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Honors Conference Discussion

Thesis Topic:

The Side Effects of Technology: Obsession, Corruption and Degradation of the Human species

Focus:

Exploring the forbidden and unnatural and its effects to society

I would like to explore the negative effect of technology on its users and to society.  It can desensitize or detach individuals from society and it can damage a society. There is a selfishness involved with using technology. Whether it is simply to gain an advantage over others or doing something forbidden something unnatural is taking place.  Technology which involves mechanism is seen everywhere but in some instances it can be used in the wrong manner or with the intention of an individual.  Instead of benefitting an entire community technology can be contrived by one user and used in the wrong manner.  It can be used with negative intention to pursue desires of an individual. Mankind can benefit from the rise and advancement of machines, but what happens when machines take on mankind’s characteristics or even surpass it?

Technology brings about advancement and progression, but not without side effects. There are side effects of technology which include but are not limited to: the impact of obsession, abuse of power, the misuse of power, corruption, and the degradation of the human species.  Technology involves mechanism and is seen everywhere throughout history, but in some instances technology can be used in the wrong manner or with the selfish intentions.  It can have unforeseen consequences to both the creator, the created, and even the entire human race.

Works of discussion:

The Tempest, Frankenstein, The Matrix, and A.I.

2 comments April 6th, 2011

Synaesthesia, silent reading and perspective

Response to Reading #5

The most provocative ideas from this reading are its focus on synaesthesia, silent reading and perspective. By examining the overlap and intertwining of the senses, reading becomes a vastly sensory phenomenon of experiential analyses. Our eyes and ears are brought together by visible marks and sound which link us to deeper apprehension of text. Silent reading is common in our society today but it is interesting trace reading in its history as not silent as reading mostly occurred out loud. Now we live in a society where most can internalize sounds while reading. The passage of the stranger learning how to ride a bicycle for the first time conveys the idea of taking perspective. Putting ourselves in the cyclists’ position and allowing us to feel what others feel is a “magical participation” which is also initiated by synaesthesia. This sort of “power” is one which is necessary for understanding literacy and its perceptual effects.

Add comment April 6th, 2011

Poems with themes of technology- Rex, Dewa and Hasina

Remember When

A Poem About Technology

A computer was something on TV
From a sci fi show of note.
A window was something you hated to clean
And ram was the cousin of goat.

Meg was the name of my girlfriend
And gig was a job for the nights.
Now they all mean different things
And that really mega bytes.

An application was for employment.
A program was a TV show.
A curser used profanity.
A keyboard was a piano.

Memory was something that you lost with age.
A CD was a bank account.
And if you had a 3 1/2″ floppy
You hoped nobody found out.

Compress was something you did to the garbage
Not something you did to a file.
And if you unzipped anything in public
You’d be in jail for a while.

Log on was adding wood to the fire.
Hard drive was a long trip on the road.
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived.
And a backup happened to your commode.

Cut you did with a pocket knife.
Paste you did with glue.
A web was a spider’s home.
And a virus was the flu

I guess I’ll stick to my pad and paper
And the memory in my head.
I hear nobody’s been killed in a computer crash,
But when it happens they wish they were dead.

Computer Swallowed Grandma
Submitted by: Beverly Faith
Author: unknown
The computer swallowed grandma,
Yes, honestly it’s true.
She pressed “control” and “enter”
And disappeared from view.

It devoured her completely,
The thought just makes me squirm.
She must have caught a virus
Or been eaten by a worm.

I’ve searched through the recycle bin
and files of every kind:
I’ve even used the Internet,
but nothing did I find.

In desperation, I asked Jeeves
My searches to refine.
The reply from him was negative,
Not a thing was found “online”.

So, if inside your “Inbox”,
My Grandma you should see,
Please “Copy”, “Scan” and “Paste” her
And send her back to me!

Heres another poem just about technology


Cyber-Love
Author: C. Marquardt

We met on the internet
Just a random chat
Which grew into a conversation
That lasted all day
And we talked forever
I couldnt wait to talk to you again
And one day you told me you were moving
And wouldnt be on for a month
So i went to school the next day
And heard news of a new student
I thought “huh, thats weird”
So the day you walked in the classroom
I had no idea who you were
And the day you came back on the internet
You told me of this girl you liked at your new school
I was a little sad because I really liked you
But i encouraged you to talk to her
So the next day at school you came and talked to me
I was really shocked, remembering last nights conversation
I asked who you were and you told me your name
But when you asked what my name was I told you my username
On the website we talked on
Your eyes widened and so did mine
But you smiled all the same
And that night on the internet
You told me you were glad to meet me
And a little emberrassed
But i said it was ok
And you had a name for what the two of us had
You wouldnt tell me that night so i waited ’till school
And i asked you about last night
You said we have cyber-love

2 comments February 27th, 2011

Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter becomes real

Here is something interesting I found while using video software to emulate the invisibility cloak from the Harry Potter series


Here is my youtube video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9LFe6wOyzM

And here is an article on the technological advancement of making this magical cloak a reality:
Scientists have been able to make a three dimensional piece of gold seem invisible by partially bending light waves

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1332415/Harry-Potter-invisibility-cloak-breakthrough-Researchers-make-gold-disappear.html

I find it interesting to see how objects of fiction are coming closer to reality

1 comment February 6th, 2011

The real Frankenstein experiment: One man’s mission to create a living mind inside a machine

The real Frankenstein experiment: One man’s mission to create a living mind inside a machine


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1240410/The-real-Frankenstein-experiment-One-mans-mission-create-living-mind-inside-machine.html#ixzz1DDbfX4Ag

1984

As with most technological advancements, this article raises the question of ethics which is always a topic of technology which arises during the unveiling of new technology.  Often enough technology brings progression but not without unforeseen consequences.  I cannot help but think of George Orwell’s 1984 where a totalitarian government is able to exercise psychological manipulation and physical control over its population through the use of technology.   The totalitarian government called “The Party” is powerful enough to make individuals 2+2=5, thus brainwashing a group to follow their own beliefs.  Here 1984 reveals that technology, which is generally perceived as working toward moral good, can also facilitate the most diabolical evil.

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has raised the issue of the creator and their responsibility to the created.  While Shelley depicted a biological science experiment gone wrong, she was able open our eyes to ethical issues involving the creation of biotechnology.  While Frankenstein depicts a creature who becomes evil due to its inability to be accepted and experience relationships, this article displays a modern Frankenstein that should emerge by the year 2018.  This modern Frankenstein will be created in the laboratory by Professor Henry Markram.  He calls it “The Blue Brain Project” as he looks to emulate one of the most complex objects in the universe, the human brain.

Article

‘Professor Henry Markram is planning to create the world’s most expensive ‘baby’

Markam announced that his team will create the world’s first conscious and intelligent mind by 2018
Like the monster in Frankenstein, this creature may be able to think, feel and even fall in love.  He believes his artificial mind could show us how to exploit the untapped potential in our own minds. Markam states that if we create a being more intelligent than us, maybe it could teach us how to catch up.  However what does this mean for the human race?  Is this the beginning of dominance of machines? Will humans become inferior to their creation because of biological limitations?  There are many issues to take into consideration but it does not stop this scientist who has a lot of financial support even from the computer giant IBM.

“But what of the problems such an invention could generate? What if the machine makes demands? What if it begs you not to turn it off, or leave it alone at night? ‘Maybe you will have to treat it like a child. Sometimes I will have to say to my child: “I have to go, sorry,” ‘ he explains.”

What about the ramifications to our society? This will indeed raise ethical questions that Frankenstein only begins to introduce. However, Markram says  “If I saw signs of suffering I would stop.'”  However, what if it becomes too late to stop.  What if the machine he creates becomes used for evil purposes for instance by the military, to create futuristic killing machines.

“A glittering machine brain, perhaps many times more intelligent than our own and created by one of the best-equipped laboratories in the world, carries, perhaps, even more potential for evil, as well as good.”

1 comment February 6th, 2011

Nighthawks

Nighthawks

Before we focus on the people inside let’s examine the exterior of this setting. We immediately notice that all the streets are empty with no cars or people. This evokes a tranquil existence outside of the business. The streets are clean and empty with no sign of any objects; there is no litter, fire hydrants, garbage cans, mailboxes etc… The sidewalk is purely white almost resembling snow which can be symbolic for isolation and loneliness. This illustrates the idea that at night there is no existence or activity in the outside world unless you are in an building being illuminated by lights and electricity. Without technology, the four individuals in this picture would not be able to interact at this time of night.

This picture is literally dominated by geometric shapes. There are rectangles, circles and squares large visible. There are four people inside this building and there are two large coffee machines placed to the right of the couple. Industry is present in the room as the two coffee machines sit together as a couple paralleling the couple in the room; however they are positioned higher than the couple. The humans are dwarfed by everything else in the painting. Could this be symbolic for industry’s existence to be above human existence?

While the white on the sidewalk draws my attention, the light illuminating the interior wall captures my attention the most. Here light illuminates a room for human beings and allows for interaction to take place. By looking closely at the wall we find that it is the most vivid image of the entire room. There is an obvious contrast of the rooms brightness to the view just outside of the window which is entirely dark. The atmosphere that this room creates does not have a homely feel of a coffee shop such as a Starbucks. The light looks more like an office light which is unsuitable for the circumstance.

Here are some Nighthawks at Starbucks, notice the softer, yellow lighting which gives more of a homely feel vs the white lighting in Nighthawks

VS

Add comment November 21st, 2010

Bootlegging to riches: Faulty technology

“Nouveau Riche (French for “new rich”), or new money, refers to a person who has acquired considerable wealth within his or her generation. This term is generally to emphasize that the individual was previously part of a lower socioeconomic rank, and that such wealth has provided the means for the acquisition of goods or luxuries that were previously unobtainable.”

During the 1920’s in Long Island, New York, there existed a dominance of the social elite.  In The Great Gatsby “bootlegging” becomes the form of technology used to transcend an individual from low social class into the Nouveau riche (newly rich).  Gatsby, who was once from a poor family attains great wealth without education or financial inheritance.   However, bootlegging is not seen as ethical as it is an illegal business of smuggling alcohol.  Gatsby merely gives in to the image of success through bootlegging but doesn’t realize the harmful effects of this as faulty technology.  It can detach individuals from their old identity and leave them not fully able to adjust to their new identity.  Although Gatsby’s attains wealth, Tom calls it “ill-gotten gain” as this money comes from crime, gambling, and bootlegging liquor.

The most intriguing thing about Gatsby’s residence is his decision to live in West Egg.  While Nick assures us that East Egg is the wealthier region, Gatsby resides in West Egg due to comfort. Even though Gatsby is so wealthy it is clear that he has not yet integrated into the group of the social elite.  He cannot be part of an aristocracy of wealthy individuals because he has used bootlegging to climb up the ranks instead of relying on inheritance.

By the end of the novel we find ourselves observing the negative consequences of using faulty technology.  Gatsby’s pursuit of wealth only leads him to a false association with aristocracy.  He is nothing like Tom but he was fueled by Daisy’s choice of Tom in marriage to pursue wealth.  He became an instant millionaire however wealth did not lead him to true success.  He did not win Daisy over with money and by the end of the novel only a few people including Nick and Gatsby’s father attend his funeral.  Bootlegging is faulty technology because it did enhance Gatsby’s lifestyle with riches, but at the same time it brought detachment because of how difficult it makes individuals to disassociate oneself with the old, and associate with the new.


11 comments November 14th, 2010

The Jungle

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle made such a social impact because it conveys the disturbing realities of chasing the American Dream and falling short.  Instead of attaining success immigrants became subject to harsh living and labor conditions for little income.  During the early 1900’s the population of immigrants in America drastically increased but many lived in slums or tenement houses which were poor conditioned, overcrowded apartment houses in poor sections of large cities.

“He could not hear it often enough; he could not ask with enough variations. Yes, they had bought the house, they had really bought it. It belonged to them, they had only to pay the money and it would be all right. Then Jurgis covered his face with his hands, for there were tears in his eyes, and he felt like a fool. But he had had such a horrible fright; strong man as he was, it left him almost too weak to stand up.” (4.28)

This may not be one of the most gruesome scenes of the story yet it strikes me for the extent of suffering it brings upon Jurgis.  Jurgis looks to enter the workforce with confidence and believes he has the will and strength to make a good living.  He represents the working class immigrant. However he is swindled on the deal for his house (large taxes), injures his ankle with no workers compensation, and has a child.  Although he looks to make social advancements Jurgis is scarred by each of these events.  When he becomes “too weak to stand up” the tolls of an unjust society had already breached his determination.

The American Dream had been shattered as Jurgis’ vision of success diminishes. Jurgis begins to view the unfair reality of a corrupt society and his idealistic views become tarnished as he faces a climactic transition to crime.  It is so devastating to see a hard working individual such as Jurgis turn to the opposite direction of his earlier self when he initially said “I will work harder.”

On another note….Although Sinclair’s purpose was to protect society from exploitation his work influenced in creating the Food and Drugs Act in 1906.  Anyone interested should view the movie Supersize Me (2004). Even though technology in our society has made so much advancements we are still susceptible to health risks as the movie specifically focuses on fast food.  Even with industrial advancements with technology and the ability to produce there are still many ways our population can be impacted by industrial pollution.

Add comment November 7th, 2010

Frankenstein- Artificial Life

Frankenstein is a novel that conveys the idea of artificial life.  For the monster Victor has created is not a product of nature but a product of man.  Science was used in reanimating the dead in order to create a being assembled from the parts of other human beings.  Although he is not named Frankenstein, the monster has been labeled “Frankenstein” because he is formed from Victor Frankenstein, partially taking from his identity. What is Frankenstein? He is a perpetual machine composed from dead organs of humans harvested from a graveyard.  Unlike any form of machinery in our age, Frankenstein does not need a power source, he does not need a generator, a battery or any other form of stored energy in order to function.

Machines in our world are controlled by human users, or computers with human instruction. On the other hand Frankenstein’s existence parallels human existence, in the manner that he exists as an individual with no controller.  Though it may seem frightening to have machines in our world that have individual and artificial intelligence Frankenstein is not a creature created by God but by Victor.  Does this imply that man is using technology which is corrupt and forbidden?  Think about cloning and stem-cell research and analyze whether it is a forbidden creation because of the way society views it or because we cannot agree on what is ethical regarding bioengineering.

Victor reminds me of Prospero who spent a lot of time locked away in isolation focusing on studies.  While Prospero used his technology of books to harness the powers of magic, Victor uses his technology of science to create a self operating machine.  People feared this monster because of his grotesque appearance and called him a monster.  People fear what they do not know.

Since today is Halloween I’m sure many of us will see little representations of Frankenstein’s monster walking the streets in the form of Halloween costumes.  As you observe the children wearing these costumes think not only of the holiday of Halloween but imagine them as a representation of an incomplete technology.  Man has not mastered creating artificial life which can function outside of human dependence. While children today do not know it, these children are representing a monster which is not only a fictional character of the Halloween spirit but a symbol for a forbidden technology which may possibly come true one day. The scariest part of Frankenstein in my opinion is that he is a machine with no controller. One day we may have machines with no dependence on our actions

3 comments October 31st, 2010

Clocks

This is the ‘The Life Clock’ (Image on Left)

Bertrand Plane. Each number on the dial corresponds to a 7-year period.  Instead of ticking away the minutes until your next break or the end of the work day, it actually ticks away the years of your life. The clock mechanism has been slowed own 61,320 times so that it measures an average human lifespan instead of half a day. While the idea of having your impending death staring you in the face is kind of depressing, since the clock face only shows 82 84 years, I guess you can consider it a real victory if you manage to reach 83 85. (Apparently only 7 of these clocks were made, so you can probably forget about ordering one if you were actually interested.)

Although this would not have any practical use in our daily lives, (because we do not require a clock on the wall to keep track of our age) it is an interesting concept to take a regular face clock and change its unit of measurement to a scale so large in years.  Interestingly enough the clock comes in intervals of 7 years so there would be no measurement for 85 years and up. Therefore it loses its ability to function after a certain period.
— 1 hour on the dial == 7 years
— 1 minute on the dial = 1 hour / 60 == 7 years / 60 = 0.11667 years = 42.6 days
— 1 second == 42.6 days / 60 = 0.71 days = 17 hours.

This means that you can see the second hand move to tick your life away every 17 hours.

I think it would be very strange and disturbing to see your life tick away each day.

( Image in the middle and right side)

Here is another clock with an interesting concept: to turn it off, you have to get up and step on it. Sofie Collin and Gustav Lanber are designers behind this interesting clock.  This clock forces its owner to physically step on it to turn off its alarm.  This might be useful for some of us who ignore our alarms in the morning to continue sleeping.  On the other hand it may make us dependent on a routine which is exclusive to this invention.

Rex De Asis

1 comment October 24th, 2010

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