Sunday, November 8, 2009

How do the kids know and what do we say

I’m curious to hear how the knowledge you gain from this site or others regarding emerging technologies translates to your kids. If you don’t have them have you thought about them in relation to the larger topics? As adults we talk about emerging technologies, but I wonder how much we factor in kids and their futures in our discussions. I’m not talking about designer babies. I’m talking about things like life-casting, global catastrophic risks and human enhancement to name just three that popped in to my mind.

With life-casting, I’ve looked at the articles, very interesting stuff. I’ve been wrestling with my opinions about it and whether or not I think I could do it or not. Then tonight, it hit me. If this takes off and people in society at large do adopt it, when exactly do we want those memories we are recording to start? I could have missed this discussion and if I did, please send it to me, but how would it be to have kids life-casting? What are the ethics involved in this? Not to mention what was life like as a child that I would want to see again. Nostalgically it would be great to have documented my life and be able to go back and see my mother young and illness free. HOWEVER, there is that whole awkward grade school & high school phase. My last name was Winternheimer, so there was a bit of name calling.

Aside from the awkward childhood moments, how young would we, as a society, be willing to go? Would there be a legal age and if so when? What about implanting a recording device in utero? It would be very cool to see that experience and then on up through life wouldn’t it? But just because we can, should we? I don’t have the answers yet myself.
So let’s move to global catastrophic risks, a topic that is something that deals, in my opinion with some educational issues. Are we talking about these types of scenarios and plans with the next generations? Or, better phrased, are we talking about science, math and applying critical thought to future scenarios? So that they can weigh in the options of what just might come about and how we can help out our fellow man. I read recently the idea of we need more cool scientists, something the kids want to be when they grow up. I know some of you, and damn it, you’re cool! You have a passion for what you do, and kids need to see that passion and feel that passion. (Read the intro to The Canon by Natalie Angier)

Finally, human enhancement which is a topic that kids probably have heard more about even if they don’t directly know they have. So, what do they know? Is it worth a discussion with them? I think so. I think that there is value in talking with them about grandma’s heart that is a machine and not the one she was born with. I go back again to the wonder of science. For example, when the time came when my mom was ill, I talked with my son about science and technology. We talked about what helped keep her alive and with us much longer than she should have. When Obama talked about science & technology in regards to medicine, my son knew what that meant for people out there. Is it using the terminology of enhancement that makes people step back? There are many different types of enhancement where are we in society when it comes to the discussions with kids?

The point I’m trying to make is that there are lot of questions to be asked and it seems that the discussion is an important one to have. It would be nice to see abundance in the next generation that is able to understand the technologies that are discussed, but to also be critics and skeptics as necessary.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Part II: Jon and Kate Plus Truman

It’s been four months since I mentioned there would be a Part Two of Jon and Kate Plus Plastic Surgery. Since then I have learned never again to make a promise to a sequel article. The sequel has haunted me and set expectations of what to write I didn’t want to live up to. So here it is. I hope the stream of consciousness works for you the way it works in my head.

To start off, I must address what I promised in Jon and Kate, for this second part I wanted to move to the kids. When I think about the kids I can’t help remember watching The Truman Show. When The Truman Show came out it was stunning to me. The film was illustrative, to me, of what happens when we get a great technology, don’t think about the technology, and decide to use it however we see fit. In the film, it shows how, in the beginning of the show there was the in utero camera to watch Truman. From there it goes on to show, how with each recording technology that was invented, the producers where able to watch more and more of Truman’s life. With the growth and adaptations of the technology the viewers or voyeurs were able to become a part of Truman’s life and his journey’s right along with him. A huge building was resurrected to contain Truman and until the very end the audience watched with anticipation. In the movie, there was only the one voice of reason that continued to point out that the situation was wrong, Truman’s love.

No what in the world does this have to do with ethics and emerging technologies you might ask? Well, while it is not super cool nanotech or dealing with global catastrophic risks it has to do with the technology and society of the present. Because even though people saw The Truman Show, felt for Truman in his captivity and was upset with the voyeurism of the audience. Even though as a movie audience we might have walked away thinking, well, that was just wrong of them to do when they had the technology and vision to do it. We did not heed the movie’s point about doing it. Now, I realize you readers might not be fans of Jon and Kate Plus Eight, but I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. An audience, admittedly me included up until the last year, we watched these children. We didn’t stop and make an action to the fact that maybe we shouldn’t be so involved in these children’s lives. We watched every week waiting, like the Truman fans, for what the Gosselins did this week. Truman got out before things went too far. The Gosselin 8 are not out of it yet, and we still watch and they are still in the news.

So my concern is with the general public and us and the decisions we make went it comes to emerging technologies. When a new technological tool comes to us, are we going to think, or are we just going to use it. Are we thinking about the people involved? How shameless of me to say think of the children, but in this instance what of them? Were they really thought of over the dollars, over the ability to do something? Once the wheels of the show, for example, were set in motion it’s not very easy to stop. These children, unlike Truman, can’t walk away when they figure out what is going on in a larger context. The importances of discussions by the IEET are to explore and discuss ideas of emerging technologies, global catastrophic risks, etc. before they become an everyday reality. The societal aspects of interaction with the technologies and use of the technologies seems important too. I don’t want to be stuck in the sphere with Truman and the Gosselins.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Artificial Intelligence and "Waking Life"

I am little late to the scene, but I recently read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. A fantastic read for those who haven't read it yet. In the book he talks about several movies which I am going to try to watch. The first one I watched was Waking Life. Wow, I'm glad I saw this movie. I was a little disappointed by the ending, but hey, the rest of the movie was incredible. What was really fascinating for me was the ideas this film conjured up and questions that I had as I watched it.

This inspired me to post this blog because I am curious if any of you know any of these answers, since you are a thoughtful bunch.

The first of which pertains to artificial intelligence and robots. It was great to read Mike Treder's article today Making Dogs Smarter than Humans about creating articial intelligence like our good best friends, dogs. Well-timed for what I'm asking I think. I was wondering if time would be or is a dimension for artificial intelligence or robots? Do these 'minds' know time as it passes or will/are they a creation that will transcend this dimension? Does time apply to them other than the needs of us humans?

In Futurama, Bender is unaware of time. In Neuromancer the artificial intelligence, Armitage, and The Dixie Flatline also have no concept of time, it's a joke even, "where have you been?"

And if artificial intelligence doesn't 'know' or need time, then what are the affects for us? If there are any. What does this mean? If anything.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thoughts inspired by the news of the day

School should teach or at least educate in science and the cool facets of technology and science. Show kids the wonder and beauty of it, to appreciate it for what it is. I know we need to know the meat and bones of it. I know that. But for all my years of science in school, I didn’t truly appreciate it until I was older, when it was shown to me in a new interesting light. The fascination was a drug for me. I fell in love with fractals, dimensions, virtuality, flowers, animals, everything around is a wonder. Something I pass on to my kids. It didn’t make me want to become a scientist that is not my area to be in. But there are others areas of science to be involved in. That is why I was drawn to the IEET. So that I can do what I’m good at, this is examining and talking about ethics and emerging technologies. Those that can do and those that can’t teach, I can’t so I’m a grad student and a journalist for h+. It satisfies my loves and passions. But going back to what I was saying about science. There is so beauty, mystery and excitement to be had by those involved in teaching and exploring science and its wonders. People dedicate their lives to one solitary thing that may or may not affect us all and even then that affect may be small or large. It doesn’t matter though. Kids I don’t know if they get that. There are roles models in sports and there are the people on TV that they see. But in school are they getting this? Are they getting that there are people out there doing fantastical explorations of minute things? Is science a part of our culture? Technology is, but only on an adoption level. The hype is created and the adoption comes after. Does society think about what technology should be or what they want? Or do they wait for the “creators” to come up with it and the marketers to tell them what they want and why? Do they depend on people to filter through these decisions for them in a back seat approach to their lives? What if a great invention comes along without any funding or marketing and dies, does anyone care? A global catastrophic risk is something I know, but don’t understand enough. This doesn’t make it unimportant, if fact I think it is important for people, me included to know more about.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jon & Kate plus Plastic Surgery

I have watched Jon & Kate plus 8 since the beginning. For those of you who don’t know this is a show about a mother and father who had a set of twins and then a set of sextuplets, totaling eight children. For those of who are wondering why I am doing a two-part musing of this show and don’t like reality TV I say give it a chance, again. There is a lot to see in reality TV other than people making a debacle of their lives and I have watched my fair share of it.

For this first part of my look a Jon & Kate plus 8 I am going to focus on the cosmetic plastic surgeries that have taken place within this husband and wife. I am going to look at the possibilities that these procedures affects on the relationship of the couple, their family and ultimately as we now know the downturn of their marriage.

Ok, back when this show started we were able to see into the life of a regular couple and how they were coping with raising eight kids. This was no easy feat and the mother, Kate, was a controlling mother. In her defense to those who do not like her, it’s hard to maintain order, organization and cleanliness in a house of only three kids, let alone eight. Give the woman a break for doing it with more kids and less money. She was a normal looking mom, frazzled in sweatpants and t-shirts with baby mess on her. Her hair was low maintenance and so was her make-up. Who can fault her with eight kids? She showed us her stomach, which was nicknamed the ‘jowls of the dog’. I empathized with her and her sagging stomach riddled with stretch marks and never to look or be the same. I haven’t have six kids in my stomach but I knew what it felt like having had three and not being blessed with genes that prevented stretch marks. She was real and her stomach a testament to what she had been through. What mom out there in the same stomach boat as Kate and me wouldn’t want a tummy tuck to eradicate what Mother Nature did to us?

And then, somewhere out there a wife of a plastic surgeon saw the episode where Kate showed her stomach and thought she should do something. Actually, she thought her husband should, so they contacted Jon & Kate and offered her a tummy tuck, worth and estimated $5-7,000. As a viewer I was elated and jealous of Kate and her generous gift. Viewers watched the whole process through the series. However, something else happened after this surgery, something I don’t think that plastic surgeon’s wife, the show, Kate or her husband anticipated. Kate not only looked better, she felt better. With this newfound self-esteem Kate started to change.

Time went on and the bossing from Kate to her husband continued, only a little more forcefully with Jon. He kept nodding and doing what she said. The offers to make this couple better kept coming. On the show the couple was offered teeth whitening. They drink a lot of coffee to keep up with eight kids, again, who can blame them. So now Kate had whiter teeth to go with her great stomach.

Something else, Kate’s hair started to change, it was similar, but better. The cut was still easy to maintain, but now it had highlights and product in it most of the time. Kate started tanning to have that great glow. The sweat pants were replaced with an episode when they went to Banana Republic to buy Kate a new wardrobe.

Now, I don’t know how many of you have one spouse working and ten mouths to feed, but generally you don’t see people like that shopping at BR or having the time to go out tanning and keeping up their highlights. Kate wanted to look nicer since she could fit into clothes better again, without that excess skin from carrying six children. They were making more money off the show and had the excess cash to do all of this. Kate is not alone though, Jon was offered hair plugs and there was a whole show on that.

So, to recap, the family’s life was to be documented to show how it was to raise eight kids and through that notoriety the parents have become way better looking. The money that has come from the show has enabled this betterment of appearance and someone to be a personal assistant to Kate and watch the kids while Jon & Kate are away.

I’ve watched as this all was going on slowly growing more distant, until this summer when I heard about them separating. This was a couple that was, for what it appeared on the outside to be in a loving relationship. Tense at times, but loving, and most couples have these tense moments not in front of millions, so I will give them a little leniency. But going back to the transformation of Kate you can’t help notice that the better Kate looks, the more self-confident she gets. Of course you say, who doesn’t. However, lets look at it from another perspective, take out reality TV.

We have a homely mother who just gave birth to eight kids. She’s a normal for all intensive purposes mother. She’s not famous, she’s not known, she’s just someone who shops at Wal-mart. Her appearance is less than marketable from a procreation stand-point, with the stomach etc. She’s loved by her husband for giving up her body and self for the children. Now, you step in to this family’s lives and you give her a complete make-over and make her the woman she could have only dreamed to be before. You make her thin, sassy, fashionable, overall a desirable sexual commodity. Then you put her back in her house with her eight kids and walk away. She has great self-esteem, but isn’t it possible that with this newfound self-esteem and body she might think to herself, I’m hot! I can do better! People want me now! Even though, she’s still in the same life essentially as before.

Now, when you get this intense of a make-over and can hire someone to watch your kids instead of you being the stay-at-home mom, wouldn’t that change a person? Is it that unrealistic to see that they are splitting up? Jon has new hair, whiter teeth and new clothes, he’s marketable, and people want him. Kate has hair, teeth, skin, clothes and when she gets in the bedroom without the “jowls of the dog” it’s probably not as easy to see she laid in bed to give birth to six kids. She’s sexy, marketable and people want her too.

So I digress back to the cosmetic plastic surgery and the woman sitting at home watching the TV show, this woman whose husband was a plastic surgeon and turned to husband and said to do some good, help this poor mother of eight out and give her something that was taken away from her. I can imagine it being both a charity good deed and good PR for the husband’s company, but in the end were Jon & Kate ready for what it meant to their family?

I see this family as a glimpse further into the responsibilities that need to be taken with cosmetic plastic surgery. It makes you feel good, that’s great! I would love a tummy tuck too, but it’s about more than just wanting it. There are many other factors at play than a person and their surgeon. I think it’s time for the cosmetic surgery community and all those working in these types of vanity industries to take pause and think farther into the lives of the people they are affecting. Not just them though, there’s a responsibility even more on the people that choose to undergo procedures and to fully understand and appreciate what it is to alter their appearance, even if it is for the best, sometimes for the best of me isn’t enough.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Death of Self

Let me start off this entry with a disclaimer. This is an idea and this current blog entry is merely a flushing out of an idea. It isn't meant as a researched thought, but a brainstorming of my thoughts. I generally prefer researching and buffering before posting, but I didn't want to purposefully this time. So before you complain, you have been warned. Why would I post ideas that may have been thought before and not search them out? Because ideas are exciting! And when they first come to you it is a great feeling, a feeling that fades quickly and sadly becomes washed away with the others that came before you. SOmetimes it's not about being the first, it's about getting excited when things fall in to place and you understand them, or are set up to welcome the understanding of the ideas from others. But I digress.

In the time it took me to write the nonsense above the excitement waned. Basically we were watching Nova and it's about black holes, multiple universes, string-theory, etc. I am in a Darwin class, and working on a thesis dealing with an aspect of self, through in to the mix a little Hofstadter and Dennett and a happy get an idea. An idea about humans and life. The explanation to our son about us, humans, not being around forever. I'm aware of work being done out there today, but even then, will we all 'be' around forever? A link to Martine Rothblatt reminded me that maybe, but that's not exactly my point. The idea that when we die, what's dying, what's left. If you go and get my dear mother and bring her back will 'she' be back, unlikely. I've seen Pet Cemetary, *shivvers*.

So I think about the possibilities of death, I've seen it, I've watched it slowly deteriorate daily my mom, while at the same exact time watching life begin with my daughter, I was pregnant too. The polar opposites of life at the same time. It happens to many people, and for me it was one that I've learned a lot about life and living that a book can't. What is my point here? Well I'm thinking there are options being worked on...I'll get in to in a bit...right now, what's the bottom line. Death is the death of the self. The death of consciousness alone, because the rest of us, while it dies, it continues to live. The bacteria keeps on, keeping on. It's not done living, now the DNA, if you've procreated, it's good. So for now, I'm going to not go there. I just want to look at the self and the bacteria.

Ok, options. Cryonics, I loved Tanya Jones, I like the idea of Cryonics. But what am I bringing back. I'm not sure. What if what comes back isn't me or doesn't know me. I assume that'll be ok, it can be a new me, I would recommend some bodily upgrades, so I guess I can think of this as a build-a-bear situation. And I do NOT be any means intend this as a dig at those affiliated with Cryonics in ANY way. I do not know the potentiality, it's being worked on, and I think it should continue to do so. I like the idea of preserving a shell of me and I think there's potential to combine it with another option. Moving on.

Longevity, I like this, and it works for the self evolutionarily I think. It makes those bacteria keep on working for you and not running away to work for anyone else. The self mastering its biggest obstacle, the loss of it's 'host' of sorts. The goal should be one that most, all but I don't want to be presumptious, should support. No one really wants to die really unless you are miserable and in dire straits pain. I saw this end, and even with all that, my mom still didn't want to die. Her self pulled her through many times her host wanted to turn off. The self did not want to disappear, but the host could no longer sustain itself, what a crappy struggle for power. Ah, but another option is out there...

Martine Rothblatt and her mindloading. I have been fascinated with this for the past almost 2 years. Mindloading the self. I know, it's not possible, ok, fine, then move on to another blog entry, cause in this one, we're going to talk about its possibility. The idea of taking the bacteria, the host out of the equation. With research to go for sure, what if, when someone gets to the end of their straights, the pain too intolerable, the self reluctant but they get an option. One they have planned for their entire lives. Not in an all-consuming way, in a brush my teeth kind of way. Flipping one switch off to transfer and turn off another. My goodness, then if you got the cryonics, you can exist until then you can just 'hang out' in cyberspace until they can get your body back. Or skip the body, and stay in a cyber form. Wow, really, there's ideas and inventions out there working on Augmented Reality, overlaying the virtual onto the real. What if some of the virtual is us uploaded into a cyber form and then overlayed back in to the real world. What a concept! What a time. I'm not forecasting I'm just in awe of the posibilities that lay before us and the people that are working on it while we continue about our days. You could be your avatar, and there would be a new entity. This is not even to factor in the options of cyborg, AI, robots, etc. My my there is so much to ponder.

But in the end, it's all about the self, and how we are fighting as a species to keep our self right where it is. How we are going to capture something that we can't find, identify or grasp entirely? We've thought about it for many, many years, but it's there, in front of us, it's us, how I look forward to exploring this deeper as my self continues it's cycle of age and knowledge.

If you made it this far, thanks for staying with this rambling. I didn't edit, I'm always edited, I thought for this, I'd be raw and let you meet my self. This is me, I am

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wall-E takes over my Two-Year Old and what it can do for the environment

So, there's a new robot movie coming out...for kids...and humorous enough for adults...don't know if you've heard or's called...Wall-E?? Looks like R.O.B from Nintendo and Number 5 from Short Circut? Cute? Inescapably addictive to young children? That's the one!

Disney-Pixar is the reason for my daughter's current infatuation with, a robot. She's not screaming for a Roomba, she's completely disinterested in the Scooba, I'm not I'd love to have both. For that matter, she could care less about our Robosapian, Roboreptile, mini-sapian thing, or the other -Sapian my son has lurking in his bedroom. All it took was clever marketing, snazzy graphics, and a cute voice/catchphrase, and done, you've got the youth market in a tizzy over robots again.

My daughter is just a hair shy of becoming three and can already do a dead ringer impression of Wall-E. If it was up to her, he'd move in with us tomorrow. We've already purchased the plate and couldn't make it through the store without constant cries of, "There's Wall-E!!", "There he is!!", "Can we get it?! MOM!!". She's two and a marketer's dream, and I know this. It's unavoidable somehow. All she's seen is the teasers like everyone's else with a TV. With the two robots, one say's "Wall-E" in it's cute robo-voice and there's some "At Last" and Wall-E in robo-love and a bra on his eyes. Somehow, that's all it took to make a two-year old fall in love with a robot. Doesn't matter if he's cold steel or if the movie's no good, which I doubt since it's Disney-Pixar, but that's the point I think. It doesn't matter, she's sold, hand's down and so is her brother who's nine.

There are a lot of big topics out there that we want to communicate to children about. Imagine if Disney-Pixar made Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth into a kids version...I'd be planting trees and walking everywhere. And buying a LOT of eco-friendly materials I would imagine. I can see the kids marketing now and product placement with Subway, because they serve healthier fast food that's moreso eco-friendly than the other fast foods. All it takes is clever marketing, snazzy graphics, and a cute voice/catchphrase, and done, you've got the youth market on track to save the environment with ferver.

It just makes me wonder, what else?
"I was on acid and I looked at the trees and I realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, 'Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn't, then there's a point to it.'" -- Harry Nilsson