Technogenesis in Communication

With the advancements in technology, we are now able to send and receive messages instantaneously to individuals, groups of people, or the world. This is thus decreased the need and desire to take time out of our day to sit down and write letters to our loved ones. This is one version of technogenesis in our lives. Letter writing has become outdated and a rarity when it does occur. This TED talk video, linked below, discusses a worldwide initiative to write random love letters to strangers to brighten a person’s day when stumbled upon the letter. When I was watching this video, I realized that handwritten letters mean much more to me than any amount of text messages or instant communication. Two of my high school friends who now go to colleges hundreds of miles away in opposite directions prefer letter writing to any other form of communication. When I first got to school I would try and text or call them weekly, but neither of them would ever respond. I learned that the only way to hear from them was to write them letters, and while I was confused and frustrated with them for this at first, as I began to receive weekly letters from them, I realized how blessed I was to have friends like them. Finding a short postcard in my mailbox would be the highlight of my day, and a long letter depicting all of their crazy college adventures would make me grin from ear to ear. I kept all of these letters in my desk, and on a bad day I would pull one out, reread it, and it would instantly change my mood. From this friendship, I can personally attest that letter writing made me feel that I was loved, and that my friends really cherish our friendship, even more so than some of my other friends who would text or call me daily to see how my adjustment to college was going. While I use instant forms of communication numerous times each day, I enjoy the “old- fashioned” written letters even more when I receive one. I feel that most humans would feel the same way, too. Maybe it’s the emotions that are expressed in the handwriting, or just because we realize that the writer took a specific amount of time out of their busy life to write a person note to us, but on some level I believe letter writing brings us closer together in our relationships because we aren’t hiding behind machines.

Our lifestyles today are becoming so dependent on technology that something small, like getting a handwritten letter via snail mail (instead of only “junk” mail or bills) has an escalating effect on many humans. While texting a friend is easy and gets the job done, the cell phones are covering up the personal element, and makes each message sent or received from a person the same, in font, size, etc. While I will continue to send texts, I also will attempt to sit down every once in a while and send letters to those who are very important to me in my life, so that they realize how much they mean to me and hopefully brighten their day.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVFVaWCV1TE

Transhumanism

The HeLa cells discussed in class can be considered a movement towards transhumanism. Transhumanism can be considered “a new way of thinking that challenges the premiss that the human condition is and will remain essentially unalterable.” This is taken from transhumanism.org. These HeLa cells are a way of altering the human condition by growing human cells and sustaining these cells lives outside of the human body. This is truly remarkable and may be the gateway to this new life of transhumanism.

At first I was quite skeptical about the idea of these human cells being kept alive and multiplied and grown outside of the human body. I was not fond of the research being conducted on these woman’s cells. The idea of this one person now in hundreds of different laboratories being studied and analyzed just did not seem right or justified. When listening to the RadioLab talk on HeLa cells I could not help but think that it was wrong. What made these researchers so much better than Henrietta that they had the authority to manipulate and experiment with pieces of her. However, after considering the idea of transhumanism, these cells are remarkable.

Instead of looking at HeLa cells as dehumanizing Henrietta by essentially keeping parts of her in a petrie dish under a magnifying glass the cells should be praised and preserved as they can be the key to enhancing and expanding on the human condition. This very well could be the future after the human.

If this HeLa cell phenomenon was seen in other human cells as well I would be more accepting of this as a form of transhumanism. However, I feel as though this may be what we think is the future after the human but no one is really sure. It is very weird to think of the future after the human, or the next step after the human. Maybe this is just one form of what is to come after the human or merely a little piece in the puzzle to achieving the future after the human.

Is it really our place to alter the human though?

I do not think that we have been put here on Earth to play with human cells and grow them outside of the human body. As remarkable as this research is, one cannot help but think that this is dehumanizing, especially to Henrietta. She is essentially “living” in hundreds of places at once and I do not think humans are meant to do that.

Transhumanism is a weird concept to grasp and I do not feel as though anyone truly knows what it means to alter, or progress, the human.

 

This website is where I read some more information on transhumanism.

http://www.transhumanism.org/resources/transhumanism.htm

A New Society?

A few weeks ago in class, we read and discussed the article “Agents of Change: Primal War and the Collapse of Global Civilization” by Kevin Tucker. Throughout this article, Tucker argues that society as we know it is on the brink of collapsing, or possibly is already happening- we just haven’t realized it yet. As am fairly optimistic person, I would like to negate this thought and say that society is only progressing forward, but I feel like this is untrue.

Literature, especially science fiction or futuristic novels, have often depicted lifestyles in the future that have turned out to be more accurate than originally expected, even if items in the novel were unimaginable at the initial time that the novel was released. One example of this is George Orwell’s novel, “1984”. In this novel, Orwell depicted a land in which the government knows exactly what you’re doing and can punish you for it. In our lives today, we are aware of the constant monitoring by our government of our texts, emails, internet posts, etcetera, which makes the fictional lifestyles in “1984” comparable to our lifestyles today.

Looking at two trilogies set in the future that have recently become huge bestsellers and movies for young adults, readers are introduced to a concept of life after a devastating disaster to the United States. “The Hunger Games” series, by Suzanne Collins, depicts a North America divided into numerous distinct sections with specific tasks and statures in society to contribute to the country’s overall well being. Similarly, in the “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth, a government that is created after the United States as we know it to be was destroyed in a “Purity War”, divides society up into experiments, the city, government compounds, or leave people out on their own, to build up the strongest society of people possible. In the most famous “experiment”, which takes place where Chicago stands today, has the people of the experiment divided into five different “factions” that all possess different qualities and responsibilities to contribute to the society of the Chicago experiment.

So what does this mean for us? Will the United States be torn apart by disaster and will the survivors have to completely rebuild a new culture? Are we already headed full speed into this great disaster and we’re completely oblivious to what is happening to our country?

While the novels are fictional, I find it interesting, and decently unnerving, of their similarities in exposition with the United States being a completely different culture as we currently know it to be.

The Lacks Family

In class the other day we discussed the HeLa cells and their medical contributions over the years. With these contributions came ethical issues. Henrietta Lacks never agreed to let the cells that were removed from her body be used for medical research. After she died, the cells remained alive for research and the family did not have a clue. Currently the cells are available for anyone, and as we saw in class we could purchase them online. I also read online that the full DNA sequence is public for anyone to see.

 

In an article on NBC News (http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/nih-finally-makes-good-henrietta-lacks-family-its-about-time-f6C10867941), the National Institute of Health explains how the cells will be made more private. To fix ethically wrong behaviors, the cells will now only be made available to those who are approved. In addition to being approved, two members of Henrietta’s family will be on the board to approve what research and experiments the HeLa cells can be used in. Any research that uses the HeLa cells must also add an acknowledgement to the Lacks family.

 

Although the family will now have some say in when and where the cells are used, they are still not going to receive any financial compensation. In my opinion, the family should at least receive some financial benefit from the cells. The cells have been used for so many years and made billions of dollars. Even if the family began compensation now, ignoring all the past profit, they could still gain some financial profit from the HeLa cells. In Rebecca Skloot’s novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the family was described as poor and financially unstable. This aid from the HeLa cells would help the family a lot. The family has understood and supported the use of the HeLa cells and for that they deserve to be treated properly. I do believe it is right to allow the family to have a say in the process and applications for using the cells. This creates a better ethical standing for the family, and they can have a say in where their relative’s cells go and what they are used for.

 

Although the family was unethically treated, I believe taking the cells from Henrietta Lacks and using them for research was a good decision. This research led to the cure of disease and many other medical advances. I believe that Henrietta Lacks would be happy to know that her misfortune allowed for other positive outcomes. Since the cells were cancerous, they had to be removed anyway. I honestly believe it is amazing that these negative cells could be used for something so positive, such as finding a cure and vaccine for Polio.

 

Today in medical practice, whenever someone is undergoing a medical procedure, they have to sign consent that once the hospital takes something from their body, the hospital has rights to use that body part for whatever they seem fit. I believe this is a wise move for hospitals to eliminate future ethical issues in medical research using parts of a patients body.

A Day Without My Phone

Like most people, I gave up the use of my cell phone for the retreat day. Going a few hours without my phone wasn’t a big deal for me, especially since I spent most of my day at work where I cannot use my phone. When I came home from work and sat at the park to journal, I thought about how much we depend on our phones and how much they’ve taken over our lives. I use my phone for just about everything. If I need something, Siri and the Internet are at my fingertips! The weekend following the retreat and research days, I spent a lot of time with my aunt and a few of my younger cousins. They were all very wrapped up in their text messages and checking social media every 5-10 minutes. Even my three-year-old cousin engaged in this nonsense by playing with an iPad for two hour before she even said hi to me. Yesterday, I decided to test myself to see if I could possibly go a full day without my phone. I didn’t think I would miss out on much since it was my day off from school and work, and I also figured it would be a perfect time to study for my midterm since my biggest distraction, along with Netflix, is my phone.

Thursday night around 11:45 p.m., I placed my phone in the basement by a container of tide pods to begin my 24 hours without my cell phone. I wash my clothes early Saturday mornings before I go to work, so I figured I could reconnect with my phone when I threw my laundry in the washer. I went to bed that night and I fell asleep right away. Friday morning, I woke up naturally instead of by my phone’s alarm. I woke up around the same time I normally do, 7:30 a.m., but I felt more refreshed and eager to start my day. I finished my morning routine faster than normal, and spent a few hours watching Let’s Make a Deal and The Price is Right. After watching a little television, I started studying for my exam.

While studying, I fell back asleep and woke up to the house phone ringing and several angry voicemail messages from my mother. Turns out, I forgot about my dentist appointment. I keep track of all my appointments in my phone’s calendar, but since I didn’t have my phone, I didn’t remember. Luckily, my mother rescheduled my appointment for me, but then she lectured me on the importance of answering the phone.

After being “rudely” awakened, I continued studying. I finished studying around 2:00, and decided to do some errands. I cleaned the inside of my car, cleaned a little around the house, went to the grocery store, and took some time to walk around the mall. I returned home around 5:30 to some pretty angry parents. Apparently there were last-minute dinner reservations with some of our extended family members to celebrate my uncle’s birthday. Since I didn’t have my cell phone with me, there was no way for me to know about the reservations, and no way for my parents to get in contact with me. We were able to make it to the restaurant (Joe’s Crab Shack) in time for dinner, and spent the rest of the evening mingling with family. By the time we returned home, it was close to 10:00. I decided to set my alarm clock for the first time in years so I could wake up early enough to wash my clothes. For the rest of the night, I watched Orange is the New Black for several hours before falling asleep.

This morning, I woke up at 8:00 to wash my clothes and reconnect with my phone. When I checked it, I literally had 20 missed calls and a couple missed text messages. Other than that, I really enjoyed being phone free yesterday. It made me realized, I can go without a phone, but it’s useful to have since it is the easiest and fastest way to contact someone.

Is Blackfish all that Credible?

In class on Thursday we talked about the documentary Blackfish. This film focuses on SeaWorld and their questionable treatment of killer whales for entertainment purposes. It describes how the smallest whales are captured and separated from their families in the wild and put in captivity for the remainder of their lives just to be showboated around for audiences. It details the conditions of the whales and how they are often violent towards each other because the older, bigger whales assert their dominance on the smaller whales. It then goes through several different accounts of the whales either killing or injuring the trainers at SeaWorld, and discusses several reasons why. This documentary definitely makes SeaWorld look like a cruel, inhumane corporation that tortures these creatures for their own monetary gain, however I found a statement made by SeaWorld that objects to the documentary for a variety of reasons.

In this statement, SeaWorld claims, “the film conveys falsehoods, manipulates viewers emotionally, and relies on questionable filmmaking techniques to create ‘facts’ that support its point of view”. SeaWorld denies the claim that they capture killer whales from the wild and separate mothers and calves. They say that the footage of the fisherman collecting the orca was from 40 years ago when this practice was legal, and that this no longer takes place. They note that Tilikum was not collected in this manner. In the film, they talk about a whale named Kalina who was separated as a calve, but SeaWorld claims that she was moved when she was 4.5 years old because she was disruptive to her mother and other whales. They say that they never separate mothers and calves, and rarely even move whales at all unless it is completely necessary.

SeaWorld also says that the individuals who were interviewed in the film haven’t worked there for over 20 years and that they are unfamiliar with the current conditions and techniques used. Additionally, they say that the scientists in the film have no expertise with killer whale behavior in captivity. They also claim that the account of Dawn Brancheau’s death was overdramatized and not accurate with what really happened. Apparently, no one was actually even allowed to swim with Tilikum from the date he arrived at SeaWorld, and Ms. Brancheau actually never did. I found this to be a very interesting claim. They say that Tilikum was falsely suggested to be psychotic and aggressive, and neither was true. Finally, they claim that the neuroscientist in the film has no known expertise in killer whales and she had no scientific support to her claims. They say that her description of the whales as “emotionally destroyed” and “ticking time bombs” were the words of animal rights activists who had no idea what they were talking about. According to SeaWorld, Blackfish is not a documentary, but simply propaganda.

This statement did not completely convince me that the documentary was entirely misleading, however it did put some doubt in my mind. These are very bold statements and there is no way to know who is telling the truth and who is blatantly lying. At this point, I don’t know who to believe. One fact that really stands out to me above everything, however, is that the lifespan of orcas in the wild is similar to humans, but in captivity it is only about 25-30 years. Even if the documentary made up some of its information, this one fact should prove that this practice is cruel and inhumane.

Geese!

Who would’ve known geese would be the hot topic of yesterday’s discussion? Everyone seemed to have a common feeling about these creatures; geese are evil, and they suck. Geese poop EVERYWHERE (my car is apparently a hot target for this), they can become pretty violent if you enter their territory, and they tend to make homes in traffic-heavy areas. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some people who feel opposite of this (I’ve seen my fair share of geese lovers at the parks). I, however, absolutely hate geese and get annoyed every time I see one. I feel like they’ve taken over and there is nothing I can do about it! I live fairly close to several parks, the closest and biggest one being Sharon Woods, and every time I go for a jog or a walk, it never fails I am surrounded by several geese looking for food or they’re chasing me away from their nests. After years of annoyance, I’ve finally sat down and taken the time to think about why there are so many geese, why they’ve become pests, and if humans are to blame for their annoyance.

When I sat down to think about it, I feel as humans, we can’t necessarily blame the geese for all the annoyance they cause. In my opinion, the geese are using our technologies to their benefit. It’s common to see a goose in an urban area, minding its business and acting natural (most likely destroying properties by leaving feces, tearing up grass, or holding up traffic). Geese like rural-like, grassy areas near water. They are attracted to these areas as they serve several purposes: food, a safe environment for nesting, and shelter. A lot of areas such as parks and golf courses are ideal for geese. There is endless food since the grass will be maintained, water from a man-made lake or pond, and protection from predators, especially in urban areas. But of course, humans and geese will face interaction in these areas as well. Us humans should at least understand two things: geese eat grass and attack when we get too close. These actions are natural and should be expected of geese. We should also accept the fact there is nothing we can really do about controlling the geese. These birds are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918, which makes it illegal to harm a goose in any way without federal permission.

Personally, I think the act is a little outdated, even with the revisions. These birds are taking over more urban areas and it causing a big pain. Ironically enough, there is a family of geese gathered around my neighbor’s man-made pond playing in the water. Of course my neighbor tied to shoo them away and it didn’t work. But like I said earlier, you cannot blame the geese. It’s a “body of water” surrounded by grass, which is close to home for them. Geese just won’t go away!

 

Also, here is a video I saw a while back that relates to this, I thought it was kind of funny. “Man vs. Canada Goose (ORIGINAL)”

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