hair when you’re washing away the radioactive material.
We also found this graphic appearing again and again in “How to survive” articles:
Alexa is preparing by stocking up lots of wood, but according to advice from the links above popping out to the wood shed for fuel during the nuclear fallout may be a bad idea indeed.
Can songs and video games help us in this desperate hour? Maybe.
For a more immersive but admittedly not so realistic Nuclear War Survival Guide, one might look to the recently released video game Fallout 4 for tips on surviving radiation (and dealing with multi-headed mutated beasts when they emerge from their vault).
Not that I'm assuming I'd survive nuclear war, but I guess I could play some Fallout to practice, eh? :P
— 💀SpookyB🕷️🕸️ (@squeakybb) August 15, 2017
Meanwhile, music can be a soothing force. Earlier this year Matt Maltese released an eerily relevant song called “As the World Caves In“, about a couple in the final moments after the big red nuclear button has been pushed.
Listening to it after a few hours of researching this article, I’ve decided it’s not a bad one to kick off the nuclear war playlist – that is, if Spotify is still available.
And here it is, our final night alive
And as the earth runs to the ground
Oh girl it’s you that I lie with
As the atom bomb locks in
Oh it’s you I watch TV with
As the world, as the world caves in
Well judging by what I saw in the data surrounding nuclear war, we’re all woefully underprepared for any kind of nuclear attack.
We’re probably all going to die. Painfully and surrounded by people we probably wouldn’t ideally spend our final moments with.
Aliens, when you find this blog post, know that we all tried our best and went down gobbling chocolate and drinking prosecco, and we had plenty of logs to burn.
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