All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again

battlestar-galactica-0031

From the dawn of mankind, man has subjected animals in its inner circle as he has evolved into the modern age. But it wasn’t just animals that were subjugated for his various uses. Slavery, from the populous he captured, was and still is still being used as a source of free labor at minimal cost to the “owner”. From the onset of the Age of Enlightenment period in Europe till the end of World War Two, slavery was slowly eradicated from the face of the Earth though slavery exist in certain regions of Africa unfortunately.

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” was once echoed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As the Robot age looms in the near future and the introduction of Androids currently, one must ponder, are we going down that road again? Obviously the modern day Androids modern man has built hasn’t quite achieved the ability to be self-aware. It’s still a program that in the end, is an execution of ones and zeros.

I’ve never been a big science fiction fan but I loved watching the acclaimed TV show-Battlestar Galactica. It was one of the few TV shows that incorporated various and diverse themes (slavery, beliefs in polytheism, insurgency, counter insurgency, karma, Artificial intelligence…I could go on…) to a show that only lasted four seasons.

In BSG, the Colonists created A.I. robots to replace ground soldiers in its Colonial Military. As decades passed, robots existed as a servitude to the Colonists and eventually, they rebelled which was called the First Cylon War. After years of fighting, an armistice was called and eventually Man and Cylon went their separate ways. The Colonists banned the use of robots in its colonies but to the Cylons, they were the biggest threat to its sentient machines. Four decades later, the Cylons returned, but this time as evolved form (12 android models that looked like, felt, bled like humans, and had consciousness like humans and have the uncanny ability to think like humans) and launched a nuclear holocaust that destroyed the twelve Colonies along with its 13 billion populous.

Fifty thousand Colonists survive and attempts to make a journey to back to their ancestors’ home planet Kobol (Earth). Halfway around their journey, they are captured by the Colons who now have realized the magnitude of their nuclear holocaust on mankind. The Cylons attempt to “co-exist” with humans but the Colonists rebel against the Cylons, escape and eventually along with some humanoid models, find Earth.

Fast forward to our current era, the descendants of the Colonists have now populate Modern Day Earth and have just developed android robots. There was major quote (theme?) in the show that was recited over and over again throughout the show. “All of this has happened before and will happen again”

Back to reality. I know this is a TV show but it makes you wonder, could this really happen? Probably not but human beings have shown a bizarre tendency to subjugate and destroy itself. Maybe our descendants will find out in the next 50-200 years from now.

The Arguments Against E-cigs Debunked

            The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) has risen dramatically over the past few years; in fact, an estimated 15% of traditional tobacco users have made the switch to electronic. One of the many reasons for this is the notion by some that e-cigs are a less dangerous alternative to cigarettes (notice, I did not use the term “healthy” alternative).  This fact has been argued for and against essentially since the emergence of e-cigs on the market in 2007. Many opposed to the use of e-cigs claim that there is “no” evidence that e-cigs are a smoking cessation device. This is in fact, completely false. Numerous studies have proven that compared to other smoking cessation products, e-cigs have the highest rate of success. One study found that there was a 30% greater likelihood of success when using nicotine filled e-cigs as opposed to nicotine patches (see story here: e-cigs vs nicotine patches).

            The next argument of some of those opposed to e-cigs is that they are almost as dangerous as traditional cigarettes. Yet again, this completely false; while few will still argue (as they shouldn’t) that e-cigs are safe, it can be said with certainty that they are far safer than traditional cigarettes. The primary chemicals in the typical liquid solution that fills e-cigs, or e-liquid, is composed of the follow: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerol, nicotine, and food flavorings. None of the chemicals in this list are known carcinogens, and all have been substantially studied over the course of half a century. According to Ritchtell, “traditional cigarettes, by contrast (to e-cigs), create thousands of chemicals and dozens of carcinogens, according to Prue Talbot, professsor of cell biology at the University of California, Riverside. E-cigarettes do not tend to generate enough heat to create combustion, which is a big reason that many public health officials and researchers predict they will prove less harmful than cigarettes” (Richtell).  See story here: Safety of E-cigs

          The final primary argument against e-cigs is that they appeal to adolescents, and can influence them into trying traditional cigarettes; some even argue that e-cigs should be banned to prevent adolescent usage. To me, this is remarkably similar to the “just say no” campaign of the Regan administration, and the D.A.R.E program, which are both aimed at preventing our youth from trying drugs. You may be asking, how are these separate issues relevant to electronic cigarettes? The answer is quite simple; the misinformation given by such programs is catastrophic for our youth because it does nothing to solve the problem at hand- which is exactly what’s happening with electronic cigarettes. In my opinion claiming that e-cigs led adolescents into trying traditional cigarettes is the equivalent of calling marijuana a gateway drug. The reason I make this comparison is that neither of the claims offer any evidence (except highly circumstantial); likewise, both claims fail to account for the fact that adolescents are capable of the truth- that truth being, electronic cigarettes are not the same or as harmful as cigarettes, just as marijuana is not the same or as harmful as other drugs.

Hedonistic Sustainability

People say “Money buys everything.” It is an untrue statement. The recent event of “David and Goliath” in Boulder, Colorado has become an attention towards the issue of sustainability. The local community in Boulder, Colorado have voted their own sustainable energy resources, forcing out the monopolize big corporation, Xcel Fuel. They rejected the company from further drilling for oil, which destroys the environment by maintaining their own wind powered energy. It has clearly showed us the importance of sustainability about improving the quality of our life and a need in our future life. But certain people do not see sustainability as an importance in our life. They find it as frustration and annoyance in their daily life. Starting from big corporations, such as Xcel Fuel Energy Company, they labeled sustainability as an illusion of our life. They begin covering up the press media, screening misleading advertisement and blackmailing the local community in order to gain back their selfish profits. In the “Green Roots Campaign” video from YouTube, the video depicts the Boulder, Colorado community running against the big corporation to fight for their own sustainable energy, this leads to the end scenario of either a winner and a loser. I find it not appealing as a third party, why is there no way to go for a win-win situation? In an architectural approach, holistic view is often incorporated. Architects would often prefer to combine the happiness and frustration of both worlds into one so that we could engage and help to further improve the course of sustainability. As have mentioned in the main title, Hedonistic Sustainability is the higher road to achieve sustainability.
As a beginning introduction to the word “Hedonistic”, it is a term in pursuit of pleasure while doing something. But in contrast, the term “sustainability” is currently painted by the capitalist as a burden in progress to achieve a “sustainable” society. Therefore, in BIG’s TED talk, Bjarke introduces the architecture alchemy of “Hedonistic” and “Sustainability”. Bjarke insists that sustainability cannot be taken as a moral sacrifice or a political dilemma but should taken as a design challenge. He points out that most capitalist, such as Xcel Fossil Group, labels sustainability as a new idea of “you have to get hurt in order to do well”. It means that in order to achieve sustainability we will need to go through a course of crash and burn. The misconception of sustainability drives people to think that sustainable life is less fun than normal life, and recently the idea has become prominent that sustainable life is only achievable by one who can financially afford it. Which is why as mentioned before, the new term of “Hedonistic Sustainability” comes into play which function as taking the best of both sides’ and integrate them together, changing the capitalists’ believes into finding pleasure while achieving sustainability. Because according to Ingels, “Pragmatic Utopianism lies within our influence.” Being a capitalist or a magnate, one will have the sufficient amount of resources and influence to make the course of sustainability in progress instead of further creating tension with the community. Which means, if the capitalist were given a chance to change the course of sustainability, they must try to wedge in as many qualities as possible. Because what is really going to change the world is not a thousand conferences on climate change, but it is accumulated with the specific examples that do specific things that can be observed, enjoyed then there will be more people copying the footsteps. Then, the idea of Hedonistic Sustainability can be achieve, and sustainability is not a burden but that a sustainable city in fact can improve the capitalist and the quality of a community’s life will be sustained.
Regarding the controversy issue of sustainability, Verstegen and Hanekamp also state in their own article that, in order to achieve sustainability, the economic growth of big corporations cannot continue, because capitalist draws a belief in “Infinite Resources”. Such belief is not realistic, therefore it will destroy nature and the human society (349). Such case is therefore usually labelled as “pessimistic”. And this scenario is unhealthy for the stability and balance of the society, because big corporations couldn’t adapt and survive with the current trend of sustainable society, they still expect things should be running the way they wanted it. This pessimistic attitude is categorized – in the view of Darwin’s, the cause of “Extinction”. (Marris 148). Because the current idea of capitalist does not accommodate the multiple interests of everyone, as time goes by, the event of “David and Goliath” will repeat itself, which is unfavorable for the Capitalist. It is understood that human life should evolve through adaptation to changes in the nature course. Besides that, Verstegena and Hanekamp also point out that, without any economic growth, it would only stimulate the fight over the spoils between rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless, a battle the poor surely will lose (359). Therefore, the ending will result will result in victor and loser, which goes against the more inclusive concept of Hedonistic Sustainability.
As the theme of Hedonistic Sustainability, because it rises up the challenging bar, forcing one to find the fine line, accommodating to the needs between the capitalist and the local community needs, thus it inspires the evolution of a better lifestyle and standard of living. This is easier said than done. But Ingels initiated his philosophy into his design project for a power plant company in downtown Copenhagen. As we all know like all bio fossil fuel company, they do not contribute to environmental sustainability. Unlike Xcel Fuel Company in Boulder, Colorado, the Danish Energy Company, however, didn’t go against the community’s concern, but transformed it owns headquartersm making its roof a public civic space, The roof is turned into a 31m^2 ski slope of varying skills levels for the citizens of Copenhagen, its neighbouring municipalities and visitors, mobilizing the concept of sustainability hedonistically by rising its reputation as a powerful yet responsible corporation but also redefining the relationship between the waste plant and the community, expanding the recreational activities in its surrounding area. Besides that, the slope is ecological using a recycled synthetic granular. By making its ski slope as an attraction point, one will need to access via an elevator along the plant’s smokestack providing views into the plant, giving visitors glimpses of its internal workings and then finally reaching an observation platform 100m above giving sightseers an unobstructed views throughout Copenhagen. Such controversial steps taken by the energy company is indeed a breakthrough for sustainability course. Just as Darwin states, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” (Marris 351) Which best explains that the Danish Energy Company recognize its difficulties it will soon face and molding itself to be a more locally welcoming corporation by meeting the public needs. Besides that, in order to educate the public awareness about environment, the Danish power plant innovated its chimney to compress and release a ring shaped smoke after every 100 kilos is accumulated. In a way of Hedonistic approach, by taking the symbol of a problem of the pollution of the chimney and turn it into something playful. Because one of the main drivers of the change is the knowledge. Ingels reminds his audience that, “when people do not know they cannot act”. Therefore, the Danish power plant is not just playing its role as a sustainable energy company, but it is also socially sustainable, turning part of its power plant into a public park and skiing park. SO by concluding Ingels’s design for the Danish power plant, he has not just incorporated the public interest but has also brought back the positive income for the power plant company, an accomplishment of a win – win situation.
Hedonistic Sustainability occurs the moment one will stop the thought about how much profits they are making, or buildings as mere structures and start putting them all in the consideration of the ecosystem. Because when buildings or actions of an individual are part of the ecosystem, they can be used to help create a closed loop for recycling energy, minimizing the environmental impact and creating more positive effects, a higher quality of life. Another recent project inspired by the theme of sustainability is the “Loop City”. It is an urban project for the future growth in and around Copenhagen, Denmark. Similar to the San Francisco Bay area, the community within the “Loop City” has the potential to sustain itself because it has enough development areas to contain the growth of the region and will be develop into a dense and super recreational development for the region. The focus of the project is largely on reimagining Copenhagen by creating an urbanity connection around a light rail system that would ultimately be a part of a larger transportation and development loop that would extend around the Oresund Region. By combing the rail with the strategy exchange, waste management, water treatment and electric car stations, the infrastructure becomes the base for a new sustainable ring of development around Denmark and southern Sweden, with the Kattegat bay in the center Ingels pictures the “Loop City” as a rail itself becomes a building almost like a Roman aqueduct

passing through the suburbs, while along the rail, occasionally it forms small pockets of urbanity around each of the rail stops. This new proposed light rail will create a new 50 year development perspective for a cross border region between Sweden and Denmark. Thus, this loop forms into a ring cycle linking a string of various urban nodes, universities and working spaces, escaping itself from a typical centralize metropolis city plan. This way, it is another strategy to reduce the carbon footprint by decreasing the volume of car usage and increasing the rail train system usage. Besides by playfully forming a ring connection for the Copenhagen community, it also influence its neighboring country, Sweden to join into the “Loop City” strategy. Both worlds would be able to benefit from each other’s resources and improve the quality of life of each city. Although the project attracted investors who may have had selfish intentions, but in a bigger picture each individual investor is actually helping in realizing the hedonistic yet sustainable idea of a “Loop City”. In this case, it shares the similar feedback as the Danish power plant project
By developing the concept of Hedonistic Sustainability and incorporating it into our lives, the community who lives under such influence will be able to establish a harmony and tension free situation in order to sustain their own energy and not waste renewable resources. As suggested earlier, capitalist can still keep their identity while adapting to their community needs just as the community will need to educate themselves into a sustainable life. Ultimately, Hedonistic Sustainability is meant to achieve a win-win situation for all, both the rich and the poor, and those in between.

Reference:
Verstegen, S. W., and J. C. Hanekamp. “The Sustainability Debate: Idealism Versus Conformism—The Controversy Over Economic Growth.” Globalizations 2.3 (2005): 349-3 62. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
Marris, Emma. “Evolution: Darwin’s City.” Nature 474.7350 (2011): 146-149. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

“Bjarke Ingels: 3 warp- architecture tales.” YouTube. YouTube, Sept 15th 2009. Web. March 9th

Yes Is More!

I understand that people might have some misunderstanding about a job as an Architect. We make buildings according to what a clients need, who are mostly corporations. In fact, there are some ethical architects who hate their job for being one. As for today, i would like to introduce, BIG, a Danish Architecture established firm started to challenge the existing cycle. Start by picturing a radical architect is the angry young man rebelling against the establishment of today, especially capitalism. So in this case there is always a proposition and an opposition, a good guy and a bad rebel. Think about this as a third party, if your agenda is dependent on either side, the result is always the same – you are simply a follower in reverse.

Rather than being the radical by denying the context, the establishment, the neighbors, the budget or even Earth’s gravity, by integrating the school of thoughts from Utilitarianism and Hedonism, we could actually turn in pleasure within a conflict. This way, we are the mediator between a proposition and opposition. Apart from the obvious society virtues, there are also principles affect the realm of architecture. But as an architect, we need to draw the “fine line” between gray, black and white, the sum of all the little concerns should not be the blocked view of the bigger picture.(Utilitarian concept)

However, if we try to make everybody happy will we be able to find a way to fulfill every desire and avoid steeping on anyone’s toes? Therefor, it is always an “Evolution” need rather than “Revolution”. Because “Change” will cause unhappiness still, but “Mix” will increase the nett happiness. As Darwin quotes ” It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Through his “Cross-Breeding” theory, we can see that by taking the best of a proposition and the best of an opposition, there will be an evolution within its result.

As we would propose to let the forces of society, the multiple interests of everyone, decide which of our ideas can live and which must die. This is because only the surviving ideas will evolve through mutations and crossbreeding into an entirely new species of belief. This concept is interesting as an architect, because as life evolve, our cities and our architecture need to evolve with it. If the population hate pollution within their city, then everyone, including the capitalist should conforms to it. The cities are what they are because that’s how we want them. So when something doesn’t fit anymore, we architects have the ability and responsibility to make sure that our cities don’t force us to adapt to outdated leftovers from the past, but actually fit to the way we want to live.

Here is what the reality is. Putting rats into a box with limited resources, there will be conflict. Similar to our world we are living now. The whole world insists on conflict. The media craves conflict and the politicians craving the media presence need to engage in conflict. So why the conflict? Can we as an architect feed our design from conflicts created by the politicians and media? Yes, we do. By tying conflict interest into a “Gordian” knot of new ideas. An architecture unburdened by the conceptual monogamy of commitment to a single interest or idea. An architecture where you dont have to choose between public or private, dense or open, urban or suburban, Atheist or Christian. An architecture that allows you to say yes to all aspects of human life, no matter how contradicting. AN architecture where we get to have both sides.

Reference:
http://grasp.dk/bjarke-ingels-group-manifesto/

Sustainability in its Macro scale.

We are living in a world which consist of limited resources. The words “Sustainability” is often brought up as a topic among the world elites. Indeed developing sustainability is a beautiful sounding type of idea but it has becoming an intellectually bankrupt. It leads to wrongheaded thinking about the real causes of economic and environmental troubles. Plus, it encourages governments to adopt terrible policies. The original meaning of sustainability in 1987, the Norwegian prime minister, Bro Brundtland, quoted that “Sustainability should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Well, i think it is the time for us to think back the true meaning of sustainability.

First of all, the meaning of “developing” sustainability is a process when a system changes its state of equilibrium, a non- moving state. The contradiction is when we can not have a development without constant expansion of the system. Thus, this notion of developing in sustainability is a restriction of the growth and exploitation of the resources creates a huge contradiction. However, have we started to apply such expansion of development in sustainability at a macro level? And how do we expand it into a macro scale?

The problem today, is that we tend to think a lot.  At this age, we humans tend to always depended on another to have things done for us, and life is been too easy. We started to take for granted. Today computers do most of the job for us. Everything is laid out for us, we are decreasing the physical and metal ability as human. Yet, most of the sustainability issues can be solved. There have been so much evidence that man can change nature for the better good. For example, Israel, a country where is surrounded with desert, but how are they capable to be one of the food exporters in the middle east? Because, its people did not sit and make excuses about water deficiency, instead they started by desalinate the sea waters and created irrigation for their farm lands. Besides that, California, in reality is also a desert, yet the state became America’s major farm exports as well. This is because the human mind would be able to overcome any sustainable issues.

As for fossil fuels, we understand that it is a finite resources, and can only serve us some time to come. If someone could just take the hydrocarbon molecule that goes into oil and synthesize as sample in lab, as a matter of fact, during this process the harmful elements of the molecule will be extracted, and a cheap, clean oil will be its result. We often heard people started the debate of sustainability from the blame of overpopulation. But, in a macro level, the world has enough of land to support 10 to 20 billion people. Even the U.S will be able to sustain 500 Million population easily. There are vast swaths of land that are uninhabited. You see, people would prefer the easy way to be gain their financial and started to migrate into metropolis city. Thus, it is the city itself not able to sustain the amount of population, not the land mass.

Solutions and opportunities are everywhere in order to push forward the concept of “Sustainability”. The term is not only in a micro but a macro level. I do appreciate with the advancement of science and technology in sustainability but we, human can start applying these technology in a macro scale. In another words, we shall not concede to any terms that what corporations think the best but what is the best for a community.

 

Reference :

http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/338

 

Why look at animals-The Elephant

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Animals have existed prior to dawn of mankind. Between then to the post industrial age, animals constituted to the first circle of man according to Gilles Aillaud (whose article we read for class). Man went from hunting animals for food to domesticating animals and using them for animal husbandry. Dogs became man’s best friend, protecting his property and his life, cats became man’s protector of his crops, bovines and chickens in agriculture and food, horses were used to transport men and fight wars, and elephants were used to transport heavy goods and (in certain regions of the world-Africa, Asia and part of Europe) were used as heavy cavalry in wars.

When I was a teenager, we were visiting my parents’ home country and I got the chance to meet and riding the most majestic animal in the world- The Elephant. I’ve ridden a horse and camels prior to this but nothing was close to exhilarating and heart pounding than climbing atop into this wooden harness on top of this creature and going on a ride. After that, I got to feed it. The elephant would gently take the jackfruit and bananas with its trunk from my hand and feed itself. Its skin felt like a softer tree bark. It was a fascinating animal interaction I’ve ever experienced to this day.

They are one of the few mammals (Human, Apes and dolphins are the rest) in this world that passes the mirror test (the ability to recognize itself).  We as mankind have always wondered if animals can feel and portray emotions. Through decades of research, scientists have found that elephants are capable of complex thought and feelings.

 Here is a video of a herd of elephants when it encounters the remains of other elephants.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZuW7M4VbDs#t=12

That emotion isn’t just reserved for its own species. Two months after the world renowned elephant “whisper” Lawrence Anthony passed away, two herds of elephants under took a 12 hour journey to visit him and mourn his death.

“They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” Dylan is quoted in various local news accounts. “The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later. They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush.”

This is a two part video of an unlikely relationship between an elephant and a dog.

Part 2-

Here is a video of two elephants who were separated more than 24 years ago meeting up again.

Their normal lifespan is 60-80 years. Elephants, humans, and Neanderthals are the only animals known to have death rituals. If an elephant becomes sick, herd members will bring it food and help support it as it stands. If it dies, they will try to revive it with food and water for a while. Once it is clear that an elephant is dead, the herd will become very quiet. They often dig a shallow grave and cover the deceased elephant with dirt and branches, and will stay at the grave for days afterwards. If the elephant had a particularly close relationship with its deceased peer, it can show signs of depression. Even herds that come across an unknown lone elephant who has died will show it similar respects. There are also reported cases of elephants burying dead humans they have found in this way

 

Elephants deserve so much better than what we as human beings give them. We reduce their grazing land for our needs, poach and kill them for their ivory tusk and those are the two direct causes of the dwindling population in Asia and Africa. They often show human like emotions, logic and actions yet we’ve marginalized and devalued their intelligence and almost hunted them down to extinction.

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.

So far we as human beings have failed this planet.

 

A day without technology

In today’s hectic world, at least in my generation (and younger), we are surround by numerous forms of technology that either injects and/or interacts our lives to the information world. Whether it’s social media, the internet, TV, friends and family living a continent away.

I will admit that over the past five to six years, I’ve grown incessantly attached to these forms of technology. I cannot go more than 8 hours without my TV, laptop, tablet or my phone. That might have colluded with my anti-social tendencies (according to my friends and family). The more I divulge into this endless abyss, the worse I get in terms of normal human to human social interactions.

For my one day without technology, I decided to give up my devices that connected me to the online world. I had to travel to Chicago for the 4th of July to visit my sister and my family and this was the perfect day to void myself from these technologies. Normally during family events, I sometimes gravitate towards being away from my family, usually sticking to my phone and staying connected to the virtual world.

So I turned off my phone. Luckily for me, the World Cup 2014 was on TV. Being an avid fan of soccer helped me forget about my phone.

But after the games were over, here came the hard part. Being away from those devices, I became a tat agitated, bored and feeling defunct. It took away my fortress of solitude and forced to me interact with my family members. Dinner couldn’t come fast enough.

The saving grace arrived after dinner when my sister took me and couple of my cousins on a tour of downtown Chicago. Having the visit the aesthetic scenes of Chicago brought me some sanity. But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t wait till the night was over.

Waking up the next day, the first thing I did was to turn on my phone. The relief, joy and the offloading of my anxiety were gone.

What I’ve realized in this one day without technology is that I might have a problem. I always brought my laptop to school and whenever the lecture was boring, I’d hop on it and browse the internet and reddit (which by the way is the worst website for people like me). This semester I decided, I’m going to change that. For the past three weeks or so, besides my phone, I’ve left my laptop at home. It has forced me to pay attention in class.

I will say, in the event of a blackout, I’m not sure if I could survive for more than two-three days without my devices and the internet. I’m hooked in the mainframe and become the bane of my existence for the past 5-6 years.

This is a quote from that NPR link Professor Josephson posted a while back.

“They couldn’t even go for six to 12 minutes,” Wilson says, without succumbing to the pressures of physical distraction. Those results suggest the attraction of our devices may be found simply in their availability, offering a heady escape when our animal brains lack the proper physical engagement. If it’s there, we’ll use it,” goes one of the more common laments about our digital culture. But don’t blame us; we’re only mammals