Day 95: Planes, Trains and Drones, Travel the Cali Coast

What's up party people? Today, let's chat about your bucket-list. As in, do you even have one? I do... and I'm going to share with you 2 items on Westside Culture's List of Shit To Do Pre-Death:

1) Buy a drone. Because, why the fuck not? Personal aircraft drones are bad ass. And I can take pictures all along the West Coast and even out over the Pacific Ocean. 

2) Like Tom Petty says, “Learning to Fly.” Yes, it’s on my list to fly an airplane. And it's frequently listed as a favorite activity among the world’s top entrepreneurs. 

Photo credit mel ashar, check out amazon's drone photography options by clicking the image

Photo credit mel ashar, check out amazon's drone photography options by clicking the image

But, before we get into flying drones and piloting airplanes, let’s first dig into some moral dilemmas about drones, or UAVs (for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). No, not should you fly them by people’s windows and watch them when they are undressing? Obviously, you’re going to do that. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

No, the dilemma sadly has to do with death. I know, bear with me while we dig in.

I was recently listening to a Tim Ferris Q/A podcast with Sam Harris, P.h.D., a neuroscientist who specializes in mindfulness and spirituality, and in it Dr. Harris discusses the trolley problem. 

For those unfamiliar, the Trolley Problem is:

A thought experiment dealing with ethics. In this exercise, there’s a runaway trolley headed down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, are five people unable to move and the trolley is headed straight for them. You’re by happenstance, standing next to a lever. By pulling this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice there’s one person on the side track and by diverting the train (pulling the lever) the trolley will head towards him. 

You have two options: 

(Option 1): Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. 

(Option 2): Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. 

Which is the correct choice?

Well society in general says, "Pull the lever and save a total of 4 lives." Which is to say, always do the deed that serves the greater good.

OK, society, you think you are so smart. Let’s explore this a bit further.

Enter the fat man.

Just as before, there’s a trolley streaking down a track towards five people. This time, your luck (or lack there of), has placed you on a bridge. The trolley will pass under the bridge and plow into the five people or you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. (Very heavy, like the very fat man standing next to you).  So, your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to stop the train and save the other five. 

Should you proceed?

Before, we agreed, always save more people, do the greater good. You can see where this starts to become a bit of grey area and moral dilemma. Nobody wants to commit a murder and push someone onto a track even though it saves more people. Most people in this case opt to let the 5 people die and not kill an innocent man.

The difference between these two problems seems to deal with intent. In the first scenario, your intent is to save 4 lives by throwing a switch, which happens to have an effect of killing one. But in the second scenario your intent is knowingly to kill a man, and the by-product of that is saving 4 total lives.

In the HBO hit-television series, Homeland, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes, aka baby mama, aka don't ask, it goes way back to "My So Called Life" days, aka no, she's not really my baby mama) approves a drone missile strike and wipes out a small village, full of non-militant citizens. Now, with the fat man on the tracks scenario in mind, do you think it was easier or more difficult for Carrie to “pull the trigger” and approve the drone strike? Based on society’s feedback from the trolley problem and fat man problem, it is easier for her to approve the strike, because she did not have to actually touch someone to initiate the kills.

So bottom line, when I am out flying my drone, I need to be aware that I am detached mentally from the events that occur due to my flying the drone and not being a part of it. I also think this detachment is exactly why businesses and the government have begun to ground drones and highly regulate them. For example, today the city of Cincinnati released a statement that no drones will be allowed at tonight's MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati. There is already a federal law in effect that prohibits drones flying near stadiums, yet the city felt the need to remind the public. 

Did you know:

The FAA prohibits pilots of all aircraft from flying under 3,000 feet and within three miles of stadiums from NCAA Division 1 football, Major League Baseball, and the National Football League.

The no-fly zone is considered "national defense airspace" for one hour before and after events at these events, as with all airports nationwide, drone use is also forbidden within.


Now, let's dig into the benefits of personal drones and then later we can dive into the intrinsic-value received from flying an airplane.

Many drones you're able to mount cameras to, sort of like a goPro Drone and for professional photographers, you can imagine the possibilities. Capture a honeymoon, or a day trip to Catalina Island.

Controlling flying things are fun. When I had my remote controlled helicopter, I loved flying that thing. It was eaten by a pit-bull who jumped about 7 feet in the air to snatch it out of the sky. In his defense, I was teasing him with it. Anyhow, I'm sure it's the same feeling you get when flying a legit drone aircraft. Just a feeling of accomplishment and mindfulness.

As for actual piloting a plane, that also ranks high on my bucket-list. Many of the top entrepreneurs and CEOs in the world fly planes as a hobby. So, what is it that entices guys like Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg and Steve Wozniak to command a plane? Well, it's a very similar skill set to commanding a boardroom or a company. Traits like self-confidence, focus, and determination make both great pilots and entrepreneurs. Add to that the desire to take risks and rush of adrenaline, and you explain every CEO in Silicon Valley.

A good friend of Westside Culture, Kristin Reiter, enjoys aviation as a hobby. She flies between Portland and Los Angeles when she's not busy working as the Global Design Director for Nike Football and running HUSH Mediation, a meditation studio in Portland. Fitting that she enjoys flying since she basically created the Nike Flyknit, pretty much the most bad ass style of shoe, ever. #flyknit

Also, before I depart, there's also a common misconception that aviation is only a hobby for the elite and wealthy, in that it costs $10,000+ to get started. That's false. You can get started for a few thousand bucks.

So go forth, ye who dare, with your drones and your manned aircraft. I'll see you in the sky someday.

For those that care, here's 2015's Top Drone Photos Worldwide, of which La Jolla, California holds it's own as the only United States finalist.

P.S. If this post inspired you to buy a drone, although that was not my intent, I only ask that you support the site by checking out the drones here on, because starving bloggers gotta eat, too.