Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm Lost!

A relatively recent piece of technology that takes away from the intrinsic value of exploration is a GPS system. I started thinking about this during the first week of classes when we were asked to list technological items that we use on a regular basis. Over break, when I told my parents that I was going on a walk when I was in Chicago, they immediately insisted that I take the GPS. A little extreme, right?

Two months into my job over the summer I realized I was still very dependent on my GPS to get me to and from work. The one day I forgot the GPS I was late, but really believed it was worth it. I realized I passed a golf course, bowling alley, two (what turned out to be delicious) restaurants, without realizing it. I had not appreciated what Richmond had to offer until I was forced to slow down in a society that idolizes fast-paced lives. Yes, I understand the argument that restaurants and bowling alleys could not exist without this technology, but I do believe there is a stopping point, and that we’ve surpassed it this millennium. Unlike the U.S., many other countries offer a much more relaxed pace of living, which I have heard from many friends who have studied abroad in Europe. Is the tradeoff worth it? With amazing advances in medical technology, I’m sure we will continue to save more and more lives, but will the quality of our lives diminish even further?

I’m worried that as humans, we will become much less social and personable and more robotic. I don’t need to call someone when I’m lost because I have a GPS. I don’t need to call someone to see how they are doing because there are Facebook status options. My 4-year-old cousin in Detroit told me that we don’t need to see each other often because he can show me his toys and games on Skype, and that I can play the Wii with him online. I don’t remember what crunching leaves or trees swaying in the wind sounds like because I’m too busy listening to my Ipod when I go for a run outside. I was watching a “How I Met Your Mother” episode online, when a pop-up offered me to watch it in an online viewing room with strangers, just in case I felt alone.

I understand the argument that this technology allows the human race to become more productive. Economically, we are much more efficient, and thus the pie that we share is much larger. But, we don’t share that pie equally, so is that what is making the rich even richer, and poor even poorer in the U.S. and other countries? Are we reaching or surpassing a point at which our desire for technological advances is blinding us from much more pressing social needs?

According to utilitarianism, can these advances be justified as moral actions, since the time, money, and effort used towards such technology could be used instead for more pressing issues, like universal education? Would Kant agree that it is good will from which these actions stem-- that it is to make human life (or a select group of lives, rather) better or that it is merely an insatiable and selfish desire to explore the limitless field of technology?


After reading the article by Claudia Wallis on multitasking, it occurred to me just how much I multitask throughout the day. I guess with such busy lives, we don't think about it because it's our way of getting everything done that we need to do for the day. For this blog I want to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of multitasking throughout the day. When is it okay to multitask and when are there risks involved?

An obvious advantage of multitasking is being able to do and finish multiple things at the same time. For example, in the article someone doing homework while their computer loads is a simple way to multitask. Let's think of another example, talking with a peer while on your way to class, it's not so dangerous because you don't have to think about walking, it's something we can do unconsciously. In this sense I think multitasking can be a good thing, because if we did not multitask, we would have to stop in the middle of the walkway to have a conversation. There's nothing wrong with that, unless maybe you are running late. What other harmless examples of multitasking can you think of? Other advantages of multitasking?

Now we must think about the disadvantages. Some might say there are minimal disadvantages, but the following example will prove that multitasking can be a dangerous habit. Text messaging while walking is one thing, but you can take it too far. Now I know everyone does it, so don't deny it: text messaging while driving. You've been having this interesting conversation with a friend about something, but you are also driving, you take your eyes of the road for a few moments and when you look up the car in front of you had to stop suddenly. You hit the other car, all because you couldn't wait to look at the text at a stop light or something. This is a serious consequence of multitasking and you don't even think that a few moments could cause this. What are other disadavantages the article talks about?

I think it is okay to multitask, in our world today it's impossible not to. But where do we draw the line? What are your opinions on when it is okay to multitask and when do we need to be more careful about multitasking?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

At Least Google Makes Me Sound Smart

As I'm sure that all of you read Nicholas Carr's article "Is Google Making Us Stupid," I can't help but wonder if you agree with the overall message of this writing. According to Carr, you probably only read about the first 3 or 4 paragraphs of his entire article but regardless of that, he brings up some interesting points. It is definitely an eye-opener to think about the way Google and the internet influence our lives, and to think about how we would respond to losing them. However, to say that Google is making us stupid seems a bit far-fetched.
It is definitely fair to say that our generation is conditioned to respond better to stream-lined information, and we tend toward fast-paced delivery of that information. This is evident in the way news and information is presented to us. Carr expresses the idea that this is possibly making us as a society less intelligent. He Quotes a developmental psychologist from Tufts University in saying the people are becoming "mere decoders of information." Personally, I cannot see the harm in people becoming much faster and more efficient at processing information; if anything, I see this as a benefit among the many potential problems with the way we give and receive information. The busy world we live in requires us to keep up, and it makes me nervous to think about what would happen if we decided to simply slow things down again. Though my obvious bias lies in the fact that I was born and raised into this fast-paced world, I see much more good in it than harm.
Along the same lines, Carr even reports the original scare that the Gutenberg printing press would cause people to become lazy when books and literature became readily available. I'm not even sure where to start on the notion that the availability of books could make someone less knowledgeable and studious. I do, however, know that the invention of the printing press was one of the most positive and influential steps forward that humans have ever taken, and I am unable to see how technology and the internet could be considered otherwise.
So, with the advice of Carr's article, I'll keep this short and sweet. I find Carr's article quite interesting and his ideas are, at the very least thought-provoking and I am curious how everyone else in the class feels about his notions of the internet's influence on society.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Welcome to the COMP 380 section 2 blog. To get started, if you are not already a member of Blogger, you should create an account; you don't need to give away any of your personal information in your profile, just make sure that enough of your full name appears so that everyone in the class knows who you are! (First and last name or first initial and last name will work.) Then you will want to become a "follower" of this blog. To do so, click on the link to the right.

Once you have created your account, write to me ( and tell me which e-mail address you've associated with this account and which section you are in. I will add you as an author for the blog, which means you'll be able to create posts as well as comments.

When it is your turn to post a Weekly Response, click on "New Post" in the upper right-hand corner of your Blogger dashboard page and type 2-3 solid paragraphs of specific, detailed, interesting response to this week's readings and class discussion, lecture, and activities, into the text box. Give your response a title. Then click "Publish Post." Weekly Responses should be posted by Thursday of each week, giving the rest of the class the weekend to read and comment.

To edit your post, click on "New Post" and then on the tab "Edit Posts."

To comment on one of the Weekly Responses, click on the title of that post or the clickable word "comments" below the post and compose your response. Then click "Post Comment."

Three or four of you will be posting Weekly Responses each week; you will each post a Weekly Response once this semester. Make it good. Try not to be repetitive of what has already been posted. You must also keep up with reading these responses and make two or three significant (that is, beyond "I agree" and the like: two direct, solid sentences or more per comment) comments per week as well.

For more details on how Blogger works, click on the "Help" tab in the upper right-hand corner.

Obviously, all of the guidelines in terms of respectful disagreement and thoughtful response that we follow in class also apply here.