Saturday, April 25, 2009

Technophobic v. Concerned Citizens

As this course has continually reaffirmed - new technology means a new set of ethically boundaries must be produced.  The doctrine produced by the transhumanists on the surface seems overwhelmingly agreeable.  Why wouldn't we want to advance technology to its full capacity for our benefit?  Unfortunately there must be some type of system of accountability but into place in order to regulate how this technology is being used.  After browsing through the various principles of the transhumanist doctrine, I found this particular piece to be quite interesting:

"Transhumanists think that by being generally open and embracing of new technology we have a better chance of turning it to our advantage than if we try to ban or prohibit it."

The notion being "open" and "embracing" this new type of technology sounds great and progressive in nature but it does not leave room for refinement.  Does that mean if one is cautious in how robots are being used they are automatically "technophobic?"  This is not fair. Just because someone wants to make sure transhuman technology is being regulated does not necessarily mean they are against its ability to progress.  As mentioned before, there must be a set of ethical guidelines put in place before this technology gets into the hands of someone with the intent to do harm.

I believe the first step in making sure that prohibitive measures are not being viewed as "technophobic" is to educate the public.  For example, the nuclear missile crisis of the 1960's scared a lot of people because it was such an unknown technology.  Nuclear power can and should be used but the threat it poses if used in warfare is life-threatening.  Even today, the thought of Iraq having possession of nuclear power was enough to bring the U.S. to invade.  Therefore, if the public and advances in transhuman technology is kept transparent we can all sleep easily.  With this being said another passage from the transhuman doctrine struck me as interesting:

"In planning for the future, it is mandatory to take into account the prospect of dramatic progress in  technological capabilities. It would be tragic if the potential benefits failed to materialize because of  technophobia and unnecessary prohibitions. On the other hand, it would also be tragic if intelligent life went  extinct because of some disaster or war involving advanced technologies."

I suppose the last sentence referring to the threat of losing intelligent life as a result of new technology is exactly what I discussed prior.  Unfortunately this only one sentence out of many included in the doctrine that addresses this matter.  This issue of malpractice is too big of an issue that if not addressed appropriately in the doctrine may hurt its effectiveness. The next few years of transhuman development should be interesting but the public must take up the responsibility in ensuring that we are protecting ourselves.  We should not be labeled as "technophobic" but as concerned citizens.  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Counter Argument to Avatars aren't "real" blog

Though I agree with many of the things said in the blog about avatars not being real, there are many aspects in which I disagree. I, myself don't participate in the whole second-life and having an avatar character, however I do believe strongly that people become addicted to such advance internet technology and interactive games. As we have discussed earlier in this year there have been numerous amounts of incidents where people have either been arrested for child neglect or committed murder off of internet technology, such as games. Hence, serious gaming. With this said I feel there is a strong correlation between one's emotions and the situations that one's avatar is put in. Because people are living these "fantasies" of a surreal life that they wish actually played out in their real lives they become connected. In a sense it can be thought of as a self-identity disorder. They become so consumed in the life of their avatars that they forget how to detach themselves from the virtual self. It is for this reason that I'm not surprised about the case where the woman felt emotional distress because her "text" character was raped numerous of times by others in the chat-room. To some this becomes a reflection on them and raises questions about what may be wrong with them for others to dislike or have so much hatred toward them to do such things? Words can do so much to a person, think of the young girl who was on myspace and told to kill herself by several of her "friends" and later on that evening her mother found her dead as a result of suicide. I would just like to know how you all feel about second-life and avatars. Do you think there are ways to detach yourself from the virtual? Is it even possible to become so consumed with the virtual that it reflects in reality?

Also, to end this semester I was just curious how others felt about this course and would you recommend it for others? I personally REALLY enjoyed this class and the professor. I didn't think coming into this class that it would engage me as much as it did. Coming to an end I'm glad I chose to take this class as my philosophy. It's truly a philosophy class like no other! I definitely would recommend it for any undergraduate to take before graduating.
One of the many fascinating things that we have talked about this week is the world of technological singularity or artificial intelligence. I truly believe that one day, these inventions will change our lives in ways we can only imagine right now. We have all thought about having a robot to help us with our homework, a robot to clean our house or room, or even one that could tell jokes (maybe?). I think that the idea is unbelievably interesting as well as a little frightening at the same time.

Most, if not all of us have seen the Jetsons. We know about Rosie, the “nanny robot” who takes care of the children and cleans as well. What is a Rosie really existed? We brought this option up this week during the presentation. Would this be something you would entrust the well being of your children to? What if something went wrong such as a mechanical malfunction or battery situation…and your toddlers were left to roam the house unattended! Being a father myself, this makes me nervous to think of leaving my daughter, who is prone to mischief, alone with a robot that could malfunction at any second. Along the same lines, there could be a situation where the robot could do a better job than a babysitter. Teenagers often do things while babysitting instead of putting the needs of the children first. This could be as potentially as dangerous as the robot malfunctioning.

My brother has a Roomba robot that vacuums his floor and a Scooba robot that mops his hardwood floors. He simply pushes a button before he leaves for work, and when he gets home, the robots have cleaned and mopped the entire house. It is truly an unbelievable feat to have a robot clean your floors. If you told me as a child that a robot would clean my floors one day, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. That would have been 50 years away I would have told you. I look to the future and wonder exactly where we will be in 50 years. Will we have robots that can “think” and act for themselves or will we not have any robots more than what we have? Will we have reached the top of our technological curve? I think that this will not happen because if we remember, the US Government truly contemplated closing the Patent Office in 1899 because they thought that everything had been invented! How far have we come…

Has Artificial Intelligence Gone too Far?

As the group from Monday presented on Technological Singularity, they brought up the topic of Artificial Intelligence. As technology continues to advance at an exponential rate, is it going too far? Programmers and scientists are creating non-biological hardware that is smarter than human intelligence (aka robots). There are benefits from this, as we discussed in class but there are also disadvantages.

Artificial intelligence hardware is able to have similar to superhuman levels of computation and execution. Therefore they can replace jobs of real life human beings, ranging from dangerous jobs to even the common day jobs. For example, robots can replace dangerous military jobs and tasks which can remove the injuries and casualties of human beings. These robots can also replace common day jobs like babysitters. Some debate that these robots are more consistent and efficient, preventing from external variables to influence the care of the child. A real life babysitter can invite their boyfriend over and decrease their awareness for the child. Plus robots will not have the fatigue that a human being would have. These are some of the advantages, but do they out weigh the disadvantages?

The real problem with artificial intelligence and robots is the removal of real life human reactions. Robots are not real human beings, they are machines programmed by high tech hardware. These robots do not have emotions like human beings and this can cause a lot of issues within a society. As technology is advancing at such a fast rate, it has been predicted that these robots are going to pass human intelligence. This is where my concern about artificial intelligence appears. I feel that there should be no reason that something that man creates should be smarter than us. The concern I have with artificial intelligence is that they can adapt a mind of their own, in which people will be unable to control them. This might not happen soon, but it is a possibility in the near future with the way technology is advancing. So what are everyone else’s thoughts or ideas of artificial technology? Do you believe that the benefits outweigh the costs? And do you believe that Technological Singularity is unavoidable in the future?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "Post-Human"/Tech. Singularity

Vernor Vinge defines Singularity as a time in the future when society, science, and economy are changing so rapidly that people will not be able to predict or conceive of anything after that time. (Singularity is largely dependent on how technology is developing at unprecedented rates, in areas such as nanotechnology, neuroscience, and Artificial Intelligence). This rapid technological advancement is making some argue that technology and machines will inevitably triumph over human intelligence. For example, in the article, the author asserts that from the progress that he has observed in computer software, he would be surprised if something superior to human intelligence is not created after 2030.

2030? That's only two decades away. But considering how our society cannot function (or some have truly internalized that we cannot function) without reliance on some sort of technology, perhaps I should not be so surprised by this estimated time period. Nevertheless, will not serious ethical and moral implications prevent, or at least, put off, that time in our society when artificial/technological intelligence is considered greater and or more valued than human intelligence?

And what if something greater than human intelligence is created? Will there no longer be the need for improving one's mind or investing in one's education? As said in the group presenations, if the valued intelligence in society is solely determined by one's technological capabilities-- will not the poor, or those who cannot access or invest the greatest amounts of money in this new artificial technology--be left out in the cold and unable to access knowledge?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Avatars aren't real

I, Avatar by Stephen Mark Meadows raises some interesting ideas about how humans interact with avatars in an interactive game. The idea that the actions of your avatar and the resulting consequences effect the player's emotions doesn't seem illogical. Anything that goes right or wrong will effect our emotions. It is no different than doing well on a test or in a sport. If you play poorly that is the action you are responding to, I don't believe that people are actually affected by the notion that their avatar is poor, or can't accomplish something or even dies. I think that what the emotion is a response to is the players inability to win or achieve in the game.
In class during the second life presentation we talked of how “gangs” had taken over certain parts of second life, even creating guns so that you would have to exit and resume second life to continue. I don't actually believe, though it seems true on the surface, that if someone is crying because their avatar is being continually killed or hindered from achievement in the game, they are not sad over the poorly pixellated avatar, but on the fact that their own enjoyment they are getting from playing is being compromised and thus their achievements are being thwarted, not their avatars.
The idea that you can be convinced of things, even murder or other crimes, by another avatar operates on the same level as the previous thought. It is not an avatar that is convincing them, the avatar acts like a phone or instant messaging. The player being convinced by the player doing the convincing using an interaction between avatars, like two cell phones.
I do think that the idea that the pleasure one can derive from the interactions of his or her avatar can be wholly satisfying. For example we talked in class how severely handicapped people said that playing second life was a chance for them to escape and fully realize a lot. I am not saying that the pleasure still isn't from the players own since of accomplishment, even in the pleasant scene of drinking wine on a cliff with a friend they would be proud of themselves for making the friend, but the avatar can allow some if not all people to achieve certain things that are physically or mentally impossible in real life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Citizen Journalism: So Easy A Citizen Can Do It.

I am a journalism major. I've spent the last four years or so learning a trade, much like Medical students train to be doctors and English majors train to be English teachers (kidding...kinda.) And this isn't the greatest analogy in the world but imagine how journalists must feel about the concept of citizen journalism, where regular people without professional journalism training cover events for news organizations. How about citizen doctors? Again, perhaps a weak analogy.

And there's the tension: The old boys in the newspaper club are having a little trouble with the idea that just anybody can do what they do. (People who, for one thing, never had to pass the UNC J-school's notorious Spelling and Grammar exam or Media Law class.) But while the editors of a dying industry scoff, as they once did with readers' comments and blogs, popularity for the idea of citizen journalism is growing, and thus, some of those editors and news organizations are having to jump on the bandwagon. Think I-report on CNN. Even the Washington Times is moving in that direction.

So here's the question: What do you think? Would you trust any ol' dude to go to an event and then turn around and objectively and correctly tell you what happened?

Well, let's look at the Huffington Post. The site published its Citizen Journalism Publishing Standards this week, just in time for its extensive coverage of the anti-tax tea parties that swept the nation this tax day.

The standards read like an introductory lecture from one of my journalism professors.
You know, fact check, name sources, don't opinionate, use correct spelling. And actually ask questions, as in, do some reporting.

"Interviews conducted by phone or in person will be an essential part of every story," the site states. "After all, you're not writing an essay but reporting on an event."

The problem is the contradiction. These citizen journalists are being asked to do objective reporting on an event dominated by the right for a site that is considered by many in the traditional media to lean a little too hard to the left.

When Politico reported Arianna Huffington's defense of her site's citizen journalists -- “Everything we are asking citizen journalists to do is purely journalistic." -- the comments section below that article swelled in retort.

"Every Huffpo 'reporter' will say it was a bunch of right wing anarchists who don't like having a black president," one post read.

Check out the Huffington Post's Tax Day Tea Parties Page. It's hard to differentiate between the citizen stuff and the pieces they found on other sites, but buried somewhere in there is proof. Proof that citizen journalism may or may not work. And proof as to whether or not I have wasted four years and thousands of dollars to learn a trade easy enough anyone can do it.

- Alexander T.